Saturday, January 24, 2015

Alabama!

The ban on same-sex marriage in Alabama has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal district judge. This one did not come with a stay! Alabama Governor, House Speaker, and Attorney General are not pleased and are working up a request for a stay. Just remember, guys, that the 11th Circuit and the Supremes have already refused a stay in Florida. We could see some serious celebrations on Monday.



The same-sex marriage ban is before a federal judge in North Dakota. Judge Ralph Erickson has decided to put the trial on hold until after the Supremes rule on the Michigan case in June.



The American Family Association (theirs, not yours) has demanded justices Kagan and Ginsburg recuse themselves from the same-sex marriage cases. The AFA says both are biased as shown by private actions that endorse gay marriage. If I remember right, Ginsberg has officiated at a same-sex wedding.

However, if they continue with demands for recusal, what about these two?

Justice Scalia spoke at a Catholic men's conference. Though that by itself doesn't warrant recusal, the Catholic diocese that put on the conference has said Scalia's speech will not be published or distributed. Hmm. And the bishop of that diocese is pushing hard for the Supremes (with ready access to Scalia) to rule against same-sex marriage.

Justice Thomas recently had his photo taken with Robert George and Ryan Anderson. Anderson has put out a video explaining why it is logical to deny marriage to same-sex couples. As for George, back in 2011 he wrote a lengthy article explaining that marriage just can't possibly be extended to gay people. He is also the head of the National Organization for Marriage.

So if Kagan and Ginsberg must be recused, so should Scalia and Thomas.

Three minutes to midnight

I've been sharing the story of Starkville, Mississippi. The town board passed a resolution recognizing its LGBT citizens. Later it changed its mind and voted to repeal. The mayor vetoed the repeal. And now, alas, the board has voted to override the veto.



The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist's Science and Security Board created the Doomsday Clock back in 1947 to dramatize how close humanity was to destruction. At the time the threat was nuclear war and for much of the 1950s the clock was set to 3 minutes to midnight. The time has been set back and forth, being set as far back as 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet empire. It has again been set to 3 minutes to midnight, not because of nuclear war, but because of climate change.

Treat fat first even if it kills you

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville linked to a column about a frightening proposed medical guideline, telling physcians to "treat the weight first." Never mind that many times the obesity is caused by an underlying condition that won't get treated and would likely become worse.

Ragan Chastain takes up the story. At her blog Dances with Fat she describes herself as a "Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Fat Person, Activist." She links to the article by Dr. Caroline Apovian (which I did not read). According to Apovian treating the weight first includes postponing treatment for such things as diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, medications that have a side effect of weight gain, including insulin, should be tapered off and alternatives found.

That leaves even me gasping. Tapering off the use of insulin? I'm pretty sure there isn't an alternative to that and life without it could end up rather short. That means Apovian is advocating a path that would lead to death.

And what is Apovian's alternative? Try something. If the patient hasn't lost 5% of their weight in 12 weeks try something else. Yep, let's experiment on the patient rather than trust evidence-based treatment plans.

The big question: why is a doctor advocating the dangerous path of tapering off the use of insulin? Chastain easily found the reason for what Apovian says. She sits on several advisory boards of and received research money from pharmacy corporations. And their products include weight loss drugs. She's a part of the Diet Industry and a frontline player in the war on obesity.

Though Apovian wants this to be official policy there are already many doctors who unofficially follow it. Fat hatred in the Medical Industry is already common.

Chastain has suggestions for dealing with doctors who are a part of this war on obesity. Ask questions: What treatment plan would you offer a thin person? I want to research what you're recommending, where can I find a study? Where can I find a study on the safety issues of the diet plan or diet surgery you recommend?

Also ask to see your chart. The doctor might have tagged you as "non-compliant" – meaning you might be denied future treatment, such as a transplant, because you don't follow his orders on fat reduction.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Holy Terror

I've now completed my series of posts discussing Mel White's book Holy Terror, Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality. This post gathers all the links together so you don't have to go browsing through the last three months of posts (though that isn't a bad idea – you might find something else of interest).

1. Fear
2. Cast of Characters
3. Battle plan
4. Idols
5. Fascism
6. Constitutional values
7. Love
8. Soulforce

I have two copies of this book to share. I didn't know it had been published under the title Religion Gone Bad, which I bought but hadn't yet read. I'm disappointed the Soulforce website didn't tell me of the title change. But that means I can give out two copies.

Holy Terror, part 8: Soulforce

I've been working on this series for quite a while now, the first part was posted in mid November. I even started this part a couple weeks ago. When I remembered the significance of this weekend and what this part is about I realized I had better finish it off. This is the last part.

The last chapter of Mel White's book Holy Terror, Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality describes his personal journey to founding the organization Soulforce to counteract the battle being waged against us by the Fundies. That journey began with the publication of his previous book Stranger at the Gate in 1993 in which he describes his thirty years trying everything possible to not be gay. Prior to that book he had been a biographer, and sometimes ghostwriter, for many of the fundamentalist leaders. With the publication of that book two things happened: His previous colleagues and employers turned their backs on him and he suddenly became a gay activist.

At the end of 1994 the New York Times reported that 60% of murders of sexual minorities were "overkill," using a great deal more violence than needed to cause death. It didn't take long to figure out that the brutality of these deaths were due to the toxic misinformation flowing from the Fundie leadership.

White spent much of 1993 and 1994 trying to contact his former clients in hopes of meeting them to make the connections between their words and all these deaths and ask them to at least tone it down. He was ignored. His Christmas letter in 1994 expressed his frustration, "I'm finished trying to talk to the fundamentalists. They're hopeless. I'm giving up on them."

Within days he got a reply from Lynn Cothren, Coretta Scott King's assistant at the King Center in Atlanta and a gay Christian.
I've been following your progress since I read about you in the Southern Voice and until your recent letter I liked what I saw. But your angry decision to break off communications with the radical right signals a turn towards violence. I hope you will seriously reconsider.
Violence? What is there about breaking communication that is violent?

Cothren guided White to re-read the writings of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. This is what White learned there:
[King] went on to defend nonviolence on principle as he had for almost a dozen years. And he made it clear that giving up on an opponent was an act of violence against him. He is our brother. We are children of the same Creator. We are in need of reconciliation, and reconciliation will never happen if we call them "hopeless" and walk away.

[The fundamentalist leaders] had ignored my pleas for dialogue. So, like a petulant child, I was about to take my toys and go home.. Even worse, I was feeling more and more like blowing up the playground. Although I couldn't see it, anger was crippling my spirit; and though I would have denied it then, the same anger was leading me slowly but surely toward violence.

White began to formulate his own guiding principles. From Jesus: "Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. And pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. … These things I command you that you love one another."

From Gandhi: The law of love has two sides, "to cooperate with all that is good" and "to non-cooperate with all that is evil." The love that Jesus means is "the largest love, love even for the evil-doer. It however does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer. On the contrary it means putting one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Evil, however, cannot be overcome by evil, by violence and retaliation. To use violence against the evil-doer is to deny spiritual unity with him."

From King: "Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and the motivation while Gandhi furnished the method."

From Gandhi: "Truth (Satya) implies love and firmness (agraha) serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement 'Satyagraha,' that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love. … Satyagraha is soul force pure and simple and whenever and to whatever extent there is room for the use of arms or physical force or brute force, there and to that extent is there so much less possibility of soul force."

That passage gave White the name for his new organization. It is called Soulforce.

From King: "Never begin a protest if you're not going to take that protest all the way."

King's basic beliefs of soul force: "First, this is not a method of cowardice or passivity. It does resist; second, it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding; third, the attack is directed to the forces of evil, rather than persons caught in the forces; fourth, it not only avoids external physical violence, but also internal violence of spirit; fifth, it is based upon the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice."

King's summary of soul force: "We will take direct action against injustice without waiting for other agencies to act. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We will adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to be witnesses to the truth as we see it."

King's method of soul force, as written by White: "First, gather your evidence. See where injustice prevails and make your strong case against it; second, meet with your opponent to negotiate an end to the injustice; third, if negotiations break down or are used to delay injustice, recruit, train, and equip people of good faith in the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance; fourth, with people committed to nonviolence of the heart, tongue, and fist, plan and carry out nonviolent direct actions that prove to your opponent that you will not be satisfied until justice is done."

White says if we are to satisfy that justice shouldn't we protest unjust wars, demand the end of boycotts that prevent medicine from reaching the needy in hostile countries, take a stand against billions spent on the military instead of on the needy, take care of the prisoner by making the court and corrections systems more just, demand relief for the Palestinian as well as the Israeli, and work to preserve our wounded earth? I'm sure the list should be much longer and include justice for the youth I serve supper to every week at the Ruth Ellis Center. White adds, "This kind of love will cost us."

Hermann Hagadorn's poem The Bomb That Fell on America includes a conversation between himself a the Voice. He is compared to Jesus and the Voice confirms a difference is that "You have never been crucified. Do you know why?" He answers, "I have never made people angry enough." The Voice replies, "The world is sick for dearth of crucifixions."

As for the place of sexual minorities in the church White says we must quit cooperating with those who oppress us. Our opponents assume we are infinitely patient or too comfortable in our closets to lead a revolution. Love demands we call a stop to studies and debates. Love demands we recruit, train, and organize around the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance. Love demands massive and relentless direct actions to confront injustice and end the lies against us. It is time for boycotts, picket lines, mass vigils, serious fasts, candlelight marches, and other acts of nonviolent spiritual disobedience against those who oppress us.

That's a lot to take in. Not enough crucifixions? Must I be so annoying to those in power that they kill me? Or are there other ways of sacrificing myself? Can the sacrifice be in time, treasure, and energy?

I think about my time at the Ruth Ellis Center. I've served supper there for six years. I've been there so long they've declared me to be an angel. I volunteer because the needs of gay youth cast out from their homes because of a Church is so important to me that sending money is not enough. I have to involve me. Have I helped the youth? They aren't as hungry and my work means the staff can spend more time taking care of all the other needs these kids have. But is it justice? Have I helped tackle the reason why these youth are tossed to the street? Alas, no.

What does my work towards justice look like? What does yours?

Rejecting the role of princess

I went down to the Detroit Film Theater for the animated movie The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. This is adapted from one of Japan's oldest tales. I see it has been nominated for a Best Animation Oscar, up against How to Train Your Dragon 2. It is a beautiful movie with exquisite imagery. I saw the version dubbed in English. A bamboo cutter comes across a fast growing plant that produces a tiny girl. He takes it home and it becomes a baby who grows up rapidly. Some pretty good animation shows her learning to crawl and walk within the same day. A couple more fast growing plants produce gold and sumptuous clothing. That convinces the man that the gods want him to take the girl to the city, build her a palace, and train her to be a princess. She had a wonderful time growing up in the rural community and hates the strange rituals of a princess. It gets worse when she is given an official name and suitors start flocking. She is forced into, and soon actively rejects, a role she finds unsuitable for herself. It is a story lots of sexual minorities know too well.



After the movie and a bit of wandering around the Detroit Institute of Arts (of which the DFT is a part) I went a few blocks to the Detroit Whole Foods store. I'm pretty sure I saw a few of the drag queen dancers from Kinky Boots. They weren't in costume, but they did have their stage makeup. Popping into Whole Foods between the matinee and evening performances probably resulted in a better supper on less time and for less hassle than many other places in Detroit.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Here's the skinny on fat

I wrote a big post a while back on obesity. Part of that was about how our society has equated standard weight (and sometimes a waif weight) with health. After thinking about it a few days I believe there is a much stronger connection, stronger than between weight and health, that being between weight and sexual attraction. I can report that the skinnier they are the longer my eye lingers – though I was surprised to discover there is such a thing as too skinny, something I rarely see. So is this a natural personal preference or have I been conditioned by society to prefer skinny?

My nutrition office does a blog covering a variety of common issues they see. The most recent post is 7 Weight Loss Myths Revealed. It could also be described as a general guide to healthy eating.

1. It's all about calories. Nope, a diet of junk food is bad, even if well under 2000 calories.

2. Fat makes me fat. Actually bad fat makes you fat. Good fats help lose weight. Good fats are coconut, olive, palm, butter, and fats from nuts, seeds, and free-range meat and eggs. The top bad fat is canola oil, which is in nearly all processed foods.

3. The brain needs sugar. No, the brain needs energy and that can come from fat.

4. Exercise balances out whatever I eat. No, a poor diet can do more damage than the exercise can counteract.

5. Meal replacement shakes are great. Sorry, they are usually loaded with preservatives and soy that can unbalance hormones and make you crave sugar.

6. Sugar-free treats are great. No, most sweeteners, especially those in processed food, are toxic to the body. The only safe one is stevia (which doesn't taste pleasant to me).

7. Fruit is better than junk food so I can eat lots. Fruit is better, but fruit still has lots of natural sugar and amounts should be limited (I eat the equivalent of a half and apple a day).

Is the argument overwhelming?

Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal takes a look at what would happen if the Supremes say that banning same-sex marriage is permissible under the constitution. In all the states that gained marriage equality through the courts in 2014 someone would challenge the district our circuit ruling. There may be a struggle over issues of standing, as happened in the Calif. case. But likely a good number of those bans would be reinstated.

Commenters take up the story. Likely by January of 2016 we would start the slog of individual state campaigns to revoke all those marriage protection amendments. Some will fall rather easily (though not without a big outlay in dollars and effort), some will persist for many more years. And if we lose any in the 2016 battles the Fundies will draw up their list of other issues they will try to inflict on us.

David Boies, a lead lawyer in the Calif. marriage case before the Supremes (though they decided on standing, not merit), says the Supremes will rule in the Michigan case in our favor. He says the argument is overwhelming for marriage equality. With his intimate knowledge of the case, he should know.

Then again, this is essentially more speculation. That usually doesn't get me very far, so I'll try to ignore this kind of stuff – at least until reports of the oral arguments in April and there are reports of seeing the justices in action.

No cake for you

Another incident of a baker refusing to bake a cake. But with a difference. A man walked into the Azucar Bakery in Denver and wanted a cake in the shape of a bible with words such as "God hates homosexuality" and related symbols such as "no" over two men holding hands. The owner said she would make a bible shaped a cake but would not add the hate speech text. She would sell him the equipment and materials so he could do that work himself. He threatened a lawsuit. Later that day she received a notice the Department of Regulatory Agencies of a complaint filed against her. Commenters say this man doesn't have a case.



I've mentioned a couple times that my medical insurance has a "qualification" period. If I don't meet certain goals for weight (the one that usually catches me), cholesterol, blood pressure, and a half-dozen more I have to agree to improvement programs or pay higher copays if I need to use the insurance. These "wellness" initiatives have become very popular with insurers and corporations. The number of companies using these plans is expected to reach 46%. This is why: Savings in actual health care costs per person is perhaps $40. Not much of a gain when the programs cost about $100-300 per person. But a company makes $500 per person in penalties from people who refuse to participate.



Daily Kos says the next GOP target is Social Security. The system will hit a shortfall next year and there is a new House rule that says any money shifted to keep it afloat must come with a "fix." The first step will pit the disabled against the elderly, and we know the AARP will make sure the elderly will not be the losers. You see, all those disabled people are "undeserving" and they're "stealing" from the elderly. These disabled are likely refugees from the loss of welfare programs. The GOP likely won't stop there. The goal is to make the Social Security system so weak it becomes politically easy to kill the whole thing.



E.J. Dionne, writing for Truthdig, notes the rich complain about wealth redistribution and the rich and poor being "makers versus takers"(though the talk quieted down a bit after Mitt Romney's famous 47% gaffe). Dionne says the "makers" and "takers" labels are backwards. The poor pay almost 11% of income in various state and local taxes, while those in the 1% pays only 5.4% of their income in state and local taxes. It is the rich who are the takers.



The Southern Education Foundation says as of the 2012-13 school year 51% of K-12 students in public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs. That means their families are poor. The range is below 30% of students in New Hampshire to over 70% in Mississippi. There are a couple reasons for this new high in poverty in our schools. (1) The middle class has shrunk and the poor class has grown. (2) Those who can afford it are getting their kids out of public schools (apparently, in the South public schools were always for just the poor). How is it we can be the richest country and more than half of our public school students can't afford food?



Author Junot Diaz wonders why blacks are seen as having a race problem and whites aren't? Isn't the black race problem caused by whites?



Andrew Freedman of Mashable expands on the recent report that 2014 is the hottest year since records were started in 1880. In addition, the last 15 years included the 13 hottest. Freedman examines several other statistics and includes a few graphs. Just remember climate change is not local – 2014 was far from Michigan's hottest year.