Sunday, November 30, 2008

We even believe them when they're discredited

There's a growing chorus saying that with the economy in the dumps we can't afford what it would take to switch to a greener way of doing things. But aren't these the same voices that brought us this disastrous situation? Why, if their economic model has failed, are we still listening to them to guide us in the environment (which they've been doing their utmost to gut)? Why are we repeating their line that the environment and the economy are in opposition? As Dailykos wrote:

We couldn't sign Kyoto, because it would hurt the economy. Well here's news, we didn't sign, and the economy failed. We couldn't place tough requirements on our cars to protect the auto industry. We didn't, and the industry has been dragged to the brink of collapse. We couldn't restrict mountaintop removal mining, because it would cost us jobs. We expanded this form of mining at a record pace, and mining jobs evaporated. We had to open up the national parks to being drilled, chopped, and mined, because the economy needed it. We did all that, we did everything the purists asked, so where are our super duper trillion dollar economic boom times?

We've just experienced the most environmentally abusive administration since the word "ecology" was coined, aided for most of those years by a Republican-dominated congress all too eager to set fire to every environmental rule ever concocted. Even as they head for the door, the Bush administration is still intent on gutting the Clean Air Act, expanding mountaintop removal, breaking the Endangered Species Act, and opening more public lands to destruction. None of which has done a damn thing to help the economy. Republican tactics have both wrecked the ship and ruined the game, and we're still buying into it.


But a growing chorus of other businesses, environmentalists, and politicians are calling for a green-based economic recovery. ... Such a Green New Deal, woven into the economic stimulus package being crafted for early next year, could create millions of government-subsidized jobs and build a new energy infrastructure.

Vestiges of a racist past

The biggest issue related to the mechanics of the election was voter registration. That includes cries of registration fraud and attempts at voter suppression by claiming registration forms must exactly match other state records. So why bother with registration? That question is answered by Robyn Blumner of the Hartford Courant. Our current system is outmoded, varies from state to state, and contains vestiges of our racist past (we need a way to prevent those people from voting). Let's follow the lead of 24 other countries and automatically register everyone. If the government can track down every male of age 18 to tell them to register for military draft, it can automatically register everyone to vote. We still have 64 million unregistered voters.

They vote for us when they know us

To correspond to the opening of the movie Milk, here is a bit of background on Harvey Milk. I didn't know that the legacy of Milk inspired San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom to create the "Winter of Love" in 2004, which led to last May's Calif. Supreme Court ruling for gay marriage and this fall's marriage ban. Milk battled Proposition 6 which would have banned gays from teaching in public schools. He said that voters vote for us when they know us, something that the leaders against the marriage ban didn't learn. Even so, Harvey Milk's legacy lives on.

Though the movie Milk is highly praised, and there is even talk of Oscars, critics have noted that all of the big name actors in this very gay movie are straight. Can't progressive Hollywood find big name gays for these roles? Well, no. All of the A-list actors claim to be straight (though insiders say it isn't so, this article won't spill beans). Reason? Money. There is a perception that moviegoers won't be convinced by a man known to be gay portraying a straight romantic or action lead. Actors aren't willing to risk tens of millions and studios won't risk hundreds of millions per film to verify that isn't true.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

But it's not a joke book

There's a joke about inmates in a prison have only one joke book so they memorize and number the jokes. Some inmates can get a laugh by shouting out the number. Others can't -- they don't know how to tell a joke. Perhaps we can also number the standard arguments against gays: 1. Not Adam and Steve! 2. Sodom and Gomorrah! 3. Leviticus! etc. They are self-contained, self-evident units -- just like a joke. They get a predictable reaction (like a joke) that gays are leading a demonic assault on God's church.

The arguments have gotten so stale they lose meaning -- also like jokes in a prison. Are church people behaving like prisoners? Persuasion comes through people we know and love. No one is convinced by numbered arguments. Why repeat them? And why do gays bother to respond? Is an arms race the proper model for Christian discussion?

But back to: Why repeat them? Amusement? Yes, some people are entertained by soap operas, which also attract sponsors. Perhaps habit. Ranting about those dratted gays proves you are a Christian. Perhaps fear of the loss of identity. If the church doesn't condemn gays does it have any authority at all?

Repeating numbered arguments doesn't get at the deeper reasons why they are used and obscures the real message of the Bible -- which isn't a joke book.

I'd like you to meet my ... um ... special friend

Bummed out over the Calif. marriage ban? Feel turnabout is fair play? You can personally refuse to recognize any marriage. Whenever you speak replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with such words as special friend, life companion, partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend. When called on it you can say, "I'm sorry, my beliefs don't recognize your marriage." Hopefully then you can have a discussion about religious beliefs and legal rights, or at least about how the minority feels when their relationship is dismissed.

Gays and their allies aren't the only ones with a stake in whether the Calif. Supremes overturn the marriage protection amendment. Leaving it in place means that a simple majority can overturn the equal protection clause for any minority it doesn't like. But this is liberal California and we just elected a black president! Even so, this has happened before. In the 19th Century, Chinese were imported to build railroads but were denied lots of rights. In the 20th, even California had segregation laws. But this is the first time such discrimination was written into the state constitution. Future possible targets? Prisoners and undocumented workers.

Gays feel sacrificed to the Mormon political agenda. Mormons now feel intimidated with scare tactics. Attitudes are hardening. Time for a step back and a look at the larger picture.

Some gays now declare sentiments similar to "Organized religion is an obstacle for progression." Alas, that is an untrue stereotype. Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi are counterexamples. Religion is a central feature of our society and large civil movements need religious voices or they don't get far. We must reach those voices to speak for us. Not all Mormons and not all Christians supported the marriage ban.

And to Mormons: Your political involvement has consequences. If your actions were truly directed by God then your faith should be able to withstand a few hundred thousand protesters.

We cannot achieve social justice by ignoring those who disagree with us. We get it when we also work for reconciliation.

Many of the army of Mormon missionaries are feeling the heat for their church's actions against gays. They're finding it hard to get prospective converts to return a call, and when they do it is frequently, "How could you!" But leadership is reveling in their newfound power of playing a significant role in the culture wars.

We use how much?

I told some of you about this website perhaps close to two years ago, but it is worth mentioning again, especially since the site has been expanded. Photographer Chris Jordan of Seattle feels that bare statistics, such as we use 106,000 aluminum cans every thirty seconds, float past our minds without comprehension. So he has created images to dramatize those numbers. The images definitely stick.

He also has photos of the refuse of our mass consumption and of refuse from Katrina.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feminization of Christianity?

Richard Rodriguez is gay and Catholic and has been writing about the intersection of his Mexican-American race and culture, his Catholic faith, and his sexuality. In this interview he discusses the real reason why churches are taking it out on gays. It's the crisis of the family the church seems unable to do much about. Divorce is high and appears to be increasing. There are legions of single women with kids. The next generation of American males will be raised without much of a fatherhood presence. These same women are taking bigger roles in society and the church. Patriarchy is threatened. Gays frequently note similarities with black civil rights movements, but our cause is more closely aligned with feminism. Both gays and women are refusing their assigned roles. But the reason for the rise in feminism is male irresponsibility and misbehavior towards women. And gays are the scapegoat.

Churches are trying to say Christianity is a way to put your life back together and open their doors to the divorced, addicted, and jailed. But they still need to assert what is acceptable behavior without offending those in the pews.

Gays run a big risk of appearing anti-religious and disrespectful of religious traditions. This would only deepen the chasm. Alas, due to the way they've been treated over the last 40 years, many gays are anti-religious, as I've seen in the comment sections of many blogs. They've been hurt so badly they want to hurt back. Though the debate needs to be respectful, gays do need to challenge the church or the debate can't proceed.

Can the way out be through the feminization of Christianity? Does a male god require male caretakers? Can the male tendency to violence be replaced? The gay issue may get resolved because mothers cannot cut off their gay sons and they come to love their son's lovers. It is frequently the gay son who cares for elderly parents because his siblings are too involved in children.

Not a predictor of ability to parent

A Miami-Dade court has declared the Florida ban on adoption by gays to be unconstitutional. Of course, the state will appeal and there are a couple steps before they get to the state Supremes. The judge wrote, "It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person's ability to parent." He threw out all of the government's arguments in favor of many studies of gays successfully raising kids, and noted it made no sense to allow gays to be foster parents yet not allow them to adopt.

How do you combat willful ignorance?

Fritz is gay and has an identical twin, Frank, who is straight. Both were heavily involved in trying to prevent the Calif. marriage ban. Frank had to stay home one day so his landlord could send over a handyman to fix a leaky sink. The handyman brought his wife along and Frank ended up talking to the two about all kinds of things.

Then the wife saw the "No on Prop 8" magnet on the refrigerator and commented that she and her husband were Mormon and, of course, voted for it. Yikes! Since Frank wasn't paying the bill (the landlord was) he took the opportunity to calmly find out why they voted the way they did.

He found they are a very nice couple, willing to go to great lengths to help out those in need. However, they have no concept of separation of church and state. My guess it isn't because the church controls the government in Utah, but because the church is the government that matters. They didn't seem to understand (or care) how the secular government worked. They voted for the ban to protect their own religious views of marriage (and Mormonism is very tied up with marriage, which for them extends into heaven and is a requirement for getting into the best parts of heaven). The idea that the ban would harm other people didn't enter the discussion. Gays were not mentioned. Thus they were quite surprised at the protests. They don't hate anyone, though that might be described as not having feelings of animosity or anger towards gays. They felt unjustly accused.

By the time the leak was fixed Frank had concluded they were willfully ignorant of anything not approved by their church. That left Frank wondering. How do you combat willful ignorance?

A commenter to this post put it this way:
They don't know.
They don't want to know.
You can't make them know.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What do we have to do to be taken seriously?

Because I'm an auto industry retiree and still living in the Detroit area I hear a lot about the auto company's attempts at getting a government loan. The news sources say a lot about what will happen to Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the nation if the loans don't appear, what the companies have done to merit the loan, and how this downturn (unlike previous periods of losing money) is not their fault. Yet within days of congress refusing $25 billion to the car companies Paulson hands another $20 billion to AIG. It leaves a lot of commentators scratching their heads -- and worse. Columnist Mitch Albom would love to point out the hypocrisy in what congress did to their faces. This article is being passed around Detroit a lot. I'll let you read it for yourself.

Blogger Terrance Heath notes what might be behind the politics: If the Detroit companies fail, the foreign companies with plants in the USA will have to build more plants to make up the shortfall -- and those plants will likely be in the South, not Michigan. The new jobs in the South will also likely be non-union and the GOP, which controls the politics in much of the South, hates unions. And even though the new jobs won't make up for Detroit's disaster in number, pay, and benefits, at least the GOP can claim to bring some jobs to an eternally poor region, giving their constituents a bit more than culture wars and anti-gay marriage initiatives. The rest of Terrence's posting is something he's ranted about before: the GOP has no compassion for anyone but the rich. They have a "Drop Dead" conservatism -- you can drop dead for all we care. One would think they'd try not to be so blatant about it.

The best health care in the world

Myths about America's health care system.
1. It's the best in the world. No, it is only the most expensive.
2. Somebody else pays for your health insurance. No, rises in health costs are why wages have stagnated.
3. We only need to cut out the waste of private insurance. Yeah, we do, but that's only a one-time advantage and not big enough to pay for the uninsured.
4. It's going to cost too much. Not doing something will cost more and cost isn't the only problem -- the system is truly dysfunctional. What will cost a bundle is the lobbying efforts of the insurance and drug companies trying to maintain what we have.
5. America isn't ready for a major overhaul. Wrong again, a recent study says 70% of us believe it needs major fixes or a complete overhaul. What we don't want is the hysteria generated from the political battle.
6. Innovation will dry up. Nope. Doctors in other countries still search for better procedures and treatments.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Seductive intolerance

Quotes from Between the Lines:
"If your reasons for voting yes on Prop. 8 had more to do with your moral values and religion, I want you to consider this. If you think I am going to hell for being a lesbian, then let me go to hell. God doesn't need your help and voting yes on Prop. 8 isn't going to get me there that much faster or stop me from being a lesbian."

- Jasmyne Cannick, Nov. 12.

"White gays often wonder aloud why blacks, of all people, won't support their civil rights. There is a real misunderstanding by the white gay community about the term. Proponents of gay marriage fling it around as if it is a one-size-fits-all catch phrase for issues of fairness. But the black civil rights movement was essentially born out of and driven by the black church; social justice and religion are inextricably intertwined in the black community. To many blacks, civil rights are grounded in Christianity - not something separate and apart from religion but synonymous with it. To the extent that the issue of gay marriage seemed to be pitted against the church, it was going to be a losing battle in my community."

- Jasmyne Cannick, in her op-ed column in the LA Times, Nov. 8.

"I wish they would explain to me how they (black people) can, with a straight face, use arguments against gay people that were first tested and perfected against us. When, for instance, they use an obscure passage from the Bible to claim God has ordained the mistreatment of gays, don't they hear an echo of white people using that Bible to claim God ordained the mistreatment of blacks? When they rail against homosexuality as unnatural, don't they remember when that same word was used to describe abolition, interracial marriage and school integration? When they say they'd have no trouble with gay people if they would just stop 'flaunting' their sexuality, doesn't it bring to mind all those good ol' boys who said they had no problem with 'Nigras' so long as they stayed in their place? …

That tells you something about how seductive a thing intolerance is, how difficult it can be to resist the serpent whisper that says, 'It's OK to ridicule and marginalize those people over there because they look funny, or talk funny, worship funny or love funny.'"

- Leonard Pitts, Jr.

The shape of our world

When I last mentioned cartograms -- those maps that are distorted so that size on the map shows something like population instead of area -- I got an enthusiastic (private) reply. NPR recently did a feature on Mark Newman, the guy at the University of Michigan who is part of the team that makes these cartograms. As part of that NPR feature they gave out the webpage that has more maps -- close to 600 of them on a wide variety of subjects. I've been looking at the population based maps. When we think of the year 1 AD we know there is civilization around the Mediterranean Sea but I didn't realize the population of what is now India and China was much larger. Look at the cartograms for then 1900s and we see that is still true. Have fun wasting time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The divide will only grow deeper

The culture wars will only grow more divisive, and the divide will be gay marriage says Stanton Peele of Psychology Today. Gays will win, and maybe within 10 years. In the meantime the war will put Fundies against others and young against old. The biggest group to suffer in this battle will, of course, be the conservative Christian church. The Republican Party will be right behind -- all potential candidates for 2012 favor a federal amendment and if the Supremes ruled today they would support a ban. The battle may even doom the GOP. But Democrats may also suffer -- they haven't exactly embraced gay marriage yet, even if Democratic voters have. Thankfully, America will soon no longer see gay marriage as strange, wrong, or any of their business.

Puppets can say things humans can't

I saw the musical Avenue Q last evening and quite enjoyed it. Definitely hilarious! A word of warning: due to actions and language it is definitely not for kids. The show is about a guy named Princeton, a puppet, who has just earned his degree in English and is realizing it won't get him much. He moves into the low-rent area of Avenue Q where a mix of humans and puppets live. He tries to find his purpose in life while falling in love with the woman next door and getting entangled with Lucy the Slut (yep, the character's name).

I mentioned this show to my lunch friend who grew up in New York. No, Avenue Q is not in Manhattan. The program describes the setting as "An outer borough of New York City" and Princeton says he had to come all the way out to Avenue Q before he found a place with rent he could afford. Some of the songs reminded me of my friend's favorite singer Tom Lehrer's subversive lyrics: "It Sucks to be Me," "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "The Internet is for Porn," and song about the joys of "Schadenfreude."

I saw the national touring company. They will be in Detroit through Sunday afternoon. The website has the tour schedule and photos of the Broadway and touring companies.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Top ten to toss

Slate lists the top ten Executive Orders Obama should overturn first after the inauguration. EOs are orders a prez. issues to those who work for him and aren't approved or directed by Congress. There are also federal rules that are a bit harder to change, and of course, laws that Congress must change. The top ten:
* Gutting the Presidential Records Act.
* Blocking Stem Cell Research.
* Sidestepping the Geneva Conventions.
* Allowing the Vice President to classify documents.
* Offering broad legal protections to American corporation dealing in Iraqi oil.
* Freezing assets of any Iraqi group deemed to threaten stability without notice.
* Requiring all executive branch agencies to review rule-making work with a "regulatory policy officer" who reports directly to the White House. This is considered the source of political tampering in all agencies.
* Allow religious charities ignore anti-discrimination laws when using federal money.
* Require federal agencies to increase use of alternatives to petroleum. This looks like a good idea but most of the alternative fuels available today, such as coal, are worse than oil.
* Provide for a continuing constitutional government in the case of catastrophic crisis. Again, it looks good, but huge sections of the order are classified, not even shown to Congress. This last one was actually nominated by readers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That's about 0.00001%

How you view how well voting went in the past election depends on your party. Several states saw that early voting and Election Day Registration (or at least registration during the early voting period) went well. Others were aghast at the number of people who took advantage of it. And in spite of 24 instances of voter fraud out of 214 million votes cast in a four year study, states like Texas and Oklahoma are looking at voter ID laws. "You show ID to cash a check, you should show ID to vote." "But check fraud is real."

Hey boss, I can't come to work today because...

December 10 is Human Rights Day. Instead of calling in sick, we are requested to call in gay and spend the day volunteering for a human rights organization.

Careful what you say in God's name

As was expected, someone is blaming the fires currently raging in California on gays protesting the marriage ban. One would think God is happy the ban passed. But there's a strange twist -- the fires are in cities and counties that strongly voted for the ban. So lets just stop that nonsense of attributing disasters to God's wrath.

Enough of bashing blacks for their role in passing the Calif. marriage ban. If blacks hadn't voted or had voted in the same percentage as the general population the ban would have still passed, though it would have been a squeaker. There are lots of other ways of slicing up the population that produces sizable groups (over 15% of the voters) who were for the ban by over 60%. Some of these are Republicans (82% yes, 29% of voters) and those who attend church weekly (82% yes, 22% of voters) and even the elderly (61% yes, 15% of the vote). So why are we dissing blacks?

The Calif. Supremes will hear whether the marriage ban is a valid constitution amendment and whether existing gay marriages are legal. They will act swiftly and hold hearings in March. That means there may not be a ruling for a year. Alas, they said the ban is to remain in effect until their ruling. Naturally, there are threats to subject any justice who votes to overturn the ban with a recall vote.

Another voice says, so what if they toss out a justice?
* The repeal of the amendment still stands, meaning the Calif. legislature must approve a replacement amendment.
* Getting that ban through this legislature will fail.
* Defeating enough state legislators to get a ban through will fail.
* Any replacement justice appointed by Arnold or a future Democratic governor won't revisit the ruling.
* The amendment push has played out. Only 3-5 of the 20 remaining states will attempt it.
* There will be no federal amendment until after the federal Supremes rule and it only takes 13 states to block that.

There is a possible downside to overturning the ban -- gays haven't been this stirred up since Stonewall and we're ready to take on the world. Reinstituting gay marriage may let the steam out of the movement. However, the simple fact of gay marriage in Calif. will probably more than make up for it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wear your activism

Perhaps the white knot will gain as much prominence as the pink ribbon.

Demand, don't wait

David Jefferson (distant relation to Thomas) in an article in Newsweek tells how he scrambled to marry Jeff Bechtloff in October before the election. At the time he didn't realize marriage led to activism. He says now one reason why we lost is that most gays don't know much about gay history. The Stonewall riots are now two generations ago. And the big aspect of gay history is that we don't get our rights when we wait for others to give them to us. We must demand and take them. This is something that even ML King knew. Gays didn't get much funding for AIDS research until they demanded it. We waited for Bill Clinton to allow us to serve openly in the military and we got Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Defense of Marriage.

In the same way we were complacent this year. Those for the marriage ban were able to say Obama was for it, even though he said he was against it. We didn't press Obama to explain how he could be both against gay marriage and against a gay marriage ban and we didn't take that message to the black community. We tried to make the whole campaign not be about gays. It is good to see the ban has mobilized new generations of activists in the same way the Stonewall riots did.

Anger, revisited

A couple days ago I wrote about the politics and uses of anger. My niece reminded me that SoulForce, and the non-violent protests of Gandhi and ML King on which SoulForce is built, would disagree with those comments. There are times when I present ideas on this blog and don't always parse them to say what pieces I agree with and which I don't. Even the ones I disagree with (and don't roundly condemn) are worth airing and poking at.

This is a chance to recommend SoulForce, and in particular, their online "journeys" into the teachings of Gandhi and King. I've done the 4 Step Journey. It works through (1) Experience the Suffering, (2) Identify the Cause of Suffering (which includes a way to view our adversaries as worthy of reconciliation and a victim of misinformation), (3) Help Those Who Suffer, and (4) Help End the Cause of Suffering. I highly recommend it.

I see that SoulForce now has a much more comprehensive 17 step journey. I'll have to study it sometime.

Back to anger, which gives me a chance to split hairs. Yes, I believe anger fuels our activism. We see a situation and with indignation (at least) say, "This is not right." I believe that anger also fueled Gandhi's and Kind's actions, though I know there is no way for me to know for sure without some of their writings confirming or denying that.

However, if I understand my SoulForce lessons properly, the anger over the situation should not spill over into anger directed at our adversaries. The aim is reconciliation, not destruction. From what I've seen over the last two weeks, most of the protests over the Calif. marriage ban have followed the SoulForce ideals of non-violent confrontation. These protests have been amazingly peaceful, in spite of some media voice trying to portray them as a violent mob. There are, of course, exceptions with lots of anger, even vandalism, directed at the Mormon church.

Happy Birthday dear blog…

Yes, I started blogging one year ago today, though my comments to family and friends started 5 years ago with the Massachusetts ruling on marriage equality. The tally of posts at the side of the blog show I've written 410 entries in the year (prior to today).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

DL at 6 weeks

The bike accident was 6 weeks ago. I'm well on the way to recovery, though not at 100% yet. There is still an arc of bruise around my left knee. It is fading but for a while it and a second arc made my knee look like a bulls-eye. There is also a fading bruise on the back of my calf and a bit of swelling around a healed wound on the shin. The leg still hurts when I brush the skin, like when I'm applying cream to skin that is a bit dry. I've done a bit of walking in the mall, though it was 15 minutes instead of 45 and I stood through most of Sunday's bell concert. Even so, my leg feels tired a lot sooner than it did before.

More than a year ago I began to feel an ache in the left hip. The pain was along the upper edge, not at the leg joint (so a joint replacement won't help). The doctor suspects arthritis and prescribed pain medication, though eventually suggested Advil, both of which work pretty well. The pain med was the same that was prescribed after the accident, the one I stopped taking when the doctor thought it might be contributing to the bruising. Alas, it was that pain that flared up on Sunday morning. I've resumed the Advil and things are much better.

Five years later

It has been 5 years since the Supremes of Massachusetts ruled that marriage must also be available to gays. In spite of all the doom that was pronounced at the time what exactly has happened? I mean other than 30 states writing a gay marriage ban into their constitutions. Well… Mass. has the lowest divorce rate, so gay marriages apparently improve straight ones. Gay couples are no longer stared at when then hold hands in public. The number of people approving gay marriage has risen from 42% in 2004 to 59% today. Mass. legislators who opposed gay marriages tended to lose elections. But doom? Falling sky? The downfall of Western Civilization (other than the GOP losing badly this year)? Haven't seen it. The head of Mass Resistance was asked how his own marriage has been affected by allowing gays to marry. He sputtered for a while but never answered. Perhaps it is the occasional wait to have wedding photos taken at the scenic spots in Boston's Public Garden.

Power to the little guy

The current estimate is that there were gay marriage protests in 300 cities!

The ineffectiveness of the big gay rights organizations, our defeat at the polls, the anger gays now feel, the power of the internet, and the size of last Saturday's nationwide protests may spell the end of those big organizations. Saturday's protests were not organized by the big guys, but by grass-roots activists and the web. They achieved more in a few days than the big groups have managed in years. We now have the ability to go around the gatekeepers and do it ourselves.

Worse than tacky

I'm not sure what to make of this, though none of the alternatives sound good. Just in time for Christmas the American Family Association, known to be fiercely anti-gay, has for sale an electric cross that looks like it might be on fire, just like something the KKK might leave behind. Except with a lot less mess. So, is it intended to be put in someone else's yard (with lots of extension chords) to scare them? Or put in your own yard, to show what? How intolerant you are? Yeesh!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Politics of anger

Who'd a thunk it? Take away hard-fought rights and people get angry. In contrast to the Stonewall riots in 1969, the demonstrations in response to the Calif. ban have been peaceful (though sometimes loud), in spite of several commentators trying to tag them as a mob. Even so, anger is appropriate -- even if it gets into a politics of anger. I hadn't been aware of such a concept before, but here are some things to think about (which is why I created this blog).

When people get angry the forget their "place." If you don't remember how you're supposed to fit into society and get angry because of the slot you've been put into, those who made you angry will quickly call for "healing." That means you shouldn't -- are not supposed to -- be angry. Which is another way of saying those who angered you shouldn't have to face the consequences of what made you angry. The batterer is saying to the battered, "Look what you made me do by ignoring your place. And if you don't shut up I'll really give you something to cry about."

A white guy's anger is justified. If he's angry there must be a good reason. But an "angry black woman"? Not so much. She's expected to remain calm, keep her voice low. Because her anger -- like that of any racial or sexual minority -- isn't justified. Anger implies entitlement to goods or power and if you aren't due those things you have nothing to be angry about when they are denied. But then dignity and humanity also gets denied. Then people have had enough and start acting on their anger.

The problem is properly directing that anger. You must focus on the right target. Otherwise, one takes on the worst traits of those doing harm, the abused becomes the abuser.

Instead the anger must be taken to the oppressors, those who did the harm, those that wanted the harm done, and those that allowed it to happen. Even then there is a difference between protest and riot. They'll be upset because you were supposed to just "take it." But their comfort should not be at your expense. Also tell your own story and encourage others to tell theirs. Making a case for your own humanity may inspire others to take action.

First, you need anger, the light and the heat of that fire. Then you need to focus it -- to get organized and to take action. Repeat as necessary until the cancer is burned away and the wounds are cauterized. Then you heal. This is from another essay by Terrence Heath, who describes himself as a black, gay father.

Just a little protest

I attended a couple very good gay movies on Saturday. Alas, since I already had tickets the first of the two kept me from participating in the Detroit protest of the Calif. gay marriage ban that was set up by Join the Impact. The weather on Saturday was cold and I was pleased to hear they had a substantial crowd. Participants said there were about 350, news sources said there were 200.

Though Join the Impact didn't tabulate events, they did add up the total number of participants. Since the tally for each city has an lower and upper estimate, the total does too. The low estimate is 120 thousand. The high estimate is 132 thousand.

Other sources counted the events: One estimate is protests in 110 cities from Maine to Hawaii. Here is a list of many events with excerpts from local press with pictures. Even if you don't read all the words it is worth reading the list of cities and looking at the photos. There were even 4 protesters in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

A participant tells the story of the Los Angeles protest, which drew a huge crowd. Alas, the writer feels the march part of the event was designed by the police escort to minimize visibility.

Photos from some participants here.

If you can't get enough photos, here's a site with nearly 1000 of them.

Various participant reports and photos in the comments section here. There is a nice USA map showing participating cities, though a couple cities are misspelled (no H in Pittsburgh) and Marquette ended up south of Detroit.

Now, back to my own Saturday. The afternoon movie was Chris and Don, A Love Story about the relationship between Christopher Isherwood, who wrote the stories that became the musical and movie Cabaret, and Don Bachardy, who developed into a pretty good artist. Most of the movie was about Don telling us about their love. Quite enjoyable.

I then had 6 hours between movies -- alas, the protest was over by then -- and I spent a chunk of it in the library at Affirmations Gay and Lesbian Center in Ferndale, a couple miles from the Reel Pride Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Royal Oak, which presented the movies. I also had a nice dinner and spent some time browsing in a bookstore.

The second movie was a sweet one, Were the World Mine is about an all-boys school putting on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. That play features couples lost in the forest and subjected to a love potion. In the movie, they gay boy playing Puck (complete with fairy wings made from his divorced mother's wedding dress) decided to use Shakespeare's recipe to make the love potion. He then uses it to make the star of the rugby team love him and to create several other gay relationships, especially those involving people who spout homophobic nonsense. Though the potion is neutralized by the end, the lessons learned while walking in another's shoes are kept. The official movie site is here. That show got out after 11 p.m. and I was home by midnight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Aren't we being just a tad snide?

The Lightbox Gallery in Culver City, Calif. now has a pink sign on the door:

WARNING: This area may contain homosexuals, which are known by the State of California to be harmful to the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.

This life or the next?

Last night I finished the book, Humans by Robert J. Sawyer. It is the middle book of his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, the other two books being Hominids and Hybrids. I'll start reading the 3rd book soon. The story is about an alternate universe in which humans died out instead of Neanderthals and what happens when a portal opens between the two versions of earth. This gives the author a chance to contrast the mess we've made of earth and the craziness by which we do things with a society that did things differently. We don't have to be stupid about things (though in some cases it would be hugely expensive to change now).

The story is mostly about human Mary Vaughn and male Neanderthal Ponter Boddit, both scientists. At one point, as part of explaining what humans are like, she takes him to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. He finds the reasons for the war and the humans reacting to the memorial to be quite illogical. I like his suggestion that all future presidents must declare war in front of that memorial. If they find they can't it is a war not worth fighting.

Ponter also says our belief in an afterlife leads us to devalue our current life. If we are promised heaven we are too willing to sacrifice ourselves for causes that may not otherwise be worth it.

That got me to think about the Right's view of the importance of getting that fetus born, then seeming to neglect it afterwards. That baby must be born for it to have a place in heaven (or hell), but once born the goal isn't this life, but the next one. It doesn't matter how brutish this life is because the next one is so wonderful and if some tragedy helps prepare you for the next one, all the better. These are my thoughts, put together from the Right's actions and not necessarily from any of their stated beliefs.

This idea is closely related to another that's been going through my head for a few years now. When our focus is on the next life we think nothing of being rather nasty to each other in this life. We do all kinds of trickery an coercion to make sure someone is "saved" and feel smug and superior to those who are not.

Related to that, the October issue of Michigan Christian Advocate has an article about Rita Nakashima Brock and her presentation before a meeting of area pastors. The article mentioned her new book Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire coauthored with Rebecca Ann Parker. Here is a summary of the book from Amazon: The authors did research around the Mediterranean and found none of the artwork from the First Millennium of the Christian era showed Christ as dead. The emphasis was on the living Christ and how to bring Paradise to earth for the benefit of those living now. It took a thousand years for Christ to die and when he finally did, that's all he did. With the emphasis on the crucifixion Christianity became a religion of torture, "redemptive" violence, and holy war. That got stretched into imperial tendencies -- Christ supports that we are conquering you. That view of early Christianity fits with my idea that we shouldn't focus on how Christ died to make us fit for heaven, but that he lived to bring paradise to earth. The November issue of the MCA contained a letter condemning Brock as being so far off base that her theology is no longer Christian -- which, considering how quick Fundies are to brand those who disagree with them as heretics, sounds like a recommendation for the book. I haven't ordered it yet.

Back to the Neanderthal book. It features a discussion amongst a group of archaeologists, Ponter included, about whether agriculture was central to the development of cities and culture. Ponter said his culture had never farmed, then stayed out of the debate. A hunter-gatherer society doesn't really need to spend all that much time acquiring food -- maybe 15 hours a week -- and, if they spend more time at it, they run the risk of depleting their food sources. They want small families because they want fewer mouths to feed and value the elderly for their knowledge and wisdom of how, when, and where to hunt. In contrast, a farming society can increase their amount of food by increasing the land under cultivation. They can feed more people, but need to spend much more time at food production, to where it becomes a full-time job. More children mean more hands to do the work, leading to a population explosion. The young are valued for their strength. To me this means the only reason to get into agriculture is greed, and that way of living is ultimately not sustainable (though farm technology vastly extends what can be sustained). Alas, it is the only way we have to feed the over 6 billion people we have now.

Some of the Amazon reviews of this book say it is too preachy and does little to extend the plot. Because of that the first book is better.

You'll need a lot of popcorn for this show

The are now discussions -- soon to be battles -- on how to reshape the Republican Party after such a debacle of an election. Let's line the factions up and take a look:

Big Business, interested in making as much money as possible no matter who it hurts. They favor the GOP for its willingness to be bribed.

Religious Fundies, who want to impose their theology on the rest of us. They favor the GOP for its claim to want to overturn abortion rulings.

Warmongers, who want to demonstrate America's strength. They like the GOP because the politicians usually speak the same language, even when it isn't useful.

Libertarians, who want less government. Unsure why they like the GOP.

Racists, who detest anyone not white and like the GOP because the GOP makes them think racism is acceptable and the GOP found their votes handy.

After McCain's defeat, especially since he and Palin represent different factions, each faction is blaming the others for the party's problems.

But all that leaves one problem. No matter which faction dominates (and it could be entertaining watching them battle it out) what do they have to show the rest of America? None of these factions sound like they act in the best interest of the nation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The cost of bigotry

"My Grandma vacationed in California and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" has been updated to reflect the recent election.

And you could reframe the debate this way…

The Mormon (LDS) church, after it worked mightily to ban gay marriage, said in a press release by Equality California.

…it is not "anti-gay" but rather pro-marriage and it "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights." On November 5th, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose "civil unions or domestic partnerships."

Great! Wonderful! says Equality Utah. So the church won't mind, and will even support us, when we introduce legislation to make sure gays have proper hospital visitation rights and shared medical care, to pass anti-discrimination laws, and to allow state-wide civil unions. Or were these more lies to lessen the current protests against the church?

This is the Mormon church's actual statement:

"the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches."

Which pretty much leaves them open to protest whatever gay-friendly proposal they want. And as for civil unions, well, they're already banned by a marriage protection amendment. Aww, too bad.

We knew this would happen eventually: Vandals damaged 3 Mormon churches in Utah. On seeing the broken glass one of the members said,

"I feel badly for those people that have such anger within them that they would do something like this… I just hope that people’s hearts will be softened, that they will realize the Gospel… teaches us to love one another and not do things like this."

Of course, my irony meter went off again. They certainly don't love us. If they did they would seek to understand us and they are clearly not doing that.

This same posting shows the sign, "Shall we vote on your marriage now?"

Several Calif. businesses are feeling the heat as news comes out that the owners contributed to the gay marriage ban. One restaurant, El Coyote in LA, had been a hangout for gays. But when the news broke that the Mormon owner had contributed as her church requested, the patrons were not pleased. The owner asked for a lunchtime meeting to explain her side of things, but since she did not apologize relations quickly soured. Gays were especially annoyed with the idea that a percentage of her profits would go to the church that condemns them. No one stayed for the free food. The restaurant may face closure if they can't attract Mormon customers -- hey, church, I donated as you requested and now face bankruptcy; how about a bailout?

Records of donors (which came from around the country) are being carefully scrutinized and gays are acting accordingly. When this issue comes up again (two years?) those wanting to stick it to the gays will find a lot of businesses have experienced or at least seen the cost of bigotry and will keep their wallets closed -- or will donate to the gay cause.

Suddenly, businesses are trying to hide their donation to the ban or say it shouldn't make any difference. You bought it, the least you can do is own it. Fortunately, donations are public record.

The Mormon church is getting many letters of resignation. And many of those who still support the church are finding they must choose between church and family.

A protest in New York City drew a peaceful crowd of 7-10,000 and included several entertainment personalities. Pictures and videos here.

There is now a loose coalition working to hold protests nationwide on Saturday. The time depends on your time zone. Look for protest cities here.
And a little bit of irony of my own: The protest in Detroit is at 1:30 and I have a ticket for a gay movie (part of the Pride Film Festival) at 2:00 in Royal Oak. It's even a love story, the relationship between Christopher Isherwood and his lover Don. The Festival is being put on by one of the sponsors of the Detroit protest.

Good for a laugh. Stephen Colbert interviews Dan Savage about the gay marriage bans.

Savage also wrote an editorial for the New York Times that said while banning gay marriage in 3 more states was heartbreaking, banning gay adoption in Arkansas is terrifying. Who is next to be found unfit for parenting based on spurious reasons? Will kids be taken away from biological parents who happen to be gay?

But I've got nothing to wear!

A costume for Earth Day...

Monday, November 10, 2008

You can go home to your iceberg now

Sarah Palin actually had some good things going for her says Katha Pollitt in the Chicago Tribune:
* She was a gift to Barack Obama, Katie Couric, and Tina Fey.
* She helped define feminism by clarifying what it isn't -- voting for a woman just because she's female or exhibiting female moxie (which Palin has) or being a frilly doormat.
* Her presence on the GOP ticket forced family-values conservatives to give public support to working mothers, equal marriages, and pregnant teens making it harder for them to spout their antagonism to these ideas in the future (though they will try).
* She, with Hillary, normalized the idea of a woman in the White House.
The whole article is worth a read for the snarky attitude.

Who would have guessed? We now hear the Secret Service warned the Obama family of a dramatic rise in the number of threats against the candidate at the same time that Palin was promoting a lynch-mob atmosphere during her rallies.

"Obama Talks with Unpopular World Leader Without Preconditions" screams the headlines. Below that is a photo of the Obamas and the Bushes.

Why don't you bring that little protest over here

As we have seen over the last several years the Christian church is very good at playing the victim. While the Mormon church may be tiring of the attention, other churches are trying to get some. A Dallas church advertised a sermon on "Gay is Not OK" and when that drew protesters, they announced the next week's sermon would be, "What to Say to a Gay Person." And when that draws protests they will claim, "See, I told you. Gays are trying to destroy Christianity." Churches can choose the venue, put their own cameras on the protesters, and dub in the spin of their choice. A response to that is, "So? They're doing that anyway." Perhaps we can turn the debate a bit and start talking about how their theology isn't really Christian.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tired dogmas

The Detroit Free Press on Sundays has a page they title Extra Points. They print a half-dozen or so quotes from a variety of sources -- public figures, pundits in other papers and magazines -- about current topics. There are a couple that appeared today:

Pal around together? What does that mean? Share a milkshake with two straws?

That one is by Bill Ayers, the guy Palin was using to tar Obama as a terrorist. If you haven't followed that news, Ayers was a '60 radical (as the Freep calls him) and is now a college professor.


Welcome to "Republican Rock Bottom."

Possessed of no vision, not principle, no purpose, and no appeal, we deserved our fate.

Now seize freedom!

Finally, we are divorced from self-deceits. Dead is the self-indulgent imbecility of "rebranding" -- as if the Republican Party was a corporate product to be repackaged, not a transformational political movement to be led. Despite what the media will tell you, and what so-called "conservative leaders" will discuss ad nauseam during "secret" meetings, this situation is not a crisis. It is an opportunity. Today, we are … unbound by the tired dogmas of the past; and free to think and act anew. (ellipses in the original)

Since I've seen several articles lately about the GOP losing because it wasn't conservative enough and that it should champion the social conservative goals of banning abortion and gays (since that was an issue that won), it is a breath of fresh air that someone in the GOP agrees their ideas are bankrupt and they need to overhaul what they stand for.

Then I saw who wrote it: Thaddeus McCotter, my district's GOP representative to the US House who just won re-election by about 55%, and who I've described in the past as a Bush lapdog. I hear my irony meter going off.

The national nightmare will be over soon

I wrote on election day about how Bush is working to poop on Obama by issuing lots of executive orders on his way out the door. Not to worry (at least not much). A team of four dozen advisors have been working for months to identify what actions Bush took that Obama could quickly reverse. They have a list of 200 orders in the area of climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights, and lots of other issues. They are particularly looking for orders that were issued for overtly partisan reasons. They're also keeping tabs on the orders Bush will issue between now and Inauguration Day and adding them to their list. Many of these do not require congressional votes. The ones that do are being prioritized for action.

Another Episcopal splinter

Another diocese breaks away from the Episcopal Church, this one in Quincy, Ill. The next one likely to split is Fort Worth. They follow San Joaquin, Calif. and Pittsburgh. It isn't just gays. These four also refuse to ordain women. There probably won't be any more after Fort Worth.

Still ruminating about the anti-gay vote

Protests in Calif. of the gay marriage ban continue -- 13,000 in Los Angeles, 10,000 in San Diego, and in many other cities.

An appropriate cartoon by Tom Toles:

That 70% rate at which blacks voted for the Calif. gay marriage ban is getting a lot of press (it appeared in the Detroit Free Press today) is from one exit poll and has all kinds of dubious methodology issues. So stop turning a homophobia problem into a race problem! We don't need to compound our problems other than to acknowledge gay leaders need to reach out to the black community.

Please pardon a moment of schadenfreude and irony. Mormon temples are the only place where Mormons can marry and stay true to their religion. When protesters gather outside the temple, as they have been doing in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, the temple doors are closed -- and couples can't get married.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mapping the election

Look at a map of which states went for Obama and which for McCain and it doesn't quite make sense that Obama won. The same guy who made the Atlas of the Real World (which I mentioned before) has added his map stretching to resize the states by population and electoral votes, then does it by counties. The last few images also shade counties by their percentage of Dem and GOP votes. For the mathematically inclined among us here is an FAQ, including an explanation of how the maps were created (I understand the basic concept and some of the titles of the equations are familiar -- I'll leave it at that). The author studies complex systems.

Bad Rep? No Sweat

Pundits (who apparently have a stake in the issue) are already saying such things as Bush's reputation will improve once we get some historical distance. I mean, sheesh, the man was so unlucky. There was 9/11, Katrina, and the financial mess. Cut the guy some slack! Um, sorry. People aren't upset with the hurricane, but the aftermath. The policies of Bush and his cronies caused the financial mess. And the Iraq War was the wrong response to 9/11. But in the same way Reagan, who left with low approval, has had his reputation burnished by those who liked his policies there are those who want Bush's policies perpetuated. And many of those people control media outlets. That means we have to tell our own stories about our view of this guy.

The Great Repudiation

A Newsweek feature from a few weeks ago talked about how America is a center-right country and wondered how Obama might struggle to get his agenda passed. There was, of course, a rebuttal within the magazine. But from who was making the claim that American is center-right -- a slew or ultra-right pundits -- one wonders if Newsweek was taken for a ride. In addition to the election being for hope, it was also a repudiation of conservatism, both in government and politics. In government conservatism gave us: overboard deregulation and its disastrous consequences in banking and food safety, invading nations under false pretenses, inability to deal with Katrina, and spying on its own citizens. In politics conservatism gave is divide and conquer through fear, perfected and in use by Nixon and culminating in a crude attempt to portray Obama as a Muslim terrorist. This time it didn't work and usually backfired. If Obama's presidency is successful we may finally get rid of conservative government and politics.

Vilified and harassed

The Mormons and, to a lesser extent, the Catholic Church, are miffed at the strength of the protests now aimed in their direction. The Mormons are even claiming it is wrong to criticize the church for taking part in the democratic process. Wrong answer. Yes, you have the right of free speech (though we wish you wouldn't lie so much when you speak), but free speech does not mean you can't be criticized. That is merely free speech on our side. And we are going to do that. Especially after such nonsense as this, coming from the Mormon church:

Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

Sorry guys, what you spouted over the last two months was nothing but erroneous information that vilified and harassed gays. You deserve what's coming at you.

But that little bit of criticism isn't going to stop either the Mormons or Catholics. The next target probably won't be North Carolina (as was suggested a couple days ago) even if they might be ripe for the picking. There are a couple states that are more urgent: New York (where the Gov. is in favor and a marriage bill has passed the state assembly) and New Jersey, where Domestic Partnerships are legal and lots of people (not just gays) recognize that DPs fall short of equal protection. The coalition that brought the ban to Calif. is ready to use the same lies again. You have been warned.

Not only are the Fundies gloating over their wins against gays, they are puffing out chests on the abortion front too, even though the abortion ban failed in South Dakota and the "fetus citizen" proposal failed in Colorado. An organization named Personhood USA wants to copy the Colo. effort in the 17 states that have citizen amendment initiatives. Michigan is one of them. In addition to attempting to ban abortion, a fetus citizen leads to some legal tangles: Is a miscarriage to be treated as manslaughter? If the fetus is unwanted can it be convicted of trespassing? I should update an opinion from a couple days ago: A federal Supremes ruling enabling gay marriage will not slow down the attempts to harass gays with laws, at least not until a couple generations have passed on.

In the meantime news that the black population voted for the Calif. ban at a rate of 70% while most other ethnic groups (including whites) voted for it at a 52% rate (I think). This is, of course, causing all kinds of racial angst by gay groups, which are mostly white, even though the higher percentage of blacks would have made little difference in the outcome. The supporters of the ban were clearly conservative churches, most of which are white, so why are blacks being tarred? The anti-gay forces are gleefully watching the split and strategizing about how they might exploit it. Ouch!

A ray of sunshine: Maine adopted DPs in 2004 and, again, there is growing recognition that more protections are needed. Equality Maine has workers outside 100 polling places hoping to get 10,000 signatures in support of gay marriage. They got that count by noon, then had to scramble for more cards or just anything to write on. By the end of the day they had over 33,000 signatures. This doesn't appear a step in getting gay marriage on the ballot, only to tell legislators how much support there is. Even so, Equality Maine -- mindful of Calif. etc. -- will be working to make sure the hearts and minds of the state are ready to follow.

Another ray: Sweden will likely get gender neutral marriage by next May. They are aiming for "gender neutral" because that's the term that will get past of one of the government's coalition parties.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Last acceptable bigotry

A year ago I bought the book Shaping Sanctuary: Proclaiming God's Grace in an Inclusive Church, edited by Kelly Turney. I was reminded I should take it off my bookshelf and at least look in it when the newsletter from Reconciling Ministries Network suggested it as an important resource for helping a congregation become more tolerant of the different. It has contributions from a large number of people of examples of every aspect of a service. It even includes order of worship for World AIDS Day, those who have died of AIDS, same-sex commitment ceremonies, and even ceremonies for changing a name after switching genders.

One of the introductory sermons talks about the last acceptable bigotry. The sermon is by Bishop Paul Wennes Egertson and includes this excerpt from an anonymous high school student in Massachusetts, as reported in the Winter 1999 issue of Open Hands.

Nobody tells Latino kids in the high school that nobody cares if they're Hispanic as long as they keep it to themselves. Jewish kids aren't told that they're sinners and they could change into Christian if they wanted to. People don't tell Black kids they should put up with racism because they've come so far from when they were slaves. They don't have to defend why there is a Black History Month, or why people want Black studies included in the curriculum. People don't say, "That's so Korean!" when they mean something is stupid or weird. People don't tell disabled kids that the community isn't ready to defend their equal rights and inclusion yet. You never hear anyone argue that breast cancer is God's way of killing off women, or that it's a good thing. If a teacher hears anyone use a slang insult for a Chinese kids, they jump on it. When foreign exchange students ask teachers about dating in school, they aren't sent to the guidance counselor.

But every day in the high school I hear its okay if I'm gay so long as I stay in the closet, and that I'm an abomination against God, that I can change if I want to, and that people like me shouldn't be taught about in school. I'm told that I should be satisfied because our school is far better than it used to be, and that I shouldn't push for my equal rights and inclusion because the community isn't ready yet. I hear, "That's so Gay!," all the time, and I hear that AIDS is my punishment for being who I am, and I hear the word faggot all the time. It’s hard not to walk around angry all the time.

More on the hangover

We've now racked up an 2-32 record in our attempt to push gay marriage through the courts. Shouldn't we try something different? Two big issues: (1) We've been pushing for court remedies without preparing the hearts and minds of the general populace. (2) We claim that we're entitled to marriage and anyone who disagrees with us is a bigot. Now about half of those who oppose us really are bigots, but the rest need to be educated about marriage, not bludgeoned over discrimination. Yes, there are similarities with black rights, but Martin Luther King was a persuader, not a litigator. One of the 55 commenters to this pose replied that some of the advances blacks won was through litigation. Others disputed this basic premise or complained some more about how poorly the gay side of the campaign was run.

Here's another report on protests in Calif. The item of interest is a letter written to the editor of the Salt Lake City Tribune and accepted for publication:

Dear editor,
I find it tragic and more than sad that after the Mormon church declared an outright vicious war against loving, committed same sex couples, utilizing hate, lies and false scare tactics, they now want people to treat them with "civility, with respect and with love." Mormons should practice the behavior that they want to receive in return. As I was taught, live the "golden rule". Obviously, they did not learn the same lesson. Mormons exhibited behavior 180 degrees apart from civility, respect and love. They deserve none of the three.
There are consequences to vile actions as exhibited recently by Mormon and other supporters of Proposition 8 and I am afraid that the Mormons are about to find out what some of these are.

On the pragmatic side, what's next? Obama has stressed repeal of DOMA, but he doesn't seem to be that much of a stalwart gay supporter and the passage of 3 marriage amendments may convince him (or lots of congresscritters) to go slowly. DOMA has two parts: tell states they don't have to honor gay marriages from other states and banning gay marriage recognition at the federal level. With 30 states with constitutional bans, will a repeal of the first part pass? Very unlikely. Repealing the second part may convince a few more New England states to offer marriage (or at least convert domestic partnerships to marriage), but doesn't do much in 30 states. Perhaps the feds can extend marriage benefits to DPs or even create a federal DP system (while leaving DOMA intact). Alas, this might delay full marriage even more. The most likely scenario would be to grant marriage-like benefits on a piecemeal basis -- partner immigration, social security benefits -- which could affect gays no matter which state they live in. But we're still second class citizens.

More likely we'll see movement on Employment Non-Discrimination, Hate Crimes laws, repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, rescinding the HIV travel ban (Bush signed it into law, then ignored it), reality based sex education.

As for overturning Calif.'s ban, here's a proposal: It takes less than 700,000 signatures to get a proposal on the ballot. With good voter lists from gay organizations getting these signatures should cost less than a million. So, on every statewide election get a repeal of the ban on the ballot. Keep at it until it passes. Spend minimally to defend it, though don't confine spending to the campaign season and put the anti-gay forces on the defensive. Once people deny gays for the 5th or 10th time they just might change their vote. And even then you've spent less than the $35 million gays spent defending this one. And it might drain our opponents wallets. Yes, there are problems: Minimal defense may mean lopsided votes, which could get discouraging. Voters may get irritated at repeatedly voting on the same thing. And we might polarize the debate. Another idea is to alternate the gay marriage issue with such things as taxing churches that get involved in politics or stressing the separation of church and state. The end of this link has the story by Regan DuCasse who was upset with a black bishop who said, "now that the people have voted twice, these gay people in the streets need to suck it up." That prompted a lengthy phone call to the bishop, who couldn't see his hypocrisy.

The New York governor supports gay marriage. The state Assembly approved it by a wide margin. The state senate, controlled by the GOP refused to vote on it. But the senate now has a Democrat majority. Start celebrating? Um… Four Dem senators are backing GOP leadership because they are social conservatives and don't want to give gay marriage an opening.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Grumbling and gnashing of teeth

As of this morning, the opponents of the gay marriage ban in California say it is close enough they won't concede yet. Even so, there are plans for next steps -- more lawsuits. A coalition is challenging the legality of the amendment. Their grounds are that this affects a core principle -- equality -- of the Calif. Constitution and is thus a revision, not an amendment. The legislature must approve a revision before the people vote on it. Amendments, which don't affect a core principles, don't need legislature approval. One wonders why they didn't do this before the election and save $74 million, but apparently the court won't rule on a hypothetical, which is what the proposal is until it passes. You can imagine the Fundie fireworks if the Calif. Supremes rule this amendment was improperly brought before the voters. One commenter suggests we would do better as someone wronged than as a sore loser and should simply wait a few years and try to undo it. Demographics are in our favor -- the most votes against us came from those 65 and older.

The Fundies have now sunk their fangs into 30 state constitutions and are hungrily eyeing the other 20. Even Massachusetts should not consider gay marriage safe. If they can get a second vote in Arizona, they won't let several years of trouble free gay marriage in Mass. stop them. The issue will get to the national Supremes, now only a matter of when. But we're smart enough not to try until Obama has replaced a few members.

So what are we going to do about those other 20 states? The attacks will happen. Just give various Fundie organizations time to use this past election to refill their coffers. Likely next target: North Carolina. The state legislature has successfully kept the issue off the ballot at least twice, but once on the ballot it will pass.

We need a plan. It should be based on these questions:
* How do we educate leaders -- starting with Obama -- about the difference between civil and religious marriage? According to Obama it is always religious. We can start by holding him accountable to repeal DOMA.
* How do we deal with legislators at various levels who see voting for gays a detriment to their careers? Note that even some Democrats will vote on these amendments with gusto.
* How do we lessen the likelihood that blacks will vote against us -- how do we keep blacks from playing into the hands of white power?
* If a simple message of fairness hasn't been working what else do we base or message on? Fairness might eventually get us family protections, but won't get us marriage. Do we stress economics? Document and advertise (requiring money) how deceptive the anti-gay forces were? March on Washington?
* How might we get the public to delve into substantive arguments in an era when the soundbite rules?
* How can we motivate allies?

Another opinion is that this will only be resolved at the federal level. Three ways: Federal legislation more comprehensive than the overturn of DOMA (unlikely), a constitutional amendment (needing 3/4 state legislatures to approve -- less likely), or a Supreme Court decision. Even after the Supremes rule, will this issue linger like abortion?

A responder from Calif. is mighty upset with those running the pro-gay campaign -- the ads were too impersonal, they didn't feature many real families who would be affected (closet, anyone?), they ceded to many aspects of the debate to the anti-gay forces (don't talk about the kids), they relied on techniques (phone banks) that didn't succeed in previous battles. It's the stories that move voters and campaign leaders weren't letting the stories be told.

Another opinion is that we are trying to mimic the black civil rights efforts of 40 years ago. They used marches and rallies for visibility because that's all they had. We have more tools at our disposal and we're not using them.

While many of us monitor what the Fundies say about us (they are most certainly monitoring what we say), we are not strategizing how to combat their intentions until a proposal is on the ballot. Only then do we mobilize our opposition and by then we have already lost the use of such terms as "morality" and "truth." I know from experience that between the time the Michigan amendment was put on the ballot in 2004 and the election itself there wasn't time to get a message out that would combat what had already been said about us.

* Study their talking points now and know how to counter them. Then do it when they appear in the media. Yes, there are a few websites that do that (Box Turtle Bulletin is one). We need to get the points and counter points into one easy to use place where all have access.
* Make sure you know who the enemy is (don't get mad at colleagues for using the wrong terms).
* Don't wait for leaders or celebrities to decide when to care.
* Be careful about claiming the mantle of the black civil rights effort because some people will get offended at the analogy (We have the right to vote, they didn't. They faced down snarling dogs and fire hoses and were willing to get a rap sheet if that's what it took to get their rights. We cringe at being confrontational).
* Those that oppose us appear to suffer no consequences of their bigotry. (Actually, I believe the Mormon church will suffer consequences in reduced membership and less respect of authority, but the leadership won't make the connection.) Our opponents did some nasty stuff, including blackmail. Are they being prosecuted?
* A lot of what Martin Luther King did for civil rights were modeled on the non-violent actions of Gandhi. Are we learning those concepts and using them?

A ray of hope:
Only 9 years ago Calif. passed a law forbidding marriage (the law that was overturned last May, I think). It passed with 62%. This amendment passed with only 52% and that took $35 million and a lot of lies).

I've written about blogger Terence Heath before, a black, gay father who can explain things quite well. Here he writes about learning that Obama won the presidency, how such a concept was so completely off his family's radar of what is possible, and how he and his six-year-old son celebrated. For one night. Then he woke up to the news of Florida, Arizona, and California. Everything changed. And nothing changed. Obama's parents marriage would have been illegal in some states 40 years ago. Terrence says the same will be true for his own sons.

There were a couple protests yesterday and today about the passage of the Calif. marriage ban. The first was in the gay community of West Hollywood (two reports with pictures). The other was at the LA Mormon church. One commenter wonders why we didn't see crowds like this before the election?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

DL at the 4 week mark

The weather today is too wonderful to simply sit. The temperature is 64, the sky is sunny, trees are in full color. So I spent about 20 minutes on my bicycle this afternoon, staying within my neighborhood and being careful not to push it. Once I got going the leg held up, though it does ache a little bit now.

Other signs of healing: The leg isn't as purple as it had been, though it is still brightly colored and a bit swollen. I was able to stand through most of my bell rehearsals both on Monday and yesterday evenings. I even did OK after forgetting my pain pills at supper yesterday, though I was back on them last night and today. More sleeping positions are becoming comfortable.

A few more smiles and frowns

Michigan Supreme Court justice Clifford Taylor, who believes in conservatism more than he trusts laws, has been replaced by Diane Hathaway in a stunning upset, stunning because it happens so rarely in Michigan, she won by a decisive margin -- 49% to 40% (a Libertarian got 11%), and Taylor had a significant war chest.

Arkansas passed a ban on adoption by gays by 57%.

The California gay marriage ban has now been called as passing with 52%. This is the most expensive statewide proposal, reaching $74 million. Jerry Brown, the state attorney general, insists the 18,000 gay marriages performed since June remain valid, but someone is going to challenge them.

Smiles ... and frowns

I voted yesterday at 2:00 (and drove the half mile to my polling place in spite of the fabulous -- 65 and sunny -- weather). There was only one person ahead of me (and she had problems because some pieces of ID had her name spelled wrong -- I did see her vote). We have paper ballots that are read by scanner and the supplied pens take a while to fill in the ovals (I timed one at 15 seconds, what, can't use a marker?). I caught myself filling in the wrong oval about halfway through so had to get a replacement ballot and it took a moment for them to decide how to do that. When done I took a moment to look at the ballot in satisfaction -- here I am a white guy in the suburbs of a racially charged city and I voted for the black guy because he'll serve my interests better than the white guy.

I heard a bit of news on the way home from bell rehearsal, though mostly it was blather. I got the TV on by about 10:15. I was annoyed that the West Coast was called just after the polls "closed" though I'm sure there were lots of people still in line. Even so that put Obama's acceptance speech at midnight. He did an excellent job! Quite the contrast to McCain's limp concession. This is definitely the smile. Here's a link to some of the newspaper headlines.

Since some of my readers will probably not look these up on their own…

A couple more smiles:
South Dakota abortion ban lost by 55%.
Colorado attempt to define personhood at conception lost by 73%.
Connecticut decided not to call a constitutional convention, slamming the door on using citizen led amendments to ban gay marriage.

And the frowns.
Florida gay marriage ban passed by 62% (it had to pass 60% and did).
Arizona gay marriage ban passed by 57% (don't like the first result? Do it again).
Californian gay marriage ban has not been officially called as of about 10:15 this morning, waiting for the count of a huge number of absentee and provisional ballots. Even so approval stands at 52%.
Now compare the last one to the Calif. proposal about ethical treatment of farm animals, which passed by 63% -- yep, rights of pigs comes before rights of gays.

What's next in gay marriage? Connecticut starts handing out marriage certificates to gay couples on Nov. 12. There are about 18 other states without constitutional gay marriage bans and they may legislate gay marriage or their supreme court may demand it.

But most of the other 30 states will require a visit to the US Supremes. And that will wait until Obama has a chance to appoint a few justices. But, given his views of gay marriage, he may not make a gay-marriage-friendly appointment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pooping on the next president

With Obama and McCain battling it out, everyone has been ignoring Bush. Which means few people are paying much attention to how busy he's been. See, he has only 77 days left to pillage and plunder -- and he plans to make the most of it.

The New York Times puts it this way:

President Bush’s aides have been scrambling to change rules and regulations on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights, among others — few for the good. Most presidents put on a last-minute policy stamp, but in Mr. Bush’s case it is more like a wrecking ball. We fear it could take months, or years, for the next president to identify and then undo all of the damage.

Here's a taste of how he plans to poop on us and the next president:

Civil Liberties: New guidelines on intrusive techniques for spying on neighbors even if there is no evidence of wrongdoing. And then they intend to edit the report on how these actions affect privacy, violating the laws that created the Department of Homeland Security.

Environment: Weaken regulations that implement the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, such as what pollution controls need to be installed when a power plant is upgraded.

Abortion: Expand the rules on the right of health workers to refuse to help a woman get an abortion. This expands from doctors and nurses to referral and counseling services.

Banking: Restore tax breaks for banks that acquired bad loans through acquisition, which gives banks an incentive to use the bailout money to buy other banks, not to deal with the credit crisis (this one has already happened).

Security: Perhaps Gitmo won't be closed after all.

Adventure in architecture

I've been in revolving restaurants and quite enjoyed the experience -- then again I love to look at the scenery from on high (goes with my love of maps). Here's a new twist: a skyscraper in which every floor rotates. Independently. Allowing the building to change shape during the day. Just don't worry about the carbon footprint or trying to find your way to the bathroom in the dark.

Adventures in eating meatless

I've tried a few alternatives to the breakfast ham sandwich (actually, these have been instead of the turkey sandwich at lunch). This is my review of what I tried.

There are some foods I can eat day after day (like ham sandwiches) and never tire of them. There are others (like Triscuit Original crackers) which I enjoy for a few months and grow tired of and stop buying. Most of the meatless products I tried seem like they are in this second category -- I'll soon grow tired with the flavor.

Boca Burgers. The flavor had a bit too much onion (and I don't like onion), so while I ate all four burgers in the box I think they have a flavor I would get tired of quickly. The other problem is that one burger was too small and two would have been too much.

Lightlife Smart Tex-Mex. This is an imitation ground beef product, spiced up and with corn and beans for filling tacos. It made a very nice sloppy joe. I may not want that level of spice every day, but it will work on occasion. Two small issues. (1) What they said would be 3 servings did quite well as one. (2) It came in a plastic envelope intended for the microwave and made me wonder if the environmental cost of making the plastic was more than that of not eating the comparable amount of meat. I have bought this a second time.

Lightlife Smart ground original. Not a whole lot of flavor so what goes with it is important, like lots of ketchup or other sauce. Again, the serving size seems to be off -- the package says there are six servings and it seems better with only 3 or 4. One package doesn't seem to be enough if I want to make my usual hamburger casserole (which can last more than a week).

MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime. Better tasting and a bit larger than the Boca Burgers, though I would still like them about half again as large. Since they are to remain frozen until cooked and served, trying to cut one in half doesn't get you very far. The disadvantage is they have twice the fat content of Boca Burgers. Again, I'll likely grow tired of the taste.

Sol Cuisine Original Vegetarian Burger. Better tasting (though still high in onion and garlic) than the Boca Burgers. Also quite low in fat. They are big enough that I don't wish they were larger. I may buy them again, though I bought them at a specialty store that isn't all that close to home.

Hummus. I checked the nutrition guide on a package when at the grocery. I like the stuff as part of a Middle-Eastern meal (which I eat on occasion), however hummus has about as much carbohydrate as it does protein so it might be hard to balance in my diet if I eat it regularly. It is also rather high in fat (even if it is good olive oil).

Food Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal with Almonds. I can't describe this as a protein replacement because the amount of carbs is so high. I found it in the "health" section of the store and, since it was also high in fiber and low in sugar it sounded like a possible snack food. The scripture verse in the title is "Take also unto thee wheat and barley and beans and lentils and millet and spelt and put them in one vessel and make bread of it." The box will be glad to tell you why it is important the grain should be sprouted -- I hadn't heard about that before. The bits of cereal were so small I had to eat it with a spoon even straight out of the box. The flavor was good, but strange enough I doubt I'll buy it again.

Flax-Z-Snax Natural Hot Cereal, cinnamon and spice flavor. It is high enough in protein and low enough in carbs that I didn't get unduly hungry even with my low sugar problems. However, it needed a huge addition of jelly (made with Splenda) and Spenda itself to be palatable. It might be tough to finish all 10 servings in the package.

Fiber 1 original flavor cereal. This isn't intended as a protein replacement, just something to snack on when I get a bad case of the munchies. It is very high in fiber and has no sugar since it is sweetened with Aspartame. Is it possible to overdose on fiber? Alas, the last couple boxes have been less sweet.

Summary: Will I reduce my meat consumption? Yes, and I have. I find that a peanut butter meal before an evening event will last a lot longer than my burger casserole. Will I go vegetarian? No.

The USA Weekend supplement to the Sunday Detroit Free Press this past weekend had a Food column in the last issue that looked at foods that have been controversial. These foods had been tagged as taboo and are now considered good (or the reverse). In the list are eggs, pasta and bread (the new villains), chocolate (dark chocolate is best), bottled water (take water in your own reusable bottle), fish (depends on species populations), and soy. For that last one they recommend natural, not processed, soy. Miso, tempeh, tofu, and soybeans are good. Since the various vegetarian burgers are definitely processed soy have I lost all the benefits of soy? Is my only advantage that it isn't meat?

Almost time to head to the polls

A timely cartoon to tide us over until the results are in.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One last massive commentary before the election

Is there a difference between racism, thinking blacks are inferior, and racialism, thinking that blacks are different? A blogger who calls himself Radical Russ thinks so. You're choosing sides for a pickup game of basketball and the two guys left appear the same in height, strength, and ability though one is white and the other black. Which to choose? Probably black because you figure his street basketball games were tougher. What about two Harvard Law School valedictorians, one white another black? Probably black because you know he had to overcome a lot more and thus worked harder to make it on top. Now consider Obama, who not only aced Harvard Law, but has managed to campaign for president without a credible scandal dogging his heels. If preferring a guy like that is racism, I'll gladly wear the title.

The Los Angeles Times urges a no vote on Proposition 8, the Calif. marriage protection amendment:

Clever magicians practice the art of misdirection -- distracting the eyes of the audience to something attention-grabbing but irrelevant so that no one notices what the magician is really doing. Look over at that fuchsia scarf, up this sleeve, at anything besides the actual trick.

The campaign promoting Proposition 8, which proposes to amend the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriages, has masterfully misdirected its audience, California voters. Look at the first-graders in San Francisco, attending their lesbian teacher's wedding! Look at Catholic Charities, halting its adoption services in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal! Look at the church that lost its tax exemption over gay marriage! Look at anything except what Proposition 8 is actually about: a group of people who are trying to impose on the state their belief that homosexuality is immoral and that gays and lesbians are not entitled to be treated equally under the law.

That truth would never sell in tolerant, live-and-let-live California, and so it has been hidden behind a series of misleading half-truths. Once the sleight of hand is revealed, though, the campaign's illusions fall away.

The article proceeds to list the illusions:
Catholic Charities in Mass. halted adoption because of a gay-friendly law passed many years earlier that included the charities because they took state money. Those kids attending their teacher's lesbian wedding had their parent's permission and that permission could have been given for a domestic partner ceremony. The case about forcing churches to marry gays was about a NJ Methodist resort that got a tax exemption on the grounds that it is open to the public and therefore must be open to the entire public but doesn't affect what is done on private church property. The "traditional" definition of marriage has already changed radically over the years.

Here's a new blog that I've enjoyed reading for a couple days now. Most of the posts are by Helen, who is 82, lives in Texas, and is quite feisty and eloquent. She started blogging after her grandson set things up to help her keep in contact with her best friend Margaret, who is of similar age and lives in Maine. And, no, it isn't that kind of best friend -- both have husbands. I love the banner photo of the two friends on scooters on the deck of some military ship.

Helen was asked by an undecided voter how to help make a decision. Here's a summary of what she said (though she says it with much humor).

McCain blew his first big decision in choosing Palin. She is way out of her league. He is scaring people on taxes -- most won't make enough money to be affected. This is an ongoing GOP hoax. McCain has flipped on many issues and no longer has a spine and is no longer a maverick.

Which party has been screaming about bogeymen coming to get you and which has talked about hope? Which has been talking about Real America and which about the United States of America. Which thinks war is a good solution and which prefers diplomacy? Which has been a documented liar?

Are you still undecided because the terrorists are going to get us? Let's try hope instead of fear.

Thanks, Helen, for saying it so well.

So vote.

There has been a lot of news about long lines and multi-hour waits to vote in early voting states and predicted for many places tomorrow. Some are beginning to wonder if that wait amounts to a poll tax, something banned by the 24th amendment to the Constitution. Why is it so hard to have enough voting stations?

The remaining classical music station around here has decided that Sunday at 7:00 is the right time for the Gospel Hour. That's the time for me to wake up and this isn't my style of music. Sigh. So after my shower yesterday I caught the last half of Speaking of Faith, on NPR. The topic of discussion was what is the right amount of religion in political life? Yes, religion influences our morals and that is important when debating candidates and policies. Journalist Steven Waldman of Beliefnet put it this way. When a religion ties itself closely to a political cause or party they run a big risk. As people sour on the cause or party they also sour on the religion. This activity of the Religious Right over the last 25 years has turned an entire generation away from Christianity. The Evangelicals at the time of the presidency of Thomas Jefferson thanked him for his strong support of the separation of Church and State. They were pleased to be free of political control of religion. The whole program is 53 minutes.

In this past weekend's Prairie Home Companion Garrison Keillor started with a heartfelt song about Studs Terkel, who died the day before, then did a fun song for Todd Palin, describing how much he, an Alaskan outdoorsman, will hate living in Washington.
You can listen to segments of the show (all the above in the 1st 17 minutes) or read the scripts and lyrics.