Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gaining Fundie cred through *this* guy?

To gain Fundie cred, John McCain (who called Falwell and Robertson "agents of intolerance") has latched on to pastor John Hagee. The Washington Spectator (alas, you must be a subscriber to see the online version) reports he is a lot more scary than anything Jeremiah Wright ever subjected Barack Obama to. Some things Hagee has preached or written about:

Hagee preaches a Prosperity Gospel: the more you give to the church (meaning Hagee) the more God will make you prosper. This is a perversion of the love of God, which is not conditional. That many of Hagee's church members are not prospering doesn't get talked about. Lenny Bruce says it well "Show me a preacher who has two suits where there is another man who has none, and I'll show you a fraud." Hagee's compensation package in 2003 (last time it was publicly available) was $1.25 million.

Hagee wrote about Armageddon. It is all in his book Jerusalem Countdown; A Prelude to War (several Hagee books are listed on Amazon). The ideas are based on Dispensationalism, a sect less than 200 years old. This is a twist on the prophecies of the book of Revelations, which talks about how Christ will defeat the Anti-Christ and usher in a new era of peace. Jesus clearly says no one knows when this will happen. But in the Hagee version it will come after certain events happen: Israel takes over all of it Biblical territory, all Jews gather there, and the Temple of Jerusalem is rebuilt (a mosque has been on that site for centuries). Whether the Bible actually says this is open to debate. But Hagee takes it a step further -- by forcing these events to happen he will speed up the time when the battle between Christ and Anti-Christ will happen. That bit is not in the Bible and goes against a great deal of other Biblical teachings.

To carry out his plans for Israel, Hagee has formed Christians United for Israel (CUFI) to advocate foreign policy. The particular foreign policies being advocated is to thwart the creation of a Palestinian state, push Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza, and to push for a joint Israel-American pre-emptive military strike on Iran. He hopes that strike will happen under Bush in case Clinton or Obama win the White House.

This is who McCain is cozying up to. Lots of other Republicans are lining up to do the same. Is this who we want with a hotline to the presidency? Is Hagee someone we want badgering the president when he is ignored?

McCain, Clinton, and Obama may woo independents with words about security and the economy and not say much about their associations. Voters may not worry about those associations. But they can severely impact life here in America (the Supremes) and around the world (the influence of Hagee).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Counting the cost and misjudging morality

Edmund Burke was an English-Irish statesman and philosopher who is seen as the father of modern conservatism (the original political meaning, not the religious meaning nor the twisted Bush meaning). He supported the American colonies in their dispute with King George III. He wrote this about the American Revolution:

A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood, he would feel some apprehension at being called to a tremendous account for engaging in so deep a play, without any sort of knowledge of the game.

Burke wasn't opposed to war, but felt war should be waged to reduce the loss of blood, treasure, and reputation without corresponding gains. This calculation is most important if the cause is weak and is on foreign soil. People, even presidents, make mistakes and that in itself isn't a reason to criticize them. But a thoughtful conservative (or anyone) will recognize when things go wrong and will work to correct them. While Bush does not understand that concept and Cheney has a complete disregard for democratic accountability, there are others who recognize their error of their earlier support for the Iraq war. Andrew Sullivan, writing at Slate, is one of those. His reasoning for his change of view include these points:

Sullivan was for the war partly from historical narcissism. He had lived through the Cold War and felt the walls of tyranny would fall if we had the will and gumption to use our military force. But the military force to get rid of Saddam is not the same as building a stable government in its place and the cost of doing so was not considered.

Sullivan chose war through narrow moralism. His personal tally of the pros and cons of the war did not include that war itself is a monster with possibly evil consequences that should be weighed.

Sullivan says he is guilty of unconservatism, not being conservative enough in not understanding the depth of the divide between Sunni and Shiite.

Sullivan says he misread Bush, who campaigned in 2000 as a unifying moderate Republican. The missed attribute wasn't incompetence, but morality. He did not see that Bush would use 9/11 to tear up the Geneva Conventions and use torture and lie about it.

I certainly never believed that a war I supported for the sake of freedom would actually use as its central weapon the deepest antithesis of freedom—the destruction of human autonomy and dignity and will that is torture.

Sullivan didn't see the effect the war would have on Iraq. He also didn't see the effect Bush's lack of morality would have on America.

The original Slate article is here.

Commentary (including about Burke) with extensive quotes from the Slate article is here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another look at the Definition of Marriage

I've written about the spat between Focus on the Family and the American Anthropological Association about the definition of marriage. Glenn Stanton of FotF has written a report that apparently fixed many of the objections the AAA had of his original web article (I haven't read it). Now Patrick M. Chapman, anthropologist and author of "Thou Shalt Not Love": What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays has written a critique of Stanton's article. Some highlights:

It is refreshing for Stanton (and FotF to recognize that anthropologists are experts in understanding and defining marriage. It is good to see that polygamy is rejected in the West because Western societies that practice it usually reduce women to property. It is refreshing for Stanton to say that marriage "transcends" religion, thus the term "sanctity of marriage" is not supported anthropologically. It is refreshing for Stanton to acknowledge that gays are capable of longstanding relationships.

Studies of other cultures show that people are seen both in terms of biological sex and also in terms of gender, which in this case means the roles assigned by society to men and women. In societies with such strong roles one member of a same-sex couple will take the male role and the other will take the female role. This has no meaning in Western societies that have done away with gender roles. Because of this FotF cannot claim that a child needs a parent of each sex. Both men and women can take on roles we traditionally assign to men and women. Gender expression is highly varied, so even if the parents are of the opposite sex does not mean they are taking the opposite gender roles. Children do not learn gender from just parents. They also learn it from the extended family and from society (Disney is great at teaching gender roles).

Stanton includes a summary of the anthropological view of marriage, apparently in an attempt to show why it must be reserved for opposite-sex couples. Chapman goes through the list and states each one of them applies to gay couples as well as straight. Both types provide for continuation of people and culture, serve the good of families, provide the needs of children, etc.

After all the refreshing statements by Stanton on behalf of Focus on the Family, it is now time for them to acknowledge they deceived readers when they said anthropologists agree with the "traditional definition of marriage" and to issue public apologies. Failure to do so means FotF is more concerned with its political agenda than its Christian identity.

Daddy is pregnant

Back to a more traditional definition of gender, that of how we view ourselves. A person can be transgender -- a biological female may think of herself as male and through hormones and perhaps sexual reassignment surgery may transition so that sex and gender match. Such is the case with Thomas Beatie, who went through chest reconstruction to appear male, but kept his uterus. Legally male, he married Nancy. She had a hysterectomy, so when they decided to have children Thomas has the working uterus and so is carrying their daughter, due in July. This is his story, including discrimination by the medical community.

The moral hazard of dropping off the keys

I've written before about ethics of compassionate conservatism and the strange ethical solutions it appears to produce. The goal of the American Dream was owning a home. That leads to a more stable society in many ways. Some (including Bush) have also talked about an ownership society, one in which the average person (at least average middle class) has a stake in the economy both through home and stock investments. Those dreams and that ownership took hits during the dot-com burst and the Enron meltdown. Now we have a house meltdown. Many home buyers were sold interest-only mortgages. If the price of the house rose, the homeowner won. If it fell, the bank lost. Many homeowners were essentially renters, having little or no equity in the place where they lived. They crunch the numbers, see they owe more than the house is now worth, and see there is no way to get back above water. They even see repairs to the house not as improving their asset, but shelling out money -- absorbing costs -- to maintain someone else's property. Their solution: mail the keys to the bank and leave. Some even trash the place on their way out. Actual rent is usually cheaper (though with landlords defaulting and banks kicking out tenants rental properties are getting harder to find). It is better to default on the house then the credit card (that used to be the reverse). Americans are finding the dream betrayed. A candidate who dares to tap into this anger could go a long way this fall. By walking away thwarted homeowners find they may have lost out, but they can take their bank down with them. Those interest-only loans are like loaded weapons left in every house. Banks find it aimed at themselves. The Bushies find the weapon aimed at their buddies and only now must they act.

Bailing out the mortgages creates a moral hazard. Think of it this way: One man dug a hole to capture a second man, then the first man falls in as well. Which do you rescue and why? The Bushies are quite content in rescuing only the first man. The first man is the bank that made a bad loan on risky assumptions. The second man is the average homeowner. The homeowner isn't helped because economists say it is a moral hazard to not pay for the consequences of your risky actions. But with the bailout of Bear Sterns, who engaged in risky behavior as well, they are avoiding the consequences of their risky behavior. Most of the management gets golden parachutes while most of the staff gets a pink slip. No moral hazard here? Any government help of the common man and you get screams of "socialization!" especially in socialized health care. But now we get socialize wealth care -- the transfer of money from the government to select private citizens.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Safe Schools and respect

The Triangle Foundation is preparing for Safe Schools Day at the Michigan Senate. I attended my own senator's coffee hour today to remind him I'm interested in seeing the bill passed (not a hard job -- he wrote the bill). But the holdup, in Michigan and elsewhere, is the fundamentalist mindset. No, you can't stop bullying! You mean some kids deserve to be bullied? Well… it's not so much the actual bullying we want to endorse, you see, but those laws come with mandatory training that are designed to "foster an environment of understanding and respect for all individuals." And we won't respect their decision to be gay.

Armed and dangerous gays?

I've written about the DC gun ban now before the US Supremes. What I didn't know at the time was that many of those backing the plaintiffs are gay organizations (love the name: Pink Pistols), not just the NRA. The reason is that if gays are going to continue to be on the wrong end of hate crimes which are frequently deadly they want to be able to defend themselves. There is a broad range of possible gun laws from no one is allowed to own any kind of gun to everyone is allowed to own a shoulder-launched missile. Most people agree that personal missiles are too much. But what is appropriate? The Supremes could leave the boundary murky by saying that the DC law isn't where the line should be drawn and you have to craft another law and ask again before we tell you more.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Reviewing Obama's speech

A conservative critiques Obama's big speech. Between that and a commentary on the critique we get these thoughts: It was a speech to think to, not clap to. Typical pundits didn't joke about it, they talked about it, starting a discussion long overdue. Too many talking heads are put on talk shows to fill silence and defend political turf. Obama spoke to us as adults in a way not calculated to win votes. Which means he cares more for the country and the issues than himself.

America should grow up

Europeans think Americans are too hung up on sex scandals, that American society is too Puritanical. While they enjoy a juicy sex story involving their politicians they shrug their shoulders unless the mistress is also a spy. When the Spitzer case was reported in Germany papers mentioned the scandal, then focused on the public's hysteria. That was the news. America needs to grow up. So what if the governor lives with his friend.

One Step Forward

Bigots get loud when their side is losing. Here's some evidence of why they're shrill: the California GOP had a state convention to draw up and adopt their party platform for 2008. It no longer calls for a marriage protection amendment! That's even as groups work to get it on the ballot to overturn an expected Calif. Supreme Court ruling. Alas, the platform still defines marriage as between a man and a woman, still calls for an end to teaching homosexuality as an acceptable "alternate lifestyle," still opposes same-sex partner benefits, child custody, adoption, and "special" rights. One step forward…

Stormy Weather

Union University in Jackson, Tenn., a very conservative school, was flattened in the recent cluster of tornados that hit the South. While I sympathize with the loss it brings to mind recent comments of Rev. John Hagee (who has said even worse things than Obama's Rev. Wright, yet still embraced by the McCain campaign). Hagee said that Katrina was God's vengeance on gays. That comment prompted a YouTube video (reached through this link) promoting Hagee as McCain's nominee to head the National Weather Service -- he could identify events that could prompt God's displeasure, allow the State Security Apparatus to clean it up, and thus prevent weather-related disasters. Yet a conservative Christian school was flattened. Did God miss his intended target?

Living like choirboys

Welcome to the National Surveillance State. I wrote before that a prosecutor selects which cases to prosecute, or if politically motivated will select which people to prosecute. A politically motivated Department of Justice has certainly chosen to prosecute Democrats, such as Spitzer, and not Republicans. With the increase of surveillance (some mandated by law, some voluntary), politically motivated prosecutors have a lot more data on hand to bring down their target. Some may say that those in power should know they are going to be targeted and avoid giving others something that can be used against them. That sounds like we are asking all Democrats to live like choirboys, abstaining from all kinds of questionable activities. And we're back to the issue of who gets to decide what are questionable activities and why isn't it none of the government's business what he does in his off hours?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

...For All

A writer/blogger wandered through the recent Take Back America conference wrestling with the question of what comes after November's election (assuming we get a Democratic government)? The work of progressives can, finally, begin. And that is: health care for all, an economy that works for all, civil rights for all. Those two words from the Pledge of Allegiance are also important in my church work where I am working on a vision statement that speaks of inclusion for all and on identifying spiritual gifts which are given to all to be used for the benefit of all.

Obama Speaks

In response to his pastor's "inflammatory" comments circulated in the news over the last week (though no more divisive than lots of conservative preachers) Barack Obama gave an important speech titled "A More Perfect Union." In it Obama says a lot about how we need reconciliation to overcome our problems, not the usual politics of "I've got mine!" that is practiced by both parties. I appreciate and agree with a great deal of what he said. It's worth viewing or reading (both options are available from this link). This post also contains commentary and questions, such as "Does the fear of being perceived as racist or patronizing outweigh the benefits of addressing honest questions we have about the effect of race?" Though I'm annoyed by Obama's episode last fall with the anti-gay gospel singer I prefer him to Hillary (who lately comes across as scheming) and way ahead of McCain.

The role of the courts

What is the role of the courts? If you've truly got a democracy aren't you supposed to convince your fellow citizens to want what you want? Abortion a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to enact it. Abortion, homosexuality, affirmative action, separation of church and state, death penalty. The court has touched all of these issues and somebody thinks with each one the court messed things up. Perhaps the Supremes should not be an unelected super-legislature. But there is one more hot-button issue -- gun rights -- the Supremes hadn't touched since 1939 until this past week. And through that issue we see the role of the court. Back in 1939 the Supremes declared owning a gun is a collective right (for use by well regulated militias), not an individual right. Since then, the NRA with its money and power has essentially changed public opinion so that gun ownership is seen as an individual right. The reason why the court is necessary is that well-funded interest groups distort the democratic process. (All that and no mention of tyranny of the majority.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Responses to a conservative rant

A progressive baited a conservative and was repaid with a rant about how liberals are really socialists -- no surprise in the exchange. The progressive then posed the question: How would you answer this guy? The answers are worth reading, especially the one that lists several bible passages about what Jesus and others had to say about the rich and the poor (yeah, you either must read the comments in this entry or look them up yourself):

Matthew 19:20-22

Luke 14:12-14

2 Corinthians 9:8-10

James 2:6-7

Proverbs 18:23

Matthew 19:23

Luke 6:24

Luke 16: 13-25

Deuteronomy 15:4-11

And they call themselves Christian.

Seeing a difference

The Arizona House has passed a Bigot Protection Act. Um, that's not the real title, but the news articles don't give that. Though religious people can distinguish between the intent of t-shirts that have the words "Proud to be Irish" and one with "Irish are scum" many can't do the same with shirts that say, "Proud to be gay" and "God hates fags." Thus the need for a speech protection act. A reminder to the Right: laws that protect Bible Clubs at schools also protect Gay-Straight Alliances. So sorry that nobody wants to attend the Bible Clubs. In the same way this law can also be used against the Right. Want to proclaim your religion? Gays can do the same. How about a t-shirt that says "Real Christians don't hate." This blogger has a photo of a marvelous response. It is a takeoff of John 14:3 "I will come back and take you to be with me." The t-shirt is pink with the Bible reference in small print. Above it in big print are the words "Someday My Prince Will Come." Another idea: "Instead of being born again, why not just grow up?"

Marriage Protection in Pennsylvania

An extremely harsh marriage protection amendment has passed the Judiciary Committee of the Pennsylvania Senate. What is alarming is that several Democrats voted for it. It is harsh because not only does it ban gay marriage, it also bans civil unions, domestic partner benefits, and even hospital visitation. To go into effect it must pass the Senate and House, wait until after new legislators might be chosen in the November vote, pass both House and Senate again, then be voted on by the people perhaps in November 2009. Though this entry doesn't say so, Pennsylvania is important in presidential elections and this will draw out the Fundie vote for McCain as they vote for state legislators who like the ban. And Democrats voted for it.

The Democrat's Divide

For a good long time Dems were thrilled to have two wonderful candidates. But the mood has soured a lot. Since both are quite similar in positions the candidates are focusing on other issues: electability and fitness for the office. Meaning they are doing McCain's dirty work for him. Even worse, the candidate surrogates are injecting sexism and racism into the party that's supposed to be beyond such issues. As a result Clinton supporters (for example) can't stand Obama supporters, thinking them too smug, and talk of voting for McCain if Clinton loses. Ouch! This is from an article in Newsweek by Julia Baird.

Friday, March 14, 2008

We bagged a governor

There are some troubling aspects of the Eliot Sptizer case. First some comments from Robert Jackson, described as "the greatest Attorney General of the last century" (I don't know under which president he served):

If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.

This looks to be the case with Spitzer. This analysis is from Scott Horton, who teaches law at Columbia University and has a blog at Harper's Magazine. The investigation didn't start with prostitution, but with "suspicious" money transfers, thought to be money laundering. But the amount of money is small to be a laundering effort and not all that out of line for a man as rich as Spitzer. This was turned over to the IRS, which now has an astonishing record of politically motivated investigations. The IRS turned it over to the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice, now known for launching 5 investigations of Democrats for every one launched of Republicans. This was a "routine" examination of bank records but it prompted a huge allocation of resources to investigate it, in stark contrast to Vitter in which the DoJ never seems to have enough resources to investigate. That means the DoJ wasn't investigating a crime, they were investigating the person in hopes of finding a crime. The way the story was teased into the press was done for maximum humiliation of Spitzer, enough to keep him out of public office, above and beyond what would be appropriate for the nature of his crime. How nice that the GOP was able to bag a governor.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Worse than terrorists

I hadn't wanted to bother writing about Sally Kern, an Oklahoma legislator who thought she was off-mike and among friends when she spouted off about "homosexuals are worse than terrorists." Same old story from yet another mouth. But I changed my mind when a high school senior named Tucker wrote a letter to Kern describing how he lost his mother in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building at the age of 5. The bomber was not gay or Muslim, but Christian. Kern has no clue what she is talking about and her blathering will lead to more deaths. Alas, he was barred from delivering the letter to Kern by hand. Tucker is remarkably articulate and passionate for a high school senior. Well worth the read.

Episcopals throw out rebellious bishop

Last fall, the San Joaquin Diocese of the Episcopal Church, led by Bishop John-David Schofield, split away from the national church and aligned itself with the Anglicans of South America. This was in response to the national church not being repentant over consecrating Gene Robinson. Now the national church has thrown out Schofield and barred him from any of his duties as bishop. Those members of the Diocese who want to remain with the national church will be meeting to elect a new bishop.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

California gay marriage - dissenting the Supremes

A dissenting opinion on Calif. gay marriage: The Supremes there should not mandate it but should also not stand in the way of letting the legislature do it. Gays in Calif. do have domestic partnerships and a voter backlash against the Supremes could wipe out DPs too. Such a ruling would also make Arnold's position less firm, making it more likely that he won't veto the third attempt by the legislature. It makes me wonder how long we must wait to avoid threatened voter backlash?

Making an informed ex-gay choice

John Corvino, an ethics professor at WSU suggests that if a person wants to go through an ex-gay program, he should have that choice without condemnation. However, for that person to make an ethical choice he must get honest information out of the ex-gay industry. There are three ways these programs play with the facts. (1) Unfortunate experiences of a few ex-gays ("I left behind sexual abuse and drug addiction.") are implied to represent the "before" life of all gays. (2) They abuse science: practitioners are not trained or licensed, tend to base their therapies on discredited theories, don't report their success rate, and confuse science, religion, and politics. (3) They promote a "cure" which implies homosexuality is a disease or psychological disorder. Billboards advertising ex-gay programs say, "Change is Possible." Possible? Maybe. Likely? No. Desirable? Not for me.

A favorable comment by mistake?

If a stopped watch is right twice a day, could an anti-gay organization be right, oh, maybe twice a year? The American Family Association (I've campaigned against AFA nonsense in Michigan) has a suggestion for the upcoming Day of Silence. This is a day that gay and ally youth vow to say nothing during the school day in protest of the bullying and harassment of gay kids. This year it will be on April 25. The AFA thinks its members should keep their kids home that day. A good idea because it will keep the bullies out of school and the gay kids can conduct their protest feeling a bit more safe.

Alas, in their justification for their counter-protest the AFA says that Day of Silence "leads students to believe that every person who identifies as a homosexual, bisexual or cross-dresser is a victim of ongoing unrelenting harassment and hate." Does that mean we can't have anti-bullying laws until *all* gay kids are harassed? Does that mean we shouldn't bother protecting kids if a few escape the torture? What is the threshold? Since gays probably make up only 5% of the population (that's still 15 million) does that mean we'll never reach the threshold? How is it Jews get a lower threshold? They're only 1% of the population yet anti-Semitic remarks are now strongly discouraged. And you can even choose to be Jewish! Sigh.

A responder tells the story of a straight friend who is uncomfortable with gay guys coming on to him and wants permission to kick butt. So if a straight guy comes on to a lesbian she has permission to kick his butt?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Founding Faith

Newsweek has a book review of "Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America" by Steven Waldman. Southern Baptists should be wary about claiming America was founded as a Christian nation because at the time of our founding "Christian" meant Anglican and Calvinist. Baptists were seen as dissenters. James Madison, whose father was a church official, believed that if government was indifferent to religion, belief would be stronger, not weaker. He was proven correct -- "law is not necessary to the support of religion." The book pokes holes in various myths, one of which is that Evangelicals want less separation of church and state. Actually, it was evangelicals who pushed for the idea. This has resulted in an America that is "among the most religious and the most tolerant of nations." Some of this reminds me of my time in Germany, which has state sponsored religion. To many of my office colleagues religion had no meaning in their lives. A state religion could not compel belief and made many less inclined to bother with it.

Odds and Ends

One of the threats wielded by the Right is "If you don't do what we say you'll be punished in the voting booth." That didn't stop Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain from instituting gay marriage a few years ago. The voters have now spoken again and Zapatero won, with his party gaining seats. His party's success was attributed to his progressive social agenda, which included gay marriage.

Back in 2001 Michael Guest was the first openly gay American ambassador. He took his partner to Romania but was surprised that because his partner is gay said partner was excluded from safety classes on such things as how to recognize a terrorist threat or an intelligence trap, both serious holes in national security. The partner was also excluded from health care and if an embassy was ordered evacuated the partner would have to pay for his way to safety. Guest was offered another posting recently and instead decided it was time to retire. That was enough for the State Department to decide well maybe it is time to change some policies. This is from a Deb Price column.

Some incredible photos of penguins. The brown ones are the young who don't have adult feathers yet.

Newsweek's My Turn page this week is by a male ballet dancer who laments he is judged by the tights he wears and must constantly justify his profession to others. It makes me think of the recent book, "Dude, You're a Fag" that talks about the code of masculinity that teenage boys enforce on each other.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

So what do you call it?

Gays can't get married because that term is reserved for straights, so we get domestic partnerships. Now we have a case where domestic partnerships are too much like marriage so we can't use that term either. Back in January, Salt Lake City passed a domestic partner registry. It can't do much with a state marriage protection amendment, but it did allow a way to "prove" a gay relationship for private-sector employees. And that's about it. But when the Utah state legislature heard about it they said you can't call it a domestic partner registry. So you call it … what? Right now it apparently has no name, though they could call it the Sodomy Registry.

California gay marriage arguments for the layman

An attorney, Manuela Albuquerque who has argued before the California Supremes, attended their hearings on gay marriage and wrote a summary for the layman. First, the prediction: the court will find in favor of gays. Four of the seven appear to want that and it might be unanimous because the other three can't justify their desire to uphold the ban. Discrimination cannot be based on immutable factors (and the state Attorney General has already conceded that sexual orientation is immutable) unless the state can offer up a credible public policy reason why that discrimination is appropriate. Claiming that's what the voters want doesn't cut it. Calif. already has sweeping laws to prevent discrimination against gays, including allowing domestic partnerships and adopting children. These laws have lengthy sections documenting past discrimination and justifying why arguments against gays don't work. In the sense, all the arguing has already been done and already been enshrined in Calif. law. The Supremes (and pro-gay lawyers) need a *very* good reason to overturn all that work. That left the AG arguing "We've always done it this way" and looking embarrassed as he did so. In other cases, the Supremes have thrown out the argument, "Because that's what the voters want." The answer to that is, "We only look at whether the law conflicts with the Constitution. Voters are free to change the Constitution if they disagree with the Court." One justice tried the "no harm, no foul" approach. If domestic partnerships were enough like marriage to not cause harm, then gays couldn't claim discrimination. The anti-gay groups answered for him with their claim that marriage has a special solemn status in society, which gays shouldn't have. That doesn't leave anything to stand on. As for remedy, the court will likely simply invalidate restrictions to same-sex marriage. That means it would not have to go before the legislature. Ready for June weddings?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Parasites and Leeches

I wrote a couple months ago about the view that conservatives think the Katrina response has been appropriate, though from my viewpoint it has been a disaster. Here is confirmation of the conservative's take. This is from Neal Boortz, who said it on his own Neal Boortz Show which is from Cox Radio Syndication. Speaking of the poor people who needed to be rescued after Katrina hit New Orleans, he said:

" That wasn't the cries of the downtrodden; that's the cries of the useless, the worthless. New Orleans was a welfare city, a city of parasites, a city of people who could not and had no desire to fend for themselves. You have a hurricane descending on them and they sit on their fat asses and wait for somebody else to come rescue them. 'It's somebody else's job to get me out of here. It's somebody else's job to save my life. Not mine. Send me a bus, send me a limo, send me a boat, send me a helicopter, send me a taxi, send me something. But you certainly don't expect me to actually work to get myself out of this situation, do you? Haven't you been watching me for generations? I've never done anything to improve my own lot in life. I've never done anything to rescue myself. Why do you expect me to do that now, just because a levee broke?'

And then [John] Edwards [in New Orleans to withdraw from the presidential campaign] said, yeah, it was Washington's problem, it was all Washington's problem, it was all George Bush's fault. You had a city of parasites and leeches, and that's George Bush's fault? So, boy, I need to slow down. I'm saying too many of the things I actually believe today."

As a commentator translates, their poverty makes them undeserving of help. Some people shouldn't survive and their poverty, which means they were unable to get out of the way, identifies them as unfit for survival. Thus helping them is immoral. It is simply nature's way of cleaning up, of clearing the way for more affluent housing and owners.

That same conservative viewpoint has brought us have a spreading AIDS crisis among the poor of Washington DC and a horribly inadequate evacuation plan for our capital that would be needed in the case of a dirty bomb or bioterror attack.

This essay came to my attention through another by the same author. The credit crisis and impending recession is now hitting the middle class. These people were supposed to have a sustaining job and a house. With that one had arrived, one was secure. One was no longer one of "those" people, a parasite and leech like the people in New Orleans. But the bottom has dropped out. Interest rates on the house loan have reset. The house itself is worth less. And layoffs are looming.

And yet, talk in Washington is that some people don't deserve to be rescued from their predicament. They should be left to drown, identified by their lack of economic resources. Their middle class status is smoke and they find they are one of "those" people after all.

Handing Hate a Microphone

An article appeared in this week's Newsweek about the rise of hate speech in the immigration debate has come with a rise in hate crimes. The National Council of La Raza is now imploring media outlets to "stop handing hate a microphone." I wrote to Newsweek wondering why this hasn't been said about gays in the 10 years since Matthew Sheperd's murder in spite of the many gay organizations making this point. Here's my letter:

I am pleased to see your article When Hate Becomes Hurt in the March 10 edition. I am glad the article made strong links between the rise of the use of hate language -- words such as "invaders" and "aliens" -- in the immigration debate and the increased incidence of hate crimes. It is good to see the National Council of La Raza asking media outlets to "stop handing hate a microphone." But I'm annoyed with what isn't in this article and hasn't been featured in the news. Lawrence King of Oxnard, California was killed last month because of an ongoing high level of hate language against gays. Gay organizations have been making the connection between hate speech and hate crimes since before Matthew Shepard's death a decade ago. Why are we only now talking about the links and asking to stop handing hate a microphone?

To be fair to Newsweek, you have been a good ally to gays over the last several decades and I appreciate your efforts. It was through one of your straightforward, matter-of-fact articles about gays in the early 1980s that I realized I was gay.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Marriage debate in California

The California Supremes heard oral arguments yesterday about same-sex marriage. The session was 3 hours long. Watchers aren't able to guess how the court will rule, but the court must produce an opinion within 90 days. The primary position of the anti-gay forces seems to be "Tyranny of the Majority trumps individual rights." This is based on a 2000 voter-passed initiative that bans gay marriage. Not only is this argument undermined by protections in the Constitution it is also undermined by Arnold who vetoed two gay marriage laws even though they were passed by a majority of Calif. legislators (who theoretically represent a majority of citizens). The backup position is that gays can have domestic partnerships, which are just like marriage, really they are, even though New Jersey (which offers DPs) produced a report saying all the ways they aren't. They finish off by saying such things as: a ruling favorable to gays would is too radical and would result in a backlash and that (sigh) gays are unfit parents. Some court watchers speculate that the court has already decided and are just waiting until after the April 19 deadline for collecting signatures for the Calif. version of a marriage protection amendment.

A Clear Consensus

Focus on the Family is making the claim that there is a clear consensus among Anthropologists about what makes a family. True. Except they don't agree with Focus on the Family. The site Box Turtle Bulletin works to verify/debunk the anti-gay claims, so they put the FotF statements in front of real anthropologists. Throughout human history the types of social, political, or economic contracts used to form a family unit have varied widely and societies around the world routinely included same-sex couples in those contracts. It was not unusual in some cultures for a man (or a woman) to have multiple marriage contracts. The type of marriage that FotF insists must be the exclusive one has developed over the last 200 years and only accepted as standard in the last 60. Thus the American Anthropological Association strongly condemns marriage protection amendments.

The FotF claim and rebuttal are here.

A more complete rebuttal is here.