Thursday, August 28, 2008

Incompatible with the profit motive

Both presidential candidates are pushing preventative care to save health care money. A recent paper in the New England Journal of Medicine by Peter Neumann and Joshua Cohen and others at the Tufts Medical Center says not so fast. Yes, something simple as routine blood pressure checking does indeed save money because the test is so cheap and the consequences can be so expensive. But a test such as prostate cancer screening is more expensive and the number of men who actually have prostate cancer is much smaller and there is a very high expense of dealing with a false positive. Childhood immunization? Sorry, that program is so successful we can't get anymore savings through it. Smoking cessation programs? Well, no. People live longer those expensive medical bills just come later in life. Which means in some cases it may be cheaper let a person get sick and to treat the sickness than to keep them healthy. And if you look only at the bottom line it is perhaps cheaper to let a sick person die.

Keep in mind the above discussion is only about money. It is not about longevity and not about quality of life. For example, a smoking cessation program boosts both of those goals. We as a society (and even a species) place a high value on both longevity and quality of life, neither of which can be expressed in dollars.

Which brings me to an idea that has been rolling around in my head for several weeks now: Health care is incompatible with the profit motive.

If a doctor runs a fee-based system, he may get some bucks off you by administering some preventative tests, but his/her money comes when you are sick. The sicker you are, the more cumbersome the treatment, the longer it takes for you to regain your health, the more money the doctor makes. While we're at it, he/she will likely throw in a few extra tests just to be sure. Now, an ethical doctor understands the value of longevity and quality of life and will forego income to see you healthy. One that isn't so ethical faces the prospect that if you don't get healthy fast enough you will turn to another doctor.

If you add medical insurance into the mix it gets worse. The faceless bureaucracy is concerned only with the money and doesn't care so much for longevity and quality of life. They don't see your rosy glow when you return to health. To them your premium may be an asset, but you are a liability, a cost they would like to eliminate or control. While offering some preventative care may reduce that cost, the easiest way to control cost is to not treat you -- don't let you buy insurance from them, deny the claim, cancel coverage, let you stay sick, or (as noted in the study mentioned above) let you die. Even if they treat you it may not be to a complete return to health, but only get you well enough so that you stop bothering them. What keeps that from happening is the possibility that you might hear of their abysmal record and take your premium elsewhere -- if you can. While HMOs (health maintenance organizations) were developed a couple decades back with the idea that if they work to keep you healthy they will spend less on care, actual day-to-day expenses show that not to be the case (or they would still be doing it). Even if you are able to get great care out of the system your own cost and the cost to society goes up because the insurer will insist on that profit.

Republicans claim we should rely on the market for optimal solutions to problems. There are some sectors of our society where we measure success in terms other than profit, such as health and quality of life, and searching for the best solution through the profit motive won't get us what our society values. Health is only the biggest sector where this is true.

The best solution to health care, and probably even the cheapest, is one that gets rid of the need for profit. We have such a system in place, good enough that other countries copy it. It's called Medicare. And we should expand it to include everyone.

Health care is not the only place where the profit motive gets in the way, leading us to solutions that don't match what society values. Here is one example.

There seems to be a push into privatizing all kinds of things, such as highways or toll roads. However, a privately owned toll road can work against what is best for society. The road's owners will fight against competition, such as additional roads that might reduce congestion on their own road (so what if traffic is backed up as long as all those people paid?) or such as mass transit, which would alleviate air pollution.

What other sectors of society should not be run with a profit motive? I'm sure there are more.

A spoonful of humor

Best Democratic Convention one-liners:

If McCain is the answer the question must be ridiculous.

More one-liners from Tuesday here.

Joke for today: Want to be the first to know John McCain's pick for running mate? Before the official announcement he'll be glad to send you a telegram.

Quote for today:

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." -Susan B Anthony, reformer and suffragist (1820-1906)

He's a Muslim! So?

Ellis Cose in Newsweek responds to the growing belief in the lie that Obama is a Muslim at heart. That it's growing is shown by survey respondents who claim that has risen from 10% to 12% over the last few months. Cose says it is working because of the popular view that all Muslims are terrorists and while it isn't acceptable to be a race bigot, it is still widely acceptable to express your bigotry against Muslims. Declare Obama to be a Muslim and you don't have to play the race angle. When asked about what they are doing to counter that viral email threat, the Obama campaign said they are working to highlight the candidate's Christian credentials. Cose says that while that may be a short term solution (and perhaps not all that effective) the real effort should be in saying, "So what if he's a Muslim?"

Jacob Weisberg in Newsweek examines Obama's missing 10 point lead. Bush's legacy, McCain's desire for a bridge to the early 20th Century, and Obama's crack campaign staff should put Obama way out in front rather than tied with McCain. What gives? Weisberg says the answer is simple: race. He lists how race is being distorted by some to make the bigotry more palatable (remember our discomfort isn't because he's Hawaiian). And in some cases the racial angle is isn't hidden at all.

An Obama win may mean we have finally reached a post-racial America (in spite of some die-hards). But an Obama loss means:

"our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfectly good opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: the United States had its day, but in the end couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Breakfast of ... well maybe not champions

A question primarily for my niece CinnaZimt, though I'll appreciate answers from anyone. I'm asking her because she is a vegetarian. So, dear niece…

Because of hypoglycemia (as you know), I follow a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. For the last 15 years or so, my breakfast has been an open-face ham sandwich and usually a similar turkey sandwich for lunch. Over the last year, as part of my job as Stewardship Guide for my local church, I've heard how much meat production damages the environment. Recently, I've also heard that while the price of meat has risen only slightly this year it might double next year. So I'm looking for no sugar, low carb, high protein alternatives to that ham sandwich -- besides peanut butter. I already eat a lot of peanut butter, so it isn't an issue of it fitting into my needs. It's just that I'm looking for other alternatives. Any ideas?

Who to avoid at the voting box

For Michigan readers: The Detroit Free Press reports that the state GOP convention has nominated candidates for the "non-partisan" (yeah, right) parts of the ballot -- supreme court justices, and trustees for the big state universities. The article also says the state party will campaign on the message, "If you like what Gov. Granholm and the Dems have done for Michigan, you'll love what Obama will do for the Nation." Yeah, Granholm is a wimp, but she is still dealing with the 12 years of Gov. Engler's disasters.

The GOP nominee for the Supremes is incumbent Cliff Taylor. His rallying cry is something like this: Leftie liberals can't get their ideas accepted in the marketplace of ideas so they are using the courts and it is up to justices like me to thwart those ideas. I've heard the Michigan Supremes, heavily laden with GOP justices, have been rated the worst such court in the nation.

Other nominees (so you know who to avoid in November):

MSU trustees: Scott Romney, Lisa Bouchard.

UofM regents: Susan Brown, Carl LaFond.

WSU regents: Danialle Karmanos, Torion Bridges.

State Board of Education: Scott Jenkins, Richard Zeile.

Silver lining of the gas pump

A My Turn article in Newsweek actually appreciates the high price of gasoline. The reason is that it has gotten the family out of the minivan and onto their feet and bicycles. And that has drawn the family closer. The writer made a game of getting the family to propose new ways to reduce gasoline usage. Suggestions included running around the neighborhood rather than driving to the gym to run on the treadmill, eating at local restaurants rather than driving downtown, borrowing books from a neighbor rather than from the distant library, and combining trips that remain necessary.

The winner is...

Forget total Olympic medal count, which is so unfair. What is really important, says sports writer Chuck Culpepper, is Medals per Capita (MPC). He's computing those statistics for the LA Times, though he will say the winner is the Bahamas, with 2 medals, one for every 153,725 residents. To top that Iceland would need another medal, Jamaica would need 8 more, and China would need another 9000.

On the front lines of evolution education

A report about a sophomore biology teacher in Florida trying to teach evolution. He was instrumental in changing the law there to mandate evolution and in getting the statewide teaching standards set up. When charged that he left out Intelligent Design he quipped that he also left out that the moon is made of green cheese. Yet, he is very aware that most of his students are from fundamentalist churches and might easily tune him out. But their mistrust of evolution affects their understanding of the basic power of science to explain things. Without the state requirement teachers would get complaints from parents. He proceeds by drawing a sharp line between what science is supposed to answer and what it isn't -- science cannot prove or disprove God. He makes clear he doesn't expect his students to believe evolution, but to understand it. The article implies that churches insist on creationism because of the implications on morality. But that prompts my questions: How is a moral code different when it is backed by creationism? And is such a moral code better for the society?

Alas, you must be a registered user of NYTimes (though free) to read beyond the first page.

Not-gay marriage cards?

In response to the backlash against Hallmark for creating wedding cards for gay marriage (which I mentioned before) here are a few tongue-quite-firmly-in-cheek suggestions for what kinds of cards the Fundies could create to reassert their claims to marriage. There are more where these came from but many are just a bit too out there for me to repeat.

"Congratulations in your real marriage."

"Congratulations to the groom and his new property."

"Glad to see the dowry was adequate."

"To the happy couple. Here's hoping your ex-gay therapy holds."

"May your breeding produce many children."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

There shall be no religious test

While many Christian conservatives are rejoicing that the first presidential discussion of both Obama and McCain was held at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, a lot of others aren't. One gay blogger describes it this way:

* The event essentially applied a religious test to gaining the office of president, something the Constitution explicitly forbids. Both candidates were explicitly asked about their faith in Jesus, a question that a Unitarian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist would find impossible to answer appropriately.

* Obama, though he rejected a marriage protection amendment, reinforced the ideas that marriage is sacred and therefore out of bounds for gays, government should have a hand in sacred institutions, and public policy is better when attached to a statement of faith.

Submitting to this line of interrogation is a bad idea on Obama's part (perhaps even McCain's) because of the large block of voters for which their leader's faith is irrelevant. One estimate is this block of "unchurched" is now 75 million and elections have been lost on much less. Perhaps Obama is aware they find religion irrelevant and most are not antagonistic to it.

But the event even has conservatives squirming, at least the ones who can recognize the danger: What if Obama gave the "wrong" answer? What if it had been too liberal? Even among Christians how do we judge what is a proper relationship to Jesus? Shouldn't the next questioner be a rabbi or an imam? What does it prove about their ability to fulfill the duties of president? Wouldn't have time be better spent discussing health care? In short, the question should not have been asked.

The winner in this circus was not Obama or McCain. It was Warren. He was able to reinforce the idea that to get elected in America one must toe the fundamentalist line -- that there is a religious test for the office of president.

Out -- in Flint

To my family (and others) in the Flint, Mich. area -- The Flint Public Library on Kearsley St. will host an "Out and About" exhibit of gay, lesbian, and transgender memorabilia from the area during September 3-24. It all opens with the documentary by Swartz Creek resident Antonio David Garcia titled "Fences." The show is about his cross country trip to meet gay film director Gus van Sant whose film My Own Private Idaho had a big influence on Garcia. The trip takes a lot of detours. There will be a reception at 6:00 on Sept. 3rd with the movie shown at 7:00. It is good to see the Flint Library hosting this exhibit. Flint isn't exactly in either the liberal or conservative parts of the state.

Bringing religion up to date

I finally got back to reading the last bits of an issue of Newsweek from June. It came while I was on my Alaska cruise and I turned to it because the Newsweek print edition took a week off (that they chose to do that during the first week of the Olympics is annoying). The reason for mentioning it at all is an article by Christopher Dickey titled The New Face of Islam about scholars discrediting the theology that bin Laden used to justify his Jihad.

While that is great news I found something even more wonderful. Similar to the Jewish Talmud, Muslims have Hadith sayings which explain the Quran and actually contain the rules for daily life. A team at the University of Ankara in Turkey say that each Hadith saying has a context and it is time to set each one in that context. Some sayings, such as the rule that women should not travel alone (the reason why Saudi Arabia forbids female drivers), were for a specific time and place when it wasn't safe for women to travel alone. Something practical, not religious. Modern life, with values such as democracy and human rights, is quite different from the 7th century when Islam got its start. Once that context is restored it becomes possible to determine if the saying applies to the modern world. It is important the work is being done in Ankara because it and Turkey have the respect of the rest of the Muslim world. This has the potential of profoundly affecting how Islam coexists with the modern world and relates to the other major religions.

Christians don't have a second document held in as high regard as the Talmud or Hadith. However, we do include the Jewish Testament, which some people insist must also be obeyed by Christians even though the Christian Testament says we should not. We also have the letters of Paul and other early Christians with no sorting out when Paul was referring to something of his own time and place or was referring to something for all time. I'd dearly love to see a team review the Christian Bible the way the Hadith is being reviewed but I doubt there is anyone that a sufficient number of Christians would respect. No matter what they did some branch of Christianity would dismiss it as not applying to them. Then there is my own personal view (also supported in the Christian Testament), which is that Christians are not bound by any religious laws, but should be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Chocolate will get you lots of places

Another adventure yesterday. I went to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn which I probably haven't done in at least 8 years and perhaps as many as 14. The draw this time was an exhibit on the history and making of chocolate. A disturbing thought -- as the fame of chocolate grew its increased availability, along with the sugar to sweeten it, was due to slaves on both the cacao and sugar plantations. It is, of course, nearly impossible to visit such an exhibit and not buy some in the gift shop. Fortunately, I was able to buy a small packet of sugar-free nut and caramel chocolates. I didn't bother with lunch until nearly 2:00. You have only two more weeks to get to Dearborn yourself.

I got the free audio tour of the whole museum, a cell phone with a special number to call and a map of the 17 sites with audio supplements. So after the chocolate I looked over the rest of the museum, or at least as much as I had stamina for while concentrating on the 17 points of the audio tour. Most interesting to me was the area around the Rosa Parks Bus and Lincoln's chair. This area featured four milestones of human rights in the USA -- the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Woman's Suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement. The woman's suffrage section talked about two women (alas, I forget names) who assumed leadership after Susan B. Anthony. One worked in a determined, low key manner. The other was much more in-your-face. That meant whichever way women were more comfortable expressing themselves they had an organization to join.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Singing Revolution

Yesterday I saw the documentary Singing Revolution about how the Estonian national pastime of singing helped to free them from Soviet rule. While the singing didn't have as much direct impact as their title implies it was still a compelling story. Back in 1869 (I think) Estonia started a national song festival. Sometime along the way they built a festival stage to hold the 30,000 singers (plus lots of room for spectators on a grassy hillside). During the Nazi and Soviet eras they still regularly held the festival, but sang mostly socialist songs -- at least for the first 2 days of the 3 day festival. They put up with singing that so they could sing Estonian music on the last day. There was a lot of discussion and videos of what life from WWII onward was like. Things got interesting in 1985 when Gorbachev started his Glasnost policy and Estonians said if you are granting freedom of speech we are going to start by talking about how you suppressed Estonian history over the last 50 years.

There were two impressive moments in the film. The first was a human chain that was created one day that went from the southern border of Lithuania to the northern coast of Estonia -- 600 kilometers long. The second was when the Russian people sent there to make the population more Russian (and loyal to Moscow) got upset with possible Estonian independence and tried to storm the government buildings. A freedom worker got on the radio and told about what was happening and soon a huge crowd of Estonians surrounded the Russians. This had all the ingredients for the start of a riot -- but the Estonians kept their cool and no blood was shed. Sometime after that a call went out to gather at the festival grounds for a celebration -- and 300,000 people showed up (a third of the Estonian population). The soundtrack would sound glorious, though perhaps a tad repetitive.

Sickness, misery, and death?

It seems a recent trend by those defending the Fundie's traditional stance on gays is to not use Scripture, but to warn of Dire Consequences. The argument is something like this: Homosexuality is a lifestyle full of sickness, misery, and death. Christians are not acting with the love of God when accommodating that pain. Instead, the compassionate action is to oppose homosexuality and lead the sufferers to God.

The Dire Consequences argument has a long and deep history in Christianity and has long been applied to everyone who is not Christian -- the godless simply must be miserable and joyless, especially compared to the rich rewards and blessings of the faithful.

This is an argument that I personally find more and more distasteful as I get to know non-Christians who are not miserable and joyless (and Christians who are). And though the Fundies don't see it, being gay does not consign you to a life of being miserable (except, perhaps, if you're growing up in a Fundie household). And that is the first problem of Dire Consequences theology.

The second problem is that to portray gays as miserable and joyless (all you happy gays out there are just -- hmpf -- ruining everything!) Dire Consequences theologists dig up all kinds of statistics to prove gays are full of sickness and will die young. Never mind that all these statistics were created by crackpot scientists. But as regular people find that gays are just like them they will lose trust in Dire Consequences theology. Soon the only people who believe it are the ones that manufacture it.

In a similar slavish insistence on religion over reality, here is a story about an ex-gay program. The program insisted (as they all do) there was a particular cause of homosexuality that could be cured. If a gay man thought about his youth and childhood the leadership said he wasn't trying hard enough and supplied him with a template with which to construct a personal mythology. Parents Weekend would come and Mom and Dad would be subjected to the same treatment -- you did something to make your kid gay, let's root it out. This, of course, caused a great deal of angst all around. Yes, there was a lot of delusional thinking at these meetings. And none of it was being done by the gay kids nor by their parents.

Caring enough to send the very best to a gay wedding

Short takes:

Hallmark offers greeting cards for gay weddings.

Andrew Sullivan points out that under the Bush definitions, John McCain was not tortured, but only subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques." This is a precarious position for a man who is basing his candidacy on being a POW and who approves of Bush's definitions. One can hope that McCain's "Get out of Gaffe Free" card has been used up already.

A majority -- almost two thirds -- of Americans would support an openly gay person for president. So why is Obama having so much trouble over being black?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Balancing speech

There have been times when I've read news articles in mainstream media that are full of praise about someone who is adamantly anti-gay and have written to the author complaining about balance. I was confronted with the error of my ways in a guest editorial in yesterday's Detroit Free Press by Darnell Gardner who is all of 17 years old. Wisdom isn't always tied to age. Gardner was actually talking about the FCC's Fairness Doctrine, which some people are talking about reviving, but I'm good at generalizing concepts and sometimes even recognizing when they apply to me. The Fairness Doctrine was a requirement that broadcasters present a balanced range of opinion to their listeners and viewers. Gardner says there are two big reasons why the Fairness Doctrine should be allowed to rest in peace. The first is that we would not be able to agree on whose standard of fairness to follow. This is the same reason why we should not incorporate religious doctrine into secular laws -- we couldn't agree on which set of religious doctrine. The second and bigger reason is that enforcing balance violates freedom of speech. We take the annoying speech along with the good. And listening to those annoying opinions without a rebuttal means that citizens have to think for themselves rather than having the government think for them. That's always good. The solution to balance isn't to demand the author supply it, but to engage in some free speech of my own.

Emphasizing disagreement within

The Calif. Republican Party Central Committee held a fund-raiser for the forces trying to ban gay marriage in the Calif. constitution. Attendees were met with a quiet protest outside the event in which protesters handed out fact sheets listing Republicans who are opposed to the amendment (or others like it). This first link is to a blogger who praises this kind of strategy. The second includes the list of GOP officials and their comments.

Supernatural v. scientific

Aww, too bad. High school seniors in Calif., especially those who are home schooled or from private schools, must meet certain requirements before applying to the University of California system. And if their science textbook rejects evolution they haven't met the requirements. The UC system says they haven't learned how to think critically. A federal judge upheld the university's requirement, citing legitimate reasons for rejecting such students, which means it is not (according to the judge) religious discrimination. One reason is such textbooks place the supernatural over the scientific. Of course, the ruling will be repealed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Learning lessons well

Why haven't the Anglicans split? Why keep communion with Africans and Asians that don't seem to understand what Christianity is all about? Is it because the Americans and Canadians think they can influence the conservatives? Chances seem slim. Perhaps it is white guilt? If the split happens Africans would lose much needed subsidies, which doesn't seem to slow down the African bishop's antagonism. Here is a suggestion at the history of the problem, implying the anti-gay fundamentalism is a fault of the British and American missionaries that brought the Anglican church to Africa and Asia. They seem to have taught a primitive version of the story. Africa, especially, can't get beyond that because so few of their leaders are well educated or have had seminary training. They aren't used to interpreting historical texts and placing them in context. They aren't exposed to the latest scholarship on homosexuality. So it seems that while African and Asian bishops can read the Bible, they don't understand the Christian faith. So what's wrong with a split? That is, after all, how the Anglican Church began.

Then again, many conservative churches in American teach a primitive form of Christianity and don't understand what it is all about. Perhaps the Africans and Asians did have good teachers. Here is a story of an ex-gay leader who claims that God gave breast cancer and killed off half a lesbian couple to chastise the women left alive. How cruel can you get? That prompts a rant by blogger Terrence Heath. So why did cancer take his straight father who, on his deathbed, was urging is son to be saved? That distorted view of God is the view the rest of society has come to know, so well that George Carlin can do a monologue about God the hostage-taker. God is seen as this invisible man in the sky who watches what we do and if you do anything from his list of 10 things you get sent to a place of torture and anguish. But he loves you. And he needs money. Follow the link to Carlin's actual text which is full of words I'd rather not use.

A word the community understands

Even in Utah some newspapers are printing same-sex wedding announcements, though not all of then are using the word "wedding." Along with that come findings that if a gay couple goes to Calif. or Mass. to get married when they get home their community understands what marriage is in ways that "domestic partnership" and "civil union" can't portray. This distinction leads a commentator to say:

Gay couples returning from [Calif. and Mass.] with marriage certificates will irreversibly change their home states. Not because their state will recognize their marriage; most probably won’t. But because their neighbors will.

The FISA issue is not dead

There is a web activist community urging Obama to "Get FISA right." I'm not going to say more because a good deal of this post is commentary about web activism. At least it is good to know the effort is out there.

Perhaps, maybe, Bush has done something right?

Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek makes a provocative claim on the cover of this past week's issue: There are some things that Bush has recently gotten right, at least in foreign policy. The Bush Obama and McCain are running against is the one who created all those fiascoes before 2006, especially in Iraq in 2003-2006. In the last couple years Bush has quietly changed course simply because even he saw they weren't working. It seems in this environment of the flip-flop-gotcha he didn't want to advertise things are being done differently. Zakaria credits Bush with these successes (or at least improvements) that follow earlier (sometimes disastrous) failures:

* Iraq is much more stable than in 2003-2005.

* Spending on the Afghan Army has increased considerably.

* The six-nation talks have gotten North Korea to the point it might be taken off the terror list.

* He has sent an American representative to join Europeans in recent discussions with Iran.

* He is actually getting involved in the Israel-Palestine issue.

* He is recognizing relations with China will be central over the next century.

* He has increased funding for AIDS in Africa through PEPFAR, a success recognized by both parties.

* Condi Rice seems to control foreign policy instead of Dick Cheney.

By highlighting this story I do not imply I think Bush is a wonderful guy. I still think he should be impeached and I grumble at saying anything nice about him. Bush is still a disaster at home (FISA is only one example) and he is still fumbling on many other foreign policy issues (torture, Nigeria, Darfur, and Mexico). Zakaria's purpose in writing this article is to say that the incoming president should not simply repudiate what Bush has done and start doing the opposite. We've already had one president who did exactly that. His name was George W. Bush.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's all in the genes

A bit of fun: Gay Scientists Have Isolated the Christian Gene. As ridiculous as this is it is annoying that so many people believe the opposite. The video is 1 minute 15 seconds.

Expressive v. Disruptive

More about Larry King and that Newsweek article which I wrote about before:

John Corvino, who teaches philosophy, says that King's actions did contribute to his death, something the Newsweek article discussed at length, but that is quite a bit different from blaming the victim. That doesn't mean the Newsweek article was balanced. It implied that if King's actions had been reined in he wouldn't have been murdered, but it doesn't talk about harassment of King by other students (including his killer) which was also not reined in. Other contributing factors were discomfort of the faculty in discussing LGBT issues (which the Los Angeles School District, 50 miles away, manages to do quite well), and getting caught between false choices of encouraging expressive behavior or preventing disruptive behavior.

The letters column in Newsweek for last week (alas, no link) was entirely about their article about King. Writers made these points:

* The schools turned down offers of sensitivity training offered by the local chapter of PFLAG.

* The article said King had "'flaunted his sexuality like a weapon.' Knives and guns are weapons; lipstick and women's shoes are not. Larry was taunted daily so he taunted back."

* The school system failed to create curriculum and expectations of staff and students that promoted diversity and respect and that violence is not the answer.

Can't relate

Just what is it we want in a president? The question comes up because McCain is making some bizarre claims for why we should vote against Obama -- and they're sticking. Some of the charges:

* Obama is too smart. This is worse than a dumb president? Then again, Americans are suspicious of smarts -- you can flaunt income but not IQ.

* Obama is too physically fit, he needs to put meat on his bones. The presidency is a grueling job, don't we want someone with stamina?

* He's too popular. We've seen where an unpopular prez. has gotten us -- GOP senators are avoiding their convention.

* He's too presidential, too confident. That gives him an air of arrogance and entitlement. Hmm. Bush managed the arrogance and entitlement without being presidential. But don't you want competence in a surgeon or a pilot?

So why should some very good qualities disqualify someone from the presidency? Here's a guess, by a blogger named Terrence Heath, of what's really going on. We understand and don't resent privilege (which McCain and Bush have in abundance) because we want that for ourselves some day even if we vote against our ability to actually get there. But appreciating someone who got somewhere on merit and hard work? That's scary. That implies that we also can do better -- and also implies the accusation that we should have been doing better and demands that we think about why we are not. Skate through life on your daddy's (or wife's) fortune? Hey man, I'm with ya. Earn it by actually working? Sorry, can't relate.

Back from vacation

During my vacation I got to be thinking about how much I've been revealing about myself. While I am still concerned about someone googling my name and discovering this blog (I'm still not ready to tell my Catholic sister-in-law about my orientation), it is highly unlikely that someone will search on other words, such as International Handbell Symposium (the event I attended last week), find this site and conclude it is me. Or if they did I'm not so concerned about them figuring out that I'm gay. That sister-in-law and her kids are not going to be searching the web using handbell words.

So, yes, I had a wonderful time in Orlando. It was hot but we rarely went outside the massive resort/convention center (it was a 7 minute hike from my room to our meeting site). The Symposium was a chance for 850 bell ringers from 11 countries to meet, ring together, see what each other has been doing with the art, meet old friends and make new ones, and generally have a good time. The 11 countries are USA, Canada, Britain, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Puerto Rico. The Japanese groups were amazing in their precision, a Singapore group demonstrated their ethnic richness, and the Puerto Ricans were simply hot as they kept the Latin beat going. After a week of rehearsal the massed ringing (all 850 of us together) came together (even on the modern Japanese piece) and by the time we closed with the American Tapestry (a march, jazz/rag, and spiritual performed with wind ensemble and church choir) we had the place rockin'.

That was my 10th Symposium. I've followed it to Canada, England, Japan, Korea, and Australia. I doubt I'll go to Osaka in 2010 but I'm looking forward to Liverpool in 2012.

The National Handbell Seminar that followed the Symposium wasn't quite the stellar event, but it did allow me to have one of my pieces played at the Unpublished Reading Session and to talk to a few publishers.

I spent the last day of the trip at Kennedy Space Center. Even nearly 40 years later I still get chills when I hear, "Tranquility Base. The Eagle has landed." That was part of the moon landing theater at the Apollo/Saturn Museum (the show also dramatized how close they came to aborting the Apollo 11 landing). There was one small disappointment -- I paid extra for the Kennedy Up Close tour which takes you right up to Launch Pads 39A and B (where the Shuttles fly from) but as we pulled up to the perimeter fence a thunderstorm let loose and obscured the view. I'm now puzzled why NASA's successor to the shuttle -- the Constellation / Orion rocket system -- will have only enough space for 4 crew, down from the current 7. And they intend to take this back to the moon? But they're Rocket Scientists and I'm not.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tidbits before vacation

If a soldier is racist and cannot work with a black colleague the military will discipline the racist, not the black soldier. If a soldier cannot work with a gay colleague why is it the gay man's fault? So if we let gays into the military who will speak for the homophobe?

Liberal Hunting Permit?

The Knoxville shooter had books by Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity. Here is a rundown of what they and others have said about Liberals that inspired the shooter. Perhaps the least offensive is: "Liberals are like slinkies. They're good for nothing but still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs." There is a reason behind all this: You too can be killed. You're not safe. Don't get out of line.

I'm off to do a lot of one my passions -- playing handbells. I'll be taking part in both an International Handbell Symposium and a National Handbell Seminar in Orlando. Then I'll visit Cape Canaveral. I'll be back by the middle of the month.