Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DL status

Sheesh, my last report was two weeks ago. Time to rectify that. Yesterday I thought things were finally coming along. Today, not so much. The leg aches and I didn't sleep well last night.

The bruise on the right hand has healed though if I press on the base of the palm I get a bit of pain (not something that happens in everyday tasks).

The abrasions on the left elbow have also healed.

However, the left leg is still covered with huge bruises and this is 3 weeks after the accident. The bruises continued to get bigger for quite a while, though not so much in the last few days. Stairs are still a problem, though not as bad as they had been.

I revisited my doctor a week ago. He thought the spreading bruises were due to the pain medication thinning my blood, which then leaked through damaged veins. He switched me to an over-the-counter pain reliever, which works reasonably well, though I'm using the original stuff again because I now have a stuffy ear and the decongestant shouldn't be combined with the pain med. Sigh.

Since my last report my community handbell ensemble has given two concerts and the church group has performed once. I used my stool in all cases. The first concert was an effort because my leg was quite painful that day. The second one went much better.

I made it to the Ruth Ellis Center last week, even up the two flights of stairs (they have no elevator). I'll be back again today to help out during their Halloween party. For lack of anything better I'll wear my old tuxedo and ruffled shirt, the one that is now about 3 sizes too big.

The bicycle is now repaired. When the front wheel was replaced I asked them to also do a "check over" to make sure everything is working properly. The bill was less than $100. Alas, between the injuries and cold weather I probably won't get on it until spring.

After no response from the police in a week I called again. I found the case has been assigned to an officer. I later talked to him and he said he would try to find the girl who stayed with me waiting for my friend to take me to the doctor. The officer was to have done that yesterday. I haven't heard back yet.

Substantial Equivalent to marriage

As the battle rages over a marriage protection amendment in Florida I've seen a series of blog entries comparing Florida's amendment to what was passed in Michigan in 2004. This one looks at the recent Michigan Supremes ruling that banned domestic partner benefits and the lessons to be learned from it.

Similar to Michigan, the Florida amendment does not simply say, "marriage is between a man and a woman," as many state amendments did, but goes on to ban any "substantial equivalent."

In the ruling the Mich. Supremes said it doesn't matter that the amendment promoters claimed it would affect only gay marriage. Fla. supporters are making the same claim. The only thing to go on is the text of the amendment.

That "substantial equivalent" phrase means something or it wouldn't be there, said the Supremes. We can't simply say it doesn't apply to Domestic Partnerships because that would render the language meaningless. Thus, it definitely is about more than gay marriage.

The Mich. Supremes didn't look at what rights and responsibilities were attached to marriage and DPs, they looked at the requirements to enter into each kind of relationship -- and found them similar. No other relationships in Mich. are defined by the sex of the parties and prohibit the relationship based on a close blood connection. In addition, both are limited to two people, require partners to undertake mutual support, and both continue until one party takes steps to terminate it. Many of those are the same requirements for a DP in Broward County, Fla.

A cottage industry of Hope

Shepard Fairey created the now famous Obama Hope poster featuring the candidate's head in cream, blue, and red. It spawned a cottage industry of imitations. The artist's own favorite is the one featuring Alfred Newman of MAD Magazine. Here's the original and 99 imitations.

A collection of testimonies

My Write to Marry entry that I wrote yesterday is 60th out of 245 (as of 3:00 today) on the webpage collecting these stories.

A note to Laney: If you don't see photographers and tabloid reporters camped out on your lawn yesterday's post didn't make you famous. Are you relieved? Or disappointed?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Write to Marry

A blog that I read is promoting a Write to Marry campaign as part of a defeat of Proposal 8 in California, Proposal 102 in Arizona, and Proposal 2 in Florida. I live in Michigan, (which has already lost that battle) and may not have a lot of direct influence on those three states. Even so, here is my part of the effort. You can find out more here. I'd love to hear the stories of my niece CinnaZimt who lives in California.

I've been volunteering at the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit for a couple months now. Ruth Ellis lived to be 102 and always used her home as a safe haven for gays and lesbians at a time when being out had dire consequences. The Center provides that safe haven for today's youth, giving them a place to be themselves. We offer 2 meals a day, group discussion sessions, laundry facilities, and a warehouse to help them furnish a new apartment. They are exuberant, as young people are, and looking for a way to get their start in the world.

I helped lead a discussion session on the disparity between what many black churches in Detroit say about gays and what the Bible really says. I used a resource available from Soulforce) Of course, being in their early 20s and younger, they asked questions I wasn't quite ready for, such as are there gays in the Bible? Yes, but not obviously. One must read between the lines.

That discussion group featured something else. One of the girls to my left introduced herself and then introduced the other as her fiancée. I don't want to be the one to tell them their love isn't recognized by the state of Michigan or by the federal government.

The issue of marriage hits much closer to home than teens in a drop-in center. For a good number of years the family thought my sister was simply good friends with her housemate. It was only 5 years ago that Laney told us that Anners (their names for each other) are much more than that, they are actually partners, complete with matching rings. Alas, this has been a hellish year for them when Laney had a stroke and she was not covered under Anners' health insurance because Anners works for the city. Laney had to cash out her IRA and become a ward of the state. They've talked about getting married (Windsor is close), but decided it wasn't worth the hassle if Michigan won't recognize it. But not being married hurts.

Cap'n, the warp drives be needing a wee bit a calibration

I wrote yesterday about iVotronic machines that flipped votes. Here is a video done with the county clerk of Jackson County, West Virginia who demonstrates that when the machine is "out of calibration" it won't put a check by the name you touch. I heard unverified reports that the machines are being taken out of service and replaced with paper ballots. I did a Google search on "iVotronics" and got over 4500 hits. There are a lot of news and blog stories about these machines.

You're too smart for the job

Yeah, I know I'm about to comment on a posting several weeks old (it predates Joe the Plumber). But since then I've seen two comic strips that fit this theme well. If you must skip my blathering, at least check out the links below.

We have Palin full of folksy charm and simple language attracting lots of attention. We have Joe Biden who has a command of the issues and is dismissed as boring and professional. Huh? Haven't we been down this road before with Bush?

Perhaps intellectualism is a new wedge issue being waged by the GOP. McCain decries Obama celebrity status yet offers no facts to back up his claims or his policies. Palin stumbles through interviews and is praised as a "breath of fresh air." The claim Obama and Biden are "out of touch" because they are so smart and thoughtful on issues they don't understand your life. Proof? They eat fancy salads with arugula. I agree that I'd prefer a president who is smarter than me.

And now for the comics:
Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller on Sunday, Oct. 12.

Doonesbury by GB Trudeau on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind

A "Californian Mormon" eloquently describes why his church is wrong for supporting the various marriage protection amendments.

* Pushing these amendments does nothing for the true goals of the church and works against many of them: teaching people about Jesus, bringing in new members, and performing the various rites and sacraments of the faith.
* The push has spawned disinformation (none of the "Consequences of failure" are true) and fueled a spirit of fear. This violates one of the Top Ten (though the Mormon reference is different).
* The campaign has unleashed broader anti-gay sentiments, ones that contradict recent understandings and teachings about gays. These anti-gay sentiments are not doctrinal in the Mormon church. Is it the church's intent to get involved in other cases of denying rights to gays?
* It encourages families to deny their gay children. Some of the most zealous workers in this campaign have gay kids. Is this to mask their own disappointment? They are sacrificing their children, a practice that God told Abraham to abandon.
* Actual families will be harmed by these amendments -- all those gay couples who have gotten married in Calif. since June. Mormons are being asked to undertake a mission of destruction in the name of God. Jonah asked for destruction on Nineveh and was denied by God because God also loves the citizens of Nineveh and also loves gays.
* There is a spirit of zealousness, righteousness, accomplishment, triumphalism, and pride where there should be a spirit of humility.
* The campaign has distracted the church from other issues of morality, such a sexual abuse of children.
* It is driving gays and their allies away from the church as well as those who disagree with the church's position or its strong-arm tactics.
* The campaign has raised $10 million for a narrow political goal. Some of the families who gave tens of thousands had to sacrifice on other things (like their children's college education). The church as a whole is not able to run many needed (in these though economic times) humanitarian efforts.
* Wealth is becoming a factor in determining fitness for church leadership positions.
* The campaign makes sexuality a higher moral issue than such things as disease, starvation, war, and pollution.
* It makes allies with other denominations who are normally antagonistic to the Mormon church, and will be again once the campaign is over. Why try to fight their battles?
* It is unleashing a fresh anti-Mormon sentiment among people who are usually quite tolerant of other religions and groups, leading to boycotts and discrimination. That discrimination will also hit those Mormons who oppose the marriage amendments.

I really do want to vote for a Democrat

There is evidence of voters in states where they can vote early using ES&S iVotronic touch-screen machines watching their Democratic votes being switched to GOP or to a minor party. They aren't even subtle about it, which they could do by displaying one candidate for confirmation and recording another. This has been more than one machine or state or election. If you are faced with one of these machines you should be able to demand a paper ballot.

Those that highlight the problem above wonder if Obama and his staff know about it. Apparently he does. While some sureness of victory is now in Obama's speeches, he has assembled a huge legal team to guarantee ballot security, much of it voluntary. It seems he has created the most extensive grass-roots organization of any presidential campaign.

If McCain must win Pennsylvania why is he spending so much of his dwindling resources in Iowa (where Obama is leading by nearly 12 points)? Might it be because he's written this election off and he's giving Palin as much exposure there to benefit her run in 2012? Then again, some polling sites list Obama ahead in Penn. by over 12 points).

A bit of a backfire

The Mormon Church has been pushing hard for the passage of marriage protection amendments in Calif. and Arizona. They are calling it a directive from God and a test of faith and loyalty. I think the statistics I saw (though I don't remember where) showed they are responsible for about 40% of the yes donations while they are only about 5% of the population. But this push is taking a heavy toll on local congregations. Members complain of being "compared to Satan's minions" and that's mild to those facing excommunication. Others have left the church, at least until after the election, fed up with the mean things being said about gays. But that doesn't stop some from opposing the drive because they feel it mocks their church's theology and then they are dissatisfied with the way their dissent has been handled and the intolerance they feel from fellow members.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

And on November 5?

As part of an ongoing series two NPR reporters talked about the election with voters in York, PA. The topic this time around was how will the country be different if led by a black man? First, the positive effect -- black kids would have the ultimate role model. Beyond that the comments from both sides of the racial divide were packed with fear. The whites were afraid that if Obama won blacks would consider this an opportunity for payback of their white oppressors and things could get violent. Blacks were afraid that an Obama win would be intolerable to the most hard-core racists, the ones being stirred up by McCain and Palin, and things could get violent -- at least for Obama. Finally, there is the fear that blacks will turn violent if Obama loses, especially if there is evidence the election was stolen. Hope for a good result on Nov. 4, but be concerned about Nov. 5.

Words have meaning and they matter

Dr. Albert Mohler, one of those rare anti-gay people who (usually) refuse to continue the lies spoken against gays, has a third essay about why he is against gay marriage. I wrote about his first essay, but didn't bother with the second. That can be summarized by saying "the majority is on my side" (except it no longer is). The third essay says that language matters and that language and culture define each other. Words such as "marriage" and "husband" and "wife" are central to civilization and necessary to understand laws, social arrangements, and culture. That's right, say the gays, which is why we aren't satisfied with civil unions, even though they are supposed to be legally equivalent to marriage. Then Mohler takes another step: No longer does "husband" imply straight, which implies "He's one of us." Not allowing gays access to those words means they are set apart -- and condemned. But language and culture define each other. And much of popular culture already assumes gay relationships are the same as straight ones. The meanings of those words is adjusting and gays are no longer set apart. It won't lead to the downfall of marriage and civilization, just to the definitions of marriage and civilization that the fundies are trying to impose.

A sweet Supreme

Michigan Supreme Court nominee Diane Hathaway got a cover article from Between the Lines (Michigan's gay newspaper). Not only does the article talk about how gay friendly she is, it talks about how nasty Chief Justice Cliff Taylor (the guy she's running against) is. The Citizens for Traditional Values rates the Michigan Supremes the "Best Court in America" and ranked by the University of Chicago as last for judicial independence from political pressure. Taylor himself said, "the Liberals on the left can't get any of their lousy ideas accepted and it is the job of the courts to make sure that their efforts to do so are thwarted." Really? Isn't the job of the courts to uphold the law? Attorney Jay Kaplan of the ACLU LGBT project said, "It is virtually impossible to bring a case in Michigan that will promote the civil rights of any minority, let alone LGBT people, with the current configuration of the court." In spite of Taylor's campaign fund approaching $2 million and strong support from the fundies, Hathaway is now slightly ahead in the polls. But there are still lots of undecided and many people don't bother voting for judges. Your vote matters.

This is sweet: I just got a mailing from the Democratic State Central Committee trying to look like the NRA, trumpeting that Cliff Taylor voted to ban hunting on private property and that Hathaway is the niece of a former NRA bigwig. The sweetness comes from trying to scare hunters away from a die-hard conservative.

When the wallet is empty

Disney, Ford, McDonalds, a hotel in San Diego, Bolthouse Farms. Those of the boycotts I can think of, companies and businesses targeted for supporting gays or bowing to anti-gay forces. Blogger Stephen Miller suggests an organization doesn't call a boycott to do damage to the targeted company (most companies know to ignore such nuisances), but to use it as a way to rally the troops to send more money.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Another foundation of American law

The US Supremes have long approved versions of the Ten Commandments in government displays as long as they are one part of a display of documents that form the foundation of American law. Thus the Top Ten can be joined with the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Pledge of Allegiance, the words of the Star Spangled Banner, and King's "I have a Dream" speech. Not all of these have to do with law, but I won't quibble. South Carolina has added a new member to the list: The Lord's Prayer. They justify it this way (and this text is to be on the accompanying plaque):

"The Lord's Prayer, used to teach people how best to seek their daily needs, is a model of philosophy and inspiration for legal and moral systems throughout the ages. In the colonies, James Oglethorpe brought debtors to freedom in our neighboring State of Georgia in remembrance of 'forgiving our debts as we forgive our debtors'."

Can you say revisionist history?

* Oglethorpe did not bring colonists from England's notorious debtor's prisons.
* This text confuses financial debts with the intended meaning of "sins".
* The guy who describes the prayer as the core of moral systems, one Christopher G. Weeramantry of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, described how each word or phrase of the prayer relates to international law or human rights, but always in a way that leads human rights back to religion. For example, by starting the prayer with "Our Father" we declare basic equality among all humans so that everyone, no matter how lowly, can address the Almighty directly.

This was signed into law this past June.

Sex education that is comprehensive?

The sponsors of abstinence only sex education are about to leave the building and no one in that industry has done enough research to tell if it is effective. That leaves the floor open for proponents of comprehensive sex ed. But, as Laura Beil of Newsweek discovered when getting to know both sides of the issue, comprehensive sex ed. leaves out important parts -- and it isn't only the bit about abstinence. The success of comprehensive programs is measured in "pregnancies prevented, germs not contracted, and kids who enter adulthood with a healthy view of sexuality" (though I wonder how that last one gets measured). The wait-until-marriage message is usually seen as not a part of the world teens inhabit. But a big component of the abstinence message is marriage. They see marriage as a way to protect children and reduce poverty -- unmarried teens find it difficult to rise above poverty and children generally do fare better in two-parent homes. Perhaps we can work to make comprehensive sex ed truly comprehensive.

Contrast with…

Why don't we join the fundies in their defense of marriage and use that as a reason to extend marriage to gays? Um, no. Because our society shouldn't be restricted to their definition of marriage: male breadwinner, female homemaker (and slave), and two children taught to do the same when they grow up. They are so sure this is the only possible configuration for a family they blame all society's ills (including the current economic collapse!) on the breakup of the family. If we play that game we are distracted from finding real solutions to national problems.

Basically conservative?

Newsweek has a pair of commentaries about the political center of America and how a possible Obama presidency will have to alter course to deal with it. The first article, by Jon Meacham, says that America is basically conservative -- using the definition of those who value custom over change, who want to protect their young and way of life, who worry about the expansion of the state, and who dislike condescension of faith, patriotism, and culture. Our view of government is full of cognitive dissonance. We are skeptical of government except when there is a problem that only government can solve or is helping us. We hate to pay taxes yet still expect the government to pay for war, infrastructure, emergencies, and bailouts.

In the last 40 years (since 1968 when Nixon took office) the presidency has been won by Democrats only 3 times (once by Carter, twice by Clinton). Why? The GOP claims their policies are in tune with American values. Dems complain that the GOP is evil geniuses able to use fearmongering to get their way. More likely the GOP seems fatherly and tough, which suits a country that tends toward conservatism. In addition we have a political system, with veto and filibuster, that makes change slow and deliberative, so it is hard to create a government as liberal as we would like. Obama must temper his desires to fit into this reality.

Not so fast, replies Jonathan Alter. We may have been conservative, but we're drifting left now. GOP irresponsibility over the last decade or so has discredited some of their ideas and forced them to act contrary to many others in the economic bailout. Obama now has a chance to propose programs and a budget that won't look silly. He will be able to use government on behalf of the people, a liberal idea.

Sing the chorus again

No doesn't really mean no, it merely means we try again. That happened in Michigan, where casinos were turned down 3 times before passing on the fourth try (it helped that Windsor opened one across the river and bigwigs couldn't stand all that casino money crossing into Canada). It is happening this year with another run at a marriage amendment in Arizona (where the yes forces are vastly outspending the no forces) and with another run at an abortion ban in South Dakota. Getting an abortion there is already quite onerous. The big reason, of course, is to have a run at Roe v. Wade at the US Supremes before Obama has a chance to remake it. The SD ban has been specifically crafted to appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing justice on abortion.

Brass knuckle tactics

Michigan Republicans, in response to a suit brought by the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party, admit they had been planning to use an illegal method challenging voters based on foreclosure lists. The suit's settlement stipulates they will not attempt such a scheme.

Here's another reason for the GOP to dump on ACORN: direct investigation away from their voter-suppression efforts. The McCain Campaign has paid Lincoln Strategy and its managing partner Nathan Sproul $175,000 for voter registration. But Sproul would only register Republicans. Forms that indicate a Democrat get thrown away. Sproul has a long history of such "ethically-blurry, brass-knuckle tactics".

Monday, October 20, 2008

A bad day for democracy

Here is a detailed look at the ACORN voter registration scandal written by a two members of Project Vote. I've already written about the GOP's claim being a bunch of hooey, though there are a few ideas to add. Claiming voter fraud is a way of undermining the results of the election and to provide a reason for purging voters from rolls (most of which will be Democrats). The GOP has been using this scare tactic every 2 years starting in 2000 (or maybe before) without ever offering any evidence. Reluctance to prosecute ACORN without evidence is a big issue behind the firing of US Attorneys in 2006. Cries of voter fraud have always been shown to be a smokescreen for GOP voter suppression and it is a bad day for democracy when a party's campaign strategy includes keeping people from voting. In spite of the noise from the McCain campaign, many GOP state officials are talking and have found nothing out of the ordinary in ACORN's work. Though the GOP has tried this tactic for several election cycles now, this time news sources aren't buying. Before, the lack of evidence came out after the election. This time it is coming out before. Michigan's law to require proof of ID at the polls is a result of prior year's false claims of vote fraud.

Play with your food

Who knew that playing with your food could be so much fun? There are two video clips here, a carrot clarinet, and a vegetable rhythm section.

A view of the mood

An impressive photo of the crowd at Obama's rally in St. Louis on Saturday. He is standing somewhere near the Gateway Arch. The crowd is estimated at 100,000. Now if they would all vote…

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ancient morality vs. pragmatic approach

In contrast to lots of the anti-gay crusaders, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville at least tries to be honest. He doesn't lie to explain why he is opposed to gay marriage and Calif.'s amendment. This post starts out by describing many of those lies, especially with the episode of the first-graders attending their teacher's lesbian wedding (it turns out they went during lunch and they didn't watch the actual ceremony, they only saw the couple appear afterward). I don't agree with Mohler, but I do admire his civility.

He says that society is framed by constants and one of those constants is marriage. Changing one of those constants is confusing. Not only are we changing who can marry but we are separating the breeding and parenting functions from marriage, increasing the confusion. Yes, he is right, the whole thing is about the cultural acceptance of gay marriage. One could argue whether marriage has been that much of a constant, whether allowing gays to marry is all that confusing, or whether we should blame gays for separating breeding and parenting from marriage.

But the heart of his complaint is that society has rejected his moral argument. His side has preached long and loud about it, yet society has found the "good news" neither good nor news. They preach an ancient morality while society waits for pragmatic approaches to pregnancy, physical and emotional ill health, and a host of other problem. In short, a message that is useful. Instead society sees a combination of religion and politics, appeals to ignorance and dogma, and efforts to control those around them. Thus Christians are viewed with hostility and distrust. They may alienate an entire generation.

He even does ... standup?

There was a dinner last night for a Catholic Charity in New York at which both Obama and McCain appeared -- as comedians. Videos of their routines are available here. Better to watch McCain's first (on the right showing Obama seated). Alas, the audio on McCain's clip is choppy and ends a minute before the visuals.

ABC has a test here to see whose campaign statements, McCain's or Obama's, you agree with most. They don't tell you who made the statements, of course, but a statement made by each candidate on the same topic (economy, immigration, judiciary, etc.) will be side
by side. You just pick which statement you agree with and, after selecting all 13, you'll find out which candidate's philosophy you support.

Alas, quotes this small don't say much about a candidate's position. Even so I chose the Obama quote 12 of the 13 times.

Voter guide

For those of you in Michigan, Between the Lines (weekly gay newspaper) offers a gay voter's guide. Alas, they don't make an endorsement for my House member in the Mich. legislature, even though there appears to not be a GOP candidate (there is one from the US Taxpayer Party).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Well, that's quite the snoozer

"The MSM (mainstream media) is not in the business of reporting; it is in the business of promoting the MSM," says a blogger. I've heard it also said that the purpose of MSM is to get eyeballs in front of their commercials or advertisements. Either way, promoting itself or its advertisers, they push news or product to capture those eyeballs.

A big way they do it is with drama. As I've written before, there is drama in a close presidential race, not in a landslide. An example is in this posting. Screen shots of a newscast shows McCain slightly ahead of Obama in Virginia and North Carolina. But if you look at the fine print, the Virginia poll is more than 2 weeks old and the NC poll is 9 days old. Why use such old data? Because just after that the numbers turned decisively in Obama's favor in both states and there goes the drama.

Another way to do it is to completely ignore troublesome stories, those that might be politically unpopular to readers or obtuse enough to not hold attention. Lots of news sources cover the War on Terror but do any explore how the "war on terror" is being used for political gains? The Metro Times, Detroit's alternative paper, poses that question, then describes the 10 top stories not covered by the MSM.
1. How many Iraqi's have died? 9 thousand? 1.3 million? The US military says it doesn't count but also says "Civilian deaths are down…" Lots of agencies have computed estimates, but we never hear about them.
2. Is NAFTA being expanded from just trade to also include security issues and why is the discussion secret?
3. What is InfraGuard and might it be used to spy on American citizens?
4. Why does an International Law Enforcement Academy recently opened in El Salvador make Latin America uneasy?
5. What's the difference between a radical and a terrorist?
6. At what point does a war protest become illegal?
7. Why aren't we concerned that some of our work visa programs are the equivalent of slavery?
8. Does Bush need an executive order to cancel a previous executive order and shouldn't the Department of Justice tell the president what is legal and what isn't?
9. Why was nobody listening when soldiers held an event to describe the horror, pain, and confusion of the war in Iraq?
10. Why is the American Psychological Association, in spite of objections of its members, helping the CIA refine torture techniques?

Democracy is built on openness and the media is a guarantee of that openness. We're not getting it. Fortunately, there is a group called Project Censored that started at Sonoma State University 30 years ago that has faculty and students combing through alternative news sources for things the MSM has ignored and then verifying their accuracy. This has become a part of the Truth Emergency Project in which Sonoma State has partnered with 23 other universities, and hopefully will have 100 schools involved. They'll eventually have links to the top 12 independent news sources, such as the BBC and Inter Press Service News Agency.

Connecticut, a second opinion

A gay conservative (yeah, there are such beasts) isn't happy with the Supremes ruling in Connecticut that gays must be allowed to marry. He doesn't object to gays having equality in all things, but he does object to the way we seem to be getting there. His first complaint: A dissenting justice (backed up by recent polls giving 55% approval) says that Connecticut will get to gay marriage "sooner rather than later." So why do gays need protection from a hostile majority? We should be getting over our official victim status. Second: As society grapples with the definition of marriage (and in Conn. they're almost there) should it be unconstitutional to compromise on civil unions (which Conn. already has) while we all catch our breath? The ruling makes patience illegal. Third: The unwillingness to compromise and take things slowly may cost us California, Arizona, and Florida. Fourth: it will scare other states from taking the halfway step of civil unions, which will allow its citizens to get used to the idea. Yeah, a CU isn't marriage, but sometimes when you insist on all or nothing you get nothing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I keep telling you its all about the kids

Yesterday I wrote about first graders attending their teacher's lesbian wedding. While that has numerous long-term benefits, in the short-term it was short-sighted says a commentator who works to debunk anti-gay claims. We are less than 3 weeks away from an election that will include a Calif. marriage amendment and the anti-gay crowd is trumpeting the "harmful" effects gay marriage will have on kids. This was just fuel for the fire. This, of course, got a huge number of responses on both sides.

Scapegoat, again

I think we've already seen the anti-gay crowd is a sandwich short of a picnic, but this one implies the whole picnic is missing. From the website of the gang promoting marriage protection in Arizona (and, no, I'm not linking directly):

It is estimated that, since 2006, approximately 20,000 heterosexual marriages have failed in Arizona due to inadequate protections from the possibility of activist judges ruling in favor of some future homosexual plaintiffs.

Getting in the way of a good scapegoat

So what just happened with the world-wide financial system? According to blogger Alex Blaze (whose credentials are unknown), perhaps it was because:

Massive deregulation caused an explosion in the buying and selling of arcane and opaque securities, creating a huge bubble (bigger than all the money in the whole world put together!) that burst as real wages dropped, bad loans stopped being paid, and investors started to ask for real money on their investments.

But that explanation is woefully inadequate to a certain segment of Americans for several reasons:
1. It finds fault with free market fundamentalism, the foundation of conservatism
2. It places the blame on Republicans and a smaller group of "fiscally conservative" Democrats
3. It might usher in an era of increased regulation and raise class consciousness to where Americans are less willing to accept income inequality

So conservatives have started a counternarrative, blaming the current housing crisis on any of a number of factors, such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Community Reinvestment Act, and poor people who couldn't repay their loans. By extension, the assault is on Democrats, social justice, and racial minorities.

The Community Reinvestment Act was designed to end "red-lining," where banks discriminated because of where the borrower lived. It requires banks to give money to low-income borrowers. And, of course, "low-income" borrowers are really people who are so messed up they can't hold a job and can't afford a house and are certainly incapable of repaying a mortgage. Which means the mess was caused by Democrats and affirmative action for mortgages. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good scapegoat.

And those facts?

Only a quarter of the faulty subprime mortgages came from institutions subject to the CRA. And those that were under the law made fewer dangerous loans.

Fannie and Freddie weren't allowed to take part in subprime mortgages. They can only work with loans with down payments and documented income.

If a bank makes a loan to a borrower they know cannot repay the loan, why does the borrower get the blame and not the bank? Doesn't that prove the bank's incompetence? For the record, the bank makes the loan because they get a fee for creating the loan. The loan is sold to someone else so the bank doesn't care whether the loan is repaid or not because they already have their fee.

While bad loans are at the heart of the problem there were other things that magnified it: deregulation and credit default swaps that hid the value of loans.

So why is that other story being pushed? The pushers can claim (other than "It's the Democrat's fault") such things as the problem isn't deregulation, but over-regulation, or the problem is dangerous minorities.

That last bit resonates when we might be electing our first black president while Palin stokes the fires of racism. Those pushing this particular story can claim the country will be screwed if Obama is elected (meaning we're not now?).

Stir that brew and add a bit more seasoning: McCain, the war hero, is being humiliated -- by black man -- and some people are taking that humiliation personally. As Obama pulls us out of Iraq (and a conservative goal of using Iraq as an American base to subdue the rest of the region is discarded) there will be calls that America was stabbed in the back by liberals (a claim that was made in Germany at the end of WWI and set the groundwork for WWII). The coming recession will be long and hard. All that means the racial hatred will bubble for most of the first term of an Obama presidency.

America used to be above such things. But the temptation to abuse racism to advance politics may be too strong to resist. In the second debate McCain hit most of the counternarrative points mentioned above. Will he do it in the third? (I'm not going to watch and will only hear about it in tomorrow's news).

DL report

I am up and walking and have been doing some driving, though I wouldn't want to do long distances operating the clutch with my left leg.

I attended my church bell choir rehearsal Monday evening (rather necessary since I'm the director), though I let them do all of the set-up and take-down work and I sat on a stool as we played. My hand is mostly healed (the gigantic bruise is fading) so playing little bells wasn't a problem.

I attended my community handbell choir rehearsal yesterday evening, mostly because we are giving a concert on Sunday and I missed last week (the day of the accident). Again, I took my stool to sit on. For this group I have medium size bells so pain in the arm and hands again wasn't an issue. However, the rehearsal was nearly 3 hours (as happens just before the concert) and I was exhausted by the end.

Though the bruise on the hand is fading, the bruises elsewhere took their time to develop. My left leg now looks like blackberry ripple ice cream. Sleeping is problematic because I'm only comfortable enough in two positions, one of them on my back and I don't like to sleep on my back. Getting from one position to the other usually involves pain. At a doctor's suggestion I bought Tylenol PM, though I verified it won't improperly interact with the Anaprox I'm also taking. I'll try it tonight.

Walking isn't a problem, though I take it slowly and don't do too much of it. Stairs, however can be painful if I don't do one step at a time. I cancelled out of volunteering at the Ruth Ellis Center again this week because they are on the 3rd floor and don't have an elevator (I'll have to ask them about that when I return). It was bad enough getting into my basement for laundry yesterday.

I called the city police department last Friday. I was told I had to make an accident report in person and since I didn't know the driver's name he wasn't sure it would do me much good. I talked it over with a friend at lunch today and we agreed it was worth the attempt. Since the police headquarters were on my way home (by a different route) I decided to see what they might say about it. I stood at the counter for 20 minutes (wishing I had a chair) telling the desk officer about the accident and watched while he filled out the accident report (it is a form to be read by computer and he spent a lot of time looking up the special numbers and abbreviations for the little boxes). He said there was enough info to pursue the case and it will be turned over to a traffic officer. The kid faces a misdemeanor and his insurance faces my medical and bike repair bills (probably all of $200).

I think my books from the WSU library that are due on Saturday are going to be overdue. The library is in the center of campus, not close to any parking and I don't want to walk that far yet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let's get ready for the next one

First graders take a field trip to attend their teacher's lesbian wedding (with parental permission). Opponents cry foul lamenting indoctrination.

Love the graphic on this one. Alas, it points out a historical first that both GOP candidates have violated ethics standards before a national election.

A good commercial against the Calif. marriage amendment.

Is the GOP giving up on McCain? The Republican National Committee is routing its money away from McCain and towards various senate races.

Forget '08. This campaign is being used to groom Palin for '12.

Another way to steal the vote

There has been a big stink about an organization named ACORN has been committing voter registration fraud as they worked to register 1.3 million new voters. As you might expect, it is the GOP who are committing fraud as they claim ACORN is doing so. It is unlikely any of those 1.3 million will vote GOP. Here is the basic story along with ACORN's response. Much of the claim is that ACORN is submitting fake registrations. Actually, ACORN must, by law, submit every registration they get. Otherwise they would be accused of suppressing valid registrations and disappointing voters who thought they were registered. With those suspect forms ACORN has also been including flags, saying "We think this is suspect and here is why." Sounds responsible to me.

And a scenario about how the GOP might use it to steal the election. They've started by planting the seeds of the idea that ACORN has been fraudulent. That allows them to do two things: (1) Be more aggressive in purging voter rolls. (2) Create the myth that the election was stolen in the same way that myth has clung to the 1960 election (Nixon conceded to Kennedy). Through that they would steal Obama's legitimacy and refute the claim that this election is about the repudiation of the Bush presidency.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Voices, toxic and sweet

Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom frequently speaks about ethical issues and usually nails it and usually swims against the tide. He offers a way out of the economic mess: Be nicer to each other. Don't blame the poor, the rich, the Democrats, the Republicans. Look after your neighbor, the elderly, the needy. Teach kids about resilience. Many of our grandparents said the Great Depression taught them their greatest lesson -- we're in this together. Perhaps this is our turn to learn.

Conservatives frequently try to get gay-friendly books, such as "And Tango Makes Three," from school and community libraries and their efforts get criticized in National Banned Book Week. This year Fundie efforts have a twist. They are donating books, such as "The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting" to libraries and crying foul when their gifts don't show up on the shelves. The author of this posting says librarians have a right to make these kinds of calls. Commenters disagree -- a banned book is a banned book, no matter what it is, and banning books in a country that values free speech is not good.

Are gays in California -- California! -- so intent on making sure that Obama is elected they are too busy to volunteer and donate to defeat the marriage protection amendment in their state? Or do they just not want marriage bad enough?

A Democratic blogger says Dems may not just win, but have a chance to crush the GOP so completely the Right will have to significantly retool its message and (hopefully) get rid of their most toxic ideas. This election has the chance of helping that along by getting rid of their most toxic voices. Some conservative Congressional icons are on the ropes.

Cokie Roberts on Morning Edition on NPR today says the polling numbers have shifted solidly in favor of Obama and it would take an October surprise on the order of the stock market crash -- meaning a really big one -- to swing things in favor of McCain.

A McCain backer says we're not in an election season, but a war against terrorists and godless liberals. We're only going over the top a little bit aren't we?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today in History: Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard died 10 years ago today. Box Turtle Bulletin has an excellent series on what happened outside Laramie and in the hospital in Ft. Collins. You can read the whole series by going to the bottom of this link to find the first day.

Then you could Google Judy Shepard to find an article in any number of papers about what she has said over the last few days about the 10 years since her son was killed. We've made some headway -- 31 states now have hate crime laws that include sexual orientation -- but not nearly enough. We don't have one in Wyoming and we don't have one at the national level. And hate crime laws are the bare minimum of what gays need.

That bit of history contrasts with the hate stirred up by the GOP, a contrast that is disgusting. Here's another article about that tactic. I'm only linking it because one of the commenters says the GOP will say if anything ugly actually happens (and it doesn't need to directly involve Obama), "It's an isolated incident."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More on Connecticut

This gay marriage ruling will be hard to overturn. Since the ruling by the state Supremes is based solely on the state constitution those that disagree with it cannot take it to the federal Supremes. They also do not have the option of creating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage because the Conn. constitution has no provisions for amendment. What it does have is a provision that the voters should be asked every 20 years if a convention should be called to revise all or part of the constitution. That question is on the ballot this year and the anti-gay crowd will now campaign mightily to tell voters to call a convention for the purpose of adding provisions for amending the constitution.

Commenters are divided about whether the timing of this ruling is good or bad since there are amendments on the ballot in 3 states. One group moans, saying it will draw out the fundies under the cry, "See! Activist judges are still at it!" Others say, "Sheesh, this is Connecticut! How normal can you get? If they can have gay marriage there what could be so terrifying about it? The tide had turned towards gay marriage."

Iowa Supremes take up the question on Dec. 9.

Winning strategy?

I'm not the only one who thinks it likely Obama will be assassinated. There are those who are outright saying that if Obama is killed his blood will be on McCain's and Palin's hands. And, as that link and news organizations note, McCain understands it himself. He contradicted a few of his supporters at a recent rally (to a chorus of boos), trying to tell them that Obama is honorable, there are just disagreements between them on how to run the country. However, it seems Palin hasn't gotten the memo. It leads to the question why McCain started down the road of stirring up the crazies in his base at the expense of losing the independents. Some possible reasons:
* McCain has lost it.
* He actually thinks it is a winning strategy.
* He hopes some violence will change everything, perhaps stop the election.
* He hopes this will sabotage an Obama presidency.
* Palin is running the show.
Whatever it is, those running the campaign thinks the crazies don't need to be stopped. That's scary.

If a little deregulation is good...

The lead (not cover) article in Newsweek is "The Fall of America, Inc." by Francis Fukuyama. America has a "brand," a particular set of values we project and the rest of the world has, until recently, wanted to imitate. Two of the biggest ideas of the brand were unregulated capitalism and liberal democracy.

After the Great Depression and prior to Reagan governments thought the more programs and regulation they offered the better things were for their citizens. However, welfare states and red tape were proved to be dysfunctional (as shown by Communism). Reagan and Thatcher cleared a lot of that away and while they made it easier to fire workers (and made the economy more chaotic), it also made it easier to hire them. That led to three decades of growth.

The problem is that Reagan's pragmatism became dogmatic ideology. Just because tax cuts and deregulation set the stage for growth doesn't mean that even more tax cuts and more deregulation will mean more growth. Clinton raised taxes and the economy still grew. This fallacy was masked because foreign governments were so willing to buy up our debt, leading Cheney to proclaim, "deficits don't matter." But the dollar dropped and the credit markets have frozen, proving Cheney wrong.

The goal of exporting liberal democracy has been around since at least the end of WWI and until Bush II has not been controversial. But Bush's claim of liberating Iraq for reasons of democracy has been seen as a cover for Imperialist goals.

The next president has a lot of work to restore our brand. And one important ingredient is to replace dogma (on both sides) with pragmatism.


If you remove regulation what stands against greed and corruption besides conscience? The recent credit crash showed us that when it is always legal to make a buck and there are no bad consequences to making a buck, people are going to rake in the bucks until disaster happens. Then the perpetrators will moan about the corruption their deregulation made inevitable.

Do the deregulators honestly believe their efforts will build a better society? Does self-interest drive society to its greatest heights? Is raking in money good for the society as a whole or just for the one pulling in the bucks? Do the people who are left behind deserve it? (I wrote about that just a few days ago.) Perhaps they aren't greedy enough? Isn't having a conscience giving the other guy an advantage?

If greed equals profit, then capitalism says any personal enrichment can be justified as a contribution to the society. What rises to the top of society isn't the fittest, but the unfit -- those who only know how to enrich themselves and know how to influence lawmakers to aid in protecting their money and removing constraints to make more.

If deregulation is the goal of conservatism then what we're living through now is success. Even in this "success" McCain is calling for reform. What does he really mean? Perhaps he claims the fundamentals are sound to reassure businessmen that the market will take care of itself and he need do nothing. Perhaps he'll do the bare minimum. Perhaps he'll call for more deregulation. All of which will lead us back to where we are now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

DL update

I walked into the bathroom today (the one place my office chair doesn't go) and found I didn't have much pain. By lunch time I was able walk around the house and fix the meal while standing. By mid-afternoon I began to second-guess yesterday's decision to cancel a trip to Chicago for a family event. I still took it easy for the afternoon (after a shower!) and decided I was ready to go to the grocery store (a few basics had run out). By the time I was getting the last few items into the cart I had the feeling that was quite enough -- then I faced one of the longest and slowest checkout lines in years. My leg ached just enough that I'm glad I didn't drive to Chicago.

The soreness in my right thumb has blossomed into a spectacular purple blotch from two inches beyond my wrist all the way to the middle of my palm and the knuckle of my thumb. At least it doesn't hurt as much.

I don't know of the blogger automatic mailer, which I set up for some of you so I don't have to blog and mail, sends out updates. In case it doesn't I'll repeat that DL stands for Disabled List, not Down Low.


The CT Supremes have ruled that a ban on gay marriage in their state is unconstitutional. Their reasoning is very similar to that of Calif. -- the state already allows for civil unions that are supposed to be legally equivalent to marriage and by denying the use of that word the state is being discriminatory and those that don't like gay marriage haven't offered a compelling reason to keep that discrimination in place.

From the ruling:
"If we have learned anything from the significant evolution in the prevailing societal views and official policies toward members of minority races and toward women over the past half-century, it is that even the most familiar and generally accepted of social practices and traditions often mask unfairness and inequality that frequently is not recognized or appreciated by those not directly harmed by those practices or traditions."

The associated commentary (among other things) goes on to say something similar to what Palin was goaded into saying at the VP debate, something about how she wouldn't want to discriminate against gays by denying them hospital visitation rights. However, Palin and the GOP have shown many times they don't want such things be treated as a right. Yeah, I'm not opposed to it, but if someone else happens to deny you, well, tough cookies.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Greed is moral

How does one translate greed into moral superiority?

Over the last couple weeks while Henry Paulson was demanding Congress act now to bail out Wall Street there were competing voices in that Congress that said what Paulson proposed is not the best way to rescue the economy but the urgency compressed the legislative timeline so much their own proposals were not heard. There were also lots of blogsphere voices claiming that Paulson's proposal would only enrich those who caused the fiasco in the first place. That's when I began to think that none of the plans were laid out in much detail for public consumption (not that I nor many of my fellow citizens are well enough versed in economics to tell much about any plan) and that all of the plans could be a particular Congresscritter's way to enrich their own fat cat constituent and themselves as well. Alas, there is no way to evaluate that so one should just rely on those who know better. But they have a pretty poor record of acting in the best interests of the country instead of those at the top of the economic heap. Sigh.

Part of that record isn’t just financial. I wrote before on the comments of Terrence Heath who has been poking at the conservative believe that the wealthy have money because God gave it to them because they are morally superior. By the same logic those that didn't have money were morally inferior and not worthy of the blessings of God (or of rich people). It couldn't be because they were greedy, could it? Heath showed how that belief affects many aspects of society, including the aftermath of Katrina. Why spend money rescuing people who don't deserve it?

Heath has expanded that concept another step. First he pokes around with the idea that has popped up lately that blacks or gays were the cause of the financial meltdown (if I could only remember what I did with the trillion I'm accused of squandering). If the country would only get its moral house in order (and gays know what that means) or if banks would stop coddling minorities then God would smile on us and we'd all be rich again (or at least the rich would be rich again).

God supposedly bestows wealth on the faithful. That's an idea at least as old as America's sense of Manifest Destiny -- we were given the wealth of North America because we deserved it. But the poor face the financial equivalent of ex-gay programs. God wants you to be straight/wealthy and if you don't succeed it is because you didn't try hard enough or believe hard enough or because you are so deeply flawed that God has given up on you. Strange that those who are already straight/wealthy don't face that dilemma.

That idea is the "prosperity gospel." If you believe God he will make a way for you to be wealthy. Alas, that appears to have contributed to the subprime mess. God wants you to be wealthy so he hid your bad credit score from the eyes of the mortgage officer and blessed you with your first house. Never mind you'll never be able to pay for it. And if you put an extra large offering in the plate this morning God might be able to hide a few more unhelpful numbers.

Just a pastor-enrichment scam? Maybe not. At least while the party lasted. Many who had seen themselves as useless did get a sense of empowerment for a while. Until they were encouraged to use their house as an ATM to subsidize lavish living. Then a pastor's empowerment became a pastor's irresponsibility. And the faithful didn't fare so well -- which put them back under the cloud of being morally inferior

But while that party lasted those who were rich -- and thus by (their) definition morally superior -- were free to demand deregulation, raid public coffers, and blackmail the peasantry so they could keep and increase their money. It wasn't immoral because they were morally superior. Soon there was nothing left to defraud the public out of. So the last source of money is future generations. They'll be paying our gargantuan public debt for a long time. They'll also be paying through not being able to buy other things -- like retirement and health care -- because that money is paying off that debt.

Stirring up the crazies

Simply because Obama is black, from the time he secured the nomination I've been thinking he has the highest chance of any modern president of being assassinated. That was about the time I saw a photo of a t-shirt of a machine gun toting man. The back of the shirt said something like, "If your vote from the ballot box doesn't work it is time to vote from the rooftop." As the election gets closer all sorts of hidden bigotry bubbles to the surface.

Since McCain and Palin don't have any new ideas on the economy (and McCain has said that if he focuses on the economy he'll lose) they are aiming for dragging Obama through the mud. This includes calling Obama a terrorist. They are stirring up the base quite well, including those who are willing to take their own kind of action. A man even shouted out "Kill him!" at a Palin rally and the candidate said nothing. Is she purposely inciting violence? At the very least McCain and Palin are condoning it.

Blacks and gays know what happens when certain people are stirred up as Palin seems to be doing. Blacks and gays usually end up dead with the perpetrator describing how he was inspired to make America safer.

At what point does this talk require an investigation by the Secret Service?

Obama assassinated? The odds are not in his favor.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On the DL

My bicycle ride on this sunny October day was cut short today when a car didn't stop as quickly as it should have at a red light. He he was in the center of 5 lanes and didn't see me due to a truck in the lane beside him. Yeah, that means I had time to cross two lanes with the light in my favor and he still didn't stop in time. Good news: no broken bones (verified with lots of x-rays). Bad news: a contusion in my left thigh makes it painful for me to put weight on that leg. I also have a goose-egg on my left shin, scrapes along my left elbow, and a big bruise at the base of my right thumb (my signature is going to be shaky for a while but typing is fine). I'll also have to get the front wheel of my bike repaired or replaced. Many thanks to Kirsten who lent me her cell phone and stayed with me until my friend Lucia could take me to the urgent care department of my medical center. Thanks also to Lucia and to friend John, who took me home, went into the pharmacy for me, and retrieved my bike from the scene (left chained to a lamppost). I'm wheeling around the house in my office chair, though it can't get across the "flood barrier" at the bathroom door. Getting onto and across the tile in the kitchen is possible, though an adventure. Recovery might take two weeks.

Update: Since this is a gay blog and not a sports blog I should make it clear that in this case I am using the sports term of Disabled List, not the gay term of Down Low. Ask if you need a definition.

Breathing just a bit easier

Dailykos looks at the massive Obama gains in the last week and says it looks like a blowout: If the election were held today (and polls accurate) Obama would get 364 electoral college votes (270 needed). This includes the 3 big swing states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, as well as some long-term red states, such as Virginia and North Carolina. And not by thin margins. Yes, the election is still 27 days away. This posting has an electoral map and a few state polls.

Community organizers are on it

I wrote several days ago about a wiki set up around voter protection (combating cases where voters are falsely challenged). Another one has appeared around the sister topic of election protection. This means everything having to do with an election, including fraudulent voting machines and fraudulent registration lists (both people on it who shouldn't be and who were removed and shouldn't have been).

Looking at our world

Photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand has been photographing our world from the sky since 1994. In 2009 there will be an exhibit titled Earth From Above in NYC of 150 of his photos, enlarged to 4 ft. by 6 ft. Here is a website of 38 of them. Stunning!

Another look at the world, this time through maps. Daniel Dorling, Mark Newman, and Anna Barford have created The Atlas of the Real World, a book of maps in which the space a country takes up on the map reflects a particular value, such as the number of tourists who come to a country (France is huge), mopeds per person (India wins out), or housing prices (Japan, USA, and Western Europe are tops). Yes, this highly distorts what the map usually looks like but in a fascinating way. Here's a collection of 18 of the maps.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Surprise! its October

Lots of odds and ends:

Though her approval rating is dropping, might Palin pull off an October surprise? No, nothing involving the military (whew!). But she could accomplish much of the same thing with a big splashy wedding of her pregnant daughter and the girl's boyfriend. Shotgun weddings back in fashion? And Palin does know how to wield a gun.

When I've done training for programs that try to influence change (such as making my church denomination more gay friendly) the emphasis is on personal stories -- how a particular event made me feel, what I learned from it, and how it changed what I did. I can't say the training made me a spokesman for much of anything, but the premise is sound. People connect to stories. Sharon Begley of Newsweek says that people connect with Palin's story quite easily (or, given her dropping approval rating, did). There has always been a balance between voting your issues and voting your emotions with emotions usually winning. This year the emotional side is even stronger because with 24 hours news sources on TV and web we are bombarded with emotions and aren't able to take time to reflect on the issues. Enjoy this season of storytelling. The print edition of Newsweek has a drawing of Palin in a cluster of 10 eager listeners reading from the book "The Adventures of Sarah the Moose-Skinning Hockey Mom."

Sharon Begley has an article about the reliability of polls. At a time when one could say "another day, another 37 state polls" yet polls got some primary races quite wrong, there is a lot of discussion of poll methodology. Polls of "likely" voters tend to be more accurate, but to determine the likelihood of a voter are new voters, who tend to be for Obama, being excluded? Since it is illegal to do random-digit dialing to cell phones, are younger voters without landlines being undercounted? And back to the issue of balance between Dem and GOP respondents -- If your public is 30% GOP and your random-digit dialing gets you 45% GOP responses, a pollster might weight the GOP replies. But how stable is party identification? Do voters shift party allegiance when they switch candidates?

Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has written with a great deal of passion that if one gets a start through Affirmative Action (as he did) one must always live with the shame and stigma that success, no matter how great, will always be suspect. Some people (including himself) say he got where he is only because he is black. The world mistrusts him and he mistrusts the world. The same stigma now seems to be at work in Palin. She got to be VP candidate because she is a woman, not because of her qualifications. The same mistrust appears to be playing out with Palin who sees everyone as a supporter or a hater.

Lionel Trilling was a English professor, literary critic, essayist and author who died in 1975. On the occasion of new publications of a few of his books, Jeremy McCarter of Newsweek took a look at some of Trilling's ideas. One of his books is "The Liberal Imagination" in which he shows fellow liberals a few blind spots. The problem is that liberalism, in explaining its goals, tends to simplify, producing lots of unintended consequences. To get the full story one should study liberal ideas through literature, because fiction doesn't (or doesn't have to) present the world in black and white, can present ideas in careful nuance with moral realism, and can teach sympathy and respect for variety. These ideas tend to get lost today because of our high-speed, always on media that tends to thwart imagination, attention span, and the willingness to read something with depth (gee, where have I heard that before?). Trilling highly recommends losing yourself in "The Princess Casamassima" by Henry James.

A new startup company is inverting the recycling equation. RecycleBank has trucks that rumble through suburban Boston, weighing and scanning the barcodes of recycling bins as they are dumped into the trucks. The weight and ID are sent to a website, where residents are given credit of 25 cents a pound which can be redeemed at area stores. Isn't recycling worth a latte? Offering a bit of incentive has shown recycle rates jump from 3% to 32% in Wilmington, Del. The company hopes to serve a million homes by the end of 2009. The Midwest might be hard for it to crack into because landfill fees are so cheap compared to the coasts.

If you allow me to be greedy, surely some of that money will trickle down to you. The last couple weeks showed up that lie. Greed does not get us to compassion, kindness, or social justice. It is time to eliminate it from economic policy.

The Mormon Church has a doctrine of Free Agency. An individual must determine the difference between good and evil and reap the benefits or consequences of those choices. This cycle of choice and consequence is the individual's own trial of faith, a piece of their plan of salvation. Amy Cox, the wife of the first counselor to a Mormon bishop condemns the church's meddling in the marriage protection amendments in Calif. and Arizona because such amendments restrict free agency. The church is meddling where it shouldn't. Mrs. Cox also says the Mormon Church has renounced its old belief that people with darker skins were cursed until they turned from their sinful ways, at which point their skin would supposedly lighten. Hmm. That never happened. The church should also renounce its belief that gays will become straight when they turn from their sinful ways. Perhaps all that Mormon sponsorship will mean those amendments will be linked closely with that church, causing a backlash and their defeat.