Saturday, February 28, 2009

A fascinating first year

Karl Rove, as we so fondly remember, was the master of petty and nasty politics, yet not much of a grasp of political philosophy or strategy (especially of the conservatism he was supposed to be championing). All tactics and politics, no strategy or governance. He is the architect of the biggest and deepest political implosion since Democrats in the 1970s.

Now, I'm not bringing this up to wallow in fond memories, but to contrast Rove with Obama. Our new president has refused tactics that Washington considers political skill. Instead he strategized a path to the presidency. Since the election every symbolic act has been inclusive and sober. After presenting a centrist, bipartisan, moderate, and trustworthy front, he is able to unveil a long-term liberal agenda that will tax the rich and give to the poor.

Yes, there is risk. His plans for the economy may fail, the country end up bankrupt, and he'll last one term. We're in for a fascinating first year.

Preaching a repressive sexuality

The musical Avenue Q has a song "The Internet is for Porn." The Winter edition of the Journal of Economic Perspectives has an article by Benjamin Edelman about that very issue. Titled "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment," it matched credit card numbers with zip codes and the reported what it found by state. Now, porn is one of those internet applications that needs a fast connections -- all the better to download movies. Here's a couple things they found:

The state that has the highest porn consumption: Utah, home of the Mormon Church. Second is Alaska, though likely due to the sparse population.

In general, the redder the state the higher the porn consumption. But aren't these the states with the higher percentages of conservative Christians? Definitely. That suggests if your church preaches a repressive sexuality the members are going to look for sexual gratification in unhealthy places, ignoring what the church preaches.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Read it for myself? I can do that?

Is there a right way to read the bible? David Plotz, an unobservant Jew, was thumbing through the bible (Genesis to Chronicles) during his niece's bat mitzvah and encountered the story of Dinah, a quite gruesome tale. Why didn't he know about such a morally ambiguous story from Jewish school? So he decided to read the bible and blog about it. His blog postings have now been gathered into The Good Book. Plotz admits upfront that he has no training in biblical scholarship. But that doesn't stop him from drawing lessons from what he reads. For example, Samson and Delilah means "1. Women are deceptive and heartless. 2. Men are too stupid and sex-crazed to realize this."

Naturally, conservative Jewish and Christian scholars are jumping all over Plotz. How dare he tell us what these stories mean! One needs instruction to interpret the bible.

Actually, Plotz is saying these are what the stories mean to me. And I'll add they'll mean something different to each reader. So read it. Let it speak to you. Talk to others to find out what is says to them. Study it to find out what it has said over the ages. Don't worry about being right (unless you're a preacher or scholar), because the point is to let it become personal.

As for Dinah, she was raped, married off to her rapist, widowed when her brothers go on a murderous rampage, then listens to her father rebuke them for ruining his reputation. And she says nothing. The spiritual message? I have no idea. It probably has more to do with Jewish history than with insight into God.

Easy to scare people

Sharon Begley has a good article in Newsweek about the vaccine-autism scare that has now been debunked. The article tells the whole story of the scare and current science. Along the way we see that science is messy -- it gets to the right answer but doesn't get there quickly or along a straight line or without a lot of dead ends. It is easy to misuse science and easy to do bad science. It is easy to destroy trust in science. Media people, who thrive on controversy, are always much more interesting stirring up conflict than scientists trying to resolve that conflict. Bad science can divert attention and millions of dollars from true causes and treatments. Finally, "while it's very easy to scare people, it's very hard to unscare them."

Wish he'd take a few more steps

James Dobson has stepped down from the board of Focus on the Family. Alas, he will still host the flagship radio program, write the monthly newsletter, and speak out on moral issues. By not being on the board is he more free in what he can say?

Time to put an end to this tradition

The GOP has suddenly found the importance of limiting the federal deficit. However, until they repudiate Bush, their talk sounds hollow.

Is repudiation of Bush possible? Not by the GOP, even if many are now mumbling about how far Bush forced them to stray from sound economic principles, but by the country as a whole.

A commentator notes:

America has never suffered such a rapid decline in fortune as during the Bush administration. I hope he means more than financial fortune, because the decline at the start of the Great Depression was perhaps much more rapid. But if one includes how we are seen by other countries -- our moral reputation and the ability to have influence for good -- has indeed hit a rapid decline. There are no doubt other measurements of decline.

Never has there been so much evidence of crimes by the president, vice president, and immediate cronies. Most of it is public domain. Some is from the perpetrators themselves in the form of bragging admission. A great deal is from underlings who knew they were being led astray, didn't have the gumption or ability to refuse, and documented why they did what they did. Some did push back -- it was military people who released the Abu Graib photos. I hope someone takes the time to gather all that evidence into one place. It may indeed be public domain, but one must be diligent in searching it out. The truth is out there.

All that means is if someone wanted to prosecute Bush and Cheney the evidence is overwhelmingly in their favor. The advantage for doing so is great: It would keep future presidents from attempting the same thing. It would restore our name in the international community as other countries would take our claims of freedom and fairness seriously. However, it is a case of use it or lose it.

So why don't we?

It isn't just spineless Democrats, though that is a big part of it.

We've never prosecuted former rulers (though we came close with Nixon) and very few democracies have tried. We have had an assortment of "blue ribbon" panels, such as Iran-Contra, but nobody of consequence went to jail and they haven't worked as deterrence.

Rulers who became criminal in other countries tended to disappear through "health emergencies" or mid-air "mechanical failures" or gunmen in the shadows. Democracies are above those sorts of things.

As for Truth Commissions, they've only been used in countries, like Liberia, that are trying to become democracies.

But if we don't prosecute, worse will come.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A flawed proposal for federal civil unions

I've been a bit busy so I haven't had time to read and comment on a link my friend and debate partner sent to me. In this case he only said I would want to know about it. Last Sunday, the New York Times published an editorial promoting the idea of federal civil unions with religious exemptions. It was written by David Blankenhorn, who has said some weird things about gay marriage, and by Jonathan Rauch, who is a gay conservative and wrote the book "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good For Gays, Good For Straights, and Good for America." I've admired Rauch in the past.

We know the basic issue: Gays demand the support of marriage for their loves and families. Many religious people think that God can't possibly tolerate such an abomination. We're at an impasse.

So the proposal is to meet halfway: Gays get federally supported civil unions, giving all the benefits of marriage except name. Religious institutions don't have to honor them. To make sure of that last part they propose the federal civil unions only take effect in states that enact those religious exemptions. Doing it this way would head off a "long-term take-no-prisoners conflict."

One might wonder why the existing Bill of Rights -- the First Amendment part that allows religious institutions to not marry any couple that doesn't fit their guidelines -- isn't enough. Apparently such institutions also don't want the possibility of being forced to provide benefits to the spouse of a gay employee (even if done with the federal dime) or recognize a gay spouse in a religious hospital.

My reaction: It won't work.

We already have a "long-term take-no-prisoners conflict."

Many religious institutions -- as Utah demonstrates in one of today's other posts -- aren't just trying to protect marriage. They want to completely eliminate gays. Their long-term efforts have consistently been to thwart any recognition of gays and gay rights. Federal civil unions contradict that goal. In the broader culture wars, gays are only one piece. Must we compromise on everything else too, such as abortion? (Alas, in some sense, we have. Do you know how many counties where women have no access to abortions? About 87%)

Gays would remain upset that churches are allowed to remain bigots on the federal dime. Our taxes are being used to pay for our second class status.

Federal civil unions may indeed be a step towards marriage, though many gays would fear that halfway measure would become permanent. However, providing such a broad religious exemption only enshrines bigotry. We didn't exempt churches from civil rights laws protecting blacks. Laws banning interracial marriage were given religious justification.

Other gay voices also call the proposal flawed. Some of the ideas mentioned:

The religious viewpoint is morally and intellectually bankrupt -- witness how much of their arguments are based on lies or are based on visions of catastrophic results.

Gays have already compromised with state-by-state civil unions. While some gays get some protections and benefits, this patchwork is leading to the judicial efforts that Fundies are up in arms about.

A compromise like this would only work if both sides have equal power. As in all civil rights issues, that is a flawed assumption. One side holds the power and refuses to give any of it up.

When making compromises one must pay very close attention to its consequences that may take years to undo, forcing us to live with an unequal system in the meantime. The original proposal doesn't discuss such costs, never mind asking whether such long-term costs are worth the short-term gains. One long-term cost is too many straights will feel the problem has been "solved" even if gays are left with inequalities.

Even in this compromise some gays don't see what the Fundies are giving up. A compromise means each side gives up a bit. Yet, Fundies still get to be bigots. Perhaps it will be a compromise if we give religious people the word "marriage" and all government institutions refer to civil unions.

In what other area of American law do we allow a religious exemption? If we allow it here how far will the exemptions go?

Federal civil unions would only provide federal benefits in states that already have gay marriage or civil-unions. If your state (like Michigan) bans both, you're out of luck.

The reasons for the "religious exemption" clause are already included in other laws. Which means Fundies aren't interested in a religious exemption. They want to ban everyone from recognizing gay marriage. Gays won't have to reject this compromise because Fundies will -- the fight against civil unions has been just as strong as for marriage.

Political history suggests a compromise isn't necessary. DOMA could fall in a couple years and the Supreme Court ruling in our favor could come in 15.

How about this idea: ban recognition of Mormons, then move on to Southern Baptists and other Fundie denominations.

I wrote all that yesterday but a browser/website glitch prevented me from posting it before I dashed to help at the Ruth Ellis Center. Just as well, here's a bit more on the story.

There were a couple nasty comments made in the last few days, both by Colorado state senators. One was in response to a bill to grant benefits to same-sex partners of state employees (they've come a long way from Amendment 2 in the 1990s which tried to ban gay friendly laws). As part of his argument Senator Scott Renfrew quoted Leviticus, stressing that gays should be put to death.

The other was Senator Dave Schultheis who voted against a bill that would provide for HIV testing of pregnant women at a time when the results could prevent the fetus from contracting the virus. His reason is that such a test would promote promiscuity and the baby deserves to get AIDS.

These people have no intention of ever compromising. The federal civil union "compromise" has no chance of getting their approval. Which I guess means there is no need to carve out a religious exception.

One of the commenters to this posting brought up 1 Samuel 18:20-21:

And Michal, Saul's daughter, loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. And Saul said, "I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." Wherefore Saul said to David, "Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law a second time." (American Standard Version)

Second time? That means the first time was when David and Jonathan were married?

Only three dozen?

Utah State Senator Chris Buttars had a big hand in killing all five of the recent gay friendly bills. These bills were introduced because the Mormon Church said it valued gays, it just didn't like using the word marriage to describe gay relationships. Buttars, a Mormon bishop, proved the lie of that claim. In the process he claimed gays were terrorists and the greatest threat to America. He did it in a rather ugly manner.

That didn't sit well with the senate GOP leadership. The GOP holds about 2/3 of the senate seats. Buttars was stripped of committee chairmanships. But, it wasn't because of what Buttars said -- they all agree with him -- but because Buttars demonstrated they're all bigots. Besides, he had been known to be inflammatory and had agreed not to talk about gays. Losing those chairmanships wasn't punishment because it allows Buttars to speak more freely. Democrats are outraged that Buttars still leads two other committees.

Robert Kirby of the Salt Lake Tribune takes on Buttars claim that gays are terrorists. His editorial is delightfully humorous. An excerpt:

I consider myself one of the most intolerant people I know, but gays aren't even on my "Top 500 People Whose Guts I Hate" list. I checked it this morning.

The same kinds of claims were trotted out when women were given the right to vote and blacks were given civil rights. Sky falling? We're not even wearing hardhats.

Kirby ends with:

With even a casual glance at our history, it's easy to see that the America people feared seeing destroyed has always been an outdated version that catered almost entirely to them.

In addition to not believing Fundies when they say they are only protecting marriage we don't believe them when they say they don't hate us. Hawaii (as I noted before) has an amendment that says the legislature doesn't have to offer gay marriage (but can if it wants to). A bill before the state senate Judiciary Committee would offer civil-unions. The vote is so close there is talk of bypassing the committee and presenting the bill before the full senate. This, naturally, prompted demonstrations for both sides of the issue. Here is the story of one person demonstrating for civil unions and the treatment she got from those opposed. It was most definitely not the case of, Well, dearie, we may disagree on this issue, but I love you well enough that I'll drive you home to make sure you arrive safely. Another hint?

You know, it gets really tiresome to be called diseased and a pedophile and a rapist and an abomination and a threat to America three dozen times in one day.

A pair of giraffes in top hats

Was Noah's ark a gay wedding cruise? This little painting depicts that case with several famous gay couples -- Ellen and Portia, Jack and Ennis -- and penguins in bowties. Even better are all the famous Fundies drowning in the water. Click on the image for a bigger view.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Two big Oscar wins

Two wonderful awards at last night's Oscars, both for the movie Milk. Dustin Lance Black won for Best Original Screenplay and Sean Penn won for Best Actor. Both men gave great acceptance speeches, calling for gay equality.

Once Penn won Best Actor I was sure Milk would not win Best Picture. I was right, it went to Slumdog Millionaire. I haven't seen the winner (yet), though this does not seem to be the repeat of three years ago. That's when many gay people thought that Crash won because too many people couldn't bring themselves to vote for Brokeback Mountain. This year it seems most gay people really do think Slumdog Millionaire deserves the win.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We have loved democracy, even when used against us

In honor of the Oscars, for which Milk was nominated in a few categories, here are a pair of essays about Harvey Milk. The first is by Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the Milk screenplay. He talks about why he wanted to tell Milk's story. That started from a recording of a speech by Milk (featured in the movie). Milk hopes gay kids in Des Moines and San Antonio hear his voice and learns there are options other than suicide and the closet:

. . and then one day that child might open up the paper and it says, “homosexual elected in San Francisco,” and there are two new options. One option is to go to California. . . OR stay in San Antonio and fight.

Black also discusses how it seems that gays, over the last decade or so (under the onslaught from Rove and co.), have become invisible again, waiting for straights to get our rights for us. After the Calif. gay marriage ban, Black, with the help of Cleve Jones (also a character in the movie), wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle:

We have always been willing to serve our country: in our armed forces, even as we were threatened with courts-martial and dishonor; as teachers, even as we were slandered and libeled; as parents and foster parents struggling to support our children; as doctors and nurses caring for patients in a broken health care system; as artists, writers and musicians; as workers in factories and hotels, on farms and in office buildings; we have always served and loved our country.

We have loved our country even as we have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence at the hands of our countrymen. We have loved God, even as we were rejected and abandoned by religious leaders, our churches, synagogues and mosques. We have loved democracy, even as we witnessed the ballot box used to deny us our rights.

We have always kept faith with the American people, our neighbors, co-workers, friends and families. But today that faith is tested and we find ourselves at a crossroad in history.

Will we move forward together? Will we affirm that the American dream is alive and real? Will we finally guarantee full equality under the law for all Americans? Or will we surrender to the worst, most divisive appeals to bigotry, ignorance and fear?

Black was delighted to see at one of the post-election rallies that the young people there gave up on their stodgy elders and took matters into their own hands. The youth are saying: We're not going to wait for straights to give us our rights. We're going to stop being invisible and work for our rights ourselves.

The second essay is by Armistead Maupin, who started writing his famous gay-themed Tales of the City about the time Milk was elected. Maupin writes about Milk's last boyfriend, a young man who met Milk only a month before the assassination.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Confronting the ick

A month ago I wrote about Matt Foreman's suggestions about how we can conduct the next gay rights campaign and avoid losing. Foreman said that straights who are not Fundies still may vote against us because of the "ick factor" -- they get squeamish when faced with the reality of our loves. The solution is to portray our rights in terms other than through relationships. He backed up his claims through focus groups that viewed gay-friendly ads.

A rebuttal now comes from Diane Silver in a column called Political IQ. Yes, the ick factor is real. But we will never gain our rights by hiding from it. We must confront it. Show our loves in all their diversity, in spite of the ick factor. This is the only way potential allies will get beyond ick and vote for us. Alas, we have centuries of ick to work through.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vision for a pluralistic society

A couple weeks ago I wrote that Robert Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary wrote an essay for Newsweek in which decried the screeching that substitutes for discussion around gay marriage. Though he voted for the Calif. ban he was conciliatory enough that I wrote a letter to him offering to continue the discussion. I was going to actually send it through snail-mail -- but my mailman arrived 3 hours early that Saturday, so I sent it by email instead.

I'm disappointed, though not at all surprised, that he did not respond. He has made no mention of the essay (much less me) in his personal blog. Even Newsweek printed no letters about it. Since my friend and debate partner asked about the letter I thought it is now time to post it here.

Mr. Robert Mouw, President

Dear Sir,
I read your Less Shouting, More Talking My Turn essay in Newsweek with mixed emotions. I agree that the debate on homosexuality tends to be overheated and leads to screeching on both sides. I am intrigued by the questions you pose and your request to discuss this issue in a calm manner with both sides respecting the other. I am also a Christian who happens to be gay. I'm still feeling the sting from the loss of same-sex marriage in California, more than I was from the passage of gay-marriage amendment in Michigan four years ago.

I was struck by the incongruity in your essay where you wrote, "As an Evangelical, I subscribe to the 'traditional' definition of a marriage, and I do not want to see the definition changed," followed immediately by, "Does that mean I want to impose my personal convictions on the broader population? No." To me it sounds like you have imposed your convictions on me. Yet, I can relate to your plea for a calm discussion. I'm also angry about the untrue things that have been said about me and fellow gays.

Because I am both gay and Christian, I have worked to understand the debate, to know which verses of the Bible are used against me and the array of interpretations of each. I also keep current on the latest studies on the nature of homosexuality. I do not have a degree in theology, but feel I could engage in a meaningful discussion. You can get to know me a bit better through my webpage, at [...] which features my music and work as my congregation's stewardship guide, and through my blog at

You asked in the essay, "Can we talk?" I reply, yes we can. Will you listen? Many of my gay associates believe you want us to hear you but you have no intention of hearing our side. Even so, I thank you for at least asking for a quiet discussion.

I found your blog and saw that you make a distinction between being an Evangelical and a fundamentalist. That gives me hope that perhaps you might indeed listen. Even so, I am aware I probably won't change your ideas of homosexuality any more than you will change mine. I hope, however, that we both can refine our terms of debate. This may seem like a small gain, yet during the Proposition 8 campaign I and many fellow gays were deeply hurt by the lies which made up the core of the public debate. This included such lies as allowing gay marriage will mean that pastors who oppose it will be hauled from pulpits on hate-crime charges. That left us wondering whether Christians take the Ten Commandments seriously.

To start our debate I'll answer some of the questions you posed in your Newsweek essay. I don't know your views on some of the particulars, so I can only answer based on the loudest voices that condemn people like me.

What is it about people like me that frighten you so much? There are two parts to my answer. The first scare comes from voices that proclaim their interpretation of the Bible is the only correct one and anyone who does not agree is condemned to Hell. The second is the complete dismissal we encounter when we say, "I didn't choose to be gay."

What would you need to hear from us that would reduce your anxiety? Regret for using extreme and inaccurate claims -- that allowing homosexuality will cause the downfall of Western Civilization, that the existence of gays caused the destruction of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, that allowing gay marriage will mean allowing bestiality.

What is your vision of a flourishing pluralistic society? That we have one. At the moment we don't. I’m pleased that you asked this question. I hope for a society in which the worth of all people is taken seriously; where black, white, and Hispanic worship together; where we trust an atheist or Muslim with the American presidency because he or she is obviously the most capable; where public policy is debated without demonizing any group here or abroad; where we seek policies for rehabilitation instead of blindly filling our jails; where a corporate CEO insists the workers get a portion of that year's profits rather than fattening his own bank account; where health care doesn't depend on the generosity of your employer; where citizens willingly deny themselves some pleasures for the benefit of the environment; where students of inner-city schools look forward to college; where abortion is rare because teens get complete sexual education, including the value of marriage; where adoption by a gay couple is treated as joyously as any other adoption.

Where do people like me fit into that kind of society? Right beside us helping to make it happen.

If you are intrigued enough to continue this debate you may reach me through either the postal or email addresses given above (I would prefer email). You have my blessings to feature this letter (and any future correspondence) in your blog. I'll be doing the same on my own blog. You might start by allowing me to ask those same questions of you.

I thank you for your time.

(The Crow)

Bipartisanship? That didn't last long

A lot of the response of the way voting went for the stimulus package has been that in spite of Obama's efforts bipartisanship sure didn't last very long. The obvious reason is intransigent Republicans stuck in ideology hoping that Obama fails so they have something to run against in 2010. The useful question is why are they stuck in ideology? We can expand the question to ask why are both major parties driven by their extreme fringes? Why are the moderates ignored? Because most of our political races are in "safe" seats, the candidate from a particular party will always win it, and our primary elections (except for president and those primaries are only for president) usually have very low turnout. That means the candidate can be elected by 5% to 15% of eligible voters. And the fierce party fringe can easily control the outcome.

What to do? Opening primaries to all voters, instead of party members, will help. But that doesn't help much. What seems best is to get rid of party primaries in favor of a truly open election. The top two vote getters, no matter the party, move on to the general election. Party regulars hate it, of course. But it may happen. An initiative for such a primary will be on the ballot in Calif. in 2010 and Arnold, weary of deadlock (see recent news of Calif. budget mess), is for it.

A scenario has been rolling around in my head. Might the Party of Lincoln, the Grand Old Party, drift so far from reality that those who are fiscal conservatives and social moderates might split off to form another party? How long would such a process last? Be careful what you wish for says a dissenting opinion -- not because they like the current GOP (they most definitely do not), but because without a viable opposition the Democrats will likely become lazy. At the moment, the current GOP is not a viable opposition. Most of this link discusses how to increase black participation in the party.

But why do Dems need opposition? Consider the case of Minnesota, in which the state legislature is controlled by Dems and have no threat of losing that control. That means they really don't need to cater to their fringe constituents -- like gays. No penalty for dismissing a small, unpopular minority. It is quite a bit different when you have to fight for every vote. Most of this post is about something that is newsworthy, but not really all that interesting: a gay Republican state senator (there is such a beast?) who voted against expanding the definition of marriage to include gays. Yawn.

Swagger and certainty

There's a thriving industry of punditry out there. People have noticed that pundits, those that peer into the future and guess what is going to happen, are not booted out the door when they are wrong -- not even when they are very wrong. What's going on? Philip Tetlock of Stanford University took a look.

First, he looked at what might correlate with whether a pundit tends to be right or wrong most of the time. It wasn't education level, daytime occupation, or ideology. It was fame. The more the pundit is feted by the media the worse his accuracy. Say what?

Media doesn't care about accuracy. They don't punish for being wrong. They want bold, decisive, swagger, and certainty. And the pundits that deliver on swagger are the ones who are driven by a Big Idea and work to make everything around them fit that idea. They have no doubt about their Big Idea, dismiss evidence that undercuts it, and embrace evidence that supports it -- "belief defense and bolstering" (reminds me of most Fundies). This leads them to overpredict. The accurate pundits are "cognitively flexible, modest, and open to self-criticism" and work from the data. There speech is properly full of uncertainty -- which makes for a good forecast but doesn't make for good television.

Drat! He's not worst -- yet

C-SPAN asked 65 historians to rate all our former presidents in ten categories, including Public Persuasion, Crisis Leadership, Moral Authority, International Relations, Administrative Skills, and Pursued Equal Justice For All.

The top and bottom few and some recent with ranking and overall scores (out of 1000):

1-902 Lincoln
2-854 Washington
3-837 FD Roosevelt
4-781 T Roosevelt
5-708 Truman
6-701 Kennedy

11-641 L Johnson
15-605 Clinton
18-542 GHW Bush
25-474 Carter

36-362 GW Bush
37-351 Fillmore
38-327 Harding
39-324 WH Harrison
40-287 Pierce
41-258 A Johnson
42-227 Buchanan

Lots of people, of course, think that GW Bush is rated too high. His reputation is bound to change as we assess the consequences of his actions. Bush came out almost at the bottom for Economic Management and International Relations but close to the middle in Crisis Leadership, and Vision/Setting Agenda (too bad we didn't like his vision and agenda).

It is probably unfair to rate WH Harrison because he was president for just over 1 month before dying of pneumonia.

I noticed that the bottom two were president just before (Buchanan) and just after (A Johnson) Lincoln, the guy at the top of the list.

I'm sure glad it isn't winter there

National Underwear Day in Brazil! 32 models wearing only that strolled through town. I’m sure you'll want to see pictures. Goodness! What is she wearing?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wish we didn't have proof like this to know we're winning

Within the last few weeks someone commented (and I may have blogged about it) that when gays make TV ads about their rights they tend to be rather ho-hum. When our opponents make TV ads about taking away our rights they almost always are an emotional kick in the gut. The latest ad, produced by a West Virginia group (see, WV doesn't have a hate, um, marriage protection amendment yet) ups the ante to a sickening level. It depicts a gay sniper blowing away a family who had been calmly sitting on their front porch blowing bubbles. There will be consequences from this one. Expect the hate crimes against gays to go up. Since the ad is on YouTube the victims won't be confined to West Virginia. There is a tiny positive side to this ad. For our opponents to be this desperate we must be winning.

Interactive maps

I love maps, especially interactive ones that tell a story. Here are 3 of them. One shows where patents have been files (and not) since 1975. The next shows where income is being made (and not) in this decade. The third shows the largest cities as percent of population since 1860. Alas, it clearly shows Detroit in 5th place in 1950 falling to about 12th place today.

People take evolution personally

I didn't realize there was something called Evolution Weekend, held close to the birthday of Charles Darwin. It is a time for churches (and you can be sure they are not conservative) to proclaim it is possible to believe in God an evolution at the same time. The reasons for the effort include fear that the USA will lose ground in education and technology if the public rejects science and counter the impression that religious people are "dumb, ignorant, and hostile to science," Several Detroit and Ann Arbor churches took part.

Alas, Darwin can still be a tough sell. It may not be so much that the church insists on Creation (at least in middle-to-liberal churches), but that another church idea is hard to push aside. The church has long taught that Man is the pinnacle of creation, even made in the image of God. If true, then it is an insult it suggest that humans are cousins to monkeys. People take evolution personally. Alas, this is pretty much an idea that persists only in America.

A biology teacher is trying the idea of expressing evolutionary ideas in biblical terms. He asks students to describe traits of a good person and of an evil person. Imagine an island in which all the inhabitants are good. What would the society be like? How about an island where all are evil? What happens when an evil person visits the good island? Once the discussion has gone on for a while the teacher is able to match various evolutionary concepts with what has happened with each population. The students understand and don't feel threatened.

Let's give boring a try

Let's hear it for boring Canadians! Healthiest banks in the world? In Canada. Most stable house prices? Canada. National government budget surpluses? Healthy health-care system? Sensible immigration? Yup, all true in Canada. Perhaps we can try boring government policies for a while. They've even got gay marriage! I wonder if there is a connection…

How to tell if banks didn't close?

I've heard a lot of GOP senators, representatives, and governors commenting about how horrible the stimulus package is. Too inflationary, too much debt, not enough tax cuts, won't do anything, etc. Never mind that some of these positions are exact opposite of what they approved over the last 8 years or are ideas that economists dismiss. They're all struggling for something to run on (or against) a year and a half from now. If the stimulus package fails they can trumpet that it wasn't their fault and you had better vote for me. Some pundits are describing the situation as outright war against Obama. But there is a big question: how does one tell if the stimulus plan was a disaster? Obviously, if the economy comes roaring back we can brand it a success. But what if the economy loses 1 million jobs instead of the 3 million that would have been lost without it? Or 500 banks fail instead of 1000? Obama is in a sweet spot at the moment. Repeatedly extending a conciliatory hand to the GOP looks good for him and getting a punch in the face in return also looks good for him.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

So what if it is a choice?

Part 4 of anti-gay arguments that we should pay attention to:

Being gay is a choice.

There are actually two underlying statements.

1. Having homosexual feelings is a choice.

Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, many ex-gay organizations now try to insist that while one doesn't choose an orientation it can be changed. They don't want to admit there is a biological component because that is less likely to be changeable. They still insist being gay is a result of a psychological trauma (the old missing father claim).

The ex-gay industry has not done long-term studies to show the effectiveness of their therapy. But why should the source of an orientation matter? Why should gays be asked to change? The only answer is social pressure.

This belief in choice doesn't just make the ex-gay industry possible, it also fuels a very large part of the animosity towards gays summed up in the phrase, "Save the children." But if homosexuality isn't a choice there is little to save the children from (alas, the bogus gay = pedophile claim is still out there).

Gays sometimes counter that if being gay were a choice then no one would choose to be gay. Why do we portray our lives as being so awful?

The better response is to say America allows choices in all areas of life -- including religion. So what if orientation is also a choice?

Being gay is no more a choice than skin color. So if blacks could change their skin color and didn't it would be acceptable to discriminate against them? Racism is wrong because there is nothing wrong with being black.

Why must gays change when the bad things associated with gay sex apply equally to straight sex? Why are only gay rights restricted when those bad things happen?

Sexual orientation has no bearing on whether and how well a person contributes to society. Unrealistic social pressures and outright discrimination does affect productivity.

2. Engaging in homosexual acts is a choice.

The anti-gay industry still hasn't shown why it is wrong for gay people to express themselves sexually in ways similar that straight people do -- other than using religious arguments. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with the human body in general.

Our opponents assume all gays indulge in the "gay lifestyle" of all night drunken group sex that leads to AIDS. But that isn't required of gay people, who also form stable relationships, any more than it is required of straights to take part in sex clubs (which some most certainly do).

The claim is that you either live a morally upright straight life of descend into a wretched gay life of sex, drugs, disease, and death. Faulty choice. The choice is between living a lie and not. Yes, gay behavior is a choice. It is false to assume that choice must be bad.

Sweet art

Giant images of Obama and Lincoln were made out of 5,000 carefully frosted cupcakes. This confection art was installed on the floor of the Smithsonian American Art Museum for about 24 hours. Afterwards, observers were invited to eat a bit of the art. This link is to a photo gallery of the installation process.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A heartfelt adventure

I've had a medical adventure over the last few weeks. I haven't told most of you because I didn't think it was very serious and didn't want to alarm you if it wasn't.

A little more than a month ago I started feeling a momentary flutter in my chest. It never lasted more than about one heartbeat so I couldn't touch a pulse-point to see what was going on. There was no pain or dizziness. Sometimes it would recur as soon as 10 minutes, but may not happen again for several hours. I finally made a doctor appointment when it seemed to happen frequently during a bell rehearsal.

Mention "chest" in a doctor's office and they swing into action. I had and EKG yet that day. A few days later I had an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart). A week later I had a treadmill stress test. As one might guess, the fluttering didn't happen during any of those tests. At the end of the stress test I suggested perhaps trying a 24 hour monitor. The doctor agreed, so the following week I was wired up. The fluttering did happen several times while I had the monitor on.

Both the stress test and the 24 hour test were annoying because the nurse shaved a few patches on my chest and also because I’m allergic to the adhesive on the tape that held everything in place.

I went back today for the results. EKG -- normal. Echocardiogram -- shows a heart that is working well, pumping blood without restriction. Stress test -- due to my summer bicycling I passed with flying colors, lasting much longer than my previous stress test several years ago. Heart action and blood pressure well within the healthy range.

The 24 hour test recorded at least 80,000 heartbeats (I don't remember the exact number). Out of that number it recorded 80 flutters (more than I noted in my log). The doctor showed me one of them. For the space of a single beat the heart does flutter, producing a jumbled squiggle on the chart. Then it is back to normal.

Treatment: nothing. It happens so infrequently and for so short a time that any treatment would have side effects more serious than the actual condition. Though it shows up in the heart the problem might be caused by a momentary spasm of the chest or digestive system -- spicy food? Maybe not. I noticed it happened more frequently when I had a cold during the first half of this week.

I should have it checked again if fluttering is sustained or causes dizziness. In the meantime I'm very thankful for the quality of my health insurance. Even though I pay a hefty premium (deducted from my pension) I'm sure I used a good chunk of that over the last month with minimal out-of-pocket copay.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Protective layers around religion

Because Christianity condemns gays so loudly with so little evidence I have done a lot of thinking about what Christianity is really about. An example: the goal of faith in Jesus is salvation, if one believes the reward is eternity in heaven. Alas, Christians wield this idea as a weapon -- I'm saved and you can't be, or I don't care what I have to do I'm going to make sure you're saved. So I’m quite drawn to the idea that Christ will to save everyone, though some may not reach salvation until they meet him after death. So then, what is Christianity for? The answer that satisfies me is learning to live together in community here on earth. Alas, many Christians say this distorts Christianity.

A pause for a comment from Vice-Pope Eric in The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok (yes, that's the way they spell it):
People accuse us sometimes of not practising what we preach, but you must remember that if you're trying to propagate a creed of poverty, gentleness and tolerance, you need a very rich, powerful, authoritarian organisation to do it.

That distortion may explain why I am interested in an article about 10 Myths of Atheism by Greta Christina. We're battling some of the same foes. Some of the 10 myths that resonated with me:
* Without religion there is no basis of morality.
* Atheists are unhappy with no meaning to their lives.
* Atheists are whiny. Christians use this argument as a way to shut people up.
* Atheists are trendy. Perhaps the same way gays are trendy.
* Atheists treat science as their religion. Nope, but science relies on testing the world around them, which religion frequently refuses to do.
* Atheists think they're superior. They're disrespectful, intolerant, and mean.

This last one included a link to explore the idea in more detail. It seems atheists are accused of such crimes as being mean because they question religion and much of religion doesn't like to be questioned. This secondary article looks at the protective layers our culture puts around religion to keep us from questioning it too closely. Some of those layers are:
* Faith is a good thing and makes you a good person. You can't trust a person who has no faith.
* Letting go of doubts about your faith is virtuous, the more irrational the belief the more special it is to accept it.
* Religious leaders and religious objects deserve a special level of respect.
* Pointing out inconsistencies and immoralities in another person's religion is rude and intolerant, and in some cases worthy of exile, torture, and death.
* Being tolerant of religion requires you to not criticize it.

It doesn't get us very far to say, "The emperor has no clothes!" However, it can be useful to ask, "It looks like the emperor isn't wearing clothes. Can you provide evidence?" It seems religion is objecting to being tossed into the marketplace of ideas and having to defend itself there.

While I think atheism has some valid complaints and I think religion, especially Christianity, has veered a long way from its initial purpose, I won't give up being a follower of Christ. There are two main reasons. The first is that the evidence of the life of Jesus isn't as scant as atheists seem to claim. The bible is a historical document of equal quality and reliability of others from the era. The other reason was expressed quite well to me recently: Something clearly happened to those disciples. To put it another way, a position of cultural dominance (especially since it didn't start that way) and Christianity's way of using various threats (you want to go to heaven, don't you?) wouldn't have been enough to keep Christianity alive for 2000 years. However, personal investment would. There are at least some, if not a great many, in each generation who have a direct encounter with Jesus. These are the ones who feel his grace and feel nudged to do things they hadn't thought possible.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Worst? Really?

This one made me burst out laughing. It makes one wonder what they're smoking.

"This stimulus bill is huge, so disastrous, and so harmful to our country that even though Obama has been in office for less than a month, I think it's already fair to label him as one of the worst Presidents in American history," - Right-Wing News, "knee-capping Barack Obama at every opportunity".

I think the title of the linked post refers to Michelle Malkin, conservative blogger.

Attack and demean love

The Calif. Supremes will hear oral arguments in the case to overturn the marriage ban on March 5. They must issue their ruling within 90 days. As part of the hearings those in favor of the ban want the Supremes to rule to invalidate the existing 18,000 same-sex marriages. There is now a video urging the Supremes (actually targeting the citizens of Calif.) not to "divorce" gay couples. Andrew Sullivan says it well (and has the video):

In the end, the marriage debate is about whether it is in the interest of society as a whole to attack and demean couples who are constructing loving, committed strong relationships, with the help of their friends, families and government. Whatever else it is, the attempt to break up these relationships, to deny and invalidate the hopes and dreams they aspire to, is both cruel and deeply hostile to any conservatism that seeks to bring people together around the shared values of family, fidelity and responsibility.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alas, it's not a measure of intelligence

I didn't know there is a "readability" tool within Word. That's the program I'm using to type this, so I went looking for it. Seems like it only gets used after it examines the grammar of each sentence of the document. That can be annoying if one doesn't write in the official business style it is set up to handle. I have to let it comment on every single sentence. Bah!

The reason why I went looking for that tool is because some wise guy took a transcript of the unscripted answers to Obama's recent first press conference and ran it through the readability tool. He then did the same with the answers of Bush's first press conference. I'd gloat that Bush got a Grade Level Score of 7.1 (a 7th grader can understand it) and Obama got a 10.3 -- except I ran one of my talks for church through it and got a 6.7.

It seems the guy who did the comparisons missed a vital distinction. The grade level score isn't about the writer (or speaker) but is about the comprehension level of the reader. That means as smart as I am (ha!) I can write so well that even 6th graders can understand me.

Another observation of Obama's press conference is that he did not speak in bumper sticker-ese -- no soundbites that dumb-down what he was saying. Bush was famous for those: "Axis of Evil" or "Patriot Act".

Don't sell your soul to Washington

I wrote a couple days ago about Obama's faith based initiatives and how gay faith groups should make sure their hand is out. Here is a dissenting opinion that says that *all* faith-based charities should not accept government money. The whole program is misguided. His reasons:

* The program is biased towards the mega-churches that have the staff, funding, and political access to go after grants.

* A big reason for a faith-based charity is evangelism (or at least an expression) of the faith. The government should not be funding any religion's evangelism.

* Another big reason for a faith-based charity is for church members to be actively involved in the program. Funding the program with government money dilutes the blessing of that involvement. The church person is no longer personally invested in the lives of the less fortunate and participants risk becoming jaded social workers.

* He who pays the bills makes the rules. We like the idea that Obama might force these organizations to hire gays but that could end the moment he leaves office. In general, the church cannot serve two masters, the goals of one must be sacrificed to please the other.

* Government runs by paperwork and procedure, not compassion. Allowing government into the charity won't make government more compassionate and personal but will make the charity less so. Government money drains the soul, turning caring volunteers into people who count quotas and check boxes.

* Government money has already turned gay community centers from being a meeting place for outraged people to pill dispensers that have no use for people who don't fit the program's profiles.

* Politicians, who would control the money, are not known for basing their decisions on morality, ethics, or religion.

Don't sell your soul to Washington.

One of the comments points out that Obama has changed the name of the program. It appears to be open to any charity, not just faith-based ones. Gay organizations, even those not affiliated with a church, may apply. Though the program has problems with it, if our opponents are going to use it to get funding, we should too.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gay cake?

The perfect cake for your coming out announcement.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A sobering look

Our housing boom and bust has created a nasty side effect -- unemployed workers are pinned to their houses and can't follow the jobs. There is an extra reluctance to move now because all their money is tied up in the house and they abhor selling at a loss. Will Wilkinson of The Week makes a claim, which I won't comment on. He thinks the housing boom was in part fueled by federal housing subsidies and they should now be eliminated? To put it another way, what's wrong with renting? The reason why I won't comment is because I own a house with no risk of losing it. Home ownership has been very good to me.

Follow the link to a graph of this economic mess and the ones in 1990 and 2001. The lines show the number of job losses since peak employment and how long it takes until we return to the previous level. In 1990 we leveled off in about a year with 1.5 million jobs lost. We regained that in less than 2 more years. In 2001 the rate slowed after a year and hit over 2.5 million jobs lost after 2 years before taking another 2 years to make up the loss.

And in 2008 we've lost 3.5 million jobs in 14 months and still heading south.

I wish the chart had showed the job losses in percentage of total workforce for a more accurate comparison, but it probably wouldn't look so dramatic. And the way things are going in the Senate right now, dramatic is good.

Your fears are unfounded. Be not afraid.

New Hampshire has already enacted civil unions, something that Bishop Gene Robinson and his partner celebrated last June. Now the state legislature is considering same-sex marriage. As part of the hearings Robinson went before the state Judiciary Committee and made his eloquent case for gay marriage. The whole testimony is worth a read (he says it well), though here are some of his points:

When civil unions were enacted we were told to fear the result -- gays would destroy marriage. The fears have shown to be unfounded.

Will this change the definition of marriage? Yes. But marriage hasn't had one constant definition through history.

This bill is not a threat to any religion. We confuse the issue when we ask clergy to act as agents of the state to officiate at weddings. But divorce doesn't happen at a church. No church will be required to conduct weddings of which it doesn't approve. In the same way that religion is not controlled by the state, the church should not control civil acts.

One frequent phrase of the bible is "Be not afraid." Don't let religious opponents of equality make you afraid to do what is right.

Getting in on the game with hands out

Many gays are upset that Obama is continuing the faith-based charity funding instituted by Bush. They aren't satisfied that he says such organizations must follow anti-discrimination laws in their locale because so many cities and states do not include gays in such laws. Should we work to declare the whole program unconstitutional? Is "religion poison and we are fools to drink it"? Or should gay friendly churches make sure they have their hands out to get funding for programs for homeless gay youth, people with AIDS, and other programs for disenfranchised LGBT communities? Given that this president was elected with the help of black churches we would have a hard time shutting the program down. We can play the game like everyone else.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The true message of religion

A gay man named Waymon tells the story of growing up in a Southern Pentecostal church (they're even to the right of the Southern Baptists). From a very young age he was called a sissy and from the time he came out at 16 he was thrown out of the church and out of his family in the name of religion. Christians? Done with them. He has since reconciled with his family.

Until Waymon and his partner had dinner with Gene Robinson. The partner had put together a conference in which Robinson was a speaker so Waymon was included in the dinner ahead of time. And was surprised by the Christian he encountered.

I was immediately thrown off by his openness and kindness, something I wasn’t expecting from such a deeply religious person. My surprise only grew when I heard him speak.

He spoke with such authority and conviction about religion, God, and the Bible. He seemed to answer all of my questions and concerns about the way religion has been corrupted by extremists. He talked about the true message of religion: acceptance, love, and compassion. He talked about how civil rights, including LGBT equality, was something all religious people should be behind.

Even when he was attacked during the questions session by some crazy, right-wing pastor for “spreading lies about the Bible and Jesus” and “being a disgusting abomination”, he never got angry or reacted negatively back. He simply showed true strength and answered back intelligently and honestly, never stooping to the level of those that attacked him.

Waymon hasn't become a Christian, at least not yet, but he now knows that not all of them hate gays.

That happened more than a year ago and Waymon now poses some questions.

There is an effort now to take our struggle to the churches. Instead of holding the debate in the public square, many are now working to hold the debate in churches. When does this cross the already thin line between church and state? Shouldn't we be trying to separate freedom of religion from tyranny at the ballot box? Or is this the only way we can overcome our struggle, especially in black and Latino communities? Does this strengthen or work against the gay community? Gays have been burned so badly for so long there are many of us who now think of the bible as a book of lies.

Scan the dial and you get...

It used to be that Christian radio stations (I think by definition such stations are conservative) played a great deal of Christian music of various flavors. Alas, these stations have turned to mostly talk, becoming fundamentalist propaganda mouthpieces. And Texas has hundreds of these stations.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A future that looks pretty good

The answer to toxic free speech is more free speech. Students of Shawnee Mission High School in Prairie Village, Kansas heard that Fred Phelps was planning to show up so they organized a counter protest. Phelps was annoyed with the school for electing a gay Homecoming King and for having a Gay-Straight Alliance. Hundreds of students and adults faced off against Phelps. This is a look at our future.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

If everyone were gay...

This is part 3 in the series of anti-gay arguments we tend to ignore, but shouldn't.

Being gay is against the natural order of things; it is against evolution; if everyone were gay humanity would end.

Since homosexuality occurs in nature (some 450 species practice it), something else must be meant by the phrase "not natural." Most often that translates to gay couples can't reproduce. Since they can't there is no evolutionary advantage to having gays in the population.

First, let's shut off the clanging irony meter. Fundies are using evolution to claim homosexuality is morally wrong?

Now that we can hear ourselves think, here are some of the ideas from the main posting and the accompanying comments.

* This use of evolution means the user doesn't understand the term (no surprise there -- then again some of the terms used within evolution are misleading). Evolution does not have a goal. Humans are not evolution's crowning achievement. It does not care if a particular individual or species survives. It cannot be used as a moral principle. Therefore it is impossible for a biological activity to be "against evolution."

* It is possible for a trait to have no evolutionary effect. Or to have a stress-relieving effect. Studies have shown that for some species during times of overpopulation the homosexual activity increases. It may be important for some members of a species to not have offspring to serve as providers of the orphans.

* There are species, such as ants and wolves, where a large number of the members do not reproduce.

* Humans do a lot of activities that have nothing to do with survival and passing genes to descendants -- like attend church.

* Reproduction -- passing our genes on to the next generation -- is not the reason why we are alive; it is not a duty. The argument came from Genesis and the phrase "be fruitful and multiply" but does not mean that's the goal of life or that everyone must take part. It also doesn't mean we must continue to multiply when there are 7 billion of us straining earth's resources. In other words, the original argument is really a religious one dressed up in biology.

* So shouldn't straights thank us for not contributing to the problems caused by overpopulation?

* "If everyone were gay" is simply faulty reasoning. If everyone did something and we would have problems doesn't mean that no one should be allowed to do it. Besides, gays can reproduce using the same wonders of modern medicine that straight couples use.

* Humanity would also end if everyone were male. But that doesn't make being male wrong. Besides not everyone is male and not everyone is gay. When this argument is used ask, "If everyone else were gay would you be gay too?"

* There are some nasty assumptions lurking beneath the surface: only straights care about the future of humanity, care about children, are the only ones with parenting instincts and skills. Gays are only interested in pleasure.

* Some of the same people who claim that there is no evolution because the creation story is literally true will also claim that animals did not engage in homosexual behavior until Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. The fall of humanity also brought about the fall of creation. And you can't use logic against such foes.

* Doesn't this emphasis on the ability to reproduce turn Christianity into a fertility cult?

* Fundies frequently say that gays should be celibate. How, in terms of reproduction, does that differ from gay sex?

* Whether a person deserves to be loved and whether a person deserves rights has nothing to do with their evolutionary purpose. This argument exists to dehumanize gays.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Money well spent?

Now that supporters of the Calif. gay marriage ban have been forced to reveal all income sources -- and the Mormon Church has confessed of $190,000 -- we see the total spent on both sides is a whopping $83 million. To put things in perspective, protecting marriage was more important than:

* Health insurance for 7000 families for a year.
* 1628 kidney transplant operations.
* 4.3 million school lunches
* 2733 college educations at 4 year private schools
* 6486 college educations at 4 year public schools
* Funding for 692 homeless shelters (10 person capacity) or
* Food for 22,800 families of 4 for a year.

Just to be clear, that $83 million would buy one of the above.

Then you add in all the volunteer time that could have been spent tutoring kids, staffing homeless shelters, or delivering meals to seniors.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Can we talk? Yeah, if you'll listen

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, is this week's essayist in the My Turn page of Newsweek. He is upset with the way we've been screeching at each other over gay marriage, rather than calmly discussing it. He voted for the Calif. ban but doesn't consider himself "the worst kind of fundamentalist" because he does support racial justice, gender equality, peacemaking, and care for the environment, things that the "worst kinds of fundamentalists" condemn. He feels relegated to the margins of the debate.

Even so, he wants to talk, not screech. Sit down with him and explain,
"What is it about people like me that frighten you so much? What would you need to hear from us that would reduce your anxiety? What is your vision of a flourishing pluralistic society? Where do people like me fit into that kind of society?"

Part of what Mouw says is correct. We do need to talk. And we can ask him the same questions. This indicates that we gays have not made our case well. We (just like many Fundies) are too inclined to screech.

Alas, from the other things Mouw says and has done, he wants us to hear him but he may have a difficult time hearing us.

Giving us hope that barriers fall

I've finally finished the excellent special inaugural issue that Newsweek produced. It is 128 pages of essays on such things as:
* How the definition of freedom has changed (it originally meant national self-determination without the undue influence of religion or foreign kings).
* How Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and especially Lincoln contributed to this moment.
* What it was like under Jim Crow.
* How Obama's presidency (and Hillary's campaign) have changed things.

As part of that last topic Andrew Solomon says things have already changed for gays, even though Obama has not yet changed our legal reality. First, he knows we exist and has said so as part of key speeches. Second, we have now seen one discriminatory barrier fall. That alone gives us hope that other such barriers will also fall. It may not be soon, but there will be a gay or lesbian president.

Alas, these articles appear to not be on the web.

Careful what you wish for

I've had moments -- no doubt you have too -- during the last 8 years in which I wanted to see Bush fail in a spectacular manner. There were also moments in which I wanted the war in Iraq to fail. That idea was quickly pushed aside when I realized how a loss in Iraq would affect lots of other things I hold dear, such as America's spirit and reputation. I'm old enough to know how both were damaged when we pulled out of Vietnam.

Alas, we have seen Bush fail in a spectacular manner and a lot of friends have lost jobs (and my retirement savings took a big hit) because of that failure.

But to give an idea about the cause of the current long-term death spiral of the GOP (which won't reach bottom soon) is this tidbit: They are wishing for Obama's failure, and doing so in public. It seems they aren't looking for Obama to battle mightily against America's problems and not quite prevail. They want failure. They apparently have no concept of -- or no empathy for -- what such failure will mean to the nation. Economic recovery? Failed. Hope in our future? Dashed. Environmental protection? Forget it. Peace in the Middle East. Worse than now. Wanting America dead on the floor is where you end up when your ideology fails, yet you can't give it up for reality.

The ick factor

Why is it when we see a straight couple walking down the street hand-in-hand and pushing a baby stroller we think about the love they have for each other, yet when a gay couple is in the same scenario we get grossed out by what we imagine they must do in the bedroom? Put it another way, when gay issues are discussed in public, gays are not the ones who talk about what goes on behind closed doors.

Adding excitement to my life

I'd been thinking of ways to have high-fiber, low-fat snacks around here. I began to ponder whether air-popped popcorn would work. Popcorn is high in fiber and cooking it in air uses no fat. When out shopping over the weekend I found such a popper for only $16. Not much to lose if my experiment flops, so I bought it. I tried it out today. The end product is rather nice, though salt doesn't stick all that well. Alas, the popping process is very messy. The exit chute points out, not down, and flying popcorn quite easily takes unpopped kernels with it. I can't use my hands to guide the flying corn because the air is hot. After collecting kernels from across the counter I had a lot to stick back into the machine for another round. It is rather fun to look into the machine and watch the hot air swirl the contents around.