Sunday, May 31, 2009

Forcing the nation to examine discrimination

Nadine Smith of Equality Florida has some wonderful and hard words to ponder. What I have here is a summary.

Imagine a world in which prejudice has not touched your life. No bullying, no work place discrimination. No closet because you didn't know you needed one. Don't think about the laws that would make it happen because some people flaunt laws. Think about a world in which people simply aren't prejudiced. It sounds like a wonderful place.

How about living as if that place existed?

Rosa Parks did so. She refused to give up her seat, knowing the great personal cost it would exact. She did it to force the nation to examine Jim Crow laws.

Can we gay people do the same -- take actions, no matter the personal cost, that would force the nation to examine the laws that discriminate against us? Especially with laws that specifically declare their inequality and disobeying them will guarantee that discrimination will show up? Can we refuse to collaborate in our own discrimination?

Here are two examples: Coming out while in the military. Refusing to check the "single" box on a federal income tax form while holding a marriage license.

Many gay soldiers are using their discharge to tell the country about discrimination. They get a speakers platform because they refused to be silent, though it cost them their job.

What would happen if all those gay married couples risked an IRS audit and penalties checked the "married" box, forcing the IRS to confront them? That should be enough for the nation to examine the tax laws.

Yes, it is risky. Are we willing to take those risks? A new gay rallying cry is "No excuses, no delays" in getting our rights. It was meant to prod politicians. It can also mean we must have no excuses, no delays in refusing to collaborate in our own discrimination.

Equality Florida is starting to consider putting together a pamphlet on the ramifications of a gay couple checking the "married" box on federal tax forms. This is not to sidestep the consequences, only to make sure those who take such actions do so with a clear understanding of what those consequences will be.

Grading the bout and missing the point

Obama gave a speech a while back on national security. Cheney practically stepped on Obama's toes in giving a speech trying to vindicate his actions in the Bush years (and escape prosecution). Again (as in 2001-2003) the congressional Democrats rolled over and played dead. And what did the "liberal" press do? Frank Rich of the New York Times doesn't like what he's read.

Most of the mainstream media trumpeted the Obama / Cheney bout. Some even graded them. But about all that did was imply the two men's ideas were equivalent. Very few discussed the ideas themselves. Even fewer reported the lies (at least 10) Cheney spouted during his speech. Fewer still bothered to study recent history to analyze and compare the actions of Bush / Cheney with how safe we are now.

Just one chilling example of our level of safety. Bush / Cheney didn't finish the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda because they diverted forces to Iraq. They played fast and loose in Pakistan because that country was nominally on our side. Now Pakistan has severe security problems, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are resurgent, and the best place for Al Qaeda to get a nuke is in Pakistan.

But playing up dueling speeches is better for the news business.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Want to protect marriage? Don't be a wimp about it

A wonderful protect marriage rally that takes protection to the next logical step. Too bad that no one wants to go there. Well worth the 4.5 minutes.

When sex with ducks and gay marriage are one and the same -- a cute 2 minute music video that makes that argument absurd. It's in response to a Pat Robertson remark.

You may be in the majority now...

Another long discussion of tyranny of the majority, though this one makes a point I hadn't seen much before -- and which the GOP in Congress is experiencing now. The GOP has been saying for quite a while, including when talking about the outcome of the Calif. marriage ban, that the people voted for it, therefore judges shouldn't interfere. The response:

For the majority, ensuring the minority's rights becomes a matter of self-interest, since it must utilize the same rights when it is in minority to seek to become a majority. ...the minority's rights must be protected no matter how singular or alienated that minority is from the majority, or the majority's rights lose their meaning.

You may be in the majority now. Eventually, you will be in the minority at least about one of your rights. That is especially true about Mormons, who are a minority. What side will they be on if polygamy comes up for a vote?

Your rights are our rights.

Take two steps forward and one step back

Sometimes losing is a step towards winning if more people pay attention to the argument and the debate advances. Losing the Calif. ban means we have sharpened our arguments, deepened our resolve, and persuaded others of the necessity of our cause. It will be much easier to win next time.

The addition of Ted Olson to the debate (as I wrote about before) argues that gay marriage and gay rights are no longer just a Dem issue. Some GOP people now get it. Even if he and David Boies don't get very far in their quest, having Olson, a strong GOP supporter, articulate reasons (which he does well in this 8 minute video) advances the cause. Naturally, those reasons are ones that we've been articulating for a good long time now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pondering a messy approach

Theodore Olson and David Boies have filed a lawsuit in federal court saying the Calif. marriage ban (and those in all other states?) are illegal because of the national constitution equal protection clause. Yes, that sets the course for the national Supremes. The reason why I mentioned the names of the two men is because they were before the Supremes on opposite sides of Bush v. Gore back in 2000. To have Bush lackey Ted Olson supporting gay marriage is huge. In a press conference, Olson said,

If the people of California had voted to ban interracial marriage, it would have been the responsibility of the courts to say that they cannot do that under the constitution.

The big gay rights organizations are unanimously against this case, saying it's too soon. We don't yet have a favorable majority on the court. We're making steady progress without the Supremes weighing in. We don't want to muck it up with an unfavorable ruling, especially since the Supremes are very reluctant to overturn a previous ruling. They offer two publications on strategy, one about how the ballot box is better than the courts (at the moment), the other about how it is important to continue efforts to change public opinion. I haven't read either one.

That got a few people wondering about Olson's past and they detected an odor of dead fish. If Olson was a Bush lackey (he held positions in the Bush administrations), he surely got a bit of schooling in Rovian tactics. Might an attempt to get an unfavorable Supreme ruling be intentional to throw a wrench in our progress?

This brings up a whole host of questions and competing ideas:
* There is doubt about the conspiracy theory since Olson and Boies are funded by a gay rights organization, the American Foundation for Equal Rights (one that I'm not familiar with).

* Would lawyers of the stature of Olson and Boies intentionally go before the Supremes in order to lose? Would their reputations take much of a hit if they lost? Would their book deals be enhanced with a loss? Are they doing it for the publicity? Neither of them is gay.

* Since gay marriage exists in several states (through both court order and legislative approval) and since the Olson/Boies challenge will go through the liberal 9th Circuit Court (likely to rule in our favor) will the Supremes, even with the current configuration, have a hard time ruling against us? Could they rule for us if more than 40 states are against us?

* One can't argue the merits of the case. While some states offer gay marriage, a large number of others don't. And that is in violation of Equal Protection. Rights shouldn't depend on which state boundary you cross. Which leaves us pondering approach and timing.

* Which approach is better? Does the state-by-state method get people used to the idea on a more personal level so they understand the sky won't fall? Should we start the road to the Supremes because the case has to end up there anyway? Several states in the South aren't going to permit gay marriage until they absolutely have to. In the meantime gays in those states have to deal with discrimination.

* Timing is about waiting until the court makeup shifts in our favor. Then we're back to the issue of always waiting until the situation is ideal and it never is.

* But since this case will first go through the appeals court it could be several years before it gets to the Supremes. The roster of justices will likely change by then as will public opinion (and opinion does influence justices, if only in the cases they choose). If we wait the time lag could take the case beyond Obama's tenure and the possibility of a GOP prez. adding someone to the court.

* Might this be an effort to embarrass the Obama administration, who has been way too silent on gay issues? They didn't even offer a reaction to the Calif. ruling. When Obama was born his parents' marriage was illegal in several states. His press secretary is dodging frequent questions on gay issues and making the whole thing messier than it needs to be.

* Perhaps it is an effort to embarrass the major gay rights organizations, who have been way too timid in challenging Obama's silence?

This case is being argued on the 14th amendment's equal protection clause. Take a look now at the Supremes' ruling on gays:
The 1992 Colorado Amendment 2 (saying gays had no recourse if discriminated against) went to the Supremes and was overturned 6-3, but not on equal protection grounds. The 2003 Texas sodomy case was also in our favor 6-3, but on due process grounds. Will the favorable justices extend their favor to marriage? Can we trust them on equal protection for gays? Is nominee Sotomayor on our side? It seems too risky.

They're married, we're wedded

I didn't finish this post yesterday before I headed out to the Ruth Ellis Center for the evening. That means the post includes a few updates on recent developments.

Of course, there is a lot of reaction to and analysis of the California Supremes' big decision on Tuesday on gay marriage. Since there are so many I'll probably not comment much on each (and there are many more not included here).

Take one on the decision:
* The court said gays can't use the word "marriage" so why not use a different word, such as "marrij" or "wedding"? Essentially, gays can't call their relationship a marriage (at least not on government forms) but that doesn't mean they aren't marriages. They can still call themselves and each other "husband" and "wife" as they see fit. It's the same suit of clothes with a different label sewn into it.
* The ruling is not retroactive because nothing in the original amendment or government filed justification for it demanded it be retroactive.
* The ruling affirms everything else about last year's ruling -- you're not allowed to discriminate against gays in any way except the label placed on the relationship. So this is a 5% symbolic victory for the Right, and a 95% substantive victory for gays.

Take two on the decision:
There were several questions answered by yesterday's ruling.
* Did the ban modify equal protection enough to qualify as a revision? No. The only effect is in the use of the word marriage.
* Can rights be curtailed with a simple majority vote? Yes. That was done when the death penalty was reinstated in 1972. If rights can be extended, why not curtailed?
* Is it "separate but equal"? Yes, but not anywhere near the extent of the Jim Crow laws, so maybe the claim is overkill. Shouldn't we now concentrate on discrimination in employment and adoption rather than quibbling over a word?
* Can the electorate overrule the justices? Yes.
* Didn't this overturn an inalienable right? No. The Calif. constitution doesn't list any such rights.

Another opinion is that any instance of separate is not equal. Comparisons to Jim Crow laws are appropriate.

A news summary. Many of the commenters to this post call on gay people to riot in response to the decision.

A list of many of the actions taken. 5-10K march in San Diego, hundreds march in Dallas. I haven't seen a summary of all 100 events.

So if we aren't allowed to use the word "marriage" what can we call them?
* Domestic Partnerships imply we're setting up house but says nothing about love and commitment.
* Civil Unions imply legal contracts but says nothing about family.
How about "wedding?" They're married, we're wedded. That at least implies the underlying love.

Most people think of marriage as "until death do us part." So doesn't the theological doctrine of eternal marriage redefine a definition that is millennia old? And can't the Calif. Supremes carve out a narrow exception to deny those that believe in this doctrine the use of the word? That this only affects Mormons shouldn't matter. Let's join together and protect the definition of marriage.

A couple who did get married last year in Calif. (though I think they live in Florida) don't feel all that lucky about keeping their designation of married. One of the pair refers to themselves as "Limited Edition Married Gays" and feels:

My marriage has been quarantined so as not to spread to the general population. We are the swine flu of marriages in California. The marriage certificate we proudly have framed in our home now seems hollow, like an antique or oddity that no longer holds the same power it once did.

The word marriage matters. A survey of married gay couples reports that being married has influenced such things as:
* 42% say "My family is more accepting of my sexual orientation."
* 69% say "I feel more acceptance in my community."
* 72% say "I feel more committed to my partner."
* 62% say "My family is more accepting of my partner."
In other words, gay marriage has the power to ease discrimination.

A slideshow of demonstrations. I'm not quite sure why out-of-focus movie posters start appearing after about 25 images. They're not even gay movies.

In response to my posting about the ruling, my friend and debate partner responded.
I wrote: "There is nothing in the constitution that says a majority cannot take away the rights of a minority, even in an amendment to that same constitution."

Big legal concept! I truly hope this is overstated or missing its very limiting context. If not, a true hell-cauldron of evil opportunities awaits us. For example, the Christian majority of California could ban the practice of all other religions. Or whites could decide that persons of color may not be employed in the state. (Of course, I fear neither: The federal Constitution stands in the way of such extremes.)

Yes, the California ban stands, even though national trends are running strongly the other way. I am disappointed. Not the work I want and expect from the court.

I wonder how much the justices worried about a backlash if they slapped down the bigots. Current economic times are very stressful -- we have seen a series of multiple slayings worldwide -- and the social fabric is stretched to some degree. You wrote today about the potential (which I think is small) of violent consequences if the ban was overturned. This act of judicial cowardice permits a cooling-off period after which the ban, beyond all control of its proponents, seems likely to be repealed. I don't think the Prop Eighters will fool the public twice.

I don't think they'll fool the public twice either, especially since many blacks and other minorities now see how much they could lose if their own rights came up for a vote.

Some of the news out of the Michigan rally (alas, no link) is that preparations are underway to attempt to overturn our own marriage protection amendment in 2012.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Striking at the equal protection clause

Before the Calif. ruling was made public a blogger named Law Dork reminds us this is not a question of gay marriage (which this same court affirmed a year ago). It is not a question of whether the national constitution equal protection clause applies in this case (the Calif. Supremes were not asked that question). It is a question of how the state constitution can be amended. He believes that the vote to ban marriage and the demonstrations that followed were an awakening that gave us gay marriage in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire (soon), and DC.

On to our main feature today.

The Calif. Supremes have decided the state gay marriage ban is upheld and that the existing 18,000 gay marriages remain valid. From the ruling:

* The ban is a constitutional amendment (and thus was properly brought before voters), rather than a constitutional revision (which would have required a much more stringent process).

* It does not violate separation of powers, voters can overrule the judiciary.

* It is not invalid under the "inalienable rights" theory. This seems odd to me because the court ruled a year ago that marriage was a right.

* It is not retroactive.

* It can be overturned at the ballot box.

Other points from a scan of the ruling:

* While it is significant, all this ruling does is remove the word "marriage" from a description of gay relationships (Calif. does have domestic partnerships). There is no substantive difference (which seems opposite of what they said a year ago).

* Such a change has but a miniscule effect on the governmental framework for the state.

* There is nothing in the constitution that says a majority cannot take away the rights of a minority, even in an amendment to that same constitution.

The vote was 6-1.

The overall ruling contains a couple separate opinions.

One of them disputes the amendment/revision conclusion, saying the justification for that ruling (which includes a list of previous cases on a variety of issues) does not include a precedent in which an amendment takes away a right and does nothing else. However, since the scope of this change is so small and equal protection is satisfied -- gays have all the rights of marriage through DPs but not the name -- the ban shall stand.

The one dissent:
This very court said a year ago that equal protection demands gays must be able to use the word marriage. Therefore, an amendment that strikes at the equal protection clause must be considered a revision, not an amendment. Allowing this amendment to stand puts all disfavored minorities at risk.

An organization called Courage Campaign will immediately start airing a commercial decrying the ruling and urging support for a 2010 repeal.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The best outcome for gays could be explosive

The Calif. Supremes will be making their ruling on the gay marriage ban amendment official tomorrow (Tues, May 26 -- I know what I'll be writing about). There are 3 possible rulings:
* The ban is repealed as being an improper amendment.
* The ban is maintained and the 18,000 existing gay marriages are allowed to stand.
* The ban is maintained and 18,000 gay couples find their marriage status disappears.

So far the court has given no indication on how they will rule, though a cottage industry has been flourishing since oral arguments last March trying to read the tea leaves.

From the gay side there are 90 Day of Decision events planned across the country (one in East Lansing) ready to either party (1st case above) or protest (outcomes 2 and 3). If we're not in a partying mood, once the protest ends we get back to work to get the question back on the ballot in 2010 (and 2012, and …) as necessary until we win. Time and demographics are on our side. We're also getting good at that patience thing.

I wrote earlier this month about the militant right, how they're spoiling for a fight and any excuse could be a catalyst for a disaster.

Overturning the ban (outcome 1) could be that trigger.
* The right have already lost 5 states (soon 6), but they are puny. California with gay marriage is game-over.

* Calif. is the biggest possible example of godless liberals pushing their immoral values down everyone else's throats. These godless liberals have already taken over the national government.

* The ban was decided by a free and fair election (though mighty expensive and filled with lies) and "liberal activist judges" overturning such a vote could push them from seething to explosive. Note that the definition of "liberal activist judges" are judges that overturn attempts at imposing a theocracy, even if they were appointed by conservative governors.

* That marriage ban was a tiny bright spot in last year's election catastrophe. Extinguishing that last ray of hope that there's a teeny bit of sanity even in a blue state (and do it through judges) could drive them bonkers.

Those ideas in combination push every hot button in these groups, and push them hard. They believe they are the last line of defense against complete moral chaos.

Here's why it can be dangerous and disastrous. These groups are spread across middle America. They won't be able, due to distance and security, to attack the Calif. justices who made this ruling. They can attack every gay-owned business in their own neighborhood in Arkansas. They are making a last heroic stand for a lost cause and intend to go down fighting. They are well enough armed and connected that it could cause a civil war supported by about 10% of the country.

This little scenario condenses it quite well:

But imagine you're a conservative living in, say, Arkansas. Imagine your working-class church raised a couple thousand dollars to promote Prop 8, and invested a lot of emotional energy in passing it, and celebrated it as a major moral victory when it succeeded. Imagine your preacher telling you that this is the Last Stand, because if California goes, the war is over and you've lost and God is going to smite America because you failed to stop Satan in time. And then imagine how you feel -- and what you might do -- when a bunch of liberal judges snatch that huge cultural victory right out of your hands.

The best outcome for gays could be a new source of danger from the right.

Successfully branding the bigots

Bill O'Reilly is known to be a bully through his perch at Fox News. He's also quite a conservative. Except in the case of gays (which I didn't know before). He's more of a libertarian -- don't put government in the way of someone's happiness. He is now telling the anti-gay forces that they've lost, gay marriage will be a reality soon, and they should go away. One reason is simple: Gays and their allies have successfully branded the Fundies as bigots (gee, it wasn't hard when your opposition uses flimsy reasons and lies about their evidence) and O'Reilly doesn't want other conservative causes tarnished with the same bigot brush. Already pro-life people are being branded as "anti-woman."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Being courage-free

Lincoln Mitchell of Columbia University has a warning for us. What remains of the GOP is so extreme and has driven many moderates into the Democratic Party (or at least driven to vote for the Dems). We cannot assume that moderates are pro-gay. They just aren't as extreme as those still in the GOP. That means just because they identify as Democratic doesn't mean they are on our side. That also means we should push through as much marriage equality in as many places as we can while we can.

This may be partly why Dems have been "courage-free" on gay issues lately even though if one of our issues came for a vote in Congress it would pass. Another possible reason is that without Ted Kennedy there is no Democratic congressional "towering national figure." And that includes Obama, at least on gay issues. No need to blame the Fundies at the moment.

You either see me as equal or you don't

Terrence Heath has another part of his essay on homophobia in the black community (I wrote about the earlier part here). He didn't explain the title of this essay -- The Master's Tools -- (at least not that I understood) until the end where he wrote:

We can start by choosing to put down the master's tools, and see that once they're no longer in our hands they look more like weapons than tools. And seeing that, we can chose not to wield them against one another anymore.

It seems the master's tool is bigotry.

Terrence has a heartfelt story about rejecting his church and essentially losing his birth family when left home to attend the university, one chosen because there was a gay student organization. But that's not why I am writing about this essay.

I've ranted before (though I don't remember if I've done that in my blog) about how the phrase "Hate the sin, love the sinner" doesn't work. My answer is that if you loved me, even though you hated homosexuality, you would at least do things like find out the success rate of ex-gay programs. My list was long, but I won't go into it now.

Terrence has another reason why he doesn't like that phrase. He wrote:

From a religious perspective, is it really possible to love someone that you don't see as an equal? Is it possible to see someone as less than equal without hatred, or without at least contempt? If so, how?

From my perspective, either you see me as equal or you don't. If you don't, as far as I'm concerned it amounts to hate - and the actions taken to maintain inequality stem from hatred.

We can see one another's humanity, and act accordingly. Or we can see another's difference as a weakness we can exploit.

And that exploitation is hate, not love. This is a valid point for anyone, especially a Christian, even if the difference is race or economic condition.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Overcoming our human natures

Can we solve global warming? A pair of cartograms (maps distorted based on the value of some measurement so that countries of high value are increased in size and those of small value are shrunken) shows an alarming situation: the countries that contribute the most to global warming (USA, Europe, China, Japan) are not the ones that will pay for its consequences. That will fall to Africa in the form illness, malnutrition, and flooding. Now compare human nature to what is required to tackle global warming. The devil could not have done a better job.

* We look after ourselves (see above).

* We discount future events (which is why we procrastinate) and the worst of global warming will happen a century from now.

* We deal with problems that affect us directly and global warming effects will be indirect, such as higher food prices.

* We accumulate wealth, which (at least as we've done it so far) contributes to global warming.

* We respond to sudden and drastic changes. Global warming is slow.

* We comprehend tangible and local problems. This is an abstract global problem.

* We deal in order with physical needs (hunger), safety, material wants, and at the bottom of the list is making sure our society is sustainable and making moral choices for future generations. Where the top and the bottom of the list are in conflict, the top will win out.

* It is hard for us to cooperate in large groups and global warming will require an unprecedented degree of cooperation.

Completely bummed yet?

If we are able to overcome the above list and prevent global warming then we can overcome our nature to solve any problem. It's worth trying.

A slight correction to a source

A while back I posted about the poor economic situation in eight states from Oklahoma to West Virginia. It seems the author of the article had to issue a retraction of sorts after various blogs questioned his data. He investigated his sources and now issues two corrections:
* The 8 states are still at the bottom but divide between those 8 states and the ones above them isn't as distinct as his earlier data suggested.
* The comparisons between states and countries cannot be made because the numbers were computed in different ways and the method of aligning the numbers was bogus.

Fighting the sexual beast through image

Terrence Heath (who is black and gay and married to a white man) has another great and long essay, this time about homophobia in the black community. It's hard to discuss the topic because so many blacks insist dirty laundry should not be aired in public. That's an issue faced by all minority groups because they don't want to give their majority oppressors more reasons to oppress. But, Terrence says, washing it in public is much better than wearing the dirt in public, which is what is happening now.

For a good long time, black sexuality -- especially black male sexuality -- was seen as being insatiable, like an uncontrollable animal. A white men had to hide his woman so the black man couldn't get to her. Black sex was already queer (as in not normal). At least that was the common mythology. One way to fight that was for blacks to project a squeaky clean sexuality. And that meant making sure their gays stayed deeply closeted. Alas, that attitude is still being taught and it is killing the black community through AIDS.

Reassuring churches and they reassure us

Yesterday I wrote about a survey of pastors in mainline liberal denominations and the difference of opinion towards gay marriage when assurances are added to laws exempting churches from having to perform such marriages.

Today I found out a bit more. The 6 churches (in order of their support of gays) are:

United Church of Christ
Episcopal Church
Disciples of Christ
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
United Methodist Church
American Baptist Churches (distinct from Southern Baptist)

These are probably the denominations most familiar to America (only Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists have more members). Alas, they aren't the loudest.

In addition to that bit about the effect of assurances on views of gay marriage, here are some other findings from that survey of clergy from these denominations:

* 79% agree that gays should have the same rights and privileges as everyone else.

* 67% support gay-inclusive hate crime laws.

* 66% support employment non-discrimination laws.

* 55% support adoption by gays.

* 33% support gay marriage and another 32% support civil unions.

This last is not uniform across the 6 denominations. 67% of UCC pastors support gay marriage while only 25% of United Methodist pastors do and only 20% of American Baptist pastors do. The big news is that 45% of clergy are more supportive than they were 10 years ago.

More good news:

* 94% of these pastors say churches should welcome gays into the church.

* 63% say the bible requires full inclusion.

* 51% say the church should not demonize gays.

* 45% say gays should be ordained without restriction.

* 13% of these pastors have lead their congregations to formally become "open and affirming".

These denominations have the potential to be our allies in our civil rights battles.

Passing a milestone

In all the writing I did yesterday I missed an anniversary. I started working in the auto industry 30 years ago yesterday. I retired from that job a bit over 2 years ago and don't miss it a bit. Because the way the rules were written, yesterday would not have been the day for me to retire under the 30-and-out clause. That's about 5 weeks from now. The reason I retired when I did was because the offer then was as good as what I would have gotten now.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lukewarm is not a good thing

I got an official-looking yellow envelope in the mail recently with a return address of "2009 Obama Agenda Survey." Good, the president wants to know what I think. Umm… the next line in the address says "Republican National Committee." …no. Psychological researchers and poll takers know the difference between a leading question and an neutral question. They know how leading questions skew the results and they know how to avoid them. Unless you want a skewed results. Actually, the RNC doesn't care about the results (even though they have assigned my survey with an ID number and will track it to make sure they get my response -- HA!), they want me so pissed off by the choices I have to make that I'll send them a donation. Here are a few of the 15 questions in their "survey" with only "yes," "no," and "no opinion" the only possible responses. No wishy-washy liberals allowed!

Do you agree with Barack Obama's budget plan that will lead to a $23.1 trillion deficit over the next ten years?

Should English be the official language of the United States?

Do you believe that Barack Obama's nominees for federal courts should be immediately and unquestionably approved for their lifetime appointments by the U.S. Senate?

Do you believe that the quality and availability of healthcare will increase if the federal government dictates pricing to doctors and hospitals?

Are you in favor of reinstituting the military draft, as Democrats in Congress have proposed?

Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover all gleefully accepted.

Before you accuse me of being a turncoat, I must have gotten onto the GOP mailing lists before 1992 when they officially became homophobic and said so at their national convention. Or the GOP is sending it to, well, everybody.

But don't think I'm letting Democrats off the hook. At the end of another story about a gay serviceperson being booted out of the military (when a simple call by Obama to the DoD would end it until Congress officially repeals Don't Ask Don't Tell) there is a quote from December 21, 2008 by someone named Jillian who blogs at Sadly, No:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been completely nauseated by the Sensible Liberal. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Left’s greatest stumbling block is not the Republican party or the Freepers of the world, but the moderate Democrat, who is more devoted to “winning” than to justice, who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension, often called “inclusion” or “getting along”, to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who says “I agree with the goal you seek, but I also understand the point of view of people who think you are little more than crazed pedophiles”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s full citizenship; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the fag to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

John, author of Revelations, had a few things to say about being lukewarm in chapter 3. Hot and cold he could deal with. Lukewarm was a cause for rejection.

One of those soldiers, Air Force Major Margaret Witt, canned under DADT has sued the Air Force over her dismissal. Some strange action (or inaction) has allowed this case to proceed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That means the government has to support why DADT exists and many are hoping the judges will see through the flimsy evidence. Is this Obama trying to play it safe? Does it get repealed without him getting his fingers dirty repealing it?

As if the truth were not true

Several LGBT leaders met at the Dallas Ft. Worth airport and came up with The Dallas Principles: Now is the time for full civil rights for gays. No delay. No excuses.

Some of the principles (paraphrased):
* Full civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders now. Delay and excuses unacceptable.
* We will not leave part of our community behind.
* Separate is never equal.
* This is a non-partisan issue. Excuses based on religion are not acceptable.
* Success is measured by rights achieved, not by words written or spoken, not by money raised (a slap at many gay organizations).

The rights in question are:
* Live free of discrimination or harassment in job, housing, public facilities, credit, health care, or federally funded programs.
* A right to a family without barriers to immigration, marriage, and raising children.
* A right to an education without bullying.
* A right to serve in the military or foreign service.
* Live free of bias crimes.

Two quotes of the several that are included:
"If the society today allows wrong to go unchallenged, the impression is created that those wrongs have the approval of the majority." - Barbara Jordan

"To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true." - Bayard Rustin

This inertia in Washington is now prompting several to call for a gay march on Washington. The weekend of October 10-11 is suggested (Columbus Day weekend). A fall vacation to the nation's capital sounds like a fine idea. Want to join me? Alas, while I have that weekend available my concert schedule may conflict with a few others.

What really needs to be done in the first 100 days

Newsweek has redefined itself from reporting the news (most of which we can get elsewhere) to doing features that add to the conversation, or explores an issue in depth. This first issue of the new format has two essays on Obama. The longer one is by Michael Bloomberg, mayor of NYC. He argues that we shouldn't rate a president by what he accomplishes in 100 days, but by the groundwork he lays in those first 100 that will position him for the 1,300 days that follow. If so, there are different questions to ask:

* Did he pick a team based on merit or politics? Bloomberg says that Obama readily hired based on merit.

* Easy victories or tough battles? Bloomberg says as mayor he chose tough battles first. His ratings dropped into the 20s for a while, but he also got a great deal of respect when he pulled them off. Tackle healthcare now? Good idea.

* Bridging the partisan divide? Forget the GOP in Congress, the state and local GOP officials appreciate the effort.

* Embracing innovation? The teaching innovation fund in the stimulus package is a good start.

* Improving confidence in America's global leadership? All that fence mending now will pay off later.

In the shorter essay, Jacob Weisberg isn't so kind. In four months of action, some character traits are emerging:

* He's good at listening to enemies and seeking compromise, but that is not a moral stance.

* He's the decider and doesn't seem good delegating that role, in spite of the numerous policy czars he has appointed.

* Obama has too many crises to micromanage them all himself (Jimmy Carter had that problem too). At the recent White House Correspondents' Association Dinner all his jokes about himself were about how great everyone else thinks he is.

* His lack of loyalty seems ruthless. Tom Daschle and other failed nominees disappeared mighty fast.

And if Obama-fatigue hasn't set in, Jon Meacham interviews the prez (with an introduction). It's a good one, though I'll only comment on one piece of it. Today (well after the interview) Obama made a speech on national security (in the national archives with the original signed Constitution as his backdrop. One place where it was broadcast was on a big screen in a right-wing think tank (I don't remember which one). Immediately after Obama's speech was over Cheney took the stage there and offered his rebuttal. This is not the first time Cheney has criticized Obama, so in the interview Obama noted that in the last few years of the Bush era Cheney's ideas had been ignored (perhaps discredited?). These ideas included never talking to enemies, unilateral action is best, national security is only about applying force, and enhanced interrogation techniques are useful. Obama muses:

And so it is interesting to me to see the vice president spending so much time trying to vindicate himself and relitigate the last eight years when, as I said, I think, actually, a lot of these arguments were settled even before we took over the White House.

Need a little reassurance?

One of the holdups in the New Hampshire bill granting gay marriage is the section on reassurances that churches don't have to marry gays. What, isn't the US Constitution good enough? Yeah, it is. But… A survey of pastors of six mainline liberal denominations (the story doesn't say which ones, only that they make up 18% of the population) shows that adding the reassurances boosts support by 13%, from 1/3 to almost half! For gains that large, let's reassure them (even if the liberal churches are the quiet ones).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shackled to our past

Obama wants to put the Bush mess behind him. It isn't working. New revelations keep dribbling out, pushing Obama's efforts off the front page and off the Congressional agenda. And the Bush mess will continue to do so until there is complete transparency and accountability. Obama and popular wisdom say that we can simply move on. We can be free of our past. Nope. Until that accountability happens we are shackled to our past. My personal fear is that Obama will copy President Ford's pardon of Nixon in an attempt to close off the past. There are many who believe that act essentially gave Bush a get-out-of-jail-free card and led us into his mess.

A couple things to celebrate

Happy 5th anniversary of gay marriage in Massachusetts!

Today is International Day Against Homophobia (though it seems a bit ironic to use the acronym IDAHO). Here's a sweet 4 minute video with gays around the world proclaiming their pride.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A night at the theater

Last evening I was able to see the new play Finding the Burnett Heart (Burnett is the family name) by Paul Elliott. It is at the Detroit Repertory Theatre. Grandfather James has just lost is wife, Dottie, which befuddled his mind. He can't live alone just now, so his son Robert and wife Grace take him in. The only space for an extra bed is in grandson Tyler's room. Tyler is 16. James is quite the curmudgeon and it takes a while for James and Tyler to see each other as human. About the time the ice begins to thaw James makes a crack about gays, which doesn't sit well with Tyler because Robert's brother Jimmy was gay (he died of a heart attack before the story opens) which James had refused to see. In the course of that argument Tyler also admits to being gay. Grace, the religious one, tells Tyler to pack and move out. Tyler asks to stay with Brian, Jimmy's partner. Brian has a long one-sided argument with James, saying he won't let the old man treat the grandson like he treated the son. Though Grace wants her son gone she won't let him move in with "that pervert." After time to think it over James realizes that he loved Dottie the same way Brian loved Jimmy. With that he becomes Tyler's ally to win over Grace.

Detroit Rep tries to be color-blind in their casting, which lead to Black people playing Grace, Robert, and Tyler (an actual teenager who did an outstanding job) and white people playing James and Brian. That implied that Dottie was Black and James had a biracial marriage, and that James should have been a bit more progressive than he was. The issue wasn't just over homosexuality -- James was the kind of guy who insisted everything had its place, including children, and Robert and Jimmy threw their lives away when they decided not to be doctors. There was a lot of reconciliation that needed to be done.

The show runs one more weekend. Their ticket prices are embarrassingly cheap. Last night the 175 seat theater had 30 people in it. Go see it if you can. I haven't spoiled everything.

Fun with maps

It seems you can map all kinds of information, such as:

Geographic support for Supreme Court nominees over the years. Of interest is support for Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- solid support except in the Old South.

Ways to visualize Global Warming. These images came from Global Warming Art which has charts of temperature rise.

A map that shows the progress gay marriage and civil unions have made in the last year. Alas, the map makes no distinctions for the reverse -- between states that have marriage protection amendments, only anti-gay marriage laws, or neither (are there any?).


The Human Development Index is a blend of factors (life expectancy, education, etc.) that show widening personal options and greater opportunities. Perfect score is 1.000. Top national score is .968 in Iceland. USA as a whole is at .950 (Michigan at .951). Russia is at .806, Turkey at .798 (ranking 76th).

Put them on a national map and the states Oklahoma to West Virginia and Louisiana to Alabama stand out as the ones with the lowest scores -- Mississippi ranks, at .799, just above Turkey.

Contrast that with a map colored (by county) according to how much the vote shifted between parties from 2004 to 2008. Most of the country is blue -- more votes for Democrats in 2008 than in 2004 (even if not enough votes to actually elect Dems). There are some counties that voted more strongly GOP in 2008 -- and the ones with the most change are mostly in the states with the lowest HDI scores.

Yes, that implies many of the poorest areas strongly increased their support for the party less interested in helping the poor. And that implies "traditional values" are more important than economics and the GOP was able to exploit that.

Tyranny of dead ideas

Last Monday, the radio program Marketplace ("Economics for the rest of us"), featured a guest editorial by Matt Miller. He said that it is counterproductive for us to fund health care through our employers (GM spends more on health care than on steel). Since this is a view I've long held I made a mental note when the announcer said Miller's new book is "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas" -- employer funded health care being one of them. The title itself is intriguing.

So I looked up Matt Miller to find out what some of his other tyrannical dead ideas are:

* Our kids will earn more than we do.

* Free trade is "good" no matter how many people it hurts.

* Your company should take care of you (My company is taking quite good care of my, thank you, though I am aware how fragile that care is).

* Taxes hurt the economy and are always too high.

* Schools are a local matter.

* Money follows merit.

I haven't bought the book (and probably won't), but his chapter on taxes is online. Most of it is a history of the American tax system, though he ends with his major points: The economy has improved during times of high taxes. Americans appreciate the various (and expanding) services government provides and are willing to pay for them.

Increasingly unsupportable

Jon Stewart on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Stewart's wrath is because Obama's position (and the comments of his press secretary) are becoming increasingly unsupportable, especially since Dan Choi and others are being very public with their dismissals, even writing letters to Obama to plead their case.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The price of justice is too high

Justice Department investigators have concluded that three Bush admin. lawyers who provided legal cover for the use of torture should not face criminal charges (though they might face disbarment). It seems half of Americans approve of torture. That means, according to blogger Terence Heath, we don't want justice. We want change, but not that much. We've seen a glimpse of what real change would require and have decided the price is too high.

Another way to say it is that we would rather not know what injustices have been done. Because if we know we have to do something about it. We can't just cluck our tongues, we actually have to hold responsible people accountable. And that implies that we should have started holding those people accountable when they first started using torture (or at least when it first became public). We didn't. And we don't want to admit that we didn't, because if we make that admission it means we are also guilty of contributing to torture. Better to keep the blinders on.

We've already changed and don't need more change

Blogger Terence Heath, who is Black and gay, has a series of articles on the state of the national discussion on race now that we're 100 days into the first Black presidency. Some ideas:

It seems a good number of people are essentially saying, "You've got the presidency. Isn't that enough?"

Others are saying that we're now in a post-racial age, not because we are but because by saying so they no longer have to deal with the reasons why we aren't. Obama as president documents that change has occurred and no more change needs to be done or existing changes can be undone. An example of the last part is people saying now that we have a Black president we can get rid of some of the protections in the Voting Rights Act (now before the Supremes).

While a rising economy lifted all yachts, it definitely did not lift all boats. And the boats usually not lifted were Blacks. Blacks are twice more likely than Whites to be unemployed and three times more likely to live in poverty.

And in spite of high Black unemployment or fragile employment in Southern states, many Southern governors are rejecting stimulus funds.

We've got a long way to go on race.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Comedian in Chief

Here is the video of Obama's humorous speech at the annual White House Correspondent's dinner (under 17 minutes).

Wanda Sykes, a black lesbian comedian, does the "rebuttal" -- she even takes on Rush and Cheney (under 15 minutes).

Cooling the outrage

Many pundits are making a big deal that the job loss for April were only 530K and not over 600K. After all, we could lose another 1-4 million jobs. Which leads to a question: Why do they want to be so upbeat? Why do they accuse the naysayers of fear mongering? Some reasons I can think of:
* They want to demonstrate that Obama's policies are effective.
* They want to boost consumer confidence to get people spending again.

But one pundit has another explanation:
* The other pundits want to cool the citizen outrage so that reform bills can be watered down or dropped without incurring voter wrath -- meaning we'll gain nothing from this "greatest heist in monetary history."

I've heard enough of this kind of idea manipulation from pundits for so long that this last one is believable.

Taxation without fairness

Half of a gay couple hasn't been paying federal income tax since 2004, citing discrimination from the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The case is about to be taken up by the US Tax Court (which is Executive, not Judicial). If the court rules against him he'll have a $25K fine and 3 years in prison to deal with.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A welcome low profile

It took a while before Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele (speaking for the party) said something about gay marriage in Maine:

Our party platform articulates our opposition to gay marriage and civil unions, positions shared by many Americans. I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman and strongly disagree with Maine’s decision to legalize gay marriage.

That's it? No claim about the beliefs of "most" Americans? No claims about thwarting the will of the people? No calls for activism or repeal initiatives? No appeal to tradition, God, founding fathers, changing a definition several millennia old, or the downfall of Western Civilization? Those two sentences weren't even trumpeted in a press conference.

Gosh, the GOP is keeping a low profile on the issue. How novel. And how welcome.

Tipping point v. actual results

I speculated we may be at a tipping point on public opinion towards gay marriage. Diane Silver, who writes a column titled Political IQ for Between the Lines, says the tide isn't turning quite yet. I will first note that I talked about public opinion (as measured in polls) and she is talking about actual political results. She says those results are still hard to come by and gives these reasons:

* We still don't have much political muscle and don't know how to flex it well. The Calif. marriage ban showed that clearly. Gay community centers aren't designed for that and are only in a few large communities. We're up against churches who are spread widely and who have mastered the political message (even if they aren't supposed to).

* In spite of recent gains in the polls we're still well behind in changing hearts and minds. It will still take a great deal of grass-roots effort (much more than we've seen so far) until people know in their guts that gays are not the predators the Fundies claim we are.

A northwest Iowa recently did a story about Lee and Tony planning to take advantage of their new ability to marry. Alas, the two men are still fearful. The tide will have turned when future articles give Lee and Tony's last names and the city in which they live.

It's really bad when others notice

I wrote before about the gay blogs noticing that Obama hasn't done much substantial legislation for gays in his first 100 days and seems to have postponed several big gay issues. It is bad enough that even the Mainstream Media has noticed. Think 10 foot pole. Here's a link to a report on CNN.

The jester approves

Jon Stewart does hilarious commentary about Maine and DC approving gay marriage. It's under 4 minutes.

Dancing in the street

You didn't hear from me over the last few days because I spent Thursday afternoon through Friday noon in Holland, MI to see part of their Tulip Time Festival. There were two highlights for me. The first was when the kids from the area high schools formed up teams of dancers to completely encircle the big downtown park. They wore native Netherlands costumes and the traditional wooden shoes as they performed traditional dancers in the street. The second highlight was to visit Windmill Island, which contains a working windmill (they sell the flour in the gift shop) that was given to the city by the country (and also prompted Netherlands officials to ban windmill exports). Tulip Time is an annual Dutch heritage festival held every year. This was the first time I took the time to see any of it.

I stayed only until noon partly because I had seen enough and partly to get back to Detroit to see the final performance of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the Hilberry Theatre. As always, an excellent production about power and cruelty on the part of the asylum nurse and orderlies and kindness on behalf of the new patient. The play is a bit different from the movie that starred Jack Nicholson.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

That dratted slippery slope

Sometimes the logic is strange. A few Catholic Church bishops in North Carolina objected to the state's anti-bullying bill. They think bullying is horrible. But they say that if the bill becomes law it can be used to persuade a judge mandate same-sex marriage. They claim that in three states that have same-sex marriage an anti-bullying law was included is the lawsuit as part of the supporting explanation that marriage should be legal. Alas, the anti-gays have lied so often it is hard to believe their claim. The bill passed the state senate anyway.

The hits now coming in bunches

An improved Domestic Partner bill (marriage except in name) is about to be signed into law in Washington State. Yup, efforts are underway to overturn it through a citizen referendum. Though a few of the anti-gay crowd want to make "a statement of belief" they are denouncing the attempt at a referendum. Say what? Joe Fuiten of the Family Policy Institute gives these reasons (according to The Stranger):

The referendum would be rejected by voters, the last signature-gathering effort failed, people don't care about taking away gay rights, people don't have the money for the fight, and the group is afraid to look like out-of-touch bigots.

Out-of-touch bigots? That never stopped them before. It's good to hear it does now. It is also good to hear the effort will fail and that Fuiten recognizes that.

The legislature has passed and the governor has signed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. This is the 5th state to enact it, and the 2nd to do so without a court order. Governor John Baldacci is the first governor to approve such a bill (it became law in Vermont through a veto override). This article describes Baldacci's change of heart -- he used to think civil unions were enough. The bill contains explicit language that says religious institutions cannot be forced to perform marriages they disapprove. Opponents have a limited time to get a huge number of signatures to force a voter referendum.

District of Columbia!
DC has taken the second vote to approve a district law to recognize gay marriages from other states. Congress has 30 days to decide if they want to overturn it. One Mormon congressman from Utah is ready to do just that. So much for the hope that Congress will simply ignore the new law. But Pelosi is quite willing to let DC do what it wants -- Congress can't intervene in New York, why should it in DC?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's a skylight and an oven!

Back in 2003 I spent some time in the Milwaukee Art Museum and saw an exhibit by an industrial designer, one of the people who design the class or whoosh into the casing of the stuff we buy. I don't remember the guy's name, though he had a reputation in the Milwaukee area. I do remember he designed the Miller beer logo, the first home clothes dryer (he made sure it had a window so the housewife could see the clothes tumbling around), and the housing for the Evinrude boat motor. It was an enjoyable show.

My friend and debate partner sent me a link to an article about Steven M. Johnson, another industrial designer/inventor/cartoonist/urban planner. The article is delightful and full of whimsy while exploring (and poking holes at) serious social problems. He reminds me of a Japanese practice of having a fresh crop of inventors design some gadgets, knowing they would be impractical -- like containers strapped to the backs of your legs that would agitate clothes in sudsy water while you walked.

As much as I like the Pedaltrain, it may not be a new idea. I first read about it in the book Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullin. The book describes a resurgent society after an apocalypse and all of the devices described, including the train, are human powered because of a lack of electricity and gasoline. The Great Machine in this case is a computer in which the individual processing bits are actual humans. I enjoyed the book but didn't bother with its two sequels.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sins of preference around the country

Too much time on their hands? Professional geographers who want to stand out in a crowd? A fancy party trick? I won't try to answer those questions, only say that their efforts have mapped sinfulness across the country. They figured out how to quantify the Seven Deadly Sins within a population and colored the map by county accordingly. In case you don't remember those sins they are (with the method of quantifying it):
* Greed -- compare average income with number of residents below the poverty line.
* Envy -- thefts per capita.
* Wrath -- violent crimes per capita.
* Lust -- sexually transmitted diseases per capita.
* Gluttony -- fast food restaurants per capita.
* Sloth -- compare expenditures in entertainment and recreation with unemployment rate.
* Pride -- the combination of all the above.

The data is mapped two ways. The first shows the value of a sin with more sinful counties in darker colors. The second shows average counties in pale yellow, higher than average in red and below average in blue. The map for Pride (the combination) shows a red swath from eastern Texas, across the South, to New York City, another swath across California, and blotches in Washington state, southern Michigan, and around Kansas City (among others). There is also a blue swath covering most of West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois (outside of Chicago), Iowa, Nebraska, half of Kansas and South Dakota, and all of North Dakota.

Most gay blogs show the map for Lust, noting the bright red blotch covering the South.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

There really is a gathering storm

We've heard about Obama's first 100 days, perhaps it is time to check in on the militant right's corresponding 100 days. This information is from a blog that tracks the doings of the militant right. Current efforts could make the Oklahoma City bombing look tame. The Department of Homeland Security is keeping a close watch on these guys and has noted a growing urgency and fury since Obama was inaugurated. However, the DHS has no information of any specific planned events.

The basic narrative of these groups: The End of the World is near. It's Us against Them. That split allows retreat from consensus reality. The "us" are persecuted. We must eliminate "them" to purify our world. These ideas are being played more openly since the November election.

Things that are different now: In addition to claiming the opponent is purely evil these groups are now saying it is time to do something about it. The fabrications to justify their actions (they're good at making stuff up) are no longer built on a kernel of truth. They were thoroughly humiliated in the last election and don't take humiliation well. There is a new sense of urgency -- Obama the Evil will usher in his age of destruction Any Day Now. The hate-mongers (Limbaugh among them) have seized center stage now that the GOP party apparatus is in tatters. They are putting themselves in opposition to the power of the state (forgetting that is was one of their own who made the state so powerful). They are arming themselves to the teeth and have volunteered for military service for training. They've already started experimenting with threats and petty violence as training for bigger ventures.

Are they ready to act? The next steps to look for: They go "up-country" withdrawing from the world in isolated enclaves. Are they buying land? Is secessionist talk increasing? Such isolation allows leaders to consolidate power over members. Their lawlessness becomes overt. Their thuggery is justified because they answer to a higher law. When they break laws it especially includes weapons laws. The pick fights with authorities. At this point they are armed, barricaded, prepared, and spoiling for a fight and any excuse (a routine traffic stop) can be a catalyst that can only end in disaster.

Will it happen? That depends on how many who are drunk on hate-talk sober up in time, how many realize what their leaders really intend before the violence actually happens. Forget that wimpy gay ad. This is the Gathering Storm.

What one learns from his father

As in many things, the liberal/conservative outlook starts in the home. Here is an essay about that, in particular how power is wielded by parents over children and how that reflects a person's viewpoint when the child becomes an adult. The author, Sara Robinson, reminds readers that this viewpoint is not immutable. She was brought up under a very conservative view of power and is working hard to raise her kids under a liberal view of power. Even so, I see that a conservative view of parental power sounds very similar to a conservative view of the bible. Robinson also notes that parents may not fit entirely in one category or the other. I suspect there may be more than two ways to characterize parental power.

Some aspects of conservative parenting power and its effects:
* Parents are concerned with control -- when in doubt, clamp down hard and fast.
* Break the child's will so that he becomes conforming, obedient, and unquestioning of all forms of authority.
* The authority must be obeyed, no matter what. Authority is invested in the office, such as "grandfather," no matter that the office holder is a pervert.
* The child is granted no personal boundaries.
* The child is to trust rules, tradition, the bible, boss, preacher, and Daddy to tell you what is right, frequently with "because I said so."
* The child learns not to trust his own feelings. Parents aren't interested. They are only concerned about behavior.
* The child does not develop an internal, personal authority. When they rebel (and they will) they have nothing to fall back on and frequently engage in self-destructive behavior.
* Once they define their own authority they learn they must defend it and that defense is usually loud and strong.
* Separating from parents to establish their own lives is usually a showdown that results in separations and long-term scars.

In contrast, some aspects liberal parenting power:
* Parents trust people -- when in doubt, stand back and observe.
* Children are taught by example through interactions with parents.
* The parent governs through consent of the governed -- the parent is respected because he is worthy of respect. Mom can be counted on to treat the child seriously and has a track record of defending the child.
* If an authority figure abuses their authority (grandfather the pervert) the child has the right to disobey and the responsibility to call on other authority figures for defense.
* The learn to create and trust their own their own thoughts and feelings and thus develop a strong sense of internal authority.
* The child becomes confident in their own authority and personal boundaries. When those boundaries must be violated, the adult can supply a good reason.
* The child learns that a reason for authority is to help and defend the weak.
* Separation from parents happens gradually with a willingness to hear the parent's reasons when confronting remaining issues.

Since I've never been a parent one wonders why all this attracted my interest.

I've seen some of this in action from conservative religious leaders:
* The bible is always right, "because it says so." The pastor's interpretation of the bible is always right. Disobeying it carries severe (perhaps implied) punishment. The bible must be portrayed as inerrant and divinely authored, to be worthy of its authority (I've heard a lot about the importance of biblical authority and how one must accept it all or it's all worthless).
* It is the believer who must conform.
* Church leaders are given great respect no matter their abuses.
* If a person is not allowed to develop his own internal authority he must rely on an external authority, such as religion.
* Once a believer accepts the bible as authority, defense of it is loud and strong.

I must have a liberal parenting view of the bible. Some of my beliefs:
* The bible wasn't authored by God, but by people who were mightily impressed by what God did for them and want to share what they experienced. It (and God) earns our respect with its wisdom.
* One is free to debate the importance of various biblical passages and concepts to piece together one's own internal authority.

The rising tide

Richard Socarides wrote a column for the Washington Post wondering where the "fierce advocate" for gay people is, the one Obama promised to be during the campaign.

That article has been coupled with another that notes gay marriage (and gay issues in general) is a tide that has risen enough that Democrats are helped by being in favor of gays and Republicans are hurt by being against them. We've been waiting a long time for this to be true. Which makes Obama's Missing In Action all the more disappointing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ashamed of being gay

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute and what sounds like her position that it's a Christian teen's duty to bully gay classmates. Since then she has gone a couple rounds with Timothy Kincaid of the Box Turtle Bulletin (a site that works to debunk the claims made by the anti-gay crowd). It seems there is something the two combatants agree on. And that is the goal Higgins has.

What Higgins wants is for every gay kid to be ashamed of being gay. She is opposed to gays living openly with pride and dignity. She would much rather have a gay kid risking his health by having unsafe sex in a back alley rather than save himself for the man of his dreams because the first will fill him with shame. It is only then she believes she has a chance to save the poor kid's soul (or maybe if the poor kid doesn't hate himself as much as she hates him there is some doubt about whether her own beliefs are correct and she's really trying to save her own soul). That is why she opposes all organizations, such as Gay-Straight Alliances, that counter the culture of gay condemnation.

As for the deaths of kids who were bullied for being gay and couldn't take it anymore, Higgins refuses the blame. Instead she fingers those who cultivate tolerance and approval for gays -- like Timothy Kincaid.

A few commenters wonder if there is any difference between Higgins' call to "righteous condemnation and disapproval" and bullying.

More evidence of a tipping point

In addition to the ABC/Washington Post poll that got me wondering about tipping points, there was a CBS/New York Times poll a couple days before that also looked at gay marriage. While not quite as rosy it also suggests we are at a tipping point. There was a 10% gain in approval for gay marriage between 2004 and early this year with another 9% gain in just the last six weeks! This posting lists all the positive events that happened in those six weeks -- action in 13 states (some of which were things like the failure to pass a law to ban domestic partner benefits).