Saturday, August 29, 2009

Making up for a bit of Detroit's mountain deficit

In case I don't get a chance to write tomorrow…

I leave Monday morning, flying to Denver. I'll spend a couple days around the city before going to Estes Park for the Reconciling Ministries Convocation over Labor Day weekend. This is a gathering of gay Christians, specifically gays trying to get the United Methodist Church to remove its restrictions on gays. As part of that I'll be attending a session on how to get a local congregation (as in my own) to be more welcoming to gays. I was bowled over by the worship services and bible studies at the Convo in 2007 in Nashville and expect this one to be equally wonderful. Afterward I have a few more days in Denver, and perhaps will drive into the mountains (something sorely lacking in southeast Michigan). I'm sure I'll have a trip report when I return.

Do we trust them to do the right thing?

Helen, of Margaret and Helen -- two ladies old enough to speak their minds without caring of the consequences, has a few things to say about the rowdy town hall meetings. Helen comments that most of the loonies that are being the most disruptive are appear to not bother educating themselves. Perhaps freedom of speech should be restricted to those with a minimum education. However, this is the comment that got me laughing:

Margaret, I don’t know what plans you’ve made up there with Howard, but down here with Harold, we have living wills to determine how we will leave this world when the time comes. Mine states that unless the feeding tube is large enough for a piece of pie, I don’t want to be hooked up to it. Harold, of course, says his can only be connected to him if the other end is connected to a bottle of single malt scotch.

Helen points out how ridiculous the idea of death panels is, then observes:

By the looks of the American citizenry turning out for these town hall meetings, we’re doing a fine job of killing ourselves with fast food, cigarettes and an overindulgence of ignorance.

Charles Blow of the New York Times notes that some of the crazy ideas about health care -- care will be rationed, taxpayers pay for abortions -- are being held by more than just the GOP and the fringe. Like a third of Democratic voters. Why? Gullibility? Resent a black man as president? Perhaps more. Perhaps a distrust that government can do the right thing.

A recent study of polling data notes that when a GOP president takes office he gets a high score for trust in doing the right thing. When a Dem president takes office, the score is usually low. The data:

Carter -- 35% believe government will do the right thing.
Reagan -- 51%
Bush I -- 44%
Clinton -- 24%
Bush II -- 55% (poll taken just after 9/11)
Obama -- 20%

Blow concludes that the country just doesn't trust Dems to do the right thing. Especially since Dem voters also strongly don't trust Dem presidents.

I don't completely buy his conclusion. Then again, I'm likely biased.

If we don't trust the guy to do the right thing (apparently true for 80% of those polled) why did we vote for him? Why not vote in the GOP guy whom we trust?

I propose another conclusion, based on the fact these polls are from the first few months of a president's tenure and not at its end. That means the newcomer's score is partially based on his predecessor.

Carter came after Nixon and Ford. Nuff said.

Clinton came after Bush I earned a 91% approval rating for the Gulf War and squandered it so thoroughly he was booted out of office 20 months later.

Obama comes after Bush II. And I've ranted enough about him.

After 8 years of Georgie, 80% of the country doesn't trust the government to do the right thing? Big surprise.

But another take on the health care debate made me go back and add a word to the above sentence "I don't buy his conclusion." Alas, Dems are piling up a strong record of being a bunch of wimps. So while I believe a strong component to Obama's score is Bush's abysmal record, there really are some trust issues over Dems doing the right thing.

The big idea thrown into the health care debate comes from Ted Kennedy's passing. A lot of talking heads noted that Ted frequently passed as much of an idea as he knew he could get votes for and came back for another chunk later. Ted had been working on health care issues since 1964 when he had a great need for medical services after a plane crash and an early chunk was Medicare and Medicaid.

So if we can't get all of health insurance reform passed now, let's scale back the package and come back for more later.

Bad idea.

The GOP is already making lots of headway by telling middle class folks the bill will do nothing for them, only require them to pay more taxes to give health care to poor people (who tend to be Those People). Alas, the bill has already been scaled back and some provisions don't show up until after the next prez election and in the meantime those who hurt because of no insurance still hurt. Scaling back the package even more means the middle class parts of the bill will be cut entirely, which means the GOP will be correct. Which is why the GOP is proposing the idea in honor of Ted. Such an honor.

This is another case in which the GOP doesn't have to be in power (not even close) to get the Dems to roll over and play dead -- and do whatever the GOP wants. Lob some more teabags and soon the country will believe that as bad as the GOP is, at least they aren't as lame as the Dems.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It takes time to assimilate changes in the world

Michael Rinehart is a bishop in the branch of the Lutheran Church that recently allowed local churches decide if they will call a gay pastor. His district includes Houston, where he lives. He read email from an angry member concerning the gay issue -- at the same time his wife is reading through letters from her recently deceased father. That certainly put things in perspective. Rinehart shares some thoughts.

Ultimatums are about control. Pastors should not neglect what is right when threatened with losing a member. Refuse to be drawn into an ultimatum and they won't be used anymore.

The old line that "It's in the bible, that settles it" only shows how ignorant many Christians are of the bible. There are many things in the bible that Christians most definitely do not believe and they make no distinction why one and not the other. Also in Leviticus is a prohibition to eating shrimp.

Going through a dead family member's things is hard. It is hard to let go. That is true for many people. The world has changed. The "hyper-patriotic, euphoric" post-WWII is gone. Some people grieve the loss. Some times people need time to assimilate changes. Sometimes the reaction to change is fear. Alas, people are rarely clear exactly what it is they fear.

Families stay together because love unites us more than issues divide us.

Resume of a fierce advocate

Fierce Advocate? Definitely. This is a comprehensive list of what Ted Kennedy has done for us gays over the years. Obama, are you paying attention to how it is done? Alas, the lion's den now sits empty.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Advertising on a toxic show

About 2 weeks ago when writing about what to do to prevent the spread of fascism one of the points was to shut down the hate talkers. It appears this is happening. Glenn Beck, one of the rabble-rousers has been on vacation, but he's coming back to a lot fewer advertisers. Here is a look at the issue from the point of view of the advertiser. Advertising on a news brings status to a product. Advertising on a talk show does not. Having a toxic show linked to your product doesn't help sales. It is easy to find a way to reach customers that isn't so toxic. Bye, Glenn.

A lion and fierce advocate

On the death of Ted Kennedy I note the current president was about a year old when Teddy took office. I'll make my tribute short. I've been impressed that Ted didn't hold office to line his pockets, but to actually do something meaningful for those at the lowest levels of society. A lion indeed.

Tributes flow, of course, from national and international figures. Accolades also come from the gay community. We've had lots of talk over the last year about a fierce advocate for gays. Turns out it wasn't Obama, but Ted.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Incarceration because of emotional gratification

A while back I wrote about high incarceration costs in some states. Here is a map looking at incarceration rates, followed by one showing percentage of non-white population by state. The author contrasts the two maps with this premise (my summary):

Most of American politics is influenced by race and most of that is the white majority's fears of non-whites. Places with large minority populations that seem to pose a threat to whites are more likely to support laws driven by emotional gratification ("lock up the bastards!"). That is shown by the higher incarceration rates for non-whites. But in places with miniscule non-white populations (North Dakota), most prisoners are white and it is more difficult to rouse the population with "lock up the bastards!" when the bastards look a lot like everyone else. States in which whites are not in the majority (Hawaii) also avoid the highest incarceration rates.

Other than tofu

Perhaps a couple months ago I thought it would be nice to get some burgers so I could make one up for lunch every so often (no, this does not mean I go to Mickey D's for food). Much to my surprise when I thought about this a bit more I realized what I wanted wasn't a beef burger, but a veggie burger. So I tried a few more and then went back to my earlier reviews to see if there were any I could try again. Some of my adventures in eating:

This first group were found at a health food store:

Moophrey Burgers. As with some of the earlier veggie burgers, this is not a flavor I could eat long term. Again as before one is too little and two are too much.

Amy's Texas Veggie Burgers, Barbecue Flavor. By the end of the first one it seemed too sweet. Again, not a good long-term flavor and again, wrong size. I looked at other flavors, but they were higher in sugar or in carbs.

I looked at other brands at this store but they were higher in carbs, to the detriment of the protein content.

Quorn Grounds. This is a product made from mycoprotein (mushroom?) and egg whites to be used as a substitute for ground meat. As in other substitutes the sauce can make a difference and I'll have to experiment (the current version is a little too heavy on the tomato paste). I guess the sloppy joes I made using it are acceptable, though the texture is a little chewey. It made an amazing mess in my microwave.

Back at a regular grocery store (well, one particular store in the area):

I tried some meatless meatballs, which were decent. I forgot to record the brand name, but I remember what the box looks like. The continued success depends on getting a good salsa or other sauce.

From my earlier notes I tried the Morning Star Grillers Prime. I've come to like the flavor, though they are high in fat. The "prime" part of the title means they are bigger than the regular burgers.

Poking around in the freezer section I found Morning Star Sausage Patties. These have a very good flavor and are lower in fat than the Grillers Prime (and much lower in fat than they typical sausage patty. Each patty is small, but they come in a package of two, which is about right for a sandwich.

I also found Morning Star Sausage Links. A good flavor and low in fat (like the patties). But it would take 5 links to make a decent meal instead of the 2 suggested on the package. This would be a good side dish to a traditional breakfast (but I only eat a traditional breakfast when away from home).

Here is an article which I just found from Health and Wellness that lists 7 sources of meatless protein -- other than tofu. The suggestions:

* Quinoa (KEEN-wah), a grain with a nutty flavor that cooks faster than rice.

* Veggie burgers (been there, see above).

* Almonds, almond milk, almond butter. It doesn't say how the fat content of almonds compares to peanuts (a staple of my diet in the form of natural peanut butter with the oil poured off).

* Yogurt, though low-fat is way too processed and flavored has too much corn syrup.

* Tempeh, similar to tofu but nuttier and chewier.

* Legumes -- lentils, black beans, chickpeas, etc. And hummus.

* Cheese from humanely raised animals.

I may have to try some of these ideas.

Naturally, this article drew a huge number of comments from vegetarians pushing a huge number of related ideas (humanely raised dairy even possible?) which must be taken with a grain of salt.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The chance to apply scientific principles

Now that we have some states with gay marriage we have the proper environment for a scientific experiment. This allows us to compare social trends in states with gay marriage with states that don't even allow civil unions. Since many Fundies predict catastrophic consequences (like the end of civilization), we could even -- as scientists do -- ask them for a prediction and compare that with eventual results. Strange that two out of three people who were asked for predictions had nothing to say.

The third, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage, did respond (after a while), though she first complained that the whole thing must be a game of "gotcha" (well, yeah…). Her predictions:
* People committed to traditional marriage will be afraid to express their views, lest they be punished.
* Public schools will teach about gay marriage.
* Parents who object to such lessons will no longer be accommodated.
* Religious institutions will face legal threats or be treated in the same way as racists if they don't change their views.
* Support for "the ideal for a child is a married mother and father" will decline.

That’s it?

The sky doesn't fall? Western civilization doesn't end? Straight marriage isn't devalued? Divorce rates don't rocket upward? Children aren't harmed? If that's the best she can do the debate is over.

Actually, I think most of Gallagher's predictions are correct. Yes, schools will teach about gay marriage (or at least acknowledge the gay couple who pick up a classmate). Yes, those who are against gays will grow quiet in the same way that most racists have gotten quiet. Yes, parents won't be readily accommodated by the schools. Yes, support for the ideal family (which wasn't trumpeted as ideal until gays wanted in on the game) will decline. And even many churches will change their views. Though I'm sure there won't be legal threats over antiquated views (though there might be legal issues of improper campaign spending). Instead, churches face revolts from within.

In addition, these predictions will come true in states that don't (yet) allow gay marriage.

And there is precedent for these predictions. Consider what racists were saying in 1955. Support for the ideal of "separate but equal" has declined.

The scientist is left wondering how to measure these predictions. How does one tell if people are afraid to express their views when every time someone says something nice about gays the Fundies jump up and say "We're being oppressed!"?

So onward into the next big question. Are those changes a bad thing? And this is where Gallagher and I disagree.

Don't split in a huff, let's do it sensibly

In their weeklong conference, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) approved two important issues. By a healthy margin they approved a resolution to allow, but not require, congregations to bless same-sex unions.

Then they voted to allow gays and lesbians in lifelong monogamous same-sex relationships to serve as ministers in those churches that choose to call them.

It didn't take long for Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) to issue a press release that makes a distinction between "Lutheran" and "faithful Lutheran." Only the faithful ones are invited by CORE to a conference in September in Indianapolis to decide how to "collectively plan for a common future." In other words, don't split from the denomination in a huff. Come to our conference so we can decide how to sensibly split away as a group. In the meantime, don't send any more money to the national office. Send it to us instead.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Taking the bed all the way to the 12th floor

Conventional elevator? How boring. Spice up your life with these elevator rides:
* Cover the floor of the elevator car with the ad for a sky-diving school showing the view from a few thousand feet up. Or make it look like no floor at all.

* Install a "random floor" button.

* Install a disco, apartment, or bed in the elevator.

* Install advertising, such as a male chest on the outer doors which open to reveal internal organs, or a glass of milk on the outside of the lowest floor of a glass elevator shaft and an Oreo cookie on the elevator itself.

* Install artwork to make the elevator look like the inside of an aquarium.

We've missed the target already

The major feature of this week's Newsweek is a list of 25 "unexpected truths." Alas, online they seem to be linked in one long chain without links to jump in the middle. Some the interesting and important truths:

* Elections -- as just happened in Afghanistan -- aren't the answer until a country is stable. Elections produce losers and they tend to respond with violence.

* Americans marry too often. We divorce and marry much more frequently than other countries and the disruptions hurt the kids. Sweden has more couples that don't marry and yet has more stable homes.

* The future of computers isn't guided by Moore's Law -- the amount of memory on a chip will double about every 18 months. It's guided more by processor speed. We're at 3GHz (3 billion of I'm not sure what in a second) and faster speeds melt chips. However, more processors per chip are possible, meaning Microsoft is going to have to figure out how to bring easy parallel processing to the PC. I know what parallel processing is and know of programs that use it. I never wrote programs for it. I can think of some music applications that could take advantage of it.

* It's too late to stop global warming. A lot of forecasting told climate scientists we had better not go above a carbon concentration of 550 parts per million in the atmosphere. The quickness of Arctic melting has led them to revise that number to say bad things start happening when carbon gets above 350 ppm. We're at 387.

* Socialism is the best medicine. The best health care is in countries that have "socialized" their care, countries such as Britain, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia.

* Bipartisanship is bad. President Johnson was able to do bipartisan deals for the Social Security Act of 1965. While Dems still span the range of moderate to liberal, the GOP no longer spans moderate to conservative. As of this year there are maybe 2 moderate GOP in the entire Congress. So don't confuse compromise with capitulation.

* Toilet paper isn't all that good at cleaning us and uses a huge amount of paper in the process. A Japanese bidet company is ready to push into America.

* We're all Hindu now. Even some Fundies are accepting some major Hindu ideas, such as: There is more than one path to eternal life. The earthly physical body isn't required for that eternal life.

The issue closes with a Back Story. This week they poke their finger in Britain's eye by listing all the festering conflicts that are a result of Britain's mismanagement of colonial rule. Britain left these places 50 to 100 years ago. These hotspots are: Sri Lanka, India/Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Israel/Palestine.

Makes one wish for a crisis

Don't like ObamaCare as a national health care system? How about GodCare? It's a second health system with the Fundie in mind. Here are some of its features:
* Efforts to sustain life no matter the cost or the condition of the patient.
* No birth control, no treatment for STDs, no pain blockers for child birth, no abortions.
* Mental health will be in the hands of pastoral counselors. If that isn't enough, such as for schizophrenia, there's always demonic exorcism.
* No treatments for leprosy or various plagues, because they are the punishment for sin.

Strange that some Fundie women are proclaiming that no government health care will have control over their body! So now they agree government shouldn't ban abortions? Just asking.

The Fundies are trumpeting a new study that shows that a much higher percentage of gays and lesbians see therapists than straight people. Naturally, all that trumpeting dismisses the reason is likely to be because gays and lesbians have to deal with sometimes intense homophobia. The implication is that it must be what's left -- homosexuality is a mental disorder that affects how well a gay person can deal with life. That has left one person wondering about logic (!) behind this statement. The Fundies deride us for seeing shrinks yet insist that by seeing shrinks we can become straight.

Sharon Begley of Newsweek looks at the crazy debates over health care, in particular why some of the more outrageous claims are resonating. Only part of it is the GOP is much better at soundbites -- "death panels" v. "bending the cost curve." She delves into why some crazy claims have been sticking around. Some of her thoughts:
* Citizens are feeling mighty uptight right now and arguments that would have sounded ridiculous last summer before the economic crash turned our world upside down tend to resonate just a little bit. And emotion always wins over logic.
* The GOP side of the debate is good at pushing the hot-button issues of gays and illegal immigrants. They've also preaching distrust of government for about 30 years (leading to one person shouting, "Keep the government's hands off my Medicare!" Umm.
* Ideas, such as rationing (though it's not in any bills and insurance companies do it now), bump up against American ideals of freedom of choice, self-reliance, and the desire to be left alone.

Obama could improve his use of soundbites. Since employers fund health insurance, "the current system takes away your freedom to quit your job." And … "When insurance companies deny care, they bankrupt and kill people."

Some people are furious with Obama for being so timid in his response. Blindsided? It's his job not to be, especially in an issue that so obviously stirs emotions so deeply and previous presidents had so much trouble with it.

Jonathan Alter thinks that Obama needs more than soundbites, he needs to frame the issue differently. There are deep moral issues -- no insurance if there are pre-existing conditions, for a start -- that aren't controversial so aren't getting noticed. So don't worry about getting it right or getting it all the first time because we won't (notice how wrong Congress was in how long the "cash for clunkers" program would last?). So make sure the moral issues are maintained.

Also in Newsweek Fareed Zakaria notes that when we hit the financial crisis last fall our government moved with all speed and effectiveness. Health care? Not so much. The reason is simple. Though health care is a mess it isn't a crisis. And we can't seem to do anything unless it is a crisis.

Smiting through meteorology

I've written about the conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America being held in Minneapolis this week. A few of the issues to be voted on are gay related.

On Wednesday, a tornado came through Minneapolis, causing minor damage to the roof of the convention center where the Lutherans are meeting and also to the steeple of the Central Lutheran Church. Shortly afterward the assembly passed a statement with exactly the 2/3 required vote which said the denomination cannot agree on the issue of homosexuality and therefore churches will not be punished for blessing same-sex relationships.

Showing he doesn't understand Christianity at all Rev. John Piper of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in town declared the tornado to be a "gentle but firm warning" that God, who controls the wind, won't take kindly to a church that does nice things for gay people.

Everyone wonders why he is on our side

An in-depth article about Ted Olson, the guy who won the Bush v. Gore case in 2000 and is now leading the case to overturn the Calif. gay marriage ban in national courts. He may be a Republican, but he's one that believes that government should not intrude in our lives more than necessary. He is not a religious conservative.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Playing with fire

Another writer, this time Mike Lux at Open Left, has seen some troubling signs related to the threat of violence coming from the Right. He doesn't connect it to a possible rise of fascism, perhaps because he doesn't know how fascism takes hold. He wrote:

Members of Congress have death threats issued against them, while other Members make jokes about lynching their colleagues.

With all of this hateful and violent rhetoric going on, I haven't seen one Republican leader asking for people to cool their rhetoric, or heard them condemn any of these tactics. My question for Republican party, and their allies at conservative media companies that employ the kind of people making these remarks: what exactly would have to be said for you to distance yourself from these people? How far would someone have to go before you got uncomfortable with it? What would have to said before Fox News considered firing someone?

Lux notes we have a long history of political violence in this country (protests about Vietnam, especially at the 1968 Democratic Convention). He concludes with:

What concerns me, though, is that the Republicans seem to have crossed some kind of line to where they actually tolerate and even defend all this violence. They have stopped doing that now, and are even egging the violence on now in some cases. I fear the answer to my question- what would it take for you to condemn the hatefulness- because the answer seems to be that there is nothing that could happen that would make them say "Stop!" And that's a very scary thing for a democracy.

Terrence Heath, who is black and gay, is very familiar with the reasons why blacks were
lynched -- If you don't know your place and stay in it you will be next. If blacks got too uppity, just displaying a noose was frequently enough to put offenders back in line. He documents some of the threats of violence that have occurred recently. Terrence says one of three things is true about the GOP. We may not yet know which it is.
* They don't know what they are playing with.
* The violence is what they want.
* They're willing to risk violence for the sake of ideology.

Terrence is convinced there will be blood.

There aren't enough dead bodies?

The Anchorage, Alaska city council approved an ordinance banning discrimination against gays. Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed it. His remarks can be summarized this way: Citizens want to discriminate against gays. Gay people don't need protection from that discrimination.


Even through distortions and contradictions

My friend and debate partner lives up to the second half of his honorary title as he takes me to task for some sloppy thinking -- or maybe an attempt at making a logical jump that only fellow Christians would follow (my debate partner is Jewish). So he stands with wet noodles in hand ready to commence flogging.

"...the Christian Church is the only voice in our society that talks about God..."

Say what??!!! Sometimes you really puzzle me.

Just about everyone talks about God. Certainly, a vast spectrum of religious groups that can not be described as "the Christian Church" talk about God or a Higher Being or Great Spirit, etc.etc.etc. Even atheists talk about God as the, uh, entity? force? philosophy? thing? that they don't believe in.

And who or what is "the Christian Church" that has a "voice"? "The" implies a single, unique entity. It's my impression as an outsider that there is precious little, perhaps nothing, that all the various Christian groups agree about. Who or what is the legitimate voice of "the Christian Church"?

Yes, well deserved criticisms of my writing. Setting jokes aside, let's see if I can explain what I was trying to say.

I have a particular and personal concept of the Christian God, based on my understanding of the bible and personal religious experiences. I try to make this understanding central to the way I act, especially in the way I treat other people. It is the main reason why I go serve supper to a bunch of gay young adults of a different race each week. I look for this understanding to be reflected in the Christian Church that I'm a part of.

Some aspects of that concept of God include a directive to treat everyone with respect and compassion, a directive to be inclusive of all people, a directive to attempt to meet the basic needs of others, an offering from relief from grief and guilt, an offering of spiritual companionship, and offering of wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Obviously, I have my own way of describing Christian concepts.

Starting with that, I usually don't pay much attention to the voices from completely different spiritual traditions (Buddhist, Islam, Hindu) and only mutter a little bit against those that claim there is no God.

But with the Christian Church -- in all its thousands of clamoring voices -- I've said a great deal. Many voices in the Christian Church also describe my personal concept of God and do it in a way the louder culture can hear. However, this blog is full of cases in which I rage against very loud Christian voices who contradict the message I believe the Christian Church should be presenting. But even through their distortions and contradictions these loud voices are at least talking about the Christian God. I wanted to say that while I say (or repeat) things that put the Christian Church in a bad light (and usually deservedly so) that doesn't diminish my belief in the Christian God these churches only partially describe. So perhaps the misunderstood sentence should have read in part "… the Christian Church is the only voice in our society that talks about the same God I believe in…"

My friend continues:

However, thank you for these very interesting Jefferson quotes. They certainly make your point. If I could travel in time, I would certainly visit with and listen closely to Jefferson, who also famously said:

"Every twenty years a revolution!"

Oh, how we need that vast national housecleaning of minds today!

I remember the "revolution" in 1968. Have we had one since?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Momentum, energy, honesty, courage

A Los Angeles Times editorial urges gays to wait until 2012 before attempting to repeal the Calif. gay marriage ban. That prompts a comparison between the groups pushing for repeal in 2012 and those wanting to try in 2010:

Those aiming for 2012 see this as an election effort. In the same way that a candidate either wins or goes home, the repeal effort is seen as how to achieve votes at a particular time. Winning is everything. The focus is on funding and strategy.

In contrast the 2010 group sees it as a civil rights effort in which each election is one battle in the longer war for equality. The focus is on momentum, energy, honesty, courage, and not conceding defeat.

The whole question of date may soon be moot. A team is about to submit an application to the Secretary of State for 2010 and the process of collecting signatures will begin after that. If they collect the nearly 700,000 needed signatures (in a state of 30 million) they've earned the right to set any date they want.

An engine for enslaving

If Thomas Jefferson really intended America to be a Christian Nation (as the Fundies insist) would he have said:

The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves ... these clergy, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ.

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

That and some other quotes from the Founding Fathers have been collected for your reading pleasure.

I long ago separated what the bible and my faith says about Christianity and what the Christian church says what the faith is supposed to be. The two are frequently different. Even so, the Christian Church is the only voice in our society that talks about God, though it does so imperfectly. Jefferson is referring to that imperfection.

No one left who could protest

Last week I referred to a poem that I said included the phrase, "They came for the Jew. I didn't speak up because I'm not a Jew." Two people have now responded (one as a blog comment, the other through email) citing the full text and author of the poem. Thanks to both of you.

The author is Martin Niemoeller. He was a minister of religion (I take that to be a government post) and a high profile opponent of the Nazis as they came to power. Nieloeller lived through the first few lines of the poem before speaking out. At Hitler's command he spent the war years in a concentration camp.

There are several versions of the poem. The one I'll repeat here is, according to a German, a better translation from German into English than the version more widely known. It is translated from an earlier version of the poem that doesn't include the Jews. The poem gives the actual order of groups attacked by the Nazis.

When the Nazis came for the communists, I said nothing;
I was, of course, no communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats, I said nothing;
I was, of course, no Social Democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists, I said nothing;
I was, of course, no trade unionist.
When they came for me, there was no one left who could protest.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gay issues have become ordinary?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) begins a weeklong meeting on Monday in Minneapolis. The newsworthy item on the agenda is whether gay clergy in committed relationships should be allowed to be pastors. Another denomination wrestling over gay clergy? How -- humdrum. The liberals have a good chance of winning this one as recently happened in the Episcopal Church. Yes, there is still opposition. But the anti-gay forces are getting tired and want the battle over. There are already plans to form a conservative sub-group in the church with its own constitution, education system, and rules for clergy.

Just lock them up

A big item in Michigan news is how to reduce the cost of prisons. One option being considered is to allow the maximum security prison in Standish house the prisoners currently in Gitmo, which would bring in federal dollars.

Michigan isn't the only one with prison problem. Here is a map of expenses, as percent of state budget, being spent on prisons (no idea why there is no data for Mich.). Oregon spends more than 10% and Michigan is one of several that spends more on prisons than on education.

It gets worse. America, with a population of 300 million has a prison population of 2.2 million. The next 36 highest prison populations are in countries with a combined populations of 900 million and they have only 1.8 million in prison.

NPR did a story about the fading glory of California's Folsom Prison, made famous by Johnny Cash. Back in the last 60s, when Cash sang there, Folsom was the model for the rest of the country on how to rehabilitate inmates and keep them out of prison after release. No more. The Calif. system is so broke and has so many inmates that it can't afford efforts at rehabilitation.

The cause of the collapse? A series of get-tough-on-crime laws that boosted the prison population, mostly with drug offenders. And the power behind getting those laws passed? The prison warden union, whose membership increased by 17 times in the last 30 years and whose salaries have jumped.

Alternatives to ignoring or exploiting anxiety

Kai Wright, senior writer for The Root offers a take on the noisy health care town hall meetings. She discusses her ideas with Guy Raz of NPR. The world has changed quickly (such as whites no longer being in charge) and many people, especially poor whites, don't know how to adapt. This leaves people anxious and afraid. The GOP is exploiting that anxiety for their own political ends. Alas, the Dems are ignoring it, not sure how to discuss it. Wright says their fortunes might improve if they talked about anxiety in a changing world. The audio is 5 minutes.

I'm not as convinced. Dems tend to ignore these people because they are usually so racist Dems don't want to scare the blacks out of their coalition. That's even with understanding that poor whites could be allies with poor blacks. However, it could be worth a try. A Dem could talk about understanding how modern life could make one anxious and what to do about it. But not just any Dem. One from an obviously rich background couldn't connect. But someone like Jim Webb of Virginia could. And he has been doing it.

Speaking of health care…

A couple guidelines to help you through the discussion:
* If anyone says "communist fascism" you can ignore everything else they say. Both may rely on police states, but one is liberal, the other conservative. You can't have both. The person spouting the phrase is only stringing scary words together.

* It is not possible to be against "socialized medicine" and for Medicare. The two are the same. Again, the speaker is only trying to scare you.

Why are we negotiating with these guys?
* The provision in the health care plan that is being twisted into "Death Panels" was quite popular in 2003. Even Thaddeus McCotter and Chuck Grassley voted for it. Now they are trying to get some political advantage out of the distortions and being against it.

* Two days after Obama praises Senator Grassley for his efforts in working on a bipartisan bill, Grassley responds by saying if you didn't work with me the bill would have been out of committee in June and would have passed the full Senate by now.

So why do we want a bipartisan bill?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Eternal vigilance

Last week I commented on an essay by Sara Robinson about how close we might be to fascism in America. Today is her second essay on what we might be able to do to avoid that fate.

Sara wrote that the responses to the first essay (and her other writings on the issue) fall into thirds.

The first third invokes Godwin's Law -- whoever is first to invoke Hitler, Nazis, or fascism in a debate first loses that debate. That law holds when people claim that particular public figures (Obama) or certain groups (gays) are modern Nazis or a new Hitler. But it doesn't hold when a historian is drawing meaningful parallels.

The second third says we're already there and have been since (insert date of choice). Some even use the date of 7/4/1776. Clearly, this group doesn't know the meaning of the term (as is the case of many who accuse liberals of being fascist).

And the final third has participated in meaningful debate. And that makes Robinson's efforts worthwhile.

So if we're so close to fascism that we're in the parking lot, how do we keep from entering the building (which appears to have no exits)? Robinson lays out these actions:

* The "teabaggers" are bullies. When a bully wins he picks a bigger target and has learned how to be more effective in his terror. Do not let the bullies win this round. Fascists are bigger and badder bullies. Conservatives have long relied on fear to whip up the dispossessed to "enforce order." The current crop of bullies have tasted media attention and are not going to be silent when Congress goes back to Washington. The time to defeat a bully is when he is first getting started.

This one has got me wondering if Obama's efforts to reach consensus with the GOP is equivalent to letting the bullies win a round.

* The fight has national implications, but must be fought locally. The bully coming after you will be your neighbor. Defend community standards now while there are such standards to defend.

* Learn non-violent resistance, but leave enforcement to the cops. As gays have seen the bullies are looking for ways to play the innocent victim -- or proclaim one of their own as a martyr. This implies attending local forums and standing up for civil discourse, in a non-violent manner. Being a bully falls under public nuisance laws (which we respect), but leave arrests to the cops after the crime is committed.

* Make sure the media gets the story straight. Turn off the cameras and the bullies go away. But bullies and conflict are red meat to the media, so we know the cameras are going to roll. So join them. Bad free speech is cured with more speech. Take your own cameras. Post on YouTube. Blog. Write letters to media outlets. Keep your favorite reporter well fed with tidbits of concerned citizens wanting to maintain the democratic process.

* Support fearless legislators. So far Dems are successful in portraying the GOP as the Party of Crazies and that 73% of Americans support health care reform. But they need support in turn. Attend public forums. Drop by their office and tell their staff you want them to hold firm for democracy, not just health care. Alas, I'm pretty sure my own representative supports the crazies.

* Shut down the hate talkers. The bullies are students of the conservative talking heads who are maintaining raw emotion and toxic misinformation for hours a day. Ever hear of Radio Rwanda? These hate/fear boxes can be shut down. Record their shows. Note anything that intimidates or incites violence. Note advertisers. Contact advertisers, pointing out that if an employee said the same thing they would be fired. I suspect pulling funding from Rush will give him martyr status and confirm that Liberals are against free speech.

* Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. This will not be over when Congress returns to Washington. This will not be over as long as the presidency is in Dem (especially Obama's) hands. There are only two outcomes. We get good at spotting and stopping bully intimidation. Or they get good at ratcheting up intimidation into mob rule.

Now some comments from me.

I come from a family that has a strong tendency to not get involved in politics. Yes, we all vote and do so even in the local elections (I've missed a few school board votes when the only warning of a coming vote is a smattering of yard signs). While growing up I never saw my parents take part in a campaign, other than a rare yard sign.

In the last 15 years I have gotten involved, mostly because I had to. I've visited my US representative (before the Dem lost her seat in redistricting) and have attended coffee sessions with state legislators. I've written a few letters (and taken part in letter campaigns by gay organizations). I even went door-to-door to pass out flyers during the Michigan marriage protection amendment campaign and a couple local ordinances. However, it's not something I enjoy doing and don't have a real passion for it. I'm pretty sure most of my family has done less than I have and don't like it any more.

So I read through the suggestions given above and think this sounds like work. It will leave less time for the things I want to do, especially this August. I don't have a real passion for sitting in meetings and taking a stand in the face of bullies, which I suspect I wouldn't handle well.

I remember a poem (?) that went something like this:

They came for the Jew. I didn't speak up because I'm not a Jew. They came for the crippled, but I didn't speak up because I'm not crippled. They came for … (and the list was long), but I didn't speak up. They came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'll just have the rainbow sprinkles

A few fun tidbits today.

In what appears to be the Dutch equivalent to Kids Say the Darndest Things some young tots are asked about same sex relationships. The idea didn't faze them a bit! That is until the host asked them how two men make a baby. So why are we so concerned about protecting kids? They know more than we give them credit for -- and are less judgmental about it. The video is less than 2 minutes and there are English subtitles.

Doug Quint is a bassoonist in an orchestra and has come up with a summer job for when his main job is on hiatus. He's the proud owner and operator of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. You can get your cone topped with such delights as ground wasabi peas, caramelized bacon, Trix cereal, Nutella, -- or just ordinary rainbow sprinkles.

As with most gays I have a working gaydar -- a sense that a guy (or couple) is gay. I don't know how accurately it is calibrated because I don't go up to them and ask. Now it seems a lot of gaydars need recalibration because gay men are tending to look more butch and straight men less so. And since many younger straight men don't mind being mistaken for gay the need for gaydar -- which kept many a gay boy from being beaten up when the question was asked -- isn't as necessary.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blending the rational and religious

Dr. Francis Collins has been nominated to head the National Institute of Health. He's a fine scientist, so what could be delaying his confirmation? Collins is also fundamentalist Christian, one who has been proclaiming there is no conflict between a rational scientist and a believer in God. His positions on scientific issues -- support for embryonic stem- cell research -- prove that his faith won't get in the way of his science. That package of belief and rigorous science (a stellar resume didn't hurt) is naturally why Obama nominated him.

But the scientific community isn't convinced. Some voices are sniping that Collins is so public about his faith because it gives him a political advantage. But the scientific community as a whole doesn't like the idea of a blend of the rational and religious. They are giving Congress an earful on the matter. That has me wondering if the Fundies and their relentless attacks on science has so damaged their reputation that even one of theirs who says, "No, wait! I'm really on the side of the scientist!" is no longer believed.

It broke their brains

Francis Schaffer, along with his father Franklin Schaffer used to be big players in the Christian Right -- until Francis became disgusted with their descent into hate. After watching the GOP stoop so low that Dick Armey is organizing the equivalent of Brownshirts, Francis says this is what is driving the GOP these days:

I think I know what happened to him, Gingrich and the rest: They can't compute that their white man-led conservative revolution is dead. They can't reconcile their idea of themselves with the fact that white men like them don't run the country any more -- and never will again. To them the black president is leading a column of the "other" into their promised land. Gays, immigrants, blacks, progressives, even a female Hispanic appointed to the Supreme Court... for them this is the Apocalypse.

The last presidential election (to paraphrase Bart Simpson) "broke their brains." What else could explain their embrace of intimidation -- rather than discourse -- over the health care debate and such unsavory moments of madness as the Republicans accusing Obama and Judge Sonia Sotomayor of racism, knowing full well that they'd just destroyed their chances with the Hispanic community forever?

Dick Armey and company have been driven mad by their reversal, not just of political fortunes but of seeing that they've wasted their lives. They now know they were wrong: about the country, the free market, war for fun and profit, and what the American people really want. They made their best case and were rejected by the American people -- and by history. Bush was their man and he turned out to be a fool. So now all the Republican gurus have left is what the defeated Germans of World War Two had: a scorched earth policy. If they can't win then everyone must go down. Obama must fail! The country must fail!

Racism at the root of everything?

One of the aspects of the civil rights movements that made blood boil was this: Prior to those laws a middle-class black had to act subservient to the poorest white. That white person could claim, "At least I'm better than all those blacks." Then with the passage of the civil rights laws that lowest white could only claim superiority over the lowest black. And now we have a black president and a great number of white people are furious that a black man is officially above them. Perhaps all that noise about taxes, health insurance, the threat of taking away guns, and everything else that has conservatives foaming at the mouth is really about race, about having a black president.

What can keep us from the precipice?

My friend and debate partner responded to my post yesterday that delved into why we might be facing the rise of fascism. My friend isn't convinced.

Two good posts on fascism and democracy. Perhaps it's time to move to Toronto?

A key factor that you have not considered is the behavior the U.S. military and police paramilitaries (including the FBI) would evince when faced with civil unrest and political violence. The legitimate government would surely use the military and paramilitaries in an effort to put down rioting and violence. (Youngstown University in 1969 taught me that the real purpose of having a military is to keep power when threatened by rebellion.) Will our military and "security" forces collaborate with the extreme-right radicals or stand fast with their long history of (largely) competent behavior on the side of the republic and legitimate government? The Weimar Republic and its successors were weak in Germany in the 1920's and early '30s. They could not / did not suppress the brownshirt radicals.

But the legitimate U.S. government is very strong, centrally managed, and technologically unchallenged -- and our military has a long and honorable history of obeying civilian leaders. Americans have never faced a military coup. That sort of behavior is bred and bleached out of our military culture very strongly.

Of course, Hitler was elected legitimately in Germany (1933) and soon became a strongman with politicized military and police forces now working for him. That could happen here -- indeed I see the Bush II years very much in that way, as a budding dictatorship that failed to ripen before it rotted and collapsed.

With gays, you may safely include Jews as scapegoats that can expect oppression from fascists once they gain power and toss out rule-of-law controls. We are the eternal scapegoats.

My friend gives two big reasons:
* America in 2009 is much more stable and prosperous than Germany in the 1920s.
* The American military has always supported the government.

I agree the first reason is a sound one on why America probably won't become fascist.

I'm not as convinced about the second. Our military has an admirable record of doing what is right, but there are two changes over the last decade that worry me.

* To meet enlistment quotas (partly because gays still get kicked out) the military has accepted recruits with known affiliations with white supremacist movements. These recruits have explicitly said they have joined to get weapons and explosives training they can use in their own battle against America. If deployed inside our borders these soldiers will not be on the side of democracy.

* The hierarchy at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in particular, and likely at other academies, has become filled with Fundies, who may in a crunch take the side of God (as they know him) rather than the side of democracy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Who needs democracy?

I wrote yesterday about the threat of fascism in America. That, of course, got me thinking about how and why we're heading down that path, if we are.

The GOP has long held they are meant to rule America. The last election showed that their current coalition of corporate lords (who like capitalism as long as they're on top), racists, Fundies, and fiscal conservatives (who were on vacation during Bush II) is no longer enough to put them back in power. Expanding this coalition is close to impossible because various factions refuse entry to other groups not already in the fold. Therefore, returning to power with this coalition is close to impossible. The GOP leaders form the elite side of the equation mentioned yesterday.

The other half of the equation are the ones who have been thinking along these lines: Democracy brought us abortion. Democracy, spread among even stranger immigrants, has knocked Christianity from its perch as the de facto state religion. Democracy has brought us a crushing national debt. Democracy has allowed women and non-whites to enter the power structure (even a Latina on the Supreme Court!). Democracy has brought us minority rights and hate crime laws. Democracy has brought us gay rights and gay marriage. Democracy bailed out the Wall St. thieves who caused this current recession and let them go without punishment. Democracy is going to take away affordable health care. Democracy wants to take away my guns. Democracy has given us a black president!

Who needs Democracy?

Thus, the mob side of the equation, full of people convinced that democracy is not their friend. This mob is small enough that it cannot take power through democracy, thought they are strong enough to make the GOP unappealing enough to keep them from holding power.

So if these two factions cannot gain power through democracy their remaining option is to take power outside the democratic process. In other words: through violence.

A strong indication that we are on the road to fascism is the existence of violence. So far, only one of the congressional town meetings has been violent. We're not there -- yet. In the meantime, watchers are noting that all the other ingredients are in place. Kindling has been stacked, fuses have been laid, and matches struck.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Are we there yet?

I haven't blogged yet about the disruptive town hall meetings (like the one in Tampa that became violent), but did mention them to my friend and debate partner. He hadn't heard of such events in the news at that time (I trust he has now). Once I told him his comment was, "Those people sound like Nazi Brownshirts." This is the group that helped Hitler come to power.

He isn't the only one with that thought.

During the Bush years people would ask those in the know whether America had become a fascist state. Are we there yet? A reasonable question because Bush (Cheney) seized powers that only the worst dictators accumulate. But these people (David Niewert and Sara Robinson, in this case) said even when Bush did his worst, no we're not there yet. There were key components missing. They cited a 1998 paper by Robert Paxton who had studied how countries turn fascist.

And now? Robinson says we're in the parking lot circling for a space.

Since the term Liberal Fascist (highly incorrect) is tossed about we had better start with a definition. We'll use the one by Paxton, which most scholars agree is best:

"Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline."

Paxton refines this definition by saying fascism is

"a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Allow me to break the chunks apart for easier digestion (mine as well as yours). This is now my paraphrase of the main points.

* Obsessively focused on community decline ("downfall of Western Civilization"), humiliation or victimhood ("we Christians are being persecuted!").

* Responding with calls for unity and purity (immigration and "birther" issues, "God struck New Orleans to cleanse it of its sin!").

* Rise of militant groups, collaborating with elites (GOP?).

* Abandons democratic liberties ("That surveillance camera shouldn't be a problem as long as you aren't doing anything wrong.").

* Pursues violence to cleanse and expand the movement in which the ends justify the means, not matter how unethical or illegal the means.

Reason is unimportant, passionate emotion is necessary.

Paxton says there are five steps to fascism.

1. A rural movement emerges for national renewal with themes of unity, order, purity, national pride, and national myths and values. This sounds to me like the Fundies. The movement needs a national crisis to take hold. The 9/11 attacks and current recession are sufficient candidates.

But those threads have been woven through American conservatism since the Klan was formed after the Civil War. The current GOP breathes these themes without apology, adding a healthy addiction to fear and rage.

2. The movement turns into a real political party with its base in the rural, less educated parts of the country. A component is the formation of goon squads to enforce ideology. The completion of this stage depends on the perceived weakness of the liberals and a Right that is unable to wield power alone, yet refuses to see the Left as legitimate powerholders. The Right elites cooperate with the popular unrest to beat back the Left. Without a legitimate way back to power (can't win elections or policy fights), the Right elites recruits the masses as shock troops to abandon democracy through bullying. The elites play this game as an attempt to hold onto their power and profit. This sounds very much like today's GOP and the teabag movement incited by Fox News, guided by field manuals on how to disrupt meetings. There are now congressional GOP members buying into (and thus legitimizing) the birther claims.

We've passed both of these stages. And if things go any farther it is difficult to avoid the last three steps.

3. The disruptions turn into thuggery, beatings, and killings and expands from members of the opposing party to any group that the mob disagrees with (want to guess what they think of gays?). All this is directed from the top. The completion of this step depends on the answer to three questions:

1. Are the pre-fascist parties rooted in major interests and feelings and do they wield major political influence?

2. Is the constitutional system blocked in a way current authorities can't open up?

3. Are the elites losing control and looking for tougher helpers?

That seems to be 3 for 3. Ouch!

Once step 3 is passed there may not be a way off this horse.

4. The alliance of Right elites and thugs makes a bid for power. Along the way the two parts battle for supremacy. If the thugs win we get a police state. If the elites win we get a theocracy or corporatocracy. Neither is democracy.

5. Radicalization or entropy. A big military win can radicalize the consolidated government and bring about social engineering (Germany). If there is no big win, the state slowly falls apart (Italy).

Are those disrupted town hall meetings the rantings of a furious child who poses no threat, or is the noise hiding the formation of a lynch mob? If the latter, what do we do? You'll have to wait for Robinson to post the answer.

Definitely get you re-elected

John King went poking around in the district of a Blue Dog Democrat, Walt Minnick of Idaho. The theory is that Blue Dogs are voting centrist to conservative to woo the GOP citizens in their districts. King says the attempt will backfire. Though many Blue Dogs vote more conservatively than fellow GOP congresscritters, they are still Dems and the conservative citizens simply will not vote for someone with a D after their name. Doing so still leaves the liberal Dems in power. Those conservative votes are also annoying the more liberal Dem citizens who got the Blue Dog into office. One side won't ever vote for you, the other side is feeling betrayed. Great strategy for re-election.

Only a one night stand?

Dan Savage looked at Obama's campaign promises to gays compared to actual actions. He thinks the prez. has been a one night stand (commenters aren't so charitable saying we didn't even get a lap-dance or a kiss -- um, yeah, Savage's comparisons are rather purple).

Along the way Savage takes on two types of people who object to his failing grade for the president. One group says the poor guy already has a lot on his plate. Why waste time on our trivial matters? If it's trivial, then the prez. is wasting more time refusing to act than the action itself would take. And if there is no action now, when? 2010 is a congressional election year and 2011-2012 is another presidential campaign season. In the meantime all those anti-gay policies have real effects now.

Another group suggests we do it ourselves. How? Repealing laws requires action by president and congress or Supreme Court. Are they suggesting a coup gay'tat?

There are signs of action -- but only because gays have been vocal in saying that waiting is unacceptable.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Canticle of Hope

The first military use of an atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima 64 years ago today (August 6). The same people who have put together photo albums of recent important events (like Obama's inauguration) have assembled 34 images of the city, the bomb, and the devastation. It's not pretty, but it is important.

These photos remind me of my visit to Nagasaki 41 years after a second bomb was dropped on it. I was part of a handbell tour of Japan and this was our last stop. The performance the night before was several groups, American and Japanese, playing individually and together. One piece we all played was "Canticle of Hope." The next day we toured the memorial and read the plea that there be no more Nagasakis. We should all be thankful that so far that has been true.

A suggested soundtrack for viewing these images is "Doctor Atomic Symphony" by John Adams, extracted from the opera by the same name that tells the story of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and the first test of the bomb in the New Mexico desert. I know you don't have a copy yet because the CD was released only 10 days ago. I'll be ordering my copy soon. I saw the opera through a Metropolitan Opera broadcast on TV.

The raw deal of masculinity

Writer Brendan Tapley was in Rome and saw men acting affectionately with one another. These men were not necessarily gay, it's that the standards of masculinity are different there. But Tapley reacted to it, was surprised at his reaction, and started poking at it to see what it was really made of.

At least in America boys are trained to go without loving gestures from other boys and from men. This standard is enforced lest a boy (later man) is perceived as being gay. Naturally, this longing for affection from half the population becomes more intense and goes underground. The reaction Tapley felt watching Italian men wasn't disgust, but envy. That was followed by sorrow, that he had allowed the threat of being gay of robbing him of what women and their sisterhood enjoy.

Out current definition of masculinity contains a raw deal. Under the threat of being gay men are cheated and defrauded of male connection. What do men gain if the deal is so bad? Male privilege. Men prefer that because it keeps us from being held accountable. The bar for male relationships is set amazingly low -- the frat party, the battlefield. Men don't want to have to be fully present, intimate, and accountable to women. Women seem to serve as someone to oppress so men can feel superior and better about themselves.

The reason why men hate gays is that gays demonstrate the current definition of masculinity is a raw deal. Though this definition is a straitjacket it is what we know and changing it will be a painful process. It is hard for a man to admit his crime is against himself and he is his own jailor.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'll listen to you when you earn my respect

I wrote about my friend and debate partner's comments that we should simply stop listening to the GOP. I then said the party makes that difficult because it responds like a child demanding attention. My friend replied with:

And those cries are all the more reason to ignore these mean, arrogant and malicious hypocrite Republicans.

Listening is respectful; indeed, listening is 100% about respect. Respect must be earned. Today, no Republican should be perceived as having earned public respect sufficient to justify listening to them. Under their rule since 1980, Republican crimes and their extensive, malicious destruction of our community, nation and of the rule of law destroyed whatever respect they may have once deserved.

If Republicans want to earn renewed respect, their next steps must be to state integritous standards for political conduct, acknowledge in public their errors and crimes relative to those standards, pay for their crimes, apologize for their errors and crimes, state the improved behavior they are willing to promise, and demonstrate sincerity in all that for a prolonged time. We as a great nation deserve that high level of effort from them if they wish to restore their integrity.

Present case for listening to Republicans: All requests denied, case closed. Republicans should go away, think deeply about the reasons for their exile and come back when they have something meaningful to offer.

He and I had lunch together the next day at Crosswinds Marsh Wayne County Park (just try to find it on a map), a delightful place to go along with the delightful weather. We ate lunch in the screened picnic enclosure, out in the marsh and accessible by boardwalk, with birds singing around us. In our walk around the park after lunch I brought up the above comments.

He agreed that it would be hard for NPR (or other news organization) to tell the GOP to shut up (though I wish NPR would be more responsible in choosing which GOP soundbites to repeat). However, that doesn't stop the rest of us -- using the idea the proper response to free speech that one doesn't like is more free speech -- from telling the GOP we're not listening to them.

My friend went on to tell the tale of his township politics. The GOP lost by a huge margin (his area has long been in the Democratic column) last November and since then the losers have been loud complainers of how the Dems are ruining things, even now starting a recall effort because the Dems aren't doing anything (because they spend so much time fending off GOP attacks). The GOP needs to see today's other posting about Young Republicans.

Perhaps this is the response to the GOP my friend and debate partner is looking for.

Lou Dobbs, a GOP talking head (to put it kindly) on CNN, started promoting the theories pushed by the "birther's" -- the people who claim that Obama isn't a real citizen because he wasn't born here and therefore can't be president. On Dobbs' day off, his replacement did a segment listing all the evidence that Obama is indeed a citizen (there is a birth certificate on file in Hawaii). A couple days later Dobbs again spouted off about these theories -- which gave Jon Stewart a chance to say the rebuttal had come from a person sitting in Dobbs' own chair (I've seen the Stewart video, but don't have the link).

That allowed a large number of talking heads to pile on Dobbs. It is normally dangerous for someone with a mouthpiece as large as the one Dobbs has to promote right-wing extremist theories. The exception is when the media piles on this deeply with their debunking and condemnation. The scandal is why it has taken the media so long -- this is not the first time Dobbs has given voice to the Right. Now that they've done it one hopes they do it frequently.

All that was enough for Dobbs to issue a half-hearted and fake retraction -- I don't believe these theories myself, mind you. I'm just reporting them. I'm convinced Obama really is a citizen, though it would be awfully nice if he produced a birth certificate. If Dobbs is only reporting, on a story this crazy why bother giving it any airtime?

Maybe the mainstream media will take on this story next, though one can be forgiven for lingering doubts. Michelle Malkin has a new book out (promoted on the Sean Hannity show) describing the Obama Administration as "the most corrupt in recent memory" (must be a really short memory). We even have an evil Michelle Obama manipulating things behind the scenes (like evil Hillary did in the time of Bill -- Whitewater, Travelgate, etc.). First of all, there hasn't been any scandal in this White House. Second, Obama is worse than Bush II? -- which both Malkin and Hannity cheered and defended with attacks of insufficient patriotism.

To all you talking heads out there: now that you've done it once this pile-on should be easy. Have at it. And when you're done, there are many more you can jump into. I'd be glad if you jumped on any of them.

Listen up, you crusty old fogeys

A Young Republican has a few things to say to her party elders. Madeline Koch wrote and editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune to explain how the party must change to appeal to the 18-24 year olds. The GOP is distinctly not "cool" so it is understandable the leaders are using the new social media tools. That won't help as long as the core message is stodgy. Here are her demands:
* Permit gay marriage (yes, this really did top the list).
* Get some strong leadership to stand up to Limbaugh and Cheney to present a moderate face.
* Don't back down on economic issues. We're the ones who have to pay off the deficit.
* Be patient. Don't be the party of the smackdown, the outlandish attack, the ones who blame everything on liberals. We want compromise, not gridlock.

Freedom to practice my religion without your interference

Every argument against gay marriage is based on religion -- I demand the state enforce my religion's anti-gay beliefs about marriage. Some people whose religions permit and celebrate gay marriage are getting annoyed at this attitude. So much for freedom of religion.

In Britain, a gay couple can call their relationship "marriage" even though the government calls it a civil partnership. The difference is that a civil partnership ceremony must be held in a secular place, it can not be held in a church. The Quakers are challenging that rule. They want to bless gay partnerships in the same way they legalize straight marriages. They want to practice their religion as they see it.