Friday, October 29, 2010

That's fine with me

There are some early reports about the findings of that very biased survey given to soldiers about their willingness to serve with gay colleagues. It appears the advance story is coming out now (before the scheduled Dec. 1st date) so that it can be used to prompt the Senate to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law in the lame-duck session. The good news is that most soldiers say that they don't mind if they have an out gay colleague. Alas, the GOP is likely to focus on the percent who said having an out gay colleague would be enough reason not to re-enlist, however small that percent is.

We celebrate the bully

There are a lot of cool gay characters on TV these days (I haven't met them because I don't watch TV). A Newsweek article by Joshua Alston notes that these gay characters are quite diverse and are portrayed with depth. We're getting beyond the stereotypes, and that's a good thing. However, that alone won't help us get beyond the continuing bullying, gay bashing, and suicides by gay teens. The reason says Alston is that the bullies on those TV shows are shown as stereotypes. We would do better to show the bullies with just as much complexity and depth as the gays. Bullies are rarely evil, which is usually how they are portrayed. They're more likely callous people who operate on stereotypes of gays and don't consider the ramifications of their actions.

On the subject of bullying, the Fundies are tap dancing molto vivace (look it up in your music dictionary) to explain exactly how they have nothing to do with gay teen suicides, no siree. The latest nonsense is the line, "The person who commits suicide is the only one responsible for it." We've known for a while now that brains don't mature until about age 23-25 and that the area which controls impulses (among other things) is the last to mature (which is why we don't let those under 21 consume alcohol). Recent research shows that adults essentially think with their intellects while teens think with their emotions.

So consider a gay teen who hears denunciations from the pulpit, from TV talking heads, and perhaps even from their parents. What is a teen, who thinks with his emotions, going to do with all that venom thrown his way?

And a bit more on the topic. I hadn't, until I read this posting, considered how much our society praises the bully. A bully is one who can dish out hurt and humiliation without feeling guilt. These people become sports heroes, military generals, and corporate CEOs. They certainly aren't punished for it. The bullied is told it is to make one tough, that it's their own fault for annoying the bully. If you manage to survive the bully you may be asked to join their ranks, and there are many advantages to that. And one is having a sense of power over oneself and others.

Not confrontational enough

Let's see, my choices in the voting booth are between a party that has shown itself to be anti-democracy and a party that stands for the progressive causes I believe in but has shown itself to be too wimpy to accomplish much of my progressive goals. Yes, I know they passed a big health care law, but it is so much less than what I had hoped for.

That complaint is highlighted by the following two quotes.
VP Joe Biden: "We're open to speaking with Republicans. Compromise is always possible."

Probable new House Speaker John Boehner: "There will be no compromise."

Which sounds to me like Obama/Biden plan to roll over and let the GOP rub their bellies, all for the goal of bipartisanship. That has left professional commentators wondering. Obama has seen bipartisanship fail spectacularly over the last two years. Why does he think, with a stronger GOP, that it's going to work over the next two years.

Paul Krugman, in the New York Times, agrees. He compares this pending divided government with 1995-2000, when a GOP congress dealt with a Dem president. That is seen as a golden time, at least in the American economy. Back in 1995, says Krugman, Clinton wrestled with the GOP to a standstill, shutting down the government. The GOP got the blame and then decided to be less confrontational and work with the prez. (and also work to impeach him).

Lesson learned? Better ask which lesson. The GOP new says they weren't confrontational enough with Clinton. Their goal, once in the House, is to not do anything to help the economy improve by claiming the deficit is too big, yet increasing the deficit by extending tax cuts to the rich.

My friend and debate partner sent a reply to my post about this election determining whether we are headed for a fascist takeover of America. He wrote:

I'll tuck away a copy of your missive and my short response for future consideration.

Courage, young man. This too shall pass, and sooner and more harmlessly than we fear.

I don't expect the TP to fizzle or vanish -- extreme right wingers have been among us all my life. But I don't fear them. Their future vision is so absurd in modern America that it could be imposed only by eliminating elections. Americans will reject anyone who seriously mucks with Social Security and other rocks of our modern national life. It is beyond imagination that Ron Paul and his ilk will have their way. The actual responsibilities of governing would destroy the TP's ideological crust -- and cannot be avoided if they actually come to power. Under that broken crust is only bluster and decay. The more successful the TP is at taking over the government (and I don't think they will get far), the nastier their crash against the brick wall of reality. Americans will not stand still for TP doctrinal "discipline" once our oxen face goring. Witness the voters' turning on Bush in 2006 and '08. It takes a while to see the light, but see it we will.

Further, I think any volunteer movement that lacks an underlying consensus and organizational structure can last at most maybe nine months. The Republicans will play the TP crowd for all they can get, but the Chamber of Commerce types who actually run the GOP for fun and profit will not hand over the reins. The Koch brothers and a few allies funding the TP today may envision shepherding their flock into the future, but the brick wall of reality will limit that.

My guess is that we will see your outcome #1 -- a few TP candidates become loose-nut members of Congress. The media and the public tire of their ranting. The inevitable impure decision making of the legislative process soon destroys their "integrity".

If I'm wrong, you are invited to my new home in Toronto.

I might be buying the house down the street, though I suggest that Vancouver is a much more interesting city.

I will admit I don't know the details about how fascism got started in Germany and Italy and maybe even Spain. That has me wondering about how well we might circumvent it here. One aspect seems important to me. In the 1920s and 30s Germany and Italy were not all that far from being monarchies. They didn't have a long tradition of democracy. With our long history of democracy are we as a nation able to say, "Stop right there! That undermines our democracy and we refuse to allow you to proceed!" Or has the GOP, over the last couple decades eroded our faith in democracy that we (or at least the younger among us) no longer sense that long tradition?

My friend noted the Koch brothers, who fund the Tea Party behind the scenes. According to my sources on how fascism develops, the drive comes from such a liaison between corporations, who want no regulation, and the rabble who have become disappointed by government. Once democracy is dispensed with, there is then a power struggle between the rabble and the corporations. The winner of that struggle determines the nature of the fascist state.

I mentioned the Biden/Boehner quotes at the top. We know the GOP is backed by huge corporate wallets, who want something for their money, in particular a marketplace without any regulations. There are speculations (by people whose credentials are unknown) that the Dems also have their strings pulled by those same masters (Dems are also raking in the corporate cash). And those masters are telling Dems to roll over and let the GOP rub their bellies. If true, that explains why the Dems are so wimpy.

Newsweek has a cover article about what the GOP can realistically accomplish over the next two years. I get the feeling it is all based on the assumption the GOP will play with a sense of decency, an assumption I no longer share. There is a second article by Jonathan Alter about why voting for the GOP is a really bad idea.

Yes, I'm in a grumpy mood over America's future. I've had enough of the speculation already.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Permanent underclass ineligible for protection

I've mentioned the It Gets Better project launched by Dan Savage a couple times now. It is a way for adult gays to tell teen gays that life can be pretty sweet once one can leave the bullies behind. The most touching entry for the project is the one by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. The guys, with a few women friends, sing "True Colors." It's a gem! Enjoy the five minute break from life. The closing credits say it was filmed in the gymnasium of a gay-friendly church.

In preparation for hearing the case before the 9th Circuit Court, those who want the Calif. gay marriage ban have filed their reasons why they are repealing the lower court ruling and why the ban should be kept. The pro-gay side has now filed their rebuttal.

The issue of the case is gay marriage. But the topic under discussion is much larger. The opening paragraph of the rebuttal says:
This case tests the proposition whether the gay and lesbian Americans among us should be counted as “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment, or whether they constitute a permanent underclass ineligible for protection under that cornerstone of our Constitution.

Should state judges be elected? 39 states do it that way. But the dysfunctional Supremes in Michigan and the drive to recall three justices in Iowa who voted for gay marriage has several notable people involved in the justice system -- including Sandra Day O'Connor -- saying elected justices leads to a loss of an independent judiciary, which can have fatal consequences for a democracy. Judges are either corrupted by the money needed to get election (and we know where that comes from) or are looking over their shoulders at the mobs with pitchforks ready to turn them out of office.

Alas, the reforms to make a judiciary more independent has to go through the same voters who want judges under their thumb and complain about activist judges. Perhaps we can argue that elected (and partisan) judges violate the federal constitution.

But then we find some of the appointed Supremes can be just as partisan as those who are elected.

A school in London, England is combating bullying of gay kids by adding a new topic to the curriculum. Kids learn about famous gay people. The list includes Alan Turing (who created the ideas behind the computer), Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, and Andy Warhol. It is working -- kids don't use "gay" as a derogatory term so much. Alas, if tried here in America, the Fundies would scream "indoctrination!" Sigh.

Monday, October 25, 2010

You thought the GOP has been saying no now

Are you perhaps unconvinced about my claim that we might be on the verge of fascism in America? The whole premise is based on (1) Whites are seriously freaked about not being in total control and (2) the GOP claims they are ordained by God to be in power. Some corroborating evidence:

Steven Thrasher (who is black) wrote an essay for the Village Voice titled White America Has Lost Its Mind. He describes several recent examples, all fairly well known so I won't repeat them. I will only quibble with the date he gives for when it started. He thinks it started when Obama took office in 2009. I think it started more than a decade ago, which is (in hindsight) when the GOP seriously started messing with the democratic process. Karl Rove has been working for quite a while.

The GOP has laid down the gauntlet, declaring if they take over a chamber of Congress there will be no compromise on anything. That statement came from Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana. Since they intend to roll back most of the 20th Century it will be a tough two years. I suspect Obama will either grow a spine and wrestle them to a standstill or he will be completely flattened. Put another way they intend to prove that democracy doesn't work.

The Washington Spectator edition for November 1 is almost entirely about the huge amounts of undisclosed money pouring into key contest, mostly the Reid/Angle battle in Nevada. It also has colorful accounts of the characters behind the scenes -- most notably John Roberts and Karl Rove. Alas, no link.

Dave Johnson lists the 8 biggest lies perpetrated by the GOP -- Obama tripled the deficit, raised taxes, bailed out the banks, his stimulus didn't work, his health care will cost a trillion, business will only hire if they get tax cuts, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, and government spending takes money out of the economy. I've heard some are wondering why mainstream media aren't working to expose these lies.

Comparing and contrasting endorsements

The Detroit Free Press has come out with most of their endorsements for next week's vote. They pick Jocelyn Benson for Sec. State, David Leyton for AG, and Alton Davis for the state Supremes. All reliably Democratic picks.

However, they don't pick a Dem for the other Supreme seat, simply noting one of the GOP picks is a better justice, even though they suspect they won't agree with all of her rulings. I'll stick to the BTL choice.

And they pick GOP Rick Snyder for governor. The Freep rarely picks a GOP candidate for gov. -- the last time was when the Dem pick was a real stinker, though the GOP choice wasn't much better. The paper's reasoning is that Snyder is running under the GOP label, but is sufficiently independent of the party (he hasn't run for office before) that he won't be constrained by the groups that normally fund GOP coffers. They are wary of Bernero, who will be constrained by the groups that fill the Dem coffers. They note, however, that Snyder, because he is so independent, might not be able to get the GOP members of the state house and senate to follow where he leads.

I am so disgusted with the GOP that I couldn't vote for an "independent" GOP candidate. Especially since he will preside over next year's Congressional redistricting. No thanks.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

We may be close to plunging into the nightmare

Sara Robinson, who has been my source about the development of fascism in America, has written how close we have come to losing democracy. She has written another essay, saying we're this close and next week's election will determine if we will turn back or plunge into the nightmare.

Robinson has written a lot about how and why fascist systems develop. I won't go into much of that here, only remind you that the major driver in that direction is White America suffering deep anxiety over losing its Top Dog status. We've had far-right groups for a long time now, but they've always been seen as fringe. Not only is the Tea Party not seen as fringe, but it combines several strains of far-right fears into a viable political force. These strains are:

* Economic libertarians who think big government is tyranny.

* Fundies who oppose liberal social policies

* Apocalyptic Christians (those who believe the world will end in a final battle between Good and Evil) who fear a Satanic New World Order.

* Various conspiracy theorists who fear any kind of New World Order.

* Super patriots who fear US sovereignty is eroding.

* White Nationalists who want to preserve "real" America.

These strains might make up as much as a third of the country's likely voters. Which means they can't take over through the ballot box. But they can take over through force (happy that gun laws have been liberalized).

This is why next week's election is important. There are about 70 Tea Party candidates for various offices across the country and three likely scenarios.

1. Only a handful of candidates win. The Democrats spend a couple years pointing out how nutty they are and the whole thing fizzles in a couple years. Alas, even if the wins are small I doubt the Dems have the spine to push the movement to die out.

2. The Tea Party makes a solid showing and establishes itself as a serious force, but doesn't win enough races to actually do anything. If this happens progressives must work fast and hard to keep the tide from rising. Otherwise we're facing the same scenarios in 2012.

3. The Tea Party wins most of their races, locking up the GOP and becoming a genuine political power.

If #3 happens, there is no turning back from a fascist state. No democracy that has allowed the equivalent of #3 to happen has turned away from fascism. The whole thing will take a decade or two to burn out and we can only live through it.

Because if the third option happens -- the Tea Party (pushing the GOP) wins either chamber -- don't expect much governing to happen. I've already mentioned the GOP will simply refuse to pass any budget if Obama won't sign their budget. In addition they promise two years of a nightmare of hearings, trials, character assisinations, and impeachments of as many progressives as they can. Clinton's impeachment was only the warm-up act. We can only hope it backfires on the GOP in the same manner it backfired when Clinton was brought to trial. Similar scorched earth tactics are planned for all other levels of government. Casual violence against immigrants, progressives, and gays may increase as the American equivalent of brownshirts become bolder and are encouraged by the authorities.

The no-return point might be behind us on November 3. Alas, most progressives don't yet recognize there is a threat. Past that no-return point we can only watch the whole thing play out in agonizing slow motion. The character of the next decade may depend whether corporatists, militarists, or theocrats get the upper hand in the emerging regime.

If I remember my German history correctly (and I may not) gays enjoyed a great deal of social acceptance in the 1920s. That ended in the 1930s when the Nazis blamed gays (and Jews and…) for the downfall of their civilization (the one that allowed Nazis to come to power. Though the Nazi regime lasted only 12 years, the condemnation of gays they instilled in the populace still lingers. In contrast to nearby Belgium and Netherlands, Germany doesn't have gay marriage, only Domestic Partnerships. A lot of our gains could be quickly undone, not to reappear for a long time.

Warn your friends while you can.

It's gone without being gone

The latest on Don't Ask, Don't Tell (I hope by now you know what that refers to) is that the Sec. Defense has said all discharges of gays must be finalized by the Secretaries of Army, Navy, or Air Force. A retired Army soldier says that by saying the Sec. Defense wants to hear about every gay discharge means he doesn't want to hear about any discharge. That effectively ends DADT. And it's a big deal. But…

Soldiers still can't come out of the closet safely and their partners still don't get military benefits, acknowledgement at shipping-out-ceremonies, or notice their loved one has died. Even worse, it gives the public the impression that DADT is gone, therefore Congress doesn't have to do anything. And the whole issue becomes a Cinderella Crumb -- a benefit tossed to gays that lasts only until the next Sec. Defense or next Prez. decides he wants to reinstate the still legal ban.

Well we need somebody to blame

An article from the Associated Press is expanding on the idea that many gays are refusing to donate to candidates who haven't advanced our goals. The article says that gays are even refusing to vote for Democrats and that could make a difference in key races. A reaction to the story is that it's a lot of hot air -- but more importantly someone is setting up the excuse that if Dems lose key races then gays get the blame. Dems themselves can't be blamed for being spineless -- oh no.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You have power so use it

Dan Savage had a chance on CNN to respond to Obama's It Gets Better video. His comments were similar to mine yesterday. Thanks for the words Mr. President. It will mean a lot to gay kids who hear them. Now please use your position of power to make the video unnecessary.

What loving the sinner means

John Corvino, the Gay Moralist, takes a look at the Fundie claim that one must hate the sin and love the sinner (never mind, for the moment, that gay love isn't a sin). If one loves the sinner one should strive to be sensitive to the sinner's needs. If the Fundies really followed that idea they should at least end up with a big case of cognitive dissonance.

Are Fundies sensitive to the sinner's needs if their actions cause gay kids to commit suicide?

The standard Fundie response is to say, "Gay suicides are terrible! But…" As in, "But gay sex is wrong!"

Which means priorities are all wrong. Before you feed the hungry do you make sure they won't burp at the dinner table? Every mention of gay people should not be used as a chance to condemn them. The priorities should be to love the gay person, sin or no, and to battle against the real sins that are killing him.

Green burgers

Newsweek's cover story this week was 10 Big Green Ideas to accompany their rankings of the 100 greenest companies in America. Their 10 ideas are:

1. Make a greener burger. Switch to sustainable beef production that doesn't cut down the Brazilian rainforest.

2. Invest in the improbable. Khosla Ventures goes for the improbable ideas, expecting 90% failure. But that 10% will pay off well.

3. Get out of the Gulf. We don't get enough oil out of the Gulf of Mexico to make environmental problems worthwhile.

4. Catch a wave. Waves and tidal forces can be harnessed to generate electricity.

5. Hug a nuke. There's still a lot of energy in "depleted" uranium.

6. Turn smoke into rocks. Use the CO2 coming out of power plants to make cement.

7. Drink your garbage. Mine landfills for recyclables and methane. Turn sewage into drinking water.

8. Hire a microbe. In the same way that microbes make beer and cheese they can also combine sunlight and carbon dioxide to make a substitute petroleum.

9. Shout it out loud. Ma Jun has been demanding that American companies in China reduce their pollution.

10. Lighten up. Use greener light bulbs. This is something each of us can do.

Evaluating candidates

Between the Lines has published their Voter Guide. They endorse some candidates across the state and also show if a candidate is endorsed by other human rights groups or endorsed by Fundie groups. Their primary consideration is whether a candidate is pro-gay, through I've found that if a candidate isn't there are likely huge numbers of other things I don't like about the candidate. So, the BTL recommendations…

Governor -- Virg Bernero

11th Congressional District -- Natalie Mosher. BTL thinks she has a good chance to rid us of McCotter. You'll have to check the voter guide for your own Congressional, state senate, and state house races.

State Attorney General -- David Leyton.

State Supreme Court -- Alton Tom Davis, Denise Langford Morris

Secretary of State -- Jocelyn Benson. Detroit Free Press also highly praises her because to prepare for the job she studied the Sec. State job in 30 other states.

For the races above BTL explains its choices. For the rest they only give their endorsement.

State Board of Education -- Elizabeth Bauer, Lupe Ramos- Montigny

MSU trustees -- Dennis Denno, Colleen McNamara

UM regents -- Paul Brown, Greg Stephens

WSU governors -- Ed Bruley, Brenda Moon

Proposal 1 to call a state constitutional convention -- No. I really wish BTL had given their reasoning for this one because I disagree. I agree instead with the Detroit Free Press which said that (1) state government is dysfunctional, (2) the only people who campaigning hard for the "no" vote are the ones who know how to twist state government to their advantage, and (3) the cost of the convention won't be as high as what is claimed and would be worth it to get a functioning government.

Proposal 2 to prohibit felons from holding public office -- No. On this one I agree. I'm one who believes in second chances.

Strangely, there isn't much enthusiasm for a redo of the Michigan constitution. Newsweek says support for the idea is only 1 in 4. I suspect the millions poured in to ads for the "no" side are effective.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sanctimonious reverence

Andrew Romano in Newsweek has an interesting article about the Tea Party and the Constitution. He draws many parallels between the Tea Party view of the Constitution and the Fundie view of the Bible.

* The Constitution is described using holy words. Followers worship it.

* It is the document to rally around -- in the same manner the Bible was back in 1992.

* It is being used divisively -- you either love the Constitution as much as I do or you aren't American. It's a moral issue, not a legal or logical issue.

* It is being used as a refuge against the turmoil of the modern age, a way to impose a simpler past (in which they were in control).

* Followers can recite large portions of it.

* Followers claim their political platform is completely derived from the Constitution. They are only following the Framer's precise instructions. Oppose us and you oppose James Madison.

* Failure to follow the Constitution has led to our decline. We must return to the era before progressives took hold -- perhaps somewhere before the early 1930s when the Supremes said the Income Tax was constitutional. Everything since then -- Social Security, Civil Rights Act, unemployment benefits -- should be abolished.

* Even though they worship it they find that it isn't conservative enough. Michelle Bachmann has proposed 40 amendments (including that ban on gay marriage).

* Their comments and actions frequently show they misunderstand, misrepresent, or outright contradict the Constitution. There is no effort to align political positions to the actual text of the Constitution.

* Followers are seeking comfort in an authoritarian scripture and an imagined past the document is supposed to represent. They see only confirmation of existing beliefs. They ignore details and ambiguities. Those who disagree are enemies and evildoers.

It is great to have a discussion, even a debate, about the role of the Constitution, about what it means, and about who we are as Americans. To truly honor the Founder's spirit, the debate has to actually happen.

The final word goes to Thomas Jefferson, written to a friend in 1816. He mocked…

men [who] look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched … who ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. … Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before.

Stewardship of your vote

I'm the Stewardship Guide for my local church. For those not into churchspeak, a steward is one who takes care of something that belongs to someone else -- we're to take care of things given to us by God. It's my job to remind others to be stewards of things they've been given, such as the environment, personal abilities, and right to vote. For that last bit, I wrote the following for my church newsletter. This morning I sent it out through email (which means some of you are now getting it twice) and I'm pleased to get back reports that it will be included in other church newsletters. Pass it on!

We have been given the gift of democracy through the hard efforts of our national founding fathers and the generations of Americans since then. We sometimes get complacent with this gift because it has always been there for us. However, if we are to be stewards of the gifts given to us we must take the responsibilities of democracy seriously. Always vote.

There are many issues at the state and local level affect our lives. This might be an off-year election, but our state and nation might be profoundly affected by who takes office. Always vote.

I've heard that some think that all politicians are crooks and it doesn't matter which party gets the vote. While there are days I might agree with you the two major candidates for any office are never identical. Vote for the better candidate if you can. Vote for the less worst if you must. Always vote.

I've seen Christian voter guides that rate candidates based on some criteria. This isn't one. I won't rate candidates. I won't tell you who to vote for. I won't even tell you who I am voting for. Instead, I'll describe what principles — Christian principles — that guide my decisions. And they aren't what one normally sees in Christian voter guides. These are some of the things I look for:

* Does the candidate stress cooperation, a sense that we're all in this together, that we are responsible for each other? I will choose that person over one who shouts about the fear of the stranger or insists no one should take his money in taxes.

* Does the candidate have compassion for the poor and look for ways to help the less fortunate improve their circumstances?

* We have inherited a vast array of jointly owned property and institutions, from national parks, roads and highways, water and sewer works to libraries, hospitals, schools and universities, museums and concert halls, and public services willing to help anyone who needs it. Is the candidate willing to maintain and improve our shared resources or let it crumble into dust?

* Does the candidate look for ways to safeguard the average person from the greed and recklessness of the powerful?

* Does the candidate consider the health of all, including the poor? I will choose that person over one who only considers what profits can be made through the health care industry.

* Does the candidate look for ways to safeguard the health of the environment?

* If the candidate talks of the unborn, does he or she also talk about quality of life after birth?

Vote wisely. Vote with compassion. Vote for health. Always vote.

Combine words with action

I've written about the It Gets Better project started by Dan Savage. It was started by Savage and his husband as a way to speak to gay kids in a way that can't be filtered by Fundie authorities. It has been a phenomenal success. I don't know how to find out how many videos have been made for the project. Last I heard it was over 600 and is likely over 1000 now.

Savage originally intended it to be a way the average gay person can tell the next generation that though bullying happens, once you get out of high school live can get pretty good. Here's one made by gay employees of Google. But then celebrities and politicians got into the act. One of the most moving (though I haven't seen it) is from a city politician in Fort Worth, TX who broke down while telling the story of his own bullying.

Some, of course, see another side to the message. Yeah, life will get better after high school. But in the meantime it will really suck.

Some religious leaders are addressing the issue of bullying -- which is good because anti-gay bullying has a strong religious justification. Orthodox Rabbi Steven Burg wrote an essay (for Jewish audiences) saying there is no place for bullying in God's Word.

And even Obama recorded an It Gets Better video. While he isn't gay, he is a parent who would hate to see his daughters feel so hopeless they commit suicide and he knows what it's like to not fit in. Thank you, sir, for the video. Those words are important and desperately needed. However, you, Mr. President, are in a position to actually do something about the reason those videos are needed. You can push harder for anti-bullying laws. You can stop defending laws (DADT and Defense of Marriage) that makes sure we're seen as second-class, which gives bullies permission to beat us up.

Perhaps they can be kicked out for being bigots

The saga of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the military ban on gays serving openly, continues. The military decided that part of complying with the district court order meant that they had to allow openly gay recruits to enlist. Dan Choi, the soldier who chained himself to the White House fence in protest of DADT and was later discharged, dashed to the nearest recruiting station. He found he is now too old to rejoin the Marines, so he enlisted in the Army. On his enlistment form he clearly said I'm gay and I'll be open about it.

Valerie Jarrett repeated the Obama Admin line about how the ban must be repealed -- through Congress -- and concluded that those who disagreed with the prez. simply didn't understand the process. Dan Choi led the rebuttal.

The 9th Circuit Court sided with the Justice Department and issued a stay of implementation. In the meantime the Defense Department made it harder to discharge gays if they go back to following the policy. What about all those enormous consequences of having open gays in the military? Many see that as a half-hearted (half-baked?) attempt by the prez. to repair things with gays.

Some of the response from mainstream media is: Of course we have to take things slowly, the military is full of good-ole-boys from rural/conservative areas and we have to handle them carefully or our military will be in a mess. The bigots are still stuck on the fear of being groped in the shower. Which means we have a military so bigoted that such bigotry takes precedence over following orders (harassment of fellow soldiers is already punishable -- though many female soldiers will tell you how well that is enforced). And we have military commanders who are impotent to enforce discipline. That's the image they want to project at home and around the world? Maybe DADT should be reworded to apply to bigots -- you may be a bigot and join the military as long as you are quiet about it. But as soon as someone finds out you're a bigot, you're out of there.

Through all this we're still puzzling out what's going on inside Obama's head. What is his strategy and the logic behind it? Only he and his tight-lipped advisors know. Some have wondered if Obama is demanding repeal come through Congress because of the firestorm from Fundies if he simply obeys the court (all that activist judge and the sanctity of the vote nonsense). Liberals were complaining that Bush pulled in too much power and now they are asking Obama to do the same thing -- except Obama has the cover of that district court.

Obama's options:

* Declare DADT unconstitutional (which the court did for him) and thus he won't follow it. But Obama has very carefully described DADT as "wrong" but not "unconstitutional"
-- in spite of Valerie Jarrett's claims.

* Leave the law in place and rewrite rules (which he has control over) to make sure it is infrequently enforced. He already does that for many laws (as did Bush). In this case only Congress and the military would have standing to object to Obama's rules.

* Obama could let gays serve while waiting for Congress to act.

Perhaps Obama simply wants to stay out of the mess, leaving it up to the military and Congress. Too late. He's making it worse.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why is this so hard?

The gay blogsphere is in a tizzy over the Don't Ask, Don't Tell military ban on gays serving openly. Last Tuesday (I think) the federal district judge who ruled it unconstitutional said the policy applies to all American military personnel world-wide, not just to the members of the Log Cabin Republicans who brought the suit. And she means it. Get cracking.

Obama responded by saying Oh, no, no. Congress has to repeal it. We can't rely on the ruling of a lowly district judge, no siree. I have a plan that the Senate will overturn the ban just as soon as they get back from the election. It will end on my watch. I'll be directing my Justice Department to request a stay and file an appeal. We're in the middle of two wars and this thing has to be handled in an orderly manner.

That left a lot of people scratching their heads muttering such comments as…

Fierce advocate? Yeah, right.

It will be years before it gets before the Supremes and no telling what they do with it. This sucker could hang around for a long time.

The prez. will be actively involved in repeal, huh. Just like he wasn't when it came before the Senate last month?

Didn't the Senate already vote down the repeal? Isn't the Senate about to become more conservative, with the desire to filibuster going up until the new GOP members are seated? What happens to your "plan" Mr. President if the Senate doesn't vote to repeal? Either tell us a plan that will work, or stop saying you have one. All that from Rachel Maddow.

In the meantime the Air Force, followed by the rest of the military, halted all discharges and investigations, though they warn gay service members not to take this as a sign to come out. It still may not be safe.

That prompted one wag to joke, gosh, it's been four days now. Since gays can't be discharged NORAD radars have stopped working, leaving the country vulnerable to attack, but don't fret because their gaydar is still working fine and gays rearing their heads will be easy to spot. And the Japanese, seeing the lack of unit cohesion, think this the perfect time to launch another attack on Pearl Harbor.

I've been wondering why Obama is still demanding the solution has to come through Congress? Doesn't he think the courts are legitimate? Can't he simply say that because he agrees with the judge's ruling he won't appeal? There is precedent for that.

Rachel Maddow did another segment, this time calling on a legal expert (whose name and position escapes me and I don't want to sit through the 13 minute video again) to explain what Obama's strategy might be. The reasoning is something like this: We really don't want to stop this policy on the findings of a lowly district judge. If we did we set a precedent for the next GOP president who will pounce on a lowly district judge's determination that the new health care law is unconstitutional (never mind that the GOP doesn't seem to be bound by precedent anymore). So we need to give the ruling some weight. When we go before a Circuit Court or the Supremes we can say we're doing this as a formality but we actually agree with the lower court ruling. Please put your stamp of approval on what they said.

Except that doesn't seem to be the tactic the Justice Department is taking when they filed their appeal and request for a stay. They act like they really want to keep the policy -- for now. Their reasons for the stay and appeal fall into two categories:

* Changing military policies take time.

* We must train military leadership and service members in the new policy and that is difficult with a war going on. We don't want failure or backlash.

And that has left some wondering, the Justice or Defense Departments should be able to go before the district judge and say, yes, we agree with your ruling. This is the plan by which we intend to carry out your ruling and we estimate it will take this amount of time. We can't take any shortcuts because we want the new policies to succeed. Is this OK with you?

Ooh, this is all so hard! Yeah.

But where will gay soldiers sleep? In the same bunk they've been sleeping in.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Please tax me more

Obviously, I haven't been blogging -- exploring issues at length -- as much as I'd like to and as much as I have in the past. Some issues and ideas have been piling up, so I'll mention them and let you read the original.

A lot of the discussion around ending the Bush tax cuts seems to be a hidden discussion about the wealthy saying, "We want to keep our money for ourselves and we don't care whether the rest of the country falls apart due to lack of money." Here's a refreshing change. Jeffrey Hollender, cofounder of Seventh Generation (I use some of their environmentally friendly cleaning supplies) and a member of the Responsible Wealth Project says the government doesn't tax him enough. He certainly doesn't need the cash. The country does. The rich need to show more compassion. His goal isn't just to let the Bush tax cuts expire. He also wants to reform the tax code. You're rich enough for a second house? You don't need to deduct its mortgage on your income tax.

Pastor Cary Gordon doesn't like the law that says if a church participates in the campaign process that church can lose its tax-exempt status. Gordon is taunting the IRS: Bring it on! Investigate me so that I can take the case all the way to the Supremes! And I'll win. At least he claims. His current electoral target is the Iowa Supreme Court. He wants to replace a few justices who demanded the state allow gay marriage.

Back when Bush was in the White House and progressives were complaining about him the GOP said he's your president, respect him. Now that Obama has the job respect is the farthest thing from their minds. A billboard outside Grand Junction, Colorado shows four versions of Obama -- terrorist, gangster, Mexican bandit, and gay man playing cards. There's lots of other GOP bogeyman symbols (United Nations as a vulture, EPA as a rat). The caption says, "Vote DemocRAT."

The dating site OKCupid collects lots of information about its clients so that it can properly match them up. Since one piece of that info is "Gay or straight?" it allows them to do data mining into the differences between gays (male and female) and straights. Here are some of the things they found:

* Gays aren't interested in straights as sexual partners. There goes the bogeyman that has the military all in a tizzy.

* Gays aren't any more promiscuous than straights. So much for the Fundie bogeyman that straight relationships are about love and gay hook-ups are about sex.

* Large numbers of straight people are interested in trying straight sex.

* Straight men are more aggressive and much more into sports, gay men are more compassionate and more "artsy" and literary.

Some progressives are looking at the looming election and its anticipated results and looking for someone to blame. The grumbling coming from gays makes us a handy target -- The Dems wouldn't be in such a mess if the gays would just shut up about their rights! Sorry guys, the way the prez. has been missing in action on gay rights is only one facet of a much bigger issue. We wanted Obama to carry the progressive banner. He turned into someone quite willing to compromise the progressive position until there isn't much left.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is my crystal ball working?

After writing a post like I did yesterday about the uses of desperate voters I, naturally, didn't sleep well. The thought that came at 5:00 am. was a prediction. Probably not long after the GOP convinces the desperate populace that democracy doesn't work and the Constitution is suspended putting them in control, the purse strings of the government will magically open. This will provide enough money to significantly drop the unemployment rate (at least for a while) and essentially tell worried citizens, "See, democracy was the problem. Now that Dear Leader is in charge, everyone can be prosperous."

A reminder -- that prediction came from a restless, sleep deprived brain and doesn't have any facts to back it up. It seemed plausible at the time (and still does in the light of day), but I make no claims about the accuracy of my crystal ball. The prediction is based on my (no doubt faulty) recollection on how fast it took the Third Reich to overcome the monetary disasters of the Weimar Republic and that the US economy is nowhere near that bad (though one can't tell that to the current sufferers).

The next question my restless brain pondered was how long does that largesse last and what keeps the Party in power beyond that? In the past, both in Germany of the 1930s and the GOP since the start of the Cold War, power was granted by the populace because the powerful claimed to protect that populace from some menace. In today's world there are plenty of bogeymen about. The list includes Islamic terrorists, immigrants (I think the word "illegal" is getting left off now), and … gays.

Throughout this scenario I note there is no Dear Leader on the horizon. However, I remember that once Bush II was in office and his policies became obvious there were many who referred to him as Dear Leader.

Terrence Heath has been putting out the occasional essay about the latest GOP shenanigans. These include: How the GOP Young Guns offer nothing different than the failed (and deadly) policies of the last decade yet have a stronger commitment to them. How Mike Huckabee refers to people with pre-existing medical conditions as a "burned down house" that is no longer worth insuring. How the GOP has already threatened to shut down government (through simply refusing to pass a budget) if they gain the House next month. How the GOP Pledge for America is really only a pledge to 1% of Americans. How they intend to keep up the mantra, "We can't afford it!" How the privatization of public services has started to affect us -- a couple forgot to pay their fire protection fee, so the fire department stood by and watched their house burn down.

But I'm too fed up with it all to tell you about it in any detail. Go read it for yourself. Then tell me what to do about it, other than vote for spineless Democrats.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The uses of a desperate populace

Stories like this one get tiresome to write about and emotionally draining to contemplate, especially when watching the culprits get rewarded. Late last month the GOP in Congress killed the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), part of the Recovery Act. The TANF subsidized jobs with private companies, nonprofit organizations, and government offices. Killing it means 240,000 people -- nearly a quarter million -- will be unemployed. And this for a program that got praises from GOP governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

So at a time when the country is screaming for jobs and the GOP is promising that jobs will result from their policies the same GOP makes a quarter million jobs go poof.

I'll let you read the essay Terrence Heath wrote about it, which includes the sordid details and a chart that shows the job growth in each decade starting with the 1940s. I'm sure you're not surprised that the job growth for the 2000s is zero with all other decades showing job growth at 20% or more over the 10 years. We know well that if they're back in office the GOP will enact policies that will kill even more jobs. The GOP will also do all they can to simply not fund all Obama programs, including health care. I'll turn instead to a much more important question: Why?

Why is the GOP so concerned about the deficit that they will put a quarter million people out of work? That for a program that makes up about 0.02% of the $2.3 trillion it will cost to maintain the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Sharon Begley of Newsweek provides a glimpse of an answer. Anxiety among voters is at very high levels, no real surprise. They deal with anxiety by turning it into anger. They are now evaluating who to vote for by seeing which candidates are as angry as they are. In this state they are impervious to logic and Obama's accomplishments are meaningless -- he didn't do a thing to make their anxiety go away.

The resulting attitude is: I want a candidate who will do something. I don't care if you try something that doesn't work. Try something else. Keep trying. You Democrats aren't trying hard enough. I don't care if the other candidate is a lunatic. You had your chance. Things are so bad they can't get worse. Perhaps we should blow up the whole system and try another.

Hold that thought.

That desperation has allowed candidates touch the perennial third-rail issues, the ones that would normally electrocute a campaign, and live. Want to overhaul or eliminate Social Security? Good. It means you're willing to try anything. Besides, we don't believe you'll really touch Granny's pension.

Some personal speculation now. Perhaps these proposals to gut major parts of the social safety net are trial balloons. If voters don't blink at these third-rail issues the GOP can propose even stronger ways of cutting the social fabric. Perhaps voters are desperate enough that they'll agree to do away with democracy if the GOP can convincingly claim that by doing so the economic problems will be solved.

Skeptical? Go read about how fascism developed in Italy and Germany. Go read about how the GOP has a proven track record of undermining democracy. A desperate populace is a prime ingredient.

About that family values thing

Christine O'Donnell is a Senate candidate in Delaware getting a lot of airtime for her comments that masturbation is bad. Since so many species of animals do it scientists began to study whether O'Donnell's claim is true. Sharon Begley of Newsweek lists what the scientists found that shows why her claim is a threat to family values.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The global internet

In June Blogger, the company that hosts this blog, started keeping statistics of how many people look at my blog, what pages they view, and where they live. Recently, they've completed the gadgets to allow me to look at the data. I've added a couple to my home page: number of views since June and the individual postings most viewed.

Quite interesting to me is where these people live. In just the last week I've had visitors from South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Australia, and Israel. These are listed in order of view count. Since June there have been lots of views from USA, South Korea, Brazil, Germany, China, Britain, Canada, Kazakhstan, Japan, and Malaysia.

The Traffic Sources page suggests some of those views in the last week came from web searches, which makes me think visitors were directed to my blog even though they were searching from something else. Since June a lot of traffic to my blog was from blogger Terrence Heath referencing my work.

Redefining eating out

Gays want to redefine marriage? Cynthia Nixon, star of Sex and the City put it this way:

Gay people who want to marry have no desire to redefine marriage in any way. When women got the vote they did not redefine voting. When African-Americans got the right to sit at a lunch counter alongside white people, they did not redefine eating out. They were simply invited to the table...We have no desire to change marriage. We want to be entitled to not only the same privileges, but the same responsibilities as straight people.

I'm sure I'll have your attention now

When you are on an airplane, do you pay attention to the safety spiel given by the flight attendants? Me neither. I've heard it. Many times. Though if they did it this way I might pay attention. On a Cebu Pacific plane the flight attendants did a choreographed routine to a Lady Gaga song as they demonstrated the seat belt, life preserver, and oxygen mask. Reports are that the boring version was done on the ground according to regulations, the fun version was done once the plane was in the air.

Dynamite in gay teen psyches

The news -- most definitely the gay news sources -- have noted the number of kids, both gay and accused of being gay, have committed suicide in the last month.

That prompted Rob Tisinai of Box Turtle Bulletin to post a simple recipe for how to kill a kid:

1. Damn gays by saying they displease god, they're going to hell, they're unfit to be around other kids, and their love is all wrong,

2. Degrade gays by saying they killed themselves because they recognized their own shame.

3. Deny that their own nasty rhetoric has anything to do with gay suicides.

4. Repeat endlessly.

In other words, be a bully.

Dan Savage has a response to someone who objected to him blaming Fundies for gay suicides. I'll let you read the response because he says it well. Savage ends by noting that the Fundie organizations very much want those gay suicides to continue. They sure are doing all they can to make sure anti-bullying legislation is made meaningless, if any of it passes at all. Fundie -- supposedly Christian -- groups like suicide? Yeah, because it proves their talking point that gay life is miserable -- so miserable that gay kids kill themselves. Big reason not to be gay! Never mind that the reason these kids are miserable is because of the recipe given above -- exercised vigorously by these same Fundie groups -- goes off like dynamite in gay teen psyches.

Because of these suicides, Dan Savage has started a YouTube channel titled It Gets Better. He and his partner started it off with the message that while high school (and college) may seem like the depths of hell, life as a gay adult can be much better. So don't kill yourself. Savage has asked other gay adults to contribute their own videos to the channel about how their lives have improved after school.