Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hug someone who is different

A couple things before I get to the main topic for today:

I paid Charlie on the completion of basement renovations. Getting all the stuff out of my den and back into the basement will be a long term project.

I'll be traveling over the next 4 days. Postings will resume sometime after that.

Dan Pearce, who blogs under the name Single Dad Laughing, wrote an entry that has become an internet sensation. Pearce wrote about a gay friend he calls Jacob, who was cut off when Jacob's other friends found out he is gay.

That gets Pearce to talking about the way we treat people who are different. Yeah, the way gay people are treated is at the top of the list, but Pearce doesn't stop there. People talk of the different with disdain and disgust and wrap it in pious words. Christians say those things believing they are speaking love. But Christians aren't the only ones who say these things. Believers in lots of religions say, "God hates…"

But the core beliefs from every one of these same religions say things like this: "A true Muslim is the one who does not defame or abuse others; but the truly righteous becomes a refuge for humankind, their lives and their properties." And: "Examine the contents, not the bottle."

Pearce discovers those who have no religion are sometimes the most Christ-like. And many who profess to follow Christ say I'll act like a Christian unless you are gay.

It all comes down to giving up the need to be better than others.

If you aren't able to put your arm around someone who is different you are being a bully. Whether you think the other person's behavior is sinful does not matter. Love them anyway.

So. Find someone different from you, who makes you feel uncomfortable, and give them a hug.

Six days later Pearce shared some of the response to his words. Nearly a half-million readers. Nearly 2000 comments (and two days later that is approaching 3000) plus direct emails. Pearce posted the most powerful comments. Two accused him of redefining the religion, branding him a heretic. Five more overwhelmed him: the estranged gay man who said the post prompted his mother to apologize, the worker who was prompted to apologize to a gay colleague, the mother of a bullied teen who shoved the column at a school official and found her daughter's life improve, the gay teen who read the column and warm responses and decided not to commit suicide, and a gay man who reconnected with his ex-wife and kids after she read the posting.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Benefits along the long, legal road

Many gays in Calif. are disappointed that gay marriage won't go before the voters in 2012. Ari Ezra Waldman, a law professor, says we should let the court case about the marriage ban proceed. The process may be slow, but we've already seen benefits.

* During the trial over the ban several key points were explicitly designated as facts. Those include: marriage isn't about procreation, there is no rational reason why gays and lesbians cannot marry.

* A federal court has declared a gay marriage ban to be unconstitutional based on the merits of the case.

* A side ruling declared that a gay judge is not inherently biased when dealing with gay issues.

* The legal case reaches much further than a ballot initiative. Even if it doesn't go to the Supremes, the case lays the groundwork for other federal court districts.

* A ballot initiative only allows our opponents to spew their venomous and false arguments and wastes millions of dollars better spent elsewhere.

A lot of commenters to Waldman's post disagree, saying we should be pursuing victory both in the courts and ballot box. The 9th Circuit Court will probably rule by June so working now to get the question on the ballot for November won't make the case meaningless. If we win the ballot measure, the case won't go to the Supremes, but winning there not a sure thing anyway.

Time to just get out of the way

Thomas L. Day, an alumnus of Penn State and 31 years old, decided that the pedophile scandal there was the last straw. Most generations leave the world a better place for their descendants. Not now. His parent's generation has screwed things up enough and it is time for them to get out of the way. He lists some of the screw-ups: Ruinous tax breaks for the rich, reckless response to 9/11, being sent to a war in which he was not greeted as a liberator, churches that tell him to fight against gay marriage instead of against poverty, crumbling infrastructure, downgraded national credit rating because a debt that exceeds the national wealth, and 3.3 million unemployed between the ages of 25 and 34. He forgot to mention the housing boom and bust.

I wonder if it is worthwhile commenting on the words and antics of the GOP prez. candidates. But every so often, grrr! One must call them out. The latest is from Newt Gingrich. I could have commented on any of the six (out of eight) who attended a forum in Iowa put on by the Family Forum. Yup, the main focus of the event was to get all the candidates to publicly declare how much they were against abortion and gay marriage (which is why Romney and Huntsman didn't attend). Newt went on to bash the Occupy Wall Street protesters. The first and last sentences:
All the Occupy movements start with the premise that we all owe them everything. … Go get a job, right after you take a bath.
Sorry, Newt, their protests start with the premise that you and your cronies corrupted the political and financial systems of America. No doubt you are trying to divert America's attention from your part in the mess. Besides, most protesters have jobs, and those that don't can't get one, thanks to you.

A phrase claimed by the Fundies is "religious liberty." It describes those "martyrs" who choose religious freedom over their livelihood, people like the town clerk who refuses to grant marriage licenses to gay couples in New York or the bakery owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

Alvin McEwen, of Pam's House Blend, pokes a few holes in that phrase. When someone claims religious liberty, there is someone else who has been discriminated against. The phrase has less to do with liberty, religious or not, than with wanting to tell gay people they are inferior.

Where rich and poor still mingle

Michigan Radio has been doing a series on the Culture of Class. I've heard a few of the segments, though not all. When I have more time…

I did hear the first segment in the series. While racial and ethnic segregation is less of a determinant of where we live than it was 40 years ago, economic segregation is on the rise. It used to be common for the poor and rich to see each other in downtown stores. But economic segregation is getting to be so bad that some kinds of workers, such as teachers, sales clerks, and auto repair mechanics, can't afford to live in the communities where they work.

The second one I heard noted a place where rich and poor still mingle -- on the dance floor of a gay bar. Actually, the example used in the report is the lesbian bar Stilettos in the suburb of Inkster. Sexual minorities are still discriminated against in the wider community, so they tend to create safe spaces and work to make sure all are welcome.

Some of the other reports in the series are: Why is class difficult to define? How does an economist define class? Who lives next to heavy industry? Does class determine who joins the military and does that allow class climbing? How does class determine investment in early childhood education? What are the differences between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, sometimes called Twin Cities but have different rates of poverty? Is Upward Mobility a myth? Can the arts act as a hook to help kids out of poverty?

The series also includes an essay and since it doesn't have an "audio" button it apparently was not broadcast. Connie Schulz grew up in a working class family but many fellow high school students were from rich families. Their enthusiasm for college boosted her own desire to go and she became the first in her family to do so. A paid internship got her into a news reporter career.

But rich kids tend to no longer mingle with poor kids. The poor kids no longer hear of the rich kid's dreams and goals. Most internships are now unpaid, meaning only rich kids can afford to take them. Class segregation means social mobility becomes less likely for poor kids. Is pointing this out waging class warfare?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Raising a stink

Busy day yesterday. I welcomed Charlie and the basement crew, then dashed off to the college. I'm playing one of my pieces in the music department recital next week, so met with the dept. accompanist. After an afternoon of teaching it was off to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and their Festival of Flutes, featuring James Galway. One piece featured about 35 flute students from the area -- that was a marvelous sound!

So it was 10:30 when I got home. About 3/4 of the floor tile had been laid in the basement. However, the house stank! If it hadn't been so late I would have called a friend to inquire about an extra bed. I didn't sleep well.

The next morning Charlie determined it wasn't the glue from the floor tile, but the mineral spirits used to clean the glue from unwanted surfaces. Charlie didn't smell much downstairs but really noticed it when he came up. And, of course, this is the first time the overnight temperature was below 30.

I've been following the Weight Watchers program since May (as much as I can) and today marked the completion of one goal -- I've lost 10 pounds! Pants are getting loose.

This evening I attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance service. The rest of that story is on my other blog.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Please tax me!

Elspeth Gilmore inherited her wealth and is not part of the 99%. She did a commentary for Marketplace Radio on NPR in which she says she would be better off if she had less personal wealth and the community infrastructure and safety net were made stronger. She now leads an organization that is trying to convince other wealthy people under 35 that the common good is more important than personal wealth. This page has the transcript of what was heard on-air. The audio looks like it will be long (13 minutes), but it starts at the 10 minute mark.

Greedy Geezers

To be able to attack Social Security the GOP and its backers are pushing the "greedy Geezer" stereotype. All old people are rich. They just want more money. Supporting the rich geezers simply means generational "warfare" between them and the young whose taxes pay for those benefits.

Terrence Heath looks at a revised measure of poverty among the elderly and finds they're just as poor as everyone else. Those older than 55 were hit especially hard in this recession. The greedy geezer is a myth.

Heath takes a look at the 1% who actually deserve all we can do for them. These are our veterans, and they are very much a part of the 99%.

Intellectual integrity

I've written about Robert George before. He is the author of the long essay What is Marriage? that attempts to prove that marriage is only for straights. Rob Tisinai was able to pick it apart, showing George's reasoning is circular and illogical. Even so, George currently provides the intellectual heft behind a lot of anti-gay rhetoric. One way he does that is make sure his pronouncements include the name of his employer -- Princeton University. Definitely some heft there.

Scott Rose of Pam's House Blend says that makes Princeton complicit in George's anti-gay rants. Princeton, as do other universities, has a Code of Conduct that stresses intellectual integrity, that a professor's work observes basic honesty. Rose shows there are at least three cases where George's work is not honest. This is grounds for dismissal.

Yet, Princeton's administration hasn't taken action. The reason is the same as a lot of institutions that appear to be compromised -- money. Much of George's funding (and no doubt funding of maybe other professors, support staff, and a few grad students) is from the James Madison Program. A major goal of the program is to combat liberalism. Because of that a great deal of the money comes from conservative individuals and institutions. Get rid of George and Princeton loses a lot of money.

Yesterday's Non Sequitur comic my Wiley Miller would be appropriate right now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The true cost

Now that Obama has announced the withdrawal of troops from Iraq John Tirman of the MIT Center for International Studies in an article for The Washington Spectator (alas, no link) says it is time to look at the true cost of the war, and he doesn't mean dollars. When we look back on a war we tend to rate its worth only in terms of cost to Americans. But that doesn't give us an idea of the sheer destructive cost of war, which allows us to ignore these costs when the next war comes up. Here are some of these costs.

* Dire levels of health care because doctors and nurses have fled or been killed. Poor hygiene cannot be maintained at many facilities.

* Perhaps up to 5 million Iraqis displaced. Those displaced yet still in Iraq are in settlements with poor conditions.

* Shortages of electricity, clean water, and sanitation.

* Thousands of women and girls forced in sexual slavery. 750,000 war widows living in poverty. Rising Islamic militancy (reaction to US occupation?) strips rights of women.

* More than half of all Iraqis live in slum conditions, up from 17% in 2000.

* Perhaps up to 650,000 have died because of the war.

* Perhaps a half million children died because of the 12 years of sanctions between the Gulf War and the Iraq War.

Why is this important? Because many conservatives are declaring the Iraq War a victory. This is a war that most Americans oppose and feel we got into it because conservatives lied to us. Because we are walking away from our responsibilities to account for our own destructiveness. Because we face "reputational costs" of being seen as reckless and callous. Because we won't have real consequences to stay our hand when the next crisis erupts.

Good to have a handyman around

I was out on my bike this afternoon, November 12th. It was sunny, but the temp was only 52. Add a sweatshirt and jacket and I'm ready.

The basement restoration is proceeding. The big foundation crack (not the source of the flood) has been filled. Old electrical fixtures removed (and also a large pile of wires that no longer connected anything). New wiring and light fixtures up. The fuse box has been replaced with circuit breakers. Waterproof barrier paint will start being applied to exterior walls tomorrow. Next week the shelves and floor will be installed.

The day Charlie started my digital thermostat went blank. Charlie said the batteries must be dead. I had forgotten it doesn't have a power line to it. But once the new batteries were in place the thermostat wouldn't recognize the furnace. I’d seen that display after furnace repairs and the repairman only needed to reset the furnace. But turning the furnace off and on didn't fix it and Charlie and his furnace friend had no idea what "reset" meant or knew of any buttons to push. Having a furnace guy come would cost as much as a new thermostat, so Charlie installed a new one. The old one was 18 years old.

A couple days later I woke up to a cold house. Fortunately, Charlie was there a couple hours and found the furnace switch off. He says he may have bumped it. It was snowing that afternoon when I left school.

When Charlie cleaned out the wet stuff in August he bumped the hose from the clothes washer. It wiggled enough that water sprayed onto the floor. I rerouted the hose to shoot into the laundry tub and not be susceptible to bumping. Shortly after that I began seeing trails of water from the tub to the floor drain. I figured water was splashing out of the tub. A couple days ago I was looking over the progress Charlie had made. There was the trail of water. But I hadn't run the clothes washer. I had just run the dishwasher just above it. I was able to track the water trail up the wall to the drainpipe coming from the dishwasher.

The next morning I told Charlie about it. He got a stool to stand on and reached up to investigate the rusty pipe. A piece of pipe came off in his hands. He was pleased that was the day his plumber friend was already scheduled to come to do a thorough job of cutting tree roots out of the drain tiles. No problem to ask him to bring a few extra pieces and replace the broken pipe.

I'm fortunate these problems appeared while Charlie is here.

Hearing from a former bully

I recently wrote about the Michigan anti-bullying bill and mistakenly said it had passed both the House and Senate. The really bad version had passed only the Senate.

The outcry from that version prompted Senator Gretchen Whitmer to make a couple videos, one condemning the provision that permitted bullying for religious reasons (apparently her floor speech) and the other featuring kids speaking out against bullying and Whitmer reading letters from kids who were bullied.

The House has now passed a version. This one doesn't have the religious exemption clause but appears to still have the other flaws of the Senate version. It passed by a wide margin with only a few GOP voting against it. No Dems pushing for a better bill?

Rap artist 50 Cent (yeah, that's his name) has written a novel Playground: The Mostly True Story of a Former Bully. Yes, he is the former bully. The story isn't completely about the rapper, it's about Butterball (named for his weight issues) and why he is a bully. Many thanks to 50 Cent for providing insight to the problem.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sorry, your toaster won't consent to marriage

Some more cool stuff from Tuesday's election:

North Carolina seems to be a hotbed of gay politicians, which is a great thing since the state will vote on a marriage protection amendment next May. I mentioned LaWana Mayfield in Charlotte and Mark Kleinschimdt in Chapel Hill. There is also Lee Storrow, only 22, now on the Chapel Hill city council and Lydia Lavelle back as an Alderwoman in Carrboro.

Dade County, Florida, voted in an equal benefits ordinance. An employer must give same-sex couples the same benefits as straight couples.

Here is a summary of why the argument that gay marriage leads to marrying your toaster (or a dog, or a corpse) is bogus.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. The vote was 10-8, along party lines. The fate of the bill before the whole Senate is unknown. Considering the House leadership is trying to defend DOMA, this bill won't get far there, even with 135 sponsors. This vote is hugely important, even if the bill goes no further.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gay agenda: win elections

Gay and progressive election results (at least the ones I know about, summarized on the blog Towleroad):

* The National Organization for Marriage heavily promoted a GOP candidate for a vacant state Senate seat in Iowa. Their candidate lost, preventing consideration of a marriage protection amendment.

* Adam Ebblin elected as first gay senator in the Virginia Senate.

* Lesbian Annise Parker kept the mayor job in Houston, barely avoiding a runoff.

* The anti-gay candidate for Largo, Fla. City Commission was defeated.

* LaWana Mayfield, lesbian, won a seat on the Charlotte, NC, city commission.

* Gay Chapel Hill, NC, mayor Mark Kleinschmidt reelected.

* Alex Morse, gay and only 22, became mayor of Holyoke, Mass.

* Tim Eustace won a seat in the NJ Assembly, becoming the second gay Assemblyman.

* Chris Seelbach is the first openly gay city council member in Cincinnati.

* Bruce Harris will become mayor of Chatham Borough, NJ, and is gay, black, and GOP.

* Lesbian Mary Doran will serve on the School Board in St. Paul, Minn.

* Pedro Segarra is back as mayor of Hartford, CT. He was unopposed. I got tired of saying they're all lesbian or gay. Just assume so.

* Zach Adamson is the first openly gay City Council member in Indianapolis.

* Caitlin Copple will join the City Council in Missoula, MT.

* Daniel Hernandez (famous from the Gabby Giffords shooting) was elected to the Tucson School Board.

* Traverse City, MI, kept it's anti-discrimination ordinance, approving it my 63%.

* Maine kept its same-day voter registration law despite nasty anti-gay tactics by the GOP.

* Mississippi rejected the "personhood at conception" amendment by 55%.

* Ohio overturned the nasty anti-union law rammed through last spring.

The bad news.

* Rose Marie Belforti made a stink in Ledyard, NY when, as town clerk, refused to grant gay marriage licenses after they were approved in the state. She won reelection by 62%.

* Manuel Rodriguez ran a nasty anti-gay campaign and won in the Houston school system (don't know the office).

More good news supplied by commenters:

* John Campbell will be Treasurer in Harrisburg, PA.

* New London, CT, has restored the office of mayor and its first occupant will be Daryl Justin Finizio, who is gay.

* Michael Sutphin elected to the town council of Blacksburg, VA.

* Palm Springs kept its gay mayor Steve Pougnet.

* Attleboro, MA, kept its gay mayor Kevin Dumas who was elected for a 5th term.

* More in Houston: Mike Laster elected to the city council.

* Council Bluffs, IA, elected GOP Nate Watson to city council.

* Dems regained control of the Wake County (Raleigh), NC, school board. This race was recently featured in NPR as a small race attracting big money. Can't win nationally? Fight locally.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fighting back

The Occupy Wall Street protest have not been allowed to use any electronic voice amplification equipment, so they developed a human amplification system. Here they use it to protest Gov. Walker of Wisconsin. The video is under 4 minutes.

License to bully

I don't read the suburban newspaper for my community, though every so often they throw a copy on my driveway in hopes I'll subscribe. I did get a couple issues this week and found them timely because they included their endorsements for city council and school board, the only races on Tuesday's ballot.

The paper also included a news article that included comments from my state senator Glenn Anderson, who I mentioned yesterday. For perhaps a decade, starting when he was a state Rep., Anderson has been trying to get an anti-bullying law passed. Repeatedly, some GOP legislator would find a reason to trap it in committee or simply refuse to allow a full-chamber vote.

This past week the GOP finally acted on it. They turned it into what Anderson calls a "license to bully." Dems are outraged. The bill is named after Matt Epling, a boy who committed suicide after being bullied. Matt's parents are furious with what the GOP did. The bill quickly passed the House and Senate and now awaits the Gov's. signature. Here's what the GOP did:

* Removed enumeration. This is the list of categories of kids -- gay, overweight, wrong race, disabled, etc. -- that are explicitly protected by the law. Gay organizations have long known that without enumeration too many adults look at a gay kid being bullied and say, "But that's not really bullying so I can ignore it."

* Refused to cover cyberbullying. Facebook, Twitter, and email have become a popular way for one student to bully another.

* Refused to protect teachers and other staff from being bullied.

* Refused to require schools to track the effectiveness of the law.

* Permitted bullying if it involves "a statement of sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."

Since nearly all bullying of gays is due to "sincerely held religious beliefs" the bill, instead of banning bullying, tells students how to go about their bullying and get away with it. Want to bully some kid? Here's how to do it legally! Do it online or make sure you have a religious reason for your actions.

Now that both chambers have passed the law the GOP can now say, "An anti-bullying law? Been there, done that. No need to bring it up again. Besides, the current version is working," because there is no way to tell it isn't. Except kids keep committing suicide out of desperation.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Protesters and police

Essayist Terrence Heath notes how hard the conservative talking heads are working overtime to discredit the Occupy Wall Street movement. He also notes how OWS ideas and goals are being accepted by the rest of the nation in spite of conservative efforts. The options now available to conservatives: discredit OWS (not working), actually pay attention to OWS (keep dreaming), or police OWS. This last appears to be what is happening in Oakland, as well as New York, Chicago, and Boston.

Banker arrests: 0. Protester arrests: approaching 3000. CEO of a failed mortgage company who committed $3B in fraud: 40 months in prison. Homeless man who stole $100: 15 years in prison.

OWS protesters (and the rest of us) understand that the wealth of the 1% is not because they are fantastic at business, but because they now control legislatures that abolish limiting laws and retroactively immunize themselves from crimes. That wealth isn't being used to raise all boats (remember "trickle down economics"?) but to sink the boats of ordinary Americans.

But even though the number of arrested protesters is high and Oakland hauled out the tear gas, the police are recognizing they are part of the 99%. Their pay and pensions are being cut too. They sympathize with the protesters and many are now defying orders to clean out the hippies (gosh, Mr. Mayor, we don't have the resources for that). So policing OWS isn't working so well either.

That leaves me wondering what tactics to the rich have left? Discrediting OWS isn't working. Policing OWS isn't working. They certainly won't listen to OWS. Whatever their next step is, it won't be pretty.

It doesn't take long for a country to collapse

I'm still annoyed at Niall Ferguson for his poorly reasoned article in Newsweek last week trumpeting how the rich are raising money for one charter school. Newsweek did print a rebuttal letter, which noted that charter schools aren't unionized, so the reason the rich are supporting this school is because it helps their union-busting efforts.

But Ferguson's latest article appears to be more thoroughly researched. One would hope so, because the article is a condensation of his latest book.

Many people have predicted that the West, or at least America, is facing a long, slow decline. Ferguson says history doesn't support that theory. Civilizations and powerful countries don't decline, they collapse and do so in about 10, maybe 20 years. The reason for the collapse is always the same: the complex social systems supporting the society stop working. One minute the rulers are seen as legitimate, the next minute they aren't. Who knew last December the head of Tunisia would be gone in a couple months?

Since 1500 (shortly after the Renaissance began to spread across Europe) Western Civilization has developed several key ideas that made it significantly richer than the rest of the world. These ideas are:

* Competition. Europe was fragmented into small territories, each competing with those around it. It is that competition that has made modern Western corporations great.

* Scientific Revolution. All the major 17th century breakthroughs happened in the West.

* Rule of Law and Representative Government. Yeah, it was at first limited to property owners, but it is better than other forms of government.

* Modern Medicine. All big improvements in health care came from the West.

* The Consumer Society.

* The Work Ethic, combined with saving, allowed sustained capital accumulation.

Two things have been happening over the last half century. First, other countries, first Japan and notably China, have started applying these ideas to their own cultures. That's not bad. However… Second, the West has been ignoring what made it great.

* Work Ethic? The students who work the hardest are Asian or Asian-American.

* Consumer Society? 26 of the 30 biggest shopping malls are not in the West.

* Medicine? America now has the most expensive. But other countries have better improvement in life expectancy.

* Rule of Law? We're only good at investor protection (take a moment to think about who is being protected). We're terrible in the ethics of politicians, cost imposed on business by organized crime, bribery, standards of auditing, and 11 other categories.

* Science? Lots of studies show how our students rank low in science compared to places like China.

* Competition? We're becoming less so, and social mobility is dropping.

Yes, it is possible to rebuild these ideas. Break up anticompetitive monopolies. Stop deflecting students from science. Stop lobbyists from subverting the rule of law. Fix health care (starting with the way health care is funded). Start saving. Get people back into jobs before they learn an unemployment ethic.

But if we don't start now, collapse may come within one election cycle.

Fury v. hassle

I got an email from Rebuild the Dream requesting I take part in Move Your Money on or before today. I didn't because I do my checking through a local credit union.

Newsweek has an article about moving money out of the big banks. They say the big guys aren't worried because so many people now do online automatic payments and to change banks they have to go to the website for each bill to change the account designation. Too much of a hassle in spite of the fury at the big guys. Little banks are now coming up with "switch kits" to help you through the process.

Daniel Stone in Newsweek notes how many GOP Congressmen spout about how much the government should reduce spending, yet as long as the gov't is doling out cash they work hard to get the billions into their district.

A couple days ago I wondered: Why do we insist our health care be provided by our employers?

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend takes a look at that issue. To save money employers are starting to penalize employees who refuse to tackle serious health issues, such as obesity. I paid attention because I'm in an insurance mandated program now (fortunately, I've lost enough weight that I won't have to participate next year). As I've experienced, these programs tend to be inflexible (why should I wear a pedometer when I get so much more exercise on my bike?) and there will always be some who have a medical reason why it won't work (such as pain pills that cause weight gain). Will they be penalized?

Pam notes the reason for these systems of imposing penalties is the corporate bottom line, not the health of the employee. Our employers should not have health care as a business expense. That leaves us with a universal health care system, or Medicare for all.

Political courage

An interesting day -- and I mean that in a good sense. Much of the day was spent in training in how to contact delegates to next year's General Conference. This is the gathering of world-wide United Methodists that has the responsibility of updating the denomination's guiding Book of Discipline that happens every four years. As has happened for the last 36 years there will be an attempt to remove the phrase, "Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." This time there is a chance the removal will succeed.

As part of the effort in getting it passed Reconciling Ministries Network and the Methodist Federation for Social Action are training people to contact their local delegates to make sure they know how we feel about particular votes. My area has 8 delegates and 4 alternates. I am to contact two of them, but I'm not the only one to contact those two.

One of the delegates I am to contact is head pastor of the downtown Detroit church. The church is across the street from the Occupy Detroit protests and has opened its doors to the protesters. The church and pastor are already known for their social action, the congregation has already declared they welcome gay people, and his lesbian daughter sat two seats away from me during the training. Some in our group wondered why spend the effort on him, but the national trainer said we are to contact all delegates. So this will be an easy one, though I was warned he might turn the conversation around and question me on whether I'm doing enough.

I don't know much about the other delegate assigned to me, though I hear we will have handbells in common. She is definitely not one to be antagonistic.

This evening was our church Harvest Dinner -- turkey and all that. Much to my surprise my state senator, Glenn Anderson, appeared. One of the people in my Sunday lunch group served a two year term as mayor of the city where the church is. He knows the senator and invited him when they met a couple weeks ago. Anderson brought his wife and a young man. The young man had a name tag declaring him to be a candidate for state House and will run in my district. I sat with them during dinner and learned a few things.

The young man is Cody Bailey and is currently a senior at my undergrad Alma Mater -- yup, he's young. He is hanging around Anderson to get to know how things are done. He begins his own campaign process in January. I've met candidates a year before the election then didn't find them on the ballot, so he may not actually make it.

Though Anderson has a couple more years before he is term-limited in the state Senate he has decided to run for US House. The year of redistricting is the best time to do it, he says. That means he will take on John Conyers, the House member with the second longest service, having been elected in 1965. Conyers' district used to be mostly Detroit and now is half suburban. In addition, he is 82 and showing his age and his wife is in jail. Anderson thinks he has a good chance.

To my friend and debate partner: Anderson is not the one in the Metro Times article you recommended to me. So, yes, there are three, maybe four, Democrats vying for that seat.

Here's a plug for Anderson. Equality Michigan, the group that advocates for gay rights in the state, just had their big gala awards dinner. During that party they gave Anderson an award for political courage.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Out of the mouths of idiots

Exhibit #1:

Iowa's Supreme Court mandated the state permit gay marriage. Next week, there is a special election for a state Senate seat. If the GOP candidate, Cindy Golding, wins the GOP and Dems would have the same number of seats, allowing for a vote on a state marriage amendment. During a candidate forum Golding said, "Until we allow the citizens of Iowa to vote on this issue and the citizens of Iowa to vote it up or vote it down, it will continue to take all of the political attention and energy off of other issue (sic)."

Translation: the GOP will use this issue to prevent work on any other issue. Either they are going to hold the Iowa Senate hostage, or they are going to use gay marriage as a smokescreen to hide their inaction on useful government work.

Exhibit #2

Mississippi has a constitution amendment up for a vote next week that declares personhood begins at conception. That means (1) all abortions (even if the result of rape) can be prosecuted as murder, (2) birth control methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterus become illegal, and (3) miscarriage might be prosecuted as involuntary manslaughter. There are probably other very much intended consequences.

Ashley Sigrest was raped 13 years ago. She had an abortion. Since then she "accepted Jesus" and is now in favor of the amendment because, she said, "Rape is no excuse for an abortion."

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin asks, "pregnant rape victims are looking for an excuse?"

Many years ago I saw a play that included this great line: "Darling, do you ever listen to yourself speak?"

Being chased out of Michigan

A bill to eliminate domestic partner benefits for state employees, including those at state universities, has passed the Michigan House. The state Senate is also heavily GOP. The gov. is too, but he doesn't seem so mean, only oblivious to anything but the bottom line and this bill would save the state all of $8 million a year.

Andries Coetzee is a linguistics professor at the University of Michigan. His partner Gary Woodall is in remission for cancer, which could recur at any time. Good health care insurance is essential for Gary. Even though the bill hasn't passed the Senate yet, Andries is looking for another job as he regrets not taking the job at New York University, which had also given Andries an offer 7 years ago. Another reason for that regret is that New York now offers gay marriage.

Andries is not the only employee at a state university or state agency who is looking for another job. Top talent can choose, even in tough economic times. Nearly all U of M competitors offer domestic partner benefits and most Fortune 500 companies do too. All a loss for Michigan.

There is a second issue here. Why do we insist our health care be provided by our employers?

That's so gay… no really

Yeah, I know this is a few days late. The first half of the week gets hectic.

A friend asked me what I had planned for Halloween. I said my plans were to disappear. I have no kids and can't eat the leftover candy. So I just ignore the whole thing, and have done so for about 25 years.

This past Monday I had a quick dinner, then saw the movie The Help. Many who have seen this movie are, of course, appalled at the way many white characters treated the black characters. They did a very good job of seriously messing with the mental health of their black employees and did all they could to prevent any type of community between the two races.

I was struck, however, with the way the black maids genuinely cared for the white children in their care. They worked to build up the mental health of those kids, not simply meet basic needs. One of the themes of the movie was the care they lavished on their white charges while knowing their own children were cared for by someone else. Part of caring for the white kids was the hope those kids would somehow manage to grow up and not be as racist as their parents. Sometimes they even succeeded. However, there were people in that society who required others to be as racist as they were.

Given half a chance, the black maids genuinely cared for their white employers. One of the white women was shunned by most of the other white women, but she and her maid became good friends.

Back to Halloween. Rev. Irene Monroe, writing for Pam's House Blend, says Halloween is America's gay holiday. The reason she gives is on that day we have permission from the rest of society to be as gay as we want to be. Gender-bending is encouraged instead of frowned upon. Monroe dates the phenomenon back to the 1970s and the huge annual street party in the Castro district of San Francisco.

But I've heard stories that gay Halloween is even older. Charles Alexander, a columnist for Detroit's gay newspaper Between the Lines, has told of Halloween in Detroit in the 1950s where tourists came to see the drag queens strut their stuff. So in talking of this holiday we can say, "That's so gay!" and mean it without sounding mean.

Of course, this gay holiday comes with a backlash. Many Fundie churches put on Hell Houses in which they depict such things as a woman who has had an abortion and a gay man with AIDS being carted off to Hell.