Sunday, July 31, 2011

Anyone got a spare $60 million?

I hadn't heard about this in the gay news blogs I read. It was only in browsing another one that I found this from a month ago. Equality California has been holding sessions around that state to decide if they should put the marriage question on the ballot in 2012. Rex Wockner, gay journalist and writing in his own blog, attended the session in San Diego.

That evening the big names leaned towards not going back to the ballot so soon, instead waiting for the results of the legal cases (before the 9th Circuit). They doubt the $60 million could be raised and that a loss would damage the legal case. Before they proceed they want polling to be in the high-50s, not just above 50%.

Wockner spelled out his disagreement.
* National polls now show a majority of Americans favor same-sex marriage.

* They've been working for 3 years and feel they have antidotes to the lies told last time around.

* The vote to ban gay marriage in Calif. is the one most in need of revenge.

* Overturning the ban through voter approval would be lots better than a court win (except if it was the big one in which the Supremes ruled for gay marriage in 50 states).

* That win would diminish the anti-gay crowd more than a court ruling would.
Since this meeting in San Diego, gay marriages have begun in New York and Maine announced they're going for a ballot proposal in 2012. So the conversation is still open and the chances in Calif. have gone up a bit.

Let's cut out Grandma's food

I wrote last Thursday about how the GOP is definitely not listening to me (they're listening to the Koch brothers and the Tea Party) and the Dems are too busy listening to the GOP to pay any attention to me. I lamented what to do about it. Alas, my comment box was not overflowing with responses (I did get one emailed to me).

A segment on All Things Considered on NPR offers a solution. Make enough progressive noise to attract the attention of the Dems. I can't do it by myself and I don't have the kind of money the Koch brothers have. That leaves…

Van Jones has begun the Tea Party of the progressives, called the American Dream Movement. Jones used to work for Obama as special advisor for green jobs -- until the harping from the GOP made his job difficult (they don't want jobs of any color?). After a couple more short assignments outside government he took a year to travel the country to talk to people.

The Root interviewed Jones a month ago. Here are excerpts of what he said.
If a family has budget problems, you don't say, "We need to save money, so let's cut out Grandma's food." You would cut back on nonessentials and also ask Junior to get a paper route to increase revenues.

Rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the superwealthy should be a no-brainer.

What drives me nuts is this idea that the smart, hardworking people on Wall Street should not be taxed because we don't want to discourage them from being so industrious.

Another thing you might want to [focus on] is winding these wars down responsibly. We're spending $3.3 billion every week in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When was the last time we saw people with progressive views rallying, marching and going to town hall meetings and speaking with passion? I'm not mad that the so-called conservatives are so vocal. I'm just concerned that people with other views are so quiet.

The entire Washington, D.C., establishment is off track. But the discussion in Washington, D.C., will change when the discussion in the country begins to change.
And excerpts from the NPR piece:
Sixty to 70 percent of Americans agree that jobs are more important than this debt-ceiling debacle. Sixty-seven percent of Americans agree that we should raise taxes on the wealthiest in a crisis like this. We aren't being represented.

Everything the Tea Party says about America's government is how terrible it is. You can't take a wrecking ball, paint it red, white and blue, call yourself a patriot, and then smash down every institution that made America great.

We're not even focused on the smart ways to get Americans working because we're chasing the Tea Party down the street.
Here is the website Jones has started. I signed up. Alas, all that has done so far is ask me to spread the word (as in hand over your email addresses, I'll let you do that yourselves). We'll see if I now get deluged by email.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Heavenly Wrestlemania

Jeremy Hooper, in his personal blog Good-As-You, takes a look at comments made by Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family. Some of what he says sounds reasonable. But it all boils down to Stanton believing homosexuality is a "particularly evil lie of Satan."

Hooper asks, "Why are those of us who engage in this national civil rights conversation forced to contend with talking points that are rooted ringside at God and Beelzebub's Heavenly Wrestlemania?" Why aren't FotF and others admitting in their public pronouncements that their objections to gays are based on religion and their civil claims are only a smokescreen?

Be your own budget hero

The Marketplace program on NPR has created an interactive exercise Budget Hero, which allows you to modify the federal budget according to your personal criteria. So I gave it a try. I was able to lower the deficit, but did not eliminate it. The game has a few limitations. It allows only changes to the budget that have already been proposed and the Congressional Budget Office has put a price tag on. Which means it allows for eliminating the Bush era tax cuts, but doesn't provide for raising taxes on the rich beyond that (it does warn the repealing the Bush cuts is politically almost impossible). It allows for selecting three "badges" that represent personal goals you would like the budget to meet (one of mine was green environment), but doesn't suggest which budget options would help meet those goals. It only tells you whether you met those goals when you ask for an evaluation.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A way out of the debt ceiling mess?

While there is a limit in the amount of paper currency in circulation at any one time there isn't a limit on coins? So perhaps the solution to this mess is to create a couple trillion dollar coins. Or maybe go straight for the two-trillion coin. Follow the link for an example of the coin showing a silver of platinum disk with Obama's image in gold.

For several years up to 2009 support for marriage equality increased about 1% a year. But in the last two years that has jumped to 5% a year. Have we passed a tipping point? The uptick two years ago means it wasn't marriage equality in New York, but probably a reaction to the loss of gay marriage in Calif. That galvanized our community.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Measuring curtains for the captains quarters

Essayist Terrence Heath compares the current debt ceiling battle to the Titanic on which the GOP as eager First Mate rams the ship into an iceberg so that when the captain goes down with the ship they can take over. They either don't remember or care that if the ship goes down they go down too. Pulling away from the analogy a bit, if the GOP succeeds in grabbing the reins of government the country may be so chaotic as to be ungovernable.

So, if the Prez. is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, why is the GOP measuring for curtains in the captain's quarters? When did the GOP go crazy?

Perhaps one of the first signs was back in 2002 when an unnamed Bush admin. official dismissed his opponents on the grounds they were "reality based." The explanation was that phrase meant "people who believe solutions emerge from study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world works anymore. We’re an empire, and when we act, we create our own reality." Pull that idea into the present day it means the Right wants to believe its desires can reshape financial markets to avoid problems with a default, simply because it says so.

I wrote a while back about a comment by Michael Moore that the GOP is holding the economy hostage. This appears to be another incident of that -- give us what we want, now, or we blow the whole thing up. And if people suffer, well, they deserve to.

So why is the GOP doing it? Why are they even proposing constitutional amendments to require balanced budgets (and expect them to get through Congress in five days) as part of their solution? Why are they putting the gov't in a straightjacket?

Because they have the power now to do so. Their demographic is declining. They have little appeal with young voters and ethnic minorities whose percentage of the population is growing. The white elite at the party's base see themselves as the source of the nation's wealth and values. The poor and all those minorities want to steal all that wealth through taxes (conveniently forgetting the rich stole it from us) and want to lock in low tax rates while they can, and perhaps lock in their power while they can. Perhaps they know they can't keep the helm through elections and are willing to send the ship to the bottom if they can't.

This sounds like part of the recipe for fascism that Sara Robinson wrote almost two years ago.

This essay by Heath and my mention of the Koch brothers yesterday got me to thinking. What does an ordinary citizen do about this? The GOP isn't listening to me. As the battle in Wisconsin showed last winter, the GOP isn't even listening to a capitol building full of protesters. The GOP is only listening to the Koch brothers and their colleagues.

And the Dems? They're not listening to me or the common people either. They're too busy caving to the GOP. Or the GOP had reduced them to spectators (as has happened in Michigan).

So what's a concerned citizen to do? I'm to the point where I simply want to turn off my radio when the debt ceiling discussion comes on the news and have turned it off when anyone is interviewing Bachmann or any GOP representative or senator. If something happens by Tuesday I'm sure I'll hear about it.

Another thought is that poem from the Nazi era (and please forgive me for dragging them into the debate) that I've discussed before under the topic of fascism. Here's the poem.
When the Nazis came for the communists, I said nothing;
I was, of course, no communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats, I said nothing;
I was, of course, no Social Democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists, I said nothing;
I was, of course, no trade unionist.
When they came for me, there was no one left who could protest.
-- Martin Niemoeller
My feeling at the moment is what good would it do to say something? At the moment the GOP isn't listening. In the future it may be that if I say something they don't save me for last.

Back in June I caught part of the On Point program produced by NPR. It was a discussion with author Paul Gilding and his book The Great Disruption. The GOP's desire to trash the economy made me think of this and it took a while for me to remember which program I heard discussing it.

Gilding's core idea is that simply in terms of physics and biology, the earth can no longer support all of us. Global warming has begun. It's going to get nasty out there with the weather severely reducing food production. Somalia's famine is only the start.

But Gilding says once our backs are to the wall we as a species will respond to the crisis. We usually handle crises well (though usually wait until a situation becomes a crisis before we act). It is after that great disruption that humanity will reprioritize the way we live and society around the world will become much better. Alas, we'll have to go through hell to get there.

Back to why I'm including that reference now. Society is going to get rather nasty for a while, no matter what the GOP does. They may even get us to that crisis sooner, when we'll start acting responsibly. So why do something?

Yeah, I'm feeling grumpy about the whole mess just now. Please talk me out of it. Simply doing nothing doesn't sound very responsible.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A campaign strategy worth replicating

I was a bit surprised to get another issue of The Washington Spectator so soon after the last one. Perhaps one was late and the other early. I am quite a bit surprised and delighted at the major article (3 of 4 pages) -- it is a discussion of what Basic Rights Oregon is doing. Alas, links are under subscription.

Back in 2004, when Michigan was battling a marriage protection amendment, so was Oregon. The one in Michigan was approved by the second-smallest percentage, 60% if I remember right. The one state that did better than Michigan, by passing it with a smaller percentage, was Oregon at 57%.

The biggest problem pro-gay forces hit in 2004 was that the ballot measures were sprung on us and we had only 6 months (if that) to change people's minds about gay marriage. With a well funded opposition preying of fears, of course it didn't work.

BRO responded to their defeat by deciding that they would be in control of the timetable for repeal. It would happen when they felt the state was ready and they would do all they could to make the state ready. They brought in a consulting firm and spent a few years researching what kinds of messages engaged the public, what worked and what didn't. As with any good campaign they are constantly reviewing the effectiveness of their message and adjusting accordingly. Then their team of volunteers knocks on 15,000 doors each summer to have face-to-face discussions. A few TV ads have been thrown into the mix and they are also researched for effectiveness.

Only when their polling shows approval of gay marriage has passed some threshold (which they won't name) will they mount another ballot initiative.

For Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator to spend so many pages writing about BRO he must approve of their tactics. I hope other states are watching so they can follow BRO's example. I'm pretty sure nothing like this is being attempted in Michigan. As far as I can tell the big gay political organizations are waiting for attitudes to change on their own. Sigh.

A while back (maybe years ago) my friend and debate partner talked to me about the importance of gay rights organizations building coalitions with other progressive groups. I think at the time he used women's rights or their reproductive rights as an example. I thought of that while reading a commentary by Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin about Equality California, one of the groups that was behind the loss of gay marriage in that state in 2008. Now, EQCA has done great things, so I don't want to only mention their one flop.

Kincaid take a step back to Calif. in the mid 1980s when several gay political groups combined to form the Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality (LIFE). For its time it did good stuff and was soon into coalition building. Kincaid says that soon LIFE strayed from its message and he lists reasons.

* A new member of a coalition must independently earn respect, but if blame is passed around the new member gets its share, no matter how inappropriate.

* A lobbyist is only effective on issues all its members agree. The bigger a coalition gets the less all its members share the same values.

* The gay community is quite diverse and forming a coalition with reproductive rights advocates will annoy conservative gays, fracturing the main message of gay rights.

* Member organizations in a coalition always care about their own cause most. If the help given doesn't match the help received the coalition won't work.

Life eventually gave way to Equality California (EQCA). It appears now, with the hiring of an immigrant person of color as executive director, EQCA will again start the coalition building process. And drift away from gay rights.

Which means EQCA will switch from a gay rights group to a progressive political group. Kincaid says that might be just fine. Calif. has made so many strides in gay rights and recognition and with new ways of organizing political response it may no longer be important for Calif. to have a state-wide political gay rights organization.

I'd be more inclined to agree with that last sentence if Calif. had already restored gay marriage.

Timothy Kincaid offered a second commentary, this one about the role New York will play in gay rights litigation. Already, the state Attorney General has filed a brief in a case challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He has added an argument that only a state can make: The feds are discriminating against New York because they have chosen the definition of marriage in Alabama and applied it to citizens of New York.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cognitive dissonance over the debt

James Fallows, writing for The Atlantic, takes a look at chart created by the New York Times. The chart shows the amount of debt created by new policies under Bush and Obama and itemized the different pieces of legislation that make up that debt. I’m not repeating the chart because it would come out tiny on my blog. Better to be able to read what it says.

Some things of note:

The chart shows policy choices, not spending due to external forces, such as a drop in tax revenue in a recession and the accompanying rise in unemployment benefit payments.

The cost of policies that originated with Bush: $5.07 trillion. Under Obama: $1.44 trillion. This is Bush's debt the GOP is refusing to pay for. Put it another way the GOP is promoting cognitive dissonance by ranting about the debt but refusing to touch the Bush tax cuts, the biggest component of that debt.

A second chart from three months ago projects out to 2019 the deficit created by Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Great Recession. Those three items alone make up the $1.2 trillion deficit projected for 2019.

Joshua Green, also writing in The Atlantic, discusses the huge capacity the Dems have for caving under GOP demands. And when the GOP senses a cave they up their demands.

This brings me to an idea I'm fairly sure I read somewhere few weeks ago, but couldn't find when I got down to writing about it. That means I don't have a link and might be perpetuating a rumor.

I've written before that the GOP has been bought by and is dancing to the tune of the Koch brothers and similar corporate executives. They are the ones who are pushing zero taxes for the wealthy, the dismantling of the EPA, and the effective gutting of the middle class. What that missing (or phantom) posting said was that the Koch brothers have also making strong purchases of Democrat support. Dems are supposed to be representing the poor and middle class and usually make a big show of that support. So they can't be blatant about support of rich people's goals to make the middle class poor. But they can serve the rich by being bumbling wimps when they support the poor. Whether or not Dems are in the pockets of the Koch brothers, they are very effective at being bumbling wimps. Money from the Koch brothers could explain why.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Need a pair of flower girls?

The web is full of stories and videos of the first couple days of gay marriage in New York. Even stories of protesters (who had to be bussed in -- on Rainbow Transit busses) are plentiful.

So I'll stick to one sweet story. Steve Landis and Julie Irwin wanted their four year old twin daughters Emily and Sophie to witness the day. So the family went to the Brooklyn Municipal Building and Borough Hall early in the morning and stayed the day. In addition the girls volunteered their services as flower girls to any couple that would like to include them in the ceremony. The girls didn't know any of the couples, but that didn't change their enthusiasm for their job. And, yes, a male couple included the girls in their sweet moment. Now take a moment to ponder how wonderful that gesture is.

Sigh. A lawsuit has been filed to overturn New York's new marriage equality law. It claims the whole thing violated the Open Meetings Law among other technicalities. One commemter replied the Senate gallery was closed? Ha! It was packed with supporters.

Balanced with another sign of progress. Disneyland does weddings (the fairy tale kind, if you must know) and documents some of them in their wedding blog. A blog entry from last week has pictures of the wedding of Eric and Mat, complete with a ride in Cinderella's crystal carriage for their mothers. Alas, this one was in Calif., so isn't recognized by the state.

Economic treason

The latest issue of the Washington Spectator (alas, links are through subscription) is, of course, about the debt ceiling battle. The editor, Lou Dubose, breaks it down into two words: dishonesty and cowardice.

The dishonesty is on the GOP side. They are dishonest in the way they say curbing the debt and not raising taxes will improve the economy, that the debt is more important than the lack of jobs, that the debt problem is Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare and not the Bush tax cuts. The GOP has for at least six months been trumpeting these lies.

The cowardice isn't entirely on the Democrat side. John Boehner is terrified of the Tea Party Caucus and Eric Cantor. But the Dems haven't stood up to the GOP and have essentially sold out the middle class by not providing a coherent response. Because there is no Dem argument the GOP argument rules the media.

Dubose thinks the GOP is committing economic treason. And they're doing it to make sure there are no new jobs for another 18 months and Obama gets the blame for economic mismanagement and the GOP gains the White House and perhaps more.

The Washington Spectator now has a blog, also written by Lou Dubose. It doesn't contain the same articles as his paper newsletter, but does have articles similar to what gets mailed out.

Like this tidbit from the end of June. It is a description of the book The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. The main idea is that over the last 30 years Americans have moved to areas so that they are surrounded by people like themselves. San Francisco has a higher percentage of liberals (44% voted GOP in 1976, 14% voted GOP in 2008), as does Austin, Raleigh-Durham, and Portland. People who move there take their education with them. The less educated move to Las Vegas and Cleveland. We are now two distinct countries. There is hardening political positions because we don't interact with people different from us.

And another tidbit posted today. "The Fourteenth Amendment mandates that 'the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or an act of rebellion, shall not be questioned.'" That implies the debt ceiling is not constitutional. So Obama has a choice, hit a negotiation stalemate (like we have now), throw up his hands, and let the economy go off a cliff or simply declare the law void and allow the Treasury to pay its bills while damaging his relations with the GOP. Was he going to get anything else done this term anyway?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Looking at gay marriage through convoluted and circular logic

Back in February Robert George wrote a long article for the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy titled "What is Marriage?" Its purpose is to make sure gays can't get married. It is important because George is considered to be the "most influential conservative Christian thinker," an intellectual heavyweight. Thus, those who work against us will quote from it often. It is also the best our opposition has to offer (which, we'll see, isn't much). But bigotry is still bigotry, no matter how big the words are.

So Rob Tisinai wrote a series of postings (14 parts) to debunk George's article. At least it is thorough. Alas, according to Tisinai, there is to be one or two more postings, but life intervened (see his personal blog) and they haven't been written. I'm presenting it to you now because I got tired of waiting. Besides, with gay marriages in New York beginning tomorrow, this is an appropriate time to discuss the issue.

George's logic is highly convoluted, his logic circular and full of non-sequiturs. I'll say that at the start so I don't have to mention it each time his logic is highly flawed.

First point that George makes: We can't decide if government should recognize same-sex marriage if we don't know what marriage is. Thus the title of his article.

But Tisinai suggests the better first question should be "How should we approach the question, 'What is Marriage?'" So he pauses with Plato, who claimed a thing has an idealized form in a higher realm. On to Aristotle to note we can identify a horse even though the particular horse in front of us varies in size, color, is lame, or has grown old. We can examine all horses to distinguish common, essential traits from individual examples to define the form of a horse. We can also identify development in seeing an acorn become an oak tree. These explanations are, of course, highly simplified.

So, in a manner similar to Plato George, among others, claim there is a pure definition of marriage existing in a higher realm and we only have to bring that into the real world. The endpoint is given and all steps that don't lead there are tossed out. It is irrelevant if no real life marriages match this ideal.

Those who think like Aristotle look at a great number of examples of marriage and deduce essential traits. Things with those essential traits are also marriage.

George begins laying out his case by saying there are two competing views of marriage. The "Conjugal View" (which means the "marriage view") says a marriage (among other things) is "fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together." They are a "reproductive unit." The "Revisionist View" is "essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable."

Tisinai's objections:

* They're not "competing views." Everything described in the Revisionist View also includes the Conjugal View. The two views compete only if one is trying to proved the Conjugal View is the only correct view.

* George has to perform some pretzel logic to say that an infertile straight couple is permissible while a gay couple isn't.

* George assumes a marriage is only "fulfilled" when the couple gives birth to kids. Tisinai responds that many marriages are just fine without kids, others are ruined by adding kids, and besides the government doesn't check to see if the couple has been having sex.

* George is stacking the deck with the term "Revisionist View" because that is the commonly held definition of marriage as practiced by real humans.

George makes the claim: Revisionists aren't content with "expanding the pool of people eligible to marry." The goal is to abolish the conjugal view and replace it with the revisionist view.

That "expanding the pool" comment is a wink at the "slippery slope" argument that gay marriage leads to child marriage and polygamy.

Tisinai says the "abolish" part is simply wrong. Gay activists are not telling people they can't get married and can't have kids.

Back to that slippery slope. George accuses gays of discrimination because we claim to want gay marriage and then won't allow marriage for those who want multiple partners.

Tisinai responds:

Not all distinctions are unjust discrimination. There are some people wanting to get married (such as when one is a child) where there is a very good reason why they shouldn't marry (the child lacks maturity for consent).

Then George aims to prove that marriage isn't simply whatever we say it is. Dan Savage (alas, no link) has said that the definition of marriage is whatever the two people involved say it is. While true, it is too glib. First, we recognize there is a difference between friendship and marriage. Second, we agree that marriage is more than a contract.

Beyond that? George is back to saying there is this ideal concept of marriage out there while Tisinai says let's ask people who are married (or want to be) and look for common traits. Might that change over time? Yup.

Just as our understanding of human nature has changed over time. We (at least most of us) no longer seen women as fragile and inferior, helpless without male protection. Thus, law no longer assigns particular roles to the male and female. Many of us now see homosexuality as a healthy, normal facet of human nature. Thus, two men or two women in love are the same as a straight couple and deserve marriage in the same way.

George says that government has an interest in regulating marriage (agreed) and that government must take the most restrictive definition possible. Tisinai says government must allow a marriage unless there is a compelling interest to intervene (such as one member is not of age to give consent).

George makes the claim that marriage must have (1) a comprehensive union, a link to children, and permanence and monogamy. In addition, (2) only the procreative view of marriage can meet these conditions and the common view cannot. He fails at both.

George tries to define "comprehensive union." Sharing lives? Sex? George says it has to involve or bodies because we're people that live inside bodies. Fine. Then George asserts that this bodily union must serve a biological purpose. But Tisinai responds he leaves out emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects. Sex is not the only thing that keeps a marriage together. One more try by George: We should look at things that the couple can accomplish together that neither partner can achieve alone. Tisinai and his gay partner have found their relationship does exactly that.

George tries again. There is a connection between children and marriage. Marriage is sealed by the generative act (meaning straight sex). Same-sex partnerships cannot be real marriages because they cannot be sealed by the generative act. Thus same-sex partnerships are not oriented to children.

Tisinai responds: What is essential between children and marriage is the commitment and love between the adults, and between the adults and any children there might be. Marriage is not strictly oriented to the children. However, gays can be as oriented towards children as their straight counterparts.

Now that George has established that marriage is sealed by the generative act he says there are norms that shape it. Never mind his use of the word norms implies a community's consent on those shaping ideas and George has claimed the definition of marriage is not defined by the community.

Those norms? Permanence and Exclusivity. George says (1) not all people who claim to be married have real marriages (sweet guy). (2) To be real a marriage must be permanent. (3) The state must only recognize real marriages. Tisinai says that implies (4) we can't tell if a marriage is permanent (and thus real) until one partner dies. (5) So the state can only recognize a marriage of dead people.

I'm reminded of Dan Savage who wrote a book about marriage. He wondered why we consider a marriage a success if it stays together until one dies even though both are miserable.

As for exclusivity, our Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman tradition has always allowed for divorce. And for much of that time a man was allowed as many wives as he wanted.

The next argument is that allowing gay marriage means we must allow polygamy. George's argument uses terms with obscure meanings (or don't have any meaning), so Tisinai does an end-run and explores reasons why polygamy is a bad idea. From Jonathan Rauch comes this idealized description: Marriage means that when your health fails your partner is devoted to your care. When your emotions are a mess your partner will support and protect. When you celebrate an achievement your partner feels the joy as if it's their own. A partner will give their all to you.

But if a man has two wives than each wife may drop responsibilities assuming the other will handle them. Even worse, each wife can't assume the husband will make her his top priority in times of great need. Polygamy too often turns into exploitation.

The argument that allowing gay marriage leads to allowing polygamy is also used to imply that incest must also be permitted. Tisinai recognizes this as a tough issue and doesn't have an answer. But more importantly, George's logic doesn't have an answer either. He had claimed his view of marriage can account for norms (like our aversion to marriage between first cousins) and our view of marriage cannot.

George attempts to explain a puzzle. Gays can't get married because they can't reproduce. Straight couples who are infertile can still get married even though they can't reproduce. George attempts to do this by focusing on the sex instead of on the relationship. Only an act of bodily union, whether or not it is successful in causing conception, can seal a marriage.

Which means, as Tisinai points out, rape seals a marriage.

George eventually admits:
[M]arriage is not a mere means, even to the great good of procreation. It is an end in itself, worthwhile for its own sake. So it can exist apart from children, and the state can recognize it in such cases without distorting the moral truth about marriage.
Finally, but for the last phrase, something we can agree with. Alas, somehow gay marriage distorts the moral truth about marriage. Apparently only because George says so.

Enough of all that. On to things of importance. Such as what public policy should be. George has been pushing marital norms (not what the common man thinks it is, but what he says it should be). So he says that the less people understand the rationale for marital norms the less they feel bound to live by them. Therefore we can't allow gays to marry.

Well, says Tisinai, George's reasoning is so convoluted and nonsensical, the average person isn't going to make sense of it or bother reading it. So much for understanding the rationale for marital norms. Besides, George's argument for a permanent, stable parental relationship makes more sense for child rearing than for child bearing.

George tackles the fitness of gay parents in raising children. To support his argument he commits the same error as the heads of organizations pushing anti-gay laws (and discussed here before). From George's reputation, however, we expect more integrity. He uses research that says children in an intact family do better than children from a single-parent family or from a family with step-parents. His error is that he claims the research means children from straight families do better than children from gay families. Numerous researchers now put disclaimers in their papers: I didn't look at any gay families so my research does not show that straight families are better than gay families. Tisinai points out that George leaves out another piece of research -- adopted children frequently do better than children raised by their birth parents simply because parents who adopt want those children. Gays frequently become parents through adoption.

On to the subject of marriage equality threatens religious freedom. George is, of course, convinced it does. Tisinai explores an important aspect of the logic (again explored here recently). Does religious freedom trump everything? The American courts have answered that with a no. A religion that allows a child to die while refusing proven medical treatment is liable for damages. Put another way, the welfare of another person is more important than religious freedom. Religious freedom is not more important than anti-discrimination laws.

George and his crowd are quick to point out that they are (supposedly) putting the needs of the child first. Tisinai points out that should include the needs of the children of homophobic adults.

Now to the center of George's argument on this subject. The state cannot be value neutral in the debate over same-sex marriage. If the state approves same-sex marriage than the state must brand those who want only opposite-sex marriage as bigots.

Tisinai replies: The state can be neutral. It already allows Congressional prayers that are not Christian. It pays for both Christian and Jewish military chaplains. All religions, not just Christian, are granted tax-exempt status. All these actions on behalf of other religions does not mean the state has devalued Christianity. In the same way, civil same-sex marriage does not devalue Christianity.

As for the state viewing George as a bigot: Nope. Bigot is not a legal term and the state won't use it. In addition, the state hiring Jewish chaplains does not cause anyone to brand Christians as bigots.

George pulls out several examples of supposed state oppression of Christian organizations because of their expression of religious freedom. Tisinai notes that these groups had no trouble accommodating anti-discrimination laws having to do with religion (a Catholic adoption agency letting Jewish couples adopt). They only had trouble accommodating gays.

The country has long had tension between religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws. That is healthy. That debate began long before gays had any hope of being included in such laws and will continue around different groups in the future. But in this case it was only about religious freedom when the issue is gays. Meaning it isn't about religious freedom.

George claims that the government has an interest in regulating marriage, and in particular has an interest in couples who can procreate (or are otherwise one man and one woman). That interest is in making sure each new generation is "healthy, educated, and well-adjusted." The implication is that gays and children raised by gays are not healthy and well-adjusted.

Tisinai has already examined that implication, so delves into another aspect. Does the state have the right to regulate marriage? Does a person have the right to marriage unimpeded by the state? That, of course, depends on one's view of rights. Tisinai comes down firmly on the side that the state must justify what rights it takes. A person does not have to justify his/her rights to the state.

So if the state shouldn't get in the way of who may marry whom why have marriage law at all? Because there are so many other legal issues wrapped into marriage: Who inherits the house without paying taxes? Who is allowed a spousal claim to Social Security benefits? Who may claim a body from a morgue? Who may sponsor a foreigner for immigration? Who may speak for a child in a health emergency? All these kinds of regulations exist so that a couple can build a life together they cannot build alone and do so with stability.

The benevolent slavery of America

I wrote about the conservative pledge that Michelle Bachmann was so quick to sign. One little piece of that pledge touched on slavery, but since it was quickly deleted, I didn't comment about it. That piece was this text:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

We (in what is sometimes called the reality-based community) know how idiotic and offensive that statement is. We are pleased it was deleted so quickly.

Essayist Terrence Heath explores that little piece and why it was there.

A lot has been written in conservative circles since at least 2006 (Heath's quotes only go back that far) that try to paint the picture that slavery really wasn't that bad. These writings say such things as: Slavery in America was much better than the savagery of life in Africa. God wanted to bring the Black man to America and slavery was how he did it (this from the people who say the races shouldn't mix?). Blacks should be thankful for slavery. They were taken from vicious slavery of their degenerate tribal chiefs to the benevolent slavery in America. The slave trade has been renamed the "Atlantic Triangular Trade." Race relationships were good before the Civil War. Michelle Obama (descended from slaves) wants slavery reparations. When the Constitution was read in Congress last January the parts about slavery were omitted. Biblical law permits voluntary slavery (Blacks volunteered to be slaves?) because some people cannot live independently and are by nature slaves.

Note again these statements were made 40 years after the end of Jim Crow, in what should be an enlightened era.

A bit of history. Back in the late 1940s liberals were dismayed that some pretty anti-liberal people were fiercely loyal to the Democratic Party, and the party was home to Jim Crow. So when Democrat President Johnson signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights act, he was seen as a traitor. Nixon capitalized on that with his Southern Strategy and the GOP has been playing the race card -- and holding the South -- ever since.

So why isn't the GOP denouncing those kinds of statements? Perhaps they privately believe them. The people who do believe those statements make up a significant chunk of their base and they don't want to tick them off. And the citizens (or their church leaders) can't denounce them without going into serious contortions about what their leaders said.

And these are the people pushing Michelle Bachmann's candidacy.

Soon free to serve

Obama, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen, and Sec. Defense Leon Panetta have signed a certification that the Dept. Defense has put all necessary policies and regulations in place and that allowing gays to serve in the military does not disrupt military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting, and retention. That means 60 days from signing, Sept. 20, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy will be revoked. Gays may then serve openly.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Full faith and credit

I wrote yesterday about the Respect for Marriage Act (repealing DOMA) and said the repeal includes the provision that says states will have to honor gay marriages performed in other states. Tobias Barrington Wolff, formerly the Chair of LGBT Policy for Obama's 2008 campaign and with an article in Pam's House Blend, offers correction and clarification.

That clause in DOMA that says states don't have to honor gay marriages from other states is based on a false premise and wasn't necessary. In the past states have disagreed on marriage issues (such as interracial marriage) and the courts have worked out how to handle the differences. They will do so again. There will be differences in gay marriage law for quite some time (barring a really favorable ruling by the Supremes in the Calif. gay marriage case).

The Full Faith and Credit phrase of the Constitution is cited as the need for the part of DOMA mentioned above. However, that phrase applies to court proceedings, such as custody or wrongful death. Someone is not able to subvert a court judgment simply by moving to a more favorable state. So if a recognition of a marriage is required to complete a court judgment a second state must honor that marriage, if only to carry out the judgment.

However, if courts are not involved the situation is different. A gay couple going to New York to marry for the purpose of demanding Alabama (or a health insurance company there) recognize their marriage probably won't succeed. State courts don't have to violate strong public policies.

Repeal of the Full Faith and Credit part of DOMA is still important, for three reasons.

* The Constitution says (as discussed above) one state must honor the court judgments of another state. DOMA says this does not have to be followed for gay people.

* States legislatures or courts are able to work out sensible policy about the circumstances an out of state marriage might be recognized. But with DOMA that discussion is avoided and states are encouraged to treat gay couples with legal hostility.

* This part of DOMA was the first time the federal gov't singled out a group of people and declared their relationships could be treated with hostility in interstate situations. It is a bad precedent.

Pursuit of happiness

Andrew Sullivan wrote an article for Newsweek discussing the importance of gay marriage. As a kid coming to grips with being gay he realized my parents have a great relationship. I can't have that. It was a psychic wound that did not heal until he met his partner and had his own wedding in Massachusetts four years ago. "I did not hear civilization crumble. I felt a wound being healed."

In America, marriage to the one you love has been seen as a fundamental right, confirmed many times by the Supremes. The roots of that right are older than the Constitution, originating in the "pursuit of happiness" clause of the Declaration of Independence. Extending marriage to gays is very American.

In the same issue, the very next article, Cynthia Nixon talks of the joy of hearing the news that gay marriage passed the New York senate. She is now planning a wedding with her girlfriend.

The fight for gay marriage is often portrayed in political terms—Democrat versus Republican, liberal versus conservative. But for couples like us, this is about something simpler and more personal. I want to be married to my girlfriend. And I want us to have a ceremony. I want all our friends and family to come, and I want our kids to be there.

City clerk's offices in New York City knew Sunday, the first day gay marriages can be performed, would be busy. When they received 2661 online applications they knew not all of them could be accommodated on the first day. So they set up a lottery for the 764 open time slots in the offices in all 5 boroughs. Since only 823 applied to the lottery officials decided to accommodate all who applied. Alas, not all who applied for a slot in Manhattan will be able to get married there.

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin takes on the few city clerks in New York state who refuse to give marriage licenses to gays because of religious convictions. He knows the Bible fairly well, but doesn't know of any doctrine that forbids handing out a piece of paper and entering data in a database. Sure, there are prohibitions on working on the Sabbath, and some even see a prohibition to working in a liquor store. And no one is suggesting a building inspector refuse to certify a building because abortions might be done there or it happens to be for a church whose faith is seen as wrong. And even those who object to handing pieces of paper to gay couples don't have any problem with doing so for those in mixed marriages or those previously divorced. It is a mighty peculiar notion that a public employee can deny services if someone doesn't pass their personal religious test.

A commenter named Dave responding to a similar post by Rob Tisinai clarifies the legal situation.

Religious practices in a religious setting are protected. It makes sense for a Protestant church to discriminate against rabbis when hiring a spiritual leader for the church.

Religious practices in a secular setting must follow relevant equal rights laws. If you rent the church social hall to any secular group (any group that is not your religion) you must rent it to all groups. Processing marriage licenses is a secular setting.

Religious practices of a particular group may be banned if they are banned for all groups, sacred and secular. An example of this is animal sacrifice.

Rob Tisinai, in his own blog, responds to a claim by the National Organization for Marriage. The claim is that yeah, today's youth may be for gay marriage, but people tend to become more conservative as they age (actually, the opposite happened to me). So even though today's youth overwhelmingly support gay marriage that won't always be true. We'll lose them.

Tisinai's response is in two parts: No, we won't lose them. It doesn't matter.

Second response first. Support for gay marriage has increased in all age brackets. It doesn't matter if we lose support from the youth. Even though support in the over 65 crowd is small, it is increasing -- from 18% in 2005 to 33% this year.

And no, we aren't losing them as they age. The 50-64 bracket is more supportive now than the 30-39 bracket was five years ago.

Tisinai concludes by saying we don't have to wait for the bigots to die off. That annoys him because it means some people are waiting for him (and me too) to die off. And he's worked too hard to want to die before seeing the results. We don't have to dismiss any generation.

Back in 1983 Evan Wolfson was a student at Harvard Law School. He decided to write his thesis on the reasons why gays should be allowed to marry. Now look at that year again. This was close to the start of the AIDS crisis and marriage wasn't considered a possibility by most gays. Wolfson is now the head of Freedom to Marry and the arguments he made in that thesis are having an impact. Only 44 states to go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Calling out the damn lies and statistics

Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced a bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. And she means not just the part that the federal gov't can't acknowledge gay marriages but also the part that says states don't have to accept gay marriages performed in other states. With that bill now in the senate system hearings were held yesterday. It featured testimony from gays hurt by the law, such as a man who had to sell his condo when his partner died because the partner's federal pension didn't recognize him.

There were the usual cast of anti-gay bigots, such as Thomas Minnery of Focus on the Family. And senators Al Franken and Patrick Leahy were ready. Minnery claimed that children do better in mother-and-father families. Franken pounced. Nope, the study says "nuclear families" and families headed by a same-sex couple are included in that definition. Franken said, "And I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways." Leahy then got Minnery to agree that children are better off with gay parents than with no parents and that gay couples should have the same financial benefits as a straight couple. Thank you, Mr. Franken and Mr. Leahy.

This is why the anti-gay crowd doesn't like legal proceedings. They would rather trumpet their false claims without having to provide proof as part of an election campaign.

E. J. Graff, in an article in The Atlantic, has a full report on the hearing and compares it to the hearings held 15 years ago when DOMA was enacted. One aspect didn't change -- various witnesses said pretty much the same thing as was said before (though perhaps different people saying it). Ah, but the words coming out of the mouths of senators was quite different.

Back in 1996, no senator was calling the antigay forces on their lies, damn lies, and statistics. No senator approvingly quoted his state's married same-sex couples or invited white-bread suburban lawnmowing gay men and lesbians to tell the heartbreaking disaster stories about being excluded from full marriage recognition. This time, perhaps no Republican senator was yet willing to urge DOMA's repeal, but only Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) showed up to speak in support of it.

It is so good to see the list of senators who helped our side. DOMA is getting wobbly.

One befuddled bully

Some of the things of note while I was gone.

The record high temperature has been tied or broken 900 times across the central part of the country in the last month. The report doesn't say how many times in how many different cities, though it indicates the heat is a problem from Texas to North Dakota to Michigan (at least). Insert your favorite global warming jokes here.

The Michigan legislature may be working to push gays back in the closet, but there is an increase in the number of gays in local offices and candidates for the next election. Charles Pugh is Detroit City Council President. Craig Covey used to be mayor of Ferndale and is now on the Oakland County Commission. Chris Swope is City Clerk of Lansing. And three gay candidates are in the running for seats in the Lansing City Council.

Gary Glenn is the head of the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association (declared by the SPLC to be a hate group). He has been very good at making gay lives miserable in the state, for starters he spearheaded the 2004 marriage protection amendment here. He will be making next year's campaign to try to replace senator Debbie Stabenow a bit more interesting by hinting he might be a candidate. Some wonder if he is really all that different from the rest of the GOP field. I wonder if it is better to have him in the race or out of it. Will the spotlight show how ridiculous he is or will it make the rest of the GOP field look moderate in comparison?

Gay marriage begins this Sunday in New York. Among the first couples will be Rod and Ricky, two puppets from the off-Broadway show Avenue Q. Some think it is cute. Others think we're handing a weapon to our opponents.

I had written about the extensive research by Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin that showed how the anti-gay treatment Kirk Murphy got at age four from George Rekers was the reason why Kirk committed suicide three decades later. Burroway now describes four other children that Rekers cited in research. Alas, he doesn't know the real names of these children or what happened to them in the last 40 years. Rekers claims success. Burroway says we only have his word on it.

Several bishops (though not all) of the Episcopal Church in New York have told their gay clergy that now that gay marriage is legal, if they have a partner they must get married. The reasoning is that the church has asked all people to live in committed monogamous, faithful relationships and pastors must demonstrate what that is like. If a straight couple must marry, so must a gay couple.

Bishop Provenzano of Long Island also drew a strong distinction between church and civil marriage. Marriage is of the church and it also happens to create a civil agreement. He has no interest in that civil agreement. But if you want a church wedding you must profess the teachings of the church.

Stephen Colbert adds a story to the It Gets Better project. When he was young he was bullied. Another guy was bullied too and was called "queer". The kid responded. Yes, I am queer. Kiss me and let me prove it. Result: one befuddled bully.

San Diego held its Pride Parade this past weekend. A large (reportedly 350) contingent of military service members, perhaps 70% of them active, marched in the parade. They wore t-shirts showing which branch they serve in. This is important because (1) it's a first, (2) it shows the swiftness of change, (3) it shows most military men are fine with having a gay colleague, and (4) with Don't Ask, Don't Tell still officially on the books there could be disciplinary problems for those who marched.

Home again

The trip to Minneapolis by train a week ago Tuesday was good, though long. Amtrak doesn't own the track (at least not Detroit to Chicago); Norfolk & Southern does. The track needs enough repairs that a speed limit has been imposed, but N&S doesn't have the money to make those repairs. This looks to be a long-term problem, but Amtrak hasn't revised their schedule, but only advises passengers the train will likely be late. So we (a fellow ringer from the Detroit area and I) had only enough time in Chicago to get lunch.

Wednesday in Minneapolis was great weather. I spent most of the day in the riverfront area that had been full of flour mills from 1875 to 1950. Alas, the museum there was closed due to a Minnesota gov't shutdown over budget battles. I took a tour of the nearby Guthrie Theater and attended a play, God of Carnage, there that evening. It was, of course, very well done, but didn't strike me as funny as the rest of the audience found it. One boy had bashed another and now the parents are trying to resolve the situation, but each of the four ends up battling the others.

The handbell seminar took the next four days and went well. Interesting classes, fine concerts, time to talk to old bell friends, talk to publishers, and hear what other composers are doing. One evening was a hymn sing (featuring choir and bells) at the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. The pulpit cloth had a rainbow pattern, so I went looking for and found a sign saying they are a Reconciling Congregation (meaning declared gay friendly). I talked to the minister of music (who conducted the musicians) about it. They were one of the first churches to make that declaration, having done so 20 years ago. It was a no-brainer for them because they had so many gay members already.

I had another free day on Monday. The museums were closed (most are on Mondays and the shutdown was still in effect) and the temperature was too hot to do anything outside. That meant I couldn't use the bicycle rental system installed on many downtown sidewalks, including across from my hotel.

So I took the commuter train to the Mall of America. It is big, yes, but it is a mall. And there is only so much I do in a mall. I walked (a lot), watched the amusement rides in the center area, had a couple meals, and watched the latest Harry Potter movie (matinee prices aren't too bad). The movie was a fine conclusion to the series and as for the rest, at least I was cool.

On Tuesday it was time to head home. Once at the train station I found there had been a derailment outside Minneapolis the previous Saturday and they weren't sure when the train from Seattle would get in. Those of us with connections in Chicago were put on a bus and sent on our way. Brief stop for lunch (Burger King with Amtrak picking up $5) and into Chicago 50 minutes early. I used the extra time to walk to Grant Park and around Buckingham Fountain. Fortunately, Chicago was not blazing hot.

The train out of Chicago was delayed so those on the train from Seattle could make their transfer. I'm glad I could wander Chicago rather than being stuck in the St. Paul station. With the slow speeds I got to my car in Ann Arbor at 2:00 am. -- not really a ringing endorsement to take the train again.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Riding the rails

I leave for vacation on Tuesday morning (the Amtrak train leave Ann Arbor at 7:45 am.!) and I don't know if I'll have time to write tomorrow. I'll be attending the National Handbell Seminar in Minneapolis put on by the Handbell Musicians of America. I also have two free days in the city. What I see may depend on what their budget stalemate has closed. I get home close to midnight on Tuesday, July 19. I probably won't have time to write anything on Wednesday.

The gay-positive hits just keep on coming

Wow! Another gay-positive story in the Free Press! Twice in two weeks! This one is on the Relationship page and features two people who spent years in a straight marriage, but found same-sex love when the marriage ended. The first one is Vicki Brail, who says she wasn't attracted to women until she met Jeanne Covert after divorcing her husband. I've heard of this kind of thing before. The second is John Siegfried, who entered into a straight marriage knowing he was gay. But more than a half century ago when he was married he saw a straight marriage as the only way to get the traditional happy-ever-after romance. This is the more common situation and frequently ends badly.

A promise to discriminate

I wrote just a couple days ago about the pledge that Iowa's The Family Leader requested GOP prez. candidates sign. I noted then that Michelle Bachmann signed. Since then Rick Santorum has also signed.

However, Gary Johnson (I hear you asking who?), a candidate from the libertarian branch of the party, refused, blasting the pledge as "offensive to the principles of liberty and freedom on which this country was founded." And, "This type of rhetoric is what gives Republicans a bad name." It sure does.

I like this guy's thinking, at least on gay issues (he is GOP after all).

Here's excerpts from his statement.

This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue’.

While the Family Leader pledge covers just about every other so-called virtue they can think of, the one that is conspicuously missing is tolerance. In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims, gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions, and everyone else who doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell painting.

The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country. If we nominate such a candidate, we will never capture the White House in 2012. If candidates who sign this pledge somehow think they are scoring some points with some core constituency of the Republican Party, they are doing so at the peril of writing off the vast majority of Americans who want no part of this ‘pledge’ and its offensive language.

Thank you, Mr. Johnson.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Violating the standards of care

The gay news blogs are all abuzz over this one. Michelle Bachmann, GOP prez. candidate has strongly supported anti-gay policies. Given the way she talks there has been accusations about the practices of her husband Marcus who heads Bachmann & Associates, a Christian counseling center that takes both state and federal funds. Marcus declared that his practice does not engage in reparative (ex-gay) therapy.

Truth Wins Out is an organization that works to discredit ex-gay therapists. These are the people who claim to be able to make a gay person straight. So John Becker of TWO went to Bachmann & Associates, posing as a troubled gay man (he is gay, just not troubled about it, and has a husband) and asking for treatment. He found that yes, Bachmann's staff does ex-gay therapy, which the American Psychiatric Association says is both useless and harmful (as Kirk Murphy found out). His staff does it in a way the even violates the standards of the American Association of Christian Counselors, whose standards are lower than the APA.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy

The Iowa Family Leader, a social conservative group has created a pledge for aspiring GOP candidates. Michelle Bachmann has signed it. Huntsman refused. Others are pondering it. I've summarized its various points and added a bit of commentary. You can read the over-the-top language by following the link. I did not go to the original document to read all the supporting justifications. I'm sure the reasoning is as fantasy laden as such groups are famous for.

* Personal fidelity to spouse.

* Respect for the marriage of others (though the part "unless they're gay" is strangely missing).

* Fidelity to the constitution and elevation of only constitutionalist judges (who understand the constitution the same way we do).

* Vigorous opposition to the redefinition of marriage, including opposition of bigamy, polygamy, polyandry, and same-sex marriage.

* Recognition that straight married people and their children just have it better.

* Support the anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy. Ban quickie divorce. (Wait! Isn't divorce the greatest threat to marriage and you're only banning quick divorces?)

* Earnest support for Defense of Marriage Act.

* Steadfast embrace of a federal marriage protection amendment.

* "Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy" (yeah, that just had to be quoted) by protecting them from human trafficking, slavery, promiscuity, pornography, prostitution, infanticide, abortion, and "other types of coercion or stolen innocence." (What, you're banning porn? Good luck with that.)

* In the military, keep gays out of shared showers, keep women from serving on the front lines.

* "Rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control." (So we don't have any competition with the anti-women, anti-human rights totalitarian control that we listed above. Besides, Sharia law takeover is just so imminent.)

* Recognition that having as many babies as possible is best for America.

* Commitment to shrink government.

* Fierce defense of freedom of speech and religious liberty, especially against faith institutions who defend faithful heterosexuality. (We have freedom of speech. You don't.)

Buried in one of the footnotes is this gem. "No peer-reviewed empirical science or rational demonstration has ever definitively proven, nor even has shown an overwhelming probability, that homosexual preference or behavior is irresistible as a function of genetic determinism or other forms of fatalism." Such a delightful choice for that last word. Translation: Because genetics can't prove who is gay there is no evidence. Thus gays can become straight, and by golly you had better. Of course, our version of creation doesn't need any evidence.

A commenter wonders if Bachmann is getting so much airtime so that Romney, the other GOP front runner, looks downright moderate in comparison.

Bachmann also tells a personal story that implies we don't need a welfare system because poor people will get by with sufficient faith in God.

Contrast all that with a poll done by the National Journal of insiders (operatives, lobbyists, consultants) of both parties asking about marriage equality.

84% of Democrats say their party should support equality-minded legislation (yay!). That's up from 59% two years ago.

14% of Republicans say the GOP should support such legislation (wow, that much!). 56% just want to avoid the issue. That implies they know they are losing the argument and support for gay-bashing is dissipating and becoming less fervent.

Contrast that poll with this action. The Dept. of Defense Appropriations Bill (the thing that allows the DoD to spend money) is working its way through the House. The GOP added a toothless, yet symbolically damaging, amendment -- the DoD is to spend no money on legally married gay spouses (such as family health insurance) because of DOMA. I'm pleased that 6 GOP House members voted against it -- but annoyed that 19 Dem members voted yes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Certification, not education

Every so often I take a look at a blog by Steve Miranda who writes about teaching to a student's passion instead of requiring all students to take a set curriculum. As a teacher myself this idea fascinates me, though I don't know enough yet to see how I might apply it to my own classroom.

Even so, one of Miranda's recent postings caught my attention. He says in America we don't have a system of education, but a system of certification. Students work to get grades and a degree, not to actually learn things. Employers are interested in the certification because, "employers like seeing this because it’s evidence someone knows how to play the game, how to follow directions, how to deliver what authority figures want. That’s the certification they’re looking for."

And that strikes me as a very conservative idea -- they're looking for an obedient cog in the machine.

Greater and lesser harm

I think I have this right… Log Cabin Republicans files suit to get the military Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy overturned. They succeeded in a district court not long before Congress passed the complicated repeal law. The 9th Circuit said, fine, let the process work its way out and the LCR ruling is stayed.

LCR went back to court and said DADT is still in place and the government's process is taking too long (and gay soldiers are still being discharged). A federal appeals court agreed, lifting the 9th Circuit's stay. DADT is unconstitutional and must be ended now, with no need to wait for Dept. of Defense certification and a 60 day waiting period. Yeah, the whole thing is a bit confusing right now because it doesn't seem proper for a lower court to lift a stay set in place by an upper court and I'm not real sure which court has done what.

There are some interesting aspects of the ruling, no matter which court it came from.

This time around it is unlikely to be appealed. I've heard from other reports that the Dept. of Defense has agreed to the ruling and will assume that DADT must be ended now.

It means that Congress or a future president cannot reinstate DADT. Matters of housing or full inclusion are not simply policy (some differences maintained because of Defense of Marriage Act) but could be constitutionally challenged in court.

The big change is that a court has determined a stay of a discriminatory policy is more harmful to gays than to those who want to discriminate. Read that one carefully. The anti-gay crowd has been claiming harm. This panel of judges say that harm isn't as bad as the harm done to gay people. The declaration that the Calif. gay marriage law is unconstitutional is also under a stay. Look for the lawyers in that case to ask that stay be lifted too.

Journalism v. advocacy

It was three years ago that 14 year old Brandon McInerney shot 15 year old Lawrence King. McInerney's trial is only now getting started. King was gay and bullied (by more than McInerney) and finally began to stand up for himself by flirting with McInerney. McInerney didn't handle that well and brought a gun to school.

We expected the defenders would smear King as a sexual aggressor (and they have), using the "gay panic" defense. But it is annoying when supposedly responsible journalists, such as when Ramen Setoodeh of Newsweek did it a few months after the shooting and Catherine Saillant of the LA Times does it now. Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin pulls apart Saillant's article to show how it isn't unbiased journalism, but is advocating for the defense.

Evolving from states rights

A lot of gay bloggers are pleased with Obama for praising the gay marriage success in New York, yet annoyed with him for not personally coming out in favor of gay marriage. He uses the argument that states have the right to make their own marriage laws. And the swarm of bloggers wonder, "He's biracial. He is pushing for states rights?"

Ari Ezra Waldman, who blogs about gay legal issues, takes a look at Obama's position. Over the last half century, "states rights" has been a code phrase to mean the feds should butt out of the business of Southern states and allow us to discriminate against blacks however we want. But there have been times the sentiment of states rights have been used for progressive causes (alas, no examples). And many people today who clamor for some aspect of powerful states and tiny central government really do like some of the things done in Washington.

The question remains, why won't Obama lead?

While the majority of the country favors same-sex marriage, in at least three states critical to his reelection -- Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada -- the majority very much does not favor same-sex marriage. And gay marriage is one of those issues where a small base can make a lot of noise while the majority aren't willing to stake their existence on it. A commenter noted that since the Calif. marriage fight two years ago Obama has been very careful to oppose marriage amendments, support gay marriage laws, and not say what his own personal opinion is, other than to say it is "evolving."

Obama is a pragmatist and settles for what he knows he can get (some of us think he capitulates rather than settles). Gay marriage is something that just won't come up in this Congress, so why make a lot of noise about it, perhaps jeopardizing other issues? He is also not what we expect from a liberal, able to separate personal beliefs from public policy. His religious beliefs and family ties are too deep. He commented on that in a speech back in 2006. Liberals are too quick to avoid discussing religion (and that would be because conservatives have given it such a bad name?) and so don't address issues in moral terms that everyone understands. Liberal secularism can't be as strident as conservative religion and can't demand religion be left out of the public discourse.

So what's behind Obama's claim of same-sex marriage being a state's rights issue? It is hard to tell. But perhaps we can learn a bit to hone our argument to be more persuasive (which Waldman will leave for another post).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Get to know your neighbors

I've come to see there are two ways evaluate how well a church lives up to the example of Jesus. These are whether an action improves mental health and whether it builds community.

Daniel Aldrich moved to New Orleans a few months before Katrina hit. It was a neighbor, not the government, that urged him to evacuate. If he had waited for the government, he would have been trapped in the city within the mess that became.

That experience shaped his political science research. He went to various disasters around the world to find out what kind of people were most likely to survive. It wasn't those with the most money, the most power, or the most access to government services. It was those who were most socially connected -- those who were a part of a vibrant community.

It is the community that knows who needs the help and cares enough to provide it right now. It is the support of community that can get a neighborhood rebuilt.

Bumbling bureaucrats can severely damage community if they don't recognize it. Before the Southeast Asia tsunami in 2004 fisherman worked in teams. Afterward, organizations gave out boats to individuals. Teammates became rivals.

Communities are the sum of their relationships, not their buildings and roads.

Firsthand experience with hate

Brett Webb-Mitchell is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church. He is also gay, with a partner and two children. In 2008 he was hired by the First Presbyterian Church of Henderson, North Carolina as an interim pastor while the search committee looked for a permanent appointment. Because it was short term he decided not to tell them he was gay. He was outed anyway.

In an article in Salon he talks about the hatred aimed in his direction, mostly through a blog that accepts messages from anyone in town. Through that he learned how little the average resident truly understands the Bible. But the church, under his care, grew. And he was able to have meaningful discussions about what Christianity is really about.

Believe the proper thing

Essayis Terrence Heath takes a look at the segment of the GOP that kept Bush's approval rating from slipping below 22%. That same bunch supported Palin and now has pushed Bachmann to second place in polls of GOP prez. candidates. Heath notes for this bunch it makes no difference how smart you are (there is an anti-intellectual streak), how good you are at accomplishing something, or how knowledgeable you are. Nope, it is all about whether you believe the proper things.

I see this in Fundamentalist Christianity. They are concerned whether your doctrine is correct, not whether you are actually following the commandments of Jesus to love one another. Correctness of belief doesn't work any better in government than it does in Christianity.

So Bachmann appears to be a nut to everyone else. But to her base she is saying all the right things.

For the benefit of all the people

I like reading the blog Strange Maps for the strange and wonderful way map data can be presented. For example, a recent posting shows the layout of the hall floor for the 1908 GOP nominating convention. The layout is arranged to form the face of William Howard Taft. He was easily nominated and also easily defeated William Jennings Bryan.

But that alone isn't enough to bring this to your attention. What prompted me is some quotes of Taft on how he would conduct his administration. They make me wish the GOP still followed them a century later.

• Action for which I become responsible, or for which my administration becomes responsible, shall be within the law.
• A government is for the benefit of all the people.
• I am in favor of helping the prosperity of all countries because, when we are all prosperous, the trade with each becomes more valuable to the other.
• Enthusiasm for a cause sometimes warps judgment.
• I love judges, and I love courts. They are my ideals, that typify on earth what we shall meet hereafter in heaven under a just God.
• Substantial progress toward better things can rarely be taken without developing new evils requiring new remedies.
• We are all imperfect. We can not expect perfect government.
• I have come to the conclusion that the major part of the work of a President is to increase the gate receipts of expositions and fairs and bring tourists to town.
• We live in a stage of politics, where legislators seem to regard the passage of laws as much more important than the results of their enforcement.

Those silly distractions are popping up

An editorial in last Sunday's Free Press notes that with the state budget done early the legislature may be tempted to spend time in distractions. There are plenty of legitimate concerns for them to tackle (the economy is still a mess in the state) or it might be appropriate to make the legislature part time. The distractions the Freep lists are:

* The phony war on immigrants. A bill similar to the draconian one in Arizona has been introduced even as the state's declining immigrant population can't be so easily used as scapegoats for our economic mess.

* The tiresome war on abortion. Legislators in both parties fear Right to Life's ability to mobilize voters, especially in low-turnout primary races.

* The annoying war on universities. That early budget takes swipes at both gays and stem cell research. Gov. Snyder's advisors have dismissed both ad unconstitutional and unenforceable.

* The divisive war on unions. Snyder recognizes that attacks on unions (like prohibiting contracts that enroll members in the union when they are employed) would create labor unrest and discourage potential employers.

* The perennial war on divorce. A proposal would limit a judge's discretion to divide property.

They all confirm that the GOP is in power.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A celebration of love by the community

Nancy Andrews, a managing editor for the Detroit Free Press, wrote a lengthy commentary that appeared in Sunday's edition. Her partner, Annie O'Neill, is from New York and they decided when one of their home states permitted it they would get married. Andrews spent most of the column explaining why a public marriage is important. "'For better, for worse,' sometimes means you need a little help." It is the community that gathers for the wedding who will provide that help.

What is significant to me is that the Freep printed the commentary and used a big part of an Op-Ed page to do so. In finding the article online I saw readers had left four comments. I clicked on that link and the page showed three comments (don't know what happened to the fourth). Two were blocked by Freep staff, apparently too rude. The third was polite (though stretching it) but definitely anti-gay. I didn't leave a comment because I'd have to create an account. I did send a letter of thanks to the editor of the Editorial page.

I'm off to see my local city's fireworks display. They do a great job, though no match for the show Detroit/Windsor put on a week ago.

Foolish to think the relationship is equal

I wrote last Friday about how gay marriage equality helps straight women, parents of gays, and single gay men. My friend and debate partner replied. I'll only include part of his comments. He wrote:

Re the wildly stereotypical and silly comments [in that posting] about hetero marriage, I am heartily LOL. I'll politely call these ideas simplistic. That's not the first word I thought of.

Its this sort of "gee-whiz, hot dog, marriage at last" thinking that makes me ask (again): I understand very well same-sex couples' need for the legal benefits of marriage... but are gays and lesbians sure they really want MARRIAGE?

When I read the original article about gay marriage benefiting straight women there were lots of comments from partnered and married gay couples saying that almost always one is the alpha and the other isn’t. It is foolish to think the relationship is equal.

However, what I took from the article was that gay marriage undermined the conservative viewpoint of marriage that the man is always the alpha and the woman isn't, the male dominates, the female submits. In the replacement of that viewpoint the two members of the marriage must determine whether one of them is the alpha and which one it is. And that it just might be the female. But it is the couple that decides, not societal or religious dictates.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lashing out, jealousy, and fury

Dan Savage and Keith Olbermann met at a performance of the Broadway musical "Book of Mormon" and Olbermann invited Savage onto his Current TV show for a long (over 14 minutes) chat. Somewhere after minute 9 the discussion turns to the anti-gay crowd and Savage has some interesting things to say:

When Tony Perkins says it [homosexuality] is a choice I invite him to choose it. I volunteer to choose it with him. He can choose it on me. … If you can reach into your head and flip a switch and make yourself gay, Tony Perkins should make a gay porno, where he shows us exactly how that's done.

A lot of these people [the anti-gay crowd] are bisexual or gay people and have chosen in their hearts to be straight. Being gay isn't a choice, for some people being straight is a choice. The closet, to remain in the closet, that's the choice they've made, and they resent those of us who didn't choose to remain closeted, who decided to live with some integrity and be who we are.

Most of those people are very religious people who were spiritually abused. They've bought into this idea that there is this higher power, there is this Jesus Christ and he's going to throw up of you are who he created you to be. … You've pitted someone's religious life against their intimate needs. For some people they feel salvation and eternity is worth seventy years of no intimacy, seventy years of living a lie, and of living in the closet, and at being at war with yourself. I think it's a tragedy. It's malpractice, religious malpractice.

People often giving that advice [to stay in the closet] are folks who've done it. It's not just they believe this is the right way to live, they're angry at people who haven't made the same decision they've made to remain in the closet. They fell abandoned. A lot of what you see from anti-gay activists is lashing out, it's jealousy, and its fury, because you are living the life they denied themselves.

Parents of a gay soldier take up the fight

Andrew Wilfahrt was both a soldier and gay. His buddies in the Army knew he was gay and it didn't matter. They knew him as a fine soldier. Andrew died in Afghanistan last February. His parents, Jeff and Lori who live in Minnesota, are quite annoyed that their state legislature put a marriage protection amendment on next year's ballot (this is the state that produced both GOP prez. candidates Pawlenty and Bachmann). Losing their son has turned the parents into activists for gay rights. They will be working diligently over the next 17 months to defeat the amendment and their status as the parents of a dead gay soldier is giving their message extra attention. Said Jeff, "I hope my son didn't die for human beings, for Americans, for Minnesotans who would deny him civil rights." CNN did a lengthy profile of the parents and the son.

Significant and regrettable

A while ago the Department of Justice declared it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court challenges. Last Friday the DoJ filed a brief in one of those cases. It was a lot more than a simple "We won't defend that law." One part was a thorough discussion of why. Another part was a long discussion of the "significant and regrettable role" in discrimination of gays in all levels of government, especially the federal level. It then goes on to document that discrimination, starting with Eisenhower's executive order to add "sexual perversion" (meaning gays) to the reasons why a person might be fired from government employment. In a sense the DoJ is issuing an apology.

This significantly changes the dynamics of public perception and of the case itself.

Scarf up the tourism bonanza

Chuck Muth is an "outspoken conservative activist" in Nevada. In his personal blog, he wrote that gay marriage cannot be stopped, only delayed. Therefore…

Many, if not most of you won't like this but gay marriage is coming. Nationwide. It's inevitable. It's only a matter of time. It can and will be delayed, but not stopped. And eventually, it will be as acceptable as black/white marriages. The problem isn't letting gays into marriage, but having already let the government into marriage.

As an economy based almost solely on tourism and entertainment, Nevada -- and especially Las Vegas -- should accept reality, embrace the inevitable, repeal the state's ban on gay marriage, and scarf up on the tourism bonanza that would result rather than suck hind teat behind the likes of Hawaii and New York.

Scott Wooledge (I think that is how he spells it) of Pam's House Blend notes a few things Muth did not say about marriage equality, such things as gays suffer injustices as being denied hospital visitation rights, gays want to marry for love just like straights do, or even it is just the right thing to do. Nope. Muth's reason for ending opposition to gay marriage is that there is money to be made from the gay wedding business. And (excuse me while I turn off the irony alarm) earning money apparently takes precedence over preventing the downfall of Western Civilization.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Why should I care about your issue?

Gay rights groups in Maine are gearing up to get marriage equality on the ballot in 2012, only 3 years after a gay marriage law was repealed by voters. I've been getting email flyers from them. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin wonders if the gay groups in Maine have learned the lessons from their previous efforts. He reduces the lessons to these points.

* Straight people mostly don't care about gay marriage simply because it doesn't personally affect them. It doesn't work to try to get them to care about someone else.

* The anti-gay crowd in both Calif. and Maine reframed the debate to be about something straight people do care about, in this case education (as in "They'll teach your 1st grade son about gay sex!").

* Don't appeal to vague terms such as "fairness" because most of them (including the bigots) already think they are being fair.

* Instead, find the angle about how the law affects straight people. Arizona defeated an amendment that banned both gay marriage and domestic partnerships because the gay side showed how straight relationships (such as an elderly couple that would lose benefits if they got married) would be affected by the law. No similar hook was found for the version that banned only gay marriage, which passed.

That means hire campaign consultants to do the research to find the angle that resonates. That's what the anti-gay crowd did to find how effective the education angle is.

Perhaps we can play up being aligned with demonstrably hateful people. Or go back to my first post today and talk about how gay marriage improves the lives of straight women (though that would annoy a large number of straight men).

Senators on our side

Thirteen US senators contributed to the It Gets Better project with a video just under 5 minutes. I'm glad they talk a bit about what they are doing to make it better. Need you ask how many of the contributors are GOP?

More pastors on our side

About a month ago I wrote about a statement being passed around pastors of the United Methodist Church in Minnesota. The statement said these pastors would officiate at marriages of same-sex couples in spite of the church ban on the practice. A lot of pastors quickly signed on. That same petition has made the rounds in the New England Conference and at least 123 pastors (one in nine in the conference) have signed on. This gives me hope that the denomination's General Assembly next year will change things in our favor.

Spreading the benefits

The ability of same-sex couples to legally marry is beneficial to more than same-sex couples. Linda Hirhsman, writing for Slate, says straight women benefit. In other words, gay marriage does redefine marriage, and for the better. Says Hirshman, "Well, same-sex marriage shows that people can make long-term, loving, sexual bonds with each other even where neither is naturally inclined to tell the other what to do."

Yes, indeedie, our foes know this. They are fighting so hard against marriage equality for gays because they are really fighting against marriage equality for women. The direct assault on equality -- women are only suitable for being wife and mother -- may be over, but the assault continues. It's just more subtle. Such as the claim that women in equal relationships are less happy. As women expect more from marriage, the reasoning goes, conflict increases and men's dissatisfaction increases. Yup, it's all about keeping the man happy so he can earn more money.

Happy, same-sex couples who want to get married are a feminist windfall, proving the prevailing wisdom wrong. Women can be equal and happy.

A blogger, who calls herself Seething Mom because her former church rejects her gay son, says the availability of gay marriage helps people like her -- parents of gay children. She wrote:

I can tell you this in no uncertain terms, it is very difficult for parents to teach their gay children that they should abide by the same moral standards as their straight counterparts when the most prominent message they receive early on from our churches, our family groups, our politicians and ultimately from society as a whole is that they are so evil that nothing can redeem them.

Gay marriage helps single gay men. Seething Mom then quotes a letter by a 27 year old gay man, who sent it to Andrew Sullivan.

For the first time since I came out, I feel forced to look at the fact that I am not just in this for dating, for sex. Maybe if I were older, I would already have an identity hardened against being defined by society, and it would not matter so much. But we are on the way to a world where society will accept my relationships, and I will not be able to use outsider status as an excuse for any behavior.