Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reduced to a publicity stunt?

As expected, Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay and plays in pro team sports has generated a storm of media coverage. Even the prez. and first lady got into the act. I couldn't possibly link to all the stories, so won't try. There is, however, one that is worth sharing -- Nate Silver's analysis of whether Collins will continue to play.

Collins plays basketball. The season just ended. Collins is a free agent. At the age of 34 what are the chances of him being signed by any team (even ignoring the gay angle)?

Silver looked at other NBA players ages 33-35 with stats similar to Collins. The sample size is, alas, small. Even so, 61% of them played in the NBA in the following season. Rather decent odds for Collins, but far from a guarantee of a job.

Silver adds a word of caution. If Collins isn't signed will people see it's because he's gay and claim homophobia? If he is signed will people see it as a publicity stunt -- hey, we have a gay player?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Take the jobs and go home

Colorado, where the Aurora movie theater shootings happened, got tired of waiting for the national gov't to do something about gun violence. So the state legislature banned the sale of large magazines and a few related measures.

Though the manufacture of such large magazines is still legal four gun-related companies have said they are moving operations out of Colorado. I can hear them saying if you don't let us sell our products we're going to take our jobs and go home. So, yeah, the move will have consequences. The biggest is 200 employees.

Other companies hurt by the new laws are those that run hunting expeditions. I'm sure their operations will remain legal, but out-of-state hunters are boycotting businesses in a state that has started down the slippery slope (gosh, where have I heard that phrase before?).

Yes, these hunters and those companies have a right to take their business elsewhere. But some things are more important than jobs (though the GOP can't name any of them). What good is a job if the streets are so unsafe you can't get to it?

Basketball and blue sky

There has been lots of discussion about how the time is probably right for a player in professional men's team sports to come out as gay. It has now happened. Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards basketball team has come out in a big article in Sports Illustrated.

A few people have pointed out a caveat. The NBA season has just ended and Collins is now a free agent. That means he isn't an active player at the moment. Teams could simply decide he's too much of a controversy to sign, thus ending his career.

From the article:
Today, though, one of the last closets in American society has been pried open. It wasn't done with a crowbar. The hinges are still intact. But it opened and Jason Collins walked out. Proudly. Head high. A smile on his face. Surely there are other active athletes, maybe lots, still inside. But the capacity is one less than it was yesterday.

And the day after he came out to SI, Collins reported that he slept well. When he woke, the sky hadn't fallen in. And damn if it wasn't blue.
Jason's twin brother Jarron also has a bit in Sports Illustrated saying how proud he is of his brother.

In the meantime, Chris Kluwe and Brendan Ayanbadejo have been the most outspoken straight allies in the NFL. Ayanbadejo has been released from his team and Kluwe will be facing strong competition from a young possible replacement. Are these two allies at the natural end of their playing careers? Or did their outspokenness on a touchy subject end their careers? Closeted gay players are paying attention.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rich guys for marriage equality

I think it was a couple years ago when the New York legislature was contemplating marriage equality that Michael Bloomberg got a few of his rich colleagues to get behind the effort and pressure GOP lawmakers. That effort was enough difference that the billionaires are at it again.

The American Unity PAC and Fund are financed by these rich guys for the purpose of lobbying GOP lawmakers for marriage equality. In just the last month the Fund has spent a half million in Rhode Island, Delaware, Indiana(!), West Virginia(!), and Utah(!!). A quarter million (don't know if it is part of that half million) was spent in Minnesota, which is busy working on a marriage equality bill and need every GOP vote they can get.

A secondary purpose of this money is to show that marriage equality is not just a Democrat policy. But there are risks -- the Minnesota branch of the National Organization for Marriage has said it will seek to unseat any GOP lawmaker who votes for equality.

This page shows three comments. One is from Minnesota United (the good guys). Another essentially says support for marriage equality is a conservative value. The third says, "No group that favors homosexual marriage is conservative." Sigh. They've got a lot of work ahead of them. Even so I welcome this effort.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A political investment

On to other bits of news that have accumulated during the week. Exams have been given and graded and grades computed for whole courses, though not posted yet. I've already got my to-do list for the summer (which includes fun stuff like planning some travel).

The Tribune Co. is putting its newspapers up for sale. That includes the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. It appears the Koch brothers are potential buyers. Yeah, these are the guys who have donated big time to GOP causes and to campaigns against Obama. They are at the top of the corporate takeover of America. So are the brothers interested in these newspapers as a financial investment -- or a political one? This could be a scary development.

The Boy Scouts are now pushing a compromise position -- allow gay youth but continue to ban gay adult leaders. Ari Ezra Waldman explains why this bad idea has gotten this far. The line all along has been that gay adult leaders will only prey on impressionable young boys. But the reason for allowing gay youth is that scouting is to help boys develop, including a sense of right and wrong -- which means the Scouts will continue to push the idea that being gay is wrong with the intent of convincing impressionable boys to no longer be gay (or develop a deep sense of shame). Or, as the Mormon church (biggest sponsor of scout troops) puts it, we don't care if you're gay -- as long as you are celibate until you marry a woman.

Just ask John Paulk how successful the Scouts are likely to be in convincing boys not to be gay. He became an ex-gay activist in the 1990s, married an ex-lesbian, and became a shining star in Focus on the Family and the chairman of Exodus International. He ended up on the front page of Newsweek trumpeting the success of ex-gay programs. But in 2000 he was photographed leaving a gay bar and everything fell apart.

Now he confirms he is gay and has apologized (and a genuine one at that) for all the harm he has inflicted on gay youth while the head of Exodus and a leader in FotF.

Looking equality in the eye

Nevada took a big step towards marriage equality this week. It has started the process to repeal the gay marriage ban in its constitution and replace it with marriage equality, the first state to do so. This is a big deal in a heavily Mormon state. It has passed the Senate (12-9) and heads to the House. Both chambers must approve it again after the 2014 election before going before voters in 2016.
Mormon marriage equality supporter Sen. Justin Jones (D-Southwest Las Vegas) cited his gay brother-in-law, who he sees in church every Sunday. “I would rather lose an election than look my brother-in-law in the eye every Sunday and tell him he doesn’t have the same rights as I do,” he said.

And to round out the marriage equality news, Delaware has also started the process, though it doesn't have to undo a constitutional ban. The bill was introduced less than two weeks ago and has already moved through committee and been approved by the full House. On to the Senate.

Bishop Gene Robinson has written a book God Believes in Love; Straight Talk About Gay Marriage. That was enough for him to be a guest of Stephen Colbert. The two ponder the question if a denomination doesn't exclude someone how can it be cool? Enjoy the 6 minutes of fun.


The French Assembly has approved marriage equality! It is the 14th nation to do so and the third one in about six weeks. Next step is likely a review by the Constitutional Commission to check such a law is possible. This vote is especially important because France has such a large Catholic influence and there have been huge demonstrations against marriage equality. And as the vote neared, there has been a big increase in anti-gay violence and violent threats against lawmakers, such as gunpowder mailed to the president of the Assembly. Some people believe themselves to be a power and do not like that power threatened.

Rhode Island!

Today is a day for exclamation points. The Rhode Island Senate has approved marriage equality with a 26-12 vote! The measure has already passed the House by a wide margin, but must return there because the Senate changed a few details. Gov. Lincoln Chaffee promised to sign it. This is a big deal because all five GOP senators voted for it. Saying it another way: the opposition did not come from the GOP.

Marriage equality will soon be available across all of New England.


Finally spring in southeast Michigan. Out of one bedroom window I see this:

Out of another bedroom window is this:

I look out my kitchen window to this:

The forsythia has finally bloomed. It took a while because just before it did we had another cold snap. I was afraid that it wouldn't bloom at all (which has happened). But the rain has stopped (at least for today), the sun was out to make the forsythia glow, and it was warm enough for a bike ride.

This is the whole forsythia bush I see from my kitchen window.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Not so cold house

I woke up this morning to a cold house again (well, 66F when I expected 69F). It wasn't as bad as in mid-February, mostly because it wasn't as cold outside. I called the heating company and they said they might get someone to my place at the end of the day. Because I was doing a couple things at the college today (this is exam week!) I asked them to not come before 4:00. The receptionist said that since they were there just a couple months ago, there would be no fee for the service call. That bumped them up a few notches in my opinion of them.

I fiddled with the furnace a bit more and, surprisingly, it came on. I didn't call the heating company again.

I came home at 3:50, expecting a phone call at any moment. Right at 4:00 they were at my door. They fiddled with the furnace a bit -- unplugged a drain hole, sanded some corrosion off something -- handed me the receipt showing no charge, and were gone. All better now. At least as far as I can tell -- the furnace hasn't needed to come on all evening.

As I said, this is exam week. I give one exam tomorrow and the other Thursday. I probably won't have time to blog until after then.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Love that isn't forbidden

I've just finished the book False Colors by Alex Beecroft. It is advertised as a male/male romance and takes place in the English Navy in 1762. I bought it when it was offered for a low price back when Border's was going out of business. Yeah, I'm only now getting around to reading it.

The story was entertaining enough that I read the whole thing (333 pages), even though it was obvious within the first couple chapters that John and Alfie (short for Aelfstan) would eventually be together. Yeah, there were 300 pages of things that kept them apart, both of their own making and outside forces.

All that would not have been enough for me to bother writing about it. This part is: The book is described as being about "forbidden love" -- and we see how forbidden when Alfie is court martialed. With the gains we've made over the last few years (the book was published in 2009) I'm no longer interested in our relationships being described as forbidden (along with all the angst that goes with that). I feel we've come to the point where gay relationships can be richly explored, just like straight ones. I've read lots of books that do just that.

There was another aspect of the story that annoyed me. Yeah, Alfie and John are together at the end. But Alfie just went through a court martial because he was accused of doing what he and John are now doing. So what happens next? What lengths do they go through to avoid both being court martialed? Or do they leave the Navy? If so, where do they live and what do the neighbors say? If the whole story is of forbidden love their trials aren't over because they finally see they're right for each other.

One could argue that the book isn't worth such deep analysis. So, I'm done.

Male friendship

Rob Tisinai of Box Turtle Bulletin has developed a solid record of debunking anti-gay talking points. Here's a weird one (talking point, not debunking): Anthony Esolen of National Organization for Marriage claims that allowing gays to marry will prevent men from forming fulfilling friendships with other men. The reason is that other men will see two men and assume they're a gay couple. And those other men will shun the two.

The reasoning is all wrong, says Tisinai. Openness about being gay will improve male friendship:
Straight men find it easier to create intimate, loving friendships when they have no reason to give a damn whether people think they’re gay.

Cooperatives within capitalism

About a week ago while I attended the workshop on the origins of Right-to-Work, I picked up a copy of Workers World. There were lots of copies at the meeting site. It didn't take me long to be wary of the bias in the articles. In one about the USA allegedly trying to pick a fight with North Korea so we would have an excuse to make it capitalist, there was praise for the government there, likely because it is communist. Nope, sorry, their leader is acting like a power, keeping his position through violence (at least financial and likely physical, mental, and spiritual too).

With that in mind, there is an article that caught my attention. It discussed worker cooperatives, or worker owned companies, which it praises (and which I see as a viable alternative to the excesses of capitalism). The article then laments the difficulty of such worker companies as long as they must compete in a capitalist system. The answer, the article claims must be the proletariat revolution envisioned by Marx and Engles resulting in socialism.

And again, I have a problem with that. I will disclose that I have not studied socialism or other economic systems (other than reading a few articles in Wikipedia). Even so, I'll share a few thoughts.

As I determined the last time I looked into this issue, Communism has to go too far in enforcing its commonality and Socialism appears to blunt ambition.

Which brings me back to worker cooperatives. I can't see how they would be successful except within a market-driven economy. The competition would force cooperatives to create better products. Contrary to the beliefs of the workers paper, I doubt the absence of corporate owners would prevent economic recessions (though that would have prevented the current mess). It seems viable to me to aim towards all corporations being worker-owned. Perhaps we should offer encouragement in that direction.

Yeah, I know the current 1% won't allow their corporations to become worker-owned. But as the idea catches on, their influence will wane. Perhaps I'm being naïve. It will be better than what we have now.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Zealand!

The New Zealand Parliament passed marriage equality, voting 77-44. That's the second country this month! Member of Parliament Maurice Williamson gave a great and humorous speech in support of the bill. An excerpt:
I also had a leader tell me I would burn in the fires of hell for eternity and that was a bad mistake because I've got a degree in physics. I used the thermodynamic laws of physics. I put in my body weight and my humidity and so on. I assumed the furnace to be at 5000 degrees and I will last for just on 2.1 seconds.
The video occasionally shows a woman in a rainbow striped shirt. She is Louisa Wall, the lesbian MP who sponsored the bill.

When the vote was announced, the MPs and the gallery burst into a Maori love song.

Four years ago Libby Phelps Alvarez left the Westboro Baptist Church, the hugely anti-gay church founded by her grandfather. Alvarez recently gave an interview with the New York Post -- from the Rainbow House across the street from the WBC. She likes hanging out with the guys there because they talk about stuff other than hell. And she works for civil rights for all. A nice photo of her in front of the house here. And the interview here. It is interesting to see what life was like behind the picket signs.

A couple days ago  I wrote about the 50th anniversary of MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail. NPR's All Things Considered did a story on the anniversary, giving more context than I could. You can listen to the 6 minute audio or read the news story.

From the text of the letter I didn't realize the colleagues King was responding to were white. I also didn't catch the significance of King's criticisms and anger of the moderate white churches who were willing to let injustice fester as long as order was maintained.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

Fifty years ago today Martin Luther King wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail. He had gone there to protest because so many downtown businesses still had "Whites Only" signs. He was arrested and put in jail. While there he wrote a long letter to his fellow pastors justifying why he did what he did.

I've read parts of it before, but not the whole thing. It is quite a thorough justification and worth reading. And, yes, it is long.

A couple excerpts:
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
The text of the entire letter was posted by Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin. Yes, that is a gay site. We still face oppression.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Expiate stigmatic guilt

Not long ago if it was revealed an athlete was gay all the product endorsements (where the real money is) dried up. Not that any athlete in the big male sports of football, basketball, baseball, and hockey would do such a thing (for lots of reasons) while still an active player. An example is Martina Navratilova, famous tennis star and lesbian. I've heard her income was considerably less than that of her colleagues.

Times have changed. Nike has announced that they want as an endorser the first gay athlete in the big sports. This could be worth millions. Various people are hinting that Nike isn't the only one looking at the opportunities for a "marketing goldmine."

It was on this date in 1979 that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were founded, as Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin reports in his Daily Agenda. The Sisters started off as a bit of street theater in San Francisco. The men dressed in nun's habits "to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt," as their mission statement put it.

But just a couple years later the AIDS crisis hit. The Sisters became one of the earliest AIDS charities. They sill bring meals to those who can't care for themselves and fund alternative proms for LGBT youth, among other things. The organization has gone national and international.
And through it all, they continue to be the favorite targets of many religious-right organizations, many of whom still show scant evidence of performing the charitable work that the Sisters do. Ironic, isn’t it?
A look at their website is worth it just for the banner photo. But it also shows they're quite an organization.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Organize the South

Amazingly, there were three workshops I could have attended yesterday. There was one titled "Keep Making Peace" put on by the United Methodist Church in East Lansing. Soulforce put on one in Ypsilanti discussing modern social tools in activist work. I went to the third (and shortest, only 3 hours) put on by the Workers World Forum in Detroit.

The main speaker was Dante Strobino, a field organizer for United Electrical Workers and the Southern Workers Assembly. His talk was about the origins of Right-to-Work and ways to deal with it.

Back in 1935 Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guaranteed the rights of trade unions to enter into collective bargaining and to strike as a means of negotiation.

Of course, corporations didn't like it and tried many times to overturn all or part of it. None succeeded until the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. This prohibited unfair practices on the part of unions (NLRA was about unfair corporate practices). According to Strobino, a big effect was to allow states to supersede the NLRA. The 12 states of the South (less industrialized than the North) promptly did just that. Reason: racism -- to make sure blacks could not effectively organize. Yeah, white workers couldn't organize either, but as long as blacks could not, they were apparently cool with that. Note this law was passed before many blacks were able to vote.

As a result 10 Southern states have no framework for collective bargaining (we in Michigan at least have that). The other two, North Carolina and Virginia, ban it outright. That means the union cannot sign a contract with the employer (and certainly can't require everyone in the shop be a member or demand payment of dues -- the equivalent of Right-to-Work). Because of that union participation is quite low -- 2 to 5% across the South. As a result, the 10 states with the lowest median income are in the South.

Which is why foreign companies are flocking to the South to set up factories. Interest and investment is quite large, even during the Great Recession. Southern governors and mayors scramble to outdo each other to award tax rebates and other incentives, now amounting up to $1 billion a deal. This is money that doesn't go to such things as education and infrastructure, leaving the South much more vulnerable to natural disasters and with a less educated workforce.

Of course, politicians get their pockets lined. They also get to brag about the number of jobs they brought to the area. No mention of the quality (pay level) of those jobs and the worsening of the society due to bad roads and uneducated citizens.

RTW, according to Strobino, is not about giving workers a choice whether to pay union dues (as Gov. Snyder likes to claim). It is to weaken the power of unions. It does so in these ways:

* Unions must divert significant resources simply to collect dues, and to convince workers to pay up, that union representation is beneficial to all of them.

* Unions no longer have the time and money for training workers in the practical (this is how you file a complaint) and political (this is what that bill in Lansing means) details a worker should know about.

* Unions have less money for supporting politicians in political campaigns.

* As more members stop paying others say, "If he isn't paying why should I?"

Even though workers in the South are racist (which corporations exploit), the white workers could benefit from unions too. All workers have a reason to organize.

And how might workers fight back?

Though unions can't sign contracts in North Carolina, they can be at the bargaining table. But having the union present has to come from the workers.

Here are ways to organize:

* Do actions that don't require a majority of workers to recognize the union.

* Start by campaigning for one demand. The easiest to work for is a paid Martin Luther King holiday. It seems the white employees like that one too. That success prompts other workers to join for the next demand.

* Campaign for a workers bill of rights. That usually includes such things as a living wage, safety, access to corporate info, handling of grievances, paid sick leave (the big one), recognition of overtime hours. If that can't be done through bargaining with the company, try working for a city or state law.

* Watch out for a worker forum, which corporations set up to head off a union.

* Think about what the union would do for the worker and go after those things individually. This is worker empowerment and requires training to make it happen, but it is a constant struggle. It isn't like voting in a union and letting it handle everything.

* Look for allies -- leaders of faith, civil leaders, labor leaders -- to create informal labor boards. These put public pressure on the corporations.

* The management won't pay attention until their means of making money is threatened. There are ways to slow down production, even if a strike isn't possible. Golly, boss, I just can't work any faster and still follow all those rules you placed on me.

* Though unions may not legally picket a site (depends on the relation of the union and the site), ordinary citizens can, hopefully encouraging workers at the site to join them.

* Watch for and avoid ways the bosses pit workers against each other. Look for ways to pit the bosses against each other.

* Look at international labor rights and make noise over which ones the corporation violates. This would be especially effective against international corporations. NAFTA includes a section called NAALC, which demands corporations must have a minimum way to treat their employees. It was intended to prevent Mexican companies from taking advantage of their labor to undercut American workers. But those same provisions can be used against American companies.

Southern workers were mighty annoyed when RTW hit Wisconsin because worker concern didn't extend outside of Wisconsin and certainly not to the South where RTW came from. It is time for a national worker effort. Top of the agenda is repeal Taft-Hartley.

That national worker alliance won't happen until the workers of the South are organized. This is the root of the national struggle. Until that happens employers can threaten, "Do what we want or we'll send your job to the South."

After Strobino spoke, the floor was opened for questions and comments. One man (I think he is a leader in the local effort) was disappointed in the UAW leadership. They seemed to be focusing their efforts on defeating Gov. Snyder in 2014. The big question: What if they fail? That's what happened in Wisconsin. UAW contracts won't be renewed until 2015. Will leadership change its tune if they face those negotiations while RTW is still in effect? A better idea (according to this guy) would be for leaders to lead the UAW in calling and implementing a general strike of all employees across the state. That is about the only way to get the attention of Lansing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

We'll just do it ourselves

Now that we've seen about as many senators declare for marriage equality who are going to, representatives (at least Democratic ones) are now doing the same. The link is to the second one today. And, as with the senators, watchers are keeping a list of which Dem representatives haven't declared. Only seven on that list.

Back during Mardi Gras, a rainbow colored crosswalk was created in the Sydney, Australia gay neighborhood. It appears (though the details seem muddled) the city council and the gay community wanted to keep it, but the mayor did not. A couple nights ago a road crew appeared and removed it. Some say the night action was treachery, other say that's simply when road work is done. The reason given is that the rainbow crossing was unsafe (I think I heard tourists were lying down in the road to get their picture taken). Whatever the reason and level of secrecy, the gay community is furious.

So gays have been busy installing their own rainbow crossings, done with paint or chalk, all over town.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Marriage equality and the bumbling dad

Essayist Terrence Heath explores gender roles in marriage and how marriage equality will help that situation. Of course, conservatives don't want that situation to be helped, which is one reason why they oppose marriage equality.

In particular, marriage equality will counter the idea of gender complementarity, the idea that only a woman can complement a man (and the reverse). What that is really saying is women were born for some tasks and men born for others and a household won't be complete without both of them (and Heath documents who does most of the "household" work). But in a male-male household the tasks are divided up by who likes them, who is better at them, and who has time for them.

Another idea that is targeted by marriage equality is the bumbling dad, that men simply can't do women's work and need to be rescued from his screw-ups.

When Heath was growing up his mother made sure he could cook, launder, and clean. She even taught him how to braid a doll's hair in case he had a daughter. He can now feed and diaper kids with the best of them (and since he has two, he's had lots of practice). That surprises a few women.

Who does what in a household is a cultural norm, not some division of labor we're born into. And marriage equality can redefine those norms.

No need to join the 21st Century

I wrote yesterday that the Republican National Committee will be holding a meeting over the next few days. One of their actions will likely be a vote to confirm marriage as one man, one woman.

Leaders of 13 anti-gay groups wrote a letter to the RNC saying by golly, you had better pledge loyalty to the Defense of Marriage Act (even if the Supremes overturn it) and a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The letter goes on to say (my paraphrase): The party shouldn't give up what is right just to please the youngsters. We don't need to give up orthodoxy for a bigger tent because there are gay conservative groups in the GOP (never mind they weren't invited to CPAC this year). The party needs to be better with its communications to avoid some of the gaffes made last year.

Sorry, dearie, better communication won't help your cause. We understand your position perfectly -- and soundly reject it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Friends don't ask friends to live with inequality

Yeah, sodomy laws, which ban gay sex, were overturned by the Supremes back in 2003. That doesn't mean states actually took them off their books. For example:

Just this week a gay lawmaker in Montana gave an impassioned plea to eliminate that state's law. He said it made him a felon, even though it hasn't been enforced. The law makes him less than equal. Fortunately, the legislature voted to overturn the outdated law. Alas, 38 GOP lawmakers voted to keep the law.

The story in Virginia is another matter. I think the ACLU sued to have that state's sodomy law removed. A district court did just that. The state's Attorney General (no friend of ours) Ken Cuccinelli asked the Fourth Circuit Court to hear the case. They refused. On to the Supreme Court? Didn't they already rule -- 10 years ago?

Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has announced support for marriage equality! That makes 54 out of 100 senators declared for our side. That leaves 3 Democratic senators: Manchin of West Virginia has repeated his opposition, Mark Pryor of Arkansas remains undecided, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana hiding behind her constituent's disapproval.

Which means the rush to support us will now have a big lull. All the Democrats who are going to have done so and we likely won't see any more GOP senators for quite some time.

Ari Ezra Waldman notes that support for marriage equality stalled for a while back in 2008-2010. What picked up the momentum after that? A string of court cases, including the Calif. marriage case and the several around the Defense of Marriage Act, that showed how empty the reasons against us are. And along with each case was a lot of media coverage, including various discussion shows. So thank the legal system.

Uruguay becomes the 12th country to offer all of its citizens marriage equality! The vote in the House was 71-21.

Contrast that with…

The Oklahoma House brought up a resolution affirming one-man-one-woman marriage. Rep. Kay Floyd walked out of the chamber, wanting nothing to do with the vote, not even wanting to dignify it with a no. Another dozen or so Dem lawmakers followed. The other 15 Dem representatives voted for the measure, which passed 84-0. The bill's sponsor, Bob Cleveland. is mystified why anyone would want to walk out in protest.

The Republican National Committee meets tomorrow. It will vote on a series of resolutions designed to "re-affirm conservative principles" brought by state legislators. One of those will be to affirm one of those principles is marriage is limited to one man and one woman. So much for the national chairman trying to make the party more appealing to minorities. All the comments essentially say, "Go for it! Way to make yourselves irrelevant! And pass the popcorn."

And speaking of the GOP…

Essayist Terrence Heath thinks the GOP would like the Supremes to impose marriage equality across the country for a simple reason: It would make the issue go away, an issue that now gives them only grief. Heath goes on to document the ways that grief will come about and the ways the GOP position is softening. The source of that grief: supporting marriage equality won't draw activist gays away from the Dems but can seriously annoy their own base.

Then Heath goes into ways the GOP is against the country as a whole and, more importantly, against their own youth. Beyond marriage equality that includes issues like a path to citizenship for immigrants, legality of abortion, emphasis on renewable energy and action to slow climate change, tax the wealthy to reduce deficits, avoid cutting Social Security and Medicare, and create jobs.

On to the interesting part. Heath lists the factions of the GOP and notes these factions all hate each other. There is a handy chart (from dailykos) listing the factions and their view of Obama and on some top issues. Here are the categories with the dailykos one word description:

Teabagger: crazy
Paleocon: paranoid
Corporate con: greedy
Neocon: bloodthirsty
Theocon: zealot
Libertarian: me!

Heath asks, how can the various GOP factions reach out to blacks, gays, Latinos, women, and young voters if they can't reach out to each other?

In another essay Heath comments on an interview with Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Dolan says again that gays can't be married, they can only be friends. Then he says that the Catholic Church hasn't been good at saying they aren't anti-anybody.

Heath isn't buying. He notes the cardinal has said gays should be celibate (as only one of many anti-gay things the Catholic Church -- and Dolan -- has said), then Heath says "Friends, Cardinal, don’t expect friends to live with inequality. Let alone demand it of them."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Win back the hearts and minds

Though opinion is turning in our favor, we haven't won yet. This is one reason: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky doesn't want the Supremes to rule on the Calif. marriage equality case. He wants it to remain a state issue.
If we're to say each state can decide, I think a good 25, 30 states still do believe in traditional marriage, and maybe we allow that debate to go on for another couple of decades and see if we can still win back the hearts and minds of people.
I don't think he reads -- or doesn't trust -- the trends in polls that Nate Silver sees.

In contrast…

This week's episode of On Being looks at the gay marriage debate. It is actually a rebroadcast of an episode from last summer, this appearance because of the cases before the Supremes. The show is a discussion between Krista Tippett, the host, Jonathan Rauch, marriage equality advocate, and David Blankenhorn, marriage advocate.

Blankenhorn noticed the importance of men in families, especially poor families. He began to advocate for stronger marriages. At first he thought the issue of gay marriage was a distraction from the real issue. Then he met and teamed up with Rauch.

Rauch, who is gay, also comes from the marriage advocate side. He recognized at a very young age that marriage would be unavailable to him and wanted to figure out why marriage is so important. What is this institution we call marriage? He found it is both love between the couple and a commitment by the couple with each other and with the wider community, and also a commitment by the community with the couple.

Blankenhorn noticed something. Straight couples were fleeing the institution of marriage and gay couples were clamoring to be allowed in. Perhaps gay couples could show straights a better way to be married and to show the importance of the institution.

A part of the discussion is the hope of a new way to look at divisive issues. To tackle them both sides must devote the effort required to understand the other's point of view. The discussion must be done without trying to score debate points or attacking the opponent as a substitute for probing the issue. The result may be that neither side may convert to the other's viewpoint. Even so, a greater goal is achieved -- respect for the other and his view.

Terrence Heath disagrees with Blankenhorn's assertion that a lot of family ills are because of missing fathers. Heath says a lot of family ills are because of poverty. If a guy has a job he can afford to get married.

Heath ponders all this because the Oklahoma House might debate a bill that diverts money from welfare to fund a campaign promoting marriage. Heath says it will fail. Taking money from those who need it most means fewer people will be able to afford to be married.

Water, water, everywhere

In just the last couple weeks I've seen a couple sites exploring what will happen when sea levels rise due to climate change.

Nickolay Lamm and Remik Ziemlinski created maps showing what would be underwater when sea levels rose by 5 feet (maybe a hundred years from now), 12 feet (perhaps by 2300), and 25 feet (centuries from now). Lamm found photos of areas around New York City, Boston, Washington, and Miami. He then manipulated the images according to the maps to show what those scenes would be like with each amount of water. Miami is done for. Boston and Cambridge are going to be quite wet. The National Mall will be inundated, making the White House beachfront property. A good deal of Manhattan will stay above the waves, though a lot of New Jersey will be under a much wider Hudson River.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the fed agency that includes the National Weather Service, among other things), in partnership with several other organizations has created a Sea Level Rise Viewer. This is a program that shows what parts of the coasts become inundated as sea levels rise. This seems more realistic and official -- there is a disclaimer that you shouldn't depend on it to accurately predict what will happen in a particular spot. Don't make real estate decisions on just this data. The program shows NYC to Virginia, Georgia to Mississippi, Texas (meaning it skips Louisiana), and California to Washington (not much happens to Seattle because it is so hilly). In a few places it will show a photo of a landmark and what rising sea level might do to it. This one is a lot less dramatic because it only explores a rise of six feet.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

So much for the second term agenda

Yeah, a decent move that Obama has decided to give back 5% of his salary. The symbolism is nice. But a lot of people are quite unimpressed. His 5% is about half their salary. It would look -- and be -- a whole lot better if he fixed the budgetary mess.

As for that fixing… Terrence Heath sees that Obama still hasn't figured out who he's dealing with. The GOP has refused to negotiate (and are doing all they can to make Obama out to be the reason). That means Obama has recently signed a budget bill keeping all those budget cuts in place until the 2014 budget goes into effect (or at least is supposed to) next October. These budget cuts are the ones Obama described as "dumb."

Obama's inability to accurately assess the GOP, says Heath, will doom his second term agenda. This is not a "no-win" situation. It is a huge win for the GOP who are getting what they want even though Americans don't want that and didn't vote for it. They're winning in spite of losses at the ballot box and in the polls.

A working majority

Cool graph, put out by Wonkblog of the Washington Post:

And already it is out of date. The number of senators supporting marriage equality now stands at 51, a working majority. That number includes two Republicans.

I wonder who were those 3 senators back in 1997? One is Ted Kennedy who stated a strong opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, though didn't actually say, "I support allowing gays to marry."

Nate Silver studied what motivates a senator to declare his support for marriage equality. As I expected (once I thought about it), a senator makes a declaration when a clear majority in the state is for equality. I'll let Silver fill in the details (and perhaps correct my interpretation). Since some senators are from states (like Mississippi) that won't have a majority for equality for a long time, the upward curve will likely level off soon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Marriage already redefined

Last week, about the time the Supremes finished hearing oral arguments in the two gay marriage cases, Time put out an edition with the cover story "Gay Marriage Already Won." You can buy the issue with a cover showing two men or two women kissing.

During the second case before the Supremes Chief Justice Roberts made a lot of noise about gays being "politically powerful," noting the slew of senators trumpeting their support of marriage equality. Perhaps Roberts was saying "Don't bother us, you can get there through politics."

Many in the gay community are telling Time (and Roberts), "Not so fast." There are still 33 states that ban gay marriage and most of them in the state constitution. According to Nate Silver the last few states may not overturn their ban for another decade. Edie Windsor, at the center of one of last week's cases, is 83 and doesn't have a decade.

We may no doubt win, but we haven't won yet. Our opposition will be fighting nasty. Heroes (on our side) will still be created.

Ari Ezra Waldman reviews the arguments against gay marriage along with their refutation. He actually posted this before the cases were heard last week, alas I'm only getting to it now. The rundown:

* The country has an interest in upholding morality. But the Supremes have already ruled that morality, especially moral disapproval of a group, cannot be the sole reason for discrimination.

* We can't afford granting gay couples federal benefits when money is scarce. Again, Supremes have already ruled that administrative costs cannot justify discrimination.

* We as a nation need the uniformity of DOMA's denial of federal benefits while states work out who can and can't get married. Repealing DOMA has no effect on the states working through the issue.

* The state has an interest in the optimal family structure and in encouraging straight couples to produce babies within marriage. This is really the only argument that got much airing before the justices.

The reply to the last one has two parts:

* Gays used to be portrayed as promiscuous. This argument actually claims that gays shouldn't marry because straights are promiscuous.

* Banning gays from marriage does nothing to promote straights to get hitched.

Brian Dickerson in the Sunday Free Press notes that marriage has already been redefined, and not by gays. These days 48% of women give birth to their first child before getting married. This change started more than 20 years ago. Yes, two parents are better, but the sex of the parents doesn't matter. Perhaps excluding some people from marriage convinces others that marriage doesn't matter?

That question is worth exploring. But the consequences of the trend needs to be taken into account. Do we condemn these women or help them finish their education? Do we offer gov't support or do we pay for remedial education and incarceration of their offspring? But however we help these single-parent families it is completely separate from barring some people from getting married.