Monday, March 31, 2014

Equalization of gender

The Free Press has a cartoon by Mike Thompson showing Michigan Attorney General Bill Scheutte doing battle with rainbow windmills.

Almost 25 years ago I moved to Cologne, Germany for two years as part of my job in the auto industry. I learned some German -- I could go into a restaurant, speak to the waiter, and know what I'm getting -- but not very much. As any non-native speaker I had difficulties with the gender of nouns. A dog is considered masculine so it is der hund but other words (and I can't remember any) are feminine and get die and others are neutral and get das. Mark Twain famously noted that a turnip has a gender while a female child does not.

But changing and equalization of gender roles is challenging linguists and everyday speakers. Perhaps this cumbersome system of gender for nouns might fade away.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Gay-friendly publication?

At the end of every post in this blog I include a series of tags that indicate the topics. It looks like these are not included for those who get posts through email. For those who are not social media savvy, the blog system allows a reader to click on a tag, displayed on the left side of the webpage, and see all the posts with that tag. I've used over 500 tags over the years and have about 275 in the tag cloud displayed on the page.

Only one of those tags is for a news source. I guess Newsweek was the first such tag and after that I realized if I kept one for every source I would end up with too many of them. Even so, I kept the Newsweek tag pretty much up-to-date. The Newsweek tag in the cloud says it has been used on 118 articles. One of those was posted yesterday.

I began reading Newsweek after college a few decades ago and it was the gay-friendly articles that finally made me realize I'm gay. I was in my mid-twenties by then. I've been reading ever since.

Last year Newsweek went digital and I read it on my little netbook computer. They changed the format of their webpages several months ago and, alas, the pages don't play nice with my netbook, frequently freezing it when a page loads. I read while I eat and I can sometimes eat half a meal waiting for a page to unfreeze. I'm now about 3 issues behind.

Articles have started showing a banner saying my subscription runs out in about 90 days. For the first time I'm beginning to question whether I want to renew. Newsweek did declare the paper edition has returned -- but the price is $150 a year.

Newsweek has gone through a few owners in the last few years. I haven't kept track. I hear the latest owner is IBT Media. The Guardian did a profile of IBT owners Johnathan Davis and Etienne Uzac. And the reason for mentioning this to you is that both of them have strong ties to Olivet University, an Evangelical Christian school. More importantly, they are apparently believers in gay-conversion therapy. That's the treatment that supposedly makes a gay person straight (with a teeny success rate) and that has been condemned by major psychology organizations as being of no help and likely significantly harmful.

Apparently in response to the article Davis issued a note that says there is no link between his personal views and his professional work. He also confirms his commitment to diversity of opinion. I immediately saw through that. Though he claims there is no link, values a diversity of opinion, and may even value his gay employees, will Newsweek continue to publish gay-friendly articles?

With that thought in mind I went looking through the table-of-contents pages for every issue since the beginning of the year. I found one article with a gay angle -- the one about the sport of figure skating being uncomfortable with gay skaters. And these issues included the time in which Utah had that brief span of gay marriage, Arizona finally vetoed the license to discriminate law, and several other states had marriage equality news.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Losing a path to justice

I've been thinking I need to make another addition to my outline about Power. This change is about the double way in which those who want Power look at government. One way is to use gov't to reinforce their Power. Part of that intentionally confuses legal with ethical. Yes, we can award contracts to our cronies because it is legal.

The other way is to recognize that properly functioning government has enough power to defeat their plans for Power, to stop their oppression. Therefore a goal is to make gov't to seem (and perhaps even be) incompetent. I currently see this in the inability of the Michigan legislature to come up with enough money to fix our collection of potholes we used to call roads.

That recalls Reagan's famous line, "Government can't fix the problem. Government is the problem." Yeah, when your plans are to maintain Power a responsible gov't can be a problem. Once enough people see an incompetent gov't and stop trusting it, dismantling it is so much easier. And the oppressed lose a path to justice.

The self-made man and health care

Why are decent American folk upset about the Affordable Care Act, the gov't handing out low-cost or free health insurance? One might argue it is because the GOP is stirring up the populace. Likely. But there appears a general feeling that the GOP is able to exploit. So, back to the question.

Harold Lloyd is a Wake Forest Law Professor and he explains his take on the situation for Huffington Post. This anger at the ACA comes from the self-made man, one of the enduring ideas of America. This man rose from poor circumstances, pinched pennies to make it through law or medical school, and is now self-sufficient. A self-made man considers the idea of insurance to be patronizing. And he feels that if he can do it, anyone can do it. Therefore simply handing out insurance (as well as welfare) encourages laziness.

But the self-made man is a myth. Yes, a lot of hard work was done. But there were lots of more important factors involved, such as good teachers (starting in grade school), supportive parents, great fellow students, safety supplied by police, roads to get to class paid by everyone's taxes, safe food, and a working health system. In addition, a severe illness can impoverish even a self-made man. And a society with lots of uninsured people sucks money out of the self-made man's wallet.

But why should wealth be a deciding factor? What about the woman who also works hard, takes care of an elderly father, is putting a daughter through college, and is considered to be a blessing by her peers? Doesn't she deserve affordable health care? We -- including the self-made men -- are in this together.


The GOP has been very persistent in saying that public employees, such as teachers, prison guards, and trash collectors are overpaid. They make those claims when teachers average $57,000 a year. So what about these salaries?

Nathaniel Davis, CEO of K12Inc, makes $9.5 million.

David Steiner, CEO of Waste Management, makes $7.7 million and has $59 million in stock of his company.

George Zoley, CEO of GEO, a company that operates jails and prisons, makes $6 million. He brags to shareholders that prison beds will stay at 96% full.

Yes, these are companies that the GOP tout as saving money for various levels of government. So the reason why privatization doesn't actually save taxpayers money is that taxpayer money must (1) pay a profit to shareholders and (2) pay gigantic salaries to the executives. No doubt there is a bit of savings when teacher salaries are slashed.

So, dear lawmaker, which is more important -- the salary of Nathaniel Davis or another 166 teachers in classrooms?

Let's go for the record!

There is no ice or snow on the deck today. This is the first time that has been true since December. Yeah, there are still a big pile of snow in the front yard and a couple spots of snow in the back. The forecast for tomorrow is a high of about 50F and Monday might get up to 60F. Perhaps I can get my bicycle out. But we're so close to beating the record for the most snowfall in a season I think we should just go for it. One three-inch dump and we're done. Then we don't have to deal with the record again. I don't want to go through such a harsh winter and not have a record to show for it. That's like getting the silver medal at the Olympics.

Ah, this is a poll to enjoy. The poll was sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. It found that Americans view gay people more favorably than Evangelical Christians. The numbers: How gays are seen -- 53% favorably, 18% unfavorably. Evangelicals -- 42% favorably, 28% unfavorably. And 62% believe it “is inevitable that gay marriages will be legally recognized by the Supreme Court.”

Same-sex marriage has begun in England and Wales. Weddings started last night at midnight.

AG Eric Holder had declared that all those Michigan same-sex weddings from a week ago will be recognized by the federal gov't. Even if the state gov't won't.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sunshine to bigotry

After a couple days of treading carefully, Michigan Gov. Rich Snyder has said the state gov't will not recognize all those same-sex marriages performed last Saturday (final count: 315) until the appeals process has concluded and the Supremes tell him he has to. Which essentially proves the plaintiffs case that withholding marriage rights creates inequality. Next step: several Dem congressmen from Michigan are asking the Dept. of Justice for federal recognition as was done in Utah.

Mich. Attorney General Bill Scheutte has been saying a lot that he's upholding the will of 2.7 million voters by pursuing an appeal of the recent marriage equality decision. Never mind that a good number of those 2.7 million voters have been replaced or had a change of heart in the 10 years since the marriage amendment was voted in.

So to Scheutte's efforts to protect the wishes of the voter: A Between the Lines editorial is calling Scheutte a liar. Their proof is the frequency in which Scheutte has been working against the wishes of the voters. There's that voter approved medical marijuana law that Scheutte is working to undermine (or eliminate). Scheutte was silent when the GOP-led legislature rammed through a replacement Emergency Manager law after voters defeated the previous version. He was also silent in the mess over wolf hunting. And again when the Right-to-Work law was rammed through.

At least elected officials get respect when they tell the truth. In this case it would be Scheutte saying, "I am asking for a stay and an appeal because of my religious convictions and those of my party's base." Instead, and contrary to his religion saying not to, he lies.

Ari Ezra Waldman of Towleroad reviews last week's Michigan marriage-equality case. There is a big aspect worth noting. We gained by having a full trial rather than a summary judgment. It forced our opponents to swear an oath, to go on record, and to be cross-examined and debunked. It brought sunshine to bigotry. It showed the "utter irrationality of preventing gays from marrying." The trial was a good thing.

But the Windsor decision by the Supremes last summer, the one that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, was broad enough in its demand for "equal dignity" that trials may not be needed in future cases.

Rand Hoch is Florida's first openly gay judge. He is predicting that marriage equality will come to all of America by the end of June in 2016. He has been watching the issue work through various district courts and into several Circuit Courts. Hoch predicts the Supremes will have to take it up at least by the 2015-16 term, which means a ruling by June of 2016. I notice he has no doubt which way the Supremes will rule.

To my dear sister: Can you wait two years? I know you don't want to.

Straight is Great

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin starts a post this way:
The funny thing about jerks, bigots, blowhards, and idiots is that they truly believe that everybody else is just like them.
The jerk in this case is Bill Donahue, leader of the Catholic League. He was annoyed at beer companies for pulling sponsorship of the New York or Boston St. Patrick's Day parades because gay people were not allowed to carry banners. So he set out to prove who the "real bigots" are. He went to the leaders of the New York Gay Pride Parade and requested he be allowed to march under the banner "Straight is Great." Gay people would surely find that offensive! They wouldn't dare let him march.

But we have lots of straight allies and most of us come from straight parents. Being straight is just as great as being gay. There are even some Catholic supporters. So the leaders said, Sure. No problem. We'll even help you carry the banner.

Not the answer he wanted to hear. There goes his claim to bigotry. And he did not want to march in a gay parade! So he complained about having to go to the gay training session. No way was he going to be trained in how to be gay!

Except, of course, the training is really about how to have a safe parade.

Just because she's a woman

There is a bit more about the excommunication of Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church he founded. It appears there was a struggle to consolidate power in an eight member board, rather than have all members (all 40) of the congregation decide an issue. Shirley Phelps-Roper is Fred's daughter and was heir apparent and spokesperson for the church. The current members of the board could cite Biblical verses about why women shouldn't be in power. Yes, they're sexist as well as homophobic (surprised?). So she was squeezed out and Fred excommunicated for wanting his opponents to be nice to his daughter. The main person doing the squeezing was Steve Drain, one of the tiny number of people in WBC who isn't kin to Fred. Caitlin Dickson of The Daily Beast has a thorough description of how Drain got involved in the church. He comes across as one scary dude.

Ari Ezra Waldman of Towleroad takes a look at the case just argued before the Supremes in which Hobby Lobby objected to the contraception requirements of the Affordable Care Act on religious freedom grounds. Waldman fears the Supremes will side with Hobby Lobby because of their previous ruling that corporations are people too. Which means that discriminatory law recently vetoed in Arizona will be back through ruling by the Supremes. Yep, a ruling about contraception could legalize discrimination against gay people.

Being holier than the next guy

World Vision is a huge charity, sometimes pulling in $2 billion a year. They also rate high in transparency and low in overhead. They are supported by lots of Christian, mostly Evangelical, denominations for their poverty, hunger, injustice, and AIDS work around the world.

It is really cool to hear that World Vision say it doesn't get into theological discussions -- in particular if your denomination says same-sex marriage is just fine, it is fine with us too. As long as there is abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within.

Wait. Hold on. Never mind.

The Evangelical community raised such a stink at that announcement that it took World Vision only two days to cave. I'll let you read the groveling letter for yourself. Rob in San Diego wrote:
I could not understand that letter, it was written in some foreign language. So I ran it through my computer translation and this is what it said…

Dear bigots, we thought that we were following Christ in treating all humans equal, but when you threatened to cut off money, we realized our mistake because money is what we greed for.
And Timothy Kincaid provided another translation:
“Eff you, Episcopal Church! Hey Lutherans, you can bite it! And UCC members, who cares what you clowns think.

Oh, and for all you Methodists and Presbyterians who support inclusion of all God’s children, yeah well you aren’t True Christians anyway

We’re sticking with the Baptists and the Pentecostals, because they are the only ones who are consistent with the infallible, authoritative Word of God

Effing pretenders! Liberal wannabees!

God isn’t about loving your neighbor and feeding the sick or fighting poverty! He’s about being holier than the next guy.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The stay will stick around

The stay of same-sex marriage in Michigan is going to be with us for a while. A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit split 2-1 on whether to continue the stay. The two noted that in similar situations the Supremes issued a stay and other district courts, similar to the one who ruled in Michigan, issued stays with their rulings. The other one said a stay isn't warranted, perhaps because the Supremes didn't explain their stay so aren't saying a stay should be followed. So now we wait for the 6th Circuit to take up the case. No date set for that yet.

Rachel Maddow has a non-obituary on Fred Phelps. She says it isn't an obituary because she doesn't need to say his name (and she doesn't) to get her point across. Her point is that the hurt he tried to inflict on others brought out the best in us in trying to shield that hurt. The video is 7 minutes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Don't appeal, don't waste taxpayer money

After my post stating that a stay had been issued, halting same-sex marriages in Michigan, I got a sad note from my sister's partner. I was too optimistic with my post that the Michigan ban had been struck down. I asked my sister when the wedding might be. Sis and her partner began to seriously think about that wedding. They even went so far as to consider their back yard in September. Now they are disappointed again.

I apologize for being so optimistic because I knew there would be a request for a stay and if the 6th Circuit didn't grant it, the Supremes would (see Utah). Even if Michigan AG Bill Schuette didn't request the stay (all through the trial he repeated he would appeal and ask for a stay until the appeals process was done) somebody in Michigan would have.

So, yes, we're back to the waiting game. The stay is in effect until Wednesday, giving the 6th Circuit enough time to decide whether to hear the case. If they take it the stay will no doubt continue. It may take them a year to rule. And it might be another year beyond that before the Supremes rule. The Supremes will have a wide selection of cases to choose from.

In answer to the partner's last question. Whenever the wedding is I'll do everything I can to be there. I want to celebrate with you.

As one would expect, the Free Press had same-sex marriage and the halting of them on the front page of today's edition. There were also a few commentaries.

A photo gallery of some of the more than 100 weddings that happened in at least four counties. More than 300 licenses were issued.

Those that are married must now wait on whether the state will recognize the marriage. AG Schuette hasn't said. Some couples are claiming their rights as married by doing such things a immediately filing jointly on their state taxes.

The main editorial commends the ruling and laments the stay. It says the Free Press was skeptical of the amendment when it was voted in almost 10 years ago. It didn't see that the amendment "promoted any legitimate public interest." The judge showed the editorial board's skepticism was well founded. The editorial laments how much money Schuette spent on this case, which will go up when he has to pay plaintiff's costs. And it calls on Schuette to not appeal to avoid wasting any more taxpayer money -- remember of Schuette's big three witnesses one was disqualified, another was ruled unbelievable, and the third declared that unrepentant gays will burn in hell. It's not going to get any better in the 6th Circuit courtroom.

I wrote about 10 days ago about Judith Levy, a lesbian, being confirmed to be a US District judge in the same courthouse as Bernard Friedman, the guy who just struck down the same-sex marriage ban. Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson has more on the story.

Back when Levy graduated from law school her first job was being a clerk for Friedman. And that three year period was when Levy's daughters were born. Levy made no secret that the girls were through artificial insemination and the other adult in the home was Levy's partner Janet Johnson. The relationship remained close enough that during the trial the daughters attended and had lunch with the judge and staff in his chambers.

Friedman is conscientious enough that he paid close attention during the trial he requested and ruled based only on the evidence he heard. But getting to know a young lesbian mom 17 years ago surely helped.

Judge Levy was on hand in Washtenaw County to sign marriage certificates.

Columnist Mitch Albom says we're focusing on the wrong thing. We worry about the definition of marriage and keeping gays away from it. Instead, we should be paying more attention to the health of our own marriages.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stay issued

The 6th Circuit has issued a stay of the Michigan same-sex marriage ruling. That happened perhaps an hour after the court said they wouldn't rule today. About 200 same-sex couples were married today.

Friday, March 21, 2014


The ruling for the gay marriage case in Michigan was issued today. The Michigan constitution amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman is unconstitutional at the federal level and is struck down. No stay was issued.

The announcement I read doesn't have a time on it, but it appears the ruling was issued after county clerks offices had closed for the day. The office in Washtenaw County will be open tomorrow for 60 couples who stood in line last October when the judge refused to issue a summary judgment.

Yes, state AG Bill Scheutte will ask the 6th Circuit Court (and then the Supremes) for a stay and an appeal. For those counting, this is the 9th such ruling in a row.

The lesbian couple, the plaintiffs in the case, celebrated with cameras watching.

On to the ruling:

On the Mark Regnerus study: Because of its funding from conservative sources and its appalling methodology …
The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.
This was a trial, so the state was able to gather up all their best scientific evidence. And if that was the best they could do, they ain't got nothing.

The state's argument that gay couples are a "sub-optimal" environment for raising children: There's a glaring inconsistency -- the state wasn't asking to ban other sub-optimal environments.
Taking the state defendants’ position to its logical conclusion, the empirical evidence at hand should require that only rich, educated, suburban-dwelling, married Asians may marry, to the exclusion of all other heterosexual couples. Obviously the state has not adopted this policy and with good reason. The absurdity of such a requirement is self-evident. Optimal academic outcomes for children cannot logically dictate which groups may marry.

The state's argument that changes to marriage should "proceed with caution":
But the calculus is fundamentally altered when constitutional rights are implicated because "any deprivation of constitutional rights calls for prompt rectification."

Were the Court to accept this position, “it would turn the rational basis analysis into a toothless and perfunctory review” because “the state can plead an interest in proceeding with caution in almost any setting.”

What about tradition and morality? Neither justifies denying constitutional rights.

The state's argument that marriage is a state question: Fine, except when constitutional rights are involved.
…without some overriding legitimate interest, the state cannot use its domestic relations authority to legislate families out of existence.

Dear sister, let me know where and when the wedding is. And let's party!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Don't want to be like him

My posts this evening were about catching up on news earlier in the week. But I didn't check today's news. That would have made one of today's posts a bit more complete. And that news is:

Fred Phelps, of Westboro Baptist Church, has died. He was 84.

The family is annoyed with the way the world has responded to the news earlier this week that Phelps was in hospice, that we were all salivating over every potential crumb about in-fighting and power struggles.

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin summarizes Phelps' legacy:
As his life came to a close, his sole redeeming quality might be that he had, inadvertently, galvanized moderate people of faith into countering his message and silenced many who might have expressed similar views in a much less strident fashion. And perhaps his legal defense of his right to cause offense has helped protect the rights to free speech for other dissident voices.
So, yeah, he helped improve the lives of gays, not by what he said (which was difficult to listen to) but by others not wanting to be as bad as he was.

Not so alarming

I had mentioned the problem of the alarm going off in my car when I unlocked it with the key. So last Monday I took it back to the collision shop. One of their guys looked it over and said that the problem was in the latch, which probably wasn't damaged in the accident. He would have to turn the car over to the dealer who would charge about $80 just to open up the door to look at the problem. Then there would be parts and labor to fix it. I agreed the latch had prevented me from closing the door a couple times (pushing against a piece fixed the problem). The shop guy suggested unlocking the door with the fob instead of the key. That didn't set off the alarm, so is an acceptable work-around.

My friend and debate partner says that Michigan has the finest collection of potholes in the country -- too bad there isn't any road between them. He went on to lament how busy the state legislature is in ignoring the problem. Well, I hit one of those monsters yesterday evening. A black hole in a black street at night with insufficient street lights can be hard to see. This morning I noticed a cracked hubcap. Yesterday's drive home and today's trip to the college didn't show any difficulty, so I guess nothing major was damaged. Yes, this happened on the third day of getting the car back from major repairs.

Desperate for conservatism to be true

The last time I wrote I had a post about Fred Phelps being excommunicated by Westboro Baptist Church, which he founded. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal from comments made by Nathan Phelps, who had previously been kicked out, it seems there was a power struggle and Fred "called for kinder treatment of fellow church members." Which implies the old guy was thrown out of the church for trying to encourage people to be nice.

Les Sterling of Seattle Gay Scene writes about what he'd like to say as Fred Phelps dies, and what he will say at the old man's passing.

Eric Zuesse of Huffington Post Politics first lists the most popular lies of conservatives. Those include Bush's claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, the "death panels" in a Medicare bill, that Obama wasn't born in American, that climate disruption isn't happening. Zuesse also notes that in all cases the more proof that the statement is false the more ardently conservatives believe it. Which leads to the question: why?

A big chunk of it, according to Zuesse, is that conservatives are desperate for conservatism to be true. Then he takes it another step, which I doubt is necessary or wise. He says that conservatives are addicted to lies. Of course, there is a big business to feed the lies to the addicts. The major point that Zuesse is making is that it is difficult to deal with addicts. But isn't it also difficult to deal with those who are desperate?

A chicken in every pot

Finally! The New York Times reports on a study about fat in the diet that agrees with what my nutritionist has been telling me. The big point: eating saturated fats, found in meat, butter, and cheese, does not lead to an increase in heart attacks and other cardiac events. Some other major points:

* Trans fats are bad, as other studies have shown.

* Polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, are good.

* Cholesterol comes in two kinds, HDL (they happy kind) and LDL (the lousy kind). LDL also comes in two forms -- pattern A, which is fluffy, and pattern B, which is dense. Only pattern B is a health problem.

* And pattern B is increased by sugar and a high level of carbs.

* Studies should look at the whole diet because reducing one thing leads to increasing another and it might be hard to tell whether the result was due to lowering one thing or raising the other.

Another New York Times article focuses on how the corporate giant Tyson has affected our food. Some of my readers, like my dad, remember FDR's slogan, "A chicken in every pot." That slogan was a winner because for most people (not for my dad who grew up on a farm) chicken was expensive, the equivalent of $6.48 a pound in today's dollars. Now it is $1.57. You can thank Tyson for that.

But you must also thank Tyson for three big bad effects. First, the effort has been a catastrophe for the animals, now bred for huge breasts so that to live is to suffer. Second, factory farms endanger our health through pollution and the antibiotics that cause them to grow quickly result in infections resistant to antibiotics. Third, corporate farming has hollowed out rural America -- a few tycoons and lots of people struggling to get by. And good luck finding chicken not processed by Tyson or other big corporation in a typical community grocery store.

What to do? Going back to the farm structure we had before means chicken at $6.48 a pound. Even so, the first step is to recognize the current system doesn't work either, it is unhealthy.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The guy waving those scary signs

Nathan Phelps, estranged son of Fred Phelps, reports his father is near death. The senior Phelps is the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, the group famous for "God Hates Fags" signs at their numerous protests. Nathan also provides another intriguing tidbit: Fred was excommunicated from his own church back in August 2013. There are no details about either of these bits of news because Nathan left the Westboro church a few years ago and is barred from contact with active members.

David Mixner reminds us not to sink to their level with anger, glee, or hatred.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Raise the alarm

I picked up my repaired car today. I had rehearsal from 9:00 to noon (concert tomorrow) and both the collision shop and the car rental place are only open those exact hours on Saturday. Both are closed Sunday. And the collision shop called me yesterday just after the rental place closed. While I talked to the collision shop they agreed to have someone there until 12:30 -- I got there at 12:20. But the only chance I had to call the rental place this morning I was put on hold. So the rental is at the collision shop and will be until Monday.

The car looks great -- the red paint looks a bit more intense than I remember. It is also clean, inside and out. The total repairs came in $600 more than the estimate (all paid for by insurance). I thought that was getting rather close to the value of the car, but according to insurance the Blue Book had underestimated it so repairs were still 60% of the car's worth.

There is one problem with the car. When I unlock and open the driver door or the trunk the alarm goes off. The first time it happened I was in a store parking lot and it took me a while to realize it was my car. My first thought was, Hey! I don't *have* an alarm! I was parked next to another and thought I had gotten too close so its alarm came on. The fob with the alarm button was back at the house (where it's been since I bought it), so I know I didn't accidentally hit it (like what happened to the rental when the alarm button was in my pocket). And I can't get it fixed until Monday.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The burden of riches

AlterNet features an excerpt from Robert Boston's new book, Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do. The Fundies claim they are being persecuted. Nope. Persecuted is what happens to Christians in Saudi Arabia who may be imprisoned for their beliefs.

But in America religion has an exalted status: All kinds of tax perks with no annual forms, exemptions from various laws, lawmakers responsive to their lobbying, and deference when crimes are investigated.

So why the cry of persecution? It is because, in spite of their exalted status, Fundies don't get everything they want.
In other words, our nation is not the theocracy that many in the Religious Right would prefer. When they attempt to make our society more theocratic, plenty of Americans resist. Our refusal to roll over and submit to them is, to their mind, a form of persecution.
It is easy to tell that Fundies want a theocracy. According to the website of Alliance Defending Freedom (theirs, not yours) their heroes aren't Washington, Jefferson, James Madison, or Roger Williams. Their hero is Constantine, the Roman Caesar who made Christianity the state religion.

Some of the ways we fight back: We're gaining ground in rights for sexual minorities. We don't allow religion into public schools -- protecting all those "unsaved" tykes. We disallow religious displays on public property, especially monuments of the Ten Commandments and nativity scenes.
The great irony here is that what the Religious Right is trying to do – forge a government that bows to its repressive theology – would result in a great deal of persecution. We’ve had a taste of this already, and it’s a bitter taste indeed.

When the Religious Right raises bogus claims of persecution, it belittles the sufferings of those believers who truly are persecuted. I would advise members of that movement to learn what real persecution is.

Scott Dannemiller of the Good Men Project takes a look at the tendency of some Christians to declare how blessed they feel when financial fortune comes their way. Here's his take on the bad theology:

* Saying material fortune is God's blessing reduces God to the equivalent of handing out M&Ms to kids for good behavior.

* It also insults all those who are poor yet still follow where God leads.

No, riches aren't a blessing, they're a burden. Because the real question is: How are you going to use all those riches to help someone else?

Lesbian judge in Detroit

Judith Levy has been confirmed to be a judge in a US District Court. This notable for three reasons. She is an out lesbian, the Senate confirmation vote was 97-0, and she is appointed to the same courthouse in Detroit that just heard the gay marriage and adoption case.

David Mixner asks us to appreciate the courage of Jack Conway. He is the Attorney General of Kentucky and has declined to defend the ban on same-sex marriage there. This could end Conway's political career, at least in Kentucky. So, yes, a rare breed -- a politician with courage.

Now that lots of photos are uploaded into photo-sharing sites and are tagged (sometimes with the street address) it is possible to create maps of the most photographed locations. The top sites in North America are NYC (most photographed in the world), Niagara, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Boston, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa. But Europe as a whole is much more photogenic than America. If you really wanted to you could zoom in on Michigan where Detroit leads the state but is 1059th overall.

The previous post, published just a few moments ago, is post 2500 for this blog. I managed that in 6 and 1/3 years.

Chewing on the legs of conservatism

Yesterday, I looked at the college website and saw it was closed due to the snowstorm. The roads were clear yesterday afternoon so I knew there would be no driving issues today. But when I got to the college I found it closed (though there was a guard in the entrance shack) because of no power. Yup, when I got home and looked at the college website there was a closed message. That got me wondering where the college server is located.

But that means my classes are short two lectures this semester, a polar vortex being the cause of the first missed day. So a bit of a scramble to decide what gets left out.

I wrote yesterday about the GOP Dorchester Conference in Oregon that approved support for same-sex marriage. It didn't take long for the state GOP to issue a statement to remind everyone that the Dorchester Conference was not an official Republican Party event.

That statement reminds us all that the GOP is the party of freedom (especially from gov't interference), and religious liberty. They are against the redefinition of marriage. I'm not the only one to notice their definition of freedom and their definition of religious liberty are in conflict.

Michelangelo Signorile, writing in Huffington Post, noted a big change at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). In previous years, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage used to walk the halls as religious-right royalty for her work fighting against marriage equality. This year NOM has a small card table in the basement amongst all the other right-wing causes. The reason for the downfall is that those under 25 (half the crowd) aren't interested in what NOM has to say.

That does not mean conservatives are done trying to attack us. As the "religious liberty" battle shows they are merely trying to rework the message to be palatable to the younger crowd.

Signorlie's article commented about Ronald Reagan and his "three legged stool" of conservatism. I had to look that one up, but carefully because I didn't want to link to a conservative site. I found an explanation on According to Reagan conservatism has three parts -- economic, defense, and social. Signorile mentioned it by showing a rainbow colored beaver, representing the conservative gay group GOProud, gnawing at the social leg. And that Time article, from a year ago, shows the defense leg losing to the economic leg. Holding the line on taxes and deficit is more important than defense. So, one conservative leg being chewed, the other two in conflict. What fun!

It seems the GOP is now starting to take notice of the poor. Why be so generous? They've noticed that two-thirds of those falling into poverty are white.

The GOP wants to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program to reduce the deficit. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 (and indexing it to the Consumer Price Index the same way the food stamp program is) will reduce the deficit by $46 billion. Strange that the GOP isn't jumping at this opportunity. Oh, right -- their real goal is to channel more money to the already wealthy.

Another conservative battleground appears to be school lunches, in particular subsidized or lunches. Some states trying to attach as much stigma to those lunches as they can. Others are supplying free lunch to all students to avoid any hint of stigma. Paul Ryan accused progressives of having "a full stomach and an empty soul." Hmm. That seems to describe Wall Street. So conservatives want full stomachs in corporate boardrooms but not in classrooms. That sounds like an "empty soul."

With Sarah Palin spouting off again about how horrible the Affordable Care Act is, Terrence Heath reminds us of what the ACA has been doing for us. Some of what it has done:

* Lowered the number of uninsured Americans.

* Given Americans more freedom by preventing "job lock" or staying in a terrible job simply for the health benefits.

* Reduce medical bankruptcy.

What conservatives can't or won't do:

* Repeal the ACA.

* Replace the ACA. They would rather the poor not be insured.

* Find any ACA horror stories.

Conservatives can't come up with an alternative to the ACA because they don't want either the ACA or an alternative.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stirring the majority into action

After several days of temperatures hovering around 40F and a significant melting of snow (some bare grass along some streets) we had another snowstorm today. After a taste of spring there was a lot more resentment towards more snow. The weather report said 3-8 inches. News reports said that might be enough to pass the current record for snowfall for a season -- 93 inches set in 1888. And even if this storm didn't pass the record, they were quick to point out, this is Michigan and only mid March.

I postponed lunch with my friend and debate partner. After the snow stopped I shoveled 3 (whew!) inches off my driveway. The mounds on either side are tall enough that several times a shovel-full rolled right off. But once I got out to the main roads the drive into the Ruth Ellis Center went smoothly.

It might get down to 0F tonight and back to 40F on Friday.

The New York Times has a good article on the marriage equality case recently concluded in Michigan. The article explains the case well, though I didn't learn anything new. Buzzfeed has another article, in case you haven't had enough.

I've seen a couple articles now on the Dorchester Conference in Oregon in which Republicans approved an endorsement of marriage equality. The vote was 233-162. While it is great news some sources have noted this is probably the moderate side of the party. The conservative side held a gathering elsewhere.

As for the GOP across the country, a recent poll says that 61% of people ages 18-29 who are or lean GOP approve of same-sex marriage. That's compared to 22% ages 65 and older and 39% of all those who are or lean GOP. Another graph shows that support for marriage equality has grown through all generations.

While on the topic of public opinion… Those who oppose marriage equality are down to 41%. Of those nearly 2/3 wrongly believe most Americans agree with them. This is because most people filter out things they disagree with. But it means this group, less than 30% of the country believes they are only one court order or "religious liberty" victory away from stirring the majority into action and defeating marriage equality for good.

A coalition of fifty civil rights organizations in Uganda have petitioned the constitutional court challenging the new anti-gay law. The signers include the heads of gay rights groups. The petition thoroughly describes how each clause of the law violates the constitutional guarantees of equality and privacy. In addition, the petition requests the court ban media outlets from publishing names and addresses of people thought to be gay, to cut off vigilante campaigns.

Even with all the damage the law is doing (see those vigilante campaigns), this law is not yet officially in effect. It hasn't yet been published in the Uganda Gazette.

I had reported that a trial appealed to the 9th Circuit Court by the Abbott drug company has raised that court's level of scrutiny in all cases dealing with gay issues. That means there had better be a really good reason for discrimination. That threshold is now so high that the AG of Nevada has used the 9th Circuit's ruling as his reason why he won't defend the states same-sex marriage ban before that court.

The latest news in the case is that Abbott will not appeal the 9th Circuit's ruling. That means the high level of scrutiny won't go directly before the Supremes. And that means, with the Nevada case on the 9th Circuit's docket, it is quite probable that marriage equality will come to the rest of the 9th Circuit -- in particular Arizona and also Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon -- by the end of summer. California, Hawaii, and Washington already have marriage equality. Of course, that high level of scrutiny will likely go before the Supremes as part of the appeal of the Nevada case. And Arizona will do all it can to appeal it.

Some more news about United Methodist pastors and same-sex weddings on my brother blog.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Church trials

There have been some wonderful developments concerning United Methodist pastors, same-sex marriages, and trials. See more at my brother blog.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The kids do just as well

I read the lawyer's blog of the Michigan marriage equality case. This is written by Jane Bassett. With a trial that runs eight days there's a lot to cover. You can read the whole thing here, which is the first entry, then find the arrow to the right near the bottom for the next post. You could start at the home page, but that would give you posts in reverse order. Or you could follow the links to the posts I found interesting.

Part of any trial is to specify what both sides agree to so those points are not included in the debate. A section of these stipulations:
The parties stipulated to the fact that: both April and Jayne were licensed foster parents; they had been in a relationship for 8 years; that the home is stable and loving; that each of them had adoption at least one child; that it is a problem that they are not both legal parents of all the children, especially when a child had an urgent medical need; that the lack of legal status keeps the children from accessing the health insurance of the non-legal parent; that if the non-legal parent dies, the other would have no legal right to visitation or custody; that the children do not have inheritance or Social Security rights from either non-legal parent; and that this causes stress and anxiety in the family and causes risk and instability to the children. These are all of the things that the State agrees are true.

First witness for the couple is Prof. Vivek Sankoran of University of Michigan Child Advocacy Law Clinic. His main point: it is not possible to create extra documents that protect the relationship between a child and the non-legal parent. That relationship protection would come automatically through marriage. This case came about because the women have each adopted children who are legal strangers to the other parent. Michigan refuses these cross-adoptions.

Gary Gates is an expert on LGBT demographics, so his testimony had lots of statistics. The source of much of his data is the US Census. Some of what he said:

* The number of people who are willing to tell the Census they are gay doubled from 1990 to 2000 and doubled again in 2010.

* There are 2650 same-sex couples in Michigan raising over 5300 kids.

* Lesbians are more willing to adopt than straight women and are more willing to adopt special-needs kids, which is what the couple at the center of the case have done.

* An amazing (the word used in the blog) 1/3 of all same-sex couples in Utah married in the 17 days that it was legal.

Professor Nancy Cott is a historian specializing in gender questions. So she talked about the history of marriage. There has been lots of talk on this subject over the last several years, so these are a few things I learned or are important to the case.

* Marriage is both a private contract and a public one. The private part means that when something happens to one spouse the other will take care and the state doesn't have to. The state is involved because there are economic and social order aspects to the contract.

* Procreation, or even sexual intimacy, do not validate the marriage.

* Religion is not a part of marriage law other than a religion may impose requirements only on its own members.

* Marriage is such a moving target there isn't much to be said for tradition. Cott explains a few ways marriage has changed, such as marriage is no longer seen as a hierarchy with the man over the woman. Current laws are hierarchy and gender neutral.

* Divorce used to be granted because of a fault in the state side of the contract -- such as a man refusing to care for the wife (which means the state must). No-fault divorce in 1971 meant the focus shifted from the state to the consent of the parties.

* Church people used to claim that God ordained that races shouldn't mix. That led to laws preventing whites from marrying any other race. But the laws didn't ban, for example, a Native American from marrying a black.

As is typical for many trials, after the plaintiffs conclude their case the defendants say to the judge the plaintiffs haven't shown us anything. They don't have a case. Please dismiss the case now and save us all the hassle of continuing the trial. As is usual the judge took the comment under advisement and said the trial will continue.

Lisa Brown is the Oakland County Clerk and was the one who refused to issue a marriage license to this lesbian couple. Therefore she is a defendant in the case. Not that she agrees with the state. She testified she is itching (my word) to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the court tells her she can. She has already designed gender neutral forms (stuck in the Attorney General's office). In this matter she will not obey the AG because he is not her boss. She also says that lots of straight couples apply for licenses who probably shouldn't, but she isn't allowed to deny a license. There is no box to check on intent to procreate, not for intent to have sex, not background check, not for health of previous kids, not for child abuse history, not for pedophilia, not for unpaid child support, not for arrest warrants. Just a driver's license and $20.

When discussing the state's witnesses, the author of the blog repeatedly refers to the actions of the AG. Does this imply Bill Schuette was handling the questioning, or was it someone from his office? I don't know.

The state's first witness was Sherif Girgis. It might have been interesting to hear his thoughts on how to promote male-female bonds without resorting to religion or animus. Even so, the plaintiffs challenged him. He might have some fascinating ideas, but he isn't an expert in anything. The judge agreed and dismissed him.

Next was Mark Regnerus, the state's star witness. The proceedings carefully went over how his study was done, what it found, why other scientists challenged it (which seemed to mystify the author), and who funded it. I won't go into details.

One aspect I haven't covered before is his idea of diminished kinship. In a same-sex couple at least one of them is not biologically related to the child. Therefore (he says) that increases the risk of not having a thriving child. However, he has no objections to step-parents, as long as there is one man and one woman.

As part of cross-examination he was asked about other aspects of a marriage that might not be ideal for the child. That included families with reduced resources and less education. But that, he says, is not a reason to deny marriage. In short, he has this thing against gay people. At times he sounds like a petulant kid -- I'm right and they're wrong because … well … because!

The next witness was Dr. Joseph Price of Brigham Young University, a Mormon school. His specialty is the outcomes of children of same-sex couples. I think he is hung up on stereotypes of the differences in the way mothers and fathers treat their children. Note that when I read this post there seemed to be a confusion between 35% more and 35 times more.

Author Jane Bassett was not in the court on Wednesday, March 5, trial day 7. So no testimony of that day was posted.

State witness Dr. Douglas Allen appeared on Thursday. His specialty is applied economics. He has worked with organizations related to the National Organization for Marriage, a primary participant in efforts to deny marriage equality. The main part of his testimony is why most of the same-sex parent studies that show the kids do just as well are unreliable. Science hasn't shown anything conclusive.

There is a lengthy cross examination, but I'm not sure what it all means. There was a bit toward the end that caught my attention: This witness believes that if a person commits homosexual acts he or she is permanently separated from God and will go to Hell. That's a sufficient summary for me.

That was the last of the witnesses. Closing arguments were today, but not included in the blog (though one could go back to opening arguments). Yesterday the judge said he would welcome additional briefs through Monday. Which meant he could not issue a ruling today, and he didn't.

I heard the judge is departing for two weeks of vacation. I don't remember the source. So he is either writing the ruling while on vacation or it will be a while before we get a ruling.

Control your talent

I saw the movie Frozen this afternoon. My favorite character was Kristoff with his sidekick reindeer. The trolls were fun too. The animation and the song deserve the Oscars they won. I just wish Kristoff got the girl in the end.

I sit through movie credits. I learn all kinds of interesting things. This film even has one small scene after the credits. A couple credits caught my eye (as IMDB confirms). One of the job titles is "Caffeinator." In one scene Kristoff tells Anna that all men eat their own boogers. So the credits include this notice:
The views and opinions expressed by Kristoff in the film that all men eat their own boogers are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Walt Disney Company or the filmmakers. Neither The Walt Disney Company nor the filmmakers make any representation of the accuracy of any such views and opinions.

On to the gay angle, at least as I see it. After Elsa injures Anna with her talent she is told she needs to control it and to keep it hidden, which causes Elsa to withdraw from Anna. That amounts to a closeted wizard and is similar to telling a gay person to control his sexuality and keep it hidden. It would have made more sense to hire a tutor to help Elsa properly develop her talent. The withdrawal would not have been necessary.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A litmus test to secure rights

I finally found a direct source (that's more concise than a Twitter feed) of the Michigan marriage equality case (now that it ends tomorrow). It is a blog written by a lawyer observing the trial. There is a lot to read, which I'll do starting tomorrow.

Yes, testimony in the case ends tomorrow. The judge might rule immediately. Or he might take his two week vacation first.

Nathaniel Frank of Slate reviews the infamous study by Mark Regnerus that is being used in an attempt to deny marriage equality. Regnerus is a star witness for the state in the current Michigan case. Frank calls the actions of Regnerus "shameless" and explains why he uses that word:
What makes this all the more galling is that the Michigan couple is raising three special-needs children the women are trying to adopt from the foster care system. Research shows that gays and lesbians are more likely to adopt difficult-to-place children from foster care. It’s bad enough to claim, incorrectly, that straight couples make better homes for kids than gay couples. But it’s an outrage to support policy that could let kids languish in group homes rather than live with loving, capable parents. Indeed it’s a shocking goal for conservative Christians claiming to care about vulnerable children to be pursuing.

What’s equally maddening about the focus on how gay parents do is that none of it should matter. Research has long made clear that divorce, single parenthood, adoption, and poverty disadvantage kids. Where is the passionate advocacy for barring adoption, or parenthood by divorc├ęs, single people, or poor people? Why are gay people the only ones subject to a litmus test to secure rights that everyone else gets by birth?

Dignity and acceptance

Forgive me for using the N-word, but back in 1936 that was the word used and even used by black people to refer to themselves and each other. Rob Tisinai of Box Turtle Bulletin found a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book. That guide allowed a black person in 1936 to travel across the country and know what establishments in what city were safe and welcoming. It simply would not do to show up at a hotel to find the door slammed in one's face when the proprietor saw a black person. Tisinai admires what blacks were able to do with dignity in a world that was full of indignity. He also sees acceptance. The world of 1936 might change, but that wasn't going to come fast enough for that summer's travels. The authors of the Green Book hoped that some day their guide wouldn't be needed.

Yes, there is a gay equivalent, the Damron Guide. I have a copy from a few years ago, though I've never used it in traveling. I don't go seeking the delights it catalogs. The Damron is changing because it isn't dangerous (in most places) to be gay, though sometimes we want to hang out with our own kind.

But all these "religious freedom" bills might make the Damron into the Green Book. How can we avoid making a reservation at a hotel and not be thrown out when the clerk sees two men and the room has one king-size bed?

Tisinai realized something while writing his post. It was fine to have a Negro version because low-paid laborers needed someplace to cater to their needs and the more separate the better. But many Fundies don't want the gay version of the Green Book to exist because, according to them, we don't deserve any services -- no wedding photos, no honeymoon suites, nothing.

Commeter Victor wrote that these religious freedom bills are because we used to have a society that was basically Christian. That is no longer true and Fundies are terrified that the society not only doesn't share their beliefs but outright challenges them. They are trying to hold off a New World Order ready and able to destroy all they hold dear.

Reusing data

The National Health System (I'm pretty sure that's what NHS stands for) of Britain has a rebuttal to the article about a high protein diet being bad for you. I posted about it yesterday. Some of the points the NHS makes:

* That thing about high protein being as bad as smoking was not in the original article. Some reporter made that comparison and other news sourced copied it.

* As far as I can determine the study did something like this: Back in 1988 over 6000 people were asked to record what they ate for 24 hours. They were also asked whether this food consumption was typical for them. More questions helped place them in various categories, including age. In 2006, 18 years later, researchers assessed the health of the subjects. If the subject had died researchers recorded the cause of death.

* The level of physical activity was not recorded.

* The data was not recorded for study being discussed. This is a case where later researchers use data that was originally designed and gathered for some other purpose.

I had reported the dieters ate 51% of their calories in carbs. That is the average, not the same for every subject. There was analysis to correlate health outcomes with protein consumption. It sound like the researchers did not correlate health outcomes with carb consumption. That would have been a much different paper.

If I had been on the review team for that paper I would not have approved it. I see all sorts of holes in the conclusions and consider the study worthless. Bad science. I'm sensitive to bad science for two reasons: (1) bad science is plaguing the American diet and I'm living the consequences and (2) bad science continues to be used to deny rights for sexual minorities (coming up in a later post).

Great place to live

To my sister: You and your partner have been talking about leaving Michigan. A place to consider is Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a beautiful area (I've visited), the state has marriage equality, and the city just elected a gay mayor, Javier Gonzales. One of his opponents, Patti Bushee, is a lesbian. She and another lesbian, Signe Lindell, are two of eight members of the City Council. It sounds like a great place to live.

Whether Santa Fe is affordable is another matter.

The New York Times has a cool video showing how much the snow has persisted on the ground in the city this winter. It has been "stubborn." Then it has a few charts showing the depth of snow on the ground over the last several years. This year may not have record snowfalls, but it is right up there on how long that snow has stuck around.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Change from the Ground Up

This past Sunday evening I attended a forum sponsored by the Detroit district of the United Methodist Church to discuss reaching out to gay people. The report is posted in my brother blog.

Early in Illinois!

My car is in the repair shop. It might sit there a week before they have time to get to it. In the meantime I'm still getting used to the rental.

Illinois passed a law a few months ago saying same-sex marriages would be legal beginning June 1. I guess various bureaucrats need that much time to get ready. But a same-sex couple in Chicago sued the clerk of Cook County, saying recent court cases in other states showed that denying marriage equality is unconstitutional. A couple weeks ago a district judge ruled that Cook County could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That has prompted the Attorney General to say that constitutional protections "must exist without regard to county lines." So marriage equality has come to Illinois three months early.

Kentucky has been ordered to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. The state will appeal. But they'll have to do it without the Attorney General. AG Jack Conway has said he refuses to defend KY's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages. He is joining a growing list of other state AGs who have made the same type of announcement.

A new nationwide poll shows 59% of Americans support marriage equality, setting a new polling high. Our current level of acceptance is likely due to the series of rulings in favor of marriage equality.

Polls similar to this new one are why many of our strongest GOP opponents say they agree with the veto of the Arizona law. Their strongly homophobic base is very much at odds with the rest of the country.

As the 10th Circuit Court prepares to hear marriage equality cases for Utah and Oklahoma, more than 20 prominent GOP lawmakers from Western states have filed a friend-of-the-court briefs saying they are in favor of equality. The most well known is Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming.

Though the sweeping license to discriminate bill in Arizona was vetoed by the governor, a replacement bill is brewing. This one affirms that pastors and church officials can not be sued for refusing to perform same-sex ceremonies. Yeah, fine, that's granted by the constitution. But the bill goes another step extending that right of refusal to judges and justices of the peace who perform civil marriages and clerks who issue marriage licenses.

I had mentioned a potential license-to-discriminate in Mississippi. I had said it was so weakened, after the mess in Arizona, that nobody was much interested in it. Alas, recent reports say there are still ugly parts that remain. What those ugly things are and how eager the legislators are in getting it passed haven't been reported.

GOP Rep. Steven King of Iowa is annoyed that the Arizona license to discriminate law was vetoed. Gays aren't a protected class, he says, and to be a protected class, their gayness must be ”independently verified." Stephen Colbert has a great takedown of the whole thing. At the end Colbert proposes gay couples send photos of their proof of gayness so King might do his independent verification. The video is under five minutes.

Getting all alarmist

Another big diet scare. The Guardian out of Britain has a big article about a study that says a high protein diet is almost as bad as smoking for people under age 65. Their definition of high protein is over 65 grams a day.

Since I've been eating 175-200 grams a day (and my nutritionist didn't blink at those numbers) I was suspicious and looked for something that contradicts what my nutritionist has been saying. And I found it.

Halfway through the article, after getting all alarmist, it finally described the trial: the diet of test subjects had "51% [of calories] coming from carbohydrates." Over the last six months I've been hearing a lot of the evils of carbs. I don't know why researchers found a noticeable difference between 10% of calories from protein and 20% from protein. But they didn't try to flip the equation: 50% of calories from protein and 10% from carbs.

The article doesn't mention another important point. What part of the diet -- carb, fat, protein (animal and plant), fruits and veggies -- is from organic sources?

Yeah, it is quite annoying for an article to work into such a lather about a study with a flaw in it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fundamentally flawed

The witnesses for the state in the Michigan same-sex marriage case currently in progress aren't doing very well. The first witness yesterday morning failed to establish that he was an expert in any of the relevant issues. So he was shown the door.

The second witness was Dr. Mark Regnerus, the author of a study that supposedly shows that same-sex couples are bad parents. Gay researchers have ripped it up one side and down the other for showing no such thing. What he showed was families where one parent is gay and the other straight tend to not last and those kids can be troubled.

So he was on the witness stand yesterday and today. And while he was there the Sociology Dept. of The University of Texas at Austin, where Regnerus is on the faculty, released a statement declaring his study to be "fundamentally flawed." Such delicious timing.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The car repair project

I took my car to a collision shop (which reminds me of the British term for such places: "smash shop") for an estimate. The car is 8 years old and has 98K miles on it. It has been running well enough that I figured I'd keep it another few years. I had looked up the Blue Book value yesterday.

The estimator took lots of photos (including of the mileage) and checked for leaky fluids. He then disappeared into the back room for a half hour to call for prices and summarize it all. It would take about 60% of the car's current value to repair it. This took long enough I didn't have time to go down the street to a dealership for a second estimate. He said because of the brutal winter (and lots of sliding around) their schedule is quite backed up and it would be at least a week after I dropped it off before they would start to work on it.

I had an appointment in Ann Arbor with my nutritionist this afternoon. I didn't particularly want to drive that distance in an unheated car and knew I would need an alternative for at least a week. So I rented a car today, open-ended contract. Their delay in picking me up at home and the slowness of the paperwork meant I was late for the nutritionist.

The sound system is not intuitive and I couldn't fiddle with it while driving so I turned it off for the drive to Ann Arbor. After my appointment I sat in the car to tune in my favorite stations and put them on presets. The drive home was much better.

Starting yesterday afternoon the city sent a heavy-duty scooper (one of those huge things with "Caterpillar" on the side, but with wheels rather than treads) to clear the streets in my neighborhood. He scooped away the couple inches of ice as well as yesterday's snow. This was definitely not a case of a couple passes with a plow on a pickup. He worked slowly and thoroughly. We now have big snowbanks along with bare roads.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Crunch time

Another couple inches of snow here in Detroit. It fell yesterday evening so some roads were cleared by morning -- and some weren't. I think we've topped 80 inches for the season (record is 93). I got to church about 10 minutes before the service while the second parking lot (where I usually park) was being plowed. I saw him backing up and braked while trying to negotiate the drive. I skidded only a bit. But he didn't see me and perhaps skidded a bit too.

I'm fine. No damage to me. But the hood was crumpled, the grille broken, the hood latch mechanism shorn off, and perhaps a bit of the radiator bent. The good part is the motor runs, the tires don't scrape anything, and the lights work. I traded info with the driver. He assured me it would be taken care of. He flattened the hood as much as he could and suggested I tie it down so it doesn't open at high speeds. I'll spend some time tomorrow getting estimates for repairs.

Naturally, I was a bit rattled when I walked into the service.

This afternoon I was off to a meeting followed by another this evening. Halfway to the first meeting, 10 miles from home, I realized something -- the passenger compartment wasn't warming up. The 15 miles home this evening were mighty cold -- it is 14F right now. I have to go to Ann Arbor tomorrow so I'll ask about a rental. I checked the Blue Book value tonight so I can tell if I should consider the car totaled.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Flows freely, doesn't leak

This afternoon I saw the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast of Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin. The composer didn't finish the opera, so his friends Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov did. But today's production team went back to the original and put it all together a different way, quite different from what Wikipedia gives for the synopsis. Act 2 is swapped with Act 1. Act 3 was cut (apparently because it had no music by Borodin). The new Act 1 is given a quite different meaning. Igor was an early hero of the Russians, doing his thing back in the 12th Century. Prologue: Igor rouses the crowd to go fight the Polovtsians. A solar eclipse is taken as a bad omen, but they head out anyway. The battle happens during the music between the Prologue and Act 1 and Igor's army is badly beaten. In Act 1 Igor dreams (or hallucinates) in a field of poppies (12500 of them according to the set designer) and envisions a paradise where his captor treats him like a brother. The famous Polovstian Dances are here with dancers between the poppies. In Act 2 Igor's brother-in-law convince the locals to turn away from Igor's wife, declaring the BiL as prince. That scene had a lot of high energy. But the Polovtsians attack the town and the BiL is killed. In Act 3 the palace is in a shambles. Igor returns and begins to rebuild.

After the opera I stopped at Home Depot and told one of the guys my tale of woe of not getting the bathroom drain trap back together. He recommended buying a new fastener for a dollar, and I did. He also suggested I loosen the pipe from the fixture that goes through the wall. It went together pretty well.

That's when I found a good deal of the blockage was between the sink and the trap. I cleaned that out and in the process broke a piece that makes the stopper go up and down. Other than that, it is back together, flows freely, and doesn't leak.

Only then did my home improvement guy return my call. He had been out of town. He said the threads of the fastener are very easy to damage and the Home Depot guy had made the right call. He thinks he has a spare for the part that broke and will come by sometime.