Friday, February 29, 2008

Some people should be roadkill

Conservatives (not the social or religious kind) talk about limited government intrusion, that each person should be empowered to make what they can of their own lives. How far does such a concept go? (1) Suppose a bus is barreling down the road and it looks like the person next to you is about to step in front of it. Do you stop them? Conservatism says you don't. (2) Take a step to the side and you are next to the person about to stop the one with one foot in front of the bus. Do you prevent the rescuer from doing the good deed? It appears that conservatives believe some people should end up as roadkill. Strangely hypothetical? Take a look at the housing bubble and subprime mess. As the bubble was picking up steam some local and state banking officials saw the damage ahead and saw that it was fueled by bad lending practices. With help of legislatures they created laws to curb the predatory practices. The Bushies (1) not only ignored the bubble (2) they used a Civil War era law to prevent at least national banks (and lots of state banks rely on the nationals) from enforcing those laws that protected the borrower. Are they merely heartless? Or do they see a way of consolidating a lot more money into the hands of the powerful from the crash than they could from a healthy economy and do this no matter how many average Joes are hurt in the process?

Culture war turned hot

Between 2003 and 2006 the incidents of violent crimes against LGBT people in Canada increased sharply (alas, no link and no actual data). What would cause this in peaceful Canada? In 2004 several Provincial Courts, later confirmed by the Canadian Supremes, required gay marriage. In an attempt to stem the tide American Religious Right leaders exported their money and vitriol. A cold culture war turned hot. Homophobia is killing us.

Liberalism is a mental disorder!

Dr. Lyle Rossiter, a "top psychiatrist," has declared liberalism a mental disorder! Without much to back it up he makes claims that Liberalism:

* Creates and reinforces perceptions of victimization.

* Satisfies infantile claims to entitlement.

* Rejects the sovereignty of the individual, subordinating him to the will of the government.

A blogger asked readers for a rebuttal. They say that conservatism:

* Uses fraudulent data to incite fear.

* Creates and reinforces perceptions of victimization (Affirmative Action, Families under attack, Christianity under attack).

* Satisfies infantile claims to entitlement (reduced taxes on the rich, why should I pay for someone else's health care?).

* Rejects the sovereignty of the individual by claiming dissent is treason (but when did this become a psychological disorder?).

* Insists a woman can't be trusted with her own body and needs a man to make decisions for her.

* Insists practitioners of all other religions, by the fact they exist, are persecuting them.

* Discourages independent thinking, insisting Biblical claims trump all others.

* Enforce conformity of thinking.

* Demonize those not like themselves, such as gays, and Latino immigrants, as threats to civilization without adequate explanation or as a way to sustain a claim to moral superiority.

* Reduce complex politics to superficial one-liners.

The definition of psychiatric "disorder" is something that inhibits one from living peaceably in society. I'll let you decide if that fits liberal or conservative. Perhaps Dr. Rossiter is projecting his views of himself and his kind onto his opposition -- a frequent tactic.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Oscar goes to...

An important short documentary won an Oscar last night. The title is Freeheld and tells the story of a lesbian couple Laurel and Stacie of Orange County, NJ. Laurel worked as a prosecutor's investigator but dying of lung cancer. The county refused to give her partner the survivor's pension normally due to a spouse. This battle is the subject of the movie. Of course, the Right is going bonkers over the win.

Commentary here.

News article here.

Truth about...

You can guess what an organization named Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (no link here) says about me (hint: it isn't truthful). He (it's a one-man show) claims he is doing it because he cares for me, but the tone is more of one trying to win debate points. He comes across saying, "I don't care about you. I just want to be clear that you are living in sin." He is battling over truth, not for the hearts of people. He also acts like homosexuality is the only sin. So we wait, likely in vain, for websites from organizations such as:

Americans for Truth about Lying

Americans for Truth about Slander

Americans for Truth about Poverty

Don't hold your breath.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Christianity's falling reputation

Researcher David Kinnaman has surveyed how young people (16-29) view the church. He did most of his work with the "unchurched." This group is now 40% of young people. A decade ago this age group had a generally positive view of the church. No longer. They have lost respect. Thanks, Jerry Falwell. Christianity is judgmental (said by 87%), too involved in politics (75%), hypocritical (85%), out of touch (72%), and anti-homosexual (91%). Even 80% of those young people still in the church agree with the last bit. The "gay issue" -- objections to the "lifestyle", irrational fear, and unmerited scorn -- has reached critical mass. It is the one issue that will define Christianity's reputation.

Alas, Kinnaman isn't there to guide the church into changing it's position on gays, damaging as it is. His book is to guide the church in making its horrible stance more palatable, more compassionate, a "kinder, gentler" kick in the butt. So instead of declaring gays are busting up marriage and will lead to the downfall of Western Civilization he merely says gays should remain celibate. Thanks, dude. Big improvement. But Kinnaman remains silent about all the rebuttals the gay community offers. How is the love of one gay man from another different than a man for a woman? Why is a child better in an orphanage than with a gay couple? Kinnaman's solution will help Christianity's falling reputation?

A condensed history of free speech

Back in 1989 Anthony Lewis wrote the book "Gideon's Trumpet" about the legal case that now requires that poor people have legal counsel for a trial. Lewis' latest book is "Freedom for the Thought We Hate" which is a history of the First Amendment. This article is an interview with the author by Harper's Magazine blogger Scott Horton who tracks all kinds of government shenanigans. Some of the things I learned:

The first big attack on the 1st Amendment (freedom of speech) was the 1798 Alien and Sedition Act. The Constitution was less than a decade old at the time and war with France was threatening. The basic issue presented to the people was a tradeoff between freedom and security from an attack by a foreign power. But some said it was a way for the government to operate in secret (sound familiar?). When foreign relations are conducted in secret the government can disclose whatever will put itself in the best light and the people have insufficient data and experience to judge for themselves. The gov't can lie by telling most of the truth. It is the press that must serve as the watchdog which, in the war with Iraq, they failed miserably. At least the New York Times and Washington Post eventually apologized.

That conflict between freedom and security usually came out on the side of security until 1931 (even though most of the Sedition Act was repealed in 1802). Prior to that date the freedom of speech really didn't mean much. The Saturday Press, a highly anti-Semitic newspaper in Minnesota, linked government officials to gangsters. The paper was shut down and the case went to the Supremes. They said it was a free speech violation because the gov't didn't determine if the paper was truthful (which it was, in this instance) before shutting them down. Today, with most newspapers owned by chains instead of by locals the bottom line has become more important than muckraking. And when the bottom line rules there is no desire to cross those in power.

Today, the concept of free speech seems pretty well entrenched, with even justices such as Scalia aggressively defending it. Retreat now seems unlikely, at least by the Supremes. However, since Vietnam, the US military has been working harder to control the message that journalists produce, even holding up "security clearances" and holding trials against non-American journalists that work for American news companies.

There is one problem in free speech and that is in campaign finance. Lewis thinks the Supremes are wrong in defining campaign spending as a form of speech. Campaign money will continue to be a problem until that definition is thrown out. Yes, money talks. And that's the problem.

Someone standing up to Bush!

The extension to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (I think that's what FISA stands for) expired a week ago. The Senate version of the renewal was pretty much what Bush wanted, but didn't match the House version. Bush said dire things would happen if the House didn't accept the Senate version. The House went on vacation. Here is a rebuttal to Bush by Silvestre Reyes of El Paso and chair of the House Intelligence Committee: Domestic spying powers won't help. The problem is we don't have enough translators for the data we collect and our field agents have been transferred from Afghanistan to Iraq. Al Qaeda has regrouped under Bush's watch. Telecom immunity has nothing to do with assessing current terrorist threats because their transgressions occurred in the past. It should be considered separately and only after full review of documents Bush as been sitting on for 8 months. There's still time to tell your House member what you think

Thursday, February 21, 2008

End of Conservatism?

Rush Limbaugh hates John McCain. Limbaugh hates how the old guard GOP is now lining up behind McCain. Lawrence Eagleburger, one of the old guard, says "Who elected Rush as the head of this conservative movement?" Limbaugh responds, "We're trying to avoid a landslide!" I assume he means a landslide that would bury the GOP.

I don't listen to Limbaugh (can't afford to waste the brain cells) and thus don't really know if he is a social conservative (like Dobson) or some other flavor of GOP. I really don't care and for me it is beside the point anyway. However, I'll use this opportunity to highlight a Newsweek article declaring the death of Conservatism, and by this columnist Fareed Zakaria means a fiscal conservative in the mold of Reagan. The complaint by many is that Bush hasn't been a fiscal conservative and McCain isn't one either. The GOP would be so much better if the party would return to its fiscal roots. Recent research shows that such a return would make the GOP less appealing, not more. The public really does like the new Medicare Drug Program and are willing to forego tax cuts to get it. Reagan's tax cuts served a real purpose at the time (top rate was 70%). But running on Reagan's policies today makes the GOP seem so … 70's.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Worst case redux

There is talk of a "brilliant" move to completely upset the Democratic strategy for the general prez. election -- make Condoleezza Rice the GOP Vice President candidate. Who better to face off against the historic first black or woman prez candidate than a black woman who is also rumored to be lesbian? Split the Democratic vote up, down, and sideways! Responses say, not so fast. Condi comes with significant Bushie baggage that McCain can otherwise avoid. And while Dems may rally round a woman or a black the same isn't true for your average GOP Bubba.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I've got nothing to do with it

Comment that the church is partly responsible for violence against gays and you will get a sharp and indignant denial. But… Take a look at the recent murder of Lawrence King, a 15 year old shot by a fellow classmate for gender deviancy. There was an outpouring of support from King's hometown of Oxnard, California where a rally in memory of King drew more than a thousand people, many times more than the organizers anticipated. They wanted to know how to stop the violence. However, there was one voice missing: the churches in Oxnard -- and around the country -- were silent. There was no outcry against violence to gays. There were loud voices that continued to insist homosexuality was wrong, but none that continued with the second half of the claims one gets with those indignant denials, the part that says, "We hate the sin and love the sinner." (I've got issues with that claim, but I'll rant another day.) That loving the sinner part wasn't said in all the articles about King and his death. Who to blame for the one-sided message from the church, but the church? A couple commenters pick up on the church's dilemma. Here they are claiming that being gay is an affront to God, the most disgusting act possible, and will bring down marriage and Western Civilization. If they simply report, "Student murdered because he was gay," they are accused of supporting the homosexual agenda. They can't compensate by attacking anti-bullying laws without seeming to be insensitive or even exploit the boy's death. Better to be silent.

The above article appeared alongside another about the hyper-homophobia and anti-gay violence in Jamaica (which has been particularly brutal). Some members of the Metropolitan Community Church's Sunshine Cathedral in Ford Lauderdale met with the Jamaican Consulate General to strongly suggest the Jamaican media start a campaign to say violence against gays is wrong. The Consulate General caught a firestorm of criticism in Jamaica. The media and the church will have nothing to do with it. They openly endorse homophobia and refuse to condemn murdering gay men.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another below-the-belt punch

It seems the word fascism is being tossed around a lot. Both the Left and Right use it to strike below-the-belt punches. The latest contributor to this war of words is "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg. According to Scott Horton, there are three big problems with the book. First, the book prevents a meaningful discussion of issues. The second problem is that such use of the word makes us much less sensitive to the monumental horrors that fascism can unleash, though the users of such language intend the opposite of trying to equate the other side's routine actions with those horrors. The third problem is the author has no clue about what fascism really is. The mark is missed so cleanly one wonders how a publisher accepted such a shoddy work. Robert Paxton wrote about the "mobilizing passions" of fascism in his book Anatomy of Fascism (2004). Some of them are: A sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of traditional solutions. The belief that one's group is a victim which justifies any action without legal or moral limits. The need for closer integration of a purer community, by violence if necessary. The superiority of the leader's instincts over universal reason. To me, this sounds a lot like the Christian Right, but this reviewer says what we have isn't fascism, but Caesarism, which is: The rush to anoint a leader and follow him blindly. A neglect of fiscal and political accountability. A turn to vaguely religious social standards as a replacement for the secular foundation of the republic. A use of foreign military adventures to silence political foes and unite the public. And a steady appeal to fear.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


The gay residents of Rhode Island are the only ones (though joined soon my New York) who can go to Massachusetts to get married and have the marriage recognized in their home state. One catch. In the same way they can't get married in RI, they can't get divorced there either. They can't even get divorced in Mass. because that is only available to residents. Some RI legislators understand the problem and have introduced legislation to allow gay couples to divorce. Strangely, those groups against gay marriage are also are against gay divorce. If you manage to get into a gay marriage (which we oppose), by golly, we're not going to let you out of it.

Creating Change Conference in the News

Here are actual news articles of the plenary speakers at last week's Creating Change conference printed in Between the Lines, Detroit's gay weekly newspaper. They give a lot more about what the various speakers said than I did in my brief summary in my earlier posting.

Julian Bond's speech.

Gene Robinson's speech.

Matt Foreman's speech.

Foreman responds to the "gay disease" comment.

Other articles here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Over the Top Marketing

I don't know if I should applaud this marketing technique or cringe. Either way they aren't getting my money. I got solicitation mail from "reason" magazine. What makes this one a bit more than junk (at least I opened it) was the satellite image of my neighborhood on the envelope with an arrow pointing close to my house. The banner had my name and the words "They know where you are … but just who are they?" Inside among the sample covers of actual issues was one that also shows a smaller piece of the same sat-image with a red circle around my block and the words, "They know where you live!" Sure, go ahead, prey on my fears of Bush the dictator and of the nasty people Bush can't get rid of but claims he is the only one who can.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The purpose of gays

Why do gays exist? What function do they serve? Since they much less likely to produce offspring evolution suggests they shouldn't exist. How might gays be an evolutionary advantage?

Research done in Western societies haven't come up with an answer. A team of researchers decided that the normal roles of gays has been corrupted by homophobia and Western societies can't provide the answer. They are counter-evolutionary. So the team went to Samoa, a culture little influenced by Western morality and more like our ancestral past. There they found gays to be well accepted in society (though they usually had sex with straight men rather than with each other -- perhaps reinforcing the idea that most men are not exclusively straight?). The role of these gay men was usually to put significant effort into raising nieces and nephews including "babysit­ting, buy­ing toys, tu­tor­ing, ex­pos­ing the chil­dren to art and mu­sic, and con­tri­but­ing to daycare, med­i­cal and educa­t­ion ex­penses." Kids with gay uncles had better care and a higher chance of reaching adulthood (or at least less frazzled parents). These kids also have a genetic tendency to produce gay offspring.

All that means is homophobia is the problem, not homosexuality. It is homophobia that destroys family values. The research has been published in a respected scientific journal -- and roundly ignored. It should be a factor in the laws we make about gay people.

Unchristian Churches

Here is a posting listing many of the ways in which many institutional churches are not Christian. Alas, many readers interpret it (and comments prove it) that all institutional churches are not Christian and gays (and America as a whole) are better off not believing in such nonsense. Here are some of the crimes:

* Denying marriage to same-sex couples, thereby endorsing promiscuity.

* Relying on discredited science to justify their exclusion.

* Invoking flawed interpretations of selected biblical passages to demean gays.

* Remaining silent in the face of oppression of others.

* Using twisted logic, "tradition," and claims to family values to do their own oppression.

* Vilify gays to the point that the suicide rate among gay kids is many times higher than for straight kids and to the point that parents throw their gay kids out of their homes.

* Using gays as scapegoats for other crimes, including those of pedophile priests.

Anxious kids and conservative votes

I've written before (though I can't find it now) about how voters tend to choose candidates based on feelings, such as how a candidate resonates with them, and not so much on an analytical look at the candidate's positions. Here's another article on that same topic from Newsweek. The article may not add much that is new, but this bit caught my attention:

"People who are anxious are drawn to leaders who give them a sense of security. In fact, an adult's political leanings can be predicted with eerie accuracy by how anxious he was in preschool: the most anxious children grow into the most politically conservative adults. Their temperament leads them to value predictability, protection and preserving what they have rather than taking a chance on change."

That prompts a question: Does the way fundies raise their kids inherently make them anxious? Is it enough to hover over kids saying, "You're going to hell unless you…" to make them anxious? Am I trying to stereotype?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Creating Change Conference of NGLTF

I haven't created many postings lately because I've been busy attending and volunteering for the Creating Change Conference put on by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

I got involved last summer because the host committee was looking for volunteers. I attended a few of the host committee meetings but most of my effort was through the Spiritual Needs Subcommittee. More on this below. I also volunteered as a workshop room monitor (count attendees, make sure presenter has all he needs).

Since I volunteered for the SNS committee I could attend the rest of the conference for free. I may not have attended much otherwise because it is billed as a training ground for gay activists leaders and I don't consider myself in that category. I would not have attended or volunteered if it wasn't held in my "backyard." Since it was nearby and free I managed to attend a few workshops of interest and the plenary sessions were quite good.

Those plenary sessions were when the whole conference of 1500 attendees and about 500 volunteers met together. There were several awards given out (one per session) and both the presenter and recipient took time to speak. Each session also had a keynote speaker and lesbian comedienne Kate Clinton served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Kate's current tour is titled "Hillarity Clinton."

Some of Clinton's jokes: "We now know the name of Senator Larry Craig's drag queen persona. It is 'Miss Construe.'" As a leatherman came up to present an award she said, "Don't worry, all you PETA people. His entire outfit is made from roadkill." "I've been named an honorary bear. That makes me a lesbruin."

The Thursday evening keynote speaker was Julian Bond of NAACP. He spoke plainly about his work in black civil rights, then clearly linked that effort with gay civil rights. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was more than 50 years ago, the Civil Rights Act and ML King's death was more than 40 years ago. The fate of blacks has changed significantly in that time (though problems persist). The time is now to extend the same protections to gays.

Matt Foreman of NGLTF (the organization sponsoring the conference) spoke on Friday afternoon. He showed how much the gay movement has accomplished since Stonewall and even what we've done in the last year. He talked at length about the ENDA fiasco a few months ago, pointing out what our "friends" the Democrats did. The only person who had actually counted votes for the trans-inclusive was Tammy Baldwin, who had counted accurately for the hate-crimes act (I think it was). Barney Frank said transgender protections were being removed to forestall GOP trickery, but no such tricks had been threatened. Why worry about your enemies when your friends will do the dirty work for them? Alas, to get ENDA passed we must still work with Frank and Pelosi.

Saturday's plenary speaker was Bishop Gene Robinson. His central message was that discrimination against us is mostly a religious issue and must be resolved through religious organizations. Thus, gay activist organizations must seek out gay-friendly churches and support them in their work. In the same way, gay-friendly churches should partner with gay organizations to avoid duplication of effort. Robinson also told us about a good definition of racism (and heterosexism, sexism, ageism, ableism and the rest) is not only someone who is a bigot, but also societal structures and rules that favor the bigot. A white man may treat a black man as a member of his own family, but if that white man isn't actively working to destroy the structures and rules that favor himself at the expense of the black man he is still racist.

As Robinson left the stage, Kate Clinton said, "Scientists have been searching for the gay gene. Look no more. He's right here."

I attended an all-day institute on Thursday titled, "Empowering and Working With People of Faith." The morning session included several speakers. The first was Rev. Steve Clapp of Christian Community. He and his organization has done extensive research into the "moveable middle." He explicitly excluded both churches who were gay-friendly and those who were on record as being anti-gay. A website of the books that resulted from his research is here.

Clapp said the issue with the churches in his study is they simply aren't aware of the plight and issues of gays and others who don't fit into gender norms. They have no idea what "LGBT" means. For example, when you ask these pastors if there are any gay kids in their youth groups 18% say yes. If you ask the kids (and not by talking to them with their parents standing there, but sending them a questionnaire [with parental permission] in which the youth fills out and mails in secret) then 100% of the youth groups have gay kids, averaging 7% of the males and 5% of the females. Now those pastors have incentive to provide a haven for the gay youth.

Clapp ended by saying many pastors are silent because they know the risks of speaking out. But these pastors don't know what they lose by not speaking out. He gave us the top 10 reasons (out of a great many) why the church needs LGBT members. Alas, I don't remember all 10 and haven't yet ordered the book. At the top of the list: If you don't welcome gay youth you will lose a large number of all youth when they become young adults. Outsiders see the gay issue as a litmus test. If a church will welcome gays it is a church that will welcome them too. Growth in a church isn't because of its theology. The congregations that are growing range from conservative to liberal. What they have in common is expansive hospitality and welcoming gays demonstrates that.

Another speaker was Rev. Debra Haffner, Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality. We are sexual beings, she said. To demonstrate her point she said the first thing God says to man in Genesis 1 is "Be fruitful and multiply," meaning "have sex!" The same thing is said in Genesis 2, but without the command to use it for procreation, so "have fun having sex!" Much of Genesis 2 is about finding a suitable companion for Adam. God brings all the animals to Adam and Adam names them, but doesn't find the right companion. Don't worry about Adam and Steve. It could have been Adam and Mr. Ed! The sin isn't sex but sex exploitation.

The afternoon session was led by Rev. Tiffany Steinwert. She talked about how telling personal stories about an issue is a more effective way to discuss it. Bigotry is about heart and talking points are about head. Personal stories make the bridge and share values. We spent much of the time practicing telling stories that fit a particular talking point, expanding from me to us to contrasting now with a vision of the future. The simple plot of a story, usually 2 minutes long is to present a challenge, a choice to be made, and an outcome. Stories keep the conversation going, but we must have grace to allow the process to continue. There is a simple way to counteract the person who says, "But the Bible says…" Respond with: "I'm glad you said that. I love Scripture too. I'm sure we are each going to interpret it in our own way. Shall we take a look at the 32,174 other verses that talk about love, welcome, inclusion, and acceptance?"

I missed a Friday morning workshop. I had a rough night and morning came too soon.

The Friday afternoon workshop was on the LARA method of non-violent communication. When a person is challenged with verbal violence, "How could you possibly be advocating for gay rights? Don't you know what they do to kids?" the best way to prevent further verbal violence is to "Listen, Affirm, Respond, Add-on." Listening means trying to use the eyes, ears, and heart to discern the underlying feelings, values, principles, and life experiences that prompted the challenge. Affirm means to acknowledge with those feelings and values without agreeing, apologizing, or placating. It may be necessary to ask questions to sort through to the underlying issues and affirm them properly. An affirmation to the above statement might be, "I see you are a good parent concerned about the welfare of your children." The amount of affirmation depends on the depth of emotion in the other person. Then respond to the question or statement in a calm manner using terms of your affirmation. "I'm also concerned about the welfare of kids, including the gay kids." Once the basic answer is given, more could be supplied, if appropriate, for the benefit of the other person or for people who might be listening. What the other person will remember is not so much the words of the response but the feelings of resonance of the affirmation.

I spent most of Saturday in the academy session "Doing the Work of Spiritual Reclamation" led by Chantelle Fisher-Borne of OpenSource Leadership Strategies. We spent the day in exercises to talk about our reactions to the church's position on gays and how that has affected us. The session is geared towards training those who routinely deal with people who have been wounded by the church.

I did not attend Sunday sessions because I needed to be ready by noon to take part in an afternoon concert. I did have time to attend services at my own church.

The SNS had 6 steady members when I joined them last July. We had the responsibility to create a Tranquility Room (a quiet place to meditate during a busy conference), a names ceremony to remember those in the community who died over the last year, a Shabbat service, and an interfaith (not just interdenominational) service. Though we didn't spend much effort in planning, I believe pastors in the group also led an Ash Wednesday Service during the first day of the conference (which I didn't attend) and a Sunday morning service.

Turns out the few names I gathered for the names ceremony (which was all of 5 minutes) didn't get used. Even so, I was struck by the number of transgender murders in my list. The Shabbat service was turned over to a group from an area synagogue, which was a relief to us, because none of us are Jewish. Our Buddhist handled the Tranquility room, taking care to also make it interfaith. He did a good job decorating it and supplying a variety of spiritual items. It helped that it has a marvelous view, being on the 64th floor of the hotel.

That left us with the interfaith service. We settled on a theme of light, figuring that was universal. We proposed several readings about light from a wide variety of sources. I read 7 of these at various parts of the service. Our conference choir from local gay choruses alas only numbered 15. They sang such things as "This little light of mine" and "We are marching in the light of God." A 5 woman troupe of liturgical dancers did a fine job. We had a few songs for the congregation to sing and a couple dialogues between two readers and between readers and attendees. A powerpoint of photos didn't pan out because our leader managed to accidentally swap thumb drives with someone. We ended with something distinctly from Detroit, a Gospel choir.

Alas, that didn't work so well. The communication chain had at least two links in it and the choir director didn't get the memo that this was an interfaith service. She chose songs that seemed to stress the superiority of Christianity, which didn't sit well with the gay people who felt shunned by Christianity, though those who managed to stay Christian were thoroughly enjoying the choir's energy and message.

Yeah, this is a lot to read and I thank you if you made it this far. Writing this summary has helped me to process all I've learned. Now back to the rest of my life.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Worst case examined

Worst case presidential scenario: To appease the Right, who hate him, McCain selects Huckabee as his VP. Since Huck actually won several states in the South last Tuesday he is a reasonable pick. McCain/Huck win the presidency. McCain, who is the oldest guy to run for the office (a couple years older than Reagan) dies -- or is assassinated by a fundie -- while in office and Huck becomes prez. Which allows him to be pastor-in-chief and cause all sorts of fundie mischief.

As evidence that the Right hates McCain, this letter suggests fundies research who most likely could beat McCain in their own state and vote for that person, even if it is Ron Paul. Some rather interesting pictures were included in the letter.

Dobson finally makes an endorsement -- Huck -- which is a clear signal that making Huck the VP will appease the Right.

Marriage as a religious institution

The Right frequently claims (and occasionally gets a candidate, like Obama to do the same) that marriage is a religious institution. So Maryland state senator Jamie Raskin said, fine, we'll leave marriage to the church and change all the marriage laws to refer to "domestic partnerships" which would be available to both straights and gays. The Right predictably called a foul, saying "They’re creating a situation for one special interest group that basically diminishes the value of marriage for everyone else." But doesn't that make marriage a "special right" for straights? Perhaps the Right should jump on the offer to forestall the time that government decides to regulate baptism and communion.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Impeachment: the case for precedence

I believe someone in the last 50 years said that we should have a revolution about once every 20 years. I propose instead we have an impeachment about once every 20 years. Starting now. The purpose isn't retribution or punishment, but to define again the proper roles of president and congress. I hear the sigh of longing, but over the next year it just might happen. By the end of summer we should have a report on the "Gonzales Eight" the US District Attorneys fired by the then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2006 showing the reason for dismissal was to interfere with criminal investigations. That leads to Rove and Bush, though those writing this report may only look into the Department of Justice. Congress must then investigate Bush and that investigation could lead to impeachment. This article describes the incident in English history that prompted the inclusion of impeachment in our Constitution. The charge was subversion of the English Constitution and the result was that the king was no longer the law. He had to answer to Parliament. Back to our own founding document: Allowing Congress to impeach and remove a president is an act outside the normal checks and balances, normal separation of powers. That means in impeachment proceedings there is no such thing as executive privilege, a claim Bush has used to blanket all his actions. So the use of impeachment isn't punishment, but restoration. If we impeach Bush we say he has overstepped his bounds, he has abused power. We draw a line as to what is acceptable behavior in a president and what is not. If we don't, we accept what Bush has done and announce all future presidents may do the same, the balance of power has been undone. And that means Bush will have effectively rewritten -- trashed -- the Constitution. Yes, impeachment will be painful for the country. Is the Constitution worth it?

Not tempted by recruitment

The figure usually touted for the percentage of gays in the population is 10%. Though the Right claims the real figure is 1-2% (which means there aren't enough of us to get upset over if rights are denied, though they make a big deal about a tiny menace), scientific surveys suggest the real figure is 5%.

Today's comments aren't about the accuracy of the figures, but the effect of the number, no matter what it is. This writer uses the 10% figure, so let's go with it. If 10% of the population is gay it implies that 90% are secure in their heterosexuality. They're totally straight and couldn't possibly be tempted to cross over. If that is true why is there such a fear of being recruited to the other side?

Perhaps the real situation is that 80% of the population is bisexual to some degree. That would explain why fundies are obsessed with homosexuality, though the Bible barely mentions it, while they give adultery a pass, though the Bible says a lot about it and it causes more damage than homosexuality does. This reminds me of the fundie position that the human psyche is a snarling beast and religion must exert a tight restraining grip or the beast will wreak havoc. Maybe they recognize that most are bisexual?

Need a fresh supply

We used to have maybe 15 candidates for president, and we're down to 5. They're dropping like flies and we need a fresh supply. Here's a fresh candidate for prez. willing to get all the dirty laundry out in the open from the start. The candidate: Mark Twain. The year: 1879. Enjoy the fun.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Obliged to shield from the offensive

In Massachusetts, father David Parker was upset that his kindergarten son was exposed to the book Who's a Family, which mentioned gay families. Parker said, "When affirmation and normalization of these lifestyles come up, parents want to know and have the option to opt out." He filed suit against the school. A gay father responds: How far are you willing to demand the school go? His son is in preschool. He shows up for class programs that feature his son. He and his partner are seen picking the boy up after school. Both attend PTA and parent-teacher conferences. Preschoolers have a time to share what they've done over the weekend and the kid always talks of what he did with Daddy and Papa. He and his partner are treated by teachers and staff as the boy's parents. How much of this constitutes "affirmation and normalization" of his family and should be banned? Fortunately, a year ago a US District court ruled (and recently confirmed by an appeals panel):

"Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them."

Responsible for the greatest crimes

Some religious believers like to claim that because Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot were atheists it is those dratted atheists that are the cause of all the evil in the world, responsible for the greatest crimes of history. This is similar to the idea that it is impossible for atheists to have developed a system of morality.

This writer claims it wasn't atheism that drove them. The issue isn't whether they were critical of religion, but that they required dogmatism similar to many religions. They required the same suspension of reason. They were examples of dogma run amok.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Lead by example

According to this article by George Weigel in Newsweek the Jihadist branch of Islam is still going strong. The threat is real (even if most Moslems aren't like that). The topic should be addressed in the current prez. campaign, though it and the current prez. are sidetracked by Iraq. The reason why I mention it is this idea. America could go a long way to refute jihadism simply by example, except we've lost our moral voice on the issue. We used to stand for a commitment to religious freedom, tolerance, civility, and democratic persuasion. Our own religious extremists have replaced that commitment with convenience.