Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Step One -- UMC Judicial Council

Step one for equality at the United Methodist Church General Conference was in our favor! Most of the sitting conservatives on the Judicial Council (the denomination supreme court) were tossed out and replaced with a moderate slate nominated by the Council of Bishops. In the past the Bishops have, on key issues, declared they disagree with the JC. The Council had a 6-3 conservative majority. That has now been cut to 2-7. The question is whether the change is enough to make the JC liberal (oops, that's "progressive" now) or merely centrist.

This first article gives a short bio of each of the new JC members.

This second one contrasts the JC elections with the cell phone gift scandal perpetrated by the right.

The third is a reproduction of an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which, alas, starts off with quotes from the IRD director Mark Tooley.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

No, really, there aren't strings atttached

The Institute for Religion and Democracy (which is not associated with the United Methodist Church but seems intent on bending the UMC to its will or destroying it) has given General Conference delegates from Africa and South America free cell phones to use during the 10 days of the conference. Along with the phones are instructions, including strong suggestions on how to vote for key Right-wing candidates for boards and Judicial Council (the body that interprets what GC meant until GC meets again) and for key Right-wing petitions (especially, anti-gay ones). The phone accounts are also connected up to an automated text-message system so that these delegates will get a message reminding them of the proper way to vote just as the vote is to take place. The delegates are supposed to listen to the Holy Spirit when voting. But the IRD would rather certain delegates listen to them.

The conference delegates overwhelmingly voted in favor of a petition to establish an ethics panel as part of the 2012 GC.

We're so normal -- and that's the problem

A story in the New York Times about the younger gays getting married shows the real threat of gay marriage. Turns out the kids do the same kinds of things that young straight couples do. This is a threat because all that ordinary stuff humanizes gays, making the massive propaganda machines of the Right all that much less effective. And as humans we show it is perfectly fine to be different from the Christian Right.

Weren't we discussing...

That national discussion of race that was supposed to take place after Obama's famous Rev. Wright speech? It's not happening. Most of these thoughts are from Michelangelo Signorile and Pam Spaulding.

Race is very much an issue in this presidential campaign and in the nation. Obama didn't talk about race and was considered acceptable -- until he did. And then people started to say, "He was in Wright's congregation for twenty years? He must be one of *those* blacks," a part of the secret Radical Black Trojan Horse Agenda. If we let a black into power it will be the slaves taking their revenge out on their master.

Oprah and Condi suffered the same fate. Condi was considered VP material until she agreed that racism is still an issue, until she reminded people she is black. Oprah has a loyal white fan base, but it squealed when she campaigned for Obama. Suddenly she is no longer post-racial. So, yes, race is still an issue.

Yet, that national discussion isn't happening. Sure, reporters talk about how white blue-collar Democrats in Pennsylvania can't bring themselves to vote for Obama. But they never ask why.

Why can't they vote for Obama? Is it because of views they've held since childhood? Do they have black friends or neighbors? Are their only exposure to blacks the ones they see on TV doing a perp walk? Is their fear about crime or about blacks taking their job away from them? Is it fear of the Black Trojan Horse? Or is the case that they truly aren't racist and genuinely believe Hillary is the better candidate?

Various media "experts" are debating various sides of this issue, but they are *not* actually going out and talking to voters. Which means they are talking about race enough to prove they are talking about race but not enough to discuss it rationally.

Part of the problem is the Right is still quite good at throwing "color arousal" bombs (they aren't really *racist*, you see). There have been lots of talk about how thankful blacks should be for the bones tossed in their direction. And few people know how to diffuse or dismantle those bombs. They don't know how, they argue over the way to do it, they run for cover without learning from the experience, or they hurl/dodge the racist label.

The Right doesn't disarm bombs (when they're not flinging them) because there is nothing in it for them to diffuse racism. Progressives are embarrassed to realize they don't know how to diffuse bombs, that they have contributed to the problem or the problem is too big. Blacks are tired of whites who don't have a clue. The usual reactions simply shut down the conversation that we so desperately need.

This Saturday I will be going to the Ruth Ellis Center for training to be a volunteer. This center is a safe place for gay kids to hang out. Many of them are homeless because their parents threw them out when they discovered their child is gay. I want to tell to the kids that there are Christians who think being gay is just fine. I'm mentioning this as part of this post because I am aware that most of these kids are black, and I'm not.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Golden Rule Day

The Day of Silence is tomorrow, Friday, April 25. It is a day when gay teens and their allies protest the likelihood of their being bullied by being silent for a day. This year the event was in honor of Lawrence King, murdered for being gay. In response the Right launched the Day of Truth, asserting their right to bully gay kids. In the midst of this battle steps another idea: Golden Rule Day. Christian kids hand out cards with the Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Some cards have the Golden Rule on one side and Day of Silence on the other. Promoters explain that gay kids have been targets of violence and that as Christians they believe it is wrong to do so. Hooray!

But there are skeptics. There are those that feel the Right won't buy it. That's because they feel they can't look the other way when it comes to sin. If you see that a murder is about to happen, you should intervene if you can and prosecute the murderer afterward, putting them in jail (or give them the death penalty), using force if necessary. Since in many eyes gays are just as (if not more) sinful as murderers it makes sense to intervene when gays become too visible and use force if necessary. If you aren't punishing sin, you are condoning it. And you wouldn't want to condone murder.

A gay commentator is also skeptical. His complaints are a bit more subtle:

(1) The Golden Rule Day was on the same day as Day of Silence as a way of upstaging it. At least the Day of Truth event is a different day.

(2) It puts the Golden Rule in response to Day of Silence, which implies if one is for the Golden Rule then one is against homosexuality.

(3) By declaring the Golden Rule a "Christian response" it perpetuates the false Christian vs. gay split.

(4) It allows school districts to say, "Good, everyone believes in the Golden Rule and therefore we don't have to pass anti-bullying regulations."

(5) The biggest problem is the Golden Rule Day handouts say nothing about violence against gays, the most important reason the Day of Silence exists. There is no reason for the violence against gays conversation to take place.

(6) In the same way that "love the sinner, hate the sin" is used against gays, this will be too. Straights can say "If I were gay I'd want someone to stop me from being gay and since that's how I want to be treated I'll treat gays the same way." The Golden Rule becomes a requirement to harass gays into changing their orientation because burning for eternity in hell is worse than a bit of schoolyard bullying -- the GR gives fundies permission to do whatever they want to others because it is done in the name of righteousness, the violence is justified to save the soul.

(7) It allows those passing out the Golden Rule cards to actually avoid changing their behavior, to remain sanctimonious and self-righteous with a claim to the moral high ground, to maintain their belief that their doctrines are more important than people. Proof of that is there is nothing in the Christian press about the death of Lawrence King, their own Days of Silence. Also proof is their continued use of "evil agenda" in describing our actions and using threats against teachers who try to protect gay kids. They're not silent at all.

(8) The Golden Rule Day was created by Warren Throckmorton, who has made a living attacking gays.

Want to follow the Golden Rule? The day after you pass out those little cards, actually advocate to stop the bullying against gays. We've been burned too many times by platitudes that amount to nothing or are turned against us.

Take that, veterans!

The Arizona House hates gays so much they pulled a switch, punching veterans in the nose. They took a bill honoring Vietnam Veterans which had already been passed by the Senate, completely gutted it, and inserted the text of the marriage protection amendment. This had two effects. (1) It bypasses debate and amendments in the House. (2) When the bill gets back to the Senate for reconciliation that body cannot amend it. They must vote it up or down.

All this was done because the amendment came before the House a month ago and one representative was able to add an amendment which made the whole thing unpalatable to the Right. That can't happen this time around. Many representatives for the amendment are from district that soundly rejected it when it came before voters two years ago. Yet they claim to be doing the will of the people.

We want what you have and don't want

The Right claims that there is no need for gay marriage because gays don't want it anyway (perhaps they are thinking about the way straights treat marriage?). A new study of gay youth asked them what they expected their future to be like. The astonishing results are that:

More than 90% of the females and over 80% of the males expect to be partnered in a monogamous relationship after the age of 30. Two thirds of the females and over half the males express likelihood that they would raise children in the future.

In spite of divorce, love is still powerful and meaningful.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Free Ride for McCain

Clinton may be trying to get mileage out of claiming that the Mainstream Media is giving Obama a free ride, of not delving into his weaknesses very deeply and of hyping his strengths. But it is McCain who is getting the free ride. There's now a book with that name: "Free Ride: John McCain and the Media" by David Brock and Paul Waldman. McCain has learned how to buddy up to reporters even better than Bush has (who is famous for his Crawford barbecues in which he says if you're nice to me I'll invite you back). McCain does it by:

Exploiting his POW status. Yeah, Kerry was a war hero too and was Swiftboated. But McCain does it with frequent reminders of his war experience, "Listen, Sonny. I'm a war hero in this time of war and you're not. Make me look good as I talk about education in America."

Capitalizing on his campaign finance reform to portray himself as a maverick even though is voting record is otherwise solidly conservative and that reform didn't turn off the spigots of soft money.

Knowing how to suck up to reporters. There were lots of jokes about Bush being the kind of prez. a regular joe could have a beer with. Forget the regular guy, just have beer with the reporters. Be sure to stroke their egos and tell them they will have continued access to rambling interviews whenever they want. Soon they'll speak about your campaign using "we" instead of "him." It got so bad that McCain came in fourth in Iowa and the media swooned over how well he had done. He gets to portray himself as war hero, everyman, insider, and maverick all at once while the media ignores the way he blew past his spending limit and thumbed his nose at the FEC among other things.

The saving hope may be that the under 25 crowd -- those coming out in droves for Obama -- don't get their news from the Mainstream Media. Alas, those that can tend not to vote. We'll see if disgust with Bush and interest in Obama changes their minds about voting.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Honesty in the abortion debate

A commenter says one reason why the abortion debate is stuck is that at least the Right (and perhaps the Left) isn't being completely honest about their side of the debate. The issue is supposed to be about the horrors of abortion, taking a human life and the regret many women feel afterwards. The solution should simply be to reduce the number of abortions. Even many on the left are pro-life. However, if it were that simple, we could reduce the abortion count quite simply: provide comprehensive sex education and provide birth control to everyone who wants it. Ain't gonna happen soon, because the Right isn't interested in just reducing abortion. They also want to dictate sexual morality (including the possibility as pregnancy as punishment) and dictate family structure. And that is the choice in "pro-choice" that the Left wants to maintain.

I commented the Left's motives may also not be pure. In this case it seems to be individual positions, not the views of the movement as a whole. The second part of this article is about some truly bizarre and sick "performance art" which doesn't contribute to the debate and allows the Right another way to demonize the Left. I wish I could have split the article.

Arguments don't work

From the Reconciling Ministries Network General Conference blog come these thoughts: Why haven't all our wonderful, theologically sound messages about inclusion convinced the denomination (or the whole Christian church) that gays should be fully a part of the denomination. The short answer is fear. The long answer spells out these fears:

Fear of homosexuals, including fear of AIDS, and fear of damage to children. These fears are lessening as gay visibility improves and we can no longer be broadly dehumanized.

Fear that welcoming gays will destroy the institution of the church. But isn't the church dying under the current principles of inclusion? This is why we must make sure each world region can set its own guidelines. Lets see what happens when gays are included. On a small scale that has already happened. Inner city churches, such as one in Houston, have revived due to their inclusion of gays. But some in power are more interested in the health of the institution rather than in the message of Christ.

A commenter says each side feels they have studied the Bible in detail and engaged in honest prayer, reflection, and argument. Each side sees fear mongering and hatred, loyalty to an agenda, and tactics that are underhanded, dishonest, and manipulating people's emotions. One wonders how both can make that claim.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reviewing a responsible plan for Iraq

I've heard rumors about this idea so it is good to finally see the document. Several candidates to the U.S. House along with retired military personnel have written a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. It is worthwhile to download the 36 page document and at least scan it. You can find it here.

There is a lot to recommend, but alas, also a couple holes. The responsible plan appears to be based on a comment by General Petraeus towards the beginning of the surge, "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq." The surge was supposed to lower the bloodshed enough that the non-military solutions had a chance. But so far, that hasn't happened.

The plan is based on two strategic questions. The first is how to bring American military involvement to a responsible end? The answer is in more and better diplomatic, political, and economic efforts. The second question is how do we prevent another Iraq? That requires a restoration of Constitutional checks and balances and a fix of various government, military, and civil institutions that failed us.

In detail, the answer to the first question is responsible troop withdrawal, done in such a way to keep the remaining troops from being a target and with a commitment that we won't keep any troops in Iraq over any sort of long term. We also train as many Iraqis in defense as possible before we go. Instead, we should focus on the humanitarian crisis -- the refugees, the lack of a functioning government -- and the economic crisis -- young unemployed men see the only viable future as being in one of the militias. A third step is to use our considerable diplomatic tools to keep neighboring countries from stirring up trouble and convincing them and the rest of the world that a stable Iraq is in their best interest. Along the way we need to go after war profiteers, revitalize the State Department, expand the role of the international community, and to commit to human rights.

To prevent another Iraq several steps are proposed: Put war funding in the regular budget, restore congressional oversight, eliminate signing statements, restore habeas corpus, end warrantless spying, end detainee torture, stop outsourcing military operations to private companies such as Blackwater, fully fund veteran care, fully fund college tuition for those who served in the military, restore proper oversight for military contracts, restore trust in the media by reducing conglomerates in individual markets, and update our energy policy to lessen dependence on oil.

I'll let you read the details of each proposal, which includes actual bills to be submitted to Congress.

Now to the good ideas: I like the emphasis on diplomacy both in and around Iraq, the emphasis on humanitarian and economic development, the plan to get the military out of the way. All this is what I see in Christ -- let us be your servant, let us help you build up, instead of us playing the role of enforcer, one who imposes on another, the one who is blind to your pain, the one who tears down. It is good to see a clear enumeration of governmental problems and a concrete way to address them. Alas, Bush will veto any that get to his desk. Note the signers are those not yet in Congress.

However, I see one glaring hole. I admit I am not a military expert and I probably should rely on the retired military guys who helped create this plan. Even so, with the recent Sunni on Sunni violence in Basra which sent the Iraqi prime minister scurrying away with his tail between his legs I’m not convinced that removing American troops won't allow a civil war to erupt. To reduce my fears -- and that of a lot of Americans -- this issue needs to be addressed. I see several ways the issue could have been addressed: (1) A confirmation that our presence is what keeps the prospect of civil war alive. (2) Humanitarian and diplomatic efforts will be well underway and have the intended effect before the troops are gone. (3) Other countries, such as Morocco and Indonesia, that aren't about to stir up trouble take over peacekeeping duties. There are likely other ways to fill this hole. I am aware that in many cases the military presence is part of the problem, but it is difficult for me (and other Americans) to see how pulling the military out won't leave a power vacuum. Perhaps we'll be fine, but this plan needs to explain why we'll be fine. I sincerely hope the plan will work, however this hole may doom its chances of being implemented.

And one minor hole: The real solution to many of the preventative measures, such as eliminating signing statements and restoring habeas corpus is the impeachment and removal of Bush. He has ignored laws and his legacy will embolden future presidents to ignore laws as well. Impeachment means that we intend for laws to be followed. Simply passing new laws means more laws this future president might ignore.

At least I offer praise and thanks that people are thinking about the issue in creative ways.

United Methodist Church crunch time

We're coming up to crunch time -- the General Conference of the United Methodist Church begins next Wednesday and runs for 10 days. It will be held in Fort Worth, TX. This is where policy in the UMC will be set. The next GC is in 2012 so bad policy won't be revised until then. Here is the portal to the Reconciling Ministries Network view of GC. RMN works for the inclusion of all people, especially gays, in the church.

I haven't before included pictures with these posts, but I thought the RMN logo for their conference efforts was too pretty to leave out.

The site includes a blog which will be updated as various petitions are brought up for a vote. I'm sure I'll be referring to it over the next few weeks.

The main page lists the petitions before GC. An issues page will lead you to greater discussion each issue. These are some of the issues:

Eliminate or soften the clause "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." The rest of the anti-gay rules are built on this foundation. There are also petitions about softening or eliminating the various individual rules, all with the intention of increasing inclusiveness of gays and allies. This probably needs to be done whether or not the big one is removed. The vote to retain this key phrase has dropped from 80% in favor in 1972 to 55% in 2004.

The UMC, though worldwide, is centered on the USA. There are petitions that seek to recognize the worldwide nature of the denomination with competing proposals on how to do this. One of these proposals insists that social principles must be the same worldwide. That means issues such as homosexuality in the USA will be voted on by very homophobic regions in Africa and Asia where the denomination is growing. The anti-gay forces are afraid they will lose the vote in America and want the votes from the rest of the world to enforce their view.

RMN supports several broader issues including resisting hate, abolition of torture, environmental justice, war and peace, and women's issues (one would think we were way beyond that as an issue).

RMN has a lot of petitions it opposes. Of course, off the top are petitions to retain the key clause and not just keep, but strengthen the various bans associated with it. Some even appear to condemn RMN and Soulforce, the two organizations working hardest for gay inclusion. Alas, the exact nature of these proposals is unknown because the RMN site links directly to proposals on the UMC conference site and that site hasn't been staying up very long at a time.

Next are efforts to ban transgender clergy. This wasn't an issue until the last couple of years when a pastor transitioned to male and the Judicial Council let him continue to be a pastor simply because the denomination rules say nothing of transgender issues. After this GC I'm sure the rules will say something one way or the other.

A third batch of petitions are about Judicial Council ruling 1032. A pastor refused membership to a man because he was gay. The issue went to the Judicial Council, who said the pastor had that right. All 66 American bishops say being gay should not be a reason to reject membership. This is the first time the GC has a chance affirm or overrule the JC. Most of the petitions call for saying the pastor was right.

Finally, a batch to strengthen and extend the funding ban. A previous GC said that denomination agencies cannot give money to organizations that "promote the acceptance of homosexuality". These petitions enumerate what it means to "promote" homosexuality, to expand the ban's reach into areas such as domestic partner benefits and campus ministries that choose to declare themselves open to gay members, and to expand enforcement of the ban. Here is a blog entry that discusses the current hassles of the funding ban. The denomination is dying a slow death -- the last membership count was just below 8 million and it had been above 9 million in the 1950s -- yet the denomination is doing a good job of alienating its youth. Why should I come to your church if you don't like my gay friends?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A just ruling? Or overkill?

Elane Photography in New Mexico was chosen to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony. The photographer, Elaine Huguenin (who does appear to spell the studio name differently), refused with some comment about having religious beliefs that prevent her from working with disgusting lesbians. Vanessa Willock, one of the couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, which gave the studio a bill for $6637 for attorney's fees and costs. However some gays (including me) are troubled by this decision. Some of the questions it raises:

Is religion an adequate excuse for discrimination? Under what circumstances? Should we allow bigotry to masquerade as religious freedom?

Would we want to see a plumber refuse services to a Muslim?

Can a gay-owned publishing company refuse to print pamphlets for a rabidly anti-gay organization?

What about a lesbian photographer at a homophobic church?

Will this ruling cause more of a backlash than it is worth? Obviously, the Right will claim the NM HRC is out to get them.

Might it have been a case the lesbians went to the photographer because they knew she wouldn't take the case and they could make a scene over it? Note: this is speculation. I have no evidence this may have happened. There have been other cases brought from both sides where it has.

Should anti-discrimination laws be applied to only government agencies? That's not where racial discrimination keeps rearing its ugly head.

Should the photographer be excused from the job because photography requires such a close involvement with the subjects? How about if the event has religious overtones (as a wedding does) that clash with her own?

What constitutes public accommodation (which is what this law is based on)? Is it a company that does business with all who walk through the door? Is a freelance writer, who only works for a few editors, required to be bound by public accommodation? Is there a difference in public accommodation between public and private businesses? What makes a business private?

Would there be an issue if the photographer simply said, "I'm sorry, my calendar is full," rather than making a point about disgusting lesbians? Weren't there issues of hotels in the south telling blacks that they just rented the last room?

Should it not be an issue because other photographers are available? In small towns are other photographers always available?

Does the size of the business matter?

Does it matter that the photographer was providing a luxury instead of a necessity, such as food or a bed?

Is the issue that the photographs are considered artistic expression and thus fall under free speech, including not making the kind of speech you don't want to endorse?

Is there a limit to how much discrimination the government can prevent?

Would it be better to drive change through capitalism to give your business to like-minded companies and away from those that discriminate against you? Does such a method have much of a chance of working?

For the record, here's my opinion: Yes, the photographer is a bigot and using religion to hide that bigotry. But I think this is an inappropriate place to have the government step in and I think the lesbian couple are doing more harm than good by bringing suit.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Green President?

Newsweek's cover story this week is a series of articles about the environment, starting with which candidate is greenest. Hillary and Obama are almost identical and far ahead of McCain, but his is the more radical position because it is so far out of line from his party. Any of the three will be a vast improvement to the current guy.

The silver lining and the cloud over this election season

Even though the extended Democratic battle for the nomination is polarizing strong supporters of the two candidates (including talk of voting for McCain instead of the other), the battle is actually a good thing. That's the opinion of Markos Moulitsas in a commentary in Newsweek. Moulitsas runs the Democratic political blog www.dailykos.com. He lists these benefits of the battle: Both candidates are into frenzied organization in every state, even Red states. Election officials in many states are reporting record turnout and record new registrations for Dems. The national party can take over the infrastructure the candidates built, solidifying Blue states and tilting the odds in swing states. Even Texas (gasp!) appears up for grabs. The attention is helping other national, state, and local elections. Finally, it has made Obama a better candidate, his battles against Hillary are teaching him how to face the GOP in the fall and how to diffuse explosive issues (like race) now instead of in October.

As for Hillary… If she forces her way to the nomination through a coup of superdelegates she will destroy the party by alienating all the young voters, the next generation, who have flocked to Obama. It is one thing for the people to nominate Hillary over Obama, it is quite another for party bigwigs to defy the wishes of the people. Superdelegates are (or at least should be) smart enough to recognize that outcome and prevent it.

Along that line are not one, but two companion articles in Newsweek about people who might tell Hillary it is time to concede. One is Vernon Jordan, the Friend of Bill who got Monica a job out of town. The other is Rahm Emanuel, representative of Chicago and friend to both Hillary and Obama. Doubts of Hillary's fitness for prez. if Newsweek has articles about two people who might be needed to tell her to give it up.

In spite of all this interest in the campaign and election process, there continue to be efforts to restrict who can vote under false claims of protecting the integrity of the election. These restrictions include proof of citizenship, voter ID, registration drive restrictions, database cleansing, and various methods of challenging the voter. All of these efforts seemed focused on minority (read: Democratic) voters.

All these shenanigans (and more) are going to need a strong Federal Elections Commission, but the FEC has been rendered even more toothless than usual. The FEC normally has 6 members, 3 from each party. At the moment it has 2, evenly split. Without a quorum of 4 it can't open investigations or hand down rulings. Members are usually voted on in pairs so that neither party can claim favoritism. There are two Dem nominees, but only one GOP, Hans von Spakovsky, so blatantly partisan and disinterested in fairness that the Dems refuse to vote for him (hint: he got is training in the thoroughly corrupt voting-rights section of the Justice Department and had been on the FEC for two years as a recess appointment). Bush refuses to nominate a second GOP until Spakovsky is voted on. A second nominee would allow one of the Dems to be voted in. One would think this is intentional. Thus the FEC cannot rule whether McCain should be reprimanded for saying he wants to take public financing and then blow past his spending limit.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Marker of Centristm

Lots of people will be watching what the United Methodist Church (my lifelong denomination) does at its General Conference starting in two weeks from now. General Conference is where we set policy and bylaws that will last at least the next four years. One person, who appears to be a delegate, says that the UMC is a "marker of Centrism" in the USA. We are between Baptists on the right and United Church of Christ on the left. UMC churches in the West and Northeast lead the way in inclusive language, and those in the South resist progressive ideas. We are a good measure of the religious center of America. Where we go, so goes America. It also means the UMC is central in the battle. The Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD) on the Right is spending heavily to influence the vote by lobbying churches and individual delegates. There are organizations on the Left as well, such as Reconciling Ministries Network, but it is doubtful they have the budget even close to that of IRD. Four years ago the central issue about "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" was retained with only 55% approval, down from 80% in 1984. This is the phrase which is the justification for lots of other mischief, such as banning gay pastors. The vote is likely to be close this year, close enough that I won't attempt to call it. A comment to this post noted that the IRD effort against the Episcopal Church has essentially failed, in spite of the noise made by some Anglican bishops in Africa.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pat Paulsen for President!

It was in the old Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that Pat Paulsen got his big break. Through tongue-in-cheek satire he ran for president in practically every election cycle from 1968 until he died in 1997. But it seems he's still at it, leading the protest vote. He beat out Dennis Kucinich in the recent ill-starred Michigan Democratic Primary even though voters were told that write-in candidates would not be counted. Paulsen's campaign staff just completed a contest for an appropriate slogan for this year's Paulsen campaign. Winning slogans include: "Never Say Die!" and "Join the Pat Paulsen Underground." A contest to nominate his VP (living or dead) has begun This is so much more fun than the actual candidates.

Find more fun here.

Some great quotes are here.

Gays in America and in Europe

American gays may look longingly at Europe where many countries have instituted gay marriage and many more have created civil unions that are almost as good. Europe is much more secular than America. If gay marriage produces stable, productive, law-abiding citizens, why oppose it. Danish kids may less likely be raised by a married couple, but they are more likely married by both their parents. Europe is dissolving traditions that make homosexuality a problem. America is making great strides in a much more difficult project -- reconcile homosexuality with traditional structures and morality. The glue in Europe is ethnic. In America, where people are free from their ethnic roots, the glue is what a person believes and who they believe it with, in faith communities. This means social issues take center stage and homosexuality must work its way between civic equality and social tradition. It is a slow process. We're making great strides.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Race and the nagging voice

Here are some more thoughts related to Obama and his now famous speech on race. A few people have claimed that Obama wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't black. I like exercises that turn the thought upside down. Would Bush be where he is now if he wasn't white? That bit is obvious, but consider this: Bush likes to claim he is a self-made man. But that denies

the significant advantages he’s gained from his family’s wealth and connections (or, for that matter, the advantages that his father and grandfather enjoyed as a result of the Bush/Walker family fortune). ... [Would] George W. Bush be where he is, had he been born to a family without the Bush family’s wealth and political power, with only his innate talents, skills, and intelligence to rely on?

For the rest of us there is a nagging voice we desperately want to ignore. For the whites it is a fear that I didn't earn what I have. It is mine only because of the position of my birth, of my family's legacy and it might disappear if we welcome blacks into society as equals. For blacks it is a fear that all those implications of inferiority might be true. Because we are so desperate to ignore this voice we don't want to discuss race.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Better a bleeding heart than none at all.

The title is from a bumper sticker found near Austin, TX, a very liberal city in a very conservative state. Conservative columnist George Will comments on that sticker and those like it saying, "the facts are a hostile witness." He cites data from a report by Arthur Brooks at Syracuse University titled "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism." Conservatives are much more likely to donate to charity than liberals. He later refines this to religious conservatives (secular conservatives donate least). The reason appears to be religious affiliation -- and the percentage of Democrats who describe themselves as having no religion has quadrupled since the 1970s. Will also muses that Dems seem more likely to let government do their giving for them. Their own giving can't make up for a government that properly cares for the poor. In this discussion I note Will does not make a distinction between conservative government and conservative individuals. As I've noted with Katrina and other issues, our conservative government seems uninterested in helping the poor.

Contrast that with ideas taken from a review of two books of essays on the state of conservatism today. The Reagan years brought together four segments of conservatism, smoothing over the conflicts between them:

"Traditionalists value continuity, order and hierarchy; libertarians prize personal freedom and social spontaneity; neoconservatives blend the New Deal’s idealistic spirit with conservatism’s muscular nationalism; and religious conservatives fight relativism, secularism and immorality. … Libertarians and traditionalists disagree on the relative importance of liberty and virtue; many neocons care not a fig about abortion, while religious conservatives often seem to care about little else. "

But Bush has been playing each off against the others, getting all four strands upset with him and each other. Will the conservative movement as a whole survive? Opinions vary.

To point up the contrast between conservative government and individuals: Would a religious conservative government care more about the poor? (Alas, such a government would care a great deal about what goes on in bedrooms.) Would a less religious government not chase so many Dems away from religion and personal giving? When I wrote before of the conservative belief that "people who are better off are better people" and the poor deserve what they get, which branch of conservatism is talking?