Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Paid to protest

Th Attorney General of Mississippi has issued a statement saying if a clerk issues a marriage license to same-sex couples he doesn't have a problem with that. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Supremes. The AG had said that same-sex marriages in Miss. couldn't begin until the 5th Circuit lifted it stay. He now says those comments were misinterpreted. So marriages have begun in Mississippi!

In Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said his state will comply with Friday's ruling, though he added comments in support of religious liberty. Earlier today I saw a map showing which Louisiana parishes were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and which weren't. They seem to be slowly shifting to granting licenses.

Last I heard about Texas getting a marriage license depended on which county one was in.

And then there is Alabama where state Supremes Chief Justice Roy Moore is grasping at any argument that just might work to keep same-sex marriage out of his state.

A straight couple discovered Brentwood Photography supports marriage equality and canceled the studio's services for their wedding. Brentwood said, sorry to see you go. As for that nonrefundable retainer – we've donated it to GLAD to support gay rights.

The Jewish Political Action Committee, an orthodox group, staged a protest alongside NewYork's Pride Parade. Though the protesters wore traditional Jewish prayer shawls, they weren't Jewish – they were paid Mexican laborers. The rabbi said he paid for protesters so the Jewish boys wouldn't be exposed to what they might see in the parade.

More democratic

The Supremes gave us a wonderful gift last Friday, but their term wasn't quite over. They released three more opinions yesterday. The one of greatest interest to me is the one about gerrymandering. Fifteen years ago the citizens of Arizona got fed up with their legislature not doing what they wanted and passed a state constitution amendment putting the redistricting task in the hands of an independent commission that the legislature could not overrule. The legislature became miffed at the power taken away from them and sued. Their claim was that the US Constitution said everything associated with elections of Representatives was to be decided by the legislature of the state.

In a 5-4 decision Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the word can be defined as, "The power that makes the laws." And that could easily be – and is more democratic when it is – the people. Roberts was not amused by simple definition swaps. We needed the 17th Amendment to specifically say Senators should be elected by the people and not the legislature.

Ginsberg noted that even Founding Father James Madison worried about gerrymandering. The court should have done something about it before now but hasn't been able to find a "workable standard" to support a constitutional limitation.

The ruling does not mean independent commissions must draw district boundaries. It does mean that if the people vote to create an independent commission the Constitution does not prevent it. That's good to hear because Michigan is highly gerrymandered and we'd like that opportunity here.

The second Supreme ruling yesterday involved the first of three drugs used in death penalty cases. This time the conservatives prevailed. The issue is whether mishandling that drug causes cruel and unusual punishment, which the 8th Amendment forbids. The Alito decision noted the Court has never ruled any particular method of execution is cruel and unusual and this one isn't either. They gave two reasons. First, the inmates who brought the case couldn't show the state had a better drug than the one in dispute. Second, the inmates couldn't show misuse was likely, they only showed it can happen.

The main dissent was written by Sotomayor. First, she says, mishandling is more likely than the conservatives suggest and that could result in searing pain. Second, the burden of proof should not be on the inmates.

But it is the Breyer dissent that is attracting attention. He read his dissent from the bench and suggested that the death penalty is unconstitutional. That brought a heap of scorn from Scalia who said the Constitution "explicitly contemplates" the death penalty (whatever that means).

The third case was about the Environmental Protection Agency's new rules for regulating pollutants from power plants. Again, the conservatives prevailed. They ruled the EPA must factor in some kind (any kind) of cost-benefit analysis when it applies regulations to a particular facility. For example, if preventions for hazardous emissions would cost $10 billion to install but the benefit is only $6 billion, then the EPA should not enforce what it wants. That's the central question. The Court did say the benefit could include whatever the EPA thinks is appropriate such as harder to measure things like health care savings in the surrounding neighborhood.

With that the Supremes are done until October.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hug a conservative

My pastor and I have talked briefly and with much joy about the Supremes legalizing same-sex marriage. At the end of the conversation I said, "So what is this going to do to the United Methodist Church?" I asked because according to church rules he is still forbidden to perform same-sex ceremonies. He replied, "I don't know. I've already been asked. I can't say no." Yes, a lesbian couple has already asked him to perform their wedding. This will get interesting. The next time the denomination might change the rules is next May.

The blog Joe.My.God written by Joe Jervis has a collection of cartoons celebrating same-sex marriage. His readers posted more cartoons in the comments, so scroll down. A recurring image is the Confederate flag being lowered and the gay pride flag being raised in its place. I like that one.

Jervis also reports on Brian Sims, a gay member of the Pennsylvania House, wondering why lots of people aren't moving to Canada. Scroll down for a commenters reply:
Attention angry American Conservatives, Canada has a message for you... "We're sorry, but the country you have reached is not at your service. We have same-sex marriage, universal health care and gun control...have you considered Iran?"

Matt Baume of Americans for Equal Rights put together a couple videos about the ruling. The first one explains how it is that same-sex marriage is in the Constitution when those words don't appear there. He also discusses the roadblocks that were thrown up when schools were told to integrate as a reminder that our work in this issue probably isn't done. It is 8 minutes. The second tackles what Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito wrote in their dissents and how they are wrong. That one is 5 minutes.

After watching the first video I scrolled down to the comments and saw this:
Hug a Conservative. They've had a rough week.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hot parking lot

It is now late June in Michigan. I think it has been about a month since I've needed to run the furnace and I haven't yet run the air conditioner. Yes, a few days have been above 80F, but my house has stayed tolerable. That streak may be broken tonight. We've had rain all day and the outdoor temp is now 59F, the inside is 69F and both will go lower before morning. Perhaps I could use a bit of global warming tonight.

The November 2009 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact has a fact article in The Alternate View column by Jeffrey Kooistra titled "Lessons From the Lab." Yes, I'm way behind in reading my accumulated issues (I stopped buying more at the start of the year). This magazine does not keep its issues online and only describes what is in the current issue.

Kooistra talks about an incident in a science class that taught him about the accuracy of data and its collection. From there he takes up the issue of global warming. How accurate is the data to support it?

The National Weather Service has a couple thousand stations to record temperature. Within the last 50 years these stations were switched from being painted with whitewash to being painted with latex paint. Does that make a difference in the recorded temperature? Yes. Does the data collection take that difference into account? Um...

Then there are the cases where development has grown up around the temperature stations. What about the station now next to a parking lot that radiates heat in the summer? What about a station now in the path of the exhaust of a new building's air conditioner? Have these been taken into account? Probably not. Is the data accurate enough to support the claims of global warming? Maybe not.

I notice global climate change predicts an increase in the number and severity of storms and the severity of droughts. Both of these appear to be happening. Then there are the measurements of the extent of Arctic ice sheets, the thickness of the Antarctic ice shelf, and retreating glaciers.

I also note the climate deniers don't talk about something basic as accuracy of data. Most citizens wouldn't understand the concept. Instead, they use a lot of bluster, which to me is a sign that they have empty arguments.

So Is global warming happening? The evidence isn't as clear as I thought it was.

I will not acquiesce!

Last night the White House was lit up in rainbow lights. But that wasn't the only appearance of rainbows in the night. There is the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, the Empire State building, the Disney Castle, Denver's City-County building, and the Capitol building in Puerto Rico.

Reactions from GOP prez. candidates tend to fall in just a few categories.

Christie and Kasich: The Supremes have spoken. Let's move on.

Bush, Carson, Graham, Rubio, Fiorina: The Supremes have spoken, but I'm going to support religious freedom laws.

Walker, Perry, Santorum: Time for an amendment to the Constitution (which was tried about a dozen years ago and didn't succeed).

Huckabee, Cruz: "I will not acquiesce!" and, The problem is the lawlessness of the court! Time to remove the lawless ones and institute term limits for Justices.

Jindal: I won't permit gay marriage in Louisiana until the 5th Circuit Court specifically tells me I must!

Louisiana's case is before the 5th Circuit, who put the case on hold until the Supremes had their say.

Mississippi has also refused to let same-sex couples marry, though its governor is not running for prez. This state may refuse all marriage licenses until forced. The Attorney General says the 5th Circuit has put a stay on same-sex marriages and he won't budge until the 5th Circuit removes that stay.

The Texas AG has tried a similar trick, but many county clerks are ignoring him.

The response from Democratic candidates was unanimous: This is a wonderful ruling.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog explains yesterday's ruling In Plain English. As thorough and lofty as Kennedy's opinion is, it comes down to "some rights are too important to leave to the democratic process." That same-sex marriage is one of those rights is the major point of disagreement in Roberts' dissent.

Friday, June 26, 2015

All across America!

I had a morning meeting so didn't hear the news from the Supremes until I got home and listened to a message from my sister, the one eager to marry her partner. I didn't get a chance to read my various news sources until after 9:00 this evening. And there was a lot to read. Yes, in a 5-4 ruling the Supremes have declared same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Yay!

As was done with the last several gay-friendly cases heard by the Supremes, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the decision. His reasoning is based on the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process clauses – both together. Excerpts from his opinion:
Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes en- acted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
On we go to Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent. He can be entertaining with his colorful phrases. At least he is more polite than he was when the Supremes overturned bans on gay sex (on this date 12 years ago).
This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.
This guy has apparently never heard of Tyranny of the Majority – which is quite disappointing because a basic piece of his job is to prevent such tyranny. Mr. Scalia, after you use such ringing phrases as, "A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy," we must ask, how did you vote in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United?

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate dissent. It is so... well, I don't want to quote it. He says essentially that gay people can live their lives in peace, so what's the problem? He takes a swipe at Kennedy's phrase "equal dignity in the eyes of the law" by saying government doesn't bestow dignity. By preventing the political process from playing out people are prevented from considering the religious liberty implications as part of their deliberative process.

Justice John Roberts also wrote a dissent, saying there is no constitutional right for same-sex marriage, the Court can't take the issue away from the states. Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a dissent, but I haven't seen any quotes.

I'll let you go surfing for all the comments from those who think this is a bad decision, though today's All Things Considered on NPR has a balance of quotes. At least on NPR our opponents don't say ugly things. The comments are all about religious freedom and how man can't redefine God's law. And all the other gays are boogeymen out to get your kids nonsense. Personally, I've had enough of "religious freedom" because it has become to mean, "We must maintain our right to discriminate."

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has a much larger quote from Kennedy's ruling. She share's a fun text from a gay friend.
So sorry to hear about the crumbling of your traditional marriage this morning! Wish you both well navigating this scary new world!
And she ends with several statements like this one:
This is a GREAT DAY for all the LGBTQ people who recognize that marriage is just one step on a long journey to comprehensive and meaningful equality, but needed like whoa a big win to fill their sails with air to keep them moving on their way.
In another post McEwen comments on how wonderful Kennedy's ruling is.

Ari Ezra Waldman, a lawyer who writes for Towleroad, lists seven important points from the ruling. Here is one of them:
4. The decision is framed around the link among three “evolutions”: the evolving history of marriage, the evolving acceptance of homosexuality, and the evolving scope of the rights protected by the Constitution. Bringing all of this together, through a decidedly progressive narrative, is remarkable rhetorical and substantive feat that vindicates the doctrines of the marriage equality movement.
In a second post Waldman does a more thorough analysis. After the evolutions mentioned above Waldman lists the four principles that compel Kennedy to rule for same-sex marriage.

1. Individual autonomy, which both progressives and conservatives endorse.

2. Marriage is so important it cannot be denied to same-sex couples.

3. Same-sex marriage actually benefits children, refuting the old conservative claim.

4. Marriage is essential for social order and thus in the government's interest.

Kennedy's ruling includes rebuttals of conservative arguments, including those of his colleagues. Waldman believes this ruling will benefit the cause of progressivism in general.

Marriages have begun, with special sweetness in Georgia, Texas (where more citizens approve of gay marriage than oppose), Alabama, and Mississippi (where GOP leaders are throwing a hissy-fit). Special joy for newlyweds Jack Evans (84) and George Harris (82) who have been together for 54 years. There isn't a rush because same-sex couples know this is for keeps and they can take their time to plan their ceremony.

Here is a collection of images appropriate for the day. And a video of the joy outside the Court when the ruling was announced – that brought a lump to my throat.

Dear sister, I hope you take great joy in planning your wedding. I trust your wedding day will also be joyous.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How is this healthy?

Ragen, the author of the blog Dances with Fat has some questions for the companies that sell diet programs. Some examples:

NutriSystem: With all this talk of the healthiest food being the least processed, why are all your foods so highly processed?

Medifast: Your calorie level is below what is used to study starvation. How is this healthy?

Slimfast: How does replacing two-thirds of a person's food with a drink that has a laxative effect and has tons of sugar bring greater health?

Weight Watchers: When your own studies show participants lose only 10 pounds, which they keep off for about two years, why don't your before-and-after pictures show a difference of 10 pounds?

Put another way: These diets are not a meaningful way to lose weight for the long term. And some of them are actually harmful. So eat healthy and don't worry about weight.

I was on Weight Watchers for a while. In the most recent round (three years ago) I lost 10 pounds. I wasn't able to keep it off for two years.

Not a hard choice

All remaining Supreme Court decisions, marriage equality included, are to be handed down tomorrow or Monday. I think there are five big decisions to go. Sources I've seen say the marriage issue will probably come out Monday. Maybe, just maybe you can start planning your wedding on Tuesday.

There is a lot of news of various governmental bodies, groups, and businesses deciding to remove or no longer sell the Confederate flag. Good news! Melissa McEwen of Shakesville notes these actions won't rid us of the image completely (nobody is yet calling for it to be criminalized for being on pickup trucks). McEwen also notes removing this symbol will not eradicate racism or white supremacy. But it is a potent symbol and removing it from a state capitol is important.

Alas, there are some who are trumpeting a flag more evil than the Confederate Stars and Bars – the rainbow gay pride flag.

Yeah, Donald Trump announced he is a candidate for president. I didn't read or listen to his announcement, though apparently it contained a great deal of Mexico-bashing. In response Dalton Ramirez of Mexico City created an easy way to do some Trump-bashing. He created a Trump pinata. Yes, a pinata is the figure hung from someplace high at which children swing sticks to break it open to spill out the candy.

The Satanic Temple has filed a lawsuit in Missouri against harmful abortion restrictions. The Temple says the laws have no legitimate secular purpose and violate their member's First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion. They argue that when life begins is a religious question and the state has no business proselytizing religious beliefs. I'm very interested in how this might play out.

A state jury trial in New Jersey has declared gay "conversion therapy" to be fraudulent. The group JONAS had been offering conversion therapy and some of its customers sued under the state's Consumer Fraud Act. There are two false premises in the group's promotional material: (1) Gay people are broken and need to be fixed. (2) Their therapy actually does that fixing. But this therapy has been extensively discredited and shown to be harmful. Hopefully, the case will lead to more lawsuits or states (or Congress) banning such therapy. There's still the big idea to counter – a homophobic culture that drives people to seek conversion therapy.

The Global Sustainability Institute along with the UK Foreign Office and Lloyds of London insurance and others have issued the results of new research. Using system dynamics modeling they saw, based on plausible climate trends and a total failure to change course, by mid-century the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses. This would result in an epidemic of food riots, as food production falls short of consumption, and a collapse of global society. This isn't a "will happen" but a "will happen if we don't do something." So let's start slashing carbon pollution and start adaptations to minimize the impact. "It isn’t really that hard a choice."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Paisley tie

A couple days ago I wrote about the shooting in Charleston and the response of Melissa McEwen of Shakesville. McEwen noted the many ways that various voices were trying to say it wasn't really racism, the product of white supremacy.

That got me thinking about another of McEwen's insights. Occam's Razor is the principle that says the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. But that isn't what is happening with most of the voices commenting on the Charleston shooting. They have the "urge to exhaust every possible explanation—no matter how convoluted, remote, unlikely, or totally f***ing absurd" to avoid naming the real explanation. She names this tendency "Occam's Big Paisley Tie." She elaborates:
Around every axis of privilege/marginalization, there are marginalized people saying, "I just experienced this heinous bit of hatred because of my marginalized identity," and privileged people saying, "Hang on, now. How can you be sure that it was because of your marginalized identity, and not just a misunderstanding, or a mistake, or a misspeak, or this thing or that thing or this other thing over here, because there's surely a perfectly logical explanation for why this behavior that looks exactly like a million other bits of behavior that you and other people in this marginalized population have experienced is actually something TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Have you considered that maybe it's just that you're too sensitive?"
Well, actually, some of us marginalized people have been oppressed for so long we've gotten rather good at spotting it.

McEwen says the reason for naming this principle the Big Paisley Tie is because some of those arguments just swoop and swirl.

A place for everyone

This summer the pastor of my church is preaching a series of sermons on inclusion, a topic I consider of high importance. Yesterday's sermon was about the men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the ceiling so that Jesus might heal him. Jesus remarked on the faithfulness of the friends during the healing. Sometimes we can't get out of a problem by ourselves. We need others to help us. The pastor went on to say the church is like a stretcher – sometimes we need to be carried, sometimes we do the carrying. But we don't do it just for each other, we do it for the surrounding community too. We welcome everyone who needs to be carried or can help with the carrying.

Over the last couple months I've been very aware I need the fellowship of the church to carry me. My dad is in the hospital (round three) and while I carry him as well has Mom and manage his finances I need others to say, "We've been there. We know cancer is a bitch. Any time you need a hug or anything else, let us know."

I had a part of the planning for this sermon series. For two Sundays several weeks ago I took headshot photos of members of the congregations. A couple other photographers did that as well. By the time we were done we had a collection of over 200 photos.

These photos have now been turned into posters and pasted to the side of the church that faces the major road. The purpose is to show those on the street how diverse the congregation is and therefore they would be welcome too.

Here's what the whole thing looks like:

My face is not in this set, though several of my photos are, particularly those with a brick background.

Here is a closer look at one block of posters. There is quite a mix – black and white, young and old, regular suburbanites and a biker. There's even a lesbian on the wall, though not in this block.

In front of all the posters is a banner with 200 headshots. The lead pastor is in the lower right corner.

As the posters were almost up a man driving by noticed them. He was impressed, so stopped to learn more. He created a video of the pastor explaining the project, then emailed it to the pastor. It was shown during the service yesterday.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Draw the line

Today's edition of the Detroit Free Press has a substantial cover story saying our battle for our rights will not end when the Supremes require same-sex marriage across the country (which we hope they will do within ten days). A big part of the fight will be because many states, including Michigan, don't include sexual minorities in their civil rights laws. Can a landlord refuse to rent to a married gay couple – and does that fall outside the civil rights laws because they are gay or fall within those laws because they are married? Marital status is listed in Michigan's law.

As I've noted in the last few days several states, including Michigan, are trying to carve out religious exemptions to recognizing same-sex couples. These new laws, if they pass, will likely have to churn through the courts. More than 100 existing Michigan laws mention "married," "husband," "wife," "father," or "mother." Perhaps revisions to every one of these will go through the courts. So the legal fight will likely be a long one.

Peter Montgomery, writing for Towleroad, expands on this idea. He mentions some of the defiant statements from the recent past, such as the Manhattan Manifesto from 2009. The Chicken Little claim that a favorable (to us) ruling by the Supremes would "unleash religious persecution" is being repeated (in various ways) by lots of Fundies.

Montgomery reminds us these Fundies are seeking to oppose more than same-sex marriage. Their demands go much further than that and their globe-trotting has made life hell for our brothers and sisters in other countries, such as Uganda.

Next Montgomery considers the attempts at drawing the line on who may refuse service to gay people using religious objections. An example from the parallel abortion debate: When Roe v. Wade was decided laws were quickly passed to allow doctors to refuse to do abortions. Most of America thought such laws were appropriate. But what about the nurse assigned to care for a woman after the procedure? What about the pharmacist presented with a prescription for a morning-after pill? What about the bus driver who suspects a woman is on his bus to go to an abortion clinic? Where is the line? How far from the central event do we honor complicity-based conscience claims?

Back to the realm of same-sex weddings, most of us agree that it is appropriate for clergy who disapprove of us to be allowed to refuse to perform our weddings. But what about the florist? Because that question isn't completely answered in American minds the Fundies base their arguments around it.

Where to draw the line – how far from the central event will we allow claims of conscience – will occupy America and its legal system for quite a while. The Hobby Lobby case, which allows a corporation to "exercise religion," has meant the location of that line is up for debate. And Fundies will continue to push that line as long and as hard as they can. The good news is most of the recent bills intending to legalize discrimination have failed. Alas, that isn't true in Michigan and a few other states.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Morally deficient

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking at a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention:
It's really important that you and every other pastor needs to say 'I'm not going to perform a same-sex wedding,' but let's be honest, there's not really a danger that the sheriff's gonna show up and say, 'you have to do this.' So far as I know, no pastor has been sued successfully for refusing to marry someone on other grounds- that's not the real danger. The real danger is we're going to pay an enormous social, cultural price for not doing a same-sex ceremony. We're going to be considered morally deficient. Let's admit it. We're much more accustomed to being accused of being morally superior. They've said we've been 'stand-offish' meaning better than them, now a large part of this culture thinks we are morally deficient.
And as they are seen as morally deficient they will become increasingly irrelevant. Good!

At that meeting the SBC issued a resolution declaring their opposition to same-sex marriage (the Supremes will rule within 10 days). It quotes lots of Bible passages, but none of them speak of "the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman" that the resolution says is the "biblical definition of marriage."

That prompted Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin to check out the familiar marriages in the Bible:

Adam married Eve without a covenant.

Abel and Seth married their sisters.

Abraham married half-sister Sarah and had a child through Sarah's maid.

Jacob married two sisters, the first through deception.

Moses likely had at least two wives.

David had at least six wives. And don't forget Jonathan.

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Lot slept with his daughters.

That biblical definition thing doesn't actually exist in the Bible.

Kincaid also skewers the specific resolutions, then ends with this:
The only way this can be seen as “love and respect” is through the notion that whatever Christians do, regardless of how cruel, is by definition “loving” and that the difficulties that they place on others is “for their own good”.

Relentlessly gay

A woman in Baltimore put up a string of rainbow colored mason jars that had lights inside.

She got a note:

The homeowner, who is not gay, responded:
Needless to say... I need more rainbows... Many, many more rainbows. … If we go high enough, I will see if I can get a Rainbow Roof! Because my invisible relentlessly gay rainbow dragon should live up there in style! … I WILL NOT Relent to Hatred. Instead, I will battle it with whimsy and beauty and laughter and love, wrapped around my home, yard and family!!! Thanks for your relentlessly gay support!

It is terrorism

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has a few important things to say about the murder of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. She notes a lot of people in the media are quite willing to get caught up in the loudest voices trying to say white supremacy was not the motive. But McEwen responds: We do understand his motive; it isn't a mystery. It wasn't a senseless crime; it makes perfect sense in the world of white supremacy. He wasn't a lone gunman, his companion was supremacy. He wasn't a lost boy, he didn't have mental illness, he wasn't merely "concentrated evil" (a way of dismissing his guilt). He is a terrorist. This isn't a hate crime. It is terrorism. This act of terror does not happen in a vacuum. It happens in a culture of anti-blackness and white supremacy.

McEwen takes a look at double standards around this and the Ferguson, Baltimore, and related killings:

A black person who commits mass violence on white people is a terrorist. A white person who commits mass violence on black people is a lone gunman committing a hate crime.

A black person suspected of a crime is frequently killed by police. A white person who has killed nine people is taken alive.

A black teen killed by police is described as a "man" and called a thug. A white person who has killed nine people is called a "boy" and his life is searched for evidence he is mentally ill.

White families in general are not held to blame for a white man's mass murder. Black families in general are held to blame for black crimes.

Black people committing crimes are said to reflect problems of "black culture." White people committing crimes with obvious links to white supremacy are isolated incidents.

Will not take you for your word

The lead story in this week's Between the Lines, Michigan's gay newspaper, was naturally about Gov. Rick Snyder signing those bills that allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve gay people. I've summarized much of the story before, so I'll only add new details.

Such as … BTL reported that Snyder's signature to these bills may be part of a deal to fund the state's roads (the big proposal to fund roads was voted down, lawmakers are still struggling to find another way). That is, as the BTL editorial put it, "a new moral and ethical low." Sexual minorities have long heard the term, "thrown under the bus," referring to a person or group sacrificed so another person or group can get ahead. A big example is transgender people being excluded from bills to expand civil rights so that rights for gays and lesbians might pass. But if the BTL reporting is true same-sex couples weren't thrown under the bus, they were thrown under the pavement.

Or under this:

In Illinois the courts demanded all agencies accepting taxpayer money must provide domestic partner benefits. Catholic agencies refused, and closed. "There are no reports that shifting the adoption cases from those agencies to other agencies resulted in any difficulties impacting the children." So Snyder's fear the closing of Catholic agencies would mean fewer kids being adopted is a smokescreen. We won't miss them.

BTL's editorial on this topic is quite blunt with this close:
Gov. Snyder, despite all your rhetoric about opposing discrimination, you've proven yourself to be a liar. We cannot and will not take you for your word anymore. You, Mr. Governor, are a threat to the health, safety and welfare of Michigan. You, Mr. Governor, are a danger to Michigan's children and a menace to the LGBTQ community.

The Michigan legislature, sometimes in cooperation with Snyder, had a busy week showing how intolerant they are. Some of these bills are not law yet.

* The religious objection adoption bills (as mentioned above).

* Needy families can be kicked off welfare if one child is chronically truant.

* Part of a proposed road funding package is funded by reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit, which will take money away from poor people.

* More road money would come from cutting economic development programs.

* The Film Office would be eliminated, decimating the state's film industry.

* The bill to ban local laws that require prevailing wages.

* A bill that requires teaching the portions of the US and Michigan constitutions that mention religion.

New Michigan Tea Party representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat apparently liked the speed at which Snyder signed the adoption bills. So they've proposed a few more.

* Only straight couples may marry without publicity (no secret weddings for gays).

* Clergy is defined as "a minister of the Gospel, cleric, or religious practitioner."

* All marriages must be performed by clergy.

Translation: Marriage becomes the property of religion. To get married a couple must go to the church. And if the church doesn't think you should get married, well, too bad.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thwarting democracy

About a century ago Michigan voters amended the state constitution to allow for citizen initiatives. This was needed because the governor and legislature were becoming too corrupt. If enough signatures were gathered, the legislature had to give the initiative an up-or-down vote without any amendments and the governor could not veto it. If the legislature didn't approve it, the proposal went before the people. Power to the people!

The Michigan Constitution was rewritten in 1963 and this provision was kept. Over the years the rules have been tightened, such as the requirement that signatures must be gathered within 180 days. That means paid signature-gatherers are essentially required and only deep pockets can afford the expense. In addition, voter turnout had dropped significantly, so that a much smaller percentage of the people are needed to sign the petitions. The rule is still 8% of the number who voted in the last gubernatorial election, but that is now only 3% of the state's population.

Which means, according to Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press, what had been a way for citizens to get around a corrupt government has become a way for a corrupt legislature to get around the citizens and a moderate governor.

This way to thwart democracy has been used successfully six times since the 1963 constitution was enacted. Four of those were by Right to Life to restrict abortion in some way. The other two successes were an effort to kill the single business tax and an effort to block restriction on wolf hunting.

There was a recent push for a citizen petition to raise the minimum wage. It got enough signatures, but the legislature voted in their own bill to raise the minimum wage which had smaller increments and a lower top amount.

The legislature is at it again. This time the issue is local prevailing wage laws that mandate union level wages for taxpayer funded construction projects. The legislature is itching to ban such laws – we'll save the taxpayer money! The Gov. promised a veto. No problem. With big corporate backing and paid signature-gatherers finding 252,000 people wanting to stick it to the workers shouldn't be hard to do. That's all that is necessary to thwart democracy.

To put that in perspective, there are 7.4 million registered voters in Michigan. Last month we had the big vote for road funding. About 350,000 voted for it and it lost.

Worthwhile debate?

Hillary made a big speech ten days ago talking about how the GOP is rigging election laws to favor their own candidates. She even named those responsible: Gov. Rick Perry in Texas, Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey, and Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. Each of them has signed some sort of restriction on voting.

Between Hillary talking about voter suppression and Bernie Sanders talking about income inequality – and getting much larger than expected crowds – this could be a campaign season with actual, worthwhile debates of issues important to Americans.

Why push so hard?

Last Friday the Democrats in the House defied their president and refused to approve a part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. A large number of GOP members voted for it and about 3/4 of the Democrats did not. Which makes me suspicious of who is getting what from the deal. And why Obama is pushing for it.

The prez. and the GOP say the treaty creates jobs. The Dems say it doesn't. Who to believe? William Finnegan of the New Yorker delves into it. Democrats, spurred on by labor organizations, have come to see NAFTA, signed in 1994, as a bad deal for workers. Will the TPP treat labor better? Or worse? How will the environment be affected under the treaty? Minimum wages? Public health issues? Then there are some strange aspects of trade deals, such as corporations of one country suing governments in another.

A big problem in this debate is that the text of the agreement is under security and lawmakers are not allowed to make any notes as they view it. Mighty suspicious right there. Some pages have been leaked (thanks, WikiLeaks) and the more various progressive groups read of the details, the more they are opposed.

There is an important question in the debate. Why is Obama pushing so hard? The TPP annoys important Dem backers who plan to punish any Dem lawmaker who supports it. Obama doesn't have a next campaign to fund with gifts from corporations that would benefit from the deal. So why is Obama pushing so hard?

Robert Scott, writing in the Washington Spectator, provides a bit of background for Dem reluctance and GOP enthusiasm for the TPP and other trade deals. As these agreements are marketed to Congress and the American people there is lots of trumpeting about how many jobs will be created because of increased exports to the countries in the deal. There is quite thorough silence about how many jobs will be lost because of increased imports. The reason for the silence: the job losses are much greater than the job gains. There is, of course, silence on how the deals benefit corporations.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Economics and empire

For the true Star Wars fan, a question: How did the second Death Star get built so fast? If you don't understand the question you can skip this post. The first Death Star took decades to build, the second only a couple years. That question was put to Zach Feinstein, a financial engineering professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Some of his points:

* The first one was built when the rebellion was weak, meaning during peacetime. The second was built during war, with all the much larger resources of a wartime budget under the direction of a dictator.

* Part of building the first Death Star included designing it and designing and building the manufacturing infrastructure. That didn't need to be done the second time.

* Luke Skywalker joined the rebellion because he was bored with his farming job. Spending a fraction of the cost of the Death Star on an irrigation system would have kept Luke busy on the farm. Luke was living with Darth Vader's step-family. Vader wasn't able to get a pork-barrel spending project for them? Incompetent.

* Spending on the infrastructure of Tatooine would have boosted its depressed economy, making its citizens less interested in overthrowing the emperor. It was a misunderstanding of economics that brought down the Empire, not the return of the Jedi!

Above the law

Many of the top leaders of the anti-gay organizations took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post pleading with the Supremes not to legalize same-sex marriage. Though if the Supremes don't take their advice this group vows to not honor the decision and will refuse to honor the validity of same-sex marriages.

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin asks, which means what? Not recognize my marriage? Fine with me. Refuse to officiate at my wedding? Already granted under the First Amendment. Refuse to bake my cake? I wouldn't want your anger-filled cake. So how would your empty words affect me?

That prompted a lively response in the comments. Some of the points they make:

* Those that signed the *Post* ad are protected from their defiance. But their words will inspire bakers and maybe even county clerks. Those are the ones that will suffer in court challenges.

* The religious-based defiance appears to be against the Bible. From Romans 13:1 – "All of you must obey the government rulers. Everyone who rules was given the power to rule by God."

* Not much concern of a baker refuses to bake the cake. A great deal of concern if hospital staff refuses access by a same-sex spouse.

* The big concern is the way some Christians are working to place themselves above the law. Though it will take time, this will backfire.

Discrimination won't stop with gay people

Michigan Radio has a good article about Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the new law that allows faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples. Snyder signed the law because somewhere between a quarter and a third of Michigan adoptions are through faith-based agencies. He felt that if they closed too many kids would not be connected to willing parents.

Yes, there will be a court challenge. The challengers say their case is strengthened by agencies saying that same-sex couples are already turned away. Glad to hear the discrimination case is stronger, but it left me confused. The Michigan same-sex marriage case before the Supremes (decision in about two weeks!) was originally about adoption. The judge had said the reason why they couldn't adopt was because they couldn't get married. The couple couldn't adopt because of the way state judges interpreted state law. The couple couldn't adopt through any agency, faith-based or not. So here is the confusion. If all agencies refused same-sex couples, how are the statements of the faith-based agencies evidence of unconstitutional discrimination?

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin notes this is discrimination on the taxpayers' dime and the discrimination may not end with same-sex couples. A Catholic adoption agency could refuse to give a child to Pagans, Jews, or Muslims. Or Atheists.

I feel useful

Two more Cinetopia movies today, seen almost back-to-back. Both were documentaries.

The first was Crescendo! The Power of Music. I'm familiar with the El Sistema music education system developed in Venezuela. This program gives poor kids the motivation to do something with their lives. It also gives them a sense of community – the success of the concert depended on everyone's efforts. I've seen videos and heard recordings of the top teen orchestra. See the Venezuela Youth Orchestra and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra on YouTube. These are excellent and amazingly energetic performances. This is the program that created Gustavo Dudamel, the sesational international conductor.

The movie referred to El Sistema only as needed to set the background. Instead, it was about two El Sistema programs, one in West Philadelphia, the other in Harlem. We follow Raven playing violin and Zebediah on viola, both in West Philly, and Mohamed on trombone in Harlem. The kids have good success (though Raven develops an ego) and find friends and community. Though Mohamed blossoms on trombone, his success doesn't carry over into the rest of his schoolwork, at least not yet. His father wants to pull him out of the program and the music leaders try to convince the dad the music lessons will have a positive effect, eventually.

The second movie was Becoming Bulletproof and was my favorite movie of the festival. Every summer Zeno Mountain Farm, a non-profit organization, runs a program for physically and mentally disabled people. Over about two weeks they shoot a movie with the disabled people playing all the parts and doing some of the crew jobs. Their intent is to make a movie people really want to see, not just make a statement. In the course of this documentary the movie being made was the Western, Bulletproof Jackson. Much of the documentary is about AJ Murray, who was born with cerebral palsy and can do very little for himself. AJ badgers the directors for a place at the camp and is admitted only at the last moment, apparently because someone else had to drop out. AJ takes the role of the town mayor. We see AJ trying to learn his lines. That's not an easy job with poor vision, so someone has to read the lines to him. We see AJ struggle through several takes of his scenes, then endure the long wait while equipment is adjusted or other scenes are shot. We also meet a few other actors and learn about their backgrounds. The participants are then seen at the premier of their movie a year later. AJ summed it up. In front of the camera he felt useful, that his life had a purpose. Away from the camera he felt useless. He dreams of the day when disabled people appear in movies so frequently that it is no longer remarkable.

After the movie AJ was there with the Cinetopia chairman to talk about his experience and to answer questions. AJ said he is becoming active in the Zeno program, trying to do more things with them outside of the summer program. He is also looking for ways to expand the Zeno experience to other areas of the country. The chairman was caught off guard when someone asked, "So why isn't the Bulletproof Jackson movie a part of Cinetopia?" He admitted that was a big blunder on his part.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Danger? What danger?

Another Cinetopia movie this evening. This one wasn't gay related or a documentary. I saw The Incredible Adventures of Jojo (and His Annoying Sister Avila). Jojo is a boy of six years. His sister Avila is one. After a car accident they survive in the woods for a few days making their way back to Grandma's house. The tone is lighthearted, more about making the parents in the audience cringe and laugh than portraying much menace and danger. There are dangers – an annoyed hobo, bear traps, rushing rivers, and wolves. The escapes are usually ingenious and fun. A good clue that the story will turn out just fine is that most of the adults are portrayed as incompetent.

The filmmaker was there and answered questions afterward. He and his wife were pretty much the entire crew. Avila is their daughter and Jojo is their nephew (and those are their real names). A large number of actors have the same last name, likely relations of the director. The husband and wife also did all the post-production work, taking several years to do so (Avila is now seven) while earning money at other kinds of jobs.

A big part of the discussion after the film was how could you take your own kids into the woods and put them in so much danger? The director talked about adapting the script to incorporate stunts the kids could actually do. Traits of the characters are based on things the two kids actually did a lot.

Maybe Michigan is Indiana

Didn't take long for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to sign the bills that allow adoption agencies to refuse couples (especially same-sex couples) who don't fit their religious beliefs. I think I can explain his reasoning, though agreeing with it is another matter. If these adoption agencies are prevented from discriminating, they will fly into a snit and close. Michigan is doing quite well in placing kids in adoption and we need all these agencies to continue to do so. Besides, same-sex couples aren't inconvenienced (much) because those agencies that discriminate must provide referrals to agencies that don't. And why the complaint? This is only putting into law what is actually happening anyway.

Why the complaint? Because it is discrimination, treating one class of people differently because of who they are. It is only a way for religious groups to say we're better than those gay people. And that discrimination violates the 14th Amendment. The ACLU of Michigan will file a legal challenge.

My sister and her partner are outraged and say it is time to move out of the state. Ireland and Greece look nice, they say. I say Ireland has same-sex marriage (see the news from last month). Greece doesn't. Though if you can't afford to move that far you could go to Canada. Or Illinois. And Vermont is lovely.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Michigan is not Indiana

The Michigan Senate has passed a set of bills that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to serve potential parents if there is a conflict with the agency's religious beliefs. If a couple is refused the agency must refer them to one that will accept them (but the damage has been done!). The bills have already passed the House and are on the way to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk. The governor's intentions are not clear. Gay organizations are warning Snyder about what happened in Indiana.

Boycott everything

When he was in active ministry Billy Graham spoke about acceptance and inclusion. He carefully avoided hostility and a demeaning attitude towards sexual minorities. He wasn't our advocate, but he wasn't our opponent either.

Not so his son Franklin.

Franklin Graham has taken over his father's organization (Billy is over 90 and has Parkinson's) and sometimes issues statements in his father's name. Alas, "Billy Graham" is sounding condemnatory these days.

In a statement using his own voice Franklin has had enough. He wants to boycott every business that "promotes sin."

I'm delighted that we're in a time when I can say: Good luck with that.

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin walks us through all the products Franklin would have to avoid. For example, what car to drive? All GM, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler products would be out, as would cars from Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Subaru, Audi, Tesla, Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini. I'm not sure what that leaves. A car from India or China?

Franklin switched all the organization's money from Wells Fargo to the North Carolina based BB&T. Yeah, Wells Fargo is so gay-friendly they use same-sex couples in advertisements meant for mass-market viewing. But somebody didn't do proper vetting of BB&T. It has an 80% rating from the Human Rights Campaign and has sponsored an entry in the Miami Pride Parade. Did BB&T get Franklin's approval because it didn't show gay people on Franklin's TV?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Golden boy

My second Cinetopia Film Festival movie was the documentary Tab Hunter Confidential. Tab Hunter was a Hollywood teen idol in the 1950s. He was so handsome, in a clean-cut farm boy manner, all the women swooned over him. Though his acting in his first couple of movies was quite bad, he soon became a pretty good actor and made lots of films. He branched into singing, made many albums, and had a song that topped the chart for six weeks. He was also a good equestrian and figure skater.

One little problem: he's gay.

The movie featured interviews of Hunter, who will be 84 next month. Towards the start of the film he says after so many years of having to be heavily closeted it was hard to talk about himself. But there was no need now to keep secrets. Besides, his tell-all book has been published.

In the 1950s under the studio system he signed a contract and became in public whatever the studio wanted him to be. If there was a bit of scandal, such as being at an all-male party raided by police (homosexual acts were illegal), the studio could squash the story. He would take various starlets out on dates, where he usually had a good time, though there were many times three people on the date – himself, the young woman, and the cameraman. Woman liked dating him because he was funny and they felt safe. Once or twice he thought of marriage to a woman he really liked, but realized marriage wouldn't be fair to her.

Towards the end of the '50s he became so popular his studio began loaning him to other studios. His studio would charge a high fee and pay Hunter his regular salary, with the studio pocketing the difference. That began to annoy Hunter and he went into debt and bought out his contract.

But he no longer had the studio to squash stories when scandal hit, and without the studio's protection reporters were eager for a salacious story. His career took a nosedive and he could only get work in the lowest of low-budget movies. That was followed by the dinner theater circuit.

His career had a resurgence after he played the lover of transvestite Divine in the John Waters' movie Polyester. He met his partner Allan Glaser when pitching the Western spoof Lust in the Dust. Their relationship has lasted over 30 years, even though Hunter is 30 years older.

IMDB has a good summary of his career.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Guam! Mexico! Costa Rica!

Guam is a US territory that falls under the 9th Circuit Court. So after the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of same-sex marriage and the Supremes allowed the ruling to stand, a lesbian couple filed suit to overturn Guam's ban. Though Guam is conservative the Attorney General refused to defend the ban. The Republican governor said he would not allow marriage licenses for same-sex couples without legislative action or court order. It seems, though, he went to the local Federal Court saying please rule in favor of this couple. The judge did. Applications for marriage licenses will be accepted starting Tuesday.

Mexico has a rather confusing legal system. If there are five successful suits over an issue in a state than the issue becomes law. Suits are no longer necessary. That has now happened for same-sex marriage in five Mexican states. It also seems the rule of five applies at the national level – once five states grant the ruling then it applies nationally. However, that appears to mean the first five couples in any state still must sue to get married, though now we know what the result of those cases must be. After those five then legal challenges are no longer necessary.

In Costa Rica a couple that has been together for five years and is approved by a judge is granted the rights of marriage. A judge has now done that for a gay couple.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Back on Board

The Cinetopia Film Festival is back. Some 70 films will be shown in 11 theaters in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Bloomfield Township starting tonight through next weekend. I may get to about a half-dozen of them.

The one tonight was Back on Board: Greg Louganis, a documentary about the Olympic diving star of the 1980s. I knew Greg is gay (a big reason for seeing the film), but I didn't know (or had forgotten) he has been HIV positive since 1987. That was a huge concern in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. If he told anyone beyond his coach it was likely he would have been sent home. That was the games where he whacked his head on the board during a dive. He was quite concerned that he was leaving HIV infected blood in the pool. He couldn't tell the doctor who stitched him up, "Hey I'm poz, you'll want to wear gloves." And while being stitched his coach's alarm went off saying it was time for his meds.

After the Seoul games he ran into difficulties with his lover who was also his manager. Everything was in the manager's name. He led a sheltered life while training ("Here's your schedule for today.") and didn't understand how the world worked. Because of the rumors he was gay he didn't get the endorsement millions other gold medalists got.

He had a fine Malibu home. A building contractor told him the place was filled with black mold, not someone who had a compromised immune system should be around. So the place was mortgaged for the remainder of its equity. The builder demolished everything on the lower level down to the studs, then took off with the money. That left Greg with a messy house and struggling to pay the loan while being only sporadically employed.

Coming up to the 2012 games the USA Olympic diving team finally contacted him again. He was offered the job of athlete mentor. He could say this is how I got through it. He could also discuss with the athletes everything except actual coaching – Are there issues in your life? What are you going to do when you retire? Here are ways to deal with the fame (or lack of it). The movie included some of his activism and ended with scenes of his wedding to his partner.

After the movie we had a bit of Q&A with the director. She told about getting the idea for the movie and spending 3 years filming it. Then the tech team used Skype to contact Greg, who was on vacation in Hawaii, and the audience asked him a few questions.

You can read about the first half of his life in his 1994 memoir Breaking the Surface.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

No incentive for care

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville cites another article about fat hatred, that our intense condemnation of obese people is harmful to those people. It isn't the fat, it is the condemnation that is harmful. McEwen says this condemnation is abuse and campaigns against childhood obesity are child abuse. Further damage is done because, she says,
there is no incentive to take care of a body you hate.

How good I feel about my fat body is absolutely and inextricably related to how well I take care of it, from the food I put in it to whether I go see a doctor when there's something wrong. That's not a fat issue: That's a human issue. Many of my thin and in-betweenie friends and colleagues have the same experience around their body image and self-care, because we all live in a garbage culture of judgment that conspires to make everyone feel flawed and inadequate in some way.

If we want fat people—or any people—to treat their bodies well, then we must encourage them to love their bodies, no matter what they look like.

No one has ever gotten healthier, in any way, by being constantly treated like garbage. And no one has ever gotten bullied into feeling better about themselves.

Texas sidestep

For the last few months the Texas legislature has been loudly trumpeting a collection of 23 bills to hinder gay marriage, stop gay rights, or insult gay people. This was a really big show put on for the anti-gay rabble. Out of that basket of conservative goodies only one passed, and that one allows clergy to refuse to officiate at the weddings of gay couples (something already handled by the First Amendment). Somehow the clock ran out before any of the other bills could be passed. So what happened?

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin has a delightfully snarky explanation, based on reporting by Mark McKinnon of Politico. The Texas Association for Business quietly said we saw what happened in Indiana. Bluster all you want for the masses. But don't do that here.

Alas, the anti-gay rabble is pissed that the legislative session ended and they have so little to show for their efforts. So they've delivered letters to Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session of the legislature to defend marriage.

A new study by the Pew Research Center found that 48% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in America identify as Christian, 11% identify with non-Christian faiths, and 41% identify with no religion. In contrast, 72% of straight people identify as Christian, 6% identify with non-christian faiths, and 22% identify with no religion.

The reason: a 2013 survey found large majorities of sexual minorities perceive the major religions and denominations to be unfriendly and 29% were personally made to feel unwelcome.

George Pataki has announced his run for prez. I only mention it because Terrence Heath's commentary about how much Pataki is not a progressive comes with a cool chart from FiveThirtyEight showing how conservative various GOP leaders and hopefuls are. Pataki's problem is that he rates about 14 on a 100 point scale and is at the top of the list while Ted Cruz, at the bottom, rates a 71. Ronald Reagan, the guiding light of the party is rated only about 46.

Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day first celebrated by the black residents of Charleston in 1865. It was to celebrate the end of the war and the end of slavery. The day soon included marking the ongoing racial struggles. But white Supremacists couldn't let that meaning go unchallenged. The meaning of the holiday was shifted to a day to honor those who died in all wars. If you want to properly mark Memorial Day do some protesting on behalf of civil rights.

Several months ago JONAH, the Jewish organization promoting gay conversion therapy, was sued for false advertising. That trial has now begun. The four men who are the plaintiffs are beginning to tell their stories. It ain't pretty.

After record storms and floods in Texas and record heat (pushing 120F) in India, Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president. said:
According to the scientific community, uh, climate change is the great planetary crisis we now face. Do you think we might want to be discussing that issue?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Last Sunday I mentioned that a couple important drains in my house had clogged. In particular they were the kitchen sink (meaning the few dishes and pans I've washed in the last week were done in the bathroom) and the toilet (not clogged, but mighty sluggish). There were also a couple minor problems – second sink in the bathroom was clogged and it was probably time to eliminate tree roots from the main drain before the basement flooded again. That made it worthwhile to call a plumber, who might charge $75 to show up. But as I said in the previous post, getting them to show up was a problem. So I contacted a guy from the church who does plumbing work. I knew he wouldn't handle the tree roots so also contacted yet another professional plumber.

The church guy was here this morning. The bathroom sink and the toilet were resolved quickly. It took him a while to snake the kitchen drain. He finally got it done and gave it a good test – only to find the water overflowing out of the small bathroom toilet beside the kitchen. Big puddle on the floor and water that flowed along the toilet drain into the basement. I was glad the professional guy was already scheduled.

They (an assistant too) came this afternoon. They opened the trap at the base of the kitchen drain stack (shared by the little bath), declared it full of grease, and said it will have to be cleaned out by working from the vent on the roof – for a big extra fee, of course. The assistant tackled the tree roots (fortunately not many in the drain) and the other climbed on the roof. They were done in about 45 minutes. All drains working well now.

I sent a note to my nutritionist asking how one avoids grease filled drains while on a low carb, high fat diet. Her solution is to use paper towels to wipe the oils off plates and pans and put it in the trash. Yeah, a choice between sacrificing a few trees and avoiding clogged drains. Is that better than using Drano?