Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Now poop on them, Oliver"

If you like your humor random and abstract, click play. This is an Indian music video to which someone has added subtitles that are not a translation of the original, but rather an interpretation of what the words sound like in English. Pretty hysterical. And some wild dancing, too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Small Setback

It may not seem like much, but the battle for marriage equality took a minor hit when it was announced that the initiative will be number 8 on the November ballot.

If you don't already know, "8" is the luckiest number in Asian culture, because it sounds like the word for "prosper" or "wealth." My guess is that more than one Asian voter will have a hard time pulling the lever to vote "no" on the number eight. After all, Chinese pay thousands of dollars in auctions to have license plates filled with eights, and the Chinese government made sure this summer's Olympic Games would begin on 8/8/08 at 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stop Those Activist Judges!

Well, the Supreme Court has done it. They've overturned the DC handgun ban, which was voted in by a clear majority of the people. Someone has to stop the black-robed tyrants from overruling the will of the people! What has happened to this country when we actually follow the Constitution? First it's equality in California (which the majority doesn't want), now it's handgun control (which the majority wants). Where will it all end?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

These People Are Insane

Last week, I posted a video of a Heinz mustard ad. If you watched it, you know it's about an English family getting ready for the day. Mum is packing lunches and handing them out to the kids and to the husband heading off to work. Husband forgets to give Mum a kiss, so he's called back to perform that minor marital duty.

Except Mum is a man. A New York deli man, complete with white apron and hat and Brooklyn accent. For anyone with 11 brain cells in proximity to each other would understand this is a FANTASY. The kids call the deli guy "Mum," so it's obviously a bit of magic -- Mum has been inhabited by the spirit of traditional new york delis because she chooses to use Heinz deli style mustards.

The American Family Association, headed by chief wingnut Donald Wildmon, however, don't get it. They think it's promoting a homosexual agenda.

I've said it before, and I'm afraid I will have to say it again: don't these people have something better to do with their Christianity?

"Grid Parity"

I've been hearing about news like this for several months now, due to my work with Applied Materials, the company partly responsible for the technology revolution due to their production of the machines that make computer chips. Now Applied Materials is concentrating on producing the machines that will make photovoltaic solar arrays.

With increased capacity (and higher oil prices), we are now only a couple of years away from what is called "grid parity" -- the point when the cost to produce a kilowatt of power is the same for solar as it is for fossil fuels.

Money quote: "At the point of grid parity all kinds of things become possible, including the widespread introduction of plug-in hybrids, and a corresponding decrease in global dependence on oil for transportation needs. Sure all such predictions need to be taken with a grain of salt. But 40 percent annual growth -- which is what is occurring right now -- is nothing to sneeze at. We are getting closer."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Go Friedman!

A smart guy talking common sense. No surprise it's not our president. But he IS talking about our president: "Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was “addicted to oil,” and, by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan: “Get more addicted to oil.”"

Friday, June 20, 2008

Even the Wall Street Journal

Conservatives are starting to speak up and remind people that marriage -- even when it's between two people of the same gender -- is a conservative value. Read this opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal.

Money quote:

"America needs more marriages, not fewer, and the best way to encourage marriage is to encourage marriage, which is what society does by bringing gay couples inside the tent. A good way to discourage marriage, on the other hand, is to tarnish it as discriminatory in the minds of millions of young Americans. Conservatives who object to redefining marriage risk redefining it themselves, as a civil-rights violation."

Wouldn't that be something? If young people decided not to get married because it meant being a party to discrimination? Or maybe they'll opt out of marriage because "it's so gay."

If Only He Lived in California

We could use a few rational conservatives like this guy.

Money quote:

"Would a married gay couple moving next door create some discomfort for me as I explain it to my children? Darn right it would. I would undoubtedly squirm in that discussion. But life doesn't guarantee my comfort, and whether they keep their yard looking nice is my business, whereas their personal relationship is not.

I've given this a lot of thought, and I think my prior stand against same-sex marriage was based on my personal thoughts about homosexuality rather than individual liberty. Those are two separate issues. My uneasiness may never go away, no matter how many names the enlightened ones call me, but the freedom of same-sex couples does not depend on my endorsement of their lifestyle.

As a conservative, I believe the state should stay out of the business of judging which unrelated adults may and may not make a marriage commitment to each other, that when a same-sex couple chooses to marry, we conservatives should value their liberty far more than any personal or religious disagreement with homosexuality. Conservatives should welcome the contribution of same-sex marriage to the virtues of commitment and family stability we hold so dear."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What's Keeping Me Awake Nights, 2

As I previously posted, I think the greatest weapon in the Christianists' arsenal is the appeal to religious freedom. My sense is that people recoil a bit internally at any infringement of religious freedom, and at first glance many stories, like this one, can come across as an unfair impingement on the right of someone to adhere to the tenets of their faith.

But in a public position, you have to follow the law or accept the consequences.

What if the situation were different in some aspects, but at the core the issues were exactly the same? Say a civil servant in some county in Alabama is in charge of the licenses that must be issued to any gathering of 20 or more with live or amplified music. But this citizen knows those parties almost always include dancing, something she feels the Bible very clearly prohibits. So she never approves one. So there could be no public dances, no dancing in bars, and certainly no dancing in the streets. She thinks it a sin, and can choose not to condone it -- but she can't withhold performing her civic duties, without being willing to accept the consequences that might come with that.

For A Smile... play.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Blow to the Golf World

Tiger Woods will miss the rest of the season. Apparently, another knee surgery is scheduled and he will miss the rest of 2008, including the Open Championship (aka The British Open) and the PGA Championship.

Religious Freedom vs. Marriage Equality

As I posted here a week or so ago, I'm worried that the religious right may be successful in their attempt to conflate marriage equality with a diminution of religious freedom.

Fortunately, here comes someone both smarter than I, and MUCH more informed about the legal issues surrounding the balance between the freedom to hold certain religious beliefs (and to act on those beliefs) and current laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. It's a longish post by Dale Carpenter but you can read it here.

Money quote: "While marriage and religious belief are one creature in the minds of many people, they are separate things in the law. Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism, for example, refuse to recognize secular divorce. But few argue that we should refuse to let people divorce for this reason. One can be divorced under the law but married in the eyes of the church. The statuses can be separated without a diminution of religious liberty. And nobody thinks that this de-linking of the two constitutes official oppression or the obliteration of religious freedom. Similarly, in principle, it should be possible to have a regime in which same-sex couples are married under the law but not married in the eyes of a given religion — all without extinguishing religious faith."

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Backstory, Please

Is this -- related to this?

Was CNN punishing Clinton advisor Lanny Davis for accepting a position with arch-rival Fox News?

Aspire to More

A story in today's Marin Independent-Journal put it more positive spin on the day's potential effects, drawing on family experiences to make an excellent point. Half of one of the first couples to marry in Marin County believes there many reasons - both legal and social - why acceptance of marriage equality is important. When she came out to her parents, she said, the reaction was not what she'd hoped for. She said when she came out of the closet to her parents, they were saddened because they didn't think she would get married or have children.

"For a person just coming to terms with who you are, the last thing you need is to have your family upset," said Karpay-Brody, 48. "For young relationships it gives people goals just like with heterosexual relationships - do you aspire to a higher commitment through marriage?"

This is an important aspect of the debate that is being ignored.

It's Here. Will It Last?

Today, just moments after 5:00 p.m., Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, two women whose relationship has lasted 55 years, took an important step toward full civil equality for all Americans. What was the phrase? "If we are not all free, we are none of us free"?

There is no remaining argument against same-sex marriage except one that assumes the existence of a literal God. And his Word passing through many translations -- without ever losing its literal Truth. And since I have the same amount of verifiable evidence to support MY idea of god as they do to support THEIR idea of God, the Constitution has to treat that evidence equally. Even if they capitalize their god.

Yet they trumpet their lack of rationality by continuing to pump out the same old tropes. "It's better for kids." "It's the way it's always been." "Civil unions they can have, but marriage should be for a man and a woman." Oh...wait, that last one is also John McCain's and Barack Obama's position. (Though wouldn't it be wonderful if they decided to change their minds and make the announcement the same day -- letting everyone know that fighting civil equality will always end in defeat, that legal discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait is wrong [no matter how icky it is to you], and that it's stupid to punish rather than reward behavior [entering into the civil marriage contract] that generally increases social stability? Any chance of that?)

Try as they might, none of them are sticking, logically speaking. I'm afraid, however, logic might not be enough. There is a hard stretch of road ahead.

More Evidence That Sexuality is Not a Choice

Not only does this study out of Sweden add to the growing body of research showing that sexuality is not a chosen behavior, it suggests that gay men's brains are more balanced than those of straight men: "Using MRI scans of gay and straight men and women, the researchers found that people who liked women -- heterosexual men and homosexual women -- had larger right brain hemispheres, while people who liked men -- heterosexual women and homosexual men -- had symmetrical brains."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sounds Like Fun to Me

Watching legendary aviation engineer Burt Rutan speaking at the 2006 TED Conference on DVD last night, he mentioned something that sounds like a load of fun.

Because the moon has very little gravity, he believes it would be possible that during space tourism flights around the moon, that the crafts taking those tourists aloft could program elliptical orbits around the moon that would take them safely to within 10 feet of the moon's surface.

Sign me up.

Friday, June 06, 2008

As The World Kerns

Ann Barnett -- the woman who stopped her county from performing ANY marriages rather than performing even one same-sex ceremony -- is in deeper than I think she ever expected to be.

AP has picked up on the story
. Others as well, I'd imagine.

Who knows, maybe she planned this as part of a broader strategy to conflate same-sex marriage with the loss of religious freedom. But I doubt it. I just don't think she thought it all the way through. Her only media strategy at the moment is being non-responsive.

This could get complicated.

You can see the video of her smiling denials to comment here.

It gives you a peek at what it looks like when there is no rational reason to deny equality, yet you still do. Maybe someone told you God says it's a sin and you believed them. Or maybe it's just because it feel weird to you and you can't get over the "ick" factor. She is definitely of the school of "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."

Bless her crooked little heart, she thinks she's doing the right thing. She's standing up for a principle. It's just that this principle stands only if you believe that an invisible all-powerful being wants discrimination written into the Constitution.

Sign him up!

A note to any Christianist opponents of same-sex marriage: you can now happily ally yourself with the terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Money quote: "I consider all American constitution evil, because it permits same-sexual marriage and many other things that are very bad." I'd love to see the Sheikh and Pat Robertson doing ads in favor of the same-sex marriage amendment, like Robertson and Al Sharpton are currently do for a global warming campaign.

It's Not Your Kern Yet

When I first noticed this story about how Kern County has decided to stop performing ALL marriages at the county courthouse, something didn't sound right to me. The reason given was, "lack of staff and space." I can't imagine the county clerk's staff is busy all day every day performing weddings. And don't they charge for that service? If they weren't charging enough to cover costs, why not simply raise the fee?

It just sounded fishy to me, like a cover up. Turns out, I was right. The Kern County Auditor-Controller-County Clerk, Ann Barnett is morally opposed to same-sex marriage and wanted to find a way to not have her office perform them. She tried to resign as county clerk, but remain as auditor and controller, but apparently the county was having none of that.

So, citing space and budget concerns, she ordered all marriages to stop as of Friday, June 13th, the Friday before the Monday when same-sex marriage will be legal in California.

Knowing that this could result in legal action, Barnett fired off an e-mail to the Alliance Defense Fund, an anti-same-sex marriage organization:

"Sent June 4, 2008 at 11:19 a.m.

From: Glenn Spencer (the Assistant Auditor-Controller-County Clerk)

To: Holly Estes

Subject: RE: Will You Provide Legal Assistance?

Holly, I also left a phone message for Brian, but I imagine he may be very busy right now. Our question is, now that the Supreme Court has refused to stay its decision, will Alliance Defense Fund defend the County Clerk if she ceases performing all marriage ceremonies as of 5:00 pm on June 16th? We have the news media calling for her response, and we need to issue a news release today, but she really needs to be assured of your legal assistance before she speaks to them, as we fully expect to be sued and our own counsel is not being of help. Thanks."

However, according to the story, performing weddings seems like it would be a profit center for the county:

"Records obtained from the clerk’s office for April and May of 2008 shed some light on whether wedding ceremonies are a financial drain on the county, as the press release claims. The county clerk’s office charges $30 for every ceremony it performs. In April and May the office performed 299 marriage ceremonies, according to records. That’s income — over two months — of $8,970. At that rate, it appears the county brings in more than $50,000 a year from performing marriages, before costs are figured into the equation.

An analysis of the pay of the county staff who perform the ceremonies puts the revenue into context. The top average hourly pay for an office services specialist — one of the classifications that conducts the weddings — is around $19.20 an hour, based on county salary charts. A marriage ceremony conducted Thursday took seven minutes to perform.

Barnett’s press release also stated that the county does not have the space to deal with increased ceremonies. But her office currently has two separate wedding rooms set aside for the marriage ceremonies."

I don't think this can last long.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Online Exchange

The voice in quotes is that of Jane Chastain, a political blogger.

The question is simple: how will allowing same-sex unions prevent any heterosexual couple from marrying and therefore providing a more stable environment in which to raise children?

“The answer is simple: It would not prevent heterosexuals couples from marrying but it, in effect, takes away the benefits of marriage.”

No — it would EXTEND the benefits of marriage to a group of people who are currently denied them. In California, domestic partnership is almost identical, but it’s still not equal.

“A married couple is given certain tax breaks and other benefits. If the same tax breaks are given to everyone than — for all practical purposes — the tax break does not exists.”

Yes, it DOES exist. It’s still a tax break for married people. Single people don’t qualify. It supports and rewards the formation of more stable human partnerships, something gay people — and the society we live in — benefit from.

“Also, the state gives certain benefits to its employees, such as health insurance, to spouses. The state has a budget and these benefits must be paid for in the form of higher taxes.”

If I’m getting you right, it’s OK to discriminate — if it’s expensive. Or is that it’s OK to discriminate if it means YOU get more of the pie?

“When you treat same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples than EVERYONE must be taxed more in order to pay for those benefits. Therefore, you have heterosexual couples with children subsidizing same-sex couples.”

There are gay families with children. More important, there are benefits for couples with children that most gay couples and childless straight couples don't qualify for.

“It is the same thing with a private business that gives the same benefits to domestic partners as married couples. A state or company can pay its workers only so much for a given job. The employer divides this pay into wages and benefits. If the same benefits are given to everyone, the married couple ends up with less, because the pool of money available for benefits is reduced.”

But there is no reason to deny same-sex couples these rights — as long as the couple is willing to take on the responsibilities of marriage, as well.

That’s why the gentleman on O’Reilly was unable to come up with a rational reason — because there is none.

Equality has a cost. But the benefits far outweigh the price.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More Good News

According to a USA Today poll, 63% of Americans think same-sex marriage is strictly a private decision.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Backstory, please.

Watching tonight's coverage of the elections on CNN. One of their live feeds was with a Clinton advisor/confidante, who was at the gymnasium where Hilary gave her non-concession concession speech.

Problem is, the union crew is simultaneously breaking down the room. And not quietly. Nobody lowers his voice, nobody attempts to compensate in any way for the presence of a TV satellite feed in their midst. Admirably, Clinton's guy kept his composure and ignored the banging and the clattering and the rasping and the squeaking and the echoing. At one point, he was physically knocked out of the way by crew members!

It seemed almost deliberate. Was someone sending someone a message? Who? And who? Hilary dissing CNN? Or the labor movement dissing her? Or was it simply a pissing match between a CNN producer and a union foreman?

I want to know.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Philosophy of Change

Here is an interesting point of view on the politics of same-sex marriage -- with a decidedly philosophical point of view.

Money quote: "The 1960s sexual revolution advanced the frontiers of liberty into the bedroom. Under the guise of privacy rights, contraception and abortion gained constitutional protection. When the California Supreme Court calls same-sex marriage a right because it is "integral to an individual's liberty and personal autonomy," it is only ratifying a deep cultural change that's already taken place."