Saturday, August 30, 2008

What the Palin Pick Says About McCain

Click here for an interesting analysis of the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain's co-candidate.

Money quote: "McCain’s pick shows he is not pretending. Politicians, even “mavericks” like McCain, play it safe when they think they are winning — or see an easy path to winning. They roll the dice only when they know that the risks of conventionality are greater than the risks of boldness."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Grab Bag

I haven't said much (actually, anything) about the just-completed Democratic National Convention. Didn't see it all, but I will say I thought Hillary was amazing, giving the best speech I have EVER seen her give. If she'd been that clear and powerful in the campaign she might be the nominee today. I was also impressed by Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton.

Barack didn't impress quite as much last night, but I imagine some of that was due to exceptionally high expectations, and perhaps a fear of coming off as "too black" if he really let the rhetoric loose. But I liked that he got into policy issues to a greater degree than I thought he might have.

Now, McCain's VP pick. Really, John? A 44-year old first term governor of a state that is 48th in population? (And it being Alaska, many of those don't live there year-round.) You're 112 and have serious health issues and you expect voters to put this woman a heartbeat away from the presidency? What's the story? Is she easy to push around? Probably easier than Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or Tom Ridge would be. I don't know her, haven't seen her speak (to be honest, didn't even know who she was until this morning), but I can't imagine she brings anything to your campaign. You were already likely to carry Alaska. Now it's probably assured. So put those three electoral votes into your "solid" column.

Finally, don't expect many posts over the next few days -- tomorrow is Mom's 90th birthday celebration and we're off to celebrate with family and friends.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Great Debate

The Federal Society recently sponsored an online debate on marriage equality, featuring four law professors -- two four, two against. Smart people making good points. Good reading if you click here.

Money quote (from Dale Carpenter):

"Consider just some of the incremental steps to gay marriage over the past half century. Sodomy laws were eradicated; homosexuality was removed from the list of “mental disorders”; gay newspapers, communities, and organizations flourished; civil-rights laws were enacted; and openly gay politicians were elected. Positive knowledge advanced through the systematic study of homosexuality and through daily experience with actual gay people, dispelling many widely accepted, long-standing, and hysterical myths about homosexuals. Study and experience discredited hoary fears that homosexuals ruin everything they touch, that any effort to lift stigma and legal repression would practically end civilization.

This was all necessary for the emergence of gay families, which began to spring up. Gay couples lived together openly. Adoption was available to gays in 49 states. Homosexuality ceased to be an automatic disqualification for custody. Second-parent adoptions provided some legal protection to gay families. Gays began raising children in increasing numbers (now more than a million) and no state was stopping them. A quasi-marriage culture sprouted.

This bottom-up momentum led to formal recognition. It started primarily in the private sector, where companies began offering benefits to “domestic partners.” Then cities and counties followed. Then states recognized gay relationships, at first tentatively, offering only some benefits. Now states are approving civil unions, granting all the benefits of marriage. Two populous states have actual gay marriage. Abroad, the move to gay marriage in countries with legal and political heritages similar to our own has been more dramatic.

Some of this recognition has been pushed judicially, but it is increasingly a legislative phenomenon. There’s been a counter-movement, but almost one-fourth of Americans now live in a state that legally recognizes gay couples.

Are we at the point where gay marriage is in most functional respects already here, so that sanctioning “technical” gay marriage is the next obvious incremental step to correct the lingering incoherence in our treatment of gay families? Given the numerous and enabling shifts we’ve already seen, I think so. There’s room for disagreement, but we’re surely getting closer."

Close mind...

...insert dogma, part three:

"I have historically opposed legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and President Monson's statement at first really disappointed me. This is one case, however, where I have decided to just follow the prophet. I may not fully understand the reasons behind the statement, but I just feel I need to follow the prophet on this for whatever reason."

A Mormon blogger.

Where the Dems Must Go

This is the sort of image that must be burned into the minds of American voters, reinforcing that McCain will mean four more years of the same failed policies.

(And don't they look like the happy couple at a California wedding?)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Battling Superstition

Click here for an interesting article about the challenges facing a Florida high school teacher during the presentation of his evolution unit in biology.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Free Shamu

Here's an idea I can get behind -- PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) wants to buy a SeaWorld park and return Shamu to the wild.

Wry Greetings

Anyone who reads the Feast is probably expecting that my greeting card post would be about Hallmark's introduction of a handful of cards designed for same-sex weddings.

But no, it's about Bald Guy Greetings, a company that creates greeting cards with a very tart, wry sensibility. I've mentioned them before. They're still good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Sanctity of Marriage, Part 4

Another Failed War

Click this link for a great story in Newsweek by Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter. If you still believe the drug war has been anything less than a complete waste of time and money (lots of it), I'd love to hear your reasons why.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another No on 8 Endorsement

First it was the LA Times.

Yesterday, it was the San Jose Mercury-News. Money quote: "Those who would impose their own intensely personal or religious feelings about marriage ignore the word's equally important secular and legal definitions. Marriage confers a whole range of rights and responsibilities around inheritance, parenthood, medical decision-making, tax benefits and liabilities, and on and on. In American law, all of these are affected by marriage."

Playing Possum?

Although my journeys in the blogosphere seem to make it clear the Christian right (especially the Mormons) are fully mobilizing in their fight to amend the California Constitution to eliminate marriage equality, some are pretending the fight may already be lost.

First, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association said on July 10: "If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I'm afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost." Then today, Michael Craven of Christian news and commentary site Crosswalk finished his three-part series on same-sex marriage -- what was ostensibly meant to be a "defense of marriage," with what amounted to a "what do we do after we lose?" commentary. Money quote: "How should the church respond in the wake of such profound moral and social revision? Should we continue to battle with homosexual activists? Will doing so distract us from our true calling and thus undermine the church’s mission and purpose? Should we persist in pressing the point even unto arrest and imprisonment? Is this how we are called to live in a pagan culture? These are the questions we must face."

My question is, is this merely a tactic to further fire up the base, in the same sort of way the American swim team in Beijing posted boastful comments from the rival French team on their team message board?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More Poison

Once again, a member of the religious right takes a moment to extract his head from its normal anal-inserted position to blather misleading nonsense to the gullible masses of believers in the invisible superbeing.

This time it's Mark Creech (who calls himself "reverend," but any halfway intelligent being will reserve reverence for others more deserving), spouting that while sexual orientation (for which there is considerable evidence of its being biologically determined and immutable) is not deserving of status as a "suspect class" in discrimination law, as race and gender are, but that religion (which is clearly a choice -- hence missionary work aimed at conversion) is.

"To contend homosexuality or other sexually alternative practices are as worthy of special protections as religion is like saying feculence is as important to one's person or the culture as food." "Feculence," (I had to look it up) means "of or containing dirt, sediment or waste matter." First, where does he think food comes from? The dirt.

But then he goes on, quoting Michael Novak saying that the founders, "believed that even if it were possible for certain individuals to behave morally without believing in God, on the whole an entire citizenry could not long keep its moral bearings without the guidance of religious faith."

In other words, without a mythical bogeyman holding the sword of eternal punishment, ordinary humans can't be good. They must have been thinking of Mr. Creech himself.

The Need for Separation

Read this piece by Andrew Sullivan. It's short, but makes some interesting points on the intersection of faith and politics.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Instant Musical


Close mind...

...insert dogma, part two.

This time it's from a man: "What it all comes down to on our part, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is obedience. We may not necessarily understand why we are asked to do certain things and it may be really hard for us to agree, but we must do it. If you have a problem with it, pray to know if it is right. If you are still struggling, just do as you are asked and the Lord will take care of the rest. But if the prophet says it, do it. Yes, these decisions can be hard, but we have a prophet inspired to guide us through these moral questions so that we can worry about the things that are more important. Don’t lose sight of the most important things. Just be obedient."

Yeah, wouldn't want to do any thinking of your own. That could lead to bad places. Like actually working for equal rights for people that you said are "the kindest, open and the most non-judgmental people I have ever met. They are warm, welcome and enthusiastic. They are optimistic. I love them."

And you love them by working to take away a fundamental right?

This from a church that was driven out of three states because they held a different view of marriage. Can you say "ironic?"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Mormon Meddling

It continues. This is from another Mormon blog: "If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, find out who is the Prop 8 coordinator in your ward or branch. Each ward in California will have one and they can direct you toward volunteer opportunities."

So each ward has people assigned to push a political agenda. And this political action committee disguised as a church still has its tax-exempt status? Ridiculous.

Friday, August 08, 2008

"Eliminates" It Is

The judge has ruled: Proposition 8 will be listed on the ballot as "Eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry."

Easily the best news of the week.

LA Times Opposes Proposition 8

In an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times, the paper comes out firmly in opposition to Proposition 8. I'm especially excited to see them using the same logic that I've been trying to get out there -- that even if you believe kids deserve both a mom and a dad, denying marriage equality doesn't further that goal.

Money quote: "In a meeting with The Times' editorial board, supporters argued at length that children are best off when raised by their own biological, married mothers and fathers. Even if that were true -- and there is much room for dispute -- this measure in no way moves society closer to such a traditional picture. Gay and lesbian couples already are raising their own children and will continue to do so, as will single parents and adoptive and blended families. Using the supporters'own reasoning, it would be better for same-sex parents to marry."

Close mind...

...insert dogma.

The link is from a Mormon woman's blog, stating that she "doesn't have a problem with same-sex marriage," and isn't sure why the church is pushing it so hard. But that's OK, what does her opinion matter when they are men around to tell her what to think:

"However, I’ve been blessed in the past for obeying my priesthood leaders. They know things that I don't. This issue must be important for some reason that I don't understand. Since I don't live in California..." Thanks for small favors, at least.

However, it's clearly the result of this sort of thing.

As expected... looks like the court will not be altering the Attorney General's language change on Proposition 8. The ballot, it seems, will still read, "Eliminates the right..."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mormon Meddling

Right about now I'm feeling that if Temple Square in Salt Lake was swallowed up in a giant sinkhole and all the church leaders with it -- I wouldn't shed a tear. These stuffy old men who believe they have a monopoly on what God wants/thinks have decided that denying civil marriage equality should be Christians' number one priority (screw the poor and homeless). Think the church isn't inserting itself DIRECTLY into the political process? Read this from an LDS family's blog. They were expecting a visit from the stake president (a church bigwig, usually overseeing 3-5 "wards," similar to a parish), and weren't sure what to expect. Turns out (horror, shock, surprise) it was money: "it was actually about making a contribution– a rather sizable contribution. He already had a figure in mind...(He) left a donation form for which asks you to submit, among other things, your name, and the name of your ward and stake...My wife wanted to know how they came up with the customized figure and stewed over the notion that they probably reviewed our tithing records...(He) said they’d be getting back lists of the donors and how much they paid. I didn’t like the idea of my faithfulness being gauged so. I also didn’t like contributing to a coalition of churches, many of which I suspect are Huckabee fan clubs. Plus, let’s face it, it was a huge chunk o’ change they were asking from us."

I imagine this sort of thing is being repeated thousands of times all across the stake.

Pull their tax exemption. Now. These are civil, political matters they are messing with. If the churches can't keep their fingers out of state matters, I don't see why we should cut them ANY slack in terms of taxation.

Individual church members are also doing their part to ensure that discrimination becomes the law of the land. Earlier I posted about famous Mormon science fiction author Orson Scott Card basically threatening the violent overthrow of the government (treason, anyone?) if Prop 8 isn't passed. Now he continues his science fiction efforts with this post purporting to debunk the scientific consensus that sexuality is biologically-based, as opposed to a conscious choice. (Even the church itself doesn't go that far.)

Card's ridiculousness seems to know no bounds. There is much fallacious thinking and illogic in the piece, as well as plain old cruelty, but I will focus on just a few of his comments:

"If science says that homosexuality is natural, uncontrollable and harmless, why would any decent person -- especially one who knows and likes, or even loves, a number of homosexuals -- wish to deprive them of something they desire so much?

Here's why:

1. Science does not say that gays have no choice whatsoever.

2. Science does not say that homosexuality harms no one, and that homosexual liaisons are as valuable to society as marriage.

3. It is not unfair to give unique preference to monogamous heterosexual relationships, if that preference and those marriages benefit all of society -- including homosexuals or potential homosexuals."

He never goes on to back up any of these positions. He simply hangs them out there as facts and then moves on.

He talks about a psychological study from 1957 - but never mentions that it is more than a half-century old, even though its conclusions were that gay men were as psychologically well-adjusted as straight men. Quite an accomplishment given the climate back then, I'd imagine.

Then he throws this little gem, in reference to twin studies that clearly show a level of genetic heritability of sexual orientation: "The study does not allow for the possibility that the physical appearance of the subjects might have played a role. If seduction, molestation or other sexual trauma contributes to homosexuality, and if those are influenced by the perceived attractiveness of the subject to a molester, seducer or rapist, then the greater physical resemblance between identical twins may account for some of the results."

First, IF "seduction, molestation or other sexual trauma contributes to homosexuality" -- any proof that it does? But second, huh? I'm not sure I get this -- if the twins are both cute, it's more likely they will BOTH be molested? What about less attractive twins? They'd both be equally unattractive, no? The twin study says nothing about attractiveness.

"Countless homosexuals record their "awakening" to homosexuality in the form of rape, molestation or seduction;" Countless? None that I've ever met have said this.

"In my opinion, all homosexuals should be enraged at the notion that of all human beings, only homosexuals cannot control their sexual behavior by conscious choices. This dogma implies that they are less than human. Yet this is precisely what the normalizers claim: "They can't help it."" No more than left-handers can't help being left-handed.

"We can all agree that no one can help desiring what they desire. Desires come unasked for and often from sources we do not understand.

But every other human impulse, natural or dysfunctional, can be recognized and controlled, at least to a degree. We expect alcoholics to be able to refrain from driving when drunk. We expect pedophiles to keep their hands to themselves. We expect aggressive males to curb their need to fight with perceived rivals. We expect people whose mental illnesses are only contained by drugs to take those drugs.

We expect heterosexual males -- males who are expressing the very drive that leads to reproduction of the genes, and which in other primate species is often expressed as rape -- to be able to recognize that "no means no" at every stage of wooing and coition.

In other words, our society right now says that everybody but homosexuals must curb whatever innate desires are perceived, by our society, as harmful or undesirable, regardless of how natural or evolutionarily productive they might be, or how strongly they are felt."

Oy gevalt. Drunk drivers and pedophiles have victims. A rapist (which is what he seems to be referring to with his "no means no" comment) has victims. Even a philandering husband as a victim. People in consensual relationships (like same-sex couples who are married or plan to) do NOT have victims. Like his church, Card expects all gay people to remain celibate. The married man has his wife, the alcoholic may drink as long as he doesn't drive, but we need to keep it in our pants to assuage HIS sense of morality? Give me a break.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Going Well, Keep It Up

According to some just-released information, it seems supporters of marriage equality are leading in the fundraising race. Equality for has pulled in $5.8 million compared to $3.4 million for But we mustn't stop now.

Some of the Equality for All dollars came from me, and some from generous friends and family who have donated at our wedding registry at Equality for All. If you've donated, thank you! If you haven't (and I think I sent e-mails to all my known readers), click on that link and donate. I've committed to raise $5000, and I'm only at $850. Do it now. Please. It's important.

Mortgaging the Future

A great piece from Tom Friedman.

Money quote: "My trip with Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Leave Marriage to the Churches

Today's USA Today has an interesting editorial suggesting that the way out of the increasingly rancorous debate on marriage equality, something I've been fine with for some time: requiring all couples to obtain a civil union. Then, those who want to be married can go to whatever church will have them.

The question is, how easy is that to accomplish? What legislation will be required to navigate the many hundreds of laws that currently deal with "marriage" that would now have to recognize civil unions?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Homer Simpson's Alarm Clock

Must. Have. Bacon.

The device above? It's an alarm clock. You put a piece of frozen bacon in the tray and set the alarm. 10 minutes before alarm time, two halogen lamps turn on, cook the bacon, releasing the smell of happy mornings into your bedroom.

And if you're stuffed up, the device has a backup audio alarm.

Friday, August 01, 2008


I have felt for some time that the primary tactic in the right's battle to deny marriage equality will be a perceived threat to religious freedom. But read this.

It's a brief from that establishes the case that religious freedom and marriage equality are tied to each other in case law.

Freedom isn't the same for everyone, so you have to make accommodations: "Just as the free exercise of religion is useless to an Orthodox Jew if it only protects his right to observe Sunday as the Sabbath, so too the right to marry is an empty guarantee if it only protects a lesbian’s right to marry a man."

There are going to have to be accommodations on both sides, because we're in this freedom thing together.

Love is not a diamond, it's a fax machine

Part of my efforts in fighting against Proposition 8 is cruising the Internet for news stories and blog entries that discuss the topic, and countering any false information that I find there. Sometimes that takes the form of a letter to the editor (at least two have been published), but more often my comments are among the many that one can find in comments sections of newspapers and blogs.

Recently I have been engaging with a lovely LDS woman in the central valley of California. She's on the opposite side of the issue, obviously, but she's nevertheless been civil and engaging.

When I asked her how allowing marriage equality would affect her marriage, she replied: "It will cheapen it, it will have less meaning…kind of like a rare diamond that loses its worth and rareness."

My reply was simple. Love isn't a diamond. The more diamonds there are, the less valuable each one is. But if fewer loving couples can marry, it doesn't make her marriage any less special to her. In fact, (and this I didn't say to her, because it just came to me) love is more like a fax machine.

The first fax machine that was produced was absolutely useless, because it had nothing to communicate with. The second fax machine gave itself and the first fax machine true value. Every fax machine that was built after that added a bit more to the value of every other fax machine because there were hundreds, then thousands, then millions and tens of millions of the devices. Same thing with e-mail. The more people who have it, the more useful and valuable it becomes.

Love is like that. The more of us who can enjoy it, the more happiness there is in the world. That's good for everyone.