Friday, December 28, 2012

Reality, Meet the GOP

Reality and the Republican Party are not close friends.  That was evident on election night when Karl Rove blubbered and fought with his pocket calculator trying to dispute the election results his own network, Fox News was reporting.

Now, perhaps, there is a watershed event.  Former House Speaker and failed presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “I don't think these guys have a clue.”  He was speaking about the Republican National Committee and its internal review of what went wrong during the election . 

Part of that interview was most relevant for LGBT Americans, when Gingrich breached the subject of Gay Marriage. He felt that the GOP needed to open their eyes and see that the majority of Americans no longer have a problem with same-sex marriage.  Wow!

Specifically he made the distinction between “"marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state".   He went on to say, “It is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to ... accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states -- and it will be more after 2014 -- gay relationships will be legal, period."

The phrase “accommodate and deal with reality” is what struck me most.  After all, this is the man who actually thought he had a shot at the Presidency.  A man who was divorced twice and has a spotty history of infidelity, as well as being reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee, seriously thought he could stand up to the scrutiny of a Presidential run?  It would seem that reality and Newt were not well acquainted.

Newt was even a signatory to the National Organization for Marriage pledge regarding a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.  What happened? 

Well, Newt and the GOP are not immune to public opinion, and though they seem to be fighting it every step of the way, he and others on the right have seen that the age of bashing LGBT people to rally the base, no longer works.  Time is marching on and leaving that sad chapter in American political history in the dust.
"I didn't think that was inevitable 10 or 15 years ago, when we passed the Defense of Marriage Act," he said. "It didn't seem at the time to be anything like as big a wave of change as we are now seeing."
This may bode well for the upcoming decision by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Perhaps even the conservative voices on the bench will see the tide turning and clear the way for federal recognition of same-sex unions.  We can hope for that, but one stumbling block still stands in the way, and that’s Justice Antonin Scalia.  His recent comparison of the ban on sodomy to a ban on murder might give us a clue to his thinking.  Though he claims to be a “textualist” when it comes to the Constitution, he is more of an absurdist, reducing his arguments to absurd comparisons. 

In the end, his absurdity may not matter.  My hope is that Scalia will be writing the minority dissenting opinion on DOMA and that his words will look every bit as silly as Karl Rove on election night. The tide has turned and Scalia doesn’t notice, and when you can’t see something that is so evident that Newt Gingrich can see it, then you might end up looking as absurd as your argument. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Heading Off The Cliff

You can't turn on a news report without hearing references to the "fiscal cliff".  Terrifying? Not so much, but still a real issue.

Quite frankly I don't think the Republicans have any intention of negotiating and a re perfectly willing to do a Thelma & Louise on January 1.  Why?  Because they can let the automatic lifting of the Bush tax cuts happen, the spending cuts and all, then they can pass a bill that cuts taxes for the middle class and still say they didn't raise taxes.  They cut them!

Pretzel logic for sure, but the GOP excels at that.  They can pass legislation to restore the military spending and claim they were defending the nation. More pretzel logic.

When this happens, and I do believe it is a "when" not an "if", the Democrats in Congress need to make it abundantly clear that it is the GOP 's fault. They need to control the narrative and not let the Republicans play their semantic game. 

I suspect President Obama is already working on a speech that will lay out the facts for the American people in a way that makes it abundantly clear who is at fault for this mess.

In the long run it wont hurt us much, unless the stock market gets neurotic and starts kicking in some automatic selling programs.  Oh and then there is the debt ceiling....   The Chinese curse is coming true, "may you live in interesting times."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Emanuel is translated as "God with us".  That was the biggest message of Jesus and of the birth narrative. The story in my opinion was meant to give a graphic example of what Jesus taught in later life  He took the idea of God being only in the Temple and moved the focus to individuals.  God was and is with us, not hidden behind the veil of the Temple.

Jesus was a reformer.  His path was meant to bring us closer to the divine and to free us from the rules and structures of the Pharisees.  His path broke free from the rigid rules and relied on the simple commandment to love one another.

As I celebrate this season and reread the birth narratives I know that indeed a new light did come into the world.  May the light of this season brighten your days.

Note:  Sometimes I get off on a theological bent and I have to reassert that what I write is just my opinion.  Take what you like and leave the rest.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Christmas Story

"And an angel came to the woman and told her she would bear a child."

That's not a direct Biblical quote, but it is paraphrased.  If you think I am referring to Mary being visited by an angel, I am not, I am referring to Abraham's wife Sarah.  She was told by one of the three angels that visited them she would have a child.  She laughed!

The same story happens again the the opening of the new testament when Elisabeth and Zechariah are visited by Gabriel and told they will have a child, John.

The same story happens again in Luke when another angel tells Mary she will have a son, Jesus.

So what gives?  Three identical stories with the names and times changed, yet essentially they are all the same.

Well, I am not a Biblical scholar, and never attended Divinity School, but here's my take on it:

Each of these births was seen as an important milestone. Their story is told through a familiar lens of an older well-known story.  This is not to shroud history, but to reveal the truths behind the tale.  They are great myths that pass along knowledge and wisdom through generations.  They are not historically accurate.

Just like the slaughter of the innocents in the New Testament, there is a matching story in the Old Testament.  Moses is hidden in the bull rushes to avoid being slaughtered by Pharaoh in Egypt. Likewise, Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt to avoid having Jesus killed by Herod.

Why?  Because it was important to show that Jesus was of the same caliber and even greater than Moses, who "came out of Egypt".  That story was very familiar to all Jews who heard it and they would no doubt have gotten the comparison. 

Did it happen?  There is no historical evidence for Herod slaughtering children, but that wasn't the point of the story.  It was a literary device to get Jesus into Egypt, so he could later emerge with the importance needed to convey who he was.

Wise men?  They most likely never existed, but their presence in the story shows once again, and this time to Roman citizens how important Jesus was. His birth narrative is not historical fact, but another literary device to infer his importance.  It is filled with truth, but very few facts.

Does this mean I am not a Christian?  Absolutely not.  As a follower of Jesus, I find these stories meaningful and worth retelling again and again, but without understanding the "why" of these tales, they easily become just a bunch of fictional stories. 

As Bishop John Shelby Spong noted in his book, "Liberating the Gospels" these tales are best viewed as "midrash".  It is a Jewish tradition of retelling a story with new characters to show their real importance and to connect with a new audience. 

So take some time and really read the Christmas stories again and don't look for facts, but instead seek the truth they convey.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Human Rights - Family Rights

In  case you missed it, December 10 was UN Human Rights Day.  It is something we as LGBT Americans should take to heart. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a wonderful document.  It is intended to assure freedom and justice and a voice for all people.   The United States along with 48 other countries signed the declaration in 1948 and it has become the standard by which human rights are judged.

One of the key provisions in this historic document is the provision that the family is a “natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” Interestingly enough, the UN declined to give a definition of the term “family”.  They did this because they saw as early as 1948 that families were defined in different ways by different cultures.  They went on to specify that, ““in giving full effect to the recognition of family in the context of (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) article 23, it is important to accept the concept of the various forms of family…”

In other words, our families are ours to define.  For LGBT Americans that is really important.  Now that the Supreme Court is taking up DOMA and the California Proposition 8 case, it means more than ever. 

The reality of same-sex marriage is this, until there is a federal law that assures recognition of marriages from all states, same-sex or not, a marriage license is pretty much just a nice piece of paper.  The union and its rights will be good only in the state where it was signed.  In other words your family may be OK is Washington State, but in Texas you are just a couple of friends. 

For family arrangements beyond the hetero-normative model, it gets even more difficult.  In the leather community for example, there are lots of families consisting of 2-3 or more individuals who are in a relationship with each other that they consider a family.   It is not unusual for a leather “Daddy” to have a couple of “boys” in his or her household.  (For the uninitiated  the title of “Daddy” has nothing to do with parenting.  It is a role as well as an honorific and it can apply to a man or woman.  Likewise, the idea of “boys” or “bois” or “girls” has nothing to do with minors, these are roles assumed by leatherfolk and are terms of affection and position within the leather family structure.)  These leather families are often as tight knit and valid as any blood-related family and in many cases more so. 

If the UN Declaration is to be believed, even these very non-traditional families have a right to exist and be recognized, because the reality of families in the US is this, only 20% of households consist of married husbands and wives with children.  The Norman Rockwall family unit is a myth, and it is time we began understanding just how varied families in our country are.  
Same-sex marriage will be a step toward this recognition, but it will still leave millions of American’s out. 

It will take a lot of work and a lot of education to fulfill the goals of the UN Declaration in the 21st Century.  It will take families of all types making their case for recognition.  It will be uncomfortable for some people but if we are to take human rights seriously we have to understand that all families, deserve respect and rights. 

So next time you hear of the problems of human rights, don’t automatically assume it is a third-world issue.  As LGBT Americans we still live as second class citizens who are denied the right to form legally recognized families of our own. 

The War On Christmas has been over for more than 100 years!

I am so tired of the fake War on Christmas that Fox News continues to foist on the uneducated viewers of it's alleged news.

If we want to celebrate a "traditional American Christmas" like our founding fathers, then we should go to work on Christmas Day just like any other day.  In fact when the pilgrims came to America, they did not celebrate Christmas, it was considered too decadent.  The holiday was actually outlawed in Boston until 1681 and was punishable by a fine.  After the Revolution, congress was even in session in 1789 on Christmas day.

It remained a little noticed holiday until it was made a federal holiday in 1870.

So to the Fox idiots, Merry Christmas, the War on Christmas was won on June 26, 1870 when Congress passed the law making it a federal holiday.  Now go out and SHOP!

Friday, December 14, 2012

More Holiday Gun Violence

As if the mall shooting wasn't enough, now a gunman entered an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut and opened fire.  Details are sketchy, but there are victims and the shooter is dead.

Happy friggin Holidays! 

There isn't a war on Christmas, but apparently there is a Christmas War.  Time for serious gun control in this crazy country!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays! Another Shooting!

A lone gunman walked into a busy mall near Portland, Oregon and opened fire.  He was carrying a high-powered assault rifle and began shooting people at random, creating chaos which ended with two victims dead as well as the shooter himself who took his own life.

Merry Fucking Christmas! 

Now, isn't it about time we had that discussion of gun control in our country or are we just keep going to let crazy people have guns?  Additionally, are we going to admit that being armed does not equal being safe.  There is a right to carry concealed arms in Oregon, yet no one "defended" him or herself against the shooter.  

Even police called to the scene did not shoot back, fearing accidentally killing more innocent bystanders.  That is why having a gun is not "protection".  even a skilled marksman would have a high probability of causing unintended deaths or injuries trying to defend against a wacko shooter like this.

Why do we continue to bow down to the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby whenever the idea of actually trying to control the number and availability of guns in this country?  Because politicians are cowards.  They are afraid of actually having to argue in favor of a civilized policy regarding handguns and assault rifles.  They are afraid of having to tell the truth, guns do kill people.

Do I sound angry?  Oh hell yes.  Year after year assault rifles and handguns spread death and destruction across our country and yet we refuse to even discuss it.  It's time to stop pretending that this is an issue of right to protection and self defense and call it what it is, a well orchestrated effort on behalf of gun manufacturers to keep selling armaments intended for the military to civilians.  It's not about the Second Amendment, it's about cash. So let's stop the charade and get down to brass tacks.  Time for a comprehensive gun policy in the US that is sane and sensible.

Friday, December 07, 2012

December 7 - Still Lives in Infamy

Seventy one years ago on a lovely December morning, Japanese bombers launched from aircraft carriers made a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. That attack has often been credited with awakening the American public to the state of chaos in the world and ushering us into World War II.

That historical point will be debated for another 71 years most likely, but the impact of the attack has never been in question.  America suddenly realized we couldn't sit by while the world waged war, isolationism was no longer an option.

9/11 is often likened to Pearl Harbor and with some good reasons.  On that day, America realized we were not immune from terrorists and isolationism was not an option.  The big difference was the enemy.  In WWII the Axis powers were sovereign countries, bent on taking territory and expanding their power.  On 9/11 a handful of very dedicated fanatics got the attention of the world with a couple of box cutters and a well executed plan.

Both these tragedies  shook our country from it's complacency.  In the case of Pearl Harbor it threw us into one of the worst wars in human history, and in the case of 9/11 it threw us into the longest war in US history.

It is a good day to remember the men and women who lost their lives that day in December 1941 and the generation whose valor and sacrifice defeated a tyranny the world has not seen since.

Few who were at Pearl Harbor are still alive, but their story will never be forgotten.

Take a moment to remember.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Next Bush

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to worrying about everyday problems, a new and very ugly one sprouts up.  It's another Bush!  George Prescott Bush to be exact.

He is a Republican dream candidate too.  A vet, a conservative and with brown skin!  Son of Jeb Bush and his wife Columba Garnica Bush George P. Bush has registered as a political candidate in Texas for 2014. 

Once again the GOP is grooming a candidate for the White House.  Bush with his non-artificial skin color and Mexican-American heritage is just what the GOP is looking for.  He is targeting the office of Land Commissioner first, a good place to make connections with wealthy and at 36 years of age, he has a long career ahead of him.

The biggest problem is his past.  Back in 1994 he broke into his former girlfriends home, had a confrontation with her father and tore up their front lawn by spinning his car in circles on it.  As The Smoking Gun says, he is the "creepy" Bush.  Naturally, the family did not press charges but the police report gives details.

Now, your job, as a thinking adult with at least some leanings toward the left, is to make sure this creep never gets elected.  Your vote and your work will be needed to nip this Bush in the bud at the ballot box in 2014!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Back in the dark ages when I was a child, the only person I ever knew of who was transgender was Christine Jorgensen an American GI who underwent what was then called "sex-change" surgery in 1952. Christine was a media sensation in the 1950's and was often the brunt of off-color jokes in the press and on TV.

Later in my "disco days" I met several drag queens who were actually transgender.  At the time that term was unknown and the unfortunate "she-male" was the monicker used.  It didn't take long before I was friends with several male-to female transgender folk.  By that time the word was starting to gain traction and "transexual" and "transgender" entered my vocabulary.

I didn't know any female to male trans folk, or at least I thought I didn't.  I did know quite a few very butch dykes, and several who preferred to be addressed as "sir".  The leather community at that time was still developing some of the traditions we hold today, so few people were called "Sir" unless they were from the Renaissance Fair. 

Later I met a good friend who was a cute butch dyke.  She always gave off a masculine vibe, even to the point that when she was at the local leather bar, she got hit on my guys who didn't know her true sex.  I soon learned that she had decided to transition, and my education into gender really began.

Now, I know dozens of transgender people both transmen and transwomen and each has a different story to tell about their transition.  All have fascinating stories to tell of their journey and how they finally made peace with their gender identity.

I urge you to not be afraid to ask your friends who are transgender to tell you their story.  You will learn a great deal about the resilience of the human spirit and how it affected their lives.  If they are like many of my trans friends, there will be both heartache and happiness in their tale.  It is a struggle much like the one gay and lesbian people go through when we realize our sexuality is different from many of our peers.  It is a story you need to hear.

So on this day when we remember the hundreds of transgender people who are killed every year as a result of prejudice, hatred and misunderstanding, hearing the stories of your friends struggles will give you a better perspective. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bill O'Reilly Explains It All for You - The End of America

Hyperbole is the stock and trade of most of the right-wing talking heads.  Whatever they dislike is always catastrophic and disastrous.  For example, "same-sex marriage will end traditional marriage as an institution".  Let's look at that closer.  Right now 9 states have same-sex marriage.  Add to that the District of Columbia and you have 10 and yet in all those states opposite sex people continue to marry and divorce.  Their families are unaffected by the gay and lesbian couples who have chosen to marry and life goes on.

So given the penchant for exaggeration it's no surprise that Bill O'Reilly has pronounced "traditional America" dead, or at least on life support.  His reasoning is that the "secular progressives" are bent on destroying the American way of life.

First off, he doesn't clearly define what this mythical traditional America is.  He does go on to indict "secular progressives' as libertines who will gleefully abort fetuses and pass out drugs, but as to the traditions, he is silent.

My suspicion is the term "secular progressive" is a trial balloon.  He and the other pundits are coordinating their efforts to find another boogieman to scare their viewers with.  Apparently "the gays" are no longer effective enough.  The fact that he calls Obama a "poster boy for secular progressives" gives me a clue to the new talking points for the right-wing.

What he fails to say by not giving examples of "traditional America" is that he really means 'white America".  He blames the loss of the election on voters who want "free stuff" (that is code terms for welfare queens) and not on the GOP's inability to connect with the majority of the country.

Again, he is deferring the blame when it lies directly with him and his ilk.  The far-right has alienated everyone but the most staunchly conservative, especially on social issues.  It is a party of white men and the wives who slavishly follow their husbands political beliefs.  It is a party of rich businessmen who manipulate politicians to their will.  It is a party of people who watch too much Fox News and there is the root of the problem.  It is a part out of touch with reality.

O'Reilly's vision of "traditional" America is a country that existed only for a few years in the 1950's.  The "nuclear family" living in the suburbs.  A time when white America prospered and everyone else was a second class citizen.  Guess what?  Not that way any more.  It's time to adjust and embrace the diversity of our wonderful country or be left in the dust bin of history.  I suspect O'Reilly will be quite at home there, amid the wreckage of the GOP he helped to destroy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Mitt Romney Lost the Election?

Today the Wall Street Journal, now a News Corp/Fox News clone bemoaned Romney's loss and explained it this way:

"...lack of money earlier this year stalled his campaign."

This is one of the most self-serving excuses I have ever heard.  Romney was awash in money from day one.  His personal wealth could assure that he never ran low on funds, and for a media outlet to come up with this excuse sounds like a plea for more ad dollars.  "Yes, just spend more, and much of it on advertising in our paper, and you will win next time."

What a bunch of malarkey!

Romney lost because he was not in touch with the changing American demographic.  He lost despite millions and millions of dollars spent on unrelenting TV and newspaper ads.  He lost because he is so unlike most American's the common man just couldn't connect with him.

The country is no longer a bunch of middle-aged white guys, it is a rainbow of races and sexes, and the GOP message doesn't work any more.

Mitt tried to get empathetic but ended up looking just plain pathetic.  When he was at the Daytona 500, he tried to appeal to NASCAR fans by proclaiming that he had friends who owned NASCAR teams.  Here's the truth Mitt, that resonates with the 0.1% and not the rest of us poor suckers out here.

I could go on with gaff after gaff, but why bother.  Mitt Romney will soon be back working with his dressage horses and his political career will be forgotten.  Good riddance.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

United States of Tokers?

Colorado and Washington State both passed initiatives to legalize marijuana. This is pretty historic stuff since in other states the battle still rages over medicinal uses of the drug.  Additionally, the federal government still considers pot a controlled substance and it's verboten in all 50 states, even for medical use, but some states chose to ignore that.

What I think is happening is that people are realizing that marijuana is no more dangerous than America's drug-of-choice, alcohol.  In fact, it might be less dangerous since few if any deaths have occurred from pot-overdose unless you count the ensuing obesity from eating too many brownies.

The main barrier against pot becoming legal is the private sector.  Private prisons, a growing phenomena, are filled to the rafters with people arrested for using or dealing marijuana, and without the criminalization of that drug they will lose money.  I suspect law enforcement folks would welcome the decriminalization since it would free them up to do other things, and the gangs who deal the drug would suddenly become obsolete.

I am a tea-bottler and haven't used any mind altering substance, save caffeine  since 1986, but I have lots of friends who do and as far as I can tell, few of them have become hardened criminals. I think the old saw about Marijuana being a gateway drug only holds true as long as users are forced underground.  It may be time we reexamined our attitudes toward cannabis and found some middle ground.  Meanwhile, if you live in Colorado or Washington, don't break out the bongs yet.

The Cross in the Closet - Worth a Read

The closet is a dangerous place. 

For LGBT folk who have kept their sexual orientation a secret, the effects are myriad, and most people who come out remember the process vividly.  It can be a time of turmoil, liberation and sometimes alienation, but it is a rite of passage that is essential to many LGBT people’s life stories.  That is why the title “The Cross in the Closet” intrigued me and more importantly, the subtitle “One Man’s Abominable Quest to find Jesus in the Margins.” 

Provocative stuff?  Yes, but not as provocative as the premise of the book.  The author, a straight man, lived for a year as a gay man, coming out to his family, friends and colleagues.  He wanted to see what it was like to be identified as gay.  That got my attention.

When I found the author, Timothy Kurek, was a student at Liberty University, the notorious hard-line fundamentalist college founded by Jerry Falwell, I was more intrigued.  Kurek realized that his characterizations of LGBT people were troubling and he wanted to know the truth.

The story might seem familiar to those of us who grew up during the Civil Rights struggle.  White journalist John Howard Griffin sought a greater understanding of the realities of being black in America, so he underwent treatments to turn his skin dark and he immersed himself in the African American community.  His landmark book, Black Like Me is still in circulation and is a unique window into the times.

Kurek in his own way immerses himself in the LGBT community, starting in his home town of Nashville, Tennessee, where he comes out to his family and friends with predictable results.  Fireworks.

His life is turned upside down as he finds out the reality of living as a self-identified gay man.  Only a close friend and a gay man he befriended while hanging out at a Karaoke Bar know his secret.  The gay friend agrees to act as his boyfriend  to both tutor him in “how to be gay” and to act as a foil for any unwanted sexual advances.

Now for the reader who is looking for dirt, you won’t find any in this book.  What you will find is a very interesting perspective of a man who is a “closet straight” for a year.  What you will also find is a touching and deeply personal story of how a fundamentalist Christian deals with a crisis of faith.
Kurek finds that the demonized image of the LGBT community was as much a myth as the idea that all Christians are closed-minded and judgmental.  He makes his way into the LGBT community in Nashville and finds that there are a good number of LGBT Christians there, something he never expected to find.
Not surprising is the abundance of “church speak” Kurek uses.  Remember he comes from a deep background of Bible quoting education, so there are lots of references to Biblical passages and principals, but don’t let that put you off.  During his year Kurek gains insights into not just the LGBT community, but to his own faith and what it means to follow Jesus.

By the end of the book, he has not only had a change of heart regarding what it means to be gay, but he finds a deeper understanding of what it means to be straight as well. 

Overall, this is destined to be a book that will be quoted for years to come.  Kurek’s  journey of discovery resonates in ways that are unexpected and profound.  It is an epic tale as he meets some amazing and wonderful characters including Christian activist Dr. Mel White and the far-right firebrand,  Shirley Phelps, (yes that Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church).

Kurek eventually comes back out of his self-imposed closet, and again the results are profound, but this time in ways he never imagined.  The Cross in the Closet changed how I looked at fundamentalist Christians perhaps as much as they way Kurek might have once looked at gay men. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Romney- Liar with no Shame

I used to think Mitt Romney was lying because his handlers and advisers gave him trumped up talking points, but now I believe it is a pathology.  His latest whopper was his assertion that Chrysler was closing all the Jeep plants in the US and shipping them to China.

It's a lie.

A big lie.

So big that Chrysler PR people jumped on it as fast as the press did.  They are not closing plants in the US, they are expanding into China so they can sell more Jeeps there!  It's a success story that Romney has twisted and tried to turn into a failure.  It is another example of how he apparently cannot or will not tell the truth, when it doesn't serve his purposes.  He is even putting it in a TV ad even though the press, Chrysler and the United Auto Workers say it's not in any way true.

This is a symptom of the desperate campaign Romney is running.  It is also a good example of the kind of president he would make. We don't need a pathological liar as president, we had that once with George W. Bush and nobody wants to go through that again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Sincerity of Mitt Romney is Obvious in His Spray Tan

As almost everyone noted, Mitt Romney is really a chameleon.  In his notorious appearance in front of a Hispanic audience on Univision back in September drew a lot of criticism that he was doing "brown face".  His complexion mysteriously grew paler in recent appearances but the fact remains that he is getting the spray tan treatment to look less New England pasty. 

Now it's no secret that people on TV use makeup, but the whole spray tan thing raises what I think is a character issue. Mitt is trying to present a hip-healthy appearance that will appeal to younger voters, and it is not who he really is.  It's a symptom of his chameleon-like personality that adapts to what ever audience he is playing to.  Dark tan for Hispanic, whiter for the Mid-West. \

Much like his position on policies, he shifts constantly leaving the Salt Lake Tribune to wonder "which Romney is running for President".  They, a Utah conservative publication endorsed Obama!

The whole thing reveals Romney as the ultimate political animal, willing to do anything and say anything to get elected.  That is not what America needs from any party.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Time to Get Serious. Romney Would be a Disaster for LGBT People.

Romney has already promised to do so much on his mythical "day one" of his presidency it seems silly, but don't laugh too hard.  One of his promises is to reverse DADT.  You can bet the rest of that would include rolling back any rights LGBT people have won in the past four years.

The idea that LGBT people would vote for Romney is beyond my understanding, but I guess some people can successfully live in "cognitive dissonance" and not go crazy, for a while. My problem is apathy.

I see a lot of folks parroting what the right-wing media has been saying through back channels about the Obama presidency.  They have pushed the framing that Obama hasn't delivered on his pledges to LGBT people during his first 4 years in office.  That is simply not true.

Here are the advances made during the administration:
  • Federal Goivernment extends tax benefits to same -sex partners of federal employees.
  • Awarded the Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King.
  • Banned discrimination in federal workplaces based on gender identity.
  • Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.
  • Lifted ban on people with HIV/AIDS from entering the country
  • The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". 
  • Hosted first White House conference to prevent bullying.
  • Support for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. 
  • Support for a transgender-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act. 
  • Secretary Clinton's speech last December in recognition of International Human Rights Day in which she stated the importance of advancing LGBT rights. 
Then, last May, on Meet the Press, vice-president Biden personally endorsed marriage equality.

And there is a lot more. The point is we have so much to lose in this election and everything to gain.  Romney wants to turn back the clock on LGBT rights.  Get out and vote to elect President Obama for a second term!


Friday, October 12, 2012

The Pope Calls Gays "Defective".

This story is a bit old, a week or so, but I just couldn't let it go without a comment.

Pope Benedict XVI offered these harsh words as not only a man of the cloth, but the purported keeper of the keys to the kingdom of heaven in an last week.  He said we LGBT people are, “a concept of human nature that has proven defective.” 

Is the Pope saying that LGBT people are just a concept, or is he saying God blew it and we are a mistake of creation?

Either way, these just don’t sound like words that should emanate from the Vicar of Christ.

He went on to say that the church needs to, “promote those values that permit the full development of the human person.”  The clear implication of that statement when taken in context of the whole message is that gays and lesbians are somehow not fully developed. 

Let that sink in a little and then consider that he was speaking to a conference of French bishops.  That country is poised to pass legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.  His admonition that, “Marriage and the family are institutions  that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is in fact injurious to human coexistence as such.” 

Add to that his previous statement  that same-sex marriages would  “ undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” and I am starting to believe he is more likely channeling Maggie Gallagher rather than Jesus.

Aside from the obvious hypocrisy of this kind of proclamation coming from an organization that is rife with scandals, the what  jumped out at me was the phrase about “undermining the family”.  That struck me because family is very important to me and it is to every citizen. Family is so important that the UN Declaration of Human Rights enumerates the right to family as one of its guiding principles and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights goes even further.

Rightly, this covenant, which is signed by almost every major industrialized nation including the US does not give a definition of family.  In fact it purposefully eschews a definition in General Comment 19 on Article 23, “The Committee notes that the concept of the family may differ in some respects from State to State, and even from region to region within a State, and that it is therefore not possible to give the concept a standard definition.”

You see, my family is vastly different from the mythical “nuclear family” of a heterosexual man and woman, and 2.5 children.  The fact is few families (only 20% according to the US Census) fall into that mold, so I have to ask what family the Pope is worried about us “defective” people undermining? 

I have a right to the kind of family I define and so do you.  Whether it is two women, two men, a single parent, or a group of three or more people raising their children, or any combination with or without children, your family is yours to define.  And guess what?  This is not a new idea.

Pope Benedict needs to open his scriptures and recall the words of Jesus when he asks “who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  In that passage, (Mathew 12:48-49) Jesus goes on to  point to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.”   His definition of family was based on anything but the nuclear model. 

I find it very odd that a Pope who is infamous for being a very conservative thinker, has trouble using a definition of family that is over 2000 years old.  I can only wonder if he was shown the kind of family Jesus spoke of would he find them “defective” as well?

For me, I will ignore the words of the man in the red shoes and be content to cherish my family, my partner, my extended family, and our relationship in all its richness.  It is not only the United Nations that tells me I can enjoy the kind of family I define, but human nature, and as such it is no mistake or defect, it is my family and that is a concept I can live with.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pro-Life Republican Presures Mistress into Abortion.

These kinds of stories are getting so prevalent they almost aren't news...almost. 

This one is a doozy.  Seems the Pro-life, family values guy, Scott DesJarlais, a Tea Party Republican no less had an affair.  He is a doctor and against ethical guidelines, he had an affair with a patient, adding more scandal to the story!

Then when she got pregnant, something a doctor should have known how to prevent, he tried to pressure her into an abortion for the sake of his marriage.  Funny, I would think someone concerned with the state of his marriage would not have had an affair, unless that was the arrangement he had with his wife. 

This is not a new charge. It surfaced in 2010 during his campaign against his Democratic opponent, Rep. Lincoln Davis.  The new part of this is the transcript taken from court documents that really show what this guy is made of.

According to Huffington Post who released the transcripts, the following little family-values discussion took place on the phone:

"You told me you'd have an abortion, and now we're getting too far along without one," DesJarlais tells the woman at one point in the call while negotiating with her over whether he'll reveal her identity to his wife. They then discuss whether he will accompany her to a procedure to end the sort of life the congressman now describes as "sacred."

"You told me you would have time to go with me and everything," the woman complains.

"I said, if I could, I would, didn't I? And I will try," DesJarlais says. "If I can [find] time, you're saying you still will?"
Nice stuff, what Family Values are made of eh?

More here.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

October 14, 1979

October 14, 1979 was a memorable day for me.  I rose around 6:30am and grabbed breakfast then left the hotel I was staying in and headed over to the National Mall.  Me and the rest of the Texas delegation were starting to gather there, sipping coffee and trying to warm up in the cool Washington, DC morning.  I was grateful I had brought my leather motorcycle jacket on the trip.

The Texas delegation joined groups from all 50 states and Puerto Rico for the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.   Estimates range from 75,000 to 150,000 people showed up that day to march down Pennsylvania Ave past the White house and then rally in front of the Washington Monument. 

There was a heady exuberance that permeated the atmosphere that day.  We felt less like a bunch of individuals and more like a movement than at any time I could remember.  There was a fellowship that gave us courage and we raised our voices and fists as we chanted, “OUT OF THE CLOSET AND INTO THE STREET!”    Not very original, but it was a full throated chant that came from our collective hearts.

The event was part protest and part party.  Not surprising, since we were all from out of town and for many on the first visit to our nation’s capital.  We laughed, skipped and danced our way to the monument where a stage was set up for the rally and what a rally it was! 

Robin Tyler, a very funny lesbian comedienne and activist hosted the festivities and there were of course bands and musicians.  But there were also serious speakers.  One of the memorable ones was the poet Allen Ginsburg.  His reading was forgettable, but his presence was impossible to forget.
As the afternoon passed on, and the rally ended, we toddled off to recover at the hotel and then to explore the nightlife of DC.  I say we, since I was staying with several Dallas friends at the Holiday Inn.  Included in that group were Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo as well as my friend Marc Lerro and Don Baker, Al Caulkin and others from the Dallas Gay Political Caucus.   

We had worked for months putting together our group and raising funds for the march.  Selling buttons, t-shirts and doing fund raisers at local clubs and bars.  We even chartered a full plane for the flight on the now defunct Trans Texas Airways. 

Why this trip down memory lane?  Well I think it is mainly to remind myself that I have been working for equal rights for LGBT people for a long time and as we are actually seeing progress such as the repeal of DADT and the possibility of ENDA on the horizon, I needed a boost.  We can’t give up and we must move forward.  And that includes not letting a Republican get into the White House who threatens to turn back the clock for all of us.

Vote, and vote a straight (no pun intended) Democratic  ticket.   We need to take back the House and maintain the Senate if we are going to see this through to the resolution we sought 33 years ago.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Importance of a Being a Statistic

If the blog post title didn't stop you, good, because this isn't going to be a dry rant about  margins of error or interval variations, it is about blood.  About the blood spilled that is never recorded in the government statistics that measure violence and crime against specific minorities.

If you recall the debate prior to the passage of the James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill here in Texas you will understand.  Even the Texas Legislature, one of the most mentally challenged bodies in the country understood that there was a level of violence and prejudice that qualified s a "hate crime".  What they did not or refused to understand was that specific groups needed to be enumerated for protection.  In Texas that argument centered on including LGBT people in a group that would qualify.  As obvious as that seems, without the specific inclusion, LGBT Texans would have been left out of hate crimes statistics.  Now the dry field of statistics seems more interesting doesn't it?

This brings me to the story of another group who has long been left out of the statistics that tell the true story of hate and discrimination in this country.  You might not even be aware of them, except for the way they dress.

That man who runs the Indian restaurant down the street isn't wearing a turban for atmosphere, he is Sikh and the turban is a symbol of his faith, much like a yarmulke is to orthodox Jews. It is a turban like that which may have drawn the attention of a white supremacist who entered a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and murdered six innocent worshipers. 

Those victims deaths have been invisible to the statistical analysis that computes hate crimes in the US.  Though the horrific crime made international news, it is invisible to the  legislation that was designed to specifically protect against that kind of crime.  Why?  Because there is no check box for Sikh on the reporting form.  Because of that Sikhs are lumped into "other" or mistakenly into "Muslim" which has no relation to their religion save for a turban.

That statistic is why relatives of the victims testified before Congress this week.  As one man put it,   "Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic.”  He went on to say that without recognizing the problem it will be hard to solve it.  As a member of a group who was forced into invisibility for so many years, I can identify.

More here on ThinkProgress.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Film or Fire Bomb? Anti-Islam Video Insights Violence

 NOTE:  My story here was based on reports on both CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, now it turns out they might have had it very wrong.  Mr. Bacile may be the pseudonym of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a professed Coptic Christian. 

According to a CNN report:

"A production staff member who worked on the film told CNN that he believed the filmmaker was a Coptic Christian. The production staff member, who did not want to be identified, said when the two spoke on the phone during production, the filmmaker said he was in Alexandria, Egypt, raising money for the film. There has been a long history of animosity between Muslims and the minority Copts in Egypt."

My assumptions about motives are still valid.  I strongly believe whoever made this piece of crap knew exactly how it would be received.  The fact that the film is no where to be seen, makes me wonder if it exists at all.  The trailer may be the only thing that was made, and given the dicey history of the alleged producer who was convicted in 2009 of bank fraud.

As details emerge I will attempt to get them straight.  The original post is still below.  Again it looks like the producer was not Jewish and I apologize to anyone taking offense, I was only going by what several news reports said.

More soon.

I have made one or two films in my time, plus lots of documentaries, industrial films and commercials, but nothing I have ever driver people to commit murder.   That honor goes to an Israeli real estate developer turned filmmaker, Sam Bacile. Mr. Bacile is now in hiding by the way.

His little venture into the cinema is sighted as the cause of the killings at the American Embassy in Lybia, and after watching the trailer for it I am frankly not surprised there has not been more violence.

The movie "Innocence of Muslims" is a two hour propaganda piece filled with incendiary insults and really bad acting.  The script would seem to be written by someone stringing together every insulting remark they could find or make up about the Prophet Muhammad.  The fact that this outrageous video was financed entirely by Jewish money is both telling and frightening.  The backers either didn't know how crass the piece was going to be, or they were abundantly aware that this film had only one purpose, and that was to incite violence.

The movie itself, according to a CBS report played only once to a mostly empty theater in LA.  It's the crudely cut trailer that has caused the problem.  Amateur actors portray Muhammad as a con man and philanderer with a gaggle of stooges who follow his instructions which include child molestation and murder.

Considering that even the depiction of the Prophet is against Islamic teachings only an idiot would think this video would not cause trouble.  Personally I don't believe Sam Bacile is an idiot, he is much worse.

Now before you go getting your panties in a wad about free speech, this is not about free speech.  Say what you will as an individual, no problem, just be prepared for the consequences.  My problem is this film is tantamount to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.  The person who does it knows it will cause problems.

Bacile had to know that his hatchet job would only lead to protests and worse.  It was designed to do exactly what it did, and by design the results are wildly out of proportion to the offense, but such is the atmosphere in the Middle-East.  That part of the world is going through a lot of growing pains as countries shake off dictatorships and try to move toward democracy.  Quite frankly, I believe that is exactly what Bacile doesn't want.

As long as he can point to the predominately Islamic countries and say, "look how oppressive and dangerous they are", he can be assured of support for Israel.  If those places that previously were ruled by anti-Israeli despots become democracies, then Israel will have to deal with them on equal footing and that would be a threat.  Israel may soon face it's own Arab Spring as the Palestinians finally get tired of negotiations that lead nowhere and move to regain their power and their capital city.

What better way to keep the community of nations on Israel's side than to have these emerging democracies descend into religious fervor and violence?

OK, so maybe it isn't a conspiracy.  Maybe it's just a stupid idea that got in front of the wrong audience.  If you buy that you and Mr. Bacile are both living in parts unknown. 

Note: I have watched the trailer and will not link it to my blog.  It is utter crap and it's purpose is crystal clear.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I listened to my parents wax on about the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and I really didn't understand until that November day in Dallas when the President came to visit.  From that point on, the assassination was a marker by which everything was measured.  Before or after.

That day has been eclipsed by today's date.

Days marking such momentous and tragic events always will serve as anchors in our memories because they are obvious changes in the timeline of our existence.  Like some science fiction story, they mark where one history begins and another continues.  Sometimes I feel like there is another reality where Kennedy served out his term, where the Japanese came to their senses and where a dozen zealots never board airplanes with the intent of turning them into flying bombs.

That is the timeline that was stolen by those days and it is for that I mourn.

Silly musing I suppose, but I sincerely believe we can work to bring the trajectory of the present back in line with the path history should have been on.  We can do it with our actions.  We can do it by teaching peace, tolerance and justice.

I guess that is what life is really about, trying to move toward a more perfect order, striving to find solutions that do not involve splitting the timeline and veering off into some bizarre alternate future.

That seems like something well worth working toward.

May you find peace and reflection this day and turn your thoughts and actions toward bringing that peace to the world.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Vivaldi as You Have Never Heard Him

I was free form surfing on the web and ran across this.  It is a duo of electric guitarists playing "Storm" from the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.  As far as I can tell  their guitars are hooked to a synthesizer or sampler, but the skill and sound is amazing.  This is from a master class lecture and easy to see the mastery in the performance.

Alexi Laiho, the lead guitarist and vocalist of Children of Bodom and also the guitarist of Sinergy and Kylähullut is accompanied by Roope Latvala.  AMAZING!

Friday, September 07, 2012

OMG It's Gangnam Style

I first heard this song watching a parody video by a group of lifeguards in El Monte California who got canned for making it on city property, but aside from that iunfortunate incodent I have to admit I am kinda hooked on the catchy melody and Korean Rap.

PSY, a South Korean rapper with a baby face apparently millions of Koreans love just seems to have so much fun with it, it's hard not to like.

So go Gangnam Style!  Enjoy!

Star Trek's 46 Year Mission - Happy Birthday!

I remember watching this show when it premiered, and from the first episode I was hooked.  Not a "Trekie" as such, I still enjoy the series in almost all of it's iterations and love the new movie.

OK, so maybe I am a Trekie.

Happy 46th Anniversary to Gene Roddenberry's creation.

By the way, we recently bought the first season of Next Generation on Blu-Ray and it's really great. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Happy Belated Birthday - Freddie Mercury

I can't believe I missed the date, but better late than never.

Freddie Mercury, one of the great innovators in 20th Century music would have been 65 yesterday.  His life was cut short by AIDS, but his music and the work of the band Queen will live a long long time.


And for Muppets fans their spot-on cover of the song!

Clinton Hits a Home Run

I rarely use baseball metaphors, but the only thing I can say about President Bill Clinton's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention was "he hit it out of the park".  Looking healthy and chipper, the former president had the crown on their feet through much of his speech, and hammered home the point that if we are going to move forward, we must reelect President Barack Obama.  His speech is below, if you missed it it's wrth a read.

We're here to nominate a President, and I've got one in mind.
I want to nominate a man whose own life has known its fair share of adversity and uncertainty. A man who ran for President to change the course of an already weak economy and then just six weeks before the election, saw it suffer the biggest collapse since the Great Depression. A man who stopped the slide into depression and put us on the long road to recovery, knowing all the while that no matter how many jobs were created and saved, there were still millions more waiting, trying to feed their children and keep their hopes alive.
 I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside. A man who believes we can build a new American Dream economy driven by innovation and creativity, education and cooperation. A man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama.

I want Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States and I proudly nominate him as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party.

In Tampa, we heard a lot of talk about how the President and the Democrats don't believe in free enterprise and individual initiative, how we want everyone to be dependent on the government, how bad we are for the economy.

The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made. One of our greatest Democratic Chairmen, Bob Strauss, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself, but it ain't so.

We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. We think "we're all in this together" is a better philosophy than "you're on your own."

Who's right? Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!

It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.

Though I often disagree with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats. After all, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to my home state to integrate Little Rock Central High and built the interstate highway system. And as governor, I worked with President Reagan on welfare reform and with President George H.W. Bush on national education goals. I am grateful to President George W. Bush for PEPFAR, which is saving the lives of millions of people in poor countries and to both Presidents Bush for the work we've done together after the South Asia tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake.

Through my foundation, in America and around the world, I work with Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are focused on solving problems and seizing opportunities, not fighting each other.
When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better. After all, nobody's right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day. All of us are destined to live our lives between those two extremes. Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn't see it that way. They think government is the enemy, and compromise is weakness.

One of the main reasons America should re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to cooperation. He appointed Republican Secretaries of Defense, the Army and Transportation. He appointed a Vice President who ran against him in 2008, and trusted him to oversee the successful end of the war in Iraq and the implementation of the recovery act. And Joe Biden did a great job with both. He appointed Cabinet members who supported Hillary in the primaries. Heck, he even appointed Hillary! I'm so proud of her and grateful to our entire national security team for all they've done to make us safer and stronger and to build a world with more partners and fewer enemies. I'm also grateful to the young men and women who serve our country in the military and to Michelle Obama and Jill Biden for supporting military families when their loved ones are overseas and for helping our veterans, when they come home bearing the wounds of war, or needing help with education, housing, and jobs.

President Obama's record on national security is a tribute to his strength, and judgment, and to his preference for inclusion and partnership over partisanship.

He also tried to work with Congressional Republicans on Health Care, debt reduction, and jobs, but that didn't work out so well. Probably because, as the Senate Republican leader, in a remarkable moment of candor, said two years before the election, their number one priority was not to put America back to work, but to put President Obama out of work.

Senator, I hate to break it to you, but we're going to keep President Obama on the job!

In Tampa, the Republican argument against the President's re-election was pretty simple: we left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.

In order to look like an acceptable alternative to President Obama, they couldn't say much about the ideas they have offered over the last two years. You see they want to go back to the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place: to cut taxes for high income Americans even more than President Bush did; to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts; to increase defense spending two trillion dollars more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they'll spend the money on; to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor kids. As another President once said – there they go again.

I like the argument for President Obama's re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators.

Are we where we want to be? No. Is the President satisfied? No. Are we better off than we were when he took office, with an economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month. The answer is YES.

I understand the challenge we face. I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. Though employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend and even housing prices are picking up a bit, too many people don't feel it.

I experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995. Our policies were working and the economy was growing but most people didn't feel it yet. By 1996, the economy was roaring, halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in American history.

President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No President – not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you'll renew the President's contract you will feel it.

I believe that with all my heart.

President Obama's approach embodies the values, the ideas, and the direction America must take to build a 21st century version of the American Dream in a nation of shared opportunities, shared prosperity and shared responsibilities.

So back to the story. In 2010, as the President's recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around.

The Recovery Act saved and created millions of jobs and cut taxes for 95% of the American people. In the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private sector jobs. But last year, the Republicans blocked the President's jobs plan costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here's another jobs score: President Obama plus 4.5 million, Congressional Republicans zero.

Over that same period, more than more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created under President Obama – the first time manufacturing jobs have increased since the 1990s.

The auto industry restructuring worked. It saved more than a million jobs, not just at GM, Chrysler and their dealerships, but in auto parts manufacturing all over the country. That's why even auto-makers that weren't part of the deal supported it. They needed to save the suppliers too. Like I said, we're all in this together.
Now there are 250,000 more people working in the auto industry than the day the companies were restructured. Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. So here's another jobs score: Obama two hundred and fifty thousand, Romney, zero.

The agreement the administration made with management, labor and environmental groups to double car mileage over the next few years is another good deal: it will cut your gas bill in half, make us more energy independent, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and add another 500,000 good jobs.

President Obama's "all of the above" energy plan is helping too – the boom in oil and gas production combined with greater energy efficiency has driven oil imports to a near 20 year low and natural gas production to an all time high. Renewable energy production has also doubled.

We do need more new jobs, lots of them, but there are already more than three million jobs open and unfilled in America today, mostly because the applicants don't have the required skills. We have to prepare more Americans for the new jobs that are being created in a world fueled by new technology. That's why investments in our people are more important than ever. The President has supported community colleges and employers in working together to train people for open jobs in their communities. And, after a decade in which exploding college costs have increased the drop-out rate so much that we've fallen to 16th in the world in the percentage of our young adults with college degrees, his student loan reform lowers the cost of federal student loans and even more important, gives students the right to repay the loans as a fixed percentage of their incomes for up to 20 years. That means no one will have to drop-out of college for fear they can't repay their debt, and no one will have to turn down a job, as a teacher, a police officer or a small town doctor because it doesn't pay enough to make the debt payments. This will change the future for young Americans.

I know we're better off because President Obama made these decisions.

That brings me to health care.

The Republicans call it Obamacare and say it's a government takeover of health care that they'll repeal. Are they right? Let's look at what's happened so far. Individuals and businesses have secured more than a billion dollars in refunds from their insurance premiums because the new law requires 80% to 85% of your premiums to be spent on health care, not profits or promotion. Other insurance companies have lowered their rates to meet the requirement. More than 3 million young people between 19 and 25 are insured for the first time because their parents can now carry them on family policies. Millions of seniors are receiving preventive care including breast cancer screenings and tests for heart problems. Soon the insurance companies, not the government, will have millions of new customers many of them middle class people with pre-existing conditions. And for the last two years, health care spending has grown under 4%, for the first time in 50 years.

So are we all better off because President Obama fought for it and passed it? You bet we are.
There were two other attacks on the President in Tampa that deserve an answer. Both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the President for allegedly robbing Medicare of 716 billion dollars. Here's what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits. None. What the President did was save money by cutting unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that weren't making people any healthier. He used the saving to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program, and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. It's now solvent until 2024. So President Obama and the Democrats didn't weaken Medicare, they strengthened it.

When Congressman Ryan looked into the TV camera and attacked President Obama's "biggest coldest power play" in raiding Medicare, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. You see, that 716 billion dollars is exactly the same amount of Medicare savings Congressman Ryan had in his own budget.
At least on this one, Governor Romney's been consistent. He wants to repeal the savings and give the money back to the insurance companies, re-open the donut hole and force seniors to pay more for drugs, and reduce the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by eight years. So now if he's elected and does what he promised Medicare will go broke by 2016. If that happens, you won't have to wait until their voucher program to begins in 2023 to see the end Medicare as we know it.

But it gets worse. They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming decade. Of course, that will hurt poor kids, but that's not all. Almost two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for seniors and on people with disabilities, including kids from middle class families, with special needs like, Downs syndrome or Autism. I don't know how those families are going to deal with it. We can't let it happen

Now let's look at the Republican charge that President Obama wants to weaken the work requirements in the welfare reform bill I signed that moved millions of people from welfare to work.

Here's what happened. When some Republican governors asked to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama Administration said they would only do it if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20%. You hear that? More work. So the claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform's work requirement is just not true. But they keep running ads on it. As their campaign pollster said "we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers." Now that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself – I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad.

Let's talk about the debt. We have to deal with it or it will deal with us. President Obama has offered a plan with 4 trillion dollars in debt reduction over a decade, with two and a half dollars of spending reductions for every one dollar of revenue increases, and tight controls on future spending. It's the kind of balanced approach proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.

I think the President's plan is better than the Romney plan, because the Romney plan fails the first test of fiscal responsibility: The numbers don't add up.

It's supposed to be a debt reduction plan but it begins with five trillion dollars in tax cuts over a ten-year period. That makes the debt hole bigger before they even start to dig out. They say they'll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code. When you ask "which loopholes and how much?," they say "See me after the election on that."

People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets. What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic. If they stay with a 5 trillion dollar tax cut in a debt reduction plan – the – arithmetic tells us that one of three things will happen: 1) they'll have to eliminate so many deductions like the ones for home mortgages and charitable giving that middle class families will see their tax bill go up two thousand dollars year while people making over 3 million dollars a year get will still get a 250,000 dollar tax cut; or 2) they'll have to cut so much spending that they'll obliterate the budget for our national parks, for ensuring clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air travel; or they'll cut way back on Pell Grants, college loans, early childhood education and other programs that help middle class families and poor children, not to mention cutting investments in roads, bridges, science, technology and medical research; or 3) they'll do what they've been doing for thirty plus years now – cut taxes more than they cut spending, explode the debt, and weaken the economy. Remember, Republican economic policies quadrupled the debt before I took office and doubled it after I left. We simply can't afford to double-down on trickle-down.

President Obama's plan cuts the debt, honors our values, and brightens the future for our children, our families and our nation.

My fellow Americans, you have to decide what kind of country you want to live in. If you want a you're on your own, winner take all society you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities – a "we're all in it together" society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If you want every American to vote and you think its wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama. If you think the President was right to open the doors of American opportunity to young immigrants brought here as children who want to go to college or serve in the military, you should vote for Barack Obama. If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American Dream is alive and well, and where the United States remains the leading force for peace and prosperity in a highly competitive world, you should vote for Barack Obama.

I love our country – and I know we're coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we've always come out stronger than we went in. And we will again as long as we do it together. We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor – to form a more perfect union.

If that's what you believe, if that's what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama.

God Bless You – God Bless America.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Republican Infomercial

Now that the "event" is over I guess it's time to put some perspective on it.  The "it" of course is the Republican National Convention.  Delayed by Hurricane Isaac, the convention was compressed into 3 days instead of four, and judging from the ratings, America was grateful.  The fact that the cable television show, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Child" beat out the network GOP convention coverage should send a clear message.  Nobody cares!

Not that nobody cares about the election, it's just that since the candidate and his running mate were preordained and the platform was hammered out already, little more remained but a few minor votes on rules changes and a three night long infomercial for the Republicans as they tried to make Mitt Romney look like a "man of the people".

Mitt Romney is anything but a man of the people.  He is a millionaire money-shifter who understands nothing about what average American's  lives are like.  His world is one of buying and gutting companies and dressage horses.  Most folks in this country don't even know what "dressage" is, and they are too busy trying to make a living and provide for their families to care.

The Republican Infomercial was notable for it's absences rather than it's speakers.  Not surprisingly they trouped out every Republican woman they could find to try to make Mitt look appealing to the female voter.  The big hole, no pun intended, was the absence of "Mama Grizzly" Sarah Palin.  You would think the former VP candidate would rate a few minutes of podium time.  Sarah was even pulled off Fox News prior to the convention, once again proving that Fox is simply a propaganda arm of the GOP.  The Republicans don't want you remembering their folly of not vetting a candidate for VP, and their obvious tokenism of selecting a woman.  Apparently, just any woman would do as long as she looked good on TV.

The other gaping hole was the former president George W. Bush.  His name was never spoken, and his voice was conspicuously absent.  The Democrats are featuring former president Bill Clinton as their keynote speaker, but the GOP is trying to rewrite history and ignore that Bush ever existed.  And that is the real issue.

The GOP is all style over substance.  Their platform is filled with wacko right-wing ideology but their candidate is trying to look like a nice guy.  They are counting on the press being passive and the public being stupid.  They are wrong.  This election cycle the press has woken from their slumber and actually is doing their job, reporting facts, not just what people said.  CBS, CNN and amazingly even someone at Fox called Paul Ryan on his monumental lie-fest that was his acceptance speech. 

Thanks to the Occupy movement and the fresh memory of how bad the Bush years were, Americans have begun to look closely at politicians and not just their outward appearance.  I sincerely hope this trend continues right through the election and beyond.  It's time we all got serious about our government, and not just during election years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bring Back the Sideshow!

"Hi-ya lookie lookie lookie, I got it here and I'm going to show it to you free!.  Get right up to the edge of the stage cause we're gonna have a free show right here on the Midway. The management of the fair has asked that we try to keep the midway clear,so step right up.

Now I am going to bring out one of the amazing people from our show. People who are so strange you might not believe they are real, but let me reassure you they are all real, live and you'll see them all on the inside of the big Side Show tent."

That was one of the opening pitches by a sideshow talker.  He was building a"tip" or a crowd that later he would "turn"into ticket buyers for the sideshow. Today you rarely hear that call on the midway.  Sideshows and "freak" shows have fallen out of fashion and long been considered politically incorrect.  Some fairs even banned them, but never fear curiosity seekers, the freak show is alive and well on cable TV.

The 21st century freak show is "Reality TV" and though that used to be a metaphor, it is becoming a more accurate description day by day.

Now first of all I am not fond of the word freak, which used to refer to people born with spectacular deformities.  I prefer the more accurate term "special people", because aside from an abnormality through genetics or accident of birth, they are folks like you and me. 

At one time the only way for people such as these to earn a living was to put themselves on display for the curious who would pay to see them. Many special people made good livings as entertainers and moved from the sideshow to the vaudeville stage, even movies.  Today, special people are mainstreamed, and that is a good thing. They go to college, raise families and live relatively ordinary lives without the ballyhoo of the midway.

Enter television,with its voracious appetite for novelty and pretty soon the sideshow is back in full swing. Shows about little people, obese people, and yes even conjoined twins are now box office bonanzas for networks and cable outlets alike.

Even the sideshow acts that were once called "working acts"or "made freaks" are now stars of their own shows.  The tattooed men and women are the most obvious with shows about tattoo artists, but less obvious are shows with the strangest people of all, kiddy beauty pageant contestants and their "freak" parents.

Personally I liked the side show better.  The performers were honest about their role and as an audience member we were honest in our curiosity.  Now it's hidden behind the mask of education and documentary, but add some cotton candy and popcorn and you might as well be inside the big tent.

Hi-ya lookie lookie lookie!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Solar Powered Toilets - Shining New Light on Waste Disposal

Sorry for the pun, but it seemed appropriate.

The story is very exciting, or at least as exciting as waste disposal can be.  To date, most sewage disposal, as in waste from toilets, goes into a city system and is processed at a large waste treatment facility.  The process is costly, inefficient and wastes lots of water.  The alternative septic tank used in rural locations has a number of drawbacks as well.

Enter the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  They offered a prize for research groups to reinvent the toilet.  The idea was to make an affordable, efficient and a model that could be used world wide in developing countries with little or no waste treatment facilities.  A tall order for a stinky problem.

Never fear, the smart folks at Caltech rose to the challenge and flushed away the competition  with their solar-powered toilet.  The unit takes waste sewage and converts it into hydrogen gas, pure water and fertilizer.  Nice trick.  The video below explains.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Is Toddlers and Tiaras Disguised Child Abuse?

I despise toddler beauty pageants.  Not just because they sexualize per-pubescent girls, but because they are grooming these kids to be walking disasters when they grow up.

This video on Young Turks shows the really weird side of this whole "reality TV" mess and especially the sad, odd and somewhat frightening example of "Honey Boo-Boo Child".  Watch it and tell me what the producers of that show and the kids parents are doing isn't child abuse?  If she lives to be 16 I will be amazed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

WWII Ended 67 Years Ago

I was surprised when I missed the date.  67 years ago in 1945 on August 15, the Japanese signed the documents of surrender and ended the conflict which saw the most horrific weapons mankind has ever produced unleashed on the world. 

Normally this date is one I like to commemorate not only for the end of the war, but to remind myself how destructive we humans can be.  The coup de grâce of the conflict was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the only two atomic bombs ever used in a military conflict.  Once the world saw the death and destruction they caused, these weapons have remained unused in actual combat, and for that I thank God.

For more info on putting an end to nuclear weapons visit:
It is a sad thing the we don't mark this date anymore in our country.  Not so much with celebration, but with a somber remembrance of all who died and the sacrifices made to end the conflict.

Just in case anyone doesn't know what  a nuclear weapon can do, I added this photo of a mass grave that was hurriedly prepared in Hiroshima as the destruction was being cleaned away.  This is the real face of nuclear weapons, and it is a face that we must never forget.

Also, we must not forget the hubris and blind ambition that started the conflict as well.  Germany and Japan sought to expand their influence and conquer the continents of Europe and Asia.  Their ruthlessness appalled the world.  It is unfortunate that it took an act of equally ruthless destruction to put the final end to the war.

For all those who died, on both sides of the war, it is fitting that we remember them, applaud their bravery and morn for their losses.  Never forget.

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity"
General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The NRA and Gun Violence

This week after the horrific shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin comes another story of crazy gun owners.  This one is in Westlake, Ohio where a man entered a movie theater playing the Dark Knight with a bag of guns and ammo.

A quick thinking policeman saw the man who was seated in the back row of the theater.  When he asked to examine the man's bag, he found he was carrying guns and ammunition, along with a first aid kit.  The man, Scott Smith was arrested and his house was searched.  There officers found a cache of guns, pistols and shotguns as well as thousands of rounds of ammo and a gas mask.

Come on folks, isn't it time we really got honest about this mess?  We have unstable people stockpiling guns and ammunition with visions of mass murder in their heads.  We have white-power fanatics using automatic and semi-automatic weapons to kill people strictly because they wear turbans.  We have idiots with orange dyed hair donning assault gear and blasting innocent people in movie theaters.

We also have the NRA.

Now, I have owned guns in the past, and I enjoyed target shooting.  I understand people like to hunt and shoot  for sport.  That's just fine with me, but what the hell do people need with semi-automatic assault weapons and body armor?  How can we interpret the second amendment to include shoulder mounted rocket launchers like some judges do? 

The NRA has far too much political clout and I suspect they are supported not by sportsmen, but by gun manufacturers.  Politicians need to do some serious push-back to the kookie arguments of the NRA and address the epidemic of gun violence in our country.  Rather than feeling safe with all these weapons out there, I feel very vulnerable.  I no longer own guns.  Mine were stolen when my house was burglarized and so more guns got in the hands of criminals.  We have to tell the NRA that we will no longer allow them to bully the country so gun manufacturers can reap the profits of selling military weaponry to every Joe Schmo who wants to be a Rambo.

Get real people!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Russian Flash Mob for Wedding Party - Puttin' on the Ritz!

Obviously staged flash mob, but really fun just the same. Might have been for a wedding reception? My Russian is rusty. Thanks to Nina Hartley for posting this on Twitter! Made me smile.

Prophecy or Dumb Luck?

Handcuffed Suspect Commits Suicide? Why I Don't Buy It!

This one goes in the WTF file for sure.  Jonesboro, Arkansas Police had a suspect in custody and they claim he committed suicide while in custody.

Now take this into consideration.  His hands were handcuffed behind his back and he was in the back seat of a police car.  He was arrested for possession of $10 worth of marijuana.  The arresting officers say the apparently missed a gun he had on him in two searches before being shut in the back of the police car.

Even the police chief has trouble answering how a suspect with hands cuffed behind himself in the backseat of a police car managed to shoot himself in the temple.  This is either an example of a contortionist at work or it's a coverup.  I would apply Occam's Razor to this one and suggest that the arresting officers shot him then concocted the incredulous story of the suicide.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How a Bill Becomes Law - ALEC Style

Lower IQ Related To Racism

To anyone growing up in the south this should come as no surprise.  We have all had run-ins with our fellow Southerner's whose racism is only eclipsed by their "kicked in the head" stupidity.  Still, it's nice to get validation of my experience.

A new study published in Psychological Science shows people who score lower on IQ tests in childhood are more likely to become bigoted as adults.  The same holds true for conservative beliefs.

Why?  Well, I had postulated that it was because conservative ideologies tend to see the world in simple. black and white terms.  That rigid structure appeals to the intellectually incuroious, and the study bears that out as well.

Dr. Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia psychologist said in an interview, "Reality is complicated and messy. Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies."

So next time you are arguing with a conservative, be sure to use small words and simple sentences, otherwise they will just look at you with a blank expression. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

If It Looks Racist, and Smells Racist, It's Probably Racist.

Our friends at the ACLU released a whole lot of information surrounding the Arizona immigration laws and they aren't pretty.

They are emails to and from former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce (R) and they make a good case that the "show Me Your Papers" law SB 1070 was motivated by racial hatred.  These emails were obtained as part of potential evidence to prove to a federal judge that the law should not go into effect.

A few choice quotes:
“Last week, Denver’s illegal aliens sang our national anthem in Spanish and bastardized the words of OUR country’s most sacred song.”

"Corruption is the mechanism by which Mexico operates. Its people spawn more corruption wherever they go because it is their only known way of life.”

“We are much like the Titanic as we inbreed millions of Mexico’s poor, the world’s poor and we watch our country sink.”

More here at Think Progress if you can stomach it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tennessee Ordered to Stop Blocking Muslims from Worshiping in Mosque

Ah Tennessee!  The state that gave us "Don't Say Gay" legislation has finally been bitch slapped by a federal judge and told to join the 21st century.

You wee the affluent suburb of  Murfreesboro is home to a new mosque.  The congregation of that mosque had hoped to worship there starting today at sundown, the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. The problem is the good citizens of that town have long sought to prevent the opening of the Islamic Center.  The residents filed a lawsuit alleging that Islam was "not a real religion" back in 2010.  Failing that, they convinced a local judge that the mosque’s building permits were invalid because the congregation had not provided “adequate public notice”. 

That is where the Federal Judge stepped in.  He ruled that the county judge could not hold the Murfreesboro mosque to the separate standard he had created in his May ruling.  In other words, they deserved equal protection under the law.  That is a novel idea in Tennessee apparently.

The Mosque will open for it's congregation tonight as scheduled.  However, I suspect there will be a crowd of ignorant mean-spirited "hillbilly kristshuns" on had with offensive picket signs and perhapse worse.  I pray for the safety of everyone involved.

Full disclosure:  my grandfather was from Tennessee and I'm from Texas, where we have our own industrial strength rednecks and idiots, so don't go flaming me for my opinions as some kind of "northerner".