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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Taking Credit for Other's Work

In the current eSkeptic newsletter put out by Michael Shermer's Skeptic Society, Shermer has made his notes available from a recent debate with Dinesh D’Souza at Oregon State University on the topic "Is Christianity Good for the World?" Shermer's basic argument is that "It Depends". It's good when it does good and it's bad when it does bad. And in particular, one argument he makes is that often it is bad, even very bad, before it is good.

"Mark my words. Here is what is going to happen. Within a decade, maybe two or three, Christians will come around to treating gays no differently than they now treat other groups whom they previously persecuted — women, Jews, blacks — but not because of some new interpretation of a biblical passage, or because of a new revelation from God. These changes will come about the same way that they always do: by the oppressed minority fighting for the right to be treated equally, and by a few enlightened members of the oppressing majority supporting their cause.

Then what will happen is that Christians will take credit for the civil liberation of gays, dig through the historical record and find a few Christian bloggers or preachers who had the courage and the character to stand up for Gay rights when their fellow Christians would not, and then cite those as evidence that were it not for Christianity gays would not be equal."

Yep. That about sums it up. Attitudes toward gays have slowly been evolving toward tolerance and acceptance for decades now. Although the lunatic religious fringe still clings on to homophobia as a last resort to keep their weakening stranglehold on the sheep among us, just like we now shake our heads in disbelief at the treatment of Blacks pre-civil rights era, soon (and not fast enough) we will wonder what the big deal was over two people of the same sex loving each other.

Granted, this hasn't come easy. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to the point we are today and will continue to take just as much to get to the point where we should be. Many people have made sacrifices, and some have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the battle for equality. And though there is no doubt that many Christians have been a positive force in this struggle, while Christianity will try to claim credit for the ultimate victory, we should always remember that religion has been the primary oppressive force in this struggle. The driving force behind the gay rights movement is an appeal to fairness, equality and human rights, things that are completely and totally independent of religion. Meanwhile the driving force behind homophobia has been an appeal to "God's word".

My guess is that those words written in the Bible aren't going to change any time soon. Funny how in a few decades most Christians will read them differently though.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why I Cannot Vote for Dennis Kucinich

I like Dennis Kucinich's politics, I really do. In every Internet poll I've taken so far to determine who would be my ideal candidate, Dennis always comes out on top. The local Air America affiliate here in Portland (KPOJ 620) is running a straw poll on their web site and Kucinich always gets the biggest percentage of votes. There is no doubt that I would be extremely happy to have someone like Kucinich become the next President and the country as a whole would be a much better place for it.

But I can't bring myself to vote for him.

Kucinich was born in 1946 (the same year as my father). Seeing as he just had a birthday on Oct 8, that makes him 61. He's not "old", but he's in grandfather territory now (my parents have three grandchildren). My parents are still married, but if my dad were to remarry, I would expect him to marry someone close to his own age, at least within the ballpark. Eyebrows would be raised if my dad announced that he was marrying a 30 year old woman who was soon going to be the step-grandmother to grandchildren whose parents are older than the new step-grandmother.

So why shouldn't I be just a little weirded out that Kucinich married a woman half his age (she is currently 30 years old)?

I'm not going to try and psychoanalyze their relationship. I'm sure they are happily married for all the right reasons. I'm sure that if Dennis were to be elected, his wife would make an outstanding First Lady. If two people have found true love, then more power to them. A real Harold and Maude for the ages.

I'll just leave you with one thought. Fred Thompson is 65. He looks even older. I'm sure I'm not the only one who cringes just a little when I see Fred and his extremely younger looking wife (who is 41) posing for the cameras. And they even have very young children who will most likely be losing a dad within the next ten years. Don't tell me that you aren't at least slightly disturbed and disgusted by their relationship. Don't tell me that you wouldn't be at least a little embarrassed about having Jeri Thompson as a First Lady. Don't tell me that you don't think Fred Thompson is trying to make himself look just a little more manly by nailing a trophy wife. There is something not quite right about this relationship and unless you are one of those guys who thinks it should be every man's dream to bang a young hot chick to prove that his dick still works, you don't want someone like this as President.

But hey, at least Thompson stayed within the half-your-age limit.
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Supreme Asshole

I'm in the middle of reading a very interesting book on the behind-the-scenes workings of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin entitled "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court". I highly recommend the book if you are into this sort of thing.

While I don't plan to do a complete review of the book, sometimes something in particular jumps out at me and I can't let it go until I rant and rave about it. In this case it happens to be that incredible waste of space Antonin Scalia. While he may never be Chief Justice, he will always be Biggest Douchebag of the Supreme Court.

In the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, in which the Court struck down a Texas law making sex between two people of the same sex illegal, Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion which should not only compel him to recuse himself from any future cases involving the GLBT community but should send shivers down the spine of every clear thinking person in this country.

"Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct," Scalia wrote in his dissent, adding, "the Court has taken sides in the culture war." (p. 192)

First of all, the phrase "homosexual agenda" is merely code for "we hate gay people". Anybody who uses that phrase in this day and age is merely admitting that like their KKK counterparts, they hate gays for the same reason White supremacists hate minorities, simply because of who they are. People who see a vast "homosexual agenda" are the same people who used to think (or maybe still do) that there are too many "uppity niggers". Nope, your appeal to god's law can't get you out of this one. God once told you it was OK to have Black slaves. He was wrong. Now he's telling you that it is OK to hate gay people. Fool me once...

And notice how Scalia uses the phrase "homosexual activists" in the pejorative. I would think that a judge would be especially sensitive about using such a word as "activist" to insult a group of people when judges themselves, and not just the more "liberal" judges, are routinely threatened by right-wing wackjobs as being "activist judges" who need to be taught a lesson. Remember how a few Republican members of the House made implicit threats on judges (including the Supreme Court) after the Supreme Court refused to hear the Terry Schiavo case?

Scalia is upset that "activists" are trying to remove the "opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct". Hmmm, I read through the Constitution and it doesn't mention anything about "homosexual conduct". I did find things in there about equal protection clauses and such, but nothing about the wickedness of homosexuality. So I wonder how an Originalist like Scalia can justify the Constitutionality of a law that makes being gay a crime? He can't. So then what is his basis for making such a statement? His own personal views, which he would be the first to call any other judge who used merely his own personal views to rule on a case an "activist judge". You see, it's only activism when the other guy does it. When you want to put your own personal agendas into the law, especially when you are a religious conservative wackjob, you're merely defending the Constitution.

And then as a parting shot, Scalia derisively notes that "the Court has taken sides in the culture war." Holy shit, can this guy be any more dishonest. He uses the phrase "homosexual agenda" and supports the "moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct" and has the balls to criticize the Court for taking sides in a Culture War. He is the Culture War. He is the last of a (thankfully) dying breed of bigots who think they have the right to impose their morals on everyone else. If tomorrow every state in the Union were to suddenly legalize gay marriage, there would be an outcry from the fundies for a few months and then the controversy would die down, every one would go on living their lives as usual and a few years later we'd all look back and try to remember what the big deal was. The only thing stopping this from happening now is a loud gradually shrinking minority of religious gay haters who are trying desperately to cling on to their fading power by playing the "gay card" whenever they get the chance.

Scalia represents the worst that this country has to offer. A relic from the past who refuses to broaden his educational horizons and takes pleasure in his narrow views of how the world ought to be. And as the book makes clear, he relishes his ignorance and prejudice and wears it as a badge of honor. I know the fundies are real proud to have a man like Scalia on the court. And I'm sure their god approves.
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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Win for the Good Guys

While Oregon is a great state to live in, I've always been ashamed that just enough of its people were fooled into voting a few years ago for "Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage" which legally defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman. It's a real black eye to this state that discrimination is now written into its Constitution. This is a state that has consistently defeated other anti-gay measures over the years. This is a "Liberal Bastion" which voted to legalize medical marijuana and doctor-assisted suicide (twice). We don't have a sales tax because it is too regressive. Hell, we won't even let you pump your own gas because of the fire hazard. But yet the bigots and haters were able to convince just enough of my fellow Oregonians that somehow the institution of marriage would crumble if we allowed all those gay couples who currently live together (or plan to) to legalize their union like the rest of us.

But I think the tide is slowly turning. Earlier this year, the Oregon legislature was able to pass two bills which would undo at least some of the damage. The first created domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Granted, it's not marriage, but since marriage is defined in our Constitution as being only between a man and a woman, I guess it is the best that can be done for now. The second bill makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Now I haven't read the text of this second bill, but it strikes me as odd that we can have a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation at the same time that we actually have discrimination based on sexual orientation written into our Constitution (maybe this discrepancy will ultimately force a showdown on the constitutionality of the anti-gay marriage language?)

Now it should really not come as a surprise that some people have a problem with the two bills discussed above. Can you guess who? You guessed it, the same bigots and haters behind the marriage discrimination ballot measure. So sure enough, they immediately launched a campaign to put a ballot measure on the November ballot to force a vote on the domestic partnership bill, with the hope that they will again be able to fool enough people into thinking that allowing domestic partnerships will destroy their marriages.

But guess what, this time they were unable to collect enough signatures before the deadline to get their measure on the ballot.

Oh, I'm sure they will try again. There is no limit to the amount of bigotry and hate some people have. But I have always thought that a lot of the people who voted for the anti-gay marriage measure allowed themselves to be fooled by the smaller minority of true bigots and haters. I can distinctly remember the anti-gay marriage people saying that they didn't have a problem with domestic partnerships, only actual marriage. Yet, as soon as the Oregon legislature passes a domestic partnership bill they are trying to defeat it. And I think that over the few years since the anti-gay marriage measure passed, more people have come to realize that gay marriage won't destroy their own marriages and actually benefits society instead of harming it. Also, I think the rhetoric about protecting children has pretty much worn itself out. It's becoming blatantly obvious that religious-right Republicans don't really care about protecting children (take Bush's recent veto of SCHIP as an example). Keeping gays from marrying was never about protecting children or the institution of marriage. It has always been about punishing gay people for being gay.

Whether by ballot measure or judicial decree, I really do think that discrimination against gays will be removed from our Constitution within the next ten years and I will again be able to say that I am proud to be an Oregonian and live in a state that treats everyone fairly.
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