Friday, April 24, 2015

Dear Right Wing Nutjobs... Here is why you are losing.

As we get closer to the dates for oral arguments on the legalization of marriage equality before the US Supreme Court , the anti-civil rights conservative wingnutosphere has, (not unexpectedly)completely lost their minds.    

The brilliant Matt Baume over that the American Foundation for Equal Rights brings us up to date on the latest fun and frolic from the good peoples of Teabagistan.

What has become all to clear over the past few weeks is  the "Culture Warriors" on the American political and social Right Wing, are stunned, angry and generally unhinged that they are losing the battle to keep LGBT Americans as the one group it is still safe to hate.   

Between the backlash over attempted "Religious Freedom" laws,  (designed  only to allow for legalized discrimination against Gays and Lesbians in public accommodation,)  to the anticipated SCOTUS ruling widely expected to invalidate discriminatory marriage laws nationwide;  Spring has not been a season of much joy for Anti-Gay bigots.

Then this past week three little news items popped up that pretty much say it all.   The first was a new  ABC News/Washington Post poll that put support for marriage equality at nearly   60%, and opposition to it below 40%,  for the first time in American History

Next we had news from the world of pop culture.  A good bellwether of national tends has always been youth culture.  Popular Movies, Television shows and music have long since embraced the idea of LGBT equality.  One other time-tested canary in the coal mine of bigotry is, not surprisingly, comic books.

Click to enlarge
(From The Huffington Post)

Original "X-Men" member Iceman is set to make a big revelation this week: he's gay.  

The iconic character makes the surprise declaration in the All-New X-Men #40, which is available in stores and online April 22. Pages from the new book show an intimate conversation between a young Iceman, or Bobby Drake, and pal Jean Grey.

After Iceman comments on how hot he finds his female teacher, the telepathic Jean sees right through her friend's thinly-veiled declaration and tells him outright that she knows he's gay.
The announcement caused televangelist Franklin Graham to take his case of the vapours to the Facebook thing on the interwebs,   to make sure all the kids know how upsetting this is for him.

The Religious Right leader took to his Facebook page to lament that Marvel is using Iceman in an attempt “to indoctrinate our young people to accept this destructive lifestyle.”

(Graham has previously praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for criminalizing speech that is perceived as pro-gay propaganda” directed at young people.)

I have a news flash for Frankie;   the Kids are just fine, and they don't care who he  thinks they should hate.  I know social conservatives are not big fans of facts.  But here are a few interesting ones that are hard to ignore.

-  The Millennial generation is 80 million, the largest in history. And for Millennials who lean right, gay marriage is an area in which they disagree with their party.
-  A 2014 Pew poll found that 61 percent of Republicans under 30 support gay marriage.
-  According to Data Science polling, 64 percent of self-identifying Evangelical Millennials support same-sex marriage.
-  And the most recent survey of incoming freshman at UCLA found that 44.3 percent of students who considered themselves “far right” believe same-sex couples should have the right to legally marry.
So lets set aside the fact that the  overwhelming majority of American voters under age 30 disagree with the American Taliban.  
The real wake up call for 2016 is that  the  majority of conservative American voters under 30 disagree with the WingNut Right on the issue of  LGBT rights.
Not that I enjoy kicking bigots when they are down, but this one last little news item from Las Vegas pretty much sums up where  America, The Next Generation is at on this issue...
From The Huffington Post

This Straight Guy Just Asked His Gay BFF To Prom With The Most Adorable Promposal
As a student council member at his high school, Anthony Martinez is often tasked with planning school dances. But the 17-year-old, who is gay, says that he “never [gets] asked.”
Until now, that is.

Martinez, who attends Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, shared on Twitter this week that he was asked to prom by someone entirely unexpected. It was his best friend, Jacob Lescenski -- who is straight.

For the promposal, Lescenski (wearing camouflage pants in the photo above) created a banner with the words: "You're hella gay, I'm hella str8. But you're like my brother. So be my d8?"
Lescenski told New Now Next that he had decided to surprise Martinez with the promposal after seeing his friend tweet about wanting a date for the event.

“I decided on going to prom alone because my original date idea didn’t work out so well,” he said. “Then one night I saw Anthony, who is my best friend, tweeting about wanting a date. So, I came up with the poster idea, asked my friend Mia to make it and asked him that next day … It was a giant surprise to everyone, especially Anthony!”

A thrilled Martinez expressed his gratitude to his BFF on social media.

“He’s my best friend, and a real man given the fact he has the guts to fulfil my gay student council dream of always helping out planning dances, and never getting asked. I couldn’t ask for a better person in my life,” the teen wrote on Tumblr. “Thank you Jacob, can’t wait for May 2nd!”
Lescenski’s promposal has gone viral this week, and netizens everywhere have praised the teen for his awesome gesture of friendship.

“It's an adorable story -- boy meets boy -- with a 2015 twist,” wrote of the promposal. “As being an ally becomes more and more a part of the high school experience, it's inspiring to see."

So over the next few weeks, expect Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, Bryan Fischer, Maggie Gallagher and all the other assorted gargoyles of hate,  to stamp their feet and scream about how unfair it is that people they don't like are going to be treated equally under the law.

Yet clearly the future of America is one where homophobia, like its historical cousins racism, and segregation is, as Ronald Reagan would say; destined for the ash heap of history.

Hella cool...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Expat Musings... "No Place Like Home"?

They say travel broadens the mind....  What they really mean is "The Expat Experience will  probably rewire entire parts of your brain.". 

The Expat Blog of the Wall Street Journal, features an  opinion piece by this week by  freelance writer Debra Bruno, entitled;  Repatriation Blues: Expats Struggle With the Dark Side of Coming Home.

The article is her very interesting take on the reverse culture shock, many people face when returning home from living and working abroad.  How the experience of living as an Expatriate can change how you see both yourself, and the country and culture you came from.

I had my first "expat" experience  when I was 15 and did a student  foreign exchange program to Germany.  It is not an overstatement to say  it fundamentally changed me, my outlook on, and future path in life.     That lead to spending my gap year studying in Germany, and then  spending all my Summers in college working  at a Summer Camp  in the Wetterstein Alps in  Bavaria.   Then after graduation from University,  to my first expat work posting to Asia, in South Korea.

Now I live in London,  not because of a work assignment ,  but because I fell in love with, and then married  a Brit.  And at the time,  the Defence of Marriage Act, (DOMA)   forced us, and many other same sex couples to leave the US in order to simply  be with our legally married spouses.    Now that DOMA has been partially overturned and those legal barriers to spousal immigration are gone,  we are getting asked one question  repeatedly..

"So.. When are you guys moving to the U.S?"

That is a difficult question,  for a lot of reasons.  Not the least of which is purely logistic.   The lengthy, and complicated process  of my move  from the US  to London nearly 5 years ago was physically, emotionally and financially  exhausting.  So the prospect of packing up our lives all over again to move  half way  across the world is a bit daunting.   Yet the question  keeps being asked,  don't I want to come home?

Like many of the other commenters on that WSJ piece,  I  find visits back  to the US, can  be at times a surreal experience.   You will find there are  people you know  who never moved way   from where you  all grew up.  Or  for whom a trip to another State is considered a far flung journey, at times will  ask you  odd questions about living abroad like it's another planet.     

But for many  expats, the awkward sense of displacement that would accompany returning home, goes far beyond,  struggling to explain how you miss those   evening walks in the Beijing night market, or  the  convenience of Paris being just a Eurostar hop away.    Imagine  returning "home" to find some of those same  friends and even some  family members, having a huge debate over  whether or not some Religious beliefs should outweigh your civil rights.   Gee, that sounds fun.

For many Americans living overseas, the expat life was not a work assignment,  or a really great career opportunity,  but a necessity,   that resulted from being treated as less than full citizens by our own country.   A country that still  is arguing over whether or not  we are, or should be,  treated equally under the law.

 Where CNN gives equal time to people who claim their particular take on sundry laws written tens of thousands of years ago  for an nomadic tribe living in a desert, should be used to determine my civil,  and even human,  rights.

Even if  we moved to a state that has marriage equality,  that state may NOT have  workplace discrimination protection.    So then sure, we can visit each other in hospital,  but also can be fired at anytime for no reason other than who we are.   Nice. Huh? 

It makes the idea of "going home" not only fraught  with issues of cultural adjustment,  but one  where living in the United States of America  becomes a situation  of adjusting to having fewer civil  rights and freedoms than you had as an Expat, instead  of having more. 

The  "Tea Party" faction of the base of the Republican Party likes to invoke imagery from the Revolutionary War to show how committed to the cause of freedom they are.

Ironic that in their ideal world,  it is people in Great Britain  that are  treated far more fairly and equally under the law than Americans are by our country.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

US "Religous Freedom Laws" - Frequenly Asked Questions

Isn’t Religious Freedom a good thing? 
Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans. This is why it is already protected in the very First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. However, up and coming Religious Exemption laws making their way into states across the county would allow an individual to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against others by denying them goods and services.
How will these new laws affect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and families? 
The languages of these bills vary from state to state, but one thing is clear, the lives of LGBT people and their families will be greatly affected. When these bills become law, individuals will have the right based on a personally deeply held religious belief to refuse service, accommodations, goods and protections to LGBT people.
Will these laws affect only LGBT people?
No.  As these harmful discrimination laws make their way into states it would allow individuals to claim that any number of laws – including, but not limited to domestic violence and nondiscrimination laws – don’t apply to them.
  • A hotel owner who objects to cohabitation outside of marriage could refuse to provide a room to any unmarried couple.
  • A landlord who believes a man should be the head of a household could refuse to rent an apartment to a single mother.
  • A guidance counselor could refuse to help a gay teenager by saying it goes again their religious belief.
  • An abusive spouse could claim that domestic violence laws do not apply to them because their religion teaches that a spouse has the right to discipline their family (their spouse and children)as they see fit.
Religious Exemption laws are written with language that is too broad, poorly written, and with loopholes that open the door for dangerously harmful, unintended consequences for people in states across the country. 

As a Christian what can I do to help stop these bills from becoming laws? 
The single most important action you can take towards ensuring all Americans remain free from discrimination is to start a conversation with the people you know about why caring for individuals, families, and communities is important to you. Think about who you can talk with. • Schedule a meeting your State Representative or write them an email to share how your faith teaches that discrimination is wrong.
  • Write a letter to your editor. Letters to the editor are one of the most read sections of your paper. Be public in your support against discrimination.
  • Talk with your pastor about why this matters and encourage them to make a public statement in your church newsletter, Facebook page or blog. Ask them to talk about it in one of their sermons.
  •  Let people know your faith teaches you  to love God and love your neighbour  and that it is not your  place to judge others but  to treat others as you would want to be treated

Friday, April 03, 2015

On This Friday....

No matter if you are observing  Passover,  the Tridium  of the "Three Days"  of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter,  or just the passing of a normal week,  I wish peace, health, blessings and hope to you and yours, wherever you may be.

Maurice Duruflé: Ubi Caritas
Performed by Octarium from the Essentials album

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Where charity and love are, God is there.

Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.

Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.

Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.

Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Welcome to Indiana - Turn Your Clocks Back 60 Years

The State of Indiana is a quirky place.   One of the state's better known eccentricities is the fact that different counties used to have  different time zones.   Up until 2006, some parts of Indiana observed daylight savings time, and others did not.

Then there is  the state of affairs in Gary, IN.  One of Indiana's better known cities.   Made famous in  Meredith Wilson's classic American musical "The Music Man",  singing about Gary, Indiana  gave a very young Ron Howard his first moment of stardom in the 1962 movie adaptation.

 Fast forward to 2102, Gary Indiana has become the subject of Russian Television  (RT) documentaries on urban blight,  and the failure of the American economic model, and by extension  , the  American Dream. Even going so far as to draw comparisons between Gary, Indiana  and  the ghost town around the  Chernobyl nuclear accident evacuation zone.

A place that proudly extols its social conservatism, Indiana has a "abstinence based " approach to sex education, and education on HIV prevention is practically non-existent, with the reason being Indiana Conservatives say,  HIV is a "gay disease". So it should come as no shock that Indiana, this past week,  had to declare a public health emergency, due to a massive spike HIV infections in one county. The increase stems from intravenous drug users sharing contaminated needles. Indiana's Republican Governor, Mike Pence, a long time opponent of HIV Prevention and education programs like needle exchanges, suddenly reversed that position when he found his state staring an epidemic in the face.

One might think,  that with all these challenges on his plate, Governor Pence would have enough to keep himself  busy.   Apparently not.   

You see, many conservatives inside the national Republican Party  loooovvveee Mike Pence, and  they reallllyyyyy want him to run for President in 2016.    They see him as one of the few Republican Governors who hasn't yet completely destroyed his own state.   He is a clear social conservative,  he is a strong opponent of women's rights to control their own reproductive health,  he clearly is against "the gays", he has a college degree and great Presidential  candidate hair!

So like many GOP Governors who are toying with the idea of challenging Jeb Bush's long march to the Republican Presidential nomination,  Pence knows he needed to throw those same social conservatives a bone to chew on, to keep his name on their "dark horse / dream candidate" wish lists.

Sadly for Pence,  Indiana doesn't have any cases of voter fraud he could  use to pass new laws to prevent African-Americans and Latinos from voting.  So he needed a different crisis.   One that would give  conservatives even more reason to rally to  the dream of Mike Pence as their standard bearer.   Unlike Michigan,  Indiana doesn't have a lot of Muslims, so  the "Islamo-facist" boogey-man wasn't going to work, so who's left?   

Social conservatives have felt rather bruised and battered over the past few months.   The remarkable advance of marriage equality  across the US, in conjunction with the expected US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage nationwide, later this Spring,  has given the anti-LGBT conservative right wing  little cause for joy  lately.

Yet some states have  flirted with an idea of how to strike back at the advance of LGBT rights.  It is ironically, not a new  tactic.   Back 60 years ago,  states opposed to ending racial segregation used this same argument in their bids to halt the advance of civil rights for people of color.    The argument of  "Religious Liberty."

It is the claim that  If you don't let people  discriminate against certain groups  in public accommodation,  it is  a violation of freedom of religion.  Because  their  religion says those certain groups  are icky, and going to hell

Mike Pence's flip flop on needle exchange is potentially a big problem for him politically with social conservatives.   He desperately needs something he can point at to shore up his now slightly damaged right wing bona fides.    Oh, wait...that's right,  Just attack the Gays!  But call it protecting religious liberty.
It is something of a tradition for Republican Governors with Presidential ambitions, to at some point throw their own states under the bus.  Meaning they will invariably do things that will clearly harm their own states economically,  but will potentially woo conservative GOP primary voters  or campaign donors elsewhere.    Be it  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's attack on Unions,   New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's sweetheart-deal of a  get away with pollution-free card for Exxon,   or,  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's... well entire record.

As the backlash against Indiana has grown, the usual suspects have slithered out from underneath their rocks to claim that Indiana is being "bullied by intolerant liberals".   And that  this  law is not about denying rights but protecting the rights of "people and families of faith".  Saying this new law in Indiana is not about discrimination against LGBT people is such an obvious lie as, to be laughable.   It is no different  from states  in the 1950's and 60's who claimed racial discrimination was a protected religious belief.  

(hat tip to Matt Baume over at HuffPost).

In 1946, Mississippi Governor Theodore Bilbo wrote, "[p]urity of race is a gift of God ... And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed."

One of Bilbo's gubernatorial successors added that "the good Lord was the original segregationist."
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court went even further: "[t]he natural law which forbids [racial intermarriage] and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to [the races] different natures."

Lambda Legal breaks down the lies coming from Gov. Pence
Governor Pence continues to deceive the public about this deeply flawed law. Let's clarify a few things.

Gov. Pence myth: SB 101 is just like Illinois law that then-State Senator Obama voted to support.

Truth: Gov. Pence fails to point out that Illinois has robust non-discrimination clauses in its state Human Rights Act that specifically protect LGBT people. Indiana does not. This matters because those seeking to discriminate in Indiana may claim that the lack of a state wide law barring sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination means that there is no compelling state interest in enforcing local ordinances providing such protections.

Gov. Pence myth: This law only reinforces established law in Indiana.

Truth: The language in SB 101 is so broadly written that someone can sue even without their religious beliefs having actually been burdened simply by claiming that is 'likely' to happen.

Gov. Pence myth: SB101 is just like federal law that President Clinton signed 20 years ago.

Truth: SB 101 is substantially broader than the federal law. The federal RFRA can only be invoked against government action. SB 101 goes much further, inviting discrimination by allowing religious beliefs to be raised as a defense in lawsuits and administrative proceedings brought by workers, tenants and customers who have suffered discrimination. In addition, SB 101 makes it easier to claim a burden on religious freedom than the federal RFRA by defining the 'exercise of religion' as 'any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.'

"If Governor Pence meant it when he said that SB101 isn't intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people, then why were amendments designed to make that explicit repeatedly rejected during the legislative process? If he truly means what he says, then he and the legislature should work together to add this language: 'This chapter does not establish or eliminate a defence to a claim under any federal, state or local law protecting civil rights or preventing discrimination.' And the Indiana government should include gay and transgender people within Indiana's protections from discrimination."

SB101  It is unconstitutional, and un-American.    It will do nothing but wreak economic damage on the State of Indiana  and for what?  A thinly veiled attempt to keep the social conservative love affair with Mike Pence alive.

The debate over the Indiana law has clearly shown one thing.   Right wing social conservatives truly believe the United States Constitution only applies to them.   

They see equal treatment under the law for people they don't like, as discrimination against them.     Think about that for moment.  These are people who think that  if anyone different from them is  given the same rights, not more rights, not different rights, not special rights.  Just the exact same rights as they have, that is somehow an attack on them.

Funny enough there is a word  in the dictionary that means exactly that...

bigot: noun big·ot \ˈbi-gət\  : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Republicans, Behold Your Future!

Texas Senator, and Tea-Party nutcase, Ted Cruz's announced yesterday that he is running for president.

I was going to write a fairly detailed analysis of just how nutty Cruz is, breaking down each of his main platform points and then comparing and contrasting them with , you know... reality.   But as I started to write, I realised I just don't care. Ted Cruz in all his glorious wackjob-ness is the embodiment of just why the Republican Party cannot be taken seriously, on any issue

There once was a time, when the United States had two political parties that articulated arguments for their respective political and governing philosophies. Where America's national political discourse was a wide open marketplace of competing ideas.

Contrasting views on the role and scope of Government, were debated side by side along with questions of America's role in the world, and our duty and obligations to own people at home.

It was a time when leaders like Eisenhower, who had seen the horrors of war first hand cautioned us all against seeing war as just another factor of an economic equation.    Where leaders like Nixon, yes,  Richard M. Nixon, even with all his personal faults, sins and demons,  knew America could not  achieve lasting peace and security without actually sitting down and talking with our adversaries.   Where leaders like Gerald Ford,   didn't just wave "country first" around on banner, but rather lived that ideal,  fully aware of what it would cost him politically.
It  was a time when leaders like Ronald Reagan, could sit down with a leader like Tip O'Neil.  Understanding that  the heat of political differences can be  the furnace from which broad workable solutions for the country as whole, could be forged.    And it was a time when a leader like George HW Bush understood that a Superpower must live the example of  just use of .military might.   Where military force  is  used within the confines of, and with the justification of,  international  law.
Now?  The once Grand Old Party gets Ted Cruz. 

America should have a robust debate on the costs of, and access to Health Care and Health Insurance. Yet how can you have a debate on the issue of health care reform when the GOP go-to talking point is to claim that prohibiting insurance companies from dropping you because you got sick, is worse than slavery, or the holocaust ?

You can't. So it comes as no surprise that when pressed to answer what they would do in place of the affordable care act, NONE of the GOP would-be Presidential contenders including Cruz, are able to give even a coherent answer.

 America should have a robust debate on the nature and scope of our role on the world stage. Yet how can you have a debate on how best to ensure national security,  when the GOP's reflex reaction to America engaging with other nations, is to all but commit treason. Sending letters to foreign leaders to undermine US foreign policy for the sole purpose of trying to politically damage the President of the United States?

You can't. So it comes as no surprise that when pressed to explain how they would ensure peace and security, we have a cast of chicken hawks, all to eager to start yet another war,  that none of them, nor their sons and daughters would ever dream of actually fighting in.
America should have a robust debate on taxation, and how we as country can best live within our means. Funding both our obligations and our aspirations. Yet how can you have a debate when the GOP's only economic model is to insist that Robin Hood in reverse will somehow help everyone?  

You can't. So it comes at no surprise that the GOP Presidential contenders embrace the idea that giving the wealthiest of Americans massive tax cuts, and then having everyone else bear the costs for those giveaways,  is a path to magical economic prosperity.  In spite of  clear, irrefutable historical and mathematical proof to the contrary.

So  as the nonsensical , fact free rantings of  Texas Senator Ted Cruz, get their 15 minutes of  fame, I urge my republican  friends to take good  hard look.    This is  your Party's future.   As the  tea party faithful scream about "wanting their country back",  when will you finally  stand up and take your Party back?