Friday, January 28, 2005

Another Nudge for John and I to Leave Indiana

The beginning of a painful and ugly process. From the Indianapolis Star:

Star report
January 27, 2005

The Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee is likely to take up a joint resolution Feb. 9 that could lead to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the panel's chairman said Wednesday.

The measure, authored by Sens. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, and Allie Craycraft, D-Selma, states that in Indiana, marriage will consist solely of the union between a man and a woman.

If the General Assembly passes Senate Joint Resolution 7 this year, a separately elected legislature would have to pass an identical measure before the proposed change could appear on the statewide ballot.

"I expect that to pass committee and the Senate, since it passed 42-7 last year in a very strong bipartisan vote," the committee's chairman, Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said. "We will give it a fair hearing, probably an hour for each side, most likely in the Senate chamber."

Long said the measure is needed even though the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled last week that the Indiana Constitution includes no right for same-sex couples to marry.

"What you have to remember is courts can change their minds. What one court says today may change tomorrow," Long said. "I think that will make a rock-solid statement about where Indiana stands on the institution of marriage. Only that statement would be able to stand the test of time."

I love that a "a fair hearing" is "probaby an hour for each side." Is that all the time it takes to discuss the social, legal, and economic implications of such a decision on 20,000 people and their kids?

I wish corporate Indiana would put its foot down. The last thing Indiana needs is one more reason for creative and progressive companies not to move here--and believe me this kind of thing speaks volumes about quality of life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Philip Johnson: Through the Glass Curtain Wall

The passing of architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005) feels big to me. He gleefully created and burned bridges between high modern architectural style and whatever he felt like paying attention to next. Some people considered him an intellectual opportunist. Maybe he was, but I choose to think of him as an exemplary American creative force who tended to stay wedded to an idea just long enough to rethink it, and he had to rethink some pretty big ideas in his life.

Maybe he wasn't the best architect of the last 100 years. But I've lived and worked in the shadow of several Philip Johnson buildings. Though I may not have enjoyed them all, I was never disinterested in looking at any of them. His artistic presence and decisions have and will continue to challenge our ideas about tradition, shelter, and commerce. Sometimes I wonder if he was as much a conceptual artist as he was an architect.

A good story from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Federal Constitutional Marriage Amendment

Get ready to defend yourself or someone you love. Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) will reintroduce the Marriage Protection Amendment on the senate floor today.

Please call or write your congressman (how to info below) and let them know that with a protracted war in Iraq, potential trouble in Iran and other countries, a flailing economy, rising gas prices, and potential terrorist threats you would like to see the senate worry about things that will keep you from getting blown away or ending up in the poor house rather than exploring ways to further marginalize a minority.

Why a federal amendment is a bad idea:

The passing of a federal MPA goes against federalist principles that allow states to decide these kinds of things for themselves. With 11 states banning equal protection for families of same-sex couples in the last year, no one seems to need any help from Allard and the right wing fundamentalists. The bigger point, however, is that letting states decide allows each state to figure out how they want to structure their experiment with allowing gay marriage or not. And it gives families who face descrimination options (though few) to move to places where they are protected should their state decide to ban them from ever receiving protection.

To send your senator an e-mail message now, go here.

The following people thank you for your help:

  • Spouses who are currently denied the right to make decisions on a partner's behalf in a medical emergency. If an individual is unmarried, the legal "next of kin" automatically assumes this right. This means, for example, that a gay man with a life partner of many years may be forced to accept the financial and medical decisions of a sibling or parent with whom he may have a distant or even hostile relationship.  

  • Spouses who are unable to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work to care for a seriously ill partner or parent of a partner. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 permits individuals to take such leave to care for ill spouses, children and parents but not a partner or a partner's parents. 

  • Spouses whose same-sex partners are not allowed to immigrate.

  • Spouses who have adopted children, but who are denied the right to assume parenting rights and responsibilities when children are brought into a family through birth, adoption, surrogacy or other means. For example, in most states, there is no law providing a noncustodial, nonbiological or nonadoptive parent's right to visit a child - or responsibility to provide financial support for that child - in the event of a breakup.

  • Families who are denied Social security benefits, income and estate tax benefits, disability benefits, family-related military and veterans benefits and other important benefits.

  • Spouses who do not have the right to inherit property from a partner in the absence of a will.

  • Families who are denied access to 1,138 federal rights protections, and responsibilities automaticaly granted to married heterosexual couples

These are just a few of the tens of thousands of Americans who are grateful for your help. Biggie up to the Human Rights Campaign for the family rights talking points.

Monday, January 24, 2005

My Christmas Present

This year John got me a radio station for Christmas. No kidding. It is an FM station on the lower end of the dial, 88.3. Don't bother trying to tune in unless you are within about a block radius of our house. If we try to increase the range much more than that the FCC tends to take an interest in what we are doing, and who wants that?

I have not decided upon call letters yet, but given our diminuative range I'm leaning towards WHCW (Holy Cross/Westminster is the name of our neighborhood). We still have to work out a few kinks, like a better antennae and a decent microphone, but we are on the air. I won't let our neighbors know about it until I firm up our programming schedule.

I'm planning to gear programming to neighborhood interests for obvious reasons. Here are some ideas I've had so far:

Daily School Lunch Menu report

Growing up in Batesville my family listened every morning to Duffie Bryant's* Roving Fisherman's Report, broadcast live from Bryant and Sons Lumber Company. The show would begin with the song "Gone Fishin'." Then Duffie would update Batesville on things like weather, fishing conditions (obviously), and ways to barbecue a raccoon, but the thing I waited to hear each day was the school lunch menu report. One by one Duffie would read off the lunch menus for each school in the area--from Calico Rock to Oil Trough. The report was timed to come on so that if necessary you would have enough time to pack your lunch before the bus arrived. I remember feeling jealous of some schools because of what they would be having that day. And it seemed like Pleasant Plains always got to have hamburgers at least twice a week. Anyway, surely local kids would still appreciate such information.

Local Construction Report

We have a lot of new houses being built or renovated in our area. It can be hard to keep up, so I thought I might provide weekly updates on what has happened that week in the realm of local real estate.

Weekly Bedtime Story

Wouldn't it be fun to read to kids before bedtime without having to hear them say "one more?" That's the beauty of radio! I think parents would appreciate that, too. This would be a fun guest spot opportunity. So if you visit me, don't be surprised if you I ask you to be a guest reader.

Gospel Lighthouse Jubilee, Pastor Butch Haskell's Country Gospel and Bluegrass Show

Another potential guest op. for you all. The pastor at Gospel Lighthouse Church blends his special messages with music made for skippin' down streets of gold.

These are the starters, and I'm open for suggestions. By the way, special thanks go to my friend Kris W., part of the Minneapolis-based dynamic husband and wife tech. duo who turned John on to the idea of getting me a radio station for Christmas. You and Scott can be Pastor Butch's first guests when you come down for the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival this year.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Indiana Court: Once You Wed, Get to Bed!

No surprise, but Indiana's Court of Appeals upheld Indiana's gay marriage ban in a ruling yesterday. But what does the opinion of the court tell us about the nature of the debate?

From the Indianapolis Star

Today's ruling comes 12 months after judges Michael P. Barnes, Ezra H. Friedlander and James S. Kirsch heard final arguments in the case. The lawsuit drew court briefs from organizations ranging from the Indiana General Assembly to the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

"The key question in our view is whether the recognition of same-sex marriage would promote all of the same state interests that opposite-sex marriage does, including the interest in marital procreation," Judge Barnes wrote for the court. "If it would not, then limiting the institution of marriage to opposite-sex couples is rational and acceptable under Article I, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution."

Okay, first off I have to say "state interests" in "marital procreation" kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies. Is it just me or does it seem kind of creepy to hear judges and politicians talk about the institution of marriage like it is some sort of baby factory? Is Indiana's brain drain so disastrous that the state is worried that married folks won't produce enough children in the future? And don't get me started on the images brought to mind by the "Society of Catholic Social Scientists." These folks should be working over time to protect the children who will be future litigants once they are molested by priests who are shuttled from one church to another in order to hide their shame.

But as long as they brought it up, let's talk about our interest in marital procreation. Yes, I think marital procreation is a good thing. How about marriages where procreation is not possible, but where the home is still open to raising children who do not have families? Does the state not have an interest in supporting non-procreative marriages as well? Yes, and lo and behold, the state, in fact, does support those marriages, unless the couple happens to be of the same sex.

In the Chicago Tribune's article (subscription required) on the story:

The court ruled that the ban did not violate the constitution because ``opposite-sex marriage furthers the legitimate state interest in encouraging opposite-sex couples to procreate responsibly and have and raise children within a stable environment.''

``Regardless of whether recognizing same-sex marriage would harm this interest, neither does it further it,'' said the ruling written by Barnes in which the other two judges concurred.

The court said that the ability of opposite-sex marriages to reproduce distinguishes them from same-sex couples and that the couples who filed the lawsuit did not establish that they had a ``core value'' right to marry and receive the governmental benefits of marriage.

So gay couples do not have a "core value" right to marry and receive the governmental benefits of marriage. The same article goes on to talk about how there are 10,000 gay couples living in Indiana. How does a court determine what "core value" rights are for 20,000 people who are in various stages of committed relationships? Is the right only granted to couples who can procreate? There are married heterosexual couples who cannot, or do not. Are core rights based on who stays together longest in stable relationships? I know lots of same-sex couples who have healthier and longer-lived relationships even by Dr. Phil's standards than some heterosexual people who are Republicans holding seats in the Indiana House of Representatives.

At the end of the day, the conservative argument is not fed by logic or reason. It is about prejudice and exclusion, and maybe fear of not obeying the Bible. Opponents of gay marriage can talk all day about how they "love gays" and how love-based their motivations are, but I don't buy it. What evidence of love is there from these people? And they can talk all day about how they are just following what the Bible says, too. But we are not stupid. I watch as they remain blatently disobedient to texts that receive a lot more real estate and weight in scripture. Texts that offer reason to believe and even anticipate that our "Biblical" understanding of marriage evolves over time. I see them ignore texts that reflect what true, fearless love looks like. I see these people for who they really are. And God does, too. Thankfully people change. I hope my attitude and my own set of prejudices do, since this promises to be an ugly fight.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Does a Bear Meditate in the Woods?

I had lunch with my friend Barbara the other day at one of my favorite downtown spots, the Elbow Room . She was a flight attendant for a major airline in Texas for years (retired now). Additionally she has a masters in social work and is a specialist in Danish Indiana history.

As we ate she asked me how I was doing. She knows I typically struggle with winter's gloominess here in Indiana--and being the good social worker, airline attendant, Indiana specialist that she is, she is quite the comforting soul to talk to about it. I told her that I was having a suprisingly positive January, this despite record rainfalls here. Back in December I had decided to develop strategies for handling winter. One strategy I'm using this year is to stay close to Sam as much as possible when it is gray outside, doing Sam things like reading, sketching, praying, reflecting. The other strategy is to stay busy if I find myself having to be outside surrounded by winter's bleakness instead of dwelling on just how depressing things look.

I told her that this all seemed to be working. I was still surprised, however, by how deliberately I had to think about things to keep from ending up on an anti-depressant like I have in the past, especially since I loved winter in Arkansas.

She pointed out that until this past March I was in a work situtation that didn't help matters. She also suggested that part of the problem I have had was that I was trying to live through winter here like I did in the South. In the South you don't really slow down during winter. The occassional snow storm (and they do have them) doesn't stay on the ground long--which means you actively do anything you can to bond with it before it goes away. Additionally, my personality is one that doesn't stop unless it is forced to do so. So things like meditation, planning, sitting still and just being have always been a little hard for me.

Then, like the Danish/Hoosier/Texan social worker shaman that she is, Barbara asked me to imagine a bear in hibernation. Bears don't really sleep through winter. They slow their heart rate and bio-systems down; they keep a personal distance from the outside world by maintaining a state of half-consciousness, during which nature takes care of them in other ways. In essence, they naturally adopt what would look biologically like a meditative state. Whatever bears produce (offspring? fearful hikers?) ceases until spring.

This kind of reminded me of what my friend Dave, a proud Hoosier who wouldn't live anywhere else, said when I asked him how he handled winter. He said he loved it. He puts on comfortable, but nice looking and well-made clothes and blankets (fashion is as important as comfort to Dave). Then he paints and reads and enjoys his and his partner Ken's home. He is a marathon runner so he still does that too, but his focus is turned inside the home.

Barb encouraged me to meditate and pay attention to my inward life more in winter, ceasing or at least lowering expectations for producing things then. This way when spring comes, my mind and heart, like the thawing ground are ready to sprout wonderful things. Another real world example of this: at John's job he has to supervise a complete shut down of their entire building's operations before it can gear up and resume production. (When I told John about the meditating bear idea he closed his eyes, held out his hands with upturned palms, and growled.)

My point, I guess, is that I haven't really been working with what God gives me here in the way of weather. Paying more attention to bear-like ways of getting along in winter (I do have the extra poundage thing down) I can work with what God provides rather than against it.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Don't Confuse Arkansas Lawmakers with the Facts

In response to the recent Arkansas court decision that found that children of homosexual parents are as well-adusted as those of heterosexual partents, a bipartisan effort is underway to push a bill through the house that would prohibit homosexual people from being foster parents. The full story from the Northwest edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is here.

According to the article, one of the bill's co-sponsors, Senator Jim Holt, R-Springdale doesn't seem to think the amount and quality of evidence presented to Judge Tim Fox mattered. Instead, he waves it way (if he read it at all) and pulls out the specious "nature" argument.

Holt said in a telephone interview Friday that "nature" proves that gay foster parents cause "psychological, emotional and physical damage" to foster children. "Nature itself reveals that [homosexuality] is not natural, and that it is not the way it should be," Holt said, adding that he filed his bill "not out of anger, it is not out of hatred, it is just out of love."

Awww, that Jim. His love is so heart-warmingly apparent. Still, I wouldn't mind taking a look at his copy of "Mother Nature's Guide to Why Gay People Should not be Foster Parents." I haven't run across that one at Barnes and Nobles. Nor has anyone else or I suspect Judge Fox might have considered it as part of his opinion. In fact there is quite a bit of evidence, which Judge Fox did consider evidently, that proves otherwise.

Whenever you hear that "It ain't natural" argument thrown around, keep in mind that "natural" is defined as anything that occurs in nature, and I do. I know gay foster parents are a new idea for some, and when it comes to our children, we should most certainly be cautious. We should carefully evaluate people's parenting skills before making them caretakers. But honestly, gay parents have been fostering in Indiana for awhile. If the potential foster parents make it through the training courses, it works out just fine. Believe me, unless Arkansas has become a meaner place than Indiana recently, if it will work here, it will work there.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Big Bang

John and I went home to be with my parents in Arkansas for Christmas. Even though the journey by car is nine hours we still prefer to drive. That we do amazes even me since driving through southern Illinois is like looking at hell through oatmeal-colored glasses. The only thing remarkable about that section of the drive is the number of adult book stores and a 198-foot corrugated aluminum cross by the interstate near Effingham. Since I consider myself neither an adult nor a fan of metal crosses, we don't visit either. John wondered aloud this trip if one exists because of the other. Oh, a side note (as if any of this isn't), anytime someone around here hears you say "Effingham" the conditioned response is "what do you have against ham?" followed by mouth-covered giggles.

One of the reasons we drive home at Christmas is because it gives us a chance to be alone and work on memorizing the incidental comments Bing Crosby makes before songs on his Chrismtas CD. Free sample: "A couple of teenage tunesmiths, Bob Wells and Mel Torme' have penned an item quite appropriate for this time of year..." The main reason we drive though is so we can stop at Boomland in Charlston, MO. Boomland is four acres of the finest fireworks selection you are ever likely to see. At least it usually is. This year it was quite a bit smaller than normal. On our way in I asked one of the checkout ladies why this was and she said in a very matter of fact way, "Well, we burned down two months ago." Then with an excited lilt, "This a brand new store!" She was so proud. I asked her if anyone was hurt in the explosion and she said that they got everyone out. We congratulated them. I got a shopping cart, said a little prayer as I walked under the billboard-sized "Absolutely No Smoking!" sign, and headed for the non-reporting sparkly fountains (my favorites).

We stop at Boomland for Christmas fireworks in honor of my Granddad who passed on a few years ago. When we were kids he would always give my sister, our cousins and me each a little bag of fireworks on Christmas Eve. My Dad would light a cigarette for us and we'd take off out the door to shoot them. For the most part we were on our own. We'd light the firecrackers or bottle rockets, put the cigarette in our mouth and run. The only time we involved our parents was when we needed another cigarette or when it came time to light sparklers, which required Granddad's lighter. I never stopped to think about it until later, but our family was probably more like the shepherds than the wisemen when it came to Christmas celebrations. We were rowdy and noisy and the Bible says people thought the shepherds were drunk when they told them about Jesus being born. Well, we weren't drinking, but some of us smoked back in the 80s. And who wouldn't want fireworks at their birthday party?

So for the last few years, John and I have brought home fireworks for Christmas Eve. We try to consider our neighbors since my parents don't live in the country like my grandparents did. We look for "non-reporting" explosives. Inevitably some of the ones we pick most definately do report even though they say they won't. But we at least make sure to steer clear of ones with titles like "Shock and Awe" or my favorite this year, "Public Outrage." I actually circled that one a few times before deciding against it.

No, we tend to lean towards fireworks with names like "Christmas Eve," "Golden Pavilion," and "Shower of Stars." And my sister Christie really likes Roman candles (Rosie, do I capitalize Roman when I'm referring to fireworks and did the Romans really have candles like these?) so we always get a few of those for her. We also get some of those little flower ones that spin on the ground, and those that do nothing but turn into big strobe flashes for a minute or two when you light them. On the 4th of July, my McClain friends and Adam and Brad and I would dance around these once we lit them, so we always called them "Tribal Dance", a most un-p.c. name, I know. I don't know what their actual name is.

On Christmas Eve we had four inches of snow on the ground so the sparkly ones were especially pretty. I would light them on the street in front of our house and my family would stand on the front porch and applaud. This year our neighbors came out to watch, which was especially gratifying. At least I was gratified. They may have been passive-aggressively expressing their disapproval, but either way I'm sure they ended up enjoying themselves.

When Christie decided to light the Roman candles (I'm going to go ahead and err on the side of respect to the Romans) she got in front of our little porch group so that she would aim toward the street (and toward our neighbors' house now that I think about it--no wonder they were watching). She also decided that she would show-off a little and shoot two at once. Everyone is aware of and ignores the fact that you are not even supposed to hold one Roman candle as it fires, but not being one to curtail anyone's holiday fun I lit both fuses anyway.

(Cue fireworks PSA.) I kept looking off in the direction that the fire balls were supposed to go, but nothing was showing up there even though I could hear the sound of them launching. Then I figured out that my sister was holding the Roman candles backwards and the fireballs were shooting at all of us who were backed up against the house! The next few minutes are a little blurry in my memory. The fireballs were like flashbulbs that kept temporarily blinding us so it became hard to see who was where. But I do remember seeing Christie frantically trying to figure out how to flip the Roman candles around to face the right direction without the use of a free hand (someone later suggested that she might have just turned around).

In the meantime my dad, John, my sister's husband, Kevin, and I were doing a new tribal dance, jumping around trying to dodge the fireballs hitting the ground all around us like tiny meteors. My eyes finally adjusted to the light enough to be able to see. My instincts told me to find my mom (I'm not sure if it was out of fear for her safety or my own). I looked around and couldn't see her. I finally found her lying flat on her back on the porch. By this time Christie must have figured out how to send the fireballs in another direction because we were no longer being shot at.

My mom had fallen against the house, bent her glasses, fell flat on her back and then couldn't get up (in retrospect there was no really good reason for her to do that anyway). My mom falls a lot at the holidays. One year we were guests at the McClains for their annual Christmas Eve barn-trek, Christmas story, carol-singing extravaganza. As in any barn, if you are going to stay you sit on hay bales. Mom and Pat (Mom McClain-benefactress of my beloved Christmas tree topper) were sitting pretty high on the bales when something slipped and my mom managed to roll head over heels to the bottom in a heap. This Christmas, as then, once we finally figured out that she was okay, we got her up and did what we always do when someone in our family falls and hurts themselves--mocked her while laughing hysterically. Then we all spent the next 30 minutes looking for my sister's dog, Lucy, who had taken off for the river once Christie began shooting fireballs at her.

Things calmed down enough for us to set off the finale' firework--a sparkly, correctly positioned little number called Heavenly Rainbow, which we all managed to enjoy even though we were still breathing kind of hard. I'm not sure that our little fireworks show was what Jesus had in mind with regard to celebrating Christmas, but I can tell you He got invited to the party at least a dozen times by me alone.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Moonie Mania

Okay, I've been poking around in cyberspace to explore this Bush and Sun Myung Moon business. It is fascinating. Moon is the Sam Walton of self-proclaimed messiahs. We're talking loaded! No wonder Bush and right-wingers all over creation treat him like an ATM. All I can say is the Moonies must have sold a gazillion flowers back in the 70s.

So the recent info I got was from an article by John Gorenfeld who tracks Moonie business. Thanks to John Avarosis at Americablog for the tip. Gorenfeld follows Moon pretty closely and all of the political and religious suckups who tow or dance close to his line. Some of the documented events are truly bizarre, like the crowning of Moon in one of the Senate buildings back in 2004. The event was attended by a lot of Hill folk who later denied being there. Unfortunately, cameras on duty don't lie. And by the way, a simple google search of Sun Myung Moon and Bush will keep you busy reading for hours on the subject.

If you don't want to wade through the mounds of what seems to be a preface to the apocalypse (let's just say Jesus is coming soon, but just to ask Tim Lahaye to revise his Left Behind series*), go to this Washington Times article for an account of a bizarre Moon-sponsered event. Bush Sr. sent a videotaped greeting, Bush Jr. wrote a letter that was read to the crowd, and Bob Dole rolled in for the main event. BTW, Moon owns the Washington Times. I won't make a big deal out of that, since a lot of big money people who influence politics own major news outlets (Ted Turner=CNN, Roger Ailes=Fox), but just so you know. It is also important to note that a few democrats also support Moon (Rep. Danny Davis, D-IL presented the crown the coronation ceremony I mentioned!), though none with profiles as high as the president and former president. And Moon hates Clinton.

By and large it is the right, and especialy the religious right, who take Moon's money. In the admittedly mild interest of fairness, I looked for any shred of defense from the right regarding its connection with Moon. The only thing I could find, and curiosity had me searching pretty hard in the end, was from the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, right up there with the Wash. Times in terms of its conservative bent. Here.

In the end, is unapologetic adulation for Moon from people like George Bush, Sr. that big a deal? Say what you will about ethically sound contribution sources, but the fact that the more scary brand of conservativism has a fathoms deep money source is probably nothing the democrats don't also wish they had. Moon is likely viewed by many on the right as a deluded and generous donor who hopes to gain credibility and influence through their acceptance of his donations. While they may laugh off Moon's ultimate goals as they take his money, he uses the photo ops and quotes from people like Bush, Dole, Falwell, etc., (often reprinted in his Washington Times) to recruit scores of emotionally vulnerable folks into his pseudo-messianic efforts to control the world. Crowns, robes, world domination-- 21st century baroque camp at its finest. Too bad Moon's hurting people.

But none of that matters to people like Bush and Falwell. They just keep living by their "I got mine" philosophy and forget the effect of their actions on everyone else. What is truly strange is that the ground level supporters of the conservative right don't seem to have a problem with Moon's many-tentacled connection to their leaders (though there are a few websites even further to the right of Falwell who are hopping mad about it). One of my more conservative commenters recently warned me to beware of the political Koolaid I drink. For my younger readers he was referring to the Jim Jones cult mass-suicide where everyone drank poison Koolaid (Jim Jones was a Hoosier by the way. We're so proud). From what I can gather observing cult caution is good advice for both sides of the aisle.

*Wait! Jesus can't have Lahaye do the rewrites! He and his wife accept money from Moon, too (read down to section 6)!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

We Love Sam

Ode to Sam

John and I don't have a dog. We have a wood stove. We call him Samson (Sam for short) because for such a little guy he puts out a lot of heat. If we don't leave his front door open, we can heat our whole house for a day. This morning everything outside was frosted with one of those gentle snows that piles high on everything. Snow on a Saturday means I'll spend the morning in the kitchen, sitting in one of the wingbacks next to Sam.

I'll be here until about noon with my feet propped up in their Harley Davidson slippers and covered by my favorite wool throw. I will limit myself to doing only those things that I can do within six feet of Sam: drink coffee, read, look through my two new Benjamin Moore paint decks, etc. The flames inside his inky casing sound like sheets billowing in the wind on a distant clothes line. This sound and the occassional pop of the wood are nice companions to the world outside in all its muffled glory.

Now that I live in Indiana I've come to really appreciate a wood stove as well as the occassional snow. The winters are unapologetically gray here, and any spare bit of light seems to scurry out the nearest window or door when given the chance. Without snow, the sky and the blacktop form a gun-metal cacoon that numbs the senses as you drive down the road. Native Midwesterners seem built to handle such conditions (a trait I admire). As for me, I typically feel pretty droopy-eyed until late March. Snow on the ground acts like a giant mirror that helps keep me from slipping into a depressive coma.

Thankfully, our kitchen lets in lots of light during the day so when it snows it is a good place to be. And once we fire Sam up, very few things seem important enough to make me leave his side.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Losin' My Religion

My friend Duane reminded me that the House Republicans were not the thoughtful, reflective bunch that I gave them credit for being. In fact, it looks like they are exactly the kinds of jerks who would make it so that none of their self-absorbed number will ever have to be investigated if there is a deadlocked vote to do so or not in the Ethics committee, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Very convenient. NY Times has the story here (subscription required). How bad does it have to get before people start to realize that the country we live in is starting to look like Stalin's U.S.S.R.?

And where in the world are the Dems? They should be raising the roof on this issue. Can someone please remind me why I'm a Democrat? They are such a bunch of Do-nothing Dannys these days. Maybe I'm missing something, but what have they done for anyone lately? I'm still irritated that so few have the guts to defend civil rights for all families during this ridiculous time. All I hear is, "I don't believe in changing marriage either, why don't you vote for me?"

I'm waiting for the Democrat with guts enough to say, "Yes, I believe all couples with children should be able to protect their families without spending their kids' college tuition money to hire a lawyer in order to do it! What kind of hateful ass doesn't believe that should be? And I believe couples who have committed their lives to each other should freely receive all the same protections and end of life options our society offers heterosexual married couples." And hello, if you are a fan of your body's rights, you should be concerned, too. The Republicans control everything right now so is there anything else to lose by standing up for what is right at least once in awhile before James Dobson becomes president?

I am so over this playing to the muddy middle business. The danger of assimilating to the mainstream is that you ignore the outcast, the downtrodden, or just the plain outsider--and the outsiders are frequently the ones who have had to think about things the most. If Democrats would challenge people rather than trying to convince them that they believe the same things as everyone when they don't, they might find that many Americans change their minds when they understand all of the facts. No one respects a "yes"-man.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Southern Exposures

I love the South. But the religious right and their homogenized, borg-like, Walmart-discounted brand of Christianity has made it a less interesting and more hateful place to live lately, at least for gay people. I'm convinced that this is only for the time being.

A Southern Voice article discusses just how bad it got last year and some of the glimmers of hope for the future. Some highlights:

Skip Florida Unless You Live in Miami Beach and Don't Plan to Parent

"Appeals court upholds Fla. gay adoption ban. A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Florida can legally bar “practicing homosexuals” from adopting children. “The state of Florida has made the determination that it is not in the best interest of its displaced children to be adopted by individuals who engage in current, voluntary homosexual activity and we have found nothing in the Constitution that forbids this policy judgment,” Judge Stanley Birch wrote in the panel’s decision."

"Miami Beach residents win D[omestic] P[artner] benefits. City commissioners in Miami Beach unanimously approved an expansive domestic partnership registry giving couples rights to hospital visitations, health care decisions and emergency medical notification. The registry is opened to Miami Beach residents and visitors, heterosexual couples and gay couples."

My take: I attended a museum conference in Florida with my former boss once. She said that she hated to go since it would break her perfect record of having never been there. Now I know why she wasn't in a hurry to visit. It is kind of a sad day when the only reason you have to celebrate is that no one can keep you from the bedside of your dying partner.

In Georgia, It is Still Possible to be Gay and a Foster Parent (With Reservations)

"County commission asked to block gay foster parents in Georgia. A heterosexual married couple in Calhoun asked the Gordon County Commission to forbid gay adults from becoming foster parents after rumors surfaced that a lesbian couple was taking classes to become a foster family. Commissioners told the couple they have no jurisdiction over foster families. But one commissioner, George Townsend, agreed gay couples should not raise children."

My take: Good heavens! Lesbians donating their disposable income and time from their busy schedules to help abused and neglected children? Thank God George Townsend, county commissioner (and parenting expert, evidently) sees the light even if none of those silly professionaly trained social workers do. Looks to me like there is a good reason that county commissioners don't have any jurisdiction in these cases.

In Tennessee The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Tennessee county’s proposed gay ban sparks rallies. More than 400 people turned out May 8 for a Rhea County Gay Day celebration prompted by the county commission’s March vote to ban gay men and lesbians and have them arrested for “crimes against nature.” The commission later rescinded the vote. On May 7, an anti-gay rally was held at the Dayton, Tenn., courthouse where a jury in 1925 convicted John Scopes of teaching evolution. In June, the Rhea commissioners opted to specify support of a state ban on gay marriage.

My take: Nothing says "credible" like anti-gay ravings from the land of people who convict science teachers of teaching evolution.

Louisville Leads the Way

"Louisville approves gay-inclusive anti-bias policy. Louisville, Ky., Mayor Jerry Abramson signed an ordinance that includes protections for gay men and lesbians and publicly criticized the ordinance’s opponents. The ordinance, approved by Louisville’s Metro Council, prohibits discrimination because of race, religion, ethnicity, age, physical disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity."

My take: This is bigger than it sounds. It is still legal in most places to fire people simply because they are gay.

And in My Home State

"Gay marriage ban wins in Arkansas. The ACLU chapter in Arkansas filed a lawsuit in state supreme court questioning the validity of the Nov. 2 ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage. The Arkansas challenge claimed the ballot initiative is misleading to voters. The suit failed, however, and Arkansas voters overwhelmingly approved the state constitutional ban of gay marriage."

My take: I've written on this before here.

But there is a shot of hope in Arkansas from more level-headed minds in this article from "" (Thanks to Ex-Gay Watch for the heads up).

Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Timothy Fox struck down a ban that kept gay and lesbian Arkansans from being foster parents. The court found that children are not harmed by being raised by gay and lesbian parents. He also found, despite the spooky and discredited "research" coming from the anti-gay religious right, that kids of gay and lesbian people are as as well adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents. All I can say is Go Hogs!

One of the most enduring and powerful of the Southern myths is that it will rise again, this despite the fact that in reality it is tearing itself down and building itself up all the time. But I still think I need that myth. It is what gives me hope that some day I can live there again.

Thank God! Flip-flopping, Republican style

House Republicans, including Tom Delay himself, decided that gutting ethics from House rules would not be such a good idea after all. A link to the AP story here.

Though they are doing their share of flip-flopping, I'm not complaining. In my opinion they are exhibiting all of the reasons why changing your mind is sometimes a good thing. I still for the life of me cannot figure out how they ever thought their other more self-serving plans were acceptable. My paranoid side wonders if Karl Rove is back there somewhere pulling America's sucker strings in order to make us think the reigning power elite Republicans are reflective and considerate.

Bad Moon Rising

Here is a story from Bush's first term from Bill Berkowitz and Atlernet that I missed. Does anyone else think this is odd besides me? When I was growing up, First Baptist Church in Batesville spent quite a few Sunday evenings telling us how scary Sun Myung Moon was. Now the cult-like leader is heading up National Prayer Breakfasts and rubbing elbows with Bush, Ashcroft, and Jerry Falwell? Say What? And how did this not cross my radar screen sooner? Below is a piece of the article, but you should read the whole thing. It is very bizarre.

"...Despite being a rhetorically-charged and lively interdenominational event, some leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) backpedaled quickly after learning that the Inaugural Prayer Luncheon for Unity and Renewal was sponsored by the Rev. Moon-run Washington Times Foundation. In a January 23 report from Baptist Press, some SBC officials claimed they knew nothing about Moon's imprint on the event. "We knew that it was going to be an interdenominational event, but we had no idea that the luncheon was hosted by the Moonies," said Merritt, pastor of an Atlanta-area church. This despite the fact that for years Moon has been lending a helping hand to several financially challenged Religious Right organizations; not long ago, he gave a large donation to help shore up the Rev. Jerry Falwell's financially troubled Liberty University..."

Hmmmmm.....If Falwell had to go to Moon for money, he must be really hard-up. I predict we'll hear a lot more from Falwell soon as he obviously needs to start pimping his political hate-mongers again to keep the cash flow going. No wonder he's trying to revive that venomous relic from the 1980s, the Moral Majority. Note the goals stated for the new MM in the Biblical Recorder's site blurb about it. But if God and the traditional religious right fail to show up with the goods, he at least knows Moon will be there for him.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Ethics? Who Needs Ethics?

Republicans are now attempting to remove watch-dog triggers that get tripped when a House member may have done something that threatens the House's credibility, and in Tom Delay's case, the voting rights of Texas citizens. According to the Washington Post (by no means a liberal rag), their plans include not allowing colleagues to bring investigations against one another unless there is a majority of members who want the investigation. And we all know who they mean by "majority" don't we?

The Republican-controlled house wants to decrease their moral accountablility. And ironically, they want to divert moral eyes away so they can keep their sinful indescretions from spoiling their pseudo-religious, neo-conservative hootenany. I hope when the 2008 election is stolen they have the good sense to install Jimmy Swaggert as president. He's the only one who could possibly maximize having the burden of ethics lifted from representative government during the "see how moral I am" years.

In a country where people only half listen to moral charges anyway (unless they are brought up as the focus of a Karl Rove/Ken Star Screamfest) there is one certainity in public relations: If you can keep someone from bringing charges against you for something you did, it's as if you didn't even do it! Score!

Am I a ranting liberal? Maybe, but I also prefer to think of myself as a morally attentive (if not morally perfect) U.S. citizen. Morality does matter, and I mean the kind of morality that hurts or helps the U.S. citizenry. For all the Republican party's sqwawking about the importance of character, they seem remarkably un-gung-ho when it comes to tracking it amongst their elected officials.