Monday, May 23, 2016

Our fixation on toilets

Apparently it goes way back.  Obsessions with restrooms drove opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment -- with exactly the same language!
For generations, Americans have imparted bathrooms with their deepest anxieties about changing social norms and practices. From the Industrial Revolution to Jim Crow to women’s lib to today, restrooms have been a proxy for political fights on almost every major issue in American life — race, class, gender, crime, sexuality, you name it. .... 
If the past is any guide, we shouldn’t count on the current struggle over restrooms for transgender people being easy or quick. In fact, bathrooms have proven a surprisingly powerful political lever over the years. They’ve been pivotal in many political arguments — and, in perhaps the most masterful harnessing of bathroom anxiety in American history, a largely invented controversy over unisex bathrooms in the 1970s ultimately killed off the almost-enacted Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Racism, fascism, wrapped in the flag....

In North Carolina, a tow truck driver refused to aid a disabled woman because she had Sanders stickers on her car.   And because he's a Christian.

Shupe, a 51-year-old from Travelers Rest, South Carolina, was very serious. “I’m a conservative Christian, I’ve just drawn a line in the sand,” he said. “I’m not going to associate or conduct business with them.” 
Right, because Jesus would decline to tow a Sanders supporter, a woman.  This is the same as the bogus "religious freedom" that wants to legalize discrimination against gays.

Of course, he's a Trump supporter.  Welcome to The Donald's America, us vs them, as long as "us" is not women, not minorities, not gays, not disabled, not Muslims.   

One of the very scary things about Donald Trump is how he has emboldened the separatists, which culminates in open racism. Indeed, this is probably the scariest thing.  White supremacists are emboldened by Trump, they call him their own.  And he won't disavow them, or the KKK.

David Duke, notable supremacist, hopes that Trump will "dispose of the Jews".  Right out there.  Breathtaking.   This is the 1930s.

Let's be clear,  This isn't just any election.
You cannot view this election solely as a choice between two platforms, two parties, or two personalities. This election is about much bigger issues. It’s about the way way we look at people, and talk about them, and care for them. It’s about the soul of America and its relationships to the world. If you care about that, you cannot vote Trump, or stay home, or vote for a third party spoiler. 
How can this man, who has fomented so much anger and hate, represent the United States to the world, and to its own people? How will minorities feel safe in the U.S. if he is president? How can this country stand to be even further divided? The chasm is already too wide. 
This isn't about politics.  This is about extinction.  Andrew Sullivan writes, in a new article entitled "Democracies end when they are too democratic"
In the wake of his most recent primary triumphs, at a time when he is perilously close to winning enough delegates to grab the Republican nomination outright, I think we must confront this dread and be clear about what this election has already revealed about the fragility of our way of life and the threat late-stage democracy is beginning to pose to itself.... 
For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.
It's not about Sanders vs Clinton.  It's about Trump the fascist vs the future of our Republic.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Double standards: hypocrisy much?

As certain people in the country are wrapped up in legalizing discrimination against gay and trans people, I give you former speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

Today, he was sentenced for a cover-up where he broke banking rules to pay hush money to a man, whom Hastert had abused as a boy.  Then he lied and claimed he was being blackmailed. The statute of limitations on the abuse has long since run out.  One of the victims testified, in tears.

Hastert has admitted that he abused the boys.

The double standard comes from the fact that  many prominent conservative Republicans and Christians have written the judge saying that Hastert is a great guy.   Pay no attention to that little issue of diddling the wrestling team.

These same prominent conservative Republicans who excoriate gay people for the radical idea that they should marry?  Yes, those guys.

Apparently, it's okay if a fine upstanding Republican Christian molests a few boys.  It's not like he's GAY, or anything, right? But let's make sure that gays can't marry, and keep child molesters out of prison because IOKIYAR. (It's OK If You Are Republican)

The judge gave him 15 months in prison.  I'm sure it will be appealed, since, well, we can't send a prominent Republican to jail, right?  Laws are for the Little People.

UPDATE:  Here's a summary of the hypocrites who impeached Clinton for an affair.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The rich are different

Excellent article in the Guardian today shows how a sense of social responsibility amongst the rich has gone.  We saw a sense of honor in which economic elites served in the military during the World Wars.  Now, the military is disproportionately people of lower income strata.  We got universities and libraries from the Rockefellers and the Carnegies.   Now, we get self-serving academic "institutes" from the Brothers Koch that are intended to reinforce their political views.
The military is only one example of how disconnected wealthy Americans are from their country. The extraordinarily low rate of charitable giving among the rich offers more evidence. Even though we live in a time of entrenched income inequality, poor Americans actually give a higher percentage of their income to charity than the rich do. .... 
The selfish worldview of America’s upper classes is underscored by their demand for ever greater financial rewards. In the last 50 years, CEO compensation rateshave soared. For example, in 1965 the typical CEO made about 20 times as much as average workers. By 2013, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio grew to nearly 300 to 1. 
Despite their soaring share of the nation’s wealth, the rich go to enormous lengths to avoid paying taxes. A recent study found that wealthy Americans have moved $36bn into offshore tax havens. 
The rich have also poured money into the campaigns of candidates who cut the government programs that most benefit middle-class and working-class Americans, such as public schools and healthcare. And the wealthy increasingly cluster in neighborhoods that isolate them from other social classes. 
History shows it does not have to be this way.
How do we re-connect the wealthy with the rest of us?  Well, if people are making that much money, they are living in a cocoon.  For example, I was walking along the waterfront a few weeks ago and totally awed by the Super-yachts, one with the helicopter on the back.  They were docked apart from the other pleasure boats, sea going vessels that looked lean and mean and fast, and anonymous, like the big black limos that snake around big cities.

Us vs them indeed.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


In this fevered political season, the emotions are running dangerously high.

I made the mistake of making a measured and technical comment about primary rules in a discussion thread and immediately was jumped on by a number of people (rabid Sanders fans, in this case) who essentially accused me of being a shill for the DNC and a corrupt part of every political problem we face.  All I made was a factual statement about rules;  I didn't say I agreed with them, nor indeed whom I support.  This personal invective was striking against a total stranger who, based on the site involved, is like to be a fellow Democrat.

(Except, as a number pointed out, they are not Democrats.  They want to choose the Democratic candidate, but they don't want the contamination of being in the Democratic party.)

This angry other-ness appears to motivate many of Trump's supporters, too.  For the anti-establishment campaigns, it's US vs THEM, although the THEM differs between the two camps:  Hillary supporters, establishment figures, Muslims, gays, poor people, or anyone who might be some of those....


What everyone seems to forget is that we don't get to live in a country of people who agree with us.  We live in a messy, divided country, pretty much split down the middle, where we all have to get along.  And that means we can't be righteous purists.  We need to compromise all the time, give a little, get a little.

That's how our government used to work, before a Republican majority decided that their role wasn't to govern, but to oppose President Obama.  Before the right wing bloviators decided that the goal wasn't to move ahead, but to de-legitimize every Democrat.  Before we developed hyper-partisanship into a religion.

Oh, and the left isn't immune from this.  Think of the last couple of  years, with protests on campuses against speakers who didn't pass a left-wing purity test.  I mean, I don't support Condoleeza Rice's politics at all but there is no question she is an accomplished woman,  who played an important role at a crucial point of history.  But she was too impure for Rutgers students in 2014.

And the isolationists-- the "Bernie or Bust" folks who wouldn't soil themselves by voting for Hillary--  they are part of the problem. They have become nihilists intent on destruction, careless of the collateral damage.   And voting for the Green Party is actually voting for Trump, or Cruz, and negating any chance of progressive values actually getting enacted.

Look at the difference of the right and the left this way.  When the right wing got passionate, they worked within the Republican machine, created the Tea Party, and have successfully (in a manner of speaking) pushed their agenda into the GOP,  with seats in Congress sufficient to bring down a Speaker.  I don't like the Tea Party politics at all, but hat's off to how they organized and gained power.

Alas,  the progressive wing of the Democratic party  deals with disappointment differently.  They are pure, so they go away and vote Green, which hasn't a chance of winning.  Sorry, there are just NOT ENOUGH progressives to win an election by themselves.  But, as we saw with Nader and Gore, there are enough votes lost to turf things over to the Republicans.  And that Cheney thing worked out SO well, didn't it?

Still, if you want to move the Democratic party leftward, you have to elect better Democrats.  You also have to do the hard work of local elections, down-ticket elections, putting a Congress in place that can actually act on some of these grand ideas. You can't be pure and take your marbles and go home if you want actually to effect change.  You have to work with people like me.  I am not a progressive --but I am a liberal.

And just a word: personal insults and ad hominem attacks against strangers on the internet are a great way to turn off potential allies.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

South Carolina and a twist on religious freedom

From the Washington Post, a sad tale from South Carolina.  First, some history--remember, religious freedom was near and dear to the founding fathers!  I did not know this honorable role from SC:
South Carolina became a pioneer in providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing religious persecution with the March 1, 1669, Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina protecting the rights of “Jews, heathens, and other dissenters from the purity of Christian religion.” This included a Charleston community of Sephardic Jews, who finally found sanctuary after generations of roaming the globe following their expulsion from Spain. 
The document, co-authored by John Locke, was revolutionary. It helped to form the philosophical bedrock that laid the foundation for the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the American tradition of serving as a refuge for the persecuted.
But not any more:
In the coming days, however, South Carolina could go in a different direction, this time pioneering dangerous and misguided legislation that would create a hostile environment for refugees, pressuring them — and the faith-based groups that help them — to “self-deport” from the state.
Basically, it makes the faith-based groups or social services legally responsible for any crime committed by a refugee.  The intent is to discourage groups from brining refugees into the state.  of course, the refugees in question are largely Muslim.  

A touch of hypocrisy: 
Conservatives have used this religious-freedom claim to carve out exemptions for religious organizations to non-discrimination laws, health-care mandates and much more. That so many of them seem ready to abandon religious-freedom concerns when it comes to refugees, subjecting religious organizations to undue scrutiny and impeding their ability to serve, suggests that these politicians value religious freedom only when it serves their political agenda.
Ya think?

Apparently the protection of "religious freedom" only applies to Christians of a certain flavor.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nondiscrimination and the Roman Catholic bishops

Tremendous essay in the National Catholic Reporter today about the ongoing participation of the Roman Catholic Bishops in the anti-gay "religious freedom" culture war. (This on the heels of firing the Editor of the Catholic News service because he tweeted something critical about the anti-gay laws in North Carolina.)
"Hollenbach and Shannon advise, and we agree, that "the church should not ask the state to do what it has not been able to convince its own members to do." 
It should not ask the state to enforce a teaching against homosexual acts that it cannot convince the majority of its own members to accept. The burden of proof is on the church to demonstrate that homosexual acts are destructive of human dignity and cannot serve "the good of the person or society." So far, it has not offered a compelling argument. An unproven assertion should not be advanced as the basis for an abusive use of religious freedom aimed at preventing or repealing nondiscrimination legislation and imposing the church's morally questionable doctrine on the broader society. 
The bishops have every right to advocate for their moral position and to protect religious institutions from participating in what they perceive as immoral activity, but they do not have the right to impose their moral teachings legislatively in a pluralistic society. That, we conclude, would be the very worst kind of proselytism."
Exactly.  Put another way, the RC Bishops do not have the right to tell Episcopalians who can get married.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Religious freedom run amok

As predicted, the backlash against LGBT people is raging, under the cover of "religious freedom".  States in the South particularly are busy passing laws that enable people to refuse service to gay people (and in some cases, anyone else!) against whom they have any religiously-motivated bias.  

Outdoing itself in a race to the bottom, Mississippi's bill considers that protected actions
include "guiding, instructing or raising" a foster child in accordance with those three beliefs; refusing to give counseling, fertility services or transition-related medical care; declining to provide wedding-related business services; and establishing sex-specific dress codes and having sex-segregated restrooms and other facilities. (NPR)
"Sex specific dress codes".  Some hard-right Christians don't think women should wear trousers or short sleeves.  Better be careful if you wear jeans.
The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: 
(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; 
(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and 
(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

So you can also discriminate against unmarried cohabitants.

The winning meme over and over has been some strange idea that allowing trans people to use the bathroom empowers pedophiles.  So, a trans man with a beard is supposed to use the ladies' room?

Leave aside for the moment that "anatomy and genetics at time of birth" often don't match (just for starters, there are XX men, there are XY women, and there are intersex people...I can explain these in the comments if you want).

The LGBT community and allies have not come up with an effective way to fight this other-ing of trans people.

John Pavolovitz writes, 
God help us, we just cannot stay out of people’s bathrooms and bedrooms. 
....Somewhere along the way, so much of Evangelical Christianity began to fixate on sex for the same reason the porn industry does: it gets people excited and it generates lots of money.
Exactly.  Nothing riles up the faithful like the specter of people different from them.  Ka-ching!

Pavlovitz continues,
The more Christians fixate on trivial crusades about sex and sexuality, the more we cheapen the Gospel, the more we distort the life-giving message of Christ, and the more we alienate the watching world who sees this all too clearly. 
Just once they’d like to see us claim “religious liberty” compelling us to feed children or curb gun violence or combat Cancer—or anything remotely life affirming. Instead we use it to withhold wedding cakes and police public toilets. 
When the Church has its eyes squarely on Jesus it will find itself seeking the hurting and the needy and the forgotten, and abandoning its lazy battles and desperate witch hunts. 
Not any time soon, at least in the South.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Walking through the Triduum

At St Paul's, it began with a powerful Tenebrae service Wednesday night.

Then Maundy Thursday.

Good Friday.

Saturday, and the Vigil still to come...

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Party of Delusion

Two writers from different sides of the spectrum come up with the same answer to the question, how did the GOP become raving insane?

In an open letter to Republican friends, Richard North Patterson examines current Republicanism and finds a distressing absence of evidence-based policy, but rather delusional orthodoxy.  Purging the moderates in favor of true believers.  How did this happen?
Start with the relationship between the party establishment and its base. Your family, and mine, occupy a privileged slice of American society. Not so for most members of the GOP electorate. They are folks that few of us know very well: evangelicals; modestly educated whites threatened by economic dislocation; and people whose distrust of government partakes of paranoia.

...The real causes of their woes are globalization, the Great Recession, the housing crisis, and an information society which marginalizes blue-collar jobs. But the GOP never addressed these complex forces with any kind of candor — let alone proposed solutions like job retraining and educational access for their kids. 
Barren of ideas for helping its base voters, it resorted to blame-shifting and scapegoating — of government, Obama, illegal immigrants, Muslims and other minorities. Instead of looking forward, the party indulged a primal nostalgia for simpler times, an imaginary white folks’ paradise which can never be resurrected.
BINGO. "an imaginary white folks’ paradise which can never be resurrected."

GOP lifer sees the same thing, but goes one to place  the roots of the problem in the "Southern Strategy" that appealed to race in the era of desegregation.  That's when the Democrats lost the south. That's when the prudent GOP businessman united with culturally conservative whites who were largely evangelical Christians.  (my emphasis below)
When millions of Southern whites frightened by desegregation pivoted into the Party of Lincoln, something had to give. This marriage between Southern racial conservatives and America’s party of commerce and trade could only be sustained through a collective commitment to delusion....

Leveraging religious fundamentalism as a political force created consequences beyond mere rhetoric. Central to this worldview was a denial of Enlightenment ideas about the foundational value of science and data. Coupled with the wider decline of social capital institutions that once filtered the crazy from our political system, this uncoupling of ideology from empirical results unleashed a monster. A smokescreen of religious fundamentalism allowed Republicans to recruit racial conservatives in the South, but expansion came at a cost. With facts discredited, no force could contain the wave of crazy that broke across the party of prudent, intellectual conservatism.
And, as he points out, the results are inevitable.
Nevertheless, in time tax cuts produced massive deficits. Ever looser gun regulations produced thousands of needless deaths. Pointless wars produced global instability on a massive scale and a terrible tide of death and debt. Bigoted rhetoric drove non-whites and urban voters out of the party. Refusal to acknowledge climate change fed accelerating climate change. Blind financial deregulation produced unprecedented economic collapse. Cuts to the social safety net led to ballooning poverty. Tax cuts for the rich made the rich richer. Meanwhile public institutions shriveled and public faith in government collapsed.
Exactly. And so, here we are.

Your court, Republicans.