Monday, January 31, 2005

Just When You Think You've Seen Everything...

I don't know whether blog ally Sandi from Vista on Current Events caught this one or not, but.....
Whispering like conspirators, the two cousins hook their thumbs in their belt loops, skim cocky eyes over the women and swivel, stiff-legged from their hips, like the men they have become. Across the room, and a few steps away on the gender spectrum, a man with shaggy hair wrinkles a pug nose in the mirror and struggles to drape a silky scarf over his head.....

Where do you think? San Francisco? Stockholm? Try Tehran. That's right, the Islamic Republic of Iran, where gay male sex carries the death penalty and lesbians are lashed (talk about gender disparity in punishment), allows gender reassignment surgery based on a fatwa (Islamic religious edict) by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- yes, that Ayatollah Khomeini -- nearly four decades ago.
Khomeini reasoned that if men or women wished so intensely to change their sex, to the point that they believed they were trapped inside the wrong body, then they should be permitted to transform that body and relieve their misery. His opinion had more to do with what isn't in the Koran than what is. Sex change isn't mentioned, Khomeini's thinking went, so there are no grounds to consider it banned.

Check out
the article -- it's VERY eye-opening.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Schadenfreude, Anyone?

Blog ally Boi From Troy tipped me off to a hilarious set of advertisements created by the conservative advocacy group Citizens United.

What makes it even better....they will be on not one, not two, but THREE Hollywood, in the area of the Kodak Theatre, for the entire month of February.....right during the Oscars....meaning that everyone going to those awards will see at least one of them.

While I've had my spats with this group -- they filed amicus briefs defending the Boy Scouts discriminating against gays and the constitutionality of the Texas state sodomy law -- I have to admit....damn, that's GOOD.

Marriage Redux

Blog ally Tom Chatt of UpWord provided some great insight into the issue of gay marriage in one of his blog posts and his comments on my post on the topic that I wanted to address out here on the main board.

First, I would like to clarify why, from a religious standpoint, I feel that heterosexual union is the highest form. In Genesis, not once, but twice is mentioned (in Chapter 1 and 5), "Male and female, He created them". This is consistent with the message throughout the Scriptures that the wonder and power of the union of man and woman is in the uniting of their differences into a greater whole -- that two things so disparate in biology and psychology could be made one.

This has two implications. First, it renders procreation a potential, not a required outcome of a union -- obviously a good thing, since not all relationships produce children. However, it also points out the fundamental difference between homosexual and heterosexual unions -- no matter how "femmy" a man or "butch" a woman in a homosexual relationship, the biology and psychology does not make possible the completely-complementary nature of the relationship between heterosexuals.

There are also three things that need to be kept in mind, though. Just because the nature of the relationship is not the same in a homosexual vs. heterosexual comparison, it does not mean that homosexuals cannot love and cherish each other in the same fashion as can heterosexuals. Second, as Scripture makes clear, that loving and cherishing relationship for children can exist in homes without a male figure -- the story of Timothy, in which the apostle Paul compliments Timothy's mother and grandmother for raising him so well, clearly shows that. Finally, for those of us of the Protestant persuasion, marital statuses in and of themselves do not carry "superior" or "inferior" designations because that status is not indicative in itself of the state of the persons involved -- that is, as Luther put it, "Marriage is good, virginity is better, but purity of heart is best".

To summarize, because of the completely-complementary nature of heterosexual union and how this compliments the symmetry of God's creation, I think it should be the most highly-esteemed and cherished in a religious sense -- and also, I think it is the best environment for children. However, I think that homosexual unions should also be recognized, esteemed, and cherished -- just not in the same way. In either case, the legal incidentals should be identical.

Next, to Tom's second point about the "becoming one flesh", again, referring to the argument above, that can refer to procreation, but as an incidental of the complementary nature of the union of heterosexuals. The "one flesh" is expressed in the relationship itself; the "one flesh" of the child is a reflection of that relationship, much as moonlight is a reflection of sunlight.

Visitor Mike made reference to Romans. I am assuming that he is referring to the New Testament's seeming strictures against homosexuality, coming primarily from the Apostle Paul and such as in 1 Corinthians 6.

Whenever you review these, always keep in mind that the primary issue is not the earthly behavior, but God and man's relationship to God. The point Paul makes is that anything that gets in the way of that relationship is a problem. To me, these passages do not ban homosexuality, any more than they ban heterosexuality -- they simply charge you to use your body and time responsibly in a fashion that glorifies God.

Finally, blog ally Lloydletta contributed an excellent insight concerning the black community's division on this issue. Christian Grantham has also blogged about this split, even within the King family.

Referring to Lloydletta's, being a bit of a cynic on this issue, I don't doubt Coretta Scott King's position, but I would question the motivation behind Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Al Sharpton, and Julian Bond taking theirs, because I personally think they're trying to maintain their slipping power within the Democratic Party. I think Ward Connerly's opposition to antigay laws is more along the libertarian viewpoint than anything else -- and is definitely welcomed., Alan Derschowitz and I AGREE on something. :)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Attack Of the Radical Toothless Shrieking Moonbats

Thanks to GayPatriotWest over on GayPatriot for providing me the link to kick-start this post. :)

If you've been following the news of late, you've noticed that it's been a pretty busy week for Senators Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy, as well as their apparent new lieutenant Mark Dayton, as they spent hours trying to rip Condi Rice to shreds. Evidently these folks are living out Ted Kennedy's theory (registration required), as stated in his January 12th address to the National Press Club, "We as Democrats may be in the minority in Congress, but we speak for the majority of Americans."

Aside from the obvious -- like the fact that, as the article points out, there are four less Democratic Senators than there were on November 1 -- what Kennedy seems to be missing is the fact that he and his own party leadership don't even speak the views of THEIR voters. During the Democratic National Convention, a poll of various issues was taken of convention delegates -- aka the Democratic Party's local, national, and community leadership -- while identical questions were asked of Democratic voters.

Among the more striking results:

-- 64% of the delegates favored no restrictions on abortion, but only 37% of voters did.

-- 12% of the delegates favored allowing abortions only in the case of rape/incest/save the life of the mother, or only to save the life of the mother; 43% of voters did.

-- 48% of voters said immigration should be decreased, compared to 14% of delegates.

-- When asked whether all or most of the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent, 33% of Democratic voters said YES....compared to 8% of delegates.

-- Finally, the ultimate kicker: when asked, "Which comes closer to your view...Government should do more to solve national problems, or government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals?", 79% of delegates chose "do more", 12% "does too much"; among voters, only 48% said "do more", and a whopping 45% said "does too much".

So how did John Kerry manage to grab as much of the vote as he did? If you look at the exit polls, such as they are, I believe the answer lies in the results of asking the question, "Your vote for President was mostly....For your candidate or Against his opponent". 25% of voters chose "Against his opponent", and of them, a whopping 70% chose Kerry.

Think about that -- if you consider that over 17% of the electorate was voting for Kerry as a vote against Bush (25% of voters x 70% for Kerry) and that Kerry received 48% of the vote, over a third (35%) of the votes that Kerry received could be considered protest votes against Bush. Had Bush been even half as polarizing, the word "landslide" is not adequate for what very likely would have happened.

One of the truisms among those experienced in politics is that Republicans are never silent unless they have something up their sleeves. This week, they were astonishingly quiet, considering what the Democrats were doing to Rice. I can't help but speculate that this was a deliberate tactic on the Republicans' part to allow the moonbats enough of a "victory" that the moonbats could consolidate their grip on the Democratic Party....and, in the process, drive it even farther to the left and away from the voters. Throw in a bit of spring 2006 thaw on a few key issues, and I'm thinking "60 Senate seats" -- not to mention the fun coming up in 2008, when Al Franken takes on John McCain for the Presidency. (grin)

Things That Make You Go..."Hmmmmm"

While flipping through OutletWire today, I noticed several stories on Thursday's rally in front of the Maryland State House calling for an amendment to ban gay marriage. In reading the reports from the Washington Post, Washington Times, and Baltimore Sun (via Newsday), you notice a marked difference in coverage -- the Post focused more on people protesting the rally, the Times on the protesters (it doesn't even mention the people protesting the rally), and the Sun somewhere in-between.

What I'll focus on for now are points taken from the Times -- because it brought up some very applicable issues and also illustrates nicely the conundrums currently faced in the marriage debate.
"We are in a moral war," said the Rev. Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in College Park. "The bombs are not aimed at our military outposts. They are aimed at our families."

The crowd was predominantly Christian and an even mix of blacks and whites. It responded collectively to Mr. Jackson's sermon, which urged every church to oppose same-sex "marriage" and reject the comparison between the homosexual movement and "the black struggle for civil rights."

"Civil rights are not the same as sacred rights," he said.

NDT's take: Fair point. The gay community needs to knock off the references to the black civil rights movement and respect that our situation, while similar in several respects, is fundamentally different in others. This is not an idle point, because if we force blacks to choose between us and their churches or a movement that they view almost as a religion in itself, we're not going to win -- and worse, we'll increase the problems of black glbts by linking homosexuality to antireligious or "white" behavior.

Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel Republican, urged voters to hold their elected officials accountable for how they vote on the issue.

Mr. Dwyer, who has led the legislative effort against homosexual "marriage," did not exempt churches from criticism. He "condemned" their past response to homosexuals.

"The church has failed miserably to embrace the homosexual and to love him as a sinner," he said. Homosexuals "are no different than us."

Mr. Dwyer said churches "must open their doors" to homosexuals "so they can see God's saving grace."

NDT's take: I applaud wholeheartedly his third sentence. I'd like to know a few of the conditions of "saving grace" on the last. Call it a mild, sneaking suspicion that one of them is choosing to no longer be gay.

Otherwise, though, this is a great example of what you could call "moderate creep". It's a good sign that the people leading the charge for these amendments are now at least acknowledging that we aren't different; however, as I might gently put it, they're still advocating legalized discrimination against us.
Tonya Gross, 38, came with three busloads of fellow members from Rock City Church in Baltimore.

"It's not hard to take a stand on this issue," she said, holding a sign that stated: "Maryland opposes same-sex marriage."

"We had to take a stand," she said. "It's moral decay. Two men cannot reproduce. It's not what God intended it to be."

NDT's take: God's overall intention on the matter, I think, can be best summed up in Genesis where he says, "It is not good for man to be alone". However, Jesus also says in Mark 10: 6 - 10, "But at the beginning of creation God `made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

What I think that this establishes is that the heterosexual relationship is the highest and most achievable form. I have heard it interpreted, and I believe that this is correct to some extent, that the "two will become one flesh" part also refers to procreation, since a child is one flesh from two parents. Taking a more-modernistic view, the natural traits of male and female complement each other to take a synergistic whole.

So where does that leave us poor queers? To answer this question, I return to the fundamental tenet of my reconciliation of my religion to my sexual orientation -- God intended that I would be and created me gay so that His purpose would be best served, just as he intended that they would be and created my siblings and my parents straight. Because of the fact that I am gay, my purpose cannot be to procreate or know the sensation of "one flesh". However, just because my purpose is different than my siblings' and my parents' is neither better or worse -- just different.

I liken this to another often-misunderstood Scriptural passage about the husband being the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). When I was younger, I asked my mother how she could possibly put up with that. She laughed and pointed out the rest of the chapter, namely v. 28, "Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." As she pointed out, for whatever reason, God chose the man to lead...but at the same time charged him to serve. Her words:"God knew we were different, because He built us that way. Not superior or inferior, but different. At the same time He put your father in charge....he ordered him to serve me. How can that be inferior?"

My point to Ms. Gross would be this.....I agree with you on the religious, but I can't agree on the civil. Heterosexual marriage is indeed the highest in God's eyes, but that's not the principle on which our government is based -- nor should it be.
John Leck, 44, of Frederick, Md., said marriage has been between a man and a woman "for centuries."

"Gay people have a choice to be gay," he said. "They are not born that way. I have no problem with gays living together. Marriage is different."

NDT's take: Mr. Leck is correct in terms of people choosing to act on their attractions to the same sex. However, it is a falsehood to say that those attractions are a matter solely of choice, just as it is to say that homosexual behavior is "born and not a choice".

I applaud his tolerance. However, this is definitely one where I would want to dig a little deeper and explain why marriage is "different".

One of the thornier problems to me in this whole discussion is the affirmation by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that civil unions, even with the full civil benefits of marriage, were not sufficient because of the "intangible benefits" that flow from marital status. The issue, though, is that obviously one of those "intangible benefits", at least in my mind, is the perceived affirmation and ordination by God of marriage and the social benefits thereof provided to that couple. In that sense, this decision IS a direct threat to a religious tenet, even though the Court didn't intend it to be that way, because it creates a perceived equivalent status for homosexual unions to heterosexual unions.

What it all boils down to is this. I believe that gays should be allowed to unite just as heterosexuals are in a civil sense, with no "separate but equal" system. However, from a religious standpoint, I am not in favor of holding homosexual unions at the same level of heterosexual unions. If I were able to wave my magic wand and change the world, every mention of "marriage" in law would vanish and be replaced with the term "civil union", with the word "marriage" being reserved solely for religiously-blessed unions, be they gay or straight.

I know that's a mouthful....any thoughts?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Thank You...Can We Have Our Name Back, Please?

Today's Dallas Morning News (registration required) brings us the lovely story of the latest antics of the Young Conservatives of Texas. Already famous for their affirmative action bake sale at Southern Methodist University, they decided to hold "Capture an Illegal Immigrant Day" on the campus of the University of North Texas on Wednesday.

The university's chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas held "Capture an Illegal Immigrant Day" on campus to call for tougher enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Some members of the group wore orange shirts that said "Illegal Immigrant" on the front and "Catch me if U can" on the back.

Anyone could check in, receive a badge, search for "illegal immigrants" and receive literature and a reward – a 100 Grand candy bar.

Nobody here is going to argue that illegal immigration is not illegal, or that it isn't a problem with which Americans should be and are concerned, but this is NOT the way to draw attention to the problem. In fact, this is one of the stupidest stunts I have ever seen pulled to make a point, and believe me, that's bad coming from a gay man.

Kids, here's your lesson for the day. If you want to debate a subject, debate. Gather your information, formulate an opinion, ask for feedback, and modify it accordingly. Don't go around making a game out of it, or worse, like you did, giving the impression that you encourage vigilante justice and unwarranted suspicion against Hispanics.

In the meantime, until further notice, by what little power is vested in me, I hereby declare you no longer authorized to use the word "conservative" in any of your titles or literature. Begone, and for God's sake, grow up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

There's No Place Like Home...No Place Like Home

My apologies to all of you who stopped by last week in hopes of more wit and Internet access was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, and by Friday in Chicago, I had more important things -- well, actually a very important thing -- to be taking care of as opposed to blogging.

As a catchup, I spent a day and a half in scenic Greensboro, NC, and really enjoyed it -- hills, trees, Revolutionary War and Civil War history, and my GOD, do those people feed you well! This is definitely an area I shall have to file away for future reference.

Thursday night I flew to Chicago....and spent the Great Snowstorm of 2005 huddled up next to someone who is progressively becoming more and more important in NDT's life. It was VERY hard to leave on Sunday afternoon and head back to Dallas.

A bit of airline advice and commentary.....I was pleasantly surprised by how well Delta Air Lines is handling things. Of the four flights I took on them this trip, each one was on time and service was excellent, including the Comair commuter taken from Orlando to Greensboro. In addition, despite regularly taxiing by them on the way in and out of D/FW International Airport, I had never realized how beautiful the color combination they use on their aircraft tails is. It may end up being the color scheme for my bedroom.

Chicago back to Dallas was courtesy of AirTran, and they certainly live up to their reputation of having a new fleet -- my connecting flight from Atlanta was on a week-old aircraft. That being said, it was STILL packed to the gills. Service was OK, in a desultory sort of fashion -- it wasn't very impressive when our flight to Dallas was delayed from boarding because one of the flight attendants didn't show up.

A pleasant food discovery in Hartsfield International Airport -- the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich, courtesy of Atlanta Bread Company. Sadly, there are franchises here in Dallas, but I had never visited one before -- a problem I intend to make up for quickly!

Anyway, the NDT Mascot was glad to see me back.....and I will be catching back up with some blogging progressively over the next few days. Good to see you all again!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

News and Muse, Travel-Size

First off, an Iraqi-American businessman has pleaded guilty to illegally doing business with Iraq. Poor guy....had he only done it in France or Germany, he'd be a national hero.

International ANSWER is among groups uniting to protest the inaugural.....presumably because they prefer leaders more along the lines of Slobodan Milosevic and Fidel Castro.

Slowly, it seems, Barbara Boxer is determined to supplant Ted Kennedy as the Senator least likely to be taken seriously, with John Kerry moving into a close second behind her. And Barack....really, buddy, you're a Senator now. You can throw hardballs.

It's always fun to watch when liberals turn on each other.

Finally....sorry, Abu Mazen, but now do you see why the Israelis think you're already irrelevant?

Peace, out!

Travel Blogue, Part I: I Have Found Tourist-Trap Nirvana

Good evening to all....I write to you today from lovely scenic Orlando, Florida, with my remote access fortunately functioning.

After a day in the Magic City, I have discovered the following:

1) There are some beautiful houses and charming neighborhoods in Orlando. This is because they are where the tourists never go -- downtown.

2) The remainder of the city is a monument to three things -- American capitalism, American ingenuity, and American refusal to let proper urban development, devotion to architectural advancement, and taste interfere with the previous two.

3) One in every three cars on the road in this city is a rental -- and is being driven by someone who is even more lost than you are.

4) International Drive. Avoid it. Don't ask, just do.

Tomorrow, my colleague and I leave for Greensboro, North Carolina, with me ending the week in Chicago with a very special someone. Take care and have a great week!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Housekeeping Announcement

North Dallas Thirty will be criss-crossing the Southeast on business this week (as in, I shall be going through Atlanta three times before it's over) and will be blogging remotely. If the Fates and technical support smile on us, I shall blog somewhat close to usual; if not, talk amongst yourselves, I'll be back soon.

Take care and have a great week!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Call to the Blogosphere

When reading through blog ally Downtown Lad's musings yesterday, I followed one of his links to a piece by blogger Pike Speak about what he terms the "creeping parochialism" that he fears is creeping into some of the "Republican blogs", our beloved ally GayPatriot included.

While I don't necessarily agree with his assessment of the magnitude of these bloggers' behavior, I do wholeheartedly agree that it goes against the principles of conservativism and independent thought that I believe each of these bloggers, as well as many of the other people in the blogosphere, hold dear.

Upon arising this morning, and after the obligatory pot of coffee, I had a thought (dangerous, I know). What IS it that makes me enjoy reading these various blogs so much? What do I like in particular about them? After more perusal, I came up with the following points around all of these bloggers:

1. They all hold principles that they will not compromise, regardless of advantage or situation.

2. They all have enough self-confidence to stand up for what they believe....and to admit and apologize when they're wrong.

3. They all practice argument, not contradiction (for the uninitiated, this is from a Monty Python skit..."Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.")

4. Not only are they intelligent, they also use their intelligence, not to lord over others, but to build challenging and innovative solutions.

5. They genuinely care about people, both those who agree and those who disagree with them.

6. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they all are willful. By this I mean not that they are defiant, but that they actively seek ways of life that may exist outside the letter of the "law" while still fully respecting the spirit. This to me shows devotion to principles that are greater than the mere shallow constructions that society forces upon us.

Given that, I would like to propose that I and fellow bloggers who feel similarly join together in what I have dubbed the Coalition of the Willful. This is not an attempt to dictate actions, but to establish and reinforce certain core principles that we feel strongly establish the framework for open dialogue, constant improvement, and a better world for all of us.

The draft statement follows:
We, the undersigned members of the blogosphere, recognize that we have embarked on a unique voyage of discovery, charting courses through a new medium of communication with enormous potential for both for productive use and destructive misuse. While we are enamored with and seek exciting new uses for this powerful technology, we also acknowledge that the humans who populate and operate it are the most important component. We believe that the power of the blogosphere is in the free exchange of ideas and thought in adherence with Thomas Jefferson's statement, "Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself." To that end, we have banded together into a Coalition of the Willful with the express intent of protecting the beauty that is free thought and respect for others and propagating these ideals as expressed below through our interactions both on- and offline.

1. We hold most dear the thought that each individual is a beautiful, valuable, and unique component of our universe, to be treasured, cherished, and allowed to participate equally regardless of outward characteristics.

2. In all of our interactions with each other, public and private, online and offline, we strive as much as humanly possible to adhere to the thought of Principle 1.

3. We guard jealously the right of each person to express their opinion in a manner consistent with Principle 1, promoting and practicing the fair and free exchange of ideas while respecting the beliefs of others.

4. We recognize that wisdom and truth can be and are found in all philosophies and ideologies; to that end, we actively seek participation and thought from those who hold beliefs and ideals different than ours.

5. We wholeheartedly reject, as stifling to independent thought and vulnerable to arrogance, superiority, and damage of the individual, forcing through our words or actions ideological conformance or silence to a specific set of beliefs as a condition of inclusion or respect in discussion.

Comments, insertions, deletions, and brickbats are welcomed. If this really takes off, we'll need a good treaty name too....something like "The Maastricht Agreement", or "Entente Cordiale", or "Peace of Amiens"...LOL.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Andrew Sullivan Memorial Guide to Country Music, Volume I

There has been a great deal of lighthearted chatter about Andrew Sullivan flying around recently on GayPatriot, with some saying that GP is "the new Andrew Sullivan". GP, I love ya, buddy....but you still haven't done anything I've seen to send shivers down my sexual spine as Sully has. (grin)

One point that GP brought up on which he DOES outdo Sully is Andrew's famous statement that he doesn't "get" country music. As GP points out, he understands country music and in fact, has Kenny Chesney on regular rotation in his iPod.'s a start. Let me phrase it this way, GP....if you ever meet Kenny in person after watching one of his videos, you will wonder how they ever found enough women short enough to film them.

Bear with me -- I'm a ranch kid born and raised, I've DJ'd country music myself, had a country band in college, and in general have spent more times (and made more poor decisions) in smoky honkytonks, straight and gay, than I care to discuss. As part of the community service required to use this public space, I offer to you..... the first steps to becoming a country music aficinado.

1. Find a country music station. This is not difficult in Dallas, where there are four country stations (not counting norteno, which is simply country music in a language you don't understand). In California or New York City, where I believe country stations are either illegal or heavily taxed, this can be a far greater challenge.

Fortunately, my favorite station in Dallas, 99.5 The Wolf, streams live on the Internet -- click on "Listen Online" and enjoy. My favorite DJ is Amy B., who does 11 AM - 3 PM Central Standard Time, but if you get a chance....try to listen in every half-hour between 6 AM and 9 AM CST for Justin Frazell, who is a traffic reporter unlike anything you have ever heard before. Yes, we understand him perfectly!

2. Discover the virtues of CMT. A particularly nice thing is what CMT calls their "Listening Parties", where you can listen to full songs off the featured artists' CDs.

Once you're there, you can check out and play videos or songs from a few of my favorites:

-- Gary Allen. Cute and has a great set, pipes.

-- Darryl Worley. Also cute and VERY country -- don't miss his video, "Awful Beautiful Life".

-- Cross Canadian Ragweed. These guys will blow any conception you had of "country" right out of the water. Their song "Alabama", the video of which you can see on the linked site, is my current favorite of all songs.

-- Billy Currington. This would be what blog ally Boi from Troy calls a gratuitous sexpot inclusion, but hey....he sings well, too. It's not MY fault he's going to be Playgirl's March 2005 cover boy. (grin) The video of his song "Party for Two", a duet with country diva Shania Twain, is great fun to watch!

And finally, one has to include Big & Rich, if for no other reason than their latest song, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" (video on link). I'll leave it up to your imagination why I like that particular lyric so much. (grin)

Stay tuned....there will be more. The fate of blue-state America is at stake here!

Third Time Isn't Always a Charm

I was flipping through today and noticed this item about Michael Newdow.

You might remember Newdow -- he's the California atheist who made a laughingstock of the Ninth Circuit Court when they banned the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Of course, his case unraveled when his daughter's mother pointed out that Newdow had invoked his daughter, of whom he did not have custody, as a reason for filing the case -- and the US Supreme Court dismissed it.

As quoted above, Newdow tried to argue that he would be "injured" by hearing a prayer at Bush's upcoming inauguration. However -- and this is the kicker -- the lawsuit was denied because of a Ninth Circuit Court ruling that Newdow did not suffer "a sufficiently concrete and specific injury" when he had previously sued about the prayer at Bush's first inauguration.

I don't know about y'all, but I heard nothing about Newdow's first attempt at banning prayer when it was ruled against in 2003 -- and NOTHING last year when the Supreme Court dismissed his Pledge case. I finally found something with significant search. And now Newdow's trying again, THIS time using other parents, whose names are being withheld, as plaintiffs.

I phrase it this way -- this guy is either the atheist equivalent of Jerry Falwell or the best double agent the religious right ever created. Can you imagine how many people they're going to blame, everyone from liberals to gays, for this guy's action?

Al Lipscomb Apologizes....Sort Of

As I reported previously, during last week's Dallas City Council debate concerning the "strong-mayor" change to the city charter, local gadfly Al Lipscomb made remarks comparing Mayor Laura Miller (who is Jewish) to Adolf Hitler and the strong-mayor provision to the Holocaust.

Now Lipscomb has come back with an "apology" of sorts....

"I write this to try to diffuse or stop the erroneous perception of my analysis of the proposal for a strong-mayor system of government in Dallas.

I never demeaned or trivialized the horror of the Holocaust, and I definitely should have used a different analogy, other than the Holocaust, to depict the power grab.

I have written a personal note of apology to Dallas City Council member Mitchell Rasansky and his family (Ed. - Rasansky is Jewish and protested Lipscomb's analogy during the Council meeting). For almost 40 years, I have had the unwavering support of the Jewish community in my efforts to ensure that there was equal justice for all in Dallas. I want to assure all Dallas citizens that my ill-suited choice of words does not in any way reflect my personal belief or feelings toward any ethnic group here or anywhere else on God's earth.

Also, I would like for all citizens of Dallas, on both sides of the Trinity, to come together to do what is in the best interests of everyone in Dallas."

Memo to Lipscomb: What you did was not even close to an "analysis" -- it was flat-out, blatant, rhetoric that bore no link whatsoever to the reality involved, was done purely for effect, and based from the fact that you were reading off notes, planned well in advance. Furthermore, you have only said that you should have used a different analogy, NOT that you are sorry for using the one that you did.

Furthermore, we know full well why you are writing this to the Morning News one week after the fact -- because, as columnist Jacquielynn Floyd wrote, the whole city was watching the "crazy uncle" of Dallas politics verbally berate Mayor Miller with the worst possible slurs that can be laid against a Jew and a she sat there quietly, smiling to herself, fiddling with a pen, not turning red or screaming back at you. SHE looked mayoral and professional -- just the kind of person Dallas would want as a "strong mayor" running City Hall. YOU looked like an idiot -- and, under the current system, everyone knows that the idiots like you are the ones who run City Hall.

In short, Mr. Lipscomb, in just a few minutes, you did more damage to the OPPOSITION to the strong-mayor petition than you did to those who support it. To that, I say congratulations...and, on behalf of all of us who support the strong-mayor proposal...thank you. :)

Frisco (the REAL One) Highs and Lows

Today's Dallas Morning News brings us a story of the recent meeting between land-use consultants and the City of Frisco, Texas to discuss the use of several hundred acres of prime land within the city to potentially create a "grand park" that would encompass multiple uses, from recreation to housing developments, and would connect with the new Frisco Square development (or, as I call it, the "new downtown") and the historic Frisco downtown area.

First, a bit of background. Frisco was (and is) one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States -- between 1990 and 2000, the population went from just under 3,000 to over 50,000 people, and it is projected to hit 250,000 by 2020. It has perhaps the largest retail area in the Dallas Fort-Worth Metroplex, as well as the most land of any city in Collin County.

It's also been highly progressive in several respects. The city was the first in the country whose green building ordinance mandated that all houses built within its borders be Energy Star compliant, as well as instituting several other programs designed to increase recycling and reduce waste. The city has purchased seven Toyota Prius hybrids for its city fleet and is planning to replace as many gasoline-only models as possible with hybrids. The local glbt association, Frisco Pride, is heavily-involved in community affairs and is one of the most highly-regarded groups in the city.

Unfortunately, one of Frisco's other hallmarks -- public art in prominent places in public spaces -- took a horrible hit this week, when bronze statues (pictures here, here, and here) at Frisco's Central Park were defaced by two young punks, with the damage severe enough that restoration is required.

Let me phrase it this way.....Mayor Simpson and Sgt. McFarlin are, if anything, understating how PISSED people in and around Frisco are about this. That park is my favorite place to take friends on a nice warm evening, enjoy a nice Steak n' Shake chocolate malt, and show them the artwork, the beautiful care that went into landscaping the park, and how it all ties into Frisco's history as a trail and railroad stop.

My advice to those two kids is this....don't post bail. You're safer where you are now than you will be on the streets -- and despite my opposition to vigilantism and mob justice, I'm going to have a hell of a time convincing myself to step in and try to stop them.

Immigration Redux, Part 3

Eagle-eyed blog ally Sandi of Vista on Current Events brought to my attention that two judges of the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco have denied a preliminary injuction by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund to block Arizona from implementing Proposition 200, the law approved by Arizona voters in November that requires proof that a person is not an illegal immigrant when applying for some government services and proof of citizenship when registering to vote. It also says government workers who do not report illegal immigrants seeking the benefits can face jail time. This is, of course, the appeal made after they were stymied by U.S. District Judge David Bury in their attempt to block Proposition 200.

The thing that struck me about this is the reason given for the appeal:

The appeal claims Bury was wrong in concluding that there are no serious questions about the scope and constitutionality of Proposition 200. It also says the court failed to recognize that the measure violates federal law partly because it requires state and local government employees to check the immigration status of anyone seeking public benefits and to turn over undocumented immigrants to immigration authorities.

The law also discourages qualified immigrants from seeking public benefits they are entitled to receive under federal law, Ortega said.

As one of my favorite characters, Obviousman (see movie), from the comic strip Non Sequitur would say....DUH!

1. "Undocumented" immigrants are in the United States ILLEGALLY; therefore, they are committing a crime.

2. It is not against the law to require government workers to report crimes being committed.

3. It is not against the law to deny certain services at the state's and the Federal government's discretion to people who commit crimes. Think "prison".

4. Federal benefits are not affected by state law, nor are Federal employees covered by Proposition 200's reporting requirement. This means that the Federal government, in its infinite wisdom, can continue to give benefits to illegal immigrants -- they just will not be able to use Arizona state or local officials to apply for them.

My cynical guess on why the judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did this is because they hope that, by the time they actually have to rule on the constitutionality of the law in six to eight months, the enforcement of it -- or the lawsuit currently pending to extend it to more services than the state will currently allow will have created some type of constitutional issue that they can use as an excuse to strike it down. What I think will happen, though, is that any attempt by the Ninth Court to strike down the provision will result in Congressional action to define Federal benefits as being available only to citizens of the United States.

As I've stated before in multiple locations, I understand the forces that drive people to immigrate to the United States illegally, and I certainly don't want to leave them to starve. However, my reluctant view is that preventing them from starving is my responsibility as a private citizen (read charity), while my responsibility as a public citizen is merely ensuring that the legal rights to which they are entitled, i.e. consular privilege, are respected. In short, if I want to help them, I can pay for it -- I can't force others to do so via taxation.

Friday, January 14, 2005

An Announcement of Movie Event Proportions...OK, Maybe Just Epic Miniseries...

For reasons known only to himself (or at least not shared with me), John Aravosis has restored my posting privileges on Americablog. With that, I formally add him to the list of Blog Allies and Worthy Adversaries. I also welcome any Americabloggers who inadvertently stumble into this hotbed of infidel conservative-leaning talk. (grin)

To John, I say....thank you. I hope we can learn to play in the same sandbox without hitting each other over the head with our shovels.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Bit of Humor For an Otherwise-Drab Day

It's always a bit depressing when the bottom falls out of the weather here in walk into your office in the morning, it's sunny and in the sixties, but when you walk out that evening, it's raining and a stiff north wind is driving it down into the frigid lower forties (yes, I know, Lloydletta, you needed to hear that).

Fortunately, one of my friends sent me a joke which made my day -- and which I want to share with all of you.

A young man named Jason invited his mother for supper one night. During the evening, his mother couldn't help but notice how handsome and muscular Jason's roommate Simon was. He was wearing a tight white shirt and jeans that left nothing to the imagination; underneath his superbly-cut blond hair, his pearly-white teeth almost sparkled against his tan face when he laughed. Watching Jason and Simon interact, she started to wonder if there was more between Jason and Simon than met the eye.

As if reading his mother's thoughts, Jason volunteered, "I know what you're thinking, Mom, but I promise you....Simon and I are just roommates."

About a week later, Simon asked Jason, "This may sound weird, but I can't find the frying pan. In fact, I haven't seen it since your mom came to visit -- you don't suppose she took it, do you?"

"I don't see why she would," Jason answered, "but I can ask her." That night he wrote his mother an email:

"Dear Mom:

I'm not saying you did or didn't take the frying pan from my place, but the fact remains that it has been missing ever since you were here for supper.

Love, Jason"

A few days later, he received a reply:

"Dear Jason:

I'm not saying that you and Simon do or don't sleep together, but the fact remains that, if he were sleeping in his own bed, he would have found the frying pan by now.

Love, Mom"

To borrow from Monty Python....let me go and change my armor.

The Non-Eddie Haskell Guide to Dealing With June Cleaver

Worthy Adversary Ridor of Observe But Do Not Interfere brought up a few points in his comment to my previous post concerning activism in the new age of what I call "June Cleaver" politicians -- smart, successful businesswomen who are immensely popular and successful in their communities, and who happen to oppose gay marriage/rights.

First, Ridor asks if I "think it is better to be patient and wait for them to reconsider their feelings and opinions so that I can attain the rights that is supposed to be mine".

To clarify, I'm all for asking them to reconsider their opinion. However, that takes time and is going to require patience and a willingness to work with them on our part.

When I became a manager in my previous job, my mentor told me something that became very clear when I had to evaluate my employees -- "Never confuse effort with effectiveness." The same thing applies to activism -- we should never assume that because things aren't flashy or obvious, they don't work.

Take Florence Shapiro. It would be easy and show a lot of "effort" to stand up and denounce her on the evening news, in the Dallas Morning News, and to anyone who would listen as a horrible antigay bigot. The problem would slam every door in Plano the next time glbts asked for anything.

Instead, we do a little scouting. We look at Florence's bio, which outlines her past record and interests. We do a little digging and figure out what issues really float her boat -- best examples are education and business.

When we go to talk to her, it's a matter of telling her right off the bat that we're not asking her to support gay marriage, although that would be great if she did -- we're just asking her not to support antigay discrimination. You point out to her that virtually all of the large companies headquartered in her home city of Plano have corporate policies promoting diversity and discouraging discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as offering domestic partner benefits and other services to their glbt employees -- all of which would be jeopardized by an antigay amendment to the Texas Constitution. You bring in business leaders from these multibillion-dollar corporations, similar to what was done with Dallas's nondiscrimination ordinance, to demonstrate the importance these businesses place on their glbt employees. You explain to her how many glbt constituents she has and what they are involved with in their community -- especially those who are public school teachers.

To summarize, this isn't "cowering and brownnosing", as Ridor decried. This is treating Florence Shapiro as the intelligent businesswoman and legislator that she is and helping her to make a better-informed decision. Just because she opposes gay marriage is no reason for us to treat her badly -- it's an opportunity to work through the issue with her.

The gay community was handed an incredible challenge with this year's elections. Unfortunately, the gay community, after years of fighting Fred Phelps, knows no other tactics or targets other than yelling, screaming, and counter-demonstrating. It's like the old saying goes.....everything looks like a nail when all you have is a hammer. Unless we get some new tools and commit to using them, we're going to continue putting holes in things every time we try to fix something.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"But Honest, I Didn't Think They'd Really DO It...."

Over at Americablog, rather than discuss anything having to do with the CBS memo scandal, John Aravosis is throwing a tantrum over the religious right calling up the Justice Department and complaining about gay lawyers working there.

This is, of course, another terrible idea on the part of the religious right and another example of their ridiculous homophobia. It hurts all gays when these kind of "witch hunts" crop up based on false impressions of gays and statements that we're some kind of threat to "family values".

However, who was it that was encouraging his readers to call up the religious right and agitate them to go looking for gays in government because they were a threat to "family values"? Despite being warned by yours truly that this would only spill over into more antigay "witch hunts", they went ahead and did it -- and now they're screaming about being hurt by the very same actions and people that they were encouraging.

Karma is a beautiful (and inexorable) thing. However, the problem is....since we've let Aravosis speak for the gay community, the gay community is the one getting tagged by it.

Um...Governor...Thanks, But Could You Fix That Other Problem First?

Worthy Adversary Pam of Pam's House Blend tipped me off to the recent State of the State address by the Governor of Oregon, Democrat Ted Kulongoski, which touched specifically on Oregon's economic and business climate.

When one looks into the situation, it would seem that Oregon's problems with "economic climate" and "business" stem from hostile local and state governments, which, under careful Democratic tutelage, have created the third-highest unemployment rate of all the states (including DC), and businesses considering relocation in droves. Indeed, Inc. magazine named Portland the eighth-WORST metro area to do business in because of its "high costs and anti-business mood" -- not to mention its top unemployment ranking and punishing taxes. Of course, the state needs taxes -- it's all necessary to fund the fourth-highest government spending rate in the country.

Obviously, it would seem that Oregon has some serious issues in its tax structure and governmental philosophy. However, according to the Democratic governor, gay civil rights legislation and civil unions are more important to fixing Oregon's economic problems.

While I appreciate the governor's gesture and its underlying reasoning -- after all, he's presided over two of Oregon's worst years from an economic standpoint in history and is probably desperate to focus blame for the economy elsewhere -- giving us "rights", especially the right to be in "separate but unequal" civil unions, is not going to solve the economic problem. As I've said before, we gays may be "biological errors" to some, but superhuman mutants we're not. Second off, Governor, your voters have made it clear to you through your recent state constitutional amendment that they have other priorities.

As someone who has used (successfully) the correct argument that tolerance and acceptance of glbts, both in corporate policy and government ordinance, is good for business, I know the economic and social benefits provided, including a better business climate. However, when it's used in Dallas and Fort Worth, it's used to improve an already-good business climate, not as a means of getting around antibusiness laws and taxes. What Governor Kulongoski is doing is akin to putting a fresh coat of paint to sell a house with major foundation damage -- yes, it makes the house look better, but it doesn't fix the underlying problem.

I think it would be an enormous gesture for gay leaders in Oregon to stand up and say, well, while we agree civil rights are important and we thank you for bringing the issue up, why don't you do something to assure that there are jobs, housing, and business opportunities to be had before you worry about us being discriminated against in getting them? As Garrison Keillor wisely puts it, the rich can afford to be progressive, while the poor have reason to be afraid of the future. Working together with straights to fix the economic problems that make people afraid of the future will pay dividends, both in improved relationships and in a better social climate.

Monday, January 10, 2005

We Have Met the Enemy, and She Is June Cleaver

In talking with blog ally Lloydletta this past week concerning her ongoing feud with Michele Bachmann, I was struck by one normal Lloydletta's bete noire looks -- definitely not on the order of Fred Phelps.

However, this is something with which we in the northern reaches of Dallas are VERY familiar. Collin County, being both the most wealthy and most Republican county in all of Texas, carries enormous clout -- and it is represented in the Texas Senate by one of the most formidable legislators in the state, Senator Florence Shapiro. Over to the west in Denton County sits the second-highest ranking Republican in the Texas Senate, Senator Jane Nelson. On their eastern side, sophomore Texas House of Representatives Member Jodie Laubenberg represents one of the fastest-growing areas in Texas with enormous economic clout and nascent political potential.

What do these three Texas women all have in common? They're smart, savvy, successful in business, and built great track records of success in local elected offices both before and during their time in statewide office. They're all very popular and well-liked in their communities and considered to be good representatives of their electorate.

And every single one of them opposes gay marriage -- every single one.

On the bright side, these are not your father's antigay activists. They are articulate and intelligent people who have a strong sense of faith and family and have a hard time harmonizing how gay marriage and gay rights really fit into that. I have the privilege of knowing all three, and enjoy talking with each of them. Even though we disagree, there is a relationship there, and we are working through their issues in terms they understand. They all have moderated considerably since we started talking, and that is awesome.

However, the problem is that too many people are still our father's GAY activists. The "gay community", in my opinion, still views anyone who opposes any gay issues as Fred Phelps -- and, in reaction, publicly brands people like Laubenberg, Shapiro, and Nelson hateful, irrational, and superstitious bigots. Ergo, anyone who associates with them or in any way defends or attempts to talk to them is a "traitor to the gay cause" and deserves to have their personal and professional lives dragged through the mud. Worse, we generalize the fact that Fred Phelps uses religion as an excuse to advance his bigotry into blaming religion for all of our problems -- the reaction that got LCR such a successful run at this year's Republican National Convention and made the flyers linking gays to godless liberals and abortions work -- or we publicly criticize religion and religious belief as "nonsense".

Get real, people. We need to, as a community, acknowledge two things -- one, that other people have the right to an opinion, and two, that our own diversity is going to mirror that of those around us. It is ABNORMAL for the gay community to be uniformly antireligious and mindlessly Democratic -- which is why, in order to maintain that, we must have legions of gay activists using outing, blackmail, and verbal abuse to cow into submission anyone who isn't. It is WRONG for people to use gay rights as an excuse for pushing anything other than gay rights -- and that includes those who use it to push abortion rights, antireligious bigotry, and personal vendettas.

People like the aforementioned Nelson, Shapiro, and Laubenberg need to be given examples that gay people are not all frothing idiots who will create a scene unless given exactly what they want. If you want to know why, take a look at those faces. Do you really want to be known as the people who namecalled Susie's mom, who used to bake cookies for everyone and drive the Girl Scout carpool?

Technical Update

As per advice from several other bloggers, I have changed my Comments from standard to Haloscan commenting and trackback. As a painful by-product of this, all previous comments have been sent to HTML heaven -- my apologies, and my heartfelt hope that the great comments being posted here will both continue and proliferate. Thanks again!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Declaration of Truce

On this date, Sunday, 9 January, 2005, I, "Jeff", in the presence of God and distinguished witnesses of the blogosphere, do hereby declare that a state of unilateral truce, aka a temporary cessation of hostilities, exists between myself and my blog and the assorted entities identified as the Human Rights Campaign (heretoafter referred to as "HRC"), until such time as no greater than or less than thirty days after the assumption of responsibilities by a duly-chosen individual as the Executive Director of HRC.

In short, I'm not going to bash or criticize HRC until thirty days after they get a new Executive Director. I will continue to report salient information on the process, but will refrain from making editorial comments.

This may come as a shock to some of you familiar with my past record, in which I have been critical of everything HRC from their endorsement of antigay Democrats to their overfocusing on Beltway events to the detriment of field activity to their administrative follies, including their tin-eared decisions to name two Democratic lobbyists, one of whom isn't even gay, as interim co-directors of a "bipartisan" organization, and to originally attempt to keep secret the names of the search committee for a new executive director. I also heartily agree with Christian Grantham, Charging Rhino, and others taking HRC to task for its screwy membership numbers, penny-pinching on field voter education, and the Axis of Chardonnay mentality that pushes them closer and closer to, as Dale Carpenter eloquently put it, continuing "their distressing slide into irrelevance". None of my views in these areas have changed.

However, I think it is best at this time that we all sit back, be quiet, and let HRC make a decision, for three reasons.

First, the point has been made. HRC has serious issues in both its values, its governance structure, and its organization that are adversely affecting both its message and its effectiveness. I believe that everyone in the gay community is aware of that fact and that further repeating of it is both unnecessary and counterproductive.

Second, we are in danger of scaring away qualified candidates. Right now, I can't think of a single person who is qualified to lead HRC that would be crazy enough to take on the job, with all the stuff flying around the blogosphere and media about it. It needs to be demonstrated that whoever is chosen will get a fair chance to prove themselves and will not become a dart board during the selection process or on their first day in office. Under my plan, HRC chooses the candidate and they get thirty days to impress us.

Finally, this is, in my opinion, the most effective means of putting pressure on HRC's search committee and board to do the job right. If they are subjected to a constant barrage of criticism during the process, my fear is that they will, rightly or wrongly, blame that for any bad choices that they make. This approach gives them no excuses and just enough rope that, if they choose to, they can hang themselves.

I would ask my fellow blog allies and bloggers to join on to the truce as well if it suits them.

Posted by Hello

HRC....the ball is in your court.

Immigration Issues, Part 2

After reading through comments from blog allies Downtown Lad and Sandi from Vista on Current Events, I started looking for more pieces of information on this current and pressing issue.

First, as Sandi pointed out, the NPR article on a recent poll conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard on Americans' attitudes towards immigration was a bit scant on details in the summary. After digging a bit in the results (available as a PDF in the sidebar of the linked page) and an analysis that appeared in my professional association's magazine, these points leaped out at me:

-- 72% of non-immigrants and 48% of immigrants are "concerned" about illegal immigration.

-- Among non-immigrants, 63% say taxpayers pay too much to provide services such as education and health care for illegal immigrants, 49% say too many people are entering the country, 56% say there is an increased likelihood of terrorism, and 54% agree with the statement that "the wrong kind of people are entering the country".

-- Perhaps most telling, the study found that 41% of all surveyed, including immigrants, felt that LEGAL immigration should be decreased -- a drop from the 59% found post-9/11.

Given those figures, it isn't hard to see how Arizona passed its Proposition 200 requiring much greater scrutiny of immigration status to access certain publicly-funded services. Obviously Americans think there is a problem with immigration. A series of articles and reviews centering around the controversial book "Mexifornia: A State of Becoming" by Victor Davis Hanson (which I recommend as reading, btw) that discuss the issue in greater detail can be found here.

As DTL pointed out in his own way, we as a country are always looking for the low-cost way to do things. On first blush, using illegal immigrants seems to be the best option for businesses -- first off, since you can pay in cash, you avoid the cost of payroll tax and unemployment insurance (at minimum a 15% cost savings). Second, their status makes them much less likely to file complaints for your violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (governing overtime) and other laws designed to limit cost-cutting at the expense of your employees. Both of these translate into a competitive cost advantage, which in general means that you get more business. Obviously, if you get caught, there are penalties, but for most businesses, the risk of getting caught is far smaller than the benefits that can be recognized.

Unlimited immigration, as the Wall Street Journal advocates, is certainly an option -- by letting everyone in who wants to come, we vastly increase the size of the labor pool, which will drive down wages and decrease the compensation cost of doing business. However, my concern is that our tax system is not designed to capture revenue best when personal income drops. In order to maintain what we do have in terms of current revenue and to cover the increased costs of the rapid addition of people, especially children and families, to our existing systems of mandatory public education and other social services, we will require much greater taxes on business -- which will reduce the cost advantage of cheaper labor and constrict economic growth. The current situation in which Europe finds itself -- while immigration to there has been more difficult, the cost per immigrant to social services is much greater -- mirrors what we would likely see in the United States under unlimited immigration.

Looking at this from a strategic perspective, what scares me is that we have not established a shared set of values as to what we want to accomplish with immigration. In my perspective, immigration serves a vital need in the United States by providing labor to perform tasks that would otherwise have to be done by more highly-skilled individuals at greater cost to time and money AND by providing skills currently in shortage in the United States at a lower cost. In addition, I feel strongly from a moral and philosophical standpoint that it is in the United States's best interest to encourage immigration for those with particular skills or aptitude for learning them (this is my HR side talking, which is currently concerned with the coming "demographic storm" as the baby boomers begin to leave the workforce, taking their skills, knowledge, and experience with them unless successfully transferred to others).

The question do we do it?

From my side, I think we need to focus on revamping the tax structure in this country, especially on business, from a income and payroll basis to an output/value-added basis. I think we also need to acknowledge that immigrants fall into two groups -- those who want to work AND live here and those who just want to work here -- and review/update our current naturalization and immigration practices based on both.

Fire away, people.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

An Issue on Which I Frankly....Am Not Sure

This particular topic has been bubbling in my head since I first read Precinct Chair's response to an attempt to block the implementation of Arizona's Proposition 200 requiring proof of citizenship to access some government services and to vote and to this week's revelation of the Mexican government producing a comic book showing illegal immigrants how to safely cross into the United States.

As a counterpoint, you can read through Ruben Navarrette's opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News (registration required). Ruben is a regular columnist for the DMN and a correspondent of mine, and definitely does NOT shy away from controversy when discussing the issue of immigration. (grin) Another source you should review is a recent poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Part of the reason, I think, that Texas has had much less in terms of anti-immigrant activity has to do with our tax laws. Because the state has no income tax, most social welfare programs are funded through state and local sales taxes and local property taxes, all of which are consumptive -- and none of which necessarily require citizenship (if you think of landlords including property tax rates in setting rents). Thus, in comparison to California and Arizona, the intrinsic problem of illegal immigrants not paying income tax, but utilizing services funded by these taxes, is avoided. In addition, Texas is quite simply far more Hispanic than most states, due both to our history and to demographics. The city of Dallas is majority-minority at this point (African-Americans and Latinos making up more than half of the population), and will become at current rates of growth a Latino-majority city within the next two decades.

I myself have mixed feelings on the issue. I recognize the fact that our schools and our social services systems are having deep problems, even if not in the area of funding, in the area of additional expense, time, and skills being required to manage things for people who are barely literate in Spanish, much less English. There isn't enough money to begin with, and I certainly understand the sentiment of Arizona voters, as well as their trepidation of their culture being overrun with "outsiders". I also agree that our porous southern borders are at best a security risk and at worst a loaded gun pointed at our heads.

However, having been to Mexico numerous times, I can understand why they're coming up here. Put bluntly, centuries of corrupt and inept government have left the country in a shambles in every sense, from political through economic. There is no incentive to make money there, because one way or another, your business and your livelihood will be stolen from you, be it by bandits or by corrupt police/government officials. There are no rules for taxation or for business left unbroken. The bulk of the illegal immigrants I have met have said straight up that, given the choice, they would prefer to be at home -- but that isn't even a choice for them or their children in today's Mexico.

The solution in my mind is somewhere in the middle....not so drastic as the "loaded rifles and guardtowers" that TPC talks about, but definitely a bit more than, "It's not their fault, it's that you depend on our cheap labor" that Ruben uses. Perhaps it is, as President Bush as talked about, an updated and modernized "guest-worker" program that allows Mexicans to come here and earn money while businesses save on labor costs. Any thoughts?

One of My Favorite Worthy Causes

Once again, Christian Grantham comes to my content-challenged rescue, reposting a story in the most recent Advocate about one of my favorite charities, The Point Foundation.

Please take a look and consider donating. I think this is one of the most positive and proactive things we as a community can do for each other -- to groom the next generation of glbt leadership.

I say potato, you say potatoe, I say sucks, you say sucks more...

Blog ally Downtown Lad posted an insightful comment below on the comparison between Bush and Kerry when it came to gay rights as an issue in the last campaign that I wanted to bring out to the main board for discussion. As we were repeatedly told, and DL reiterates, Kerry was the choice on that issue because he was "less bad". I have maintained through the debate that there was no realistic difference between the two.

On a prima facie basis, Kerry does appear to have the better record when it comes to gay rights -- voting against DOMA, co-sponsoring ENDA, etc. -- while Bush has some notable bloopers, both his on-record support of Texas's notorious sodomy law and, of course, the FMA. Both men oppose gay marriage and to some degree support civil unions, although Kerry is obviously stronger on the last than Bush.

The issue that I had with Kerry was that Kerry, as his national aspirations increased, worsened his stance on gay issues, one of the most notorious examples being his support of Massachusetts's amendment to ban gay marriage after having signed a letter two years previous to oppose a similar amendment. In addition, during the campaign, Kerry took pains to compare his position on gay marriage to Bush, declaring repeatedly that his position was the same as Bush's. In addition, Kerry advocates for civil unions, a step which the Massachusetts Supreme Court called "unconstitutional, discriminatory, and maintain(ing) an inferior status for same-sex couples", and ironically, after his argument against DOMA accusing it of creating a "caste system".

The reason given for Kerry doing this was that he had to in order to be a "viable candidate". My first counter to that is that the people to which opposition to gay marriage was a major point were not going to vote for Kerry anyway.

The first reason I will give in making that counter is simply the fact that these people also hold strong stances on other issues, abortion being an excellent example, on which they are diametrically opposed to Kerry. The second is the relative lack of outcry from these same people over Bush's public support of civil unions when the FMA was put up, in August, and later in October (an excellent example of the antigay groups' typical responses in the last).

The second counter that I will give to the "viable candidate" argument is that I do not believe that the temper of the country is to constitutionally legitimize discrimination against gays at ANY level -- it simply is that the country is not ready to legally legitimize gay marriage yet. Kerry's support of banning gay marriage legitimized discrimination against gays as long as certain conditions were met -- basically, providing civil unions. My position is that civil unions in a state without a definition-of-marriage amendment are unconstitutional -- the same position argued by the Massachusetts Supreme Court -- for the same legal reasons that states cannot deny interracial marriages. The banning and replacement of marriage for gays with civil unions, then, is a blatant and cynical attempt to maintain a "separate but equal" status for gays while appearing to be progressive -- when both the US and state Supreme Courts have made strong overriding arguments that "separate but equal" is inherently wrong and unconstitutional.

The point is that I do not believe that Kerry "had to" oppose gay marriage publicly in order to be a viable candidate. I believe that, had Kerry publicly stated that he would not support constitutional amendments discriminating against gays at any level, regardless of whether or not civil unions were provided, there would have been little to no effect on his voting numbers. However, I do believe that his doing so would have made a significant difference in whether or not several states successfully passed these amendments. Therefore, in making the comparison between him and Bush, what is used in my mental calculus is that both of them made a crass antigay political calculation that was completely unnecessary in terms of changing their vote total -- and that Kerry's advocation of reversal and undermining of gay rights while publicly proclaiming his "progressivism" on the issue equals Bush's pointless support of an amendment which I honestly believe he knew had no chance of passing.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Well, they DO Think We're "Biological Errors"....

While I agree with John Aravosis about as often as a politician refuses donations, on occasion, he gets off a good line, such as this one in a post discussing the latest "Blame Homosexuality First" craze as popularized by Jerry Falwell post-9/11.

Damn, we're a powerful bunch.

Oh, and by the way. If we had the power to create Tsunamis, they wouldn't be hitting resorts in Asia, they'd be hitting Virginia.

While I will admit that we as a people have an unusual predilection for tight leather clothes and overdoing the highlights in our stunning 'dos, I think the wingnuts are going just a bit far by insinuating we're running around summoning up gigantic waves and other natural disasters. What do they think we are, some kind of mutants?

And with that, let me introduce the new head of the Human Rights Campaign.....

Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Racists call Jews Nazis

The ongoing saga of the drive to change Dallas's governance form from a city manager-city council to a "strong mayor" model, precipitated at least in part by a less than stellar review of the city government this spring, took a unique twist yesterday when noted local gadfly Al Lipscomb took the stand to compare Mayor Laura Miller, Dallas's Jewish mayor, to Adolf Hitler. This was of course applauded by local racist Maxine Thornton-Reese, who seems to have found no shame in her tirades unraveling when her support of her colleagues' corrupt machinations are exposed, and James Fantroy, who made certain that twice convicted felon Lipscomb was able to stay in Dallas politics by putting him on the Dallas Police Review Board.

Of course, the irony for us observers of Dallas politics was of Lipscomb showing up himself....normally he delegates these type of things to his minions, but chief among them, his wife Lovie, is still recovering from being forced to admit that she filed an ethics complaint against Mayor Miller with detailed descriptions of events that she never actually witnessed.

And people wonder why it was so easy to get signatures on a petition that would put an enormous brake on this type of nonsense. I go by a simple a circus, anything the clowns detest has a good chance of being right.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Arrrivederci, Mike!

Eagle-eyed blog ally Christian Grantham called my attention to this gem from Mike Rogers, proprietor of

Rogers indicated that his efforts are part of a battle against the Bush administration and America’s right wing. “Ultimately, on November 2, I believe that our country is making a decision about good and evil,” Rogers said. “If Bush is elected, I’m leaving the country.”

It is a fight in which the right wing, despite its embrace of so-called traditional values, often seems to be willing to distort facts or lie outright. “There are no rules,” Rogers said. “We need to fight these people as hard as we can.”

Rogers implied that the consequences of a Bush win could be dire. He referred to “internment camps” that he said are being refurbished in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. “I know what happened to gay Jews who didn’t get out fast enough last time,” Rogers said.

Of course, Mike had no problem with not outing those staffers of Democrats who voted for the FMA, or all those who worked for candidates pushing antigay state constitutional amendments to strip gays of their right to marry and who bragged about their position being "the same as the President's" (cough, John Kerry). You have to wonder if his tinfoil-hat talk of black helicopters and "internment camps" is nothing more than the ravings of someone who is so desperate to justify his contradictory and hypocritical position that he's drifted well outside the area of sanity.

As much as I loathe what Rogers is doing, perhaps the best action in his case is none at all....that is, simply let him stand up, speak, and embarrass everyone around him. Heck, it works with Fred Phelps.

Oh, and Mike.....don't let the door hit you on the way out.

GayPatriot's Sordid Confession

GayPatriot, that tireless defender of truth, justice, and the American Way -- and one of my staunchest blog allies -- has finally outed a KANGAROO EATER (GASP). Apparently GP discovered this (symbolic) rip in his spandex during a recent trip to the Land Down Under....the horrific details are as follows:

Well, here's my confession. Kangaroo meat is awesome. I'm ashamed to admit it... but I've been craving more of it since we got home. I ate it at nearly every restaurant we went to during the trip. I mean it is GOOOOOOOD.

While this will no doubt throw PETA into a tailspin, having sampled the delectable treat myself, I understand GP's lust -- kangaroo's got a great flavor, and it's relatively low-fat in comparison to other meats. However, I'm hoping he manages to keep his cravings in check......

Posted by Hello
Roasted eggplant and a nice Shiraz, anyone?

Another Reason for Guardposts on the Red River

As reported by the New York Times (registration required, sorry) and the Dallas Morning News today, Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court Marian Opala is suing his fellow justices in Federal court because they did not elect him Chief Justice. According to Opala, he is being discriminated against because of his age (83 years old) and is the victim of a plot between Chief Justice Joseph Watt and the "young Turks" (the youngest justice being 52).

Since I can hear what you are all thinking to yourself, I'll skip saying it and just move on to the salient point -- does he have a case?

The Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which is one of the largest factors in employment law on this matter, provides that employees over the age of forty must not be discriminated against in employment practices. In essence, it extends the protected classes created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the antidiscrimination provisions thereof to include those over forty. Exceptions to this law are few and far between, the only ones really being the obvious "for cause" (you don't have to keep an incompetent employee because of their age) and established seniority systems. However, the established seniority systems exception has traditionally not been interpreted to force employers to promote employees strictly because of seniority unless that is the only factor in promotion decisions. In addition, the law does not force you to promote people who are older over those who are not.

Prior to November 4, 2004, the position of Chief Justice as a two-year term was selected by balloting among the justices, with the candidate qualifications being those with six or more years on the Court every two years and that no one could serve for two consecutive terms. On November 4th, the rule was changed so that those with four years of service were eligible and that Chief Justices could serve consecutive terms.

However, the problem with Opala's argument, in my opinion, is that the rule change
broadened the eligible candidate pool for an elected position. The previous rule, while imposing minimum qualifications, does not preclude the possibility of there being more than one qualified candidate -- which means Opala, in order to be elevated to the position, would still have had to win the vote in question.

In short, Opala has to prove two things -- that the other justices changed the rules specifically to harm him AND that the reason they did it was because of his age. My personal feeling is that this won't make it past the Western Oklahoma appellate court -- and that the voters who elected Opala last time will have a far larger candidate slate this time.

You can read the actual brief here, as well as Eugene Volokoh's more in-depth analysis on his blog.

Somewhere in SoCal, a Blogger is Smiling

Congratulations to blog ally Boi from Troy on his beloved University of Southern California Trojans's 55 - 19 whuppin' of the University of Oklahoma Sooners.

Once again, though, this raises the question....were the two best teams in the nation really playing each other? USC unquestioningly deserved the top spot in the nation; to me, the real question became who was going to be second. Obviously, SC made OU look pathetic, but OU partisans will immediately point to Auburn's lackluster performance against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl as proof that even though OU got beat, SC would have beat Auburn worse. However, I'll counter that, though Auburn had trouble with a fired-up Virginia Tech, it's also the team that beat Tennessee -- which just pounded Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl -- not once, but twice this season. Even more convincingly, Auburn went from 7-5 last season to 13-0 this one playing teams like Tennessee, while OU remained undefeated until last night playing teams like Iowa State.

As a Big 12 alum (Kansas State, played college ball at Concordia University in Nebraska, which is twenty very-short miles from the University of Nebraska), it's ironic to me that the conference teams are being destroyed by teams that have themselves adapted the model that once made the Big 12 great -- eleven good players working in concert can beat eleven great players who aren't. Bill Snyder, who Bob Stoops worked under as an assistant coach at Kansas State, is an excellent example. By focusing on making what he had, which was mostly guys who had been discarded or ignored by other programs because they were "too small" or "too slow", work together, he managed to take Kansas State from conference laughingstock to serious national contenders. However, as success invariably does, that attracted great players -- and Snyder's problem for the past few years has been giving into the temptation to try to let the great players win the game on their own. It appears that Stoops is going down the same pathway.

The Big 12 needs to return to that mentality of working together, rather than razzle dazzle. Let's face it -- you're not going to easily recruit the hottest players to come to Norman, Oklahoma, Manhattan, Kansas, or Lincoln, Nebraska -- while I love all three towns, there just isn't a hell of a lot there. (grin) However, what you CAN find are kids from the rural parts of the state or overlooked players from elsewhere who are hungry and want to win, but also know they need other peoples' help to do it. Bring them together, install an offense that uses all of them in concert, and return to the oldest maxim in football....those who execute will always beat those who don't.

Democrats Complaining About Turnout Again

Dirty Harry has a phenomenal post up today about how the leftists are returning to Vietnam-era tactics in a desperate attempt to convince Americans that Iraqis want to delay their vote, when in fact polls show clearly otherwise.

Perhaps they need to trot John Kerry out for a few more sessions of "exaggerations" before Congress.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Truth is What You Make of It, I Suppose

The liberal left has been spending a great deal of time lately trying to make political hay out of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the recent Indian Ocean tsunami. The latest effort, led by my bete noire John Aravosis over at Americablog, is to use a cursory survey of "religious right" websites and, based on that, claim that the "religious right is ignoring tsunami relief", and the left is not.

The problem is, though, that Aravosis, either through inadvertent or deliberate ignorance of the situation, is comparing political advocacy groups to "left" religious organizations and church denominations. When one compares denominations and religious organizations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and Salvation Army, as MediaSoul showed, the difference vanishes. Lending credence to the theory is that Aravosis is deliberately ignoring data that doesn't fit his desired conclusion, inexplicably Aravosis links to Pat Robertson's personal page to "prove" his point, but ignores Robertson's ministry page -- perhaps because, as a look at Robertson's ministry page shows, he definitely is NOT ignoring the situation.

This type of selective editing is not new territory for Aravosis -- witness his hissy fit and supporting the UN bureaucrats bashing Bush over not returning to DC immediately after the disaster while completely ignoring the fact that the bureaucrats' boss, Kofi Annan, didn't let the tsunami interfere with his ski vacation. However, it does make one wonder -- despite his statement that "a great nation deserves the truth", why does he only give half of it?