Monday, January 25, 2016

Turnabout: Grand Jury Indicts Video Hoaxers

This is pretty amazing news. A grand jury was looking into the allegations that Planned Parenthood does some nefarious thing like selling baby parts, based on the videos that were going around last year. And in the end, the jury indicted the people who made the videos.

The NYT:
HOUSTON — A county grand jury here that was investigating allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two anti-abortion activists who made videos of the organization.

In a statement, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said Monday that the director of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, had been indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs.

Another center employee, Sandra Merritt, was indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record. 2 Abortion Foes Behind Planned Parenthood Videos Are Indicted
So these hoaxers thought they were going to bring down Planned Parenthood by posting a series of edited, faked videotapes. Conservative Congresspeople jumped on board, we even heard a Presidential candidate describing what she had seen -- well, she was lying, what she described wasn't even in the videos -- and various states as well as the federal government had hearings to find out just how diabolical these women's health clinics really are.

In all cases, Planned Parenthood was found not to have done anything wrong. Funding of Planned Parenthood remains a basic wedge issue for conservatives, driving their base into a lather. It's good for business but if you expect the government to enforce the law you will have to look somewhere else for your example.

Which seems weird, because as far as I know nearly every woman in America has gone to Planned Parenthood at some time in her life. It is one of the most good-guy organizations in the country, providing a service that is very much appreciated by millions and millions of people in this country, men and women. But you know, if women would stop having sex there would be no need for contraceptives or abortions, so Planned Parenthood is only enabling women to make this country a place that conservatives consider sinful.

Honestly, I don't see the logic. One third of American women have had an abortion. That includes lots of conservative women as well as whatever the stereotype is supposed to be, probably poor minority women of some type. This is a relatively new orthodoxy for the Christian Right, just a couple of decades ago they did not think it was a big deal -- it certainly does not come from the Bible, which defines life as beginning with the first breath. I'm not going to argue about it, but my sense is that this is a movement formed to keep women subservient. There is no scriptural tradition behind the anti-abortion movement, and in reality a woman, even a conservative, religious woman, who knows she needs an abortion is going to try to get one.

Farther down:
Mr. Daleiden has been praised as a hero by some religious opponents of abortion. On Thursday, Mr. Daleiden was a featured guest at an Evangelicals for Life conference and was interviewed by Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family.

Asked by Mr. Moore whether it was morally consistent to engage in lies and deception to obtain information, Mr. Daleiden said that undercover work is “fundamentally different from lying,” according to BaptistNews.com, because its underlying purpose “is actually to serve the truth.”
Oddly, "truth" is one of those terms, like "liberty," "morality," and "support the troops," that are picked up as slogans by conservatives and then used to mean just the opposite of what they mean to everybody else. Truth, to most of us, is some kind of statement that corresponds with reality. It may be a valid inference based on well-established facts or it may be a report of a phenomenon that the speaker has observed directly. In any case, "Planned Parenthood sells baby parts" is not true by ordinary standards. But that statement is consistent with a way of thinking, a belief system that some subscribe to, and this consistency allows them to attribute the quality of "truth" to it. It is like saying "Obama wants the terrorists to win," it does not correspond with any aspect of reality but it fits the preconceived schema and so is labeled truth and is repeated as such.

Not to go all elitist on you, but that isn't what truth is to a sane, rational person.

I have never heard of a grand jury turning around and indicting the accuser, but apparently their job was to untangle the facts and determine what was actually going on, and when you do that you find that these people with the videos were breaking the law on several levels, both felonies and misdemeanors.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Political Correctness

I can still remember the first time I heard the term "politically correct," on a bus in Chapel Hill in 1991. It sort of stood out as a term with a lot of suppositions behind it, and I wondered if this was a phrase that people used, or did it just pop out of a lady's mouth spontaneously.

Political correctness has emerged now, two decades later, as, apparently, America's greatest enemy. To hear some tell it, political correctness is preventing honest, clear-thinking citizens from telling the truth about things.

As an aside, the one thing you can get me to argue about on the Internet is whether anybody has really told you "you can't say Merry Christmas" any more. Nobody has told you that. (And Merry Christmas to George Leventhal for his Facebook post saying the same thing.)

Let me suggest a way to understand the concept.

Some things are morally good. Kindness and love are good. Forgiveness is good. Fairness, good. Telling the truth is good, and extra points when it's hard or goes against your own self-interest. Helping people is good, being cheerful and grateful for the beauty of the world are good. These things are "right."

Some things are morally repugnant. Killing or hurting innocent people is repugnant, whether in crime, terrorism, or war. Lying for your own gain is repugnant. Insulting people needlessly is morally repugnant. Cheating and greed. Keeping another person from obtaining something they need is morally repugnant. Vanity, egoism, unwillingness to take another person's perspective. These things are "wrong."

The ability to tell right from wrong is considered a fundamental criterion of mental ability, it is the question that determines whether a person is competent to stand trial, for instance. Granted, there is usually no straight shining line. All situations in the real world contain some ambiguity, where maybe you have to violate a principle in order to support another one. It's Christmastime, I will go out on a limb and say that peace on earth and goodwill to men are good things. War and conflict and mistrust, greed, violence get you a lump of coal.

So here is the thing with political correctness: some people do not approve when you say things that are morally repugnant.

There is a little bit of social pressure being applied, I understand, it is a little uncomfortable when people look at you as if you are a jerk. When you say something about a group of people, for instance, implying that all Muslims are terrorists or that Mexican immigrants are rapists, even if you can't see people's faces you know in your heart that they are thinking you are a jerk. You can sense that they are judging you, and that is one of the innate social mechanisms that keeps a society orderly and healthy. We strive to be evaluated positively and feel discomfort when we fail at that.

Normally, we call this feeling "conscience." Your conscience is your sense of whether what you are doing is morally good or repugnant. Political correctness is your conscience speaking.

Why is this "political?" Huh, good question. Politics is the art of getting people to vote for you, and people don't feel comfortable voting for a jerk. If you say you are going to enact policies that make life harder for poor people and easier for the rich, if you say ignorant prejudicial things about foreigners and women and gay people and declare war on random foreign countries, then at some point your unkindness, your unfairness, your moral repugnance might cost you votes. And if you don't win the election you have nothing, as a politician. So in that sense morally repugnant statements are politically incorrect.

The word "correct" in the term is ironic or sarcastic, it is there to deflate the repulsiveness of ugly statements by implying that some group is claiming the authority to define how "we" should think. Thus a statement may be correct in the sense that all Muslims really are terrorists, but politically incorrect because some people have decided you should not say that, maybe because it would hurt a Muslim person's feelings. The implication is that the people who have decided this, for instance people who believe most Muslims are honest people who want to take care of their families and live in peace, are laboring under some sort of delusion, and are manipulating "our" beliefs to serve their own misinformed agenda.

It gets a little more complicated than that: morally repugnant people feel vindicated by numbers. Hate thrives once it infects a majority. It is as if, for some people, right and wrong are a popularity contest, and the fact that a lot of people believe something makes it good. Hatred and other forms of moral repugnance find justification in the agreement of others, and this can be an accelerating process, as a greater majority is able to influence even more people.

We now have leaders of a major political party who assert that their morally repugnant statements are simply truths that some weak people don't want to face. Their rallies are getting raucous, and common sense is getting drowned out. The morally repugnant mob is arming itself, organizing political campaigns, their opinions are being adopted by the press, what was "frankly unthinkable a year ago" is now mainstream.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Looking Back at a Victory


David Fishback posted a piece on his blog about the successful campaign to improve the sex education program in Montgomery County, Maryland -- the campaign lasted from 2002, through many ups and downs and hard battles, until the final decision was signed off in 2014. He included in his post the full text of the handbook "Montgomery County,Maryland: A Case Study and Handbook for Action," written for PFLAG -- I will not include the handbook here, but will copy David's comments. You can read the book at David's blog or in PDF form at the PFLAG web site. In it, David reviews the many incidents that occurred here in our quiet, progressive little county, and outlines the lessons that can be learned. I am reproducing his blog post here verbatim.

Also, let's take this opportunity to congratulate David for winning a 2015 Heschel Vision Award, given by Jews United for Justice, for his tireless advocacy of LGBT rights, education, and justice.

Successful Public School LGBT Curriculum Advocacy


David S. Fishback




Last month, I presented a workshop at the PFLAG National Convention in Nashville entitled Case Study in Successful Public School Curriculum and Guidance Office Advocacy.

What is taught – and not taught – in our schools about sexual orientation and gender identity is extremely important. Too often, there is a deafening silence about such matters. Such silence too often allows misconceptions and unwarranted prejudices to fester and poison the atmosphere for our LGBT children.

Efforts to change what is taught in our schools can be daunting. Such efforts demand hard work, wisdom, empathy, and determination. But they can succeed.

On June 17, 2014, the Board of Education of Montgomery County, Maryland, unanimously gave final approval to a revised health education framework for secondary schools. This revised framework is based specifically on the longstanding findings of every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, including the propositions that being LGBTQ is not an illness and that so-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapies are dangerous and ineffective. This action brought to a successful conclusion a dozen years of work by members of the Metro DC Chapter of PFLAG and others to bring the wisdom of the mainstream health care professionals into the middle and high school health education curriculum.

The Montgomery County experience may be useful for others around the country who seek to make schools not only safe for our LGBT children and children of LGBT families, but to help create a climate in which all of our children understand and appreciate each other.

Based on that experience, as PFLAG Metro DC Advocacy Chair, I created this publication, Curriculum Victory in Montgomery County, Maryland: A CaseStudy and Handbook for Action. It may be found at the PFLAG website at http://community.pflag.org/document.doc?id=1027 and is pasted below (but without the valuable hyperlinks in the website version). The campaign for curriculum revisions, and the lessons learned in the course of that campaign, was the basis for the October 18, 2015 workshop. The workshop was attended by PFLAGers from all around the United States.

I recommend that readers be aware, on the one hand, of the fact that this process took place in a relatively progressive community (which made it easier than it might be elsewhere); but also, on the other hand, of the fact that the culture in America has moved significantly in the last dozen years (which means that the dozen years it took from the start of the process in 2002 to the 2014 culmination could well be far longer than future efforts in other places).

In some communities, there may be widespread opposition to change; in others, opposition may be limited to a very small group of people. In some communities, political leaders may be very supportive; in others, they may be antagonistic or reluctant to “make waves.” In some communities, there may be a pent up desire to make the needed changes; in others, there may be a great fear of even talking about sexual orientation or gender identity. Within school bureaucracies, much may turn on the life experiences and hopes and fears of particular administrators. Every community is different, but there are common threads, the main one being that, as PFLAGers, we advocate for our children's lives, and we do so with the support of the mainstream American medical and mental health community.

See, also, http://focusonthefield.blogspot.com/2015/09/curriculum-victory-in-montgomery-county.html



Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Less Government" Simpletons


This is a photograph in today's Washington Post, page A-3. It shows a man, Brad Craig, giving a grateful handshake to a firefighter who has just saved his home from a wildfire in the state of Washington.

The story mentions that "The country marked its 10th day at Preparedness Level 5, the highest set by federal authorities, indicating that there are active fires in many areas and that have yet to be contained. The federal government on Saturday reported 11 new fires in the Northwestern states and California, taking the number of active fires in the country to 70." Earlier this week three firefighters died in the wildfires, while the US Bureau of Land Management coordinates the efforts of 29,000 firefighters fighting many fires from California to Alaska.

The smiling Brad Craig is wearing a t-shirt that says, "Less government, MORE FREEDOM."

Listen, the government is a gigantic bureaucratic slug that seems to barely keep up as the world rushes forward. We are here in Washington DC, we know about the government, we see it every day. A bunch of normal people get up in the morning and go to some office to do some tedious, thankless work that will probably be undone as soon as the next election's votes are counted. There is no glamour and very few attaboys, the pay isn't great but the benefits are.

The government is our society's way of coordinating a lot of services. Mostly these are services that would not be performed very well by private corporations, and many of them are things that we all rely on at one time or another, often without giving it a thought. The government doesn't belong to anybody, sometimes it seems like one group or another gets too much influence but generally the government reflects the choices of the electorate and functions to serve all of us. If you don't like the way it works, you are always welcome to participate in making it better. If you have a better idea than voting for leaders then let us know. In the meantime, that's how we do it. Sometimes your candidate wins, sometimes not.

We benefit from government just like this idiot, smiling at these firefighters while he's wearing a shirt suggesting that there should be fewer of them. Or maybe he just thinks they should be paid less, or that they do not really need all that safety equipment and airplanes and stuff.

We pay for these necessary services through taxes. It's a good deal. You contribute a certain amount of your wealth to the common good, and you can drive on roads and bridges that don't cave in on you, you can buy food that is not contaminated, you can fly in an airplane that won't crash into another airplane, because somebody's coordinating the traffic. We assume without question that we can breathe the air, drink the water, eat the food that is served us, congregate safely in public, we have parks and museums and transportation to get us there. If your neighborhood is on fire or there is an earthquake or a flood, somebody will come to save you if they can. We have the largest defense system in the world, by far. You and I might not agree with everything that is done, our priorities might differ, but there is a need for a service organization that is not hustling for profits, to coordinate efforts to carry out the needs of the people. And by and large our government gets the job done.

There is a continuum that shades from ignorance and irony into hypocrisy by degrees. And it strikes me that Brad Craig, whose house was saved by the government he despises, even while he smiles and shakes the hands of the firefighters that the government sent, has veered well beyond ignorance and irony. Unfortunately this kind of simpleton is all too common these days.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Equal Dignity in the Eyes of the Law

From Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion
The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.

Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

White Terrorists

There is a cynical but accurate American saying: "The Constitution guarantees freedom of the press for those who have one." While the Internet may have theoretically democratized the spread of information, a small number of media sources still have an overwhelming influence on public opinion. Those commercial media stay alive by satisfying their advertisers, who are interested in selling a product. Truth in broadcasting is one of many techniques for attracting and keeping an audience for the ads.

In that light, it is pleasing to see the New York Times Magazine's recent editorial about white terrorists.

The piece is too long to quote in its entirety, but I recommend the whole thing. The author, Brit Bennett, starts with some personal musings on the Klan, the Confederacy, and the history of white terrorism, that is, terrorism perpetrated by white people. To read the papers, you'd think this was an oxymoron, or an impossibility, white terrorism. In the news, white terrorists are "troubled," "mentally ill," "alienated," they are referred to as "gunmen" or "shooters." Because they are one of "us," we differentiate their motives, their past, their thoughts and emotions; but when terrorists are foreign or dark-skinned they are easily depicted without empathy, their motives are characterized as evil or hateful, and we are done with it. White people have freedom of the press, because they have one.

Ms. Bennett says it better than me -- I am jumping into the middle of her magnificent essay.
This is the privilege of whiteness: While a terrorist may be white, his violence is never based in his whiteness. A white terrorist has unique, complicated motives that we will never comprehend. He can be a disturbed loner or a monster. He is either mentally ill or pure evil. The white terrorist exists solely as a dyad of extremes: Either he is humanized to the point of sympathy or he is so monstrous that he almost becomes mythological. Either way, he is never indicative of anything larger about whiteness, nor is he ever a garden-variety racist. He represents nothing but himself. A white terrorist is anything that frames him as an anomaly and separates him from the long, storied history of white terrorism.

I’m always struck by this hesitance not only to name white terrorism but to name whiteness itself during acts of racial violence. In a recent New York Times article on the history of lynching, the victims are repeatedly described as black. Not once, however, are the violent actors described as they are: white. Instead, the white lynch mobs are simply described as “a group of men” or “a mob.” In an article about racial violence, this erasure of whiteness is absurd. The race of the victims is relevant, but somehow the race of the killers is incidental. If we’re willing to admit that race is a reason blacks were lynched, why are we unwilling to admit that race is a reason whites lynched them? In his remarks following the Charleston shooting, President Obama mentioned whiteness only once — in a quotation from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. intended to encourage interracial harmony. Obama vaguely acknowledged that “this is not the first time that black churches have been attacked” but declined to state who has attacked these churches. His passive language echoes this strange vagueness, a reluctance to even name white terrorism, as if black churches have been attacked by some disembodied force, not real people motivated by a racist ideology whose roots stretch past the founding of this country. White Terrorism Is as Old as America
The recent killings in South Carolina were so reprehensible that no one can ignore them. A white man murdered innocent black people while they were praying, out of hatred for their race. Yet somehow white society is blameless.

Bennett's analysis of the tacit bias in reporting of terrorist acts perpetrated by whites is articulate and she makes an excellent point. When a black or Muslim person commits an act of violence, the media report their race as an explanatory fact and the criminal's group absorbs some of the blame for his act. But when a white person does it, we focus on the race of the victims as an explanatory fact.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Baltimore the Turning Point? It Is Possible

I was as surprised as anybody to hear that Baltimore has charged all six cops with crimes in the killing of innocent young Freddie Gray, after a fast investigation. These are serious charges, and it raises the interesting possibility that our neighbor city of Baltimore will be the place where the tide starts to turn.

These are not simple issues. We are born into the evolution of a society, a history, we live it and shape it as it flows along, and it lives and shapes us. White people can say, I never owned slaves, and black people living today have never experienced slavery, but we hold attitudes that were formed under slavery, on one side or the other, and many of those attitudes have mutated nearly imperceptibly over time. We are not born to a clean slate where we simply decide how to be, we learn what our people have learned, white and black. And the end of slavery was not the end of prejudice and injustice, it was just an evolutionary increment, like when dinosaurs grew feathers, millions of years before birds could fly.

America's racial problems are not going to go away tomorrow. There is still a lot -- a lot -- of anger directed toward black people for not succeeding in a world defined by European culture. It is sometimes shocking to hear the politicians and the Fox personalities talking about black people as if they simply suffer some kind of character weakness and that's why so many of them are poor, why the schools in their neighborhoods are so bad, why the jails are full of black people. There is no acknowledgement of the advantages that are handed to white folks -- I believe that these kinds of things in our own lives are often impossible to see, like a fish that is unaware of water. These white loudmouths think black people should just change, just go ahead and change, in ways that they would never in a million years be able to do if they found themselves trapped in a similar situation. Be like me, they say, but they are just like their daddies, and their granddaddies before them.

There are many narratives telling how we got to this point, but it doesn't matter, this is not the time to unravel the story, it is time to step carefully back from the brink. The police violence is too much. It is an embarrassment to a country that calls itself "free." We are a complex society that requires some imposed order, we have laws that don't enforce themselves, police are a necessary component of a civil society. But look, you might have missed this; more than a month ago, the Baltimore Sun reported:
As state lawmakers consider several bills related to the use of force by police, the American Civil Liberties Union reported Wednesday that 109 people died after encounters with police in Maryland between 2010 and 2014.

Nearly 70 percent of those who died during the encounters were black, and more than 40 percent of the people were unarmed, the ACLU of Maryland reported. The advocacy group found that blacks, who make up less than a third of the state population, were five times more likely to die from interactions with police than whites.
That's 109 people in our little state -- the number is obviously higher now -- do you know the names of any of them? Do you remember seeing any one of them mentioned in the newspaper? Did they come through your Twitter feed, your Facebook page? No, it just happens. Mothers lose their sons and they cry and that's all, that's the end of it. Pretty soon it happens to another mother on the block and she cries, and then another. A few, then a dozen, then dozens, then hundreds of crying mothers, their pain unknown outside their own neighborhoods.

We shrug off this police violence when we hear about it, thinking it must be "necessary" somehow, but now that people have cameras on their phones and we can see for ourselves what has happened, we know that is not the case. It doesn't appear to be anything more than a ruling class keeping the poor in their place. Maybe that is a universal human theme, maybe conquerors have tormented the vanquished since the dawn of time, I don't care, I believe in an America that is evolving beyond that, where people are free. This is an old argument, it goes back to the Founding Fathers, it came to a fracture during the Civil War, it is still the faultline that separates Red and Blue America. It's not exactly race, all the time, it's "us" and "them." In all cases it is a matter of "us" being big-hearted enough to acknowledge that "they" may be different from us, but they deserve our respect as human beings. Whoever "they" are.

One of the policemen was charged with "depraved heart murder." I had never heard of that before. It is a good term. A perfect term.

The evolution of America is lurching forward in increments. Right now we are a dumb-looking feathered dinosaur without even the sense to try flapping our wings. But when Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby stood at the podium reading off the narrative and listing the charges, it felt like perhaps our next fall could land a little lighter. It is possible that Baltimore will have a fair and thorough trial of these depraved-heart policemen. It is possible that someone will finally be found guilty, and that the citizens of Baltimore who have been victimized by them all these years will regain some ownership of their community.

The mayor of Baltimore has said, "I will continue to be relentless in changing the culture of the police department." It is possible that a profound change in American culture has started, and will radiate out from the city of Baltimore.

We grew up believing "the policeman is your friend." Americans respect the police, it's in our blood. And for that reason we give them a break. If somebody gets hurt in a tussle between a good guy and a bad guy, we give the good guy the benefit of the doubt. I'm okay with that, even knowing that there have always been bad cops and there always will be. But when having a busted taillight while black becomes a capital offense, or catching a cop's eye for a second too long, no, this isn't Marshall Dillon we're talking about here, this isn't even Clint Eastwood, this is just plain old cowardice.

Baltimore could possibly be the turning point.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Win-Win Plan for Oklahoma

This is genius. I'll let Slate tell you:
When not debating whether to outlaw hoodies or protect parents’ decision to force their children into ex-gay conversion therapy, the severely conservative Oklahoma legislature has spent much of this session debating an anti-gay “religious liberty” bill. The measure would allow both private businesses and government entities to refuse service to gay people based on their religious beliefs. Although the proposed legislation is similar to the Arizona bill that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed last year, it actually goes much further, explicitly permitting anybody—from a hotel owner to a DMV employee to a social worker—to turn away gay people if their religious beliefs require it.

Now a legislator has introduced a brilliant amendment to the House version of bill, which, in taking the measure to its logical conclusion, explosively reveals the animus underlying it. The lawmaker, Democratic state Rep. Emily Virgin, fiercely opposes the “religious liberty” bill. But if it does pass, Virgin wants to ensure that gay couples know which businesses and government agencies will refuse them service so they can avoid the indignity of being turned away based on their identity. So Virgin’s amendment requires that “any person” who despises gay people too much to serve them must simply “post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites.” The amendment would promulgate the same notice requirement for businesses that refuse to service based on race or gender identity. Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants Anti-Gay Businesses to Post “No Gays Allowed” Signs. Excellent!
So under this law, if Jesus doesn't want you to serve gay people, you don't have to. And you don't have to suppress your beliefs because of political correctness. You don't serve gays, why would you want them coming into your place of business and trying to buy something, if you're not going to sell it to them? You have the unpleasant moments of interacting with Sodomites, and they are likely to get upset and have a protest anyway. Or call the press and cry that you won't bake them a cake for their so-called "wedding."

The easy solution for everyone is this: if you belong to a religion that does not let you do business with gay people, then put a sign in the window. "No Gays Allowed." They will know to stay away, and if they come in anyway then you have a good legal case, because they knew better.

Why wouldn't this work?

It would even be good for business, I bet. Somebody is walking down the street, trying not to breathe the gay air or bump elbows with gay people on the sidewalk, and they see your sign and come in for refuge, and to spend money. They might recognize that you are a good, moral person like them and come in to support you in your moral convictions by buying something.

Seventy-eight percent of Oklahomans identify themselves as Christians. So obviously, putting this sign in your window will be great for business. The nice Christian folks will go out of their way to do business with you, and those pesky gays won't be asking for stuff they aren't going to get, leaving their gay cooties on your countertops. It seems to me it is a winning proposition for everyone.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wisdom From Jon Stewart

Yesterday Jon Stewart announced that he will be retiring soon -- it will be a different world without him behind his desk. I wanted to go back to a beautiful statement he made a few years ago, which I felt was a most eloquent and optimistic summary of the American situation.

In 2010 Stewart and Stephen Colbert had a rally that was attended by more than 200,000 people. Colbert called it the "March to Keep Fear Alive," in keeping with his role as a conservative pundit, and Stewart called it the "Rally to Restore Sanity."

Addressing the crowd, Jon Stewart pointed to a scene of the Holland Tunnel on the Jumbotron and said:
These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, (referring to the Jumbotron blowing in the wind) swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.
Sanity: live and let live.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Curriculum Changes: World Does Not End

Well, it's official. I have not been keeping up the blog. TeachTheFacts.org formed in 2004 to protect our Montgomery County school district from assault by radical conservatives, and largely that assault has been successfully repelled. For a long time there was breaking news nearly every day as a handful of extremists tried to keep any mention of sexual orientation out of the schools. The press loved them but they had zilch in terms of community support. These days we don't hear much from them. And I have not been very diligent about maintaining this blog.

The curriculum was an improvement but it was not what we wanted. For instance, teachers were not allowed to say that homosexuality is not a disease, unless a student specifically asked that question. And, very weird, teachers were not allowed to "teach," they were required to read scripts discussing sexual orientation and correct condom use. Can you imagine being a kid and trying to figure out what is going on? What happened to my teacher, she was a nice lady and now she is reading this stuff to us.

Last summer the school board proposed improvements to the curriculum -- including "descripting" -- and asked for public comment. Their official wording:
WHEREAS, On February 13, 2001, the Montgomery County Board of Education approved a curriculum policy that guides the development, implementation, and monitoring of curricula throughout the school system; and

WHEREAS, A draft curriculum framework was developed for secondary health education; and

WHEREAS, The draft curriculum framework was shared with stakeholders and additional feedback was received during a public comment period from May 13 to June 13, 2014; and

WHEREAS, Feedback and input from stakeholders and public comments have been used to develop and refine the Secondary Comprehensive Health Education Curriculum Framework; now therefore be it

Resolved, That the Montgomery County Board of Education grants final approval of the Montgomery County Public Schools Secondary Comprehensive Health Education Curriculum Framework, which combines National Health Education Standards skills and Montgomery County Public Schools content standards as the foundation for the development of the Secondary Health Education Curriculum. Board Memorandum
The school district got 61 comments, of which 15 were opposed to the changes. They are summarized in the linked memo, along with documentation of the changes. Nobody can complain that this was a "stealth maneuver" or anything, the anti-gay side heard about it -- even Family Research Council monkey-monk Peter Sprigg spewed spoke to the board. None of this made the newspapers at the time, well there is no reason why it would. Extry extry, health class changes! Read all about it!

Mostly people were supportive, even enthusiastic about the changes. It is kind of fun to read. Even the "aberrant sexual behaviors" comments are colorful and folksy, in their way.

The June 2014 memo says:
In the 2014–2015 school year, MCPS will implement the shift away from scripted lessons on sexual orientation and proper use of a condom. In the 2015–2016 school year, updated courses in Grades 6, 7, and 8 will be implemented. The implementation of the updated high school course will begin in the 2016–2017 school year. Each school will continue to provide parents with the opportunity to review the Family Life and Human Sexuality and Disease Prevention and Control curriculum and resources, and parents will be permitted to decide whether their children will participate in these units.
Sometimes it seems embarrassing when people are afraid to do what's right. When this curriculum was being developed, everyone knew what needed to be done but they were afraid of bad publicity. There might have been as many as a dozen active members in the group opposed to any mention of sexual orientation and condom use, in a county of a million residents. Still, the school district went to extreme lengths to listen to them, to humor them as they ranted about anal sex and every other thing, and in the end they weakened the curriculum to accommodate the hateful views of a radical minority. There are lots of important reasons to inform our young citizens about sexual orientation and gender identity, to teach them how to use a condom correctly, and it is important not to undermine the lessons with pedagogical techniques that imply that the subject is shameful or even controversial.

At the time, we hoped that the small victory would open the door for progress, and it did.