Sunday, May 30, 2010

Insurance Companies Improving Ahead of Schedule

First, I gotta complain. I just spent nearly seven hours setting up a new wireless router at the house, using the foolproof simplified instructions and Belkin's telephone support (who after an hour told me I have a "firewall problem" and they can't help me). Somebody tell me, why does a router wear out? There are no moving parts to one of these things, but my old one got so bad you had to reset it several times a day. I think I've got this one working now.

It definitely cheered me up to see a news story like this.
Of all the things Danielle Hertz will have to worry about when she graduates from Ohio State this spring, health insurance won't be one of them.

Under the new federal health-reform law, she and other adult children can stay on their parents' health-insurance policies until they're 26 years old.

The federal provision kicks in for policies renewed after Sept. 23, but several health-insurance companies already have let students graduating in the spring stay on their parents' policies.

Jumping in early helps insurers and employers avoid the paperwork involved in having to drop adult children from policies only to pick them up again in a few months.

"It would be a nightmare for the (human resources) departments," said Debora Spano, spokeswoman for UnitedHealthcare. "It's easier and makes life simpler for everybody involved. And it keeps those kids insured."

Besides, young, healthy people are inexpensive to insure.

All of this is a relief for Hertz, 21, who plans to spend the summer searching for a job.

"I had friends who graduated before me ... that were getting off their parents' health insurance, and it was making me nervous to be on my own ... for that," the Springfield resident said.

Hertz, a dual English and communication major, said she'll stay on the insurance her mother gets through her employer.

"I didn't intend on doing that, but it gives me stability while I'm on my job search," she said. "It's just nice that I don't have to stress about that on top of everything else." Insurers following new health law early

I'm sure they're real concerned about kids being insured. Luckily for all involved, it's less paperwork -- that is, less expensive -- to just keep graduating college students on their parents' plans for the few months before the deadline.

As provisions of the health care overhaul fall into place, Americans are really going to be thankful that our leaders had the courage to pass the bill.

Terrible News From the Gulf

From the NYT:
In another serious setback in the effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers said Saturday that the “top kill” technique had failed and, after consultation with government officials, they had decided to move on to another strategy. BP Prepares to Take New Tack on Leak After ‘Top Kill’ Fails

BTW, it is fascinating to watch the live feed from the bottom of the Gulf, which you can see on a post several down beneath this one. Sometimes you can see the robotic arms working, trying something, machinery moving around the jets of oil, sometimes it's just a constant gush of black oil into the cold saltwater. This is a terrible disaster that should shape American political philosophy for decades to come. You can't let corporations regulate themselves, because they exist only for profits. You can't treat them as people, because they are not personally accountable. You can't trust them, because they will cut corners and save money whenever they can. After years of letting the oil companies make their own rules, you now discover that a foreign company has the ability to destroy a critical US ecosystem because our government became too weak to monitor the situation and government failed to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to take control. BP created this disaster, and nobody but BP can do anything about it.

This is a good time for "lower-taxes-smaller-government" libertarians to re-think their position. It's fine to point fingers at the President and say he's not doing enough, but not if you are constantly complaining that taxes are too high and government is too involved in business. Do you want what we have now, government as spectator, or do you want people you elect to be in control of the situation? Everybody wants government to stay out of our personal lives, everybody hates paying taxes, but most of us agree that a government should govern. The stories coming out about the Minerals Management Service are mind-boggling -- this disaster was inevitable.

Last night Rockville's Hometown Holidays main concert featured groups from Louisiana. I went to see Tab Benoit and was not disappointed, his three-piece band rocked. He took some time during his set to talk about the tragedy in the Gulf, and I'm sorry to say he was not sufficiently articulate. He had two big points to make. First, he said, the people who you think are in charge are not in charge. He said it was the same after Katrina, you think the government is running things but they aren't. Benoit said the people need to hold the government accountable, but in my opinion it sounded more like talk borne of desperation than a real plan. He also said that things along the coast are much worse than we realize. He urged people to go to Louisiana (maybe not the best idea) and see for themselves, he said the situation is much worse than what you see on the news. And I have the feeling he's right about that.

Oddly, BP and the US Coast Guard are stopping journalists who are trying to cover the situation. It is understandable that BP would want to control the public relations aspect of this mess, but the Coast Guard? This is a situation where you cannot trust the media, there is just too much money involved for them to be objective. Wikipedia says BP is the fourth largest company in the world, you can be sure a TV network will be careful in criticizing them. You can be sure their donations to politicians are well appreciated. You can be sure those poor people who live along the Gulf coast are going to suffer for a long time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Anti-Gays Flaming As DADT Burns Out

As Congress moves to allow gays and lesbians to serve their country in the military, a Montgomery County Public Schools advisor for sex education has said that if gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the military, the result will be an increase in the number of incidents where men fondle and perform oral sex on other men who are sleeping.

The Family Research Council document authored by MCPS citizens advisory committee member Peter Sprigg uses some data from the National Health and Social Life Survey estimating that 2.8 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women identify themselves as gay or lesbian. Then his report, titled Homosexual Assault in the Military, states that "more than eight percent of sexual assaults in the military are homosexual in nature," adding, "This is nearly three times what would be expected." The eight percent figure is based on the FRC's inspection of case synopses for all sexual assaults reported in the military in fiscal year 2009. The FRC notes that in their analysis 7.55 percent of all the cases were male-on-male assaults, and 0.61 percent were female on female. Their conclusion is that "it is hard to escape the conclusion that, in fact, homosexual and bisexual servicemembers are, on average, more likely to engage in sexual assault than are heterosexual servicemembers."

In concluding this, they dismiss the possibility that homosexual assault is more likely to be reported, and in fact contend that same-sex assaults are probably under-reported because of the stigma associated with homosexuality. This is a shot in the dark and almost certainly wrong.

Most of the cases cited in Sprigg's report are groping incidents. Does a woman report every time a man grabs her? Of course not. Overly aggressive men should be held accountable for their behavior, but for one reason or another they often are not -- this is a social problem in its own right. A straight man who is the recipient of unexpected attention from another man may be offended and even shocked in a way that few woman would be. One result is going to be asymmetry in the reporting of heterosexual and homosexual assaults. A man grabs a woman, she avoids him after that; a man grabs a man, he freaks out and reports it. The data that the Family Research Council "analyzed" give a lot of information about bias inherent in self-report of sensitive issues and very little information about the prevalence of sexual assault in the US military.

A government report issued in 2008 found that forty one percent of women veterans interviewed at a veterans hospital said they had been sexually assaulted while they were in the military. Twenty nine percent said they had been raped during their service. The FRC's data set comprised "all 1,643 reports of sexual assault reported by the four branches of the military for Fiscal Year 2009." According to Wikipedia, as of last year there were 1,454,515 people in active duty. Twenty percent of those are women, approximately 291,000 of them. Forty one percent of those have been sexually assaulted, 41 percent of 291,000 is 119,270. Yet the official sexual assault file contains fewer than two thousand cases, about one per cent of the estimated true number.

The FRC report makes this interesting reference: "Although these [homosexual assault] cases are part of the public record, they are rarely reported on by the media—in contrast to cases of heterosexual assault, such as the infamous “Tailhook” scandal." But the problem with Tailhook was that that kind of heterosexual groping and sexual assault had become so widespread and commonplace that the participants hardly felt they were doing anything unusual or wrong. It wasn't that there was a wild party, the problem was that there was a culture within the military that considered that kind of heterosexual aggression normal. Of course the the vast majority of heterosexual assaults are never reported in the media -- imagine if there was a news story every time a guy in a bar or at a party or even at work touched a woman inappropriately!

Really, it's not surprising but this report is nonsense. One weird thing, they censor innocent medical terms like "penis" and "anus," which are spelled "p---s" and "a--s."

Talking Points Memo reports on a conference call that MCPS sex-ed advisor and Family Research Council Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg was on. Sprigg is quoted:
"If open homosexuality was permitted in the military, these numbers can only increase," Sprigg said. "The number of homosexuals would grow, the threat of discharge for homosexual behavior would be eliminated and protected class status for homosexuals would make victims hesitant to report assaults and make commanders hesitant to punish them for fear of appearing homophobic." Family Research Council: End Of DADT Means More Gay Rape In The Military

There is a massive problem of sexual abuse in the military, and it has nothing to do with gay people. If Peter Sprigg were concerned with sexual assault in the military he would start with the elephant in the room, the system-wide rape and abuse of servicewomen. No, Peter Sprigg is obsessively focused on the possibility of a man groping another man, an event that is trivial when you realize that nearly a third of military women are raped while they're on active duty.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Latest on Top Kill Cliffhanger: Cross Your Fingers

If you look at the video a couple of posts below this one you can see there's still a lot of stuff blowing up, but the BP engineers seem optimistic. Here's what the New York Times had to say a few minutes ago (Thursday night).
BP halted its ambitious effort to plug its stricken oil well Wednesday night when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid they were injecting into the well was escaping along with the leaking crude oil. A technician at the BP command center said that pumping of the fluid had to be stopped temporarily while engineers were revising their plans. The company resumed the pumping Thursday evening. The Latest on the Oil Spill

Okay, so they're not giving up. They stopped and decided to do it differently, and now they're trying again to choke it off with mud so they can seal it permamently. I hate to see the destruction of the Gulf, the wildlife, the livelihoods of the people, I really hope they can get this thing under control. You feel so helpless just watching.

That link, by the way, looks like a good source of up-to-date information on the oil spill. They keep refreshing the information there.

Gushing Oil Stopped

Man oh man, cross your fingers and hope this plug holds -- The LA TImes:
Engineers have stopped the flow of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico from a gushing BP well, the federal government's top oil-spill commander, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Thursday morning.

The "top kill" effort, launched Wednesday afternoon by industry and government engineers, had pumped enough drilling fluid to block oil and gas spewing from the well, Allen said. The pressure from the well was very low, he said, but persisting.

Once engineers had reduced the well pressure to zero, they were to begin pumping cement into the hole to entomb the well. To help in that effort, he said, engineers also were pumping some debris into the blowout preventer at the top of the well.

As of early Thursday morning, neither government nor BP officials had declared the effort a success yet, pending the completion of the cementing and sealing of the well.

Allen said one ship that was pumping fluid into the well had run out of the fluid, or "mud," and that a second ship was on the way. He said he was encouraged by the progress.

"We'll get this under control," he said.

Allen also said that, later Thursday, an interagency team would release a revised estimate of how much oil had flowed from the well into the gulf before the "top kill" effort began. The Coast Guard had estimated the flow at 5,000 barrels a day, but independent estimates suggested it was much higher, perhaps tens of thousands of barrels a day. 'Top kill' plugs gulf oil leak, official says

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Live Feed From the BP Oil Disaster

This is a live feed from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. BP has cameras down there streaming video of the oil gushing up from the ocean floor. You can expect the color and amount of the stuff coming out to change as they pack mud in there and do whatever else they do to try to get it under control. You can go to the original source HERE.

The video is both horrifying and fascinating. Use the Play (triangle) and Stop (square) buttons on the player to turn the stream on and off.

The text in the blockquote is from their site.

Please be aware, this is a live stream and may freeze or be unavailable from time to time.

Throughout the extended top kill procedure – which may take up to two days to complete - very significant changes in the appearance of the flows at the seabed may be expected. These will not provide a reliable indicator of the overall progress, or success or failure, of the top kill operation as a whole. BP will report on the progress of the operation as appropriate and on its outcome when complete.

We typically think of an economy and an ecology as independent systems. They are not.

If this video is bogging down your computer, please let us know in email or comments and we can replace it with a link. For now, this seems cooler. Stop it with the square Stop button if it's too much.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Casa Protest: Two Sides Tell It

The other day we told you about a planned protest of immigration policy to be held at Casa de Maryland in Silver Spring on Saturday. I found about sixty anti-immigrant (read anti-Hispanic) web sites that were broadcasting the Help Save Maryland announcement of the protest. Casa de Maryland encouraged those who were sympathetic to the plight of immigrants to come show their support in a gentle way, helping out with phone calls and gardening.

You might say that the event did not register on the news. If you can find any story about it, please email us here or paste the link into the comments for this post, because it seems that not a ripple was generated by the great throngs of Nutty Ones who congregated to take their country back et cetera.

We found one rightwing site that reported on the demonstration. The U.S. Constitutional Free Press blog really made a big deal out of it:
The CASA staff and illegal alien Day Laborers never knew what hit them today.

100 Help Save Maryland members and supporters arrived at the Silver Spring Day Laborer Center, bringing the lawless worker operation to a complete halt. There were plenty of signs, flags and voices letting the CASA center and those driving by that HSM members are opposed to wasting tax dollars on illegal worker centers for illegal aliens. Instead of furloughing Montgomery County Police officers and Firemen, this taxpayer funded illegal worker center should be shut down instead.

Concerned citizens participated from 10 Maryland Counties – Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll, Cecil, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Washington. Our friends from the Cecil County Patriots drive 2 hours to support HSM!

And to think that all arrived today without taxpayer subsidies, taxpayer funded buses or taxpayer funded Metro fare cards. HELP SAVE MARYLAND RALLY OVERWHELMS CASA SILVER SPRING ILLEGAL WORKER SITE

<sarcasm>Wow, this must have been humiliating for Casa! It sounds like the Real Americans showed those immigrants who's who.</sarcasm>
WUSA TV 9 covered the event which was the lead story on the 6pm news. A radio station, the Washington Post, Gazette and Silver Spring Voice also interviewed our members. We also received lots of support from citizens driving by the Center

Readers: if anyone can find anything on WUSA TV 9's web site, suggesting that they ran any story about this demonstration at all, again, please email us or paste a link into a comment and I will update this post. As of now, it appears that the blogger for U.S. Constitutional Free Press may have been hallucinating. Or lying.

The USCFP post seems to have been written by the Director of Help Save Maryland, but I don't find the text on their web site.

That same blog published photos from the demonstration HERE. Go look if you don't believe me, but this is the photograph that shows the hugest crowd. I see nine people, plus some standing around on the other side of the fence, which I assume to be the Casa de Maryland side.

Overwhelmed with "100 Help Save Maryland members and supporters" from ten Maryland counties, eh?

So that's the protesters' side of the story. Casa de Maryland put out a press release describing the event, too.
(Silver Spring, MD) Several dozen anti-immigrant and pro-Arizona militants who blocked sidewalks on busy University Boulevard in East Silver Spring today were greeted by more than 70 volunteers who came to the site to plant flowers.

The protest was organized by Help Save Maryland, a group that has been declared a nativist/extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization whose history has been spent combating the Klu Klux Klan and other hate groups. The several dozen immigration opponents levied signs, shouted through megaphones, and on several occasions hurtled racist epitaphs and yelled and cursed at small children.

Rather than organize a counter-protest, CASA invited community members, civic association and church activists, and others to spend several hours at the same site planting flowers and sharing stories. The seventy-four volunteers included a Methodist reverend, local residents, and political leaders. Describing why they wanted to participate, many described their frustration with the unfolding human rights drama in the State of Arizona and make a statement that Maryland will not follow suit.

Help Save Maryland chose to target a location in the Long Branch neighborhood of Eastern Montgomery County - the most diverse part of the region, with more than 130 languages spoken at local elementary schools. Almost 50% of the neighborhood is Latino and the foreign-born population of Long Branch is almost 60%. Of the several anti-immigrant activists that were interviewed, none lived in the neighborhood and few in the county. Families walking to shops in the busy neighborhood were startled by the anti-immigrant militants and several chose to enter the CASA center to volunteer and show support. CASA Combats Hate with Love

Every country needs to have clear immigration policies and has the right to enforce them. If you have a view of what the policy should be in our country, I would suggest you contact your representatives in Congress and tell them what you want.

It doesn't make any sense to stand outside Casa de Maryland with bullhorns, waving American flags and signs that say "Immigrants are Lying Thieves," as shown proudly on the blog I just linked. That is simply racism, it is not an opinion that addresses federal immigration policy or its enforcement, it is a mean-hearted and false generalization about a group of people.

(And I'm guessing that the white guy holding that sign might have an immigrant somewhere in his family tree, too.)

As you might expect, I'm buying Casa's version of the event. The right thing to do is to fight hate with love. Aprenda un poco español, learn to talk with your new neighbors. It's hard moving far from your home, and I think the American way would be to make people feel welcome, not call them lying thieves and try to deport them. The federal government must establish and enforce fair policies, but this is a horse that's already out of the barn, US immigration is confused and disorganized, and we need to deal with the situation as it is, fairly and kindly.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kevin Costner to Save the Day?

This has got to be one of the weirdest stories out there this week. You know that BP has made a big mess in the Gulf of Mexico, they have halfheartedly tried different things to stop the leak and clean up the rapidly-expanding mess, nothing is working, there is a lot more oil than they're saying, etcetera. Unfortunately we live in a time when a disaster of this proportion, and the corporate unaccountability that attends it, is just another news story. That's just how it is.

It seems possible that this mess will be cleaned up by the last person you'd expect: Kevin Costner.
Film star Kevin Costner is joining the ranks of scientists, engineers, and lawmakers in an international effort to figure out how to contain and clean up oil streaming into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day.

Mr. Costner appeared in New Orleans last week to demonstrate a $24 million oil extraction device he is pitching to BP and Coast Guard officials. Costner says the device will clean oil from the water at a rate of 97 percent. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Wednesday that his team will test the device next week.

Costner’s involvement in helping solve oil spill crises is not new. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska motivated the actor to help fund a consortium of scientists to develop technology that mitigates oil-infected water before it hits the coast. The technology is ready to combat the BP spill, he told reporters last week. Kevin Costner oil spill cleanup idea interests BP

Waterworld and the Exxon Valdez incident got him interested in these things, and he has been quietly investing in this technology ever since.

A little more...
“It's not anymore about talk," Costner told WWL-TV in New Orleans. “It's about doing the walk, and that phrase was probably invented down here.”

Costner’s company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, provides multiple machines designed to address spills of different sizes. The largest can clean as many as 200 gallons per minute, Costner said. The company reports it has 20 such machines ready to be employed.

“The machines are basically sophisticated centrifuge devices that can handle a huge volume of water and separate [the oil] at unprecedented rates,” Ocean Therapy Solutions CEO John Houghtaling said last week.

Costner said the machines work by drawing in the infested water where it then breaks it down, allowing the oil to discharge through a separate pipe. His audience, a gathering of local parish presidents, appeared eager to get the device to the Gulf.

The only thing I can think of that is nearly this strange is Doobie Brothers guitar player Skunk Baxter advising the US military on missile defense. I am glad that some Hollywood gazillionaire like Kevin Costner can do his do-gooder thing in his private time for decades, and then when it is needed, there he is. You didn't know he'd spent twenty four million dollars on technology to clean oil out of water, nobody really knew, he just did it. Maybe there are actually good people out there.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This Morning - Support Casa

Casa de Maryland supported us back in the day when the focus was on the sex-ed curriculum, and now they need our support as the Nutty Ones have turned their attention to the "problem" of illegal immigration. Today (Saturday, May 22nd) they are planning a demonstration at Casa de Maryland offices in Silver Spring. Our side is planning a show of support for Casa. If you can make it to Silver Spring, the information is below.

If you put [ "Maryland Citizens' Rally Against Illegal Immigration" casa ] into Google (the part inside the brackets) you will see more than five dozen web sites with the same thing -- a call to protest at Casa de Maryland in Silver Spring today, Saturday, from "Help Save Maryland." Here's what they're saying:
~~~~~~~~~~~Help Save Maryland Action Alert


DATE: SATURDAY, MAY 22, 10:30-12:30 PM


MEET HSM & PFC Members from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Baltimore City, Cecil, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Talbot and Washington Counties.








Montgomery County Police will be on the scene.


RSVP to:

Brad Botwin, Director, Help Save Maryland 240-447-1884, bb67chev

” Find strength in the fact that you’re not alone and that your actions contribute to a cause, whether in politics, business, or in other spheres of life. I am here to be effective, to have agency, to make claim on power, to spread it around, to rearrange it, to democratize it, to legislate it into justice.” Tony Kusher, playwright

Okay, you can see where they're coming from, they have to SHOUT all the time. They are indignant about "illegal immigrants" getting day jobs that nobody else wants, and they are mad at Casa de Maryland for setting up a place where people who need workers can meet them and take them to work.

To these people it is a serious problem, I don't really know how they think it affects them personally, but they intend to make a big scene in Silver Spring today if they can. Given the timing of it relative to the Arizona law, I expect there could be national news coverage of the event. On the other hand, they may have sixty web sites promoting this thing but there's no guarantee anybody will show up.

Supporters of our county's immigrant community are planning to show up as well. Here is the email that went out yesterday:
Several anti-immigrant groups will be targeting Casa de Maryland this Saturday (May 22) for a "Maryland Citizen's Rally Against Illegal Immigration." They will be demonstrating at Casa's University Blvd. center to "Help Shut Down Casa's Illegal Worker Center..."

So, the good people of Silver Spring and Takoma Park are joining Casa this Sat. morning from 10 to 1 in a positive show of support and activity during the demonstration. We will be moving equipment, making phone calls, helping to clean up Casa's Center, etc. and "at the same time let people in the community know that not everyone agrees with the haters marching outside our gate."

If you can join with Casa this Saturday, email Helen Melton at to confirm. Casa will have cookies and juice for the volunteers. Casa's center is at 734 E. University Blvd. Silver Spring - one block east of Piney Branch Rd.

When you get there, make sure the Casa people know what you're there for. If there's a crowd, don't let your body add to the count, go immediately to Casa and talk to the people there, make sure they know what side you're on.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

WashTimes Over the Line

Last month the Washington Times published an editorial titled "Discrimination Is Necessary" that argued in favor of anti-LGBT discrimination. Here it is (have your barf-bag handy):
First-graders should not be forced into the classrooms of teachers undergoing sex changes. Religious broadcasters and faith-based summer camps should not be forced to hire cross-dressers. Women should not be forced to share bathrooms with people with male body parts who say they want to be females. Yet those are some of the likely results if Congress passes H.R. 3017, the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which is due for a vote this week by the House Education and Labor Committee.

ENDA purports to "prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity." Clever politically correct wording aside, this is a direct attack on common sense. On some matters, it is good to be discriminating. It is right to discriminate between honesty and dishonesty, between politeness and impoliteness, between right and wrong. And it assuredly is right to be discriminating in choosing who teaches our children. ENDA would make it impossible for a non-church-based charter school, for instance, to remove from the classroom a "she-male" who insists on exposing her pupils to her unnatural transformation.

This is no idle threat. ENDA would supersede the laws of 38 states that do not have laws treatingthose with an unusual "gender identity" as a legally protected "class" of citizens. Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition wrote in the April 20 edition of Roll Call about several examples of cross-dressing or sex-changing teachers who claimed protections under state disability laws (in the 12 states that do indeed protect "gender identity") and were able to remain in the classroom despite parents' protests. Perhaps the worst was at California's Foxboro Elementary School, where a music teacher underwent surgery to become a man, but parents originally were not even notified because administrators feared running afoul of medical privacy laws.

Even if California wants to be so foolish, the residents of the 38 states without such absurd legal strictures shouldn't be forced to do the same. States have a sovereign right to set standards governing behavioral - as opposed to immutable - personal characteristics.

ENDA does provide supposed exemptions for churches and church-based schools to refuse to employ sex-changers and cross-dressers. But the exemption is far less than meets the eye. Even religious organizations, under the standards cited, are prohibited from making employment decisions based on the worker's sex. ENDA opponents rightly cite last year's 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals note in Prowel v. Wise Business Forms that "the line between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination 'because of sex' can be difficult to draw." In short, courts easily could decide that even parochial schools must hire she-males to teach their kindergartners.

Similar problems abound in this bill, which treats a conscious decision to choose a new or different sexual identity as if it were an inherent, unavoidable condition. But it's not. It's actually a psychological disorder, officially listed as such by the current American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Our children and our co-workers should not be forced by law to be held hostage to such disorders, nor should employers be forced to have psychologically troubled persons as the public face of their businesses. EDITORIAL: Discrimination is necessary: Subjecting kids to weirdos undermines standards of decency

Well, whatever it is we stand for, the Times is against it. The language in this editorial is not acceptable in a business meeting or social gathering, you thought this was a thing of the past but here it is, on the editorial page. "She-male" is a term from porn, it is not a technical or legal term, it is disrespectful and rude, I'm not easily shocked but it is shocking to think that any person, never mind a big-city editorial staff, would find this acceptable for public consumption.

The HRC Backstory blog reports that the American Psychiatric Association wrote a rebuttal to the Times editorial, but the Washington Times refuses to publish it. Let's hear it for our rightwing nuts, at least they're consistent.

The APA showed the letter to HRC and agreed to let them publish it. Here it is:
To the Editor,

The American Psychiatric Association disagrees with the Washington Times editorial published on April 23 opposing H.R. 3017, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The editorial cited the fact that gender identity disorder is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM), and concluded that schoolchildren and workers should not be “held hostage” to such disorders and employers should not have “psychologically troubled” employees representing them.

The American Psychiatric Association has long opposed the use of stigma against mental illnesses in political attacks and opposes discrimination against all individuals with mental disorders. The Washington Times and other opponents of ENDA are distorting mental health issues in order to confuse and frighten the public and influence policy-makers to obstruct civil rights legislation.

If the Times’ argument that we should discriminate against individuals with conditions listed in the DSM is extended, then equal employment rights would be stripped from all individuals who suffer from a mental illness, including depression and many other common conditions. There are undoubtedly thousands of teachers treated for depression, anxiety and other conditions who are doing a fine job of educating America’s schoolchildren. The APA vigorously opposes any discrimination based on a mental disorder or a history of psychiatric treatment.

Alan F. Schatzberg
American Psychiatric Association Washington Times Refuses APA Letter Rebutting Gender Identity Lies

The Washington Times is currently for sale. You wonder if this isn't a "Springtime For Hitler" type ploy to make the paper as unlikeable and horrible as they can in order to ... I don't know, I can't think why they'd do that.

The Unification Church no longer supports the paper, several editors have drifted through in recent years, it seems rather rudderless. I thought the APA's response was tepid, though I guess they spoke for their constituency, they discussed the misrepresentation of psychiatric diagnoses and discrimination on the basis of psychological conditions. I hope every decent person will speak out against this terrible editorial.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Faux-Secular, Faux-Victim Play-place

Did you see the piece in yesterday's Post about how a nice learning place for kids called the Playseum was hounded by rumors on the Internet? Check out how it starts:
In the days before three Montgomery County kindergarten classes were slated to go on a field trip to the Be With Me Playseum, an indoor play space in Bethesda, the organization's staff prepared for what they hoped would be the first of many visits.

The owner of the fledgling business, Gina Seebachan, bought tiles so each child could make a handprint to take home as a keepsake. She organized books by authors the children were reading for story time. If the trip went well, Seebachan thought, business might really take off.

Then, without warning, Westbrook Elementary School, which all four of Seebachan's children have attended, canceled the trip.

All because, Seebachan says, she mentions God on the Playseum Web site. Play space owner defends herself against claims that she's pushing religion

I read this today and thought, all right, here's a chance for me to take the side of the Christian lady. She mentions God, that's okay with me, mean people shouldn't be saying bad things about her for that.
Last month's canceled school visits were just the latest in what some friends and neighbors call an unsubstantiated whisper campaign that has gone viral, with Web postings accusing Seebachan, an evangelical Christian, and the Playseum of being less about creating a play space for children and more about saving their souls. In a well-to-do, liberal community, where separation of church and state is virtually a religion, Seebachan's references to God, and the use of the politically loaded word "life" on the Playseum Web site, coupled with the echo chamber of the Internet, made for a combustible mix.

In anonymous postings on local Web sites, parents accused Seebachan of handing out antiabortion literature at the Playseum, accepting support from right-wing Christian groups and playing Christian rock music at the play space. Most damning, one anonymous poster who said she was Jewish claimed that Seebachan told her that unless she accepted Jesus as her personal savior, the client and her children would go to hell
Follow the link to the Playseum web site. Yes, it mentions God, on one screen, in a way that I think does not especially put any pressure on anybody.

Unfortunately, before I followed that link I Googled Playseum and the owner's name, and it took me to her Facebook site. Here's what she says on her Info page:
Since 2000 I have been working with children. A huge change from owning my own Art business and havign a store in the MOA. God picked us up from Minnesota and moved us to DC, technically Bethesda Maryland but we live five ninutes from the border near Georgetown. We love it! Here I began teaching young adults hw to work with kids and teach them the Gospel in a relevant way through our rocking Church, In 2003, God challenged me to begin a kids ministry within the elementary schools and I did with a lot of faith and a lot prayer. Since then He, God, has done awesome things with kids in this area. We have ministered to over 150 kids since and have seen many make decisions to serve Christ. last year my daughter challanged me to begin a club in the Middle school too and we did. We now meet twice a week and Jill Dumas has begun a RIOT KIDS in Minnesota too! The new challenge from the Lord is the building of a Children's Museum in this area that has a deeper mission than just making kids happy. I want to build a place that honors life, has interactive exhbits teaching kids how to make good life choices in the world that we live in today. This dream is bigger than me and I need prayer and help if you are intersted in helping me somehow let me know. I knwo that God has always supplied and provided for that which He has called. Gina Seebachan's Facebook Page

The Playseum's official page does not say anything about a "kids ministry." (Also, I hope this lady is not teaching spelling.)

Very clearly, Gina Seebachan does intend to save kids' souls in the name of Christ. There is clearly more to this than the word "God" on the Playseum website.

The Post goes on:
Seebachan says she was "shocked but also in tears" after she heard the allegation that a client was told her family might be headed to hell. "I'd fire someone if I found out that that's what they said," she said. "That's not what this place is for. I have no hidden motivation to convert people at the Playseum. I'm not marketing to Christians." Rather, she says, Playseum was inspired by the open, friendly scene at the fountain outside the Barnes and Noble bookstore in downtown Bethesda. "That's how I imagined this place, like a big, refreshing swimming pool for anybody to come to and be together with their children in a different way, without computers, TVs or cellphones."

Despite Seebachan's denials of evangelical intent, the rumors circulated on the Web. She began to get malicious anonymous phone calls from people slamming her for foisting her faith on others. Visitors demanded to know her staff's religious background. "One is from Peru," Seebachan said she would tell callers. "One is from Sri Lanka. One is vegan. One is kosher Jewish. I have a guy from Trinidad and a gal from Congo. I honestly have no idea what religion they are. "

It is a little hard to reconcile her denials with her Facebook statement.

The "unsubstantiated whisper campaign" (as The Post calls it) seems to comprise some posts at the DC Urban Mom web site. I am not going to read every word of it, but it appears that one anonymous poster says she was told she would go to hell, and then other people say things like, "...we should be careful not to vilify the owner of any establishment b/c of an anonymous post on the internet." People discuss their experiences and how they would feel if someone proselytized at an apparently secular place like Playseum, not all of them would appreciate it, and some others report questionable experiences there. It does not seem to be especially mean-hearted, and if the talk "went viral" as The Post claims, it only happened after this article was published on the front page of the Metro section, with a big pointer to it on page A1. If you Google for Playseum, you will find the Urban DC Mom links and then ... regular stuff, people took their kids there, they seem to like it.

If you want your kids to receive Christian indoctrination in a play setting, then it looks like the Playseum is for you. If you want to take them to a secular place, then I would steer clear of this one. The owner has clearly stated that she intends to establish a ministry for children, but the Playseum web site conceals that fact, and in her interview with The Post she downplays her religious views in a way that is, in light of her Facebook page, clearly disingenuous.

Conclusion: The Post published a piece that falsely (probably gullibly) presented an actively evangelical Christian as if she were running a secular establishment, and asserted that the woman and her place have been attacked by "rumors circulated on the Web," when it appears a few people published negative reports of their experiences there, which were probably justified. It is hard to imagine why the editors of a real newspaper would decide to give this kind of non-story such prominent placement.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Taking Hypocrisy To The Next Level

A family-values Congressman resigned yesterday after an affair with a staffer was publicized. That in itself is not a big deal, well the resigning part is, most of them just keep going.
Indiana Republican Rep. Mark Souder acknowledged an affair with a staffer Tuesday and unexpectedly announced his resignation, giving Democrats a chance at capturing what many had thought was a safe Republican seat.

The eight-term congressman apologized for his actions but provided no details.

"I am so ashamed to have hurt the ones I love," he said at a news conference in Fort Wayne. "I am sorry to have let so many friends down, people who have worked so hard for me." Rep. Souder says he'll resign over affair

Lots of politicians have affairs, and not many of them resign over it. This guy has been married since 1974 and has three grown children. There is some vague speculation in the press about some legal issues, based on comments he made in discussing his resignation.

Souder is well known for his support of abstinence education, co-sponsored the DC Defense of Marriage Act, which would prevent same-sex marriage in the nation's capital, and the Marriage Protection Amendment to ensure that marriage was defined throughout the US as a union between one man and one woman.

On one hand, you can say it was a decent thing for him to resign. He has been exposed as a hypocrite ... but on the other hand, since when has hypocrisy disqualified anyone from politics?

Well, it seems this guy might have been flaunting it a little bit. The video has been taken down from YouTube, but Crooks and Liars has it HERE (sorry I can't link to it directly). This is a video promoting abstinence-only education, criticizing Democrats for wanting comprehensive sex-ed. The message is presented as an interview of Souder by the woman he has been having an affair with! Do you think they went back to their hotel room or whatever and laughed themselves silly over this? (The Post is saying they rendezvoused in a remote boat-house in a park.)

I understand that some people have trouble controlling themselves, even people who really really believe that self-control is an important thing. Go look at this video. There is a little flirtation between them in the banter as he answers her scripted questions with talking-point answers. Wouldn't you think he could have found somebody else to do this one? This goes beyond run-of-the-mill hypocrisy, it's hard to imagine how someone would mock morality like this.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WSJ on Gay Teens

See if you can figure out what the Wall Street Journal is trying to do this morning. The article is called "What to Say When Your Teenager Says She's Gay."
What role, if any, should parents and schools play in a child's emerging sexual orientation?

Sparks have been flying around that question this spring.

Early last month, a small group called the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) sent a letter to the nearly 15,000 school superintendents in the U.S., stating that most adolescents who experience same-sex attraction at age 12 no longer do by age 25, and warning that prematurely labeling them could lead some "into harmful homosexual behaviors they otherwise would not pursue." The letter also stated that homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion "can respond well to therapy." What to Say When Your Teenager Says She's Gay

As we have been noting here, the American College of Pediatricians is a hoax group, an anti-gay organization founded by religious right radicals to promote views of sexual orientation that are unscientific and medically unsound. It's not just that they're a small group, they are a fringe group, an extremist group, and a danger. You wonder why the WSJ is quoting their opinion here -- people are ostensibly reading this article to learn what to say to their teenagers when they say they're gay.

The ACP might wish that "homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion" can respond to therapy, but there is no evidence that interventions intended to make gay people straight succeed at all, and at worst such "reparative" therapy can cause immeasurable harm.
The far larger American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted a statement saying it is in no way affiliated with the ACP and referred schools and parents to its own publications that urge acceptance of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. (The ACP was founded in 2002 by pediatricians protesting the AAP's support of homosexual parenting.) The National School Boards Association also backed the AAP's position and warned schools not to be confused by the similarly named groups. And several prominent researchers, including geneticist Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, accused the ACP of distorting its research to make its case against homosexuality.

The AAP is the legitimate professional organization of pediatricians. It has 60,000 members, who are primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists. The ACP is estimated to have 200 members. Many are also members of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

Here you go, our county gets mentioned:
Other incidents this spring: One Mississippi high school canceled its prom rather than allow one senior to bring a same-sex date; another refused to let a girl be photographed for the yearbook wearing a tuxedo rather than the customary formal drape, and a group called PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) distributed fliers advocating sexual-reorientation therapy in some Montgomery County, Md., schools.

Montgomery County Public Schools send PFOX flyers home with children four times a year, even though the information on the flyers contradicts health curriculum content and MCPS antidiscrimination policy.

Here the WSJ does something we have seen a lot:
Behind all the incidents is the long-running dispute over when and how sexual orientation develops and whether outside influences can affect it.

This is like saying, "There is a long-running dispute over whether all contemporary living things evolved from earlier life-forms, or whether they were rescued in their current form by Noah's ark." Of course there is research into the nature of sexual orientation, but there is no "dispute" between the ACP's religious view and the AAP's scientific one.
While the development of same-sex attraction isn't completely understood, most medical and mental-health professionals have long concluded that being gay is not an illness and that people cannot choose their true sexual orientation. It seems to develop slowly in early childhood; studies show that on average, young people, gay and straight, first become aware of sexual attraction about age 10.

Experimentation is fairly common in adolescents—and sexual activity isn't the same as sexual orientation. According to the AAP, one survey of 13- to 19-year-olds found that 1 in 10 boys and 1 in 17 girls reported having at least one same-sex sexual experience; but most studies estimate that only 2% to 7% of U.S. teens consider themselves lesbian, gay or bisexual.

"By the time children are 11, 12 and 13, they have a very good sense that their sexual orientation may be different from the majority of their friends," says Ellen Perrin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. "There is no evidence that people could become gay because of external influences," she adds.

That's a good point. You have some idea who you are by the time you get into middle school.

On the other hand ...
The ACP maintains that homosexual attraction is changeable—and dangerous. ACP President Thomas Benton, a Gainesville, Fla., pediatrician, likens homosexuality to drunken driving: "If I was aware that my teenage son was thinking about getting drunk and operating a car, I'd do everything in my power to prevent him from doing that," he says. Dr. Benton also says that schools "should provide an environment that is safe for all children, but they shouldn't promote an agenda. They shouldn't say, 'Let's have a coming-out party.' "

Being gay is nothing like drunk driving, that's the worst analogy ever.
Many researchers who have studied gay and lesbian youth agree that they face a higher risk of mental and physical problems, but they content that those problems stem mostly from social stigma and feelings of rejection.

Researchers at the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University have conducted interviews with gay and lesbian youths and their families, studying the impact of rejection or acceptance across several ethnic groups.

In a survey of 224 these young adults aged 21 to 25, published in the journal Pediatrics last year, those who reported high levels of family rejection during adolescence were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide; nearly six times as likely to report high levels of depression; more than three times as likely to use illegal drugs and more than three times as likely to be at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

"Families and caregivers have a dramatic and compelling impact on their LGBT children's health, mental health and well-being," says Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project. She also notes that because gender orientation starts so early, "we tell parents and families that they need to provide a supportive environment for their children before they know who they'll become." If family members make jokes and derogatory comments about people they meet or images on TV, children will internalize those messages and they can have a lasting impact on how they see themselves.

This is a point that cannot be emphasized enough. Rejecting young people because of their sexual orientation can be catastrophic for them.
In some cases, children who grow up believing that homosexuality isn't acceptable may try to deny and ignore their own feelings. "We call it going underground," says Dr. Perrin. "They live that way until they are 30 or 40 and say, 'I just can't do it anymore.' Or maybe some of them their whole life live in a pretend world of not feeling quite right but it's the best compromise they can make to feel accepted."

We have seen a few people like this. Some of them become vehemently anti-gay in order to justify their own discomfort.

And finally, this...
Groups like Narth cite research that sexual reorientation therapy can be effective, but more mainstream organizations say it can do lasting damage.

"If kids get the message that who they are in unacceptable, then they will carry that scar for the rest of their lives," says Gary Remafedi, a professor of pediatrics at University of Minnesota.

"Telling parents that this is an illness, that they should force their children to seek some cure that doesn't exist is quackery and its malpractice."

Dr. Perrin, who works with some young children with atypical gender interests and behaviors, says she advises parents to support their kids' interests, whatever they are, and try to expand them with gender-neutral activities. "I tell them to not forbid boys from playing with Barbie dolls, and don't excessively encourage playing with Barbie dolls," she says. "I say, we have no idea how your child is going to develop in terms of gender identify or sexual orientation, but in either case, your job is accept whatever your child is and support that development."

That does seem straightforward -- unconditional love for your children, what a radical idea!

The Wall Street Journal hits on some good points here, but the casual reader could get a few paragraphs into it before he or she realizes that the paper is quoting a quack and not a real expert. There is also an absurd "fair and balanced" juxtaposition of two viewpoints that exist in different worlds, a religious one and a scientific one, with the comment that there is some dispute or debate between them, and there is not. The development of sexual orientation is a hard scientific problem, and there are researchers around the world studying various aspects of it. It is a fascinating question, and many kinds of hypotheses have been proposed. No serious researcher believes it is something you choose, or something that can be changed.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Reker's Book

I happened across this picture of the cover of George Reker's 1982 book on the Internet. It's not creepy at all!

Well, I don't think we'll be hearing from this one any more.

Subtle Bias in The Post

There was a subtle kind of bias in The Post this past week, after school principal Brian Betts was murdered in his home in Silver Spring. You read all about what a wonderful educator he was, all the things he did the day he died -- it seems he really was a good guy, an exceptional principal, recruited for his position, friends with the students, respected by his peers and neighbors, and he was gay.

He was gay and The Post never mentioned it. It appears he was killed by someone he had invited to his house after meeting them on a telephone sex-chat line.

The Washington Blade called them out on it earlier this week:
The Washington Post has made tremendous progress in covering overtly gay issues since its new editor took over. When same-sex couples walked the aisle in D.C., the Post was there, flooding the zone with a multimedia extravaganza of marriage coverage.

But when the LGBT angle isn’t so obvious, the Post continues to cling to 1950s-era notions about sexual orientation — namely that it’s something to suppress or hide.

This lingering problem with honest reporting at the Post surfaced again in recent weeks as the tragedy of the Brian Betts murder unfolded. Betts, a nationally respected educator, was principal of Shaw Middle School in D.C. and a hero to his students. The Post has devoted much coverage, including front-page stories, to his brutal killing. Three teens are charged in connection with the murder; a fourth person faces charges related to alleged use of Betts’ credit card.

Almost immediately after the story broke, several of us at the Blade began getting tips that Betts was gay. Not closeted, but openly gay to a wide circle of area friends and colleagues.

Indeed, Betts was gay and the Post, even in a lengthy, prominent Sunday story about the murder, refused to report that basic fact. Post editors will tell you that his sexual orientation isn’t relevant or that they can’t prove it. Don’t believe them.

First, the Blade’s reporting staff was able to establish Betts’ sexual orientation quickly and with certainty. Surely the Post’s mammoth newsroom could have done the same.

Second, if Betts were straight, there is no question the Post would report basic facts, such as whether he was married, engaged, had a girlfriend, ex-wife or children. But because he was gay, such details are considered “personal,” “private” and “irrelevant.” It’s an indefensible double standard: If the fact of a straight subject’s sexual orientation is considered fair game for public disclosure, then the same must hold for LGBT subjects. The specifics of what you do in the bedroom: private. The fact of being gay or straight: public. It’s that simple.

Finally, and most significantly, his sexual orientation proved key to the story. Betts allegedly met his killer or killers through a gay-oriented chat line. WaPo botches Betts murder story

In today's Post the ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, writes that the editors simply decided that Betts' sexual orientation was not an important piece of information. You can see that in most news stories it doesn't matter whether somebody is gay or straight, but it mattered in this case for two reasons. First of all, it mattered because calling a gay sex-chat line got him killed, it was a factor in the murder itself. Reporters may not have known before the arrests that he was gay, or if they did they may have wanted to keep it quiet and not tip off the suspects, but after the arrests they knew Betts was gay and they failed to report it.

There is a second reason it would have been good to mention Betts' sexual orientation. And that is, the guy was known as an exemplary educator. He loved his students and they loved him. He was brought in to turn a failing school around, and by all accounts he succeeded at that. There is a certain stereotype of the predatory gay educator, and Brian Betts disproved that stereotype, big time. Where you have experts like George Rekers testifying in court that gay people are not qualified to adopt orphans, it would have been important for the public to learn that a gay principal was tops in his field.

I understand it can go the other way, too. Comedian Dylan Rhymer had a great line about treating same-sex marriage as a special case: "It's like calling it Chinese marriage or Black marriage. It just sounds wrong, it's just marriage. Calling it same-sex marriage, or gay marriage, is dumb. Do you have to premise everything gay people do with the word gay? Like, oh they went out to gay-dinner. They went gay-grocery shopping and had a gay-argument about eating gay-cottage cheese, which is just stupid, because gay-cottage cheese is just like regular cheese but it's so much more fabulous!" In the same way, we don't need a headline that says "Gay Guy Killed," that wasn't the news story. The real news was that a much-loved principal was murdered, and as the facts came out, one of them was that he was gay. He invited a friend to dinner and the friend couldn't make it, so he went home and made a drink and cooked up some dinner on the grill, said hi to the neighbors, talked with his sister on the phone, updated his Facebook, called a sex chat line and invited a guy over and the guy killed him. Maybe it's a little lurid, but it turns out even school principals have sex. The point of a newspaper article is not to tarnish or salvage a person's name or influence the readers' attitudes about sexual behavior, the point is to give information to readers so they understand what happened. Is someone killing people in Silver Spring at random? No, it turns out there is some danger in meeting men in chat rooms and inviting them to your house late at night. It is not an exclusively gay thing, either, it is also dangerous for women to meet men in chat rooms and invite them to their houses late at night.

It would have been good for The Post to mention that Betts was gay because it would have increased readers' understanding of the event.

Friday, May 07, 2010

He Could Make the World a Better Place

I don't want to dwell on the embarrassment of the gay family values leader who was caught with the young male prostitute. But the story has definitely taken on a life of its own.

George Rekers isn't just one of the founders of the rabidly anti-gay Family Research Council. He was also one of the founders of NARTH, the psychiatric group that has a crackpot theory about the etiology of homosexuality and crackpot methods for "curing" it, plus he is a director of the American College of Pediatricians that we have been talking about, the fake medical group that tries to look like a legitimate professional organization. His colleague from the Family Research Council, Peter Sprigg, lives in Montgomery County, and recently told our county school board they should get their information from the ACP web site.

The Miami New Times broke the story, and has followed up on it. They interviewed the the 20-year-old male prostitute, named Lucien, and were actually in the room listening in when Rekers called him and told him not to talk to the press.

Reker's web site says "There was nothing inappropriate with this relationship. Professor Rekers was not involved in any illegal or sexual behavior with his travel assistant." But the Miami New Times also interviewed Lucien, who described in lurid detail the kind of "massage" that Rekers liked to receive daily, and who said, "It's a situation where he's going against homosexuality when he is a homosexual."

Rekers is 61 years old, a boomer, a couple of years older than me. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he took this opportunity to come out and actually make the world a better place? He has been the founder of numerous anti-gay organizations, in particular groups that try to convince gay people that they can become heterosexual, and he can't even do it himself. Imagine if this learned and powerful professor were to appear on television news and talk shows -- he could even make a tour of churches -- and say, "I don't understand why some people are attracted to members of our own sex, but some of us are. I have learned to accept it and I hope you can learn to accept your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as well."

I don't expect this to happen, of course. Rekers' whole peer group is composed of people who oppose homosexuality, he is much more likely to try to find a way to overcome or deny his feelings than to admit them, accept them, and teach others from his dark-hearted community to move toward the light. His MySpace page says he is married and has children. I can't imagine a wife so tolerant that she will believe he hired this hot young stud to carry his baggage for him! I would not recommend trying to con the wife into believing it was nothing, it is time to come out of the closet and pray that his wife can love him as he is.

And the rest of the world, too. He is now an object of ridicule, his web page has been removed from the university site, the organizations he founded now talk as if they never heard of him, every LGBT web site in the world is laughing at him, even Stephen Colbert had a hilarious segment about this. He can take this humbling opportunity to talk publicly about what it's like being gay in a world of gay-haters. He could really make the world a better place by setting a good example and by educating the ignorant people who have surrounded him for all these years. I am not holding my breath.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Family Research Council Founder Vacations With "Rentboy"

It's easy to say that people who are vigorously anti-gay are likely dealing with a personal struggle. It's a kind of obvious way to neutralize and discount them without taking their arguments seriously, by suggesting that they themselves are the very thing they most loathe. At first I thought that was the low road, it seemed like a kind of unfair thing to say. But over the years I saw some of these people at work, and you do, you wonder, how can they believe those things? How can somebody, for instance, believe that sexual orientation is a choice?

I hate to say it but the uncharitable explanation seems pretty believable to me now. Someone can think sexual orientation is a choice because for them it was a choice. A boy hits puberty and starts noticing ... boys ... in a society that makes fun of sexual minorities and commits violence against them, he might just choose to ask a girl to dance instead of the one he really likes. Then he can join in the bullying and teasing, rather than being a target of it. He may honestly think that everybody else goes through that same process, and gay people are simply individuals who didn't have the moral fortitude or whatever to choose like he did. It's a pitiful scenario, but this is certainly how it happens, at least some of the time. Look at how many conservative politicians and church leaders have fallen out of the closet over the past few years.

One of the most stridently anti-LGBT groups on the national scene, and one that has hooks in our Maryland county, is the Family Research Council. The group was incorporated in 1983 to lobby for conservative legislation in Washington, and in the late 80s became part of James Dobson's Focus on the Family empire. Its founding board included Dobson and two psychiatrists, Armand Nicholi, Jr., and George Rekers, both of whom are now associated with the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH, an anti-gay psychiatric group.

Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out ripped into this breaking story today:
NEW YORK - Truth Wins Out called on anti-gay activist Dr. George A. Rekers to resign from the board of a leading "ex-gay" therapy group and apologize to the LGBT community after the Miami New Times discovered that he took a male prostitute that he met on to Europe. According to the sex worker, Rekers "likes younger guys to hang out with."
"This is a bombshell that completely discredits the ex-gay industry and proves that the movement is a fraud," said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. "While Rekers keeps a low public profile, his fingerprints are on almost every anti-gay effort to demean and dehumanize LGBT people. Lobby groups that work to deny equality to LGBT Americans ubiquitously cite his work. Rekers has caused a great deal of harm to gay and lesbian individuals."

A major anti-gay figure that used to work at University of South Carolina, Rekers is a founder of the Family Research Council, a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, and testified as an expert witness in favor of gay adoption bans in both Arkansas and Florida. He has also published several anti-gay books.

Both the sex worker and Rekers deny having sex on the trip, and emails exchanged between the two prior to their escapade are carefully worded. Reached by New Times reporters Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp, who broke the story, before a trip to Bermuda, Rekers said he learned that the man in question was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. "I had surgery," Rekers said, "and I can't lift luggage. That's why I hired him." (Though medical problems didn't stop him from pushing the large baggage cart through Miami International Airport, according to the New Times.)
"It is clear that Rekers has baggage and certainly needs help," said Besen. "At least he did not say he was walking the Appalachian Trail. Given the sordid and tawdry facts, he should immediately step down from NARTH's Board and apologize to the LGBT community for his extreme hypocrisy and self-loathing. As of today, his entire body of work on LGBT issues is rendered meaningless."

This is the second NARTH board member to be exposed as a fraud in the past three months. In February, Arthur Abba Goldberg was unmasked as a con artist who had served prison time for bond fraud. Goldberg was also the co-fonder of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH). Goldberg resigned from NARTH's board in shame. Leading Ex-Gay Activist Caught On Vacation With ‘Rent Boy’

If you need someone to carry your bags for you, do you call a prostitute? Me either.

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

Evan Hurst, writing at Truth Wins Out, had this one exactly right. Here's his post:
Regina Griggs of PFOX was, completely by mistake, given a certificate of appreciation by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. You could tell it was a mistake by looking at the certificate, as it mentioned “outstanding contributions” to the community. Now, having been embarrassed in public (again), she’s asking stupid, loaded questions (again) about the matter:
“Is the mayor saying that ex-gays who apply for ceremonial certificates or D.C. government jobs will be refused because of their sexual orientation?”
Uh, no.

If “ex-gays” are real (they’re not), then they’re “straight” and as such are protected under nondiscrimination ordinances. Also, this was rescinded from Regina Griggs, who, to my knowledge, does not claim to be “ex-gay” herself, but rather has chosen to parlay her emotional problems stemming from her own gay son into trying to kill off in everyone that which she thinks she caused in her child.


Simple answers to simple questions, this has been. Regina Griggs Crying “Discrimination” Again

PFOX is not an organization of ex-gays, even the name says "Parents and Friends of." It is quite possible to oppose PFOX's anti-gay posture and obnoxious fact-twisting without having any opinion at all about people whose sexual orientation changes during their lifetime. There may be one ex-gay person among PFOX's board of directors and officers, if that, most of them are simply straight people who oppose homosexuality and like to feel sorry for themselves.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Belgium Bans the Burqa

My family had a rather vigorous discussion of this news story this afternoon over breakfast. It seems Belgium's legislature has voted to ban the burqa in that country.

I suppose you will find some anti-Muslim sentiment underlying the vote. I have been in European countries where everyone in the street appeared to be from the Middle East. I am sure many of the locals feel they are being overrun, but after all Belgium never claimed to be "the melting pot," they don't automatically welcome everybody like we do. Still, it seems decent to respect everyone's religion, and if they're supposed to cover themselves it seems like a reasonable thing to permit.

There is a difficult question of women's rights here. Women should be able to dress as they wish, don't you agree? Of course. But some women are not allowed to dress as they wish, they are forced to wear burqas that cover every inch of their bodies. (By the way, I once read that there is a huge market for sexy lingerie that Arab women wear under their burqas. I really hope that is true.) That's one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is to say that the Belgian government is depriving women of the right to choose to wear the burqa. Either way, you're going to be wrong, you're either enabling a repressive patriarchal system or depriving women of an important personal choice.

Let's give Fox News a chance to tell us:
Belgium is set to become the first ever country in Europe to ban the burqa being worn in public places.

The vote in Parliament for a nationwide ban on Islamic clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified was almost unanimous.

The full-face niqab and burqa worn by some Muslim women are not a mandatory requirements of Islam, but a personal choice.

People found flouting the new law could be given a fine of more than $30 or even be faced with a week in jail.

Vice president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, Isabelle Praile, warned that the new law could be the start of a slippery slope.

"Today it's the full-face veil, tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans and then perhaps it will be mini-skirts."

She went on to say that "the wearing of a full-face veil is part of the individual freedoms" protected by Belgian, European and international rights laws. Belgium Bans People Wearing Burqas in Public

You gotta love that logic. Now they're banning burqas, the next thing you know it will be miniskirts.

Somehow, I don't think the Belgians will want to ban miniskirts.

Group Turns Against Ex-Gays

Many times on this blog I have asserted that there is no significant discrimination against "ex-gay" members of society, that is, straight people who used to be gay. You might have doubts about your daughter marrying someone like that, but nobody cares what somebody used to be. People do not like obnoxiousness, they do not like someone to tell them how to be, they do not like people who think they are better than them, people in general do not like PFOX. That's different. It's okay not to like loudmouth bigots.

As far as I know, this is the first time that a group has issued a virulently anti-ex-gay public statement. A national group has put out a press release that questions whether certain political leaders are ex-gays, with the argument that this would make them unqualified for public office.

Peter L Barbera is often known as Porno Pete for his habit of attending gay events and collecting as much erotic and pornographic literature as he can. He is one of the religious right's rock stars. He is also the founder of the organization Republicans for Family Values.

From that group's website:
Republicans For Family Values

Contact: Peter LaBarbera: 630-717-7631;

CHICAGO, Ill. — Peter LaBarbera, founder of Republicans For Family Values (, urged potential Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan , Republican Reps. David Dreier and Patrick McHenry, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist — each the subject of wide speculation that they practice(d) homosexuality — to answer the question: ‘Are (or were) you a practicing homosexual?’ RFFV to Elena Kagan, Reps. Dreier, McHenry and Gov. Crist: Answer the Question: ‘Are You Homosexual?’

There's more. Click to read if you're interested.

It is interesting that Republicans for Family Values have chosen to widen their net in this way. Typically the religious right has embraced ex-gays as proof that you can change your sexual orientation, if you're gay (not much said about changing the other direction).

Now it looks like they are realizing, like everybody else, that your sexual orientation is most likely going to stay whatever it already is. Pretending you are some way doesn't make you that way, you can walk around on tippy-toes but you aren't really tall. The Republicans for Family Values want to discriminate against gay people, and they understand that that includes those who claim to be "ex-gay."

I will be interested to see how PFOX reacts to this news. They should be excited, now that somebody has actually issued an anti-ex-gay statement. They should oppose this with all their might. You think they will? Me either.

Hat tip to Box Turtle Bulletin for catching this one.