Sunday, September 26, 2010

Because High School Is Hell

Suicide is a leading killer of gay teenagers. There are no statistics, because not everybody tells anybody, there's no record of your sexual orientation when you're fifteen or sixteen years old, but teenage peer pressure, bullying, taunting, is powerful, it can be relentless and cruel, and once the kids have labeled you as gay it doesn't matter if you are or not, it doesn't matter what other qualities you might have, you're toast. You're a gay teenager, your parents don't understand you, your friends don't get it, you are isolated and alone and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Hang in there, kid. It gets better.

That is the message that sex advice columnist Dan Savage is sending to gay teenagers, in a unique and cool project on YouTube. On the "It Gets Better" channel, gay adults tell the camera about their lives now, and let them know that it won't always be like high school. Many of us remember high school as a time of self-consciousness and awkwardness, nobody understands you, everything you say comes out wrong: high school is hell. And that's for those of us who were not especially targets of bullying. Just imagine what it's like to turn the corner of puberty and come to the realization that you're really different from the other kids, with all this other stupid stuff going on. And you know how kids talk, someone gets labeled as gay just for carrying their books a certain way or walking a certain way, and it's torture.

Teenagers should know it's not always going to be like that. Once you leave high school you will find there are others like you. Oh, there will always be the ones who don't grow up, the bigots, but they aren't that hard to avoid. You will find friends, a job -- a church, even -- you can have a family, it's not so bad.

This is a great project. You can watch these videos and feel that these people have been through it, they know about the torture of high school, and they sincerely want to tell kids who are there today that it gets better.

You might know somebody in high school who could benefit from hearing from these adults -- send them the link: HERE. This is a project that seems to have no negative side to it. It is a way to give hope to people who need it, by presenting well-adjusted adults talking about their teen years and how life has gotten better for them. It's brilliant.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Schaerr at the Candidate Forum

Vigilance readers might be interested to read conservative school board candidate Martha Schaerr's response to the "sex ed" question at the candidate forum Monday evening. This was an audience-submitted question, chosen by the moderator. It's our best approximation, based on a recording, there may be a word or two wrong but it's pretty close. Candidates had one minute to respond.
Moderator: Our next question is about sex [pause] education [laughter]. What is the place of sex education in our schools, what issues are involved?.

Martha Schaerr: Nice to see you, Jim. Um. [Pause] Sex education is, is a very sensitive topic, I worked really hard when I was president of PTSA at Magruder to engage parents in discussing the new curriculum that was being formed. And people really didn't want to touch it, they like had a meeting inviting all the parents there and there were about five who came and I couldn't decide whether they liked it or didn't like it or just didn't want to be involved, and I had people tell me all three things. Um, if you're asking about our current sex education curriculum, I have three concerns with it. One is there is no opt-out for just the homosexual, um, lessons, you have to opt out of all of it if you're going to opt out of those lessons. Those lessons are canned, very short , because I think parents ought to have that flexibility. I think they also gave you -- check my web site, I'll tell you about it.

Nice to see you, too, Martha. BTW, I checked with the TTFers who were scattered throughout the audience, and none of us submitted that question. My question was this: "Members of the Board of Education presumably value education. Please tell the group your own educational attainments and how your education has affected your life." It didn't get asked.

The reader might want to go back and read about the "meeting inviting all the parents there." The day after the meeting, this blog reported that thirty or forty people attended, not five as she said. I noted three or four who opposed the curriculum, and the rest just wanted to know -- honestly -- what it was all about. I noted in that 2007 blog post that "The PTA President [Ms. Schaerr] said she was real nervous." That was because she had tried to fool the parents of Magruder High School by having anti-LGBT activist Ruth Jacobs address the PTSA instead of one of the citizens advisory committee members who understood and supported the new curriculum, and she had been caught at it.

This week Ms. Schaerr modified her web site to give a hint about her conservative leanings. Now we will watch to see if she will publicize her role in the lawsuits against MCPS, her position in the Family Leader Network and the Citizens for Traditional Families, her leadership in the Republican Party, and other connections she may have. You'd think she'd be proud of her accomplishments and want everyone to know, wouldn't you?

Piety and Impropriety

The gay anti-gay preacher thing is getting to be like a joke you have heard so many times you have memorized the punchline. Elizabeth Tenety, writing at the Under God blog at the Washington Post, tells us about this weeks' outed hypocrite, Bishop Eddie Long:
Bishop Eddie Long denied allegations that he coerced three of his male congregants into sexual relationships after lawsuits were filed against him claiming "sexual impropriety."

The AP reported that the Georgia megachurch pastor "abused his spiritual authority to seduce [young men] with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips and access to celebrities," a claim, if true, that would make Long not only an abuser, but a hypocrite. From the report:
Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage and his church counsels gay members to become straight. In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father's Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage "between one man and one woman."

Long is far from the first religious leader to face allegations of sexual impropriety in recent years.

Ted Haggard was a Colorado megachurch leader and president of the National Evangelical Association when it was revealed that he was involved in a gay affair. In fact, the now 'completely heterosexual' Haggard weighed in on the allegations against Long, saying, "Nobody's guilty until the court says he's guilty."

The Catholic church has been plagued by an international sex abuse scandal for nearly a decade.

Several ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Brooklyn have been arrested or sued for abusing boys in the past few years.

Is there a relationship between piety and impropriety? Or do we simply pay more attention to the hypocrisy of religious leaders when they fall? Bishop Eddie Long: New Birth Missionary Baptist Church leader denies allegations

Comments are interesting. There are several from people who belong to a group called SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. It seems somehow the very lowest, to take advantage of the faithful.

The question is a good one: is there a relationship between piety and impropriety?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Put It Out There

A number of us attended the Montgomery County Board of Education candidate forum last night at the Rockville library. It was clear who knew what was going on and who didn't, the general election should not be much of a surprise in November. I'm not going to comment on that.

We have been talking here about a conservative candidate flying under the radar, Martha Schaerr. She is a nice lady, I'm sure, she's got seven kids and probably does a lot of nice things for her school and her neighborhood.

But she opposes The Gay People. Hard to say what it is that bothers her about them, since she plays it close to the chest, but she is on the Board of Directors of a group that sued the school district to keep lessons about The Gay out of Montgomery County classrooms. She is president of another group that wants to make sure there are always scare quotes around the word "marriage" when somebody writes about same-sex marriage.

I gave her a hard time here the other day about covering up her true beliefs. There was nothing in any of her campaign materials, as far as we knew, that indicated her anti-gay tendencies. So imagine our surprise last night when she was asked about the role of sex education and she ran out of time and said, "Just look on my web site."

I had looked at her web site a couple of hours before, and there was nothing alluding to her feelings about gay people.

After the meeting I looked again, and she had updated it. Under "Issues" she has added this:
Empower Families
  • Empower students by ensuring that they receive full information about the health risks of any sexual practice taught in the human life curriculum. Empower parents by providing a flexible arrangement under which they can “opt out” of particular lessons for their children.

And by "particular lessons" she means The Gay Part. Oh and by "sexual practice" she almost certainly means anal sex, which is not "taught in the human life curriculum."

As for opting out, our county's curriculum is stringent. Students can only take the Human Sexuality classes if their parents request it in writing. The default position is no sex ed. But Ms. Schaerr thinks students should be able to opt out of the particular part that teaches tolerance, empathy and respect for sexual differences, The Gay Part.

She added another thing to her web site, too. She wrote a letter to the editor of The Gazette when the new sex-ed curriculum was being developed in 2007, and she has reprinted that letter, a rebuttal by David Fishback, and a rebuttal of Fishback by herself, all from The Gazette.

Here are her "three reasons for rejecting the sex ed curriculum," from her initial letter:
First, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that American teenagers are acquiring sexually transmitted diseases in epidemic proportions. MCPS introduces anal sex and provides training on proper condom use, but fails to acknowledge the enormous heightened health risks associated with anal sex for both homosexuals and heterosexuals even with a condom.

Second, the lessons teach that any range of negative attitudes toward homosexuality is homophobia. There is no allowance for concerns over health risks (documented by the AAP), and there is certainly no allowance for religious objections, however respectfully they are articulated. Is any concern about homosexuality really hateful and diseased?

Third, the previous flexibility that allowed parents to opt their children out of all or part of the curriculum has been eliminated. Now any 10th grader opting out of the four days of homosexuality instruction will be entirely excluded from the Family Life and Human Development Unit and spend three weeks studying decision making and other general health topics. Also, anyone not viewing the condom video (one day) will spend three weeks learning mainly about obesity.

Number One, the only time "anal sex" is mentioned is when students are told they should use a condom if they have anal, oral, or vaginal sex. It was mentioned in the condom video that was in use before the new curriculum, and it's mentioned in the new video. I really doubt that people like Ms. Schaerr want the schools to teach kids how to have anal sex, but somehow they turn it around and complain that the schools don't talk about it enough.

Two, sorry, there are gay people, get over it. It doesn't matter what your religion is, your sexual orientation is your own business, and if somebody else is gay it's their own business. This is a lesson is decent civil behavior, call it a lesson in citizenship for residents of the free world. If your religion prohibits homosexuality, then you are free to deny yourself the fulfillment of love and happiness, but how somebody else feels is still none of your business.

Three, you can't opt out of quadratic equations and come back for logarithms, either. That's not how school works. Sex ed is for everyone.

Fishback of course replies more knowledgeably and articulately than I ever could, and Schaerr's reply to him give more evidence of her beliefs.

I appreciate that Ms. Schaerr, after the primary election, finally decided to let the voting public peek under the hood and see how she runs. It is possible that Montgomery County would elect an anti-LGBT candidate, I don't know, but it would be a dirty deal if they elected one and didn't know it.

I wasn't exactly complaining about her position on that issue, though of course I do disagree with her. I was complaining about her secrecy.

Listen, if you believe in something strongly enough to take the county school district to court to stop pilot testing, and to appeal to the state school board to block a curriculum, you ought to be brave enough to tell people where you stand.

Martha Schaerr is on the Board of Directors of the Family Leader Network, a Mormon anti-gay organization that sued MCPS to block a sex-ed curriculum that was going to teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. She is President of the Citizens for Traditional Families, a group that exists to keep same-sex couples from knowing the profound joy of marrying and starting a home and family.

Why doesn't she mention these groups on her web site and in her presentations? There is not a word about them in her campaign literature. President of the PTA, sure, she'll tell you that, President of the anti-gay Citizens for Traditional Families, though, not worth mentioning. On the board of a group that has cost the county tens of thousands in legal expenses, not a word.

Come on Martha, tell the people who you are and what you think. You want to be one of the select few on the Board of Education, setting policy in a county of a million people, and you believe that the students, parents, and neighbors who love someone of their own sex are dirty, germ-infested undesirables. Don't deny it, don't cover it up, go ahead and put it on your web site.

Announce it:



If you think you're right, and you obviously do, then come out and say what you believe in. We know you're in those anti-LGBT groups and we're going to keep repeating it until everybody knows, so the better strategy for you is to claim it and wear it proudly. Put it on your web site. Tell the people what you really believe and let's see how that works at the polls.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

School Board Candidate Forum Monday at 6

There is something interesting going on in the contest for Montgomery County school board, an ultraconservative stealth candidate. Martha Schaerr is running as representative of District 5 but the entire county votes for that office. She is an anti-LGBT activist in our county and nationally but is not saying so in any campaign materials. She got enough votes in the primaries to advance to the general election in November and it is time for the public to learn what she stands for.

Tomorrow, Monday evening, there is a forum for Board of Education candidates at the Rockville Library in Town Center at 6 o'clock PM. I don't know what the format will be, typically members of the audience go up to a microphone and ask questions or write questions for the candidates, to be selected by the moderator. I understand that the forum will be televised.

Somebody needs to ask Martha Schaerr about her role in the several lawsuits filed by the Family Leader Network against Montgomery County Public Schools and why she is not mentioning them in her campaign. Somebody needs to ask her about her activities as president of the Citizens for Traditional Families, a group that testifies that marriage should only be allowed for heterosexual couples. We need to know how her attitudes about LGBT students, parents, and teachers will affect important decisions that she as a board member will be asked to make.

If the citizens of Montgomery County want a conservative activist on the school board, somebody who has demonstrated that she will use devious methods to undermine our gay, lesbian, and transgender neighbors, then fine, they can choose that, but the public should know what they are voting for.

In 2007, Ms. Schaerr, as president of the Magruder PTSA, announced that she had invited "members of the Citizens Advisory Committee" to speak about the new sex-ed curriculum, when in fact she had only invited Ruth Jacobs, committee representative for Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and a strident anti-gay activist. Magruder parents would have attended that meeting believing that they were being given an honest representation of the curriculum and that "members of the Citizens Advisory Committee" were deeply opposed to what was being taught in the schools. The plan was foiled when other committee members found out and attended.

We have seen the Citizens for Responsible Whatever promote their bigotry directly, carrying signs that say who they are, they have said just how they feel and it was relatively easy for the people of our county to reject them. This time they are running a furtive candidate, someone who is hiding her beliefs and running as a nice mom and PTA president. If we let her get away with this then we are complicit in the consequences.

If you can, come to the candidate forum at the Rockville Library and have your questions ready. Here's how the announcement reads at the Rockville Living web site.
Mon, Sep 20
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Board of Education Candidates Forum
The Friends of the Library, Rockville Chapter and the Montgomery County Parent-Teacher Associations are co-sponsoring a candidate forum for the Board of Education with the League of Women Voters.

This event is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. and will end at 8:00 p.m. This is a brown bag event and so you may bring a sandwich. The League of Women Voters will provide coffee/water and cookies.

The moderator will be Dr. Lucille Ellis. She is a retired MCPS educator, from teacher to principal, an adjunct professor at Bowie State University and a graduate of Leadership Montgomery.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Peterson Cos. Cancel Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown is a Washington area icon, the father of go-go music, which is a genre that extends from the center of DC as far as the suburbs and is unknown beyond the region. He's been playing around here since the sixties. He was going to give a concert Tuesday at noon in Silver Spring, in the new Veterans Plaza, to announce a new CD. I saw Aaron Neville there last week, it was great, by the way.

The concert was quietly canceled. No explanation.

Local blogs have been following the story, TBD picked it up.
Calls and e-mails to Downtown Silver Spring’s property manager Peterson Cos., which is responsible for scheduling free concerts on the property, haven’t yet been returned . But Brown’s manager Tom Goldfogle confirms the show’s cancellation. He got the call from the property managers last Friday.

“I have no idea. It’s baffling to me,” he says. “I couldn’t get a good explanation. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I’ve never had anything like this occur.”

Although the reason for the show's cancellation is still unclear, it may have something to do with Silver Spring's uneasiness with go-go. During an outdoor youth concert last year, a large brawl broke out during the last act, a go-go band. Dozens of police officers responded and 35 people were arrested.

Whether labeling go-go as a genre of music that attracts violence is fair or not aside, Chuck Brown shows aren’t even known for erupting into violence. The Gazette quoted police officials who weren’t at all worried about next week's show, including Lt. Bob Carter of the Third District saying: "We’re not going to overstaff for Chuck Brown… It’s Chuck Brown! It’s the godfather of go-go!”

“Chuck Brown is not a young go-go band. He plays the Library of Congress, he plays the Kennedy Center, he plays the Smithsonian,” Goldfogle says. Update: Chuck Brown's show in Silver Spring canceled

Chuck Brown is no kid, he is seventy-four years old. Go-go tends to be a wild scene, but this is a local musician as well respected as any, and a musical genre that represents our area in a unique and important way.

Do you remember when the Peterson Companies banned photography in Silver Spring? Yeah. The same Peterson Companies canceled this concert.

This is what happens when you let private business own your public spaces. A government would have been accountable, your rights would be respected. A private company can do anything they want. Here's your libertarian dream come true, free enterprise without government interference, deciding in a boardroom what kind of music it's okay for you to listen to.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hopkins Not Planning to Freak Out

You know a guy shot a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital yesterday because his mother would never be able to walk again after surgery, and then killed himself. It's a tragedy all the way around.

The standard thing these days is to freak out whenever something happens and create a bunch of rules and policies to make sure it never happens again. One attempted shoe bomber, and millions of travelers have to show their shoes to the security guys. Maybe billions by now. We have come to expect meaningless displays of security, signs that the authorities are monitoring everything we do so that somebody doesn't do something wrong. It does not reduce the chance of terrorism or random violence such as yesterday's shooting, but it appears to make some people feel better.

I hate to have to say it, but this took a lot of courage.
BALTIMORE - Don't look for Johns Hopkins Hospital to install metal detectors as a way to prevent guns from getting into the world-renowned medical facility.

As the hospital assesses how to prevent future murder-suicides in its facilities, the head of security says such a move would not be realistic because of the costs involved.

"We have over 80 doors, loading docks, emergency exits to these campus buildings," Vice President of Security Harry Koffenberger says.

Installing metal detectors would require an armed force, says Koffenberger, the Baltimore City Police veteran who's been the security chief at Johns Hopkins since 2006.

"We do search and wand with a magnatometer high-risk patients," Koffenberger says.

Like most hospitals, Hopkins does not search people for guns. The hospital on a weekly basis averages about 80,000 patients and visitors. Currently, visitors get wristbands. Metal detectors not likely at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Eighty thousand people a week, by my math that's more than four million people a year, year after year, and one guy shot somebody. It would be crazy to install metal detectors and staff them with a bunch of uniformed guards to prevent another occurrence.

But still, it's a headline, "Dog Doesn't Bite Man." The guy needs to come out and explain to uncomprehending reporters why he is not going to invest in ineffective security theater. I'll tell ya, we need more like this.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Deep Breath: Primary Results Are In

Whew, the primaries had some surprises. We'll be digesting that race for a while, as we turn the corner and head into the general election.

I want to say something about Dana Beyer. Dana ran for House of Delegates in District 17, against tough competition, and did not advance to the general election. Her name is not well known to the public but she campaigned hard, she knocked on every door in her district even in killer summer heat. If you lived in her district you would have seen her ads all over the Internet, hers was one of the first "modern" campaigns in our area, in that sense. She worked the social media, email, phone banks, and ran geographically-targeted ads on many popular Internet sites. She ended up about 1,300 votes behind the guy she had to beat, out of 18,000 votes cast.

I am proud to know Dana. She has been a supporter of from the very beginning. She is cheerful, intelligent, hard-working, and took the most solidly progressive position of any politician in the state, I'd say. She is fearless in standing up for what is right.

Dana could have run as "the transgender candidate," but she has moved beyond the novelty of that. A few news outlets discussed her groundbreaking campaign in those terms, but Dana herself ran on the important policy issues. Her gender identity probably cost her some votes, but she did not make it a central point, and I am proud of that. She ran as a tough lefty, a defiant progressive ready to take on the establishment.

There were a couple of other results to talk about. Most incumbents kept their jobs in yesterday's election, but County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg did not. The Citizens for Responsible Whatever might want to claim credit for that, uh not so fast, buster. There was a lot going on there. Duchy had a lot of money in the bank, apparently saving it for the general election on the assumption she would get through the primaries, and she did not run much of a campaign.

The Post said this about her:
Ms. Trachtenberg, who can be cantankerous, is not winning popularity contests on the council or with public employee unions, with whom she has tangled. But she distinguished herself as the first of the at-large council members to sound the alarm on the county's grave fiscal problems and has been a tough and consistent voice for trimming spending and budgeting responsibly.

And that sums it up. She stood firm for cutting costs, and that meant somebody got the short end of the stick. She was picketed by firefighters and police during the campaign, as a result of her budget trimming . She came in fifth in a field where the top four move forward.

It is worth noting that Marc Elrich cleaned up in the County Council at-large race, far ahead of Hans Riemer who finished second; expected leader George Leventhal came in fourth. The pundits expected Elrich to do well, but not this well.

Roger Manno beat Mike Lennett for District 19 State Senator in a closely contested race. Also, the Republican candidate for governor who was endorsed by Sarah Palin got his butt kicked. Apparently Palin does not have the magic touch around here. On the other hand, 45 of the 48 candidates recommended on MCEA's Apple Ballot won their races in Montgomery County.

Anti-MCPS, anti-LGBT stealth candidate Martha Schaerr came in second for District 5 Board of Education, and will advance to the general election. She kept her views secret throughout the campaign season, I believe we were the only ones to publicize them. She was the only woman on the ballot for that district, and I hear she is personable and nice, if that's what you like. She got more than half as many votes as incumbent Mike Durso. Those two will battle it out in November.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vote To Make It Better

The Citizens for Responsible Government are a kind of pioneering group, trendsetters, early adopters, groundbreakers. If you follow them back to their roots in 2004, they were really one of the first groups in the country to realize how much easier it is to oppose things than to propose something constructive.

We remember when we first learned about the group with the web site They were known around here as "The Recall Group," and their stated objective was to recall all the members of the Montgomery County Board of Education. Why? Because they had unanimously voted to accept a sex-ed curriculum that talked about sexual orientation.

Their target was not the curriculum, they didn't call themselves "" of "," their target was the school board membership, the people who vote on policies that affect our county's public schools. I don't remember any other groups at that time that were just opposed to things, in general. Our county's Recall Group was ahead of its time.

Now of course conservatives across the country have discovered the Power of No. Now that there is a more or less liberal majority in Congress and in the White House, the other side has carved an identity out of complaining and disagreeing and blocking proposals and badmouthing leaders. No alternative solution is offered, I mean a rational alternative. "Let's take our country back" is, I suppose, an alternative, "Stop the socialist Nazi Kenyan anticolonialist," maybe, but these are not rational alternatives, they are slogans. The Republican Party, I'm sorry to say, has abandoned the philosophy of conservatism, and has devoted itself to undermining the majority in power, no matter what the outcome is. Their assumption is that the majority party will take the blame when things go to hell, which of course they will, because the conservatives are derailing the debate at every step. But you knew all this already.

The Recall Group morphed into Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, which sued the school district repeatedly and failed to stop a comprehensive sex ed curriculum that talked about sexual orientation and gender identity, and that taught students about respect and tolerance.

Then the County Council passed a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum transformed themselves into Citizens for Responsible Government. They especially dislike Duchy Trachtenberg, who was chief sponsor of the legislation, but the fact is it passed with a unanimous vote, every County Council member voted in favor of the bill. The Citizens for Responsible Whatever tried to hold a referendum, and they failed at all of it, they spent a lot of time in court and lost lost lost.

Today's election creates an opportunity for the Citizens for Responsible Whatever to oppose -- wait for it -- the entire County Council! The gist of their newsletter this week:
Dump the Incumbents.

Down below they add a little red and blue text:
Especially NO VOTE for Duchy Trachtenberg

There are a couple of footnotes at the bottom of the page:
*Although we didn't mention it in the last email, County Executive Ike Leggett has founded the Black Family Alliance to support same sex marriage and signed the Gender Identity bill. Although we don't know how conservative Doug Rosenfeld is, we are hoping for better. It is interesting that even the Gazette is supporting Rosenfeld over Leggett.

**All members of the County Council voted for the Gender Identity Bill despite wide spread public outcry. That is why we are recommending voting for alternative candidates.

***All Maryland legislature incumbents co-sponsored gender identity and same sex marriage legislation or have promised to do so. ie No VOTE for incumbents.

For these nuts it's all about the gender identity bill. They had predicted men dressed as women in the ladies restrooms and it never happened, and now they're mad about it. They just won't let it go.

BTW, follow that link to Ike Leggett's group. That looks like a pretty good deal, and an important step forward.

The CRW started out six years ago trying to get rid of the entire school board, now they want to get rid of all the current members of the County Council and the County Executive. Whatever it is that the rest of us want, they're against it.

I think our TTF readers are a little more sophisticated than that. Elected officials are forced to make impossible decisions every day, they have to provide more services with a smaller budget. You're not going to like everything your representative says and does, but that does not mean that any random different person is going to be better, which is the CRW's theory: "anything would be better than this." No, those are some pretty sharp people up there, doing a pretty good job. It's fine to replace them with somebody better if you think you can, but you should give that some thought, don't just vote against people because they're there already, and because you didn't like one decision they made two years ago.

Some of the challengers look good, though there are a couple of ringers. There is definitely room for improvement, in my opinion there are some people running for office who are better than the ones they are trying to beat. Look them over, read their statements, and decide who you'd like to keep in office and who you think might do a better job. Let's not tear our government down, let's make it better.

In Montgomery County, the primaries are pretty much it. I don't believe there is a single Republican in any elected position in the county, is there? So whoever wins the Democratic primary, in most cases, is going to win the general election. The primary in our county matters. You've been looking at the candidates, now go to your polling place and cast your vote. You determine how this county is going to be run, you pick the people who will make the decisions. Don't be dumb and vote against people, hoping that anybody off the street will do a better job, be positive and vote for the candidates who will do the best job.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Comments Disappearance Explained

Lately comments have been mysteriously disappearing here, and I just figured out why. Blogger recently added a new feature, a spam filter, and apparently there are particular words or phrases that trigger it inappropriately. Comments marked as spam are saved in a folder that I have access to, and I can release them.

So if your comments disappear, please send an email to info at and as soon as I see it I will publish your comment. Hopefully they will improve this feature over time -- we do get spam occasionally, and everything in this folder so far is a legitimate comment, deleted erroneously.


School Board Candidate Schaerr Has Gaps in Her Resume

Tuesday we'll be having primary elections in Montgomery County, including for school board, and I thought I should point out one of the candidates in District 5 whose anti-LGBT beliefs, actions, and associations are not exactly clear from her campaign documentation.

Here's what Martha Schaerr says on her campaign website:
My name is Martha Schaerr and I am running to empower students, parents, teachers and taxpayers as the District 5 representative on the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education.

I have lived in Montgomery County for 25 years and raised my seven children here, five of whom graduated from Montgomery County Public Schools and two of whom are still students at MCPS. I am grateful to MCPS and the caring, hardworking teachers and other staff members who gave my children a good education. I believe there is more we can do to improve our schools.

I’ve been involved in PTAs at every level for 20 years, serving in nearly every capacity including two years as the president of Magruder High School PTSA. I’ve sat on multiple school improvement planning committees, helping to formulate goals for future progress. I also serve on the Citizen’s Advisory Board of the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents, which serves students with serious emotional challenges.

She sounds like a nice lady, a mom, been in the county for a long time. She has an "Issues" page on her site with the heading "Empowering students, parents, teachers and taxpayers" and some paragraphs about how she would do that. And who could be against empowering people?

Since the Board of Education is nonpartisan, she is not obligated to mention that, as the Family Leader Network site says, "She is currently the Magruder High School PTSA president and president of Citizens for Traditional Families. She served as a legislative district chair for the 2004 Bush Re-election Campaign and is currently a leader in the Montgomery County GOP."

You might wonder why is she mentioned on the Family Leader Network site. She is mentioned there because she is on the Board of Directors of that organization.

Martha Schaerr does not mention in her campaign information that she is on the Board of an organization that, along with the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and PFOX, sued the Montgomery County Public School District in 2007 to stop the new sex-ed curriculum, which was going to introduce the topic of sexual orientation for the first time in our county. The group also went to the state school board to block the curriculum -- they have cost MoCo taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars is legal fees.

How do you run for school board and not tell people you're on the Board of Directors (and your husband is Chairman of the Board) of a group that sued the school district?

Ms. Schaerr was the point person for the Family Leader Network's campaign to train "board monitors" to watch school boards across the country for any signs of LGBT-affirming behaviors. An online newsletter says:
...One of the goals of Family Leader California is to have a school board monitor in each of the 1,011 school districts in California. As stated in the school board monitor document from Family Leader, "Several organizations like GLSEN, PFLAG, GSA HRC and SIECUS, who promote the normalcy of homosexuality and "comprehensive" sex education, are aggressively pushing their agenda into schools under the banners of tolerance, equality and safety. More and more schools are caving into pressure from these and other organizations who strive to indoctrinate children and youth into lifestyles and acts that are dangerous to their physical, mental and emotional health"...

... Take Action!! Many of you are already active and involved in your child's school. Would you consider dedicating one year to being a school monitor in place of another volunteer position that is worthy, but perhaps not as critical to children's needs as school monitoring is at this time? If you are interested, please contact Martha Schaerr at . Martha is helping to train Family Leader school board monitors nationwide.

She is the President of Citizens for Traditional Families, a group that exists to oppose same-sex marriages. In one court brief they define themselves in this way:
Citizens for Traditional Marriage (CTF) filed an amicus brief with the Circuit Court in this case. CTF is a Maryland-based citizens’ organization that promotes the welfare of families and children. It does this by working to preserve and strengthen the vital social institution of man/woman marriage. CTF believes that a decision redefining marriage in Maryland will change the social institution of marriage in ways that will prevent the institution from performing its vital functions, with consequent harm to society and, particularly, children.

Martha Schaerr's name may sound vaguely familiar to Vigilance readers. In 2007 she tried to pull a fast one and we caught her at it. As president of the Magruder PTSA, she placed this notice in a newsletter to parents:
Our February 20 PTSA meeting will be a forum on the Family Life Curriculum. I have invited our health teachers and members of the Citizens Advisory Committee to present their thoughts on the curriculum.

In fact, Ms. Schaerr only invited committee member Ruth Jacobs, who was the representative of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and opposed everything sensible about the curriculum. Dr. Jacobs is now president of the anti-transgender group known as the shower-nuts, the Citizens for Responsible Government, she's the one who sent out the spurious press release about Duchy Trachtenberg this week. Other members of the citizens advisory committee found out about it and almost all of them ended up attending the meeting; Dr. Jacobs gave one of her trademarked speeches equating gay people with anal sex and AIDS and a couple of other committee members spoke as well. I blogged about it HERE.

I am mentioning this because Ms. Schaerr has left important gaps in her resume. It may be that you are one of those who believes that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people deserve less than the rest of us, maybe you support policies that make life harder for them. In that case, you want to be sure to put an X next to her name for District 5 Board of Education when you vote in the Montgomery County primaries next Tuesday.

As far as I know, none of her campaign materials reflect her anti-gay activism, her role in the Republican Party, her leadership positions in the Family Leader Network and Citizens for Traditional Families, there is no mention of the several lawsuits her group filed to stop the MCPS sex-ed curriculum, or the briefs her other group filed to oppose marriage equality. If you don't like gay people, I recommend you vote for Martha Schaerr Tuesday. I understand there are four candidates in the race, the top two winners will face each other in the general election in November.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Update: MPW Exaggerates Own Importance

I hate to pick on them, because they do provide an important service to our community by reporting on the day-to-day details of Maryland political dynamics, but Maryland Politics Watch overdid it this morning, bragging about how important their post echoing the shower-nuts' attack on Duchy Trachtenberg was:
One thing about the Internet is that it moves FAST. Our report on Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government's (MCRG) allegations about Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg's mishandling of money at Maryland NOW is only a few hours old, but it is already fifth on Trachtenberg's first Google search page.

Now is the time that likely voters are paying attention and making up their minds on how they will vote. One way they do that is to enter a candidate's name in Google. When they do, they often end up on MPW, and that is one reason why our site traffic is currently at all-time highs.

If you are a candidate and voters find this [links to their own post] when they Google your name, well... you don't want to be that candidate. Google Picks Up MCRG/Duchy NOW Story

They showed a screenshot:

showing their post about the CRG's illegitimate attack on Duchy displayed fifth on Google's first page of a search for Duchy Trachtenberg's name, not in quotes.

And it might be fifth on Adam Pagnucco's computer, because he looks at his own web site a lot.

Not for the rest of us.

Google is smart. They analyze your online behavior and tailor your searches to display things they think you're going to want, for instance, sites you have visited in the past.

My wife has little interest in politics and has never visited Maryland Politics Watch or searched for Duchy's name -- hers is a virginal computer. So I searched for Duchy Trachtenberg on her computer. Here is a picture of the resulting screen.

I clicked through twenty entire Google screens and never did find a link to yesterday's Maryland Politics Watch slam.

Even when I narrowed the search to [ Duchy Trachtenberg CRG NOW ], there was no sign of yesterday's post anywhere on the first few screens.

The sixth item listed on a Google search from my wife's computer is an MPW post reporting something negative about Duchy from one and a half years ago, so I suppose they should get points for consistency.

Come on, Adam, what do you have against Duchy? How about giving the people of Maryland a fair reporting of the political climate?

And please. There is no honor in siding with the Citizens for Responsible Government against someone who has fought for civil rights for county residents, and then boasting that you have done grievous political damage to your victim because you are so powerful and so many people read your post. Even if they had.

MPW Takes the Low Road

What's going on at Maryland Politics Watch? Yesterday blogger Adam Pagnucco publicized the latest in a series of illegitimate attacks by a fringe group on a County Council incumbent, and today he's bragging about how much damage his post has done.

Yesterday morning Montgomery County's anti-gay, anti-transgender group, now known as the Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG), sent out a press release slamming County Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg, as they have done frequently over the past months.

The breathless news this time was that they had anonymously received "an unsettling document which purports to be a summary of a November 9, 2009, NOW Grievance Committee Decision against Trachtenberg." The linked document was a grainy pdf with no letterhead, no signatures, it does not appear to be an official document of any kind, though it does say negative things about Duchy Trachtenberg. There is no explanation of where the document came from or how the CRG got it, there is no reason for the non-gullible reader to believe that it is anything more than fiction. An anonymously received document purporting to be something, that's it.

Oddly, the CRG press release links to a Gazette article from January 20, 2010, titled Maryland NOW says grievance claim against Trachtenberg resolved. The article says, among other things:
Beth Corbin, president of NOW's Maryland chapter, said the grievance was an "internal Maryland NOW matter that's been dealt with."

Corbin would not discuss it further, but said that it had been "resolved."

It is classic for the CRG to assume their readers won't be intellectually curious enough to click on the link and see for themselves. Apparently there was some dispute between Trachtenberg and Maryland NOW a couple of years ago, and according to NOW it has been resolved. This sort of thing happens every day.

The CRG is a one-issue group that is still upset with Trachtenberg because she introduced the gender identity nondiscrimination bill that passed with a unanimous vote in the County Council. The CRG tried to mount a referendum effort to overturn the law but failed. And they're still mad about that.

A lot of people are following Maryland Politics Watch during this primary election season, it is the primary site for information about politics in our region as the elections draw near. The blog features frank insider discussion of candidates and policies, and readers expect a certain level of sophistication there. We know MPW isn't "impartial" exactly, they are much too involved in the political scene for that, but we expect objective editorial judgment.

You have to wonder then why they decided to publish the CRG's press release, telling their readers, without giving any real background, that the group "has released a set of serious allegations." MPW describes CRG as "the organization that fought Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg's transgender anti-discrimination bill." In 2008, when the CRG was filing lawsuits and trying to get their referendum on the ballot, MPW described the situation this way:
CRG’s fear-mongerers are running wild while the bill’s original, necessary purpose is receding into the background.

The CRG's campaign was fear-mongering of the worst kind. They argued that if County residents lost the right to discriminate on the basis of gender identity, it would become legal for male predators and pedophiles to hang around women's shower-rooms, ogling and molesting our wives and daughters, just by claiming to be a woman in a man's body. It was an embarrassingly hateful scenario designed to amplify people's fear and misunderstanding of their transgender neighbors, the worst kind of prejudice. It is worth noting at this point that the new law has not resulted in any incidents of this sort.

Even if Trachtenberg screwed up as treasurer of Maryland NOW -- and I don't know if she did or not, any more than you do -- just how is that a "serious allegation?" This shady document alleges that she did not provide accounting records to Maryland NOW upon her resignation in 2008, and left the accounting a mess. But again, there is no reason to believe the document is real at all. We do know that no legal action was taken.

Maryland Politics Watch should have made it clear to their readers that CRG is a radical group with a longstanding grudge against Duchy Trachtenberg based on their opposition to rights for LGBT citizens, and should have pointed out that the document they are propagating is very questionable. It is not a good sign that they would replicate this insidious meme without adding any critical thinking.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The World Needs More of This

An artist named Kaziah Hancock paints portraits of fallen soldiers free of charge for their families.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

ABC News on Bullying and the Gay Agenda

This is just another run-of-the-mill story of rightwing nuts defending unacceptable behavior, except for the fact that it is presented on ABC News without any comment. The headline reads "Some School Anti-Bullying Programs Push Gay Agenda, Christian Group Says." It's like a headline "Hurricane Approaches East Coast, Meteorologist Says," or "Gunman Has Hostages, Police Say." The headline seems to assume that there is a "gay agenda," that Focus on the Family is a representative Christian group, that it matters what they say.

Here's how the story starts.
Gay-rights groups' push for anti-bullying legislation and school programs is an effort to "promote homosexuality to kids," according to a conservative Christian activist organization.

The accusation has underscored the conflicting attitudes among some politicians and parents who have lent their support to these policies after a string of deadly bullying episodes across the country.

Focus on the Family has accused gay-rights groups of using tolerance and anti-bullying programs to introduce curricula and books into schools that promote political aims such as same-sex marriage. The same groups, it says, lobby for gays and other minority groups to be specifically mentioned in anti-bullying legislation and try to depict Christians opposed to such treatment as bigots. Some School Anti-Bullying Programs Push Gay Agenda, Christian Group Says

Wow, this is a lot. I don't know where to start.

Promoting homosexuality to kids. There seems to be an assumption here that students who learn that homosexuality exists, that some people are gay, will become gay themselves. In reality, most people have an innate heterosexual orientation, and some small percentage have a homosexual or bisexual orientation, it doesn't matter what you tell them, that's just how they are. Education that discusses homosexuality serves two purposes. First, it gives students who are discovering they are gay some explanation for their differentness and hope that they can live normal happy lives. Second, if the straight students understand what the deal is they might be less likely to be bigoted jerks to those who are different from them -- not only gay kids but kids who express unique individual characteristics of any kind.

Tolerance and anti-bullying programs. The idea of tolerance is the scariest thing to The Nutty Ones. Imagine a world where people were free to be who they are, and other people accepted and even loved them -- what a nightmare! It is a fact that there are all kinds of people in the world, and you don't have to like every one of them but they have a right to live as they are. And ... who is in favor of bullying? What kind of twisted mind finds bullying defensible? Do they have scripture to back them up?

Political aims such as same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is not a "political aim." Two people fall in love and want to start a home and a family, there is nothing political about that, except that these crazy people want to stop them.

Groups ... lobby for gays and other minority groups. Funny, bullies tend to pick on anyone who is "different" in some way. That means different from the majority. That means minority, bullies pick on minorities, that's how it works. They don't pick on somebody for being just like everybody else, because they're bullies, that is, they are inherently cowardly. Also, I am having a hard time thinking of any group that lobbies for "gays and other minority groups." Oh, yeah, I forgot about the APGCAUPS, the Association for the Promotion of Gays, Czech-Americans, and Unmedicated Paranoid Schizophrenics. I mean, come on. Bullying is bad, Christians should oppose it.

Try to depict Christians opposed to such treatment as bigots. This is a fascinating piece of wording. What is the word "Christians" doing in that sentence, do you know? I personally would say that anyone who supports the practice of bullying children who are different, anyone who thinks that gay people need to be deprived of their Constitutional rights because of who they are, is a bigot. I don't ask what religion they are. If they're Christians, then fine, I'd say "Christians opposed to such treatment" are bigots. If they're Jewish, Mormon, even if they're atheists, I find it relatively comfortable to refer to hateful people who are prejudiced against a group of people as "bigots." Throwing the word "Christian" into this sentence makes it sound like one religion is being picked on. Oh, and since everybody knows that Christians are good people, those who refer to some of them as bigots are, if your thinking is simple enough, bad people.

I mean, sheesh, who writes this stuff?
"What parents need to be aware of is there are activist groups who want to promote homosexuality to kids because they realize if they can capture hearts and minds of our children at the earliest ages they will have for all practical purposes won the clash of values that we are currently experiencing," Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family, said on recently launched website

"They've started introducing homosexuality lessons, sometimes even sexually graphic information under the cover of tolerance or so-called safe school initiatives or even anti-bullying programs," she said.

Wow, capturing the hearts and minds of our children, that's bad, right?

Let me explain what this "promoting homosexuality" stuff is about, because it's easy. There are gay people in the world. They are tired of being denied the rights and privileges that straight people take for granted. They are tired of being beaten up for walking down the street. They are tired of being mistreated on schoolyards, in the workplace. It's time for stupid people to get over it and realize that gay people are just people. They don't care to "recruit" any kid into any "lifestyle," if a kid is gay he or she will know it when they approach adulthood and they deserve to be allowed to have love in their lives without idiots persecuting them and accusing them of things like "promoting homosexuality."

That's how the article starts. After this point, somebody from the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is quoted, and we learn that nine out of ten gay students report harassment at school. We learn that 43 states have adopted anti-bullying legislation. And I thought this was interesting:
After physical appearance, sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientation, was the primary reason students said they were harassed.

There is video on this web page, a story about a girl in Massachusetts named Phoebe Prince who committed suicide after relentless bullying. It's horrible to think of, it's hard enough growing up without other people intentionally make your life miserable to the point that it is not worth living any more.

I like the way this guy talks:
Massachusetts State Sen. Robert O'Leary, who wrote the state's recently passed anti-bullying law in the wake of the suicide of Phoebe Prince, a 16-year-old Irish immigrant who hanged herself after being harassed in school and online, said Focus on the Family is missing the point and using children's pain to promote its own agenda.

"We all understand that bullying has been around forever," the Democrat said. "We have to make an effort to stop and recognize it and understand it has enormously destructive impacts on children.

"The fact that they argue in this vein indicates that it is often gays and lesbians who are most often the targets of this abuse, and that's why it's doubly important to protect them."

Oh, and I'm glad we've had five-plus years of listening to the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever, so we can follow this reasoning:
The Colorado-based organization says the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network has targeted thousands of school districts nationwide with literature. "Schools are only allowed to provide one message about homosexuality; that it's normal and should be embraced," Focus on the Family said of the gay group's message.

"The school introduced anti-bullying lessons but really they're teaching elementary school kids about gay marriage," Cushman told ABC "We think parents should have the right to teach kids about it in their own way."

So there you go, they're teaching X but they're really teaching Y. They don't even have to say it, gay marriage will magically appear in the minds of students who are taught not to bully.

Also, that "normal and embraced" business. The one message is this: some people are gay, get over it. You don't have to embrace anybody, and nothing will be shoved down your throat.

In reality, this argument has just about spent itself. Fifty years ago LGBT people were routinely persecuted and mocked by the mainstream media and the man on the street. There has been a movement to remove the stigma of minority sexual orientations and gender identities, and it has worked. The more gay people you meet the more you realize they are just people, and that's the whole message. They deserve the same rights as the rest of us, and a historical worldwide trend has brought down the wall between gay and straight individuals. There are still holdouts but that's just what they are, holdouts clinging to a way of life that doesn't exist any more.