Sunday, October 31, 2010

Martha Schaerr Claims Not to Be Anti-Gay

School board candidate Martha Schaerr published something on the Washington Post website this weekend, claiming that she is not anti-gay, even though she is the president of one anti-gay group and is on the board of directors of another. Schaerr is running for Montgomery County District 5 Board of Education, against incumbent Mike Durso. She is on the board of directors of the Family Leader Network, who sued the school district to block the sex-ed curriculum that taught about sexual orientation and gender identity. She is also president of the Citizens for Traditional Families, a group that testifies to prevent gay people from marrying. Let's see how she claims she is not anti-gay...
In Michael Birnbaum's Oct. 27 news article, "School board hopeful has new focus," David Fishback of the D.C. chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays was quoted as saying that my views on the sex-ed curriculum are "antithetical to the health and welfare of . . . gay students," implying that I or my views are somehow "anti-gay." I disagree. I share his opposition to bullying of any student -- especially the most vulnerable ones -- and desire to work with him and anyone else to eliminate unkindness and marginalization.

I do not agree, however, that schools should be teaching students that sexual orientation is inevitably innate and that this is the only legitimate view of the issue. As the American Psychological Association has recently stated, "Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation . . . is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles." My views on sex ed aren't anti-gay

That last sentence was cut off prematurely. After a semicolon the APA says: "most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation." Important point.

There is no conflict between the idea that sexual orientation has complex causes and the fact that it is innate. People do not experience a sense of choice about it, because it is innate. Ms. Schaerr though does not feel we should tell student this simple fact, which she edited out of the American Psychological Association's document. Not because she's anti-gay, mind you, she only edited it out because she wants you to believe that being gay is a choice.

And listen, that's not a trivial point. If sexual orientation is a choice then discrimination and prejudice are justified. It's okay to persecute people who make bad choices.

The point is not open for discussion. The irrefutable fact is that sexual orientation is not a choice. The causes are not known and are probably complex, but it is not a choice any more than eye-color or handedness are choices.
The curriculum should leave students free to determine for themselves whether sexual orientation is a matter of heredity, environment, choice or some combination.

Note how she introduces "choice" to the list of possible causes proposed by the APA. No, Martha, it is not a choice, and leaving students free to determine course content for themselves is not the kind of educational philosophy we want in Montgomery County.

In fact, the current curriculum does not say anything about the causes of sexual orientation. At some point in the class they mention it is innate. Okay, well, it is innate. The only people who choose their sexual orientation are those sad individuals who are innately homosexual but are afraid of social pressure and so choose to pretend otherwise.
Allowing students to make that decision for themselves is not "anti-gay."

It would be interesting to see how far this could go. Should students be allowed to decide for themselves how to solve quadratic equations? How about the outcome of the Civil War? Should students decide that for themselves? There just this one little thing where students should be shielded from the current scientific and medical knowledge -- she is not anti-gay, she just wants to make sure students are not exposed to the truth about sexual orientation, that they are allowed to believe the playground lore that sexual orientation is a choice.

It appears that Ms. Schaerr actually believes that she is not "anti-gay." In her mind, she simply thinks that it's wrong to teach students that sexual orientation is innate, and that it would be better to let them "make that decision for themselves."

And why would that be? That would be because then students might make the decision that sexual orientation is not innate, that gay people choose to be that way. And why does that matter? That's an easy one: it matters because if gay people have chosen to be that way then we can beat them up and insult them, persecute them at school and at work, for their sinful and immoral choice.

Ms. Schaerr doesn't have to say she's "anti-gay" to be anti-gay and hateful. She only has to advocate positions that counter medical and scientific knowledge, positions that directly result in prejudice and discrimination against our LGBT friends and neighbors.

She goes on:
Nor is it "anti-gay" to seek to ensure that all students are given clear information about the health risks of any sexual practices discussed in the curriculum. American teens -- both gay and straight -- are acquiring sexually transmitted diseases in epidemic proportions. If we're going to talk about anal sex in a health class or a condom video, it's irresponsible not to warn students -- especially gay students -- about the medical evidence showing the heightened health risks of anal sex compared with vaginal sex, even with a condom.

It does not appear that Ms. Schaerr knows what is in the sex-ed curriculum. There is a condom video, and it contains this sentence:
Condoms reduce, but do not eliminate the risk of STI/STD whenever there is oral, anal, or vaginal contact.

That sentence is perfectly true, it is prudent and accurate.

For some reason the Nutty Ones believe that because this sentence is in the condom lesson, the school district should teach more about anal sex.

The reason is obvious. They love to dwell on the topic of anal sex because they imagine that's what gay people do, day in and day out. They stick their pee-pees in somebody's poo-poo, eeewwww that's gross. In reality, the vast majority of instances of anal sex are heterosexual. A government survey found that approximately forty percent of American adults have had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner. Yes, the anal membrane is permeable to pathogens, this is a risky behavior to engage in with someone whose infection status is uncertain, and it would be a good idea to teach this to Montgomery County students. But that's not why Ms. Schaerr is dwelling on it here. She's dwelling on it here because anal sex sounds dirty and she believes that gay people do that all the time. Why else would she bring up the subject of this overwhelmingly heterosexual behavior in an article about whether she is anti-gay or not?

Ms. Scherr is as anti-gay as you get. I'll bet she sees herself as a positive person who just wants to teach kids to live a good, wholesome life. She might feel she stands for decency and morality, and she is probably a nice person. But she is not a very smart one, if she believes that sexual orientation is a choice, and if she actually believes that our students should decide the content of their health classes for themselves.

Martha Schaerr is not just a member of some anti-gay groups, she is the president of one and is on the board of directors of another. One group of hers has sued the school district a couple of times to stop them from teaching that there are gay and transgender people and that they are not sick, that others should respect them for who they are as individuals. Another group goes around testifying in court that couples who love one another should not be allowed to marry and start a family if they are the same sex. Not because she's anti-gay, of course.

Gigantic Crowd Supporting Sanity Yesterday

We went to see Chuck Brown at the Strathmore last night. Out here in Rockville a little after seven o'clock there were groups of partiers headed to the city in costumes. They're working on the tracks so the trains were far-between, and the platform was like a big Halloween party, with people wandering between groups, socializing, laughing.

The trains coming back from the city were jam-packed full of tired looking people, mostly not in costumes. You could tell there had been a big event, the Metro was loaded to its maximum, car after car, train after train, standing room only. People were coming back from the big Jon Stewart / Steven Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive demonstration on the mall.

A few months ago, the teabaggers met for Glenn Beck's big "Restoring Honor" demonstration, which drew 87,000 people and was written up in the press as the symbol of a huge movement sweeping across the country. Yesterday's event, which Stewart called "the million moderate march," dwarfed the Beck demonstration with a crowd estimated by CBS News at 215,000.

In our suburban county a few years ago the school district updated its sex-ed curriculum to say something about sexual orientation, and a tiny handful of rightwing extremists went nuts. There were not twenty of them in the core group, even at their most "powerful." You should have seen the TV cameras! If you'd been home watching the news, you would have thought there was a real controversy, a real division between people who wanted the schools to teach about respecting differences in sexuality and those who wanted it to stay how it was. The truth is, though, that the vast majority of Montgomery County residents wanted objective, scientifically sound, and kind lessons in our county's classrooms.

In a similar way, the press has played the tea-party phenomenon as if a gigantic proportion of Americans believe the President is a fascist and the government is taking away our civil liberties. Bull-oney. Most people are clear-eyed, sensible, fair. Most people support the kinds of improvements the administration has been promoting, and if anything there is impatience with the pace of change.

It's ironic that it took two comedians to put together the event that made that statement. As we have found, supporting something is much harder than attacking it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Post Zeroes in on Anti-Gay Candidate Martha Schaerr

The Washington Post Metro section this morning had this story about Montgomery County's November 2nd school board elections:
A woman who is part of a group that sued Montgomery County Public Schools over its sex-education curriculum is running for the Board of Education, reviving a debate about how homosexuality and premarital sex should be dealt with in the schools.

Martha Schaerr, who is running for the District 5 seat against incumbent Michael E. Durso, said that her 2007 fight against the sex-education curriculum is not her focus this time around; instead, she said, her primary concerns are basic issues such as the budget and student achievement.

But gay-rights advocates have criticized Schaerr for not being more open about her involvement with Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, of which she is a member.

The group sued the school system twice, arguing that its sex-education curriculum was dismissive of religions that consider homosexuality a sin and that it tacitly encouraged gay sex. The group wanted the curriculum to include discussions acknowledging various views about homosexuality, including that some people believe sexual orientation is a choice. It also opposed any mention of anal intercourse, saying that would violate a law against teaching "erotic techniques." Activist on sex-ed issue seeks Montgomery school board seat

Poor Martha Schaerr aligned herself with the forces of evil, and it's coming back to bite her. She says now that it's not important to her, but if you look at her resume, what else is there? President of the PTA, President of the anti-gay Citizens for Traditional Marriage, board of directors for the anti-gay Family Leader Network, that's it.

Martha Schaerr's background is in the hate industry, no matter what a nice mom she seems to be. Her group didn't sue the school district to make anybody's life better, they sued to prevent the schools from teaching that some people have a different sexual orientation, a different gender identity, her group sued to perpetuate discrimination against a population that has done nothing to deserve it.

She doesn't want to talk about that now. There are important things, like budgets and picking a superintendent, why would anybody want to talk about bigotry against gay and transgender people?

"When you're talking about sex ed, people seem to hear the word and go to one corner or the other," she said. "All of the board members have said they're happy with it, so it's not very collaborative of me to bring it up right now. I would like to bring it up at an appropriate time when people can talk about it and not yell."

She would like to bring it up again. Just not now, when she's sure to lose. And remember who did the yelling: the group that formed in 2004 to recall the entire Montgomery County Board of Elections, the group with the site, the group that morphed into the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum and now the Citizens for Responsible Government.

But Montgomery County gay-rights advocates say that Schaerr's past remains relevant. And adding to an unusually contentious school board race, one of Schaerr's allies from the fight against the sex-education curriculum has organized a yard-sign campaign called the Rotten Apple Ballot, which is fighting candidates who were endorsed by the Montgomery County teachers union.

"If you want your legislators to listen to you, it's not going to happen," said Ruth Jacobs, president of Citizens for a Responsible Government, the group that has distributed the signs. She said legislators listen to the teachers union. Her group also has fought against a bill prohibiting discrimination against transgendered people, and she was a member of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, along with Schaerr.

Jacobs said that Citizens for a Responsible Government has not endorsed any candidates in the elections this year.

In fact, this is a lie. A recent CRG newsletter endorsed Michael Ibanez and Martha Schaerr for school board, as well as teabagger-friendly candidates in other state and county elections.

Go to their web site: Boycott Apple Ballot and see what they say.

Back to The Post:
Durso, the District 5 incumbent, had just retired as principal of Springbrook High School in Silver Spring when he was appointed to the school board in 2009 to fill a vacancy.

He said he was "concerned" about some of Schaerr's positions on the curriculum, adding that "the school system has a role to support all students and all views and to try to make that atmosphere as conducive and non-threatening as possible."

But he also said that the superintendent search and the budget, not sex education, were the big issues in his mind. "I think we've got our hands full," he said.

Yes, we do have our hands full, and we don't need the distraction of prejudice and discrimination in our school board meetings.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Post Rejects Schaerr Because of Anti-Gay Connections formed nearly six years ago to promote a positive sex-ed curriculum in our county, and we continue to pay attention to education issues. The Washington Post this morning published its endorsements for Montgomery County races -- here's what they said about school board contests:
County voters will also elect four members to the Board of Education, which has the critical task of hiring a superintendent to replace outgoing Jerry D. Weast. Incumbents Patricia O'Neill (District 3), Judy Docca (District 1) and Shirley Brandman (at large) received our endorsement before the nonpartisan primary, and we hope voters will give all three another four-year term. They are able leaders with a keen understanding of the challenges facing the system.

In District 5, incumbent Mike Durso is the better choice over Martha Schaerr, a stay-at-home mom and PTA activist. Mr. Durso possesses valuable insights as a former high school principal; as for Mrs. Schaerr, we are troubled by her involvement in a group hostile to gay rights. She is also member of the board of the Family Leader Network, one of the groups that sued Montgomery school officials in an unsuccessful effort to block a new sexual education curriculum that dealt forthrightly with sexual orientation. Endorsements in Montgomery County races

I'm glad to see that The Post is paying attention to Martha Schaerr's shady associations.

In these times of austere budgets and the search for a new Superintendent, I don't think anyone believes that LGBT issues are the most important thing to consider in education at any level. Ms. Schaerr is the president of the Citizens for Traditional Families, who fight to oppose marriage equality for gay and lesbian citizens. She is on the board of directors of the Family Leader Network, which works to oppose gay and lesbian rights, and has sued our school district over the issue.

Does that matter?

Why, yes, it does matter.

If a person discriminates against one kind of person, why should we expect them to be fair toward others? Do you want a person who believes that their kind should be treated better than others deciding policies for the public school system? Do you want the school district to offer systematically different services to different groups of people? Or do you want someone who respects all groups equally and treats individuals as they deserve on their own merits?

I pointed out previously on this blog, Ms. Schaerr was the point person for the Family Leader Network's project to monitor school boards for evidence that they "promote the normalcy of homosexuality and 'comprehensive' sex education, [and] are aggressively pushing their agenda into schools under the banners of tolerance, equality and safety" (quoting from a Family Leader Network document found online).

As a voter, how do you feel personally about tolerance, equality, and safety? Are those qualities you would want to see implemented in the public schools, or are those qualities you would be careful to avoid?

The Post based its rejection of Ms. Schaerr on her leadership positions with anti-LGBT groups and her anti-gay activism. Some readers of this blog might find those positions appealing and decide to vote for her, while others might actually believe that tolerance, equality, and safety are positive features that we would want to promote in our community.

By the way, not all voters are aware that you can vote for school board candidates from a district you do not live in. Mike Durso and Martha Schaerr are running for the District 5 seat, but citizens from all over the county can choose to put an X beside either of their names.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The President Speaks: It Gets Better

President Obama has contributed to Dan Savage's It Gets Better campaign with a video of his own. Watch it HERE. Here's what he said:
Like all of you, I was shocked and saddened by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay, and who ultimately took their own lives. As a parent of two daughters, it breaks my heart. It’s something that just shouldn’t happen in this country.

We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage—that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. And to every young person out there you need to know that if you’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help.

I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay. But I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart—I know can just wear on you. And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself—for being different, or for not fitting in with everybody else.

But what I want to say is this. You are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are. And so, if you ever feel like because of bullying, because of what people are saying, that you’re getting down on yourself, you’ve got to make sure to reach out to people you trust. Whether it’s your parents, teachers, folks that you know care about you just the way you are. You’ve got to reach out to them, don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself.

The other thing you need to know is, things will get better. And more than that, with time you’re going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength. You’ll look back on the struggles you’ve faced with compassion and wisdom. And that’s not just going to serve you, but it will help you get involved and make this country a better place.

It will mean that you’ll be more likely to help fight discrimination—not just against LGBT Americans, but discrimination in all its forms. It means you’ll be more likely to understand personally and deeply why it’s so important that as adults we set an example in our own lives and that we treat everybody with respect. That we are able to see the world through other people’s eyes and stand in their shoes—that we never lose sight of what binds us together.

As a nation we’re founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness; to make the most of our talents; to speak our minds; to not fit in; most of all, to be true to ourselves. That’s the freedom that enriches all of us. That’s what America is all about.

And every day, it gets better.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Gazette on Martha Schaerr's Stealth Candidacy

The Gazette this morning reported on the stealth candidacy of Martha Schaerr, Director of the Family Leader Network, a group that sued the Montgomery County Public Schools to keep information about sexual orientation out of the sex-ed curriculum. Now that she is running for county school board, Ms. Schaerr makes no mention of her position in the Family Leader Network in any campaign materials, nor any mention that she is the president of the Citizens for Traditional Families, another anti-gay group.
A Montgomery County Board of Education candidate has vowed that she won't revive a past legal tussle with county schools over the sex education curriculum.

Martha Schaerr, who is running to represent District 5 on the school board against incumbent member Michael A. Durso, downplayed her involvement with a group that in 2007 tried to stop two lessons dealing with homosexuality from being taught in Montgomery County Public Schools sex education classes.

Schaerr, a Derwood resident, said her involvement with the Family Leader Network against the classes in eighth and 10th grade won't matter if she wins the Nov. 2 election. The other board members won't support efforts to change the curriculum, Schaerr said, making any action on her part pointless.

"Why would I go back to things where I know nobody's going to agree with me?" said Schaerr, a Derwood resident, who acknowledged that stressing the issue would hurt her candidacy. No fight over sex education, Montgomery County school board candidate promises: Schaerr says she won't raise the issue of homosexual education despite past legal action

Schaerr's group sued MCPS in the courts to block pilot-testing of the new curriculum, then went to the state school board to block implementation of it. Now she says she knows it's an unpopular cause, and she won't pursue it any further.

I agree, "stressing the issue would hurt her candidacy," and ignoring the issue will hurt her candidacy, too. She apparently thinks that her past should evaporate, that her anti-LGBT activism should not be count when she runs for office.

Skipping down ...
Jane deWinter, president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations from 2006 to 2008, said she did not recall Schaerr being publicly active in the legal complaints, although she noted that her organization did not involve itself in the process.

The fact that the groups took action because of strong personal beliefs merits attention, even if lawsuits against the school are common, she said.

"I think that when people are voting for anyone for any office, they need to look at the totality of what they believe in," deWinter said.

Durso agreed with Schaerr that sex education is not a "hot topic" on the school board. During his tenure as principal of Silver Spring's Springbrook High School, Durso recalled, there was a group of straight and gay students that met as an after-school club to discuss relevant issues.

"I think what's interesting is that over the years in my experiences, students have probably been far more tolerant of some of these issues than their parents and other adults," Durso said.

Ms. Schaerr did keep a low personal profile in the lawsuits, but her organization was active in fighting the school district to prevent the teaching of information about sexual orientation and gender identity. There is no reason to believe that she has lost interest in the topic, or that she will not undermine the county's progress on this matter if she is elected to the school board.

Jews on First (motto: "defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind") has posted a short video containing excerpts of an interview with Martha Schaerr HERE.

In that video, you watch Ms. Schaerr carefully consider her words. She knows she is expected to answer the question about sex ed, as all the other candidates did, but she knows that her fringe views will certainly lose her votes, as she notes in the Gazette story. Listen and decide for yourself, is this really a topic she will put behind her?

Ms. Schaerr was the point person for the Family Leader Network's project to monitor school boards for evidence that they "promote the normalcy of homosexuality and 'comprehensive' sex education, [and] are aggressively pushing their agenda into schools under the banners of tolerance, equality and safety." She leads an organization that advocates in the courts against the rights of LGBT Americans, and she is on the board of directors of an organization that has repeatedly sued our county's school district to keep "tolerance, equality, and safety" out of the curriculum.

Do you think that if she is elected she will really leave all that behind her? Do you think she will be fair to LGBT students and other minorities?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

AOL News Scrapes the Bottom of the Barrel

Somebody pasted an article into the comments this afternoon. It looked like it came from some rightwing propaganda site -- we get that a lot -- but I checked on it and it was from AOL News. This is unbelievable.
(Oct. 17) -- Walter Schumm knows what he's about to do is unpopular: publish a study arguing that gay parents are more likely to raise gay children than straight parents. But the Kansas State University family studies professor has a detailed analysis that past almost aggressively ideological researchers never had.

When one such researcher, Paul Cameron, published a paper in 2006 arguing that children of gay parents were more likely to be gay themselves, the response from the academic press was virulent, to say nothing of the popular press; the Southern Poverty Law Center, for instance, equated Cameron to a Nazi.

Not all of the vitriol was hyperbolic. Cameron does not tolerate gay people. He believes that "homosexual practice is injurious to society." Study: Gay Parents More Likely to Have Gay Kids

Hold on here, Nelly. Paul Cameron is not merely unpopular with academics and liberal journalists. For one thing, he is not a "researcher," as this article says. He does not publish his findings in peer-reviewed journals, he does not follow rigorous scientific procedures, he is simply someone who hates gay people and writes about it.

It is not clear to me why it matters if gay parents have a higher likelihood of raising self-reported gay children, or why this finding would be controversial. I suppose it is the difference between coming out and remaining closeted, where having gay parents makes it easier to be open about your own sexual orientation. Well, whatever, so this guy says he has some data showing an increased likelihood of gay children given gay parents.
The gay press, as far back as the 1980s, labeled Cameron "the most dangerous anti-gay voice in America." Though Cameron was the first to publish papers on the dangers of secondhand smoke, the scientific community has abandoned him. The American Psychological Association long since dropped him from its membership for an "ethical" violation.

No, they kicked him out for ethical violations. It doesn't go in quotes, it's a real thing, professional organizations enforce their ethics codes. The American Sociological Association and Canadian Psychological Association have also accused Cameron of misrepresenting social science research.
Today, Cameron is the founder and chairman of the Family Research Institute, whose "overriding mission" is to publish "empirical research on issues that threaten the traditional family, particularly homosexuality."

And that's it, that's how they will describe Paul Cameron's legacy. He heads an institute that conducts empirical research.

AOL does not see it worthwhile to mention to their readers that the Family Research Institute is categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is not a research organization at all.
Schumm doesn't go for that sort of research. After Cameron's 2006 paper, Schumm listened as the academic community stated certainty of two things: Cameron was an idiotic bigot; and the existing literature showed little to no societal, cultural or parental influence on sexual orientation.

Schumm began investigating the second premise. "I just want to know the truth about something," he tells AOL News. And he found it strange that parents can influence so many facets of their children's lives -- but not in any way their sexual orientation.

No one knows the causes of sexual orientation. The American Psychological Association's position is that "There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors."

This article should never have appeared on a reputable web site. I have the feeling it will be taken down soon.
Lawyers for the state of Florida heard of Schumm's fledgling research and invited him in 2008 to testify in a case. The state's Department of Children and Families was attempting to uphold a ban on gay and lesbian parents adopting children. Schumm's testimony actually ended up aiding the gay parents in the trial.

This was the notorious hearing leading to Florida prohibiting gays from adopting children. The two experts who testified were George Rekers, of luggage-lifting fame, and Walter Schumm. In his testimony Schumm cited data from the journal Psychological Reports, which is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal but is rather one that you pay to publish in. The ban was later declared unconstitutional.
He said: "Gay parents can be good foster parents," and "The decision to permit homosexuals to adopt is best made by the judiciary on a case by case basis."

Schumm tells AOL News that he agreed to testify as one of the state's witnesses only if his evidence was not "slanted" for or against gay rights.

Uh huh. He wants the court to review each case where a gay couple wants to adopt children, but doesn't want to been seen as for or against gay rights.

This just gets worse...
But also in his testimony was an inkling of the robust research Schumm has just completed. His study on sexual orientation, out next month, says that gay and lesbian parents are far more likely to have children who become gay. "I'm trying to prove that it's not 100 percent genetic," Schumm tells AOL News.

First of all, no scientist talks about "proving" anything with empirical research. The null-hypothesis testing model used in social science allows you to determine the amount of confidence you have in a result, but all of it is probabilistic, and nothing is ever "proven." Second, nobody has ever said that sexual orientation is "100 percent genetic." It's not a scientific hypothesis or theory, no researcher has ever published a paper suggesting that sexual orientation is 100 genetic; the 100-percent-genetic argument nothing more than a straw man. He wants to prove something that everybody assumes is true already. In fact, if there is a primary factor determining sexual orientation, it is probably the complex effects of hormones on the developing fetus.

The article describes Schumm's research in general terms. He apparently performed a meta-analysis of data from ten books on gay parenting, according to this. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining results of multiple studies, we won't get into the controversies about the technique here but if it's done right it is a sophisticated method. The article does not say, but it appears that Schumm's paper is being published in the Journal of Biosocial Science, a minor British journal that achieved notoriety a few years back by publishing a paper by Paul Cameron.

The AOL article concludes:
Schumm says it shouldn't have taken until 2010 to do the meta-analysis. Too often his colleagues impose "liberal or progressive political interpretations" on their studies, which inhibit further inquiry. "It's kind of sad," he tells AOL News.

As if expecting a political backlash himself, Schumm concludes his study with a quote from philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. "All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Listen, let's say the rate of individuals born with a predisposition for homosexuality is constant across times and places. Of those who are innately homosexual, some will suppress their sexuality or distort it to conform with social norms and sanctions, and some will come to identify themselves in adulthood as gay or lesbian. If a study finds that homosexual individuals with gay parents are more likely to identify themselves as gay, who is surprised?

But that is not the issue here. Academics devote their careers to conducting research under precise conditions, subjecting their results to review by their peers according to the most rigorous standards. Professional organizations police their membership, holding them to ethical and professional standards and sanctioning them when they fall short. AOL News is talking about discredited researchers working outside the boundaries of academia, publishing in "pay to publish" journals and citing work found in those journals. This article would have you believe that Paul Cameron's ethical violations were some sort of ivory-tower technicalities, that he is unpopular with gay people, when in fact he is a notorious hate-monger who disguises his anti-gay prejudice as science and has been rejected by every professional and academic institution as a fraud.

The author discussed here, Walter Schumm, is concerned with political correctness and the influence of liberals, which should have nothing to do with scientific research. Many famous social-science studies have upset liberals, including the researchers who conducted the studies -- here I am thinking of Solomon Asch's conformity studies and Stanley Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" research, which showed that people are disappointingly sheep-like in their susceptibility to social influence. It didn't matter if those results supported a liberal or conservative world-view, it was science, not politics. Clearly this Kansas State Family Studies professor has an ideological bone to pick. AOL should be ashamed of themselves for passing his viewpoint off as science. In fact, an article discussing possible explanations for higher rates of self-reported homosexuality among the children of gay and lesbian parents could have had some value. This article undermines the effect of real science, which seeks valid information that can help all of us live better.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Obama Throws Pass to Wrong End Zone

If LGBT citizens have worried about the Obama administration's commitment to their civil rights, maybe felt a little skeptical, they don't have to wonder any more. After a judge ruled that Don't Ask Don't Tell was unconstitutional the Obama administration has asked for a stay, insisting that they need to continue to kick gays and lesbians out of the military, at least for a little while longer. The Pentagon has stopped firing them but the administration wants to start again:
WASHINGTON — Saying it would appeal a ruling striking down the law that bans gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the United States military, the Obama administration on Thursday asked the federal judge who issued the ruling for an emergency stay of her decision.

In a 48-page court filing, Clifford L. Stanley, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, argued that the military, particularly in wartime, should not be required to “suddenly and immediately restructure a major personnel policy that has been in place for years.” Mr. Stanley said the injunction would disrupt efforts to prepare for a more orderly repeal of the policy.

“The stakes here are so high, and the potential harm so great, that caution is in order,” he said.

Mr. Stanley’s declaration was the centerpiece of a set of administration filings before Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court. Last month, she declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law to be unconstitutional, and this week she issued an injunction requiring the military to stop enforcing it immediately. Obama Seeks Stay on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Ruling

What "potential for harm" is there? There are gays and lesbians in the military, all over the place, the policy is simply that they have to remain in the closet.
The Log Cabin Republicans, the group that brought the lawsuit against the policy, vowed to fight the administration’s appeal of Judge Phillips’s ruling before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the request for an emergency stay of the injunction.

“We are not surprised by the government’s action, as it repeats the broken promises and empty words from President Obama avowing to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ while at the same directing his Justice Department to defend this unconstitutional policy,” said Dan Woods, a lawyer representing the group. “Now that the government has filed a request for a stay, we will oppose it vigorously because brave, patriotic gays and lesbians are serving in our armed forces to fight for all of our constitutional rights while the government is denying them theirs.”

The Obama administration's ongoing sacrifice of principle to the Great God of Bipartisanship has resulted in the administration doing just the opposite of what they were elected to do. The irony of Republicans insisting on gay rights while the Democrats are trying to limit them is not lost on anyone on either side of the aisle.
“I agree with the basic principle that anybody who wants to serve in our armed forces and make sacrifices on our behalf, on behalf of our national security — anybody should be able to serve, and they shouldn’t have to lie about who they are in order to serve. And so we are moving in the direction of ending this policy,” [Obama] said.

But, he added: “It has to be done in a way that is orderly, because we are involved in a war right now. But this is not a question of whether the policy will end. This policy will end, and it will end on my watch. But I do have an obligation to make sure that I’m following some of the rules. I can’t simply ignore laws that are out there. I’ve got to work to make sure that they are changed.”

This is the way the US process of checks and balances works. It is orderly, it is constitutional, and somebody hands you a victory it's okay to accept it. The judge has ruled, and that is a valid way for law to evolve in our society, it is not as if obeying the judge's order would be breaking the law, as Obama implies. It's easy, as the Pentagon has shown: just stop firing people.

Here's the administration's justification for appealing...
[Stanley] argued that ending the policy would require training of military service members, as well as a reworking of dozens of policies and regulations involving issues like “housing, benefits, re-accession, military equal opportunity, anti-harassment, standards of conduct, rights and obligations of the chaplain corps, and others.”

“Amending these regulations would typically take several months,” he said. “To change all of the implicated policies and underlying regulations will require a massive undertaking by the department and cannot be done overnight.”

The military has stopped the firings, meaning that the judge's order is being obeyed. It didn't take any training, reworking -- come on, how would housing be affected? How is "military equal opportunity" affected? Why would any standards of conduct have to change? We'll watch this one and see where it goes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Chilean Miners Come Up

It was really one of those moments last night, when they sent a rescuer down in the mesh capsule, into the bowels of the earth where thirty-three guys have waited more than two months, trapped. He stepped into the cage and then you saw it disappear into a little hole in the earth, no more significant-looking than a manhole, and after a while the camera underground showed him arriving, stepping out, it showed a bunch of guys in boxers standing around a rugged, dirty cavern. They were well behaved, calm, ready to go home. They looked healthy, not unhappy, each one knew when his turn would come and one by one they would step into the rescue capsule and ascend to the world of sunlight and family and love.

Aboveground, el presidente de Chile gave speeches and hugged relatives, looking grand and silver-haired with his elegant wife by his side. Engineers in hard-hats stood with their legs apart, hands on hips, now and then walking over to look down into the hole or looking up at the big wheel that was letting the cable out or reeling it in. There were some smiles but mainly they looked competent, relaxed, they were men doing their jobs. Everything had been checked and double-checked according to plan, and they were pretty sure it would work.

Family members stood by anxiously, in hard-hats, women and children waiting for the men they love, hoping they have not changed in their months inside the earth, hoping for a hug and a look that tells them everything is still all right. Crowds waved Chilean flags and chanted "chi chi chi - le le le!" and sang a melodic song which I took to be the Chilean national anthem.

It was a proud night for their country.

When you first heard on August 5th that men were trapped underground you did not expect this outcome. The mining company bored five-and-a-half-inch boreholes to the area where they believed the miners were located, but did not find any signs of life when they reached the tunnel on August 22nd. Ah, but the miners had heard the drill, and had written a note and saved up a supply of adhesive tape, and they taped the note to the drill, so when it came back up, workers at the earth's surface discovered the miners were alive and relatively well: "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" ("The 33 of us in the shelter are well").

There was almost nothing to eat, and the miners organized themselves, rationed their food, it was all about self-discipline and organization and cooperation in a desperate situation. Leaders emerged, roles developed, and the thirty-three underground managed to stay healthy and sane as engineers drilled furiously to reach them.

It was announced that they hoped to reach the miners by Christmas. A narrow hole was drilled, and this was then reamed out with a bigger bit. During the process, more than a half ton of rock per day fell into the cavity where the miners were living, and they had to pick it up and move it away.

The rescue capsule was designed by NASA, based on a model developed in 1955 and used in a German mining rescue, the Wunder von Lengede, in 1963, when eleven miners were rescued after fourteen days underground. NASA has advised the Chileans throughout the ordeal, having experience with small groups living in isolation without fresh air. The entire incident has been incredibly well organized and methodical.

As I write this, thirteen miners have been lifted to safety and they're going down for the next one. You know something can still go wrong, the word "heartbreaking" is something you are braced to hear. A cable can snap, a man can get sick, rock can crumble and collapse. So far it has gone perfectly, the entire world is praying that the others are lifted safely and we have every reason to believe they will be. This is one of those times you are proud to be a human being, it is an engineering triumph and a triumph of indomitable will and caring.

So here is my question to you. The Chileans are rightfully proud of this great accomplishment. What do you think would have happened if this had happened in the United States? How would the miners have held up? How would the mining company have responded? The president of Chile dropped everything and took charge of the search and emergency response -- what would our leaders have done? How would the American population have responded? How would our government have responded?

Today is a day for us to show deep respect for the people of Chile, who have endured much and came together to support this effort. When the mine first caved in, nobody expected to find survivors. Once they were found, nobody expected them to hang on for two months. When the drilling began, nobody expected it to go so fast. Now the men are coming out of the ground, hugging their wives and children, and going into the hospital area, where they will be examined and treated for the effects of their confinement and released back to good, ordinary life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This Sums It Up

A quick quote from the New York governor's race, where Republican Carl Paladino has criticized his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, for marching in the Gay Pride parade. He complained further that it is not right to teach children about homosexuality: "I don’t believe that gays should be discussed in the schools. I think that morality is a situation that should be discussed in the home."

FoxNY has his explanation:
"I am a Catholic first. There are 7.5 million Catholics in the state. I did what any father would do. Andrew Cuomo brought this issue out. He said that from his perspective gay marriage will be passed next year. That's wrong," Paladino told Good Day NY.

When asked how he could stand behind Catholicism when he admittedly fathered a child out of wedlock, Paladino answered:

"What does that have to do with it? Under who's standards? Are you going to drudge up all of Cuomo's gutter talk?" Paladino Defends Homosexuality Comments: "I'm Not Homophobic"

He doesn't see any inconsistency at all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

RIP Solomon Burke

People die every day. Sometimes though one hits you, you feel history quietly slipping away. This is one of those.

Solomon Burke died yesterday on a plane in Amsterdam, flying to a gig.

Check this out. Tell me if there will ever be music like this again.

Caring Takes Effort

This lines have been made very clear in recent months. There are those who accept differences among people, and those who don't, and the two sides are digging in. As homophobia declines in the country, the rabid right keeps trying to use sexual identity as a wedge between "us" and "them," capitalizing on the misunderstanding that people have, the discomfort that citizens might have with something they don't understand.

Here's the guy running for governor in New York:
The Republican candidate for governor, Carl P. Paladino, told a gathering in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday that children should not be “brainwashed” into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable, and criticized his opponent, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade earlier this year.

Addressing Orthodox Jewish leaders, Mr. Paladino described his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t,” he said, reading from a prepared address, according to a video of the event. And then, to applause at Congregation Shaarei Chaim, he said: “I didn’t march in the gay parade this year — the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did, and that’s not the example we should be showing our children.” Paladino Attacks Gays in Brooklyn Speech

Recent polls show that most Americans support marriage equality, and the trend toward a liberal view of sexual orientation and gender identity has been relentless over the past decades. Conservatives try to convince voters that sexual orientation is a moral choice made by individuals, a moral choice that represents a mutiny against traditional values and is thus an insult to ordinary people. And this is a good, strong argument to use with ignorant people and people who are too busy to look into the matter. It is not a good argument for educated citizens and those who are paying attention.

Science does not take the conservative view, medicine does not take their view, well-considered common sense does not take the view that gay and transgender people choose to be different from the rest of the population, or that sexual orientation and gender identity are moral choices, or that LGBT people are different in any important way from everybody else. The belief that sexual orientation is a moral choice simplifies the world, making it easy to understand, but it is not an accurate view, not a view that is supported by any evidence.

To understand sexual identities that are different from your own requires cognitive effort. It's hard to understand, perhaps impossible to empathize with someone whose attention is diverted by an entirely different kind of distractor. For straight men it is hard to imagine kissing another man, and seeing men kissing typically elicits a kind of feeling that is hard to overcome, it requires effort to work through the emotional reaction and realize that those are just two people showing affection.

This creates an opening for politicians who can offer an explanation that does not require cognitive effort and does not require people to deal with their own feelings. Accept, with those such as Mr. Paladino, that gay people are morally decadent, and you don't have to go through the mental exercise of understanding why someone would want to do something you would never dream of doing. Instead of empathizing, which takes effort, you can simply reject them. The approach is appealing, not because it explains any truths about the world, but because it means that you can go on to other things, you don't have to bother thinking about it. Wrap it up and throw it away.

So how do you explain the liberal trend? While conservatives have been churning out their simple-minded explanations for sexual identity, the actual population has been moving the other way.

I think the answer is that conservatives' worst nightmare is coming true. After the Stonewall riots of 1969, the LGBT community came together in outrage. They organized, they wrote papers and books and articles, they monitored and criticized the media, they implemented a very intense and successful publicity campaign to teach straight people not to fear them, not to hate them, but to regard them as ordinary people. The conservatives call it "the gay agenda" and paint it in negative terms, as if gay people were trying to recruit children and ram their lifestyle down our throats, but all it is really is a persistent campaign by LGBT people to present themselves in a better light, and you can't blame them for that. Suddenly we saw gay people in movies and television shows, we read books by them, we realized their importance behind the scenes in many environments, we discovered many of our heroes were gay, and after several decades most straight people have come to the correct conclusion that is is just no big deal.

The conservatives can use homophobia as a wedge, maybe, through this election cycle, but it is a losing strategy in the long run.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dobbs Hired Illegals

Tell me you're surprised. Lou Dobbs made a career out of complaining about "illegal immigrants," even suggested that hiring them should be a felony. Lucky for him it isn't.

The Nation breaks it:
Since he left CNN last November, after Latino groups mounted a protest campaign against his inflammatory rhetoric, Dobbs has continued to advocate an enforcement-first approach to immigration, emphasizing, as he did in a March 2010 interview on Univision, that "the illegal employer is the central issue in this entire mess!"

His scheduled October 9 address at the Virginia Tea Party Convention will mark his second major Tea Party address of the year, reviving questions about whether the former CNN host is gearing up for an electoral campaign. He recently told Fox's Sean Hannity that he has not ruled out a possible Senate or even presidential run in 2012.

But with his relentless diatribes against "illegals" and their employers, Dobbs is casting stones from a house—make that an estate—of glass. Based on a yearlong investigation, including interviews with five immigrants who worked without papers on his properties, The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute have found that Dobbs has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper. Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite

Read the rest. Good reporting.

Bad People With Bad Ideas

I think it's stupid when writers use asterisks in words to pretend they're not actually saying a word that someone might find offensive. For instance, I recently saw someone on a blog use the word a**hole. If you are an adult reader who is offended by certain words, why would you not be offended by the same word with obvious asterisks in it? It's like, does somebody really look at those letters and asterisks and go, Wow, I wonder how you pronounce that? or I wonder what word that was supposed to be? It seems possible to me that the extra cognitive processing involved in figuring out what the word is supposed to be might give the asterisked word even more emphasis. Well, whatever.

Instead of a**hole I am going to use the word banana-peel.

Republicans are turning out to be a bunch of banana-peels.

Newt Gingrich now has a new slogan. From the AP:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is advising Republican candidates on November's ballots to frame the choice for voters between Democrats as "the party of food stamps" while selling the GOP as "the party of paychecks." Gingrich brands Democrats 'party of food stamps'

Hey, that's pretty catchy. It's as if the economy did not go to hell when the Republicans were in charge, and the slogan has the extra bonus of making it look like all Democrats are immigrants and minorities, or whoever Republicans think receive food stamps.

Gingrich says,
"Most Americans would like to get a paycheck," Gingrich said. "Most Americans would not like to be forced to have food stamps handed out by liberal Democrats."

No bananas, Sherlock. Most Americans would not like to be forced to live on food stamps at all, whether they were handed out by liberal Democrats or banana-peel Republicans

But what would be even worse would be if you lost your job and your home and your unemployment ran out and you didn't have anything to eat and there were no food stamps. The alternative, for those who have not thought through Gingrich's model beyond the GOP sloganeering, is starvation. Mass starvation. In America.

Gingrich's model is that people work and take care of themselves, you pay your own way in the world, and if you don't you pay the consequences.

Like this dirt-bag freeloader over in Tennessee, trying to get something for nothing.
Firefighters in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because the homeowner hadn't paid a $75 fee.

Gene Cranick of Obion County and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat.

"They could have been saved if they had put water on it, but they didn't do it," Cranick told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

The fire started when the Cranicks' grandson was burning trash near the family home. As it grew out of control, the Cranicks called 911, but the fire department from the nearby city of South Fulton would not respond.

"We wasn't on their list," he said the operators told him. No pay, no spray: Firefighters let home burn

From The Examiner:
Today Glenn Beck and co-hose Pat Gray gave their own take on Gene Cranick, the Tennessee man whose house burned down while county firefighters watched. The fire department of Republican-controlled Obion County refused to help Cranick because he had not paid a $75 subscription fee. As a result, Cranick's house was destroyed and he lost his two dogs and cat.

Not surprisingly, Beck and Gray argued that the county and the fire department did the right thing by not turning their hoses on Cranick's house. Beck argues that since Cranick did not pay his $75 subscription fee he does not deserve the fire protection. Going further, Beck and his co-host actually mock Cranick and his southern accent through much of the segment (audio to the left). Both men portray Cranick as some kind of southern redneck who does not understand how the Tea Party, free market principles are suppose to work. Glenn Beck and co-host mock man whose house burned down in Tennessee

Luckily for conservatives, letting the guy's house burn down was not only good free-market economics, but Jesus would have wanted it that way. Here's Bryan Fischer at the American Family Association:
In this case, critics of the fire department are confused both about right and wrong and about Christianity. And it is because they have fallen prey to a weakened, feminized version of Christianity that is only about softer virtues such as compassion and not in any part about the muscular Christian virtues of individual responsibility and accountability.

The Judeo-Christian tradition is clear that we must accept individual responsibility for our own decisions and actions. He who sows to the flesh, we are told, will from the flesh reap corruption. The law of sowing and reaping is a non-repealable law of nature and nature’s God. Firefighters did the Christian thing in letting house burn to the ground

Would you agree, these guys are a bunch of banana-peels?

(BTW, that web site seems screwed up to me, I had to read it using "view source.")

Just wait till Gene Cranick tries to get food stamps. Oh, the conservatives'll get a laugh out of that!

Everybody hates to pay taxes to support a bunch of bureaucrats who implement hard-to-comprehend policies that don't seem to work half the time. Everybody hates self-serving politicians who manipulate the system for their own gain and hide their true intentions from the public. It's as American as apple pie to complain about the government, you don't have to be a Republican banana-peel to do that. Even Democrats resent the idiocy of government, especially federal government, though it's a circus at the state and local levels, too.

We complain, but at some level we are glad to have somebody inspecting our food, paving our roads, putting out our fires, investigating crimes and enforcing the law, fighting for us. We're glad to know that if we lose our jobs we won't be abandoned by our society, that there is something between us and starvation.

I'm not the first to say this: if you want to see individual accountability and small government in action, just look at Mogadishu. You want to live like that? (Sadly, I just imagined pasty-faced crybaby mama's-boy Glenn Beck striding through the seething streets of a third-world hell-hole like Mogadishu, his Kalashnikov blazing as he fights his way to the top of the pecking order in a brutal world of free market principles. Right.)

Sure, food stamps are for losers and the fire department should let your house burn down if you don't pay in advance; let me point out the latest point of pride for the the banana-peels.
Two years after coming to national attention during John McCain's presidential bid, Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher is keeping busy. His cause now isn't tax policy, but puppy availability. Wurzelbacher has joined up with a Missouri-based group called the Alliance for Truth, which hopes to defeat legislation that would overhaul conditions in the state's thousands of puppy mills--facilities where dogs are bred to be sold as pets, often in cramped or unsanitary settings.

The legislation has the approval of the Humane Society of the United States, but Wurzelbacher, the Alliance for Truth, and some local Tea Party advocates view it as a case of unwelcome government intrusion. Joe the Plumber, Tea Partiers Defend Missouri Puppy Mills

I know what you're thinking: nobody could be that much of a banana-peel. But they have very powerful arguments for why it is important to allow people to breed puppies in unsanitary kennels. The article in The Atlantic Wire explains why the Alliance for Truth believes puppy mills are good.
Radicals Want to Make It Harder to Buy Puppies, maintains the Alliance for Truth. The group claims that the Humane Society "seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs," and in an interview with Talking Points Memo, a spokeswoman for the Alliance equated the Humane Society with fringe animal-rights activists who believe "ownership of an animal is slavery" and that "animals should have attorney representation." Wurzelbacher goes even further, writing on the Alliance's website that the Humane Society is simply "lying to our citizens and taking our constitutional rights away – one state at a time."

I had to look this one up. There are several groups called "Alliance for Truth." It appears this one formed entirely to support puppy mills, if THIS online posting is real, and it appears it is. Elizabeth Brinkley, Legislative Liaison for Dante Kennels (she is also the owner, it turns out) (and she is also a professional actress), seems to be the force behind the Alliance for Truth, which is a group that opposes the Humane Society.

The banana-peels are fascinating, I'm sorry, I can't help myself, it's like that Beatles song where the guy "just had to look, having read the book." The Dante Kennels web site has pages about Ms. Brinkley's acting, and a link titled Animal Rights. Man ... what can you say ...
My philosophy on Animal Rights is that HUMANS HAVE RIGHTS. Animals have the moral expectation of being treated with decency, but that is not a right. A “RIGHT” is a legal term and comes with responsibilities and expectations that cannot be applied to animals.

There's more.

Devil's advocate here. Don't you think that a being that is sufficiently sentient to have "moral expectations of being treated with decency" is probably sufficiently sentient to have rights?

Would you want to buy a puppy from a lady who takes a militant stance against treating animals decently? Me either.

The Atlantic Wire asks the obvious question:
Is This a Joke? At the Los Angeles Times, Patt Morrison can't shake the suspicion that someone is being punk'd. "Come on, 'fess up, Comedy Central -- did you sneak a plant into Missouri and start up this group just to gin up good material for your writers?" Getting serious, she adds that "humane organizations would love for every middle-class American family to be a dog owner, and there's a really easy way, a cheap way, to make that happen -- without having to pay the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that puppy mills can charge per pet. Millions of American-born dogs are waiting for you... in shelters and with rescue groups all across America."

I have no doubt the banana-peel platform will continue to expand in awesomely unpredictable ways, as conservatives find new ways to oppose kindness, decency, objectivity, and fairness.

The problem is, after they hear it often enough, this kind of thinking sounds reasonable to potato-Americans. You keep Fox on, droning in the background, and eventually you too will see that it's better for poor people to starve than for the government to help them, it's perfectly reasonable for the fire department to sit on their butts while a guy's house burns down if he has not paid the seventy-five dollar fee, humane treatment of animals is a socialist plot to manipulate the market and make pets unaffordable to ordinary banana-peel families.

I can't wait to see where this is going.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Rally Planned To Support Anti-Gay Counseling Student

We talked about this case a few weeks back. There were two counseling students who each sued their schools because their counseling departments were forcing them to learn about homosexuality as a requirement for receiving postgraduate degrees and counseling certification.

They both lost.

The sensible argument is that it is not too much to ask graduate students to learn the material and agree to abide by professional ethical standards. The dumb argument is that they are being persecuted for being Christians.

One of the students, Jennifer Keeton of Augusta State University in Georgia, sued her university for violation of First Amendment rights and viewpoint discrimination after they wanted her to attend remedial training.

From the Augusta Chronicle,, back in August:
Professors asked Keeton to complete the remediation plan after she said she opposed homosexuality and would tell gay clients "their behavior is morally wrong and then help the client change that behavior," according to an affidavit filed in the case. Judge rejects Keeton lawsuit

Well, that's straightforward enough.

There will be a rally in her support October 23rd at the university.
The Ku Klux Klan will hold a rally in support of an Augusta State University counseling student who claims her First Amendment rights were violated when the school ordered her to learn more about the homosexual community.

Bobby Spurlock, the imperial wizard knighthawk and grand dragon of South Carolina and North Carolina, said today the group has met with school officials and plans to protest the school’s treatment of 24-year-old Jennifer Keeton. The protest will be Oct. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. They will be in full dress and located across from the school’s main Walton Way entrance in the median at Fleming Avenue.

Spurlock said they believe Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated when the school required her to participate in a remediation program after she objected to counseling homosexuals.

“It's your constitutional right so how could you tell someone you have to do something completely different?” Spurlock said. Klan rally to support ASU student Keeton

Imagine -- imperial wizard knighthawk and grand dragon of both South Carolina and North Carolina! He must be a Very Wise Man.

I don't have much to add here. You see how it lines up. People are fed up, they want their country back.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Bullying and an Epidemic of Suicides

It seems wrong to put the letter "s" on the end of suicide: suicides. A person's choice to end his or her life is a singular event, it isn't a fad, choosing the finality of death is a rejection of life, and it is it impossible for us, the living, to imagine the pain that leads to that decision.

September was a terrible month for young gay people committing suicide as a response to bullying: suicides. With an "s" on the end.

Wednesday, a gay student named Raymond Chase hanged himself in his dorm room at the campus of Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. He was the fifth young gay person to commit suicide in the past three weeks. There is, at this time, not much information available about Chase's death.

Earlier this month, in Greensburg Indiana, Billy Lucas hanged himself in a barn. From a poignant news story:
Jade Sansing met Billy as he was being harassed a year ago. She tells 24 Hour News 8 of his final days “everything seemed normal, but he did tell me some people were making fun of him and I told him I would help him and I did.” Help from Jade is now memories in the Facebook memorial page she created. She says, “I made a Billy Lucas memorial page so I could say my last goodbyes and everyone could know about the bullying.” She had to make her last goodbyes on the internet because there was no public funeral for Billy. Jade says the bullies would call Billy “gay and tell him to go kill himself.” Karen questions, “You actually heard people tell him go kill yourself?” She answers “yes”. Teen suicide victim hangs himself from barn rafters

In Texas, eighth-grader Asher Brown killed himself.
Asher Brown's worn-out tennis shoes still sit in the living room of his Cypress-area home while his student progress report — filled with straight A's — rests on the coffee table.

The eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Brown, his family said, was "bullied to death" — picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, his mother and stepfather said.

The 13-year-old's parents said they had complained about the bullying to Hamilton Middle School officials during the past 18 months, but claimed their concerns fell on deaf ears. Parents say bullies drove their son to take his life: They claim school district took no action

Tehachapi, California, is a desert town in the mountains of central California. The news this week, from CBS News:
Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old California middle school student, died in the hospital on Tuesday, days after he attempted to take his own life after reportedly enduring relentless bullying.

Seth, a student at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi, Calif., was found unconscious and not breathing on Sept. 19 after he apparently tried to hang himself from a tree in his backyard, according to a police report obtained by The Bakersfield Californian.

Friends told NBC affiliate KGET that Seth had been picked on for years because he was gay.

Police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself, and determined despite the tragic outcome of their ridicule, their actions do not constitute a crime, reported KGET.

"Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears," Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. "They had never expected an outcome such as this." Seth Walsh: Gay 13-Year-Old Hangs Self After Reported Bullying

And there is the problem. They thought their cruelty would have no effect. These monsters may live the rest of their lives believing it was just a joke that the kid took badly.

At Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi's roommate secretly videotaped him with a male date and posted the video on the Internet.
Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, was a gifted violinist, a quiet young man who kept things to himself. Sadly and tragically, his life was cut short. Clementi’s roommate, freshman Dharun Ravi, and another student, Molly Wei recorded a private moment between Clementi and another man, uploaded the video to the internet, sharing the intimate and private life of Clementi.

In great distress at this becoming knowledge to the world, Clementi took his own life, jumping off the George Washington bridge into the Hudson River.

Before Clementi’ suicide, he left a message on the gay community message board two days after finding the video online.

“He … saw me making out with a guy,” the message reads. “The school (probably) won’t do much of anything.”

Clementi attempted to speak to an adviser at his college, however what was actually done about this is unknown.

Ravi, his room mate, tweeted “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Rutgers Student Death – Did Tyler Clementi VIDEO Lead To Suicide

Uh, the answer there is "Yes," the video did lead to suicide. The roommate humiliates this student in front of the whole world and then he kills himself, and the question is, is there a connection? Yes, there is a connection.

Anyone reading this understands what the problem is. We may label it "bullying" but it's worse than that. The bullying exists in an atmosphere that tolerates it. In every one of these cases you will find that the brutal bullies and the authorities who enabled them are shocked to discover that someone's feelings were being hurt, that someone experienced their own life as being so painful that they would choose to end it, would decide to eliminate the possibility of all future decisions. The bullies and their "adult" enablers cannot comprehend that a gay teenager has feelings, is vulnerable, that their words and actions cause actual hurt.

The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released the results of their 2009 National School Climate Survey two weeks ago:
The 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns. 2009 National School Climate Survey: Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT Students Experience Harassment in School

This isn't a case of a few schoolyard bullies, this is institutionalized harassment. Click that link and read the rest of the survey results. It's a stinking mess out there.

Oddly, some who represent themselves as Christian and pro-family want to make sure bullying remains legal, at least bullying of gay students. Senator Bob Casey:
The Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced in the House by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, would require schools and districts receiving designated federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student's actual or perceived race, color, national original, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.

This bill has widespread support from educators, administrators, civil rights organizations and the National PTA. Yet, Focus on the Family has launched a campaign to brand the bill part of a vast LGBT conspiracy "to promote homosexuality to kids" and to push a "pro-gay curricula." Focus on the Family Stands Up for Bullying

Anti-gay bigotry is the root of the harassment that has led to five self-inflicted deaths of young people in one month. As long as you can believe that LGBT people choose their sexual identities, that they are making a moral decision that mocks a traditional view of righteousness, you may feel justified in bullying, in harassment of sexual minorities. The long-term solution is education.

These young lives were filled with potential, with hope, and they were driven into the ground by ignorance and hate. It is the responsibility of every well-intentioned citizen to speak up and speak out against this institutionalized hatred, to see that these bright young lives reach maturity. Make sure young people know It Gets Better.