Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peter Sprigg: We Do It Out of Love

We first encountered Peter Sprigg at the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum's 2005 Hate Fest. He worried me at that time, he is a smooth talker, good with words, likable in his way. He seems sincere and thoughtful but the stuff coming out of his mouth is pure, honey-coated poison. He cites bogus research and plays on the stereotypes of gay people in such a way that the ignorant people who come to hear him speak can easily believe. In fact, the main theme of his career is to insist that the old stereotypes of gay people are in fact accurate.

RightWingWatch caught him on an American Family Association radio show this week, being interviewed by host Matt Friedeman. Listen here:

Sprigg: People are afraid of the homosexual activists and they’re particularly afraid of this character assassination that comes in the form of the word ‘hate.’ Nobody wants to be accused of participating in ‘hate’ and so throwing that word ‘hate’ around becomes a trump card even when nothing that we have done can reasonably be called ‘hate.’ On the contrary, everything we do is motivated by love for the people who are hurt by this lifestyle.

Friedeman: Well, again I think what Tony Perkins has done and Peter Sprigg you by extension, you just say, we’re asking people, and AFA does this all the time as well, you urge retailers to remain neutral in the culture wars, the current cultural battles, particularly when you come down to something like homosexuality. Sprigg: "Nothing That We Have Done Can Reasonably Be Called Hate"

RightWingWatch then summarizes the case.
Such a claim is hard to believe coming from Peter Sprigg, who:

But the LGBT community, Sprigg says, should see all these as acts of love.

The word hate evokes the image of an angry face, a scary face, there is cognitive dissonance in the image of a friendly, good-looking person behaving hatefully. But that's how it works, if bad guys really looked ugly then they would never get away with anything. Spriggs is the master of the benign presentation, he smiles, he jokes with you, his voice sounds like he is making sense, but his entire life is devoted to convincing people that gay people are dirty, perverted, disease-spreading, child-molesting perverts. Here he claims to be doing all this out of love.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Morning After the Big Storm

This morning the street is littered with chips of debris, something must have happened while I slept. There isn't much of a wind shaking the trees at this hour but limbs are swaying spastically, off and on. It is not raining, though everything outside is wet.

A Fox business show invited an atheist on to find out how atheists prepare for a hurricane. I can't figure out how to embed it but you can see the video HERE. The panelists get very upset. The atheist says he would prepare for the hurricane by buying candles, checking his flashlights, having a plan, and having a backup plan. Even though the others believe that God did not send the hurricane and cannot stop it, they defend the practice of praying that it will not harm them. Apparently that is comforting to them. The atheist notes that heroin is also comforting to people, which, not surprisingly, offends them. The Fox panelists appear to feel that they are the ones making sense in this interview, there is smugness all the way around the table.

I see that three million people along the East Coast lost their power last night. I am glad to say that we aren't among them. Looking at Facebook I see a number of people in Montgomery County are in the dark, including County Councilman Marc Elrich, who lives over in Takoma Park. That probably wasn't your best move, Pepco, the CC got a little upset last time the electricity went out, as I recall, this is just going to provoke them again. Well, what can they do? I saw Pepco crews trimming the branches from the power lines this week, knowing that a big storm was coming, somebody told me they saw crews from Pennsylvania helping them, I heard radio ads where Pepco was saying they're going to do everything they can, promising to do better this time. I think they know people have reached a limit with them, but you'd have to change the entire corporate culture to get things to work right, and that isn't likely to happen.

Of course Facebook isn't the best place to find out that people have lost their electricity. Some people post from their cell phones, but a lot of people can't get to it without power.

Oh by the way, something a little off-topic but tangential. We have a Verizon landline phone, and it has always been staticky but a couple of weeks ago it just went dead, right when the strike began. Four different times, crews of managers filling in for real workers came to our house and tested things. Some of them went up in cherry-pickers and looked at the boxes, but some didn't try very hard. One lady said, "I'm sixty-two years old, I'm not climbing up that pole, would you?" The last guy spent hours up there and left, puzzled, he said he could get the signal at the next box two blocks away but it wasn't getting to the box on the pole outside my house.

Finally the strike ended and an actual Verizon worker came out. I told him what they'd said and where they said the problem was and he laughed. He was polite about it but there was a bit of a chuckle. He pointed to a different pole on the other side of the house. "That's where your line comes from," he said. Fifteen minutes later he showed me a two-inch piece of cable that had eroded, the insulation was cracked and the wire had finally broken. He had snipped it out and spliced the cable back together. Now the phone works perfectly, there is not even static on the line. I suppose it was brave of Verizon to send out managers during the strike, and they seemed like nice enough people, but we really needed somebody who knew what they were doing. Verizon makes plenty of money, they ought to take care of their workers.

I just looked at the Doppler radar and you can see that the last band is just about to pass us. The weatherman says it will be sunny later.

We've seen some hurricanes in this region, and at least in my neighborhood this was not the worst one. We got a lot of rain, and by the bits of branches and leaves in the street I'd say we probably had some gusts of wind during the night. I have seen times when trees in the woods across the street were snapping like firecrackers, when high winds were sustained for hours, this one wasn't like that, at least where we live.

Today we will clean up and put things back where they were, those who live in the flooded areas will wait for the water to go down and then they will clean up and put things back where they were, if trees are down somebody will cut them up, if the power is out somebody will hook it up again eventually. So far they say eleven people have been killed by the storm, eleven families will not go back to the way things were the day before yesterday. Three million people have no electricity, I'm sure millions more have damage that they need to deal with today. A gigantic storm has come through our neighborhoods, it has passed on and soon we will resume our normal lives, more or less. I can already see the sun getting brighter out there.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

The cicadas are maintaining a low-volume buzz, there are no rising and falling waves in their song, I cannot pick one out from the others. The sky is simply gray, there are not clearly clouds and there is no sun, no blue, no turbulence. Yellow leaves have sprinkled onto the lawn overnight, the earliest sacrifices of autumn, but the trees this morning are motionless and stately. Their fullness is not textured with shadows and contrasting brightness, they are monotonous dull kelly green this morning.

The neighbors' doors are closed, I hear no children, the Peruvians chose today not to play futbol on the playground across the street, people are not driving on the streets unnecessarily.

Last night the grocery store was not crowded but there was no water in the water section, no milk in the milk section. The people who shopped last night were unhurried and friendly, the panickers had preceded them, hoarding more than they will possibly need.

We have satellites that look down and send us photographs of the approaching chaos of the hurricane that is as big as Texas. In earlier days, there was no way to see it. One morning you got up and the world was tucked in, still, a little too quiet, and you said to your neighbor: "I think this is the day all hell is going to break loose."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Drunk Cop Arrested for Transgender Shootings

I don't usually like to cite the Washington Times but at this moment they seem to have the most succinct reporting on a breaking news story.

We have talked here about how two transgender people had been shot in a particular neighborhood in DC. One was killed and the shooter missed the other one. Early this morning there was another shooting, and this time the assailant was caught -- he's a DC cop.

The Washington Times:
A drunken off-duty Metropolitan Police Department officer fired a gun and wounded a person among a group of people — some of whom were transgender — that the officer had gotten into a confrontation with, police said Friday.

The incident occurred at First and Pierce streets in Northwest at about 5:25 a.m. Friday, police said.

The officer, who was not identified, got into a confrontation with a group of five people. The officer fired, and police said one person was shot and sustained non life-threatening injuries. Two other people also sustained injuries which were also non life-threatening. Police said they were investigating to determine the cause of those injuries.

The off-duty officer was charged with driving while intoxicated and assault with a dangerous weapon, officials said.

The police department’s Force Investigation Team and the Internal Affairs Division were investigating. MPD officer charged in shooting involving transgenders

This location does not seem especially close to the other two shootings, which took place on Dix Street, NE, several miles away. No news story that I see ties this shooting to the others, but I wouldn't rule it out. It would be nice to know they caught the responsible person.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Their Minds Work

There is a way of looking at the world, where one would expect a person to gather some "facts" and join them together using "logic" to draw reasonable conclusions about the world, then use those reasoned conclusions to inform decision-making. I know it's strange to suggest it, when it is so much easier to mush through and say anything that comes into your head, with a smirk on your face.

You've got to watch this three-minute video. Presidential hopeful Rick Perry is being interviewed in front of an audience. It appears that audience members have submitted questions, and here the interviewer reads one about abstinence education.

Because I know that some of you will not click the button and watch this, I am transcribing it for you. I don't usually leave in the stuttering and pauses but in this case that's the point. This guy feels he deserves to be President of the United States, he is sure he is qualified to express support for a policy that he does not understand at all, doesn't know how it's supposed to work, can't explain why it doesn't work, doesn't have any idea why anybody cares about it. To him, all this is simply obvious. There is no need to cloud his belief system with facts and logic.
Q: Governor, why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs when they don't seem to be working, in fact I think we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, in the United States.

A: Abstinence works.

Audience: [ Laughter ]

Q: But we are the third highest teen pregnancy, we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country, the questioner's point is, it doesn't seem to be working. Abstinence education.

A: It-it-it-it works, uh, maybe it's uh, it's the, uh, maybe it's the way it's being taught or the way that it's, that it's, being applied out there but the fact of the matter is, uh, it is the best form of, uh, to teach our children.

Q: Can you give me a statistic suggesting it works?

A: I'm uh, I'm uh, I'm just gonna tell ya, [ chuckle ] I'm go tell ya from my own personal, uh, life, abstinence works.

Audience: [ Laughter ]

A: And and and the point is, if it, if if if we're not teaching it and if we're not impressing it upon them then no, but if if the, if the point is, y'know we're gonna go, uh, stand up here and say listen, y'all go have sex and go have the whatever is going on, and and, we'll, we'll worry with that and here are the, here is the ways to have safe sex, I-I-I'm sorry, call me old-fashioned if you want, but that is not what I'm gonna stand up in front of the people of the state of Texas and say that's the way, uh, we need to go and forget about abstinence.

Q: That's not what the que-, with respect, governor, that's not what the question's asking. The question is simply saying we're spending on abstinence education with the third highest teen pregnancy rate, uh, in the country. Is there a problem, disconnect between one and the other?

A: [ Long pause ] I don't know [ pause ] but it gets in line with uh, um [ pause ] it gets in line with other programs that we have that we spend money on and do they work one hundred percent? Or do they work five percent? And that's a bigger and a better issue than, well we have the third highest teenage pregnancy rate. Uh [ pause ]. Are we, on the amount of money that we are spending, are we getting a return on that that is appropriate?

Q: And your belief is that we are.

A: I think that those are some dollars that are well spent. For instance, we're spending dollars to check kids for steroids. Right? And what'd we find? Seven? Fifteen? And we spent X numbers of, of uh, look I'm not gonna spend.

Q: You think that's a poor expenditure?

A: I'm saying that if, no I'm gonna make a comparable here, if that's a good expenditure then I would suggest to you that the dollars we're spending on abstinence education is a good expenditure. Rick Perry Struggles to answer Question on Abstinence

I know it's a cliche already but it's a perfect one: Rick Perry is just like George Bush, but dumber.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How About That Earthquake?

Everybody's got their story. I felt two waves, a smaller and then a bigger one, others said it was one continuous rolling movement for half a minute or so.

But here's what I want to know. Why did the cell phones stop working? My experience was that it simply went dead, immediately. Is that because everybody in the world tried to call somebody at the same time, or does the technology just cut off when it gets shaken?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just Some People Talking

There is a local news story that ties into something nationwide, and this has been bugging me. I'm glad to see that CNN finally pointed to the obvious.

Some kids went into a Germantown 7-Eleven recently and ransacked the place. Their numbers overwhelmed the store's staff and the teenagers were able to take whatever they saw off the shelves and leave. The video is startling, the place suddenly fills up and just as suddenly empties.

The press universally called this a "flash mob" and it led to discussions about how to regulate criminal use of cell phones and social media on the Internet.

It wasn't a flash mob.

Ubiquitous modern communications have made it possible for somebody to call up a bunch of people at any moment and say, "Let's go to X place at 2 o'clock," and they can call their friends and all of a sudden a few hundred people show up at X at 2. Sometimes there are crowds dancing or doing something strange, everybody looks at the sky, whatever. You can see that it would be possible to use your cell phone and systems like Twitter and Facebook to spread the word widely while staying under the radar.

In San Francisco recently the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police shot a homeless man in a train station, witnesses said it appeared they blew his brains out for being drunk, and there were some protests. Because the protesters were using cell phones to coordinate, to tell each other where the cops were, BART turned off cell service in their stations. When this happened in Egypt we considered it tyranny, when it happened in San Francisco we hardly noticed. Mobile phones and social media can be used for arranging things from birthday parties to protests, it does not appear to me that you can allow one and not the other -- the people dancing at the Jefferson Memorial recently, for instance, they organized that online, how are you going to regulate people talking about dancing in public?

It turned out that the Germantown kids had not even used any electronic media. They were riding on the bus and started talking, and decided to go swarm through the 7-Eleven stealing stuff.

Here's CNN talking about the situation:
This summer Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has wrestled with one of his biggest challenges since taking office five years ago.

Worried that flash mob violence would overrun city streets as it had elsewhere, the Cleveland City Council unanimously passed legislation that would criminalize the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media for assembling unruly crowds or encouraging people to commit a crime.

But Jackson, after consulting with advisers, defied the council and vetoed the ordinance -- his first use of that power as mayor.

"It's very difficult to enforce something that's unconstitutional," Jackson said in an interview with CNN. "To make a criminal activity of just having a conversation, whether some acts of criminal activity are associated with it or not, it goes beyond reason."

Jackson suggested that the "emergency measure," as it was described in official records, was perhaps fueled more by emotion than by reason. And on Wednesday, the council members reversed course and voted 14-2 to side with the mayor. Little evidence links mob violence to social media

This is one of those things where the theory seems to make sense if you don't know anything about it. People who do not use Twitter or SMS or Facebook might imagine an online universe crawling with nasty people plotting dirty deeds. But it's just people talking, most of it is pointless and uninspired, some of it is magnificent, and some of it is lowdown and evil.

The episode illustrates the challenges facing government officials who try to control social media as a means of combating the sort of spontaneous group violence that has marred London, Philadelphia and other cities this summer. For one, free-speech advocates say such efforts are on shaky constitutional ground. Second, the nature of an open, public Internet makes controlling the flow of social-media messages almost impossible.

"The abuse of these networks and their capabilities hardly justifies recent talk of limiting access, shutting them down, or entrusting corporations and central authorities to monitor them at the expense of our privacy," wrote media theorist Douglas Rushkoff in a commentary for CNN.

In addition, investigations into alleged flash-mob incidents in Cleveland and other cities have unearthed little or no evidence that they were coordinated on the Internet.

But you watch, these incidents will be used to increase surveillance on private citizens. It doesn't matter that social media were not used, that these were not "flash mobs" but just regular old-fashioned "mobs," authorities do not like the idea of regular people being able to talk among themselves without regulation, it is a threat to them and you will see laws passed to make it more difficult.
The issue got new life last Saturday when more than two dozen teens ransacked a 7-Eleven store in Germantown, Maryland, a heist recorded by surveillance cameras that became a fast-rising star on YouTube. Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told CNN he believed the youths organized their raid on social networks, and the news media quickly embraced the flash mob angle.

Instead, police later discovered through interviews with suspects that the group was on a bus returning from the county fair when its members decided to raid the convenience store.

"It doesn't appear that Facebook or any of those things were used," said county police Capt. Paul Starks in an interview Thursday. Data reviewed by CNN found no evidence of coordination having taken place on Twitter.

The 7-Eleven episode followed a high-profile series of purported flash mob assaults on the opening night of the Wisconsin State Fair this month. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said at a press conference last week that the mobs were not planned or organized via social media.

I don't know how much of the English riots was coordinated through phones and social media, but the Libyan rebellion certainly wasn't, as Internet and SMS (text-messaging) had been cut off there. People can manage to organize and raise hell without expensive digital toys.

Skipping down …
The phrase flash mob was coined in 2003 by Bill Wasik, then an editor at Harper's magazine. It was later adopted by Web-savvy folks to describe large choreographed dances and songs in public places, usually organized through digital messaging tools.

In recent years, the term has taken on an additional, darker meaning.

"The hijacking happened a long time ago," Wasik, who chronicled the flash-mob phenomenon in the book "And Then There's This," said in an interview. "Now you have these flash-mob robberies where nobody is sure exactly how these kids decide to do it."

The Eagles' song "Desperado" had some good lyrics, including this one: "Freedom, oh freedom, well that's just some people talking." New technology has made it easier for people to talk, we are not tied to a landline any more, we are not restricted to addressing the few people who are physically present with us, unimportant people can get the attention of prominent ones -- everything has changed but everything is still the same. People are just people, they mostly want to have happy lives.

People talking is a powerful tool for good or evil, when people can talk they can coordinate and accomplish things that no solitary person could do. People talking can solve problems as well as plot crimes, that's just the way it is. Once a constitutional structure was put into place the very first amendment the Founding Fathers added was the assurance of the freedom of people talking, whether in print or face to face -- not envisioning what we can do today. Because in a literal sense freedom really is just some people talking.

Attempts by authorities to squelch digital communications as a way of managing unruly gatherings have largely backfired.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was widely criticized by tech bloggers and free-speech advocates after he proposed imposing limits on the use of social media by rioters in the United Kingdom. As it turns out, many looters there were found to have mobilized not on Twitter or Facebook but through a private messaging system for BlackBerry devices.

"By the time something was on Twitter, it was probably two stages removed from events on the ground," said Mike Butcher, a digital adviser to the London mayor. "You can't predict a riot from social media."

Butcher and other UK authorities initially urged Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, to shut down the BlackBerry Messenger system. But Butcher, not unlike the Cleveland council members, quickly changed his positions.

"There are plenty of innocent people using BlackBerry messaging to warn their loved ones about what's going on," he said.

And that's the problem. Most people talking are talking about good things, they are conducting their daily business, and if you shut it down to stop the bad guys you are shutting it down for everybody.

Skipping down again, they show how the social media can help the cops, too.
If authorities in the United States should learn anything from rulers in the Middle East, said York, it's that the Internet can be a powerful investigative tool. Syria, after banning Facebook for some time, unblocked it once the government was able to monitor activity there, she said.

"There are tools that authorities already have to monitor and pursue criminals," York said. "I'm always kind of surprised when there are calls to block (the Internet). One would think it would be more effective for the police to monitor it."

In Maryland, Milwaukee and elsewhere, police are using the Internet to crack flash-mob cases by posting videos or still images from security tapes and asking citizens to identify people shown in them. And yet many departments complain of being ill-equipped to monitor social-networking chatter.

Authorities in Philadelphia, where flash-mob violence has been among the most severe in the United States over the past few years, have ramped up efforts to monitor social media. Police there issued a news release in February boasting about how detectives were using Facebook to solicit tips and investigate crimes.

The FBI even stepped in to help monitor social-networking sites for mob activity in Philadelphia, The New York Times reported last year. But more recently Philadelphia police have backed off their condemnations of online networks.

"Social networking is not the issue," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said last week during a online chat. "It's how people are misusing it in order to gather and then commit a crime.

"The media coined the term flash mobs," Ramsey added. "It's not the right term. I prefer the term rampaging thugs."

There you go, rampaging thugs. Same as it ever was.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Happy Story for Friday

This is just cool. From a site called "Inhabitat" (motto: "Green design will save the world"), this story of a smart kid.
While most 13-year-olds spend their free time playing video games or cruising Facebook, one 7th grader was trekking through the woods uncovering a mystery of science. After studying how trees branch in a very specific way, Aidan Dwyer created a solar cell tree that produces 20-50% more power than a uniform array of photovoltaic panels. His impressive results show that using a specific formula for distributing solar cells can drastically improve energy generation. The study earned Aidan a provisional U.S patent – it’s a rare find in the field of technology and a fantastic example of how biomimicry can drastically improve design. 13-Year-Old Makes Solar Power Breakthrough by Harnessing the Fibonacci Sequence

Lots of the biggest breakthroughs of the past few decades have involved what they call here "biomimicry," where living things and natural systems provide inspiration for scientific ideas and innovations. Nature has solved most of the engineering problems we will ever have to deal with, if we can only recognize the correspondence between our problem and something we see around us. Sounds like this kid looked at an old problem with a new eye.
Aidan Dwyer took a hike through the trees last winter and took notice of patterns in the mangle of branches. His studies into how they branch in very specific ways lead him to a central guiding formula, the Fibonacci sequence. Take a number, add it to the number before it in a sequence like 1+1=2 then 2+1=3 then 3+2=5, 8, 13, 21 and so on a very specific pattern emerges. Turns out the pattern and its corresponding ratios are reflected in nature all the time, and Aidan’s keen observation of how trees branch according to the formula lead him to test the theory. First he measured tree branches by how often they branch and at what degree from each other.

To see why they branch this way he built a small solar array using the Fibonacci formula, stepping cells at specific intervals and heights. He then compared the energy output with identical cells set in a row. Aidan reports the results: “The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model. The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day. But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky. The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer!”

I would point out another interesting thing about tree-branching. It isn't just a Fibonocci sequence, it's a random Fibonacci sequence. It would be very weird to walk through a forest where every tree had exactly the same pattern of branches. There is probably a survival advantage in growth by stochastic algorithm as opposed to the DNA simply storing a pattern that would be followed every time. Trees branch in a way that is typical for their species but unique for each individual. You can recognize a pine tree, say, or an oak tree in the distance by its shape, which emerges from the lower-level process of branching, yet every tree of a species is different from every other one.

Finally, the wrap-up:
His work is certainly piquing the interest of the solar industry, and even more impressively he is demonstrating the power of biomimicry — a concept that many see as the pinnacle of good design, but one that thus far has been exceptionally difficult to achieve. Way to go!

Everything about this story is good, at a time when we need some good news. I love the fact that a middle-school kid is able to make the observation and the connection between the solar collection of trees for photosynthesis and solar panels for collecting energy for human consumption. I also love the idea of learning from nature. A couple billion years of evolution has been a good learning process, our trivial lifetimes are nestled in a wise environment that can teach us a lot, if only we open our eyes to see.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The NYT Analyzes the Roots of the Tea Party

We have seen the paralytic effect the Tea Party has had on national and local politics. This radical antigovernment movement can claim credit for the debt-limit train wreck and subsequent stock market crash, and teabag-friendly candidates and themes are dominating the Republican campaign, at least at this early date.

In our suburban Maryland county we saw how a tiny group of noise-makers could grab media attention and run a school district into a panic. Of course they lost everything in the long run but in the meantime they put intense pressure on the school board to dumb down its sex ed curriculum, even without widespread public support for their anti-gay conservative attitudes.

I attended a Montgomery County Tea Party school-board candidate forum last year, put on by Americans for Prosperity, mainly just to see who would show up to speak to them. There was a small crowd, maybe fifty people (out of a county of nearly a million people) in a school building, and one of those people was Ruth Jacobs, president of the Citizens for Responsible Whatever that has opposed the school sex-ed curriculum and the county's gender identity nondiscrimination bill as well. Even though the Tea Party's big message has to do with cutting taxes and government spending, they are integrally bound up in the hate politics of the religious right.

The New York Times reports today on some interesting research.
… in fact the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.

Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent. Crashing the Tea Party

In one sense it is not surprising, given the economic crisis they have exacerbated with their willingness to take the country over the edge into defaulting on our debts, and in the other sense you wonder why the Republican candidates and the party itself are trying so hard to appease them. At this early point in time it seems they will dominate the rhetoric of the GOP primaries, but then the winning candidate will have to run for office in a world that mostly does not like teabaggers.

Hee hee...
Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.

I'm just telling you what they say in the papers, ok? Tea Party less liked than Muslims, atheists.

This is fascinating. The NY Times can tell you what kind of people were most likely to join up with the Tea Party:
Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.

Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

You hear people say that the Tea Party is inherently racist, and you see the teabaggers being very careful not to use explicitly racist language -- there are even a couple of black ones, proving they cannot be racist. But it is undeniably a group of conservative white people who are not fond of minorities.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

Do you see how breaking down the wall between religion and government ties into a constant spewing of rhetoric about taxes and spending? Maybe one way to look at it is to consider the churches' role in organizing communities. Tax-exempt institutions preach politics from the pulpit. I have never seen any sermon reported in the papers, but conservative clergy reach millions of people every Sunday. Many churches provide safety nets for their parishioners, the Mormons for instance are required to tithe a certain amount to the church to take care of the less fortunate of their members. They take care of their own, and so they have less need for secular safety nets, if poor people need food and shelter they should just join a church that will provide it! People who tithe and pay taxes are being charged twice for the same protection.
This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

That's right, most Americans want religion to stay completely out of government. It is never good, whether it is the Taliban or the Baptist Church, religious governments do not have the interest of fairness and equality in mind. Even in theocratic states I'll bet you'd find most people would prefer democracy - whether they are so bold as to say it is another question, freedom not exactly being a hallmark of religion-dominated governing.

The unsurprising picture you get is that the Tea Part is another incarnation of the religious right. The interesting thing is that they keep their rhetoric secular, they talk about taxes and spending and "entitlements" in public speaking, but their followers know what's going on.

Here's an interesting analogy:
On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party — repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How the Other Side Thinks

We have not always thought of Warren Throckmorton as our friend. He co-authored an early report criticizing the Montgomery County Public Schools' revised sex-ed curriculum, and generally over the years has taken the social-conservative side of the issues. He is a Psych professor at a small Christian college who appears to support therapy to help gay people behave like heterosexuals, though he does not appear to believe they will ever change their true sexual orientation. Over the years it has seemed like he has noticed many instances of maliciousness and falsehood by players on the righthand side of the field, and you have to admit he has been fair about it. He is conservative but does not appear to be an ideologue.

Recently he relayed a RightWing Watch post about a radio interview where a leader of an anti-gay Christian group, Wallbuilders, referred to the American College of Pediatricians as "the leading pediatric association in America."

Of course they are not. The American Academy of Pediatrics has about 60,000 members and speaks for the community of pediatricians. The American College of Pediatricians has between 60 and 200 members and speaks for religious conservatives who believe homosexuality can be "cured." Rightwing Watch has a recording of the radio show and a rough transcript. It is fascinating. At one point David Barton of Wallbuilders quotes the American College of Pediatricians and the interviewer says, "You’re kidding. Wait, this is the Pediatric Association?" and Barton says, "Yeah."

No, it is not the "Pediatric Association," this is a rightwing fringe group that is pretending to be a "Pediatric Association." Later Barton says, “Well that’s a remarkable letter coming from the leading pediatric association in America.”

One of Throckmorton's readers named Bernie wrote to Wallbuilders to ask then if they really thought the American College of Pediatricians was the "the leading pediatric association in America."

The response he got from Barton is incredible:
I am not aware of anything from our broadcast that was inaccurate. Nothing in the transcript you sent is wrong or false. We may disagree on what constitutes “leading,” but neither David or I said the ACP was the largest. As often happens, the larger associations become either stagnant or politically correct and lose the leadership qualities that make an organization “leading” in their profession. Meanwhile, a perhaps smaller, but more professional and cutting edge organization begins to lead by stating facts and putting forth truthful research the older organization is afraid to release due to political correctness. Wallbuilder’s Rick Green defends comments about pediatrics associations

He defends his statement by nuancing the meaning of the word "leading." For him and his peer group of gay-loathing religious nuts, the ACP is the leading group, even though they represent approximately less than one third of one percent of the number of pediatricians in the American Academy of Pediatrics (using the high estimate of 200), because the ACP espouses ideas consistent with his group's beliefs.

To his mind, he spoke absolute truth, or as we say, the "gospel truth," when he called them "the leading group." Somewhere in the realm of illogic inhabited by these people it is perfectly honest to refer to a tiny, powerless, laughingstock group of homophobes as "the leading pediatric association in America" while ignoring the fact that nearly every pediatrician in the US belongs to another group.

It's hard to fight this sort of thing, you can quote facts and use reason all day long and they are not persuaded and neither are the gullible media who report their craziness as "the other side" of a controversy. You just have to keep shining light on them and hope they will scurry back under the baseboards where they belong.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sex Ed, Or Lack of It, In the United States

Did you see the news story this week about New York finally requiring sex-ed? It was a real eye-opener to find out that the students in that state have not been learning about reproduction and responsible sexual behavior for all these years. I mean, that's a big state, that's a lot of kids who don't know what's going on!

Salon had a brief rundown this weekend of the state of sex-ed across the country. The situation is much worse than you probably realized.
This week people were abuzz over news that New York City had mandated sex education -- and some were simply scratching their heads at the realization that this wasn't already the case. Seriously, it took this long?

Well, seriously, there are still 24 states that haven't mandated sex education, including New York state.

That's too many states to cover in any detail, so I'll narrow it down to the worst of them. These are states that not only fail to mandate sex ed, but require that when it is taught, abstinence and the "importance of sex only within marriage" are stressed. These states make sure to defend "traditional" values, but they don't protect scientific ones: Unlike some states, they don't require that classes provide medically accurate information. The sex ed hall of shame

Some scientists define life in terms of organisms' ability to reproduce themselves. The moment a strand of proto-RNA first created a copy of itself is the moment that life began. There are very simple life-forms that do not use sexual reproduction, these are organisms where an individual produces exact and mutated copies of itself, and the offspring do the same, and evolution can proceed in diverging paths as there is no genetic interaction among individuals.

But all of the more complex forms of life implement sexual reproduction. It means that the offspring's DNA is composed of the combined elements of two parents. The result of this is convergence of forms into species, and the interdependent species can reliably form ecosystems that persist over time.

Sex, in other words, is fundamental to the world as we know it.

For some odd reason in America sex is sin, it is dirty, and it is best not to talk about it, especially to young people, who make take the information as permission or even encouragement to engage in dirty acts. Of course biology trumps culture, and people do those things anyway, but they do them in ignorance.

I mean, really -- New York?

This article goes through a bulleted list of states that epically fail to provide a good education, which I will not reproduce here. They do have a map though:

You're not really surprised to see the Bible Belt well represented in black on this map, and even Indiana. But New York up there does seem to stand alone.

The good news is that there are 20 states, along with the District of Columbia, that currently mandate sex education. But that's a very basic achievement -- it says nothing of the requirements and restrictions that are made on curricula across the country. Guttmacher reports that "26 states require that abstinence be stressed" in sex ed classes; meanwhile only 19 states insist on any mention of contraceptives. And we wonder why the U.S. has the highest teen birth rate in the developed world.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bert and Ernie? Really?

Maybe I'm just naive, it never occurred to me that Bert and Ernie were a gay couple. I guess if I knew somebody like that in real life the thought would cross my mind -- I don't speculate much about the private lives of puppets.

So there's a movement to tell Sesame Street they should marry. FoxNews has it:
An online push is under way to pressure the producers of "Sesame Street" into having Bert and Ernie get married.

More than 900 people have signed a petition about the pair of platonic puppets on as of early Wednesday.

"We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful," the petition reads. "It can be done in a tasteful way. Let us teach tolerance of those that are different."

The sexuality of Bert and Ernie -- perhaps the kid show's most popular characters -- has long been debated since the roommates sleep in the same room and constantly bicker. Rainbow Connection? Online Push Under Way for Bert and Ernie to Get Married on 'Sesame Street'

I love the fact that one of the clues that they may be romantically involved is that they fight all the time. After this many years, you'd think they'd do the right thing and tie the knot, wouldn't you? It would set a good example for the Sesame Street audience, a grown-up couple taking responsibility and making it legal.

There is a little more to this article, with links to this petition and a Facebook page.

Still Crying Over Spilt Milk

The other day somebody forwarded me an email newsletter from the Citizens for Responsible Whatever, complaining about the Montgomery County Ethics Commission clearing Dana Beyer of all charges earlier this year. Dana, as you might know, is a transgender woman who has been hounded by that group and especially by their president, Ruth Jacobs.

The group filed a complaint in early 2009 against Beyer, claiming she had used her official position as a County Council aide to interfere with their petition signature efforts, and other similar things. There was a long investigation, a hearing, Dana was cleared, it's old news, I don't know why Jacobs bothered to send out this email rehashing it. BTW, I was a witness in the hearing and gave testimony about events that were reported on this blog HERE, I am not an indifferent reporter.

Apparently the CRW wants to open the whole thing up again, I don't know why. OK, I know why, it's because they lost. It's time to let it go, Ruth.

They apparently forwarded the newsletter to The Gazette, as well:
A Montgomery County group asked the county’s Ethics Commission to reconsider its dismissal of a complaint against a former councilwoman’s aide, saying it ignored key evidence in the case.

The commission, however, declined to take up the issue, the president of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government, Ruth Jacobs, said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

The Gaithersburg-based group filed the complaint against Dana Beyer, a former candidate for state delegate and senior policy adviser to former County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg.

The commission began its review of the issue in October, and eventually dismissed the complaint.

In it, the group claims that Beyer interfered with its efforts to gather petition signatures to place a question repealing the county’s transgender protection law on the November 2008 ballot.

Jacobs said the commission did not review some evidence in the case, including a video, recordings of calls to police and testimony from some key witnesses. County group continues to pursue ethics complaint against council aide

In the CRW newsletter, Ruth Jacobs described Dana Beyer's gender transition in unflattering terms and concluded, "Yet the Ethics Commission rejected key testimony of our witnesses simply because they used pronouns which reflected Beyer's own gender confusion."

If you know Dana Beyer you understand that she is not confused about her gender. Some may find it confusing that a person feels they have been misidentified at birth, and that someone would be motivated to change the gender that they present to the world, but Dana seems very clear about herself. Some of the testimony did intentionally use ugly terms to describe her, including incorrect pronouns, it was clear that witnesses were prejudiced against transgender people, but that isn't why the charges were dismissed.

The preponderance of evidence showed that Dana had not violated any laws or regulations, and that is why the charges were dropped.

Continuing with The Gazette story:
Beyer, who is transgendered and helped write the law, denied the claims and said she did not interfere with the county law.

Robert Cobb, the Ethics Commission’s executive director, said Tuesday that he would not discuss the issue, citing privacy laws that govern the commission’s work.

"The Ethics Commission isn’t in the business of telling you or the public or the press what correspondence it gets or what action it takes if that action is not intended to be public,” he said.

There is actually no story here. The Gazette is reporting that Ruth Jacobs sent out a mass email complaining about the outcome of an investigation that ended last March. I don't know what mileage the CRW is expecting to get from this, it is definitely looking like spilt milk at this point. Spilt and sour.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

President Bans Foreign Haters

When David Bahati, one of the authors of Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill, and an associate of the Fellowship Foundation, known as "The Family," was invited to the National Prayer Breakfast in 2010, there was a flurry of outrage at the decision. He was eventually disinvited at the last minute.

Last week President Obama issued a proclamation that will ban visits to the US by such individuals. The document is titled "Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Participate in Serious Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Violations and Other Abuses."

Here's the whole thing:
The United States enduring commitment to respect for human rights and humanitarian law requires that its Government be able to ensure that the United States does not become a safe haven for serious violators of human rights and humanitarian law and those who engage in other related abuses. Universal respect for human rights and humanitarian law and the prevention of atrocities internationally promotes U.S. values and fundamental U.S. interests in helping secure peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises around the globe. I therefore have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict the international travel and to suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of certain persons who have engaged in the acts outlined in section 1 of this proclamation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. I therefore hereby proclaim that:

Section 1. The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of the following persons is hereby suspended:

(a) Any alien who planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, widespread or systematic violence against any civilian population based in whole or in part on race; color; descent; sex; disability; membership in an indigenous group; language; religion; political opinion; national origin; ethnicity; membership in a particular social group; birth; or sexual orientation or gender identity, or who attempted or conspired to do so.

(b) Any alien who planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of human rights, or who attempted or conspired to do so.

Sec. 2. Section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply with respect to any person otherwise covered by section 1 where the entry of such person would not harm the foreign relations interests of the United States.

Sec. 3. The Secretary of State, or the Secretary's designee, in his or her sole discretion, shall identify persons covered by section 1 of this proclamation, pursuant to such standards and procedures as the Secretary may establish.

Sec. 4. The Secretary of State shall have responsibility for implementing this proclamation pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish.

Sec. 5. For any person whose entry is otherwise suspended under this proclamation entry will be denied, unless the Secretary of State determines that the particular entry of such person would be in the interests of the United States. In exercising such authority, the Secretary of State shall consult the Secretary of Homeland Security on matters related to admissibility or inadmissibility within the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Sec. 6. Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to derogate from United States Government obligations under applicable international agreements, or to suspend entry based solely on an alien's ideology, opinions, or beliefs, or based solely on expression that would be considered protected under U.S. interpretations of international agreements to which the United States is a party. Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to limit the authority of the United States to admit or to suspend entry of particular individuals into the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.) or under any other provision of U.S. law.

Sec. 7. This proclamation is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 8. This proclamation is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until such time as the Secretary of State determines that it is no longer necessary and should be terminated, either in whole or in part. Any such termination shall become effective upon publication in the Federal Register.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA Presidential Proclamation

I am especially pleased to note that the President included gender identity, alongside sexual orientation, in his statement. The United States should stand for the rights of individuals, and should take a solid position against human rights abuses, and this is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Republicans Dislike the Debt Deal More Than Democrats

This seems kind of surprising to me. Two polls were conducted this week (USA Today/Gallup and CNN/ORC asking people how they felt about the debt ceiling deal. The results of the two surveys were very similar. Here's Huffington Post's summary table.

46 percent of Americans oppose the agreement, while 39 percent favor it. Okay, that part is not much of a surprise.

But I thought it was surprising that Republicans and conservatives are strongly opposed to the deal, and Democrats and liberals favor it.

Does this mean that conservatives really did want to default on the country's loans, even more than liberals wanted to see the rich pay more taxes? Apparently so.

Skipping through this HuffPo piece:
Second, and probably more important, even only 17 percent of Americans believe the agreement will help make the economy better, while 41 percent believe it will make the economy worse and 33 percent say it will make no difference.

… the biggest differences appear across party lines. While dismay has been evident among those in President Barack Obama's liberal base, the deal may provoke even more of an intra-party backlash against Republican lawmakers who supported it. Gallup Poll: Republican Base More Dissatisfied With Debt Ceiling Deal Than Democratic Base

I had been thinking the Republicans got what they wanted and the Democrats compromised too much, but it appears the President and Congressional Democrats did a better job of pleasing their base.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Another Transgender Woman Shot At on Dix St NE, DC

From Metro Weekly:
Just 11 days after a transgender woman, Lashai Mclean, was shot and killed, another transgender woman, Tonya Harrell, says unidentified suspects fired shots at her in the 6200 block of Dix Street NE – one block from where Mclean was killed, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. None of the bullets struck Harrell, who managed to flee the scene uninjured, at approximately 2:45 a.m., Sunday, July 31.

MPD describes a single suspect in the July 31 shooting as “a black male, 17-19 years old, 5'6", 180 lbs, dark complexion.”

The MPD release describing the July 31 attack reads, “The victim was in the 6200 block of Dix Street NE when a suspect approached [her] on foot. … The suspect asked for change and without waiting for a reply pulled a semi-automatic handgun and shot at the victim, without hitting the victim.”

According to the release, due to similarities, MPD is looking at the two attacks as “a potential emerging pattern.” Police investigate Sunday morning shooting that targeted a transgender woman in Northeast

I'd say this is one lucky young lady, to be fired at at point-blank range with a semi-automatic gun and the guy misses.
Speaking with Metro Weekly Monday, Aug. 1, MPD Deputy Chief Diane Groomes said that while she can't confirm the Sunday shooting is related to the July 20 killing of Mclean, the circumstances are “identical.”

“When I heard what occurred, to me it kind of seems like an identical situation,” she said. “The facts were two people approach a transgender woman, in this case around 3 a.m., we do not know what words were said [to Mclean]; this one … approached Tanya and said, ‘Give me change.' When she walked away, one yelled at her and shoots at her.”

Nobody but the murderer knows what happened when Lashai Mclean was killed on the 6100 block of Dix Street NE. We can't say in either case that the violence happened because of the victim's gender identity, but as they say a pattern is emerging, it is beginning to look that way. Pray this is the end of it.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Seattle Schools Deal Directly With Gender Identity

Good story in the Seattle Times -- see what you think about this one.
Every few weeks, Aidan Key might get a call: a little boy in school is dressing as a girl — in frilly tops or pink skirts. A girl in first-grade will be returning from a holiday break as a boy.

Public- and private-school administrators and the parents of these kids want guidance navigating such sensitive terrain; they want to help children become comfortable calling a classmate by a new name, or know how and when to refer to another student as he or she.

There was a time when these calls were almost exclusively about middle- and high-school kids. But increasingly they involve children as young as kindergartners — 5- and 6-year-olds who don't believe their bodies match who they feel they are inside.

Key turns to a simple — but familiar — narrative: "When I was your age," he tells them, "I was a girl.

"Everybody saw me as a girl and I looked like a girl. But inside that's not how I felt. I felt I was a boy, so when I got older I worked with a doctor. We call that being transgender." Kids challenge gender identity earlier — and get support

Doesn't that seem easy enough? I don't know why some people have to make such a big awkward deal out of things. The adult gives the kid an explanation that makes perfectly good sense. It's simple to understand, and it's true.
Lisa Love, health-education specialist with Seattle Public Schools, said the district is seeing more children in elementary schools struggling with gender identity.

And over the last decade or so, the parents of a growing number of these kids have sought guidance from Seattle Children's hospital, the associate director of psychiatry there said.

Experts say young children have always had these feelings, but only in recent years as society has become more accepting of gender differences have they felt more free to express them.

Have you ever seen a little kid that speaks two or three different languages? They aren't confused by it, this grandma calls the toy one thing and the other grandma calls it something else, there is no need to decide that the toy really is one thing or the other. In the same way, a little boy who likes to paint his toenails is nothing more or less than a boy who likes to paint his toenails, the other kids don't have to diagnose him or wonder about him. It's only the grownups who see any problem with it, who think boys really should be one way and girls another.

I liked this example. The article describes Aidan Key as "a practical resource on gender issues for teachers, doctors and administrators and for families trying to understand what their children are going through."
How kids react to Key's visits depends on their age. While those in higher grades tend to be more guarded with their views surrounding gender, kindergartners tend to be open and uninhibited.

The discussions revolve around gender roles and how the rules are not always hard and fast.

"What is something that only boys do?" Key would ask the kindergartners.

Two boys responded: "Play soccer." "Blow things up."

Then a girl spoke up: "I like to blow things up."

Is that a cool girl, or what?

This article is rather long but is full of good stories and information. Sounds like the Seattle schools are taking a proactive approach to gender identity and sexual orientation issues among students, promoting understanding actively, directly, and thoroughly.

The story here is that families are recognizing children's discomfort with their gender identity at earlier and earlier ages. That is probably because of increased awareness about gender topics and not because of something different about kids today. Parents are paying attention, and instead of trying to force their children to fit strictly dichotomized gender roles they are learning to accept the surprise of a kid who bridges the binary, without being sure how to handle it. A child who identifies with the opposite gender may maintain that experience for a lifetime, and another may grow out of it.

A mom with a son who likes trucks and roughhousing and one who likes to wear dresses:
Her outlook changed in a moment two years ago when she took her two boys shopping for Halloween costumes. Her older son selected a Ninja outfit, while Dyson made a beeline for the girl's section to search for a princess dress.

When she objected, his increasingly loud protestations drew attention, until her older son, tugging at her arm, admonished: "Mom, why don't you just let him be happy?"

Good question.

Go read the whole article, it's a good one.