Who Has the Answer to This Question?
Ya gotta admit, she makes good sense.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Who Has the Answer to This Question?
The kid leaves you scratching your head.
Ya gotta admit, she makes good sense.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Government Searching Random Citizens
Some of us are so old that we can remember the Cold War. As wee little tykes we heard frightening stories about life in Communist countries. The secret police would come in the night, we were told, and take people from their houses, lock them up, and nobody would ever hear from them again -- never even charge them with a crime. People had to show their identity cards on the street, or they would be whisked away. People in Communist countries were encouraged to tell the police whenever their neighbors did anything suspicious. These were scary stories that made us really glad to be living in a place with freedom.
So forgive me a chill when I read stuff like this, from the LA Times (jumping in after a few paragraphs of fluff):
The Transportation Security Administration isn't just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.
They are haunting train stations, docks, bus stations, with their dogs and their sensors, stopping people absolutely at random to see if they are carrying explosives.
I like the way this professor put it.
"It's a great way to make the public think you are doing something," said Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who writes on privacy and security. "It's a little like saying, 'If we start throwing things up in the air, will they hit terrorists?'"
Hey, that's not a bad idea, the TSA could just walk around throwing things up into the air. Maybe they'll hit a terrorist, wouldn't that be great? They're just about everywhere, you know, the next little old lady on the street might be a terrorist.
TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety. But they argue that the random nature of the searches and the presence of armed officers serve as a deterrent and bolster public confidence.
Oh yeah, I can hear terrorists' teeth chattering as I walk past their shuttered windows -- they are on edge, all right. TSA agents scanning people when they get on a bus or go to a football game is really going to put those terrorists out of business.
Why do people put up with this?
The agency came under fresh fire this month when three elderly women with medical devices complained that TSA agents had strip-searched them in separate incidents at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Lenore Zimmerman, 84, said she was ordered to pull down her pants after she refused to pass through a full body scanner because she was afraid the machine would interfere with her heart defibrillator.
Great story, the TSA made 84-year-old Lenore Zimmerman pull down her pants in the airport and then called her a liar. I feel safer already.
Sometimes you just watch and wonder, how much are the American people going to put up with? It appears that there is no limit to it, we shrug and accept this kind of intrusion as if we deserved it.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Cardinal: Gays Are Anti-Catholic, Like KKK
There is going to be a gay pride parade in Chicago, and there is a Catholic Church on one of the streets it will pass along. The church is considered sympathetic to LGBT concerns, and the parade organizers have been working with the church to make sure the parade doesn't conflict with parishioners coming and going to Mass, so no big problem, nothing more than minor logistics.
But the local 75-year-old Cardinal heard about it and did not like the sound of this at all. The Washington Blade:
Last week Chicago’s Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal Francis George, decried a rerouting of the 2012 June LGBT Pride parade route to a path that would take the march in front of a Catholic church. The Cardinal caused an uproar, saying “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.” Chicago Cardinal George backs away from gay ‘Ku Klux Klan’ comment
There was, as you can imagine, some protest over his statements, and he sort of tried to lighten up.
“Obviously, it’s absurd to say the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Klux Klan, but if you organize a parade that looks like parades that we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshipping God, well then that’s the comparison, but it’s not with people and people — it’s parade-parade,” George said Sunday.
Some Catholic groups have been vocal in opposing gay rights, but a majority of Catholics support gay rights, including the right to marry.
The organizers of Chicago Pride had already been in talks with the gay-friendly Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, whose concerns had been characterized as being about the timing of the parade coinciding with parishioners leaving the church after Sunday morning mass. The church is located just outside of Chicago’s famous ‘Boystown’ gay neighborhood.
Whether the guy resigns or not, let's make it clear that the movement to gain equal rights for LGBT citizens over the past few decades is nothing at all like the Ku Klux Klan. Our society has evolved away from bigotry, away from persecution of minorities; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have made a powerful case for equal treatment under the law, they have fought hard for their place in society and they have earned it. They did not do it under cover of anonymity, hiding their faces, or by resorting to violence, they are not at all similar to the KKK in any way, and this Cardinal is simply putting his foot in his mouth by repeating the charge.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
And Good Will to All
Merry Christmas, everybody, and happy New Year. One year ago this week the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was enacted, allowing gay and lesbian troops to serve in the US military without lying about who they are. The DADT compromise had been enacted in 1993 under Bill Clinton's presidency as an awkward way to allow service, and as social mores evolved it became a highly salient symbol of a kind of prejudice against gay people that our society has increasingly moved away from. More than thirteen thousand individuals were removed from service over the years simply because of their sexual orientation, and one year ago the Pentagon stopped firing them.
The effect has been ... absolutely nothing. Nothing has changed, except that gay and lesbian members of the military can stop pretending they are something they are not. No one is leering or groping in the showers, military recruiting has not suffered, no increase in hazing or bullying has been reported, no one has dropped out of the military because they were uncomfortable around gays. Nothing at all has happened.
NBC News had a report this week, transcribed on NewsBusters.
JIM MACEDA: Task Force Bulldog, on patrol in eastern Afghanistan. It's the kind of combat unit that would implode, critics warned, if Don't Ask, Don't tell were repealed. But the chaos they predicted if openly gay and lesbian soldiers served in close quarters during combat never happened.
And that's all there is to it. If you end discrimination against LGBT people, the result is simply increased equality and fairness, there is nothing more to it. None of the horrible things that the Family Blah Blah groups predicted have come to be, there is no "gay agenda" and no threat to straights when gay and lesbian people are open about who they are.
It is time to remove discrimination from our legal system at every level, local, state, federal. The federal government needs to move forward to repeal the absurd "Defense of Marriage Act," the state of Maryland needs to support marriage equality and pass a bill stopping discrimination against transgender people. The repeal of DADT shows what the consequences will be, the consequences will only be increased fair treatment of everyone. And that, to me, seems like an appropriate goal to wish for on Christmas day, a goal that moves us one step in the direction of peace on earth and good will toward all.
Friday, December 23, 2011
A Sailor's Welcome
Here's a beautiful photo of the times a'changin' right before our very eyes.
The Seattle Times caption:
Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, kisses her girlfriend of two years, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Va., Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2011 after Gaeta's ship returned from 80 days at sea. It is a time-honored tradition at Navy homecomings - one lucky sailor is chosen to be first off the ship for the long-awaited kiss with a loved one. On Wednesday, for the first time, the happily reunited couple was gay.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
The Clash of the Godless Holiday Cards
We thank Mother Jones for this one.
Here is the Obama family's Christmas card this year, as shown on Fox Nation:
Fox News quoted Sarah Palin commenting on the card (quoted at Mother Jones:
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told Fox News & Commentary that she found the card to be a bit unusual.
FYI, here is the "Christmas" card Fox News sent out this year:
Family, faith, and freedom, you betcha.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Nearly A Third Arrested By Age 23
This is a bit of a mind-boggling fact.
Nearly one in three people will be arrested by the time they are 23, a study published Monday in Pediatrics found.
It would be interesting to see the crosstabs on this, boys versus girls, whites and minorities broken out.
Monday, December 19, 2011
School Outs Gay Student At Home
The school blew it on this one. Let's quote Fox News:
Administrators at a Utah middle school outed a gay teenage boy to his parents because they feared he would be bullied, but the move has outraged civil rights groups that claim the student's privacy was violated.
The problem with being gay is not being gay, the problem is people who are not gay. For some reason, there are people who simply cannot accept somebody else's sexual orientation, and they find a million ways to rationalize it.
This kid thought his parents were like that, and maybe they are, we don't know. It is hard enough to come out of the closet, a person will want to go through that process very carefully, you can't have people announcing it for you against your will. This kid was open about his orientation at school and his parents were going to know eventually, but the school had no business involving his family.
I think Fox is overstating when they say that civil rights groups were outraged by the situation, unless maybe they know something they did not include in this story. Here are some quotes from level-headed gay-rights activists and lawyers, who consider this a problem but do not sound "outraged" to me:
"The school's decision to disclose deprived the young man the right to reveal highly personal aspects of his life at a time and manner of his choice," Joe Cohn of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah told The Associated Press on Thursday.
As the tide continues to shift and homosexuality becomes less controversial, schools need to carefully consider how they will handle situations like this. Granted, there are not many details here, but it sounds like the school could have dealt with the situation on-campus, without outing this kid at home.
There is some irony in the fact that the aide witnessed bullying, and the school responded by punishing the victim. Hopefully this school has a good Gay Straight Alliance chapter, and students can work with faculty to hammer out a kinder and more effective method for dealing with bullying and harassment of LGBT students.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Yay! We Won!
The Associated Press has it:
BAGHDAD (AP) — Nearly nine years after American troops stormed across the Iraq border in a blaze of shock and awe, U.S. officials quietly ended the bloody and bitterly divisive conflict here Thursday, but the debate over whether it was worth the cost in money and lives is yet unanswered.
Hey, don't be so glum, people -- look how much safer we are.
A little farther down in the article ...
With this withdrawal, the Americans are leaving behind a destroyed country," said Mariam Khazim, a Shiite whose father was killed when a mortar shell struck his home in Sadr City. "The Americans did not leave modern schools or big factories behind them. Instead, they left thousands of widows and orphans. The Americans did not leave a free people and country behind them, in fact they left a ruined country and a divided nation."
The mission is finally accomplished.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Rick Perry - Anti-Gay Ironicist
You might have seen Rick Perry's latest campaign video. On YouTube so far it has 16,072 likes and 552,513 dislikes, which tells you something. Even one of his top strategists said the ad was "nuts".
Observers have noted a couple of strange things about this video, besides the fact that it is simply a bizarre statement to make. For instance, Perry is wearing almost the same jacket that Heath Ledger wore in Brokeback Mountain.
It has also been pointed out that the music in this video was composed by the gay American composer Aaron Copeland.
There have been rumors for years that Perry is gay, not that that means he is, but it does make it even stranger for him to embed gay dog-whistles in an anti-gay video.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Great Ruling for Trans Rights
This is a big deal:
A federal appeals court panel today upheld a lower court ruling that Georgia transgender woman Vandy Beth Glenn was illegally fired from her job as a legislative editor in the Georgia General Assembly after she informed her employer she planned to transition from male to female.
It looks like this could make gender-identity discrimination illegal under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution in all fifty states. Which is a big deal. Of course there will be some appeals, but the momentum appears unstoppable at this point.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Yesterday Was a Good Day for Trans Rights
You might know that Howard County, Maryland, yesterday passed a bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Hopefully the state of Maryland will be passing a similar law in the upcoming legislative session and local ordinances will become unnecessary.
Metro Weekly has it:
The Howard County Council has approved legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, making it the third jurisdiction in Maryland to do so.
Two other US communities passed gender-identity nondiscrimination bills yesterday, as well.
In Evansville, Indiana:
A measure which was passed Monday by an unanimous vote of the city council, amends the Evansville city’s municipal code to include provisions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Weird, wanting people to know you are nice people, what a strange motivation!
Finally, Columbia, Missouri:
The Columbia City Council passed legislation to include gender identity in the city's nondiscrimination ordinance, Dec. 5 protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The most visible LGBT tidal shift in recent years, of course, has had to do with marriage equality, which has grabbed most of the headlines, so it is heartening to see these advances for transgender people, too.
There will always be repressive social forces, groups and individuals who desire to prohibit what they don't understand, but there is also a proud American tradition of respect for personal liberty and for the individual. It does not come automatically though, you have to fight for it constantly; the fact is that people are essentially good and kind, they will do the right thing if they understand the choices they are offered.
Monday, December 05, 2011
The Vegetarian Option is Steak
Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri just had some fun with a stupid answer that Michele Bachmann gave someone recently.
Jane Schmidt, a student at Waverly High School, in Waverly, Iowa, recently asked Michele Bachmann, “Why can’t same-sex couples get married?”
Bachmann's answer is not one she invented, it is a standard rightwing talking point that has been bouncing around for years. This is one of those statements bears some superficial resemblance to reasonable speech, but if you pay the slightest attention to it you realize it is simply veiled bigotry and nonsense. It is a classic eye-roller, but I have never seen anyone take the time to refute it.
Here's one way to do it:
The kicker really is that Iowa does give gay and lesbian people the right to marry the person they actually love, and does not require that the state approve the sex of the partner. She could have easily given a succinct, accurate, and noncontroversial answer, "In this state, gay people can marry" -- with a suitably indignant facial expression, her crowd booing the fact of marriage equality in Iowa, maybe a chant would spread through the crowd, "No gay marriage! No gay marriage!" she could have made the moment work for her.
Instead she chose to provide ammunition for a bright blogger and others to make devastating fun of her.
Friday, December 02, 2011
Study: Abstinence-Only Education Does Not Work
Interesting new study that TTF readers should be aware of. From e! Science News:
States that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs, researchers from the University of Georgia have determined. The researchers looked at teen pregnancy and birth data from 48 U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of those states' approaches to sex education, as prescribed by local laws and policies.
Honestly, my first thought when I read this was that the author had overstepped the findings in that last sentence. The very idea of abstinence-only eduction is a crazy one that arises in a certain weird cultural milieu found in some parts of the country more than others. I would be pretty sure that abstinence-only education correlates with a lot of other variables, for instance, religion, conservative-versus-liberal political tendencies, etc.
One of the authors does interpret the findings correctly here:
"This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior," said David Hall, second author and assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College. "It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries."
The study looked at socioeconomic factors, education level, and ethnicity, and found that, even controlling for those factors, states where abstinence-only education was required had significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates.
"Because correlation does not imply causation, our analysis cannot demonstrate that emphasizing abstinence causes increased teen pregnancy. However, if abstinence education reduced teen pregnancy as proponents claim, the correlation would be in the opposite direction," said Stanger-Hall.
One reason that correlation does not imply causation is that there may be a third variable that is affecting both variables, some ideological propensities, for instance.
The paper indicates that states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates were those that prescribed comprehensive sex and/or HIV education, covering abstinence alongside proper contraception and condom use. States whose laws stressed the teaching of abstinence until marriage were significantly less successful in preventing teen pregnancies.
And you wonder why Congress's approval ratings are in the single digits. Pizza is a vegetable and ignorance-only sex education gets two hundred fifty million dollars of taxpayers' money.
States can choose:
With two types of federal funding programs available, legislators of individual states now have the opportunity to decide which type of sex education -- and which funding option -- to choose for their state and possibly reconsider their state's sex education policies for public schools, while pursuing the ultimate goal of reducing teen pregnancy rates.
Here the researchers are eliciting a knee-jerk reaction from conservatives which everyone knows is wrong:
Stanger-Hall and Hall conducted this large-scale analysis to provide scientific evidence to inform this decision.
The answer to the question, who should teach young people about sex, is obviously: "parents." But obviously in states where the schools don't teach teens how to be responsible for their sexuality, the parents don't either. It is a cliche that has no meat on its bones, parents simply fail at teaching the facts of life to their kids. Tell me, mom and dad, what does the epididymus do again? This is a case where the obvious answer is the wrong one.
Everybody loves babies, and just about everyone agrees that it is best to try to minimize the number of them that are born to mothers who are not ready to be parents. Speaking of obvious answers, the obvious approach is to tell young people not to have sex until they are married; this has the additional effect, for certain groups of people, of encouraging young women to be chaste and giving permission to shame them if they are not. Urging young people to abstain from sex is, however, not likely to result in actual abstinence -- it makes a certain kind of obvious sense on paper, but in reality teenagers around the world seem to have difficulty remaining abstinent.
There are also other ways to prevent pregnancy and childbirth, including numerous forms of contraception and abortion. I doubt that any school district in the US teaches about abortion as a viable option for controlling the teen birth rate -- it is, but we don't need to go there now. More realistically, young people should understand how pregnancy happens and should learn about methods that can prevent it altogether. We are much more likely to change our social customs so that slipping on a condom is the norm than trying to get young people to stop having sex.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
When the Good Guy is Bad
In their own way, The Post yesterday raised a point that has been bothering me about the Penn State craziness.
Jerry Sandusky was an outstanding figure in his community, loved and respected by the public. He spoke inspiringly, helped lead his team to victory, and cultivated little boys so he could rape them.
There is no better cover to hide behind than that of the sanctimonious blowhard. Everybody knows what the good things are to say, anybody can repeat patriotic and pious phrases and chastise those who doubt them. It takes real courage for an ordinary person to stand up to a tidal wave of self-righteousness, and they will almost always be beaten down for trying.
One of the worst fallacies we teach children is that bad people are ugly. Misshapen monsters do most of the mischief in fairy tales, cartoons, movies, TV shows -- you know who the bad guy is the first time you see him; the evil stepmother has a pointy chin, warts, and narrow eyes and the fairy godmother just stepped out of a beauty pageant. But in reality evil is done in equal measure by people who are charming, cheerful, articulate, handsome. Our sense of good and evil is dominated by snap-judgments based on the appearances of people. It is almost like an optical illusion when we can not see the terrible things that attractive, popular people do. Once we have determined someone is a good person we become blind to the bad things they do.
You probably saw the story, but let me quote you some of it:
Jerry Sandusky was an icon. He was fun, motivating, successful, trustworthy. He was a coach, a mentor, a family man, a churchgoer and a dedicated philanthropist who split his life between two pursuits: Penn State football and helping disadvantaged kids.
The shock these people feel, the surprise, is a pure expression of stereotypes that are just plain wrong. Somehow white men who prominently enunciate lofty sentiments are supposed to be better people than, well, than the rest of us. In reality the stereotype only provides a mask, the stereotypical "good guy" is a script that anyone can learn.