Friday, January 27, 2012

FRC, St. Timothy's Beat Up Girl Scouts

For some reason, I am getting the biggest kick out of the Nutty Ones trying to badmouth and boycott the Girl Scouts. It is so perfectly backwards, to take an organization that does good things for little girls and try to get people to stop buying their cookies.

The Girls Scouts of America will accept transgender girls on a case-by-case basis. The Girls Scouts of America do not have anything to do with Planned Parenthood.

The Family Research Council is telling people not to buy Girl Scout cookies. FRC monkey-monk Tony Perkins said on his radio show (listen at RightWing Watch):
As sweet as the girls are, a lot of that cookie dough goes to straight to the group's political agenda. When they aren't partnering with Planned Parenthood, they're promoting sexual "diversity." Last year, the Girl Scouts decided to admit boys who dress as girls--which shouldn't come as a surprise, says FRC's Cathy Ruse, since they have a cross-dresser in their front office. And that's not all. "Earlier this month, a Girl Scout Employee... made the mistake of stopping by the office to do extra work on her own time in a T-shirt [that said] 'Pray to End Abortion.' A supervisor ordered her to turn the shirt inside out or leave the office. She left, for good." So, says Cathy Ruse, should we all.

I think most companies would send you home if you came to work in a t-shirt with any kind of political, religious, or ideological message on it. Well, the Family Research Council can get on a high-horse about it if they want, that's just what they do. Let's just see how many people turn away that little neighbor girl at the door, how many people will decline those cookies on the basis of this kind of silly story.

This Cathy Ruse, quoted by Perkins, posted about the Girl Scouts. She said;
When our sweet little neighbor in her brown camp uniform came knocking on our door this year, we had to say no. I told her mother that I didn’t want to hurt Katie’s feelings, but I couldn’t support the Girl Scout cookie sale anymore because I’d learned too much about the organizers’ agenda, primarily their support for abortion and partnership with Planned Parenthood.

It is not clear how the Girl Scouts express this "support for abortion." Nearly a year ago, the official GSA Facebook page posted an announcement addressing the accusations:
This week, an online publication by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute alleged that Girl Scouts, by participating in an event at the United Nations earlier this month, helped to distribute Planned Parenthood information as a part of the experience. We had adults and GSUSA media staff on the ground at the event and know this information to be false. We took steps to ensure that our fact-finding was comprehensive and complete, and we are communicating with you so that you have up-to-date information in the event you receive inquiries surrounding this issue...

Read the rest, they counter the lies point by point.

And this, from the GSA's Frequently Asked Questions page:
Q: Does GSUSA have a relationship with Planned Parenthood?

A: No, Girl Scouts of the USA does not have a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood.

Q: Did GSUSA distribute a Planned Parenthood brochure at a United Nations event?

A: No, we did not. In 2010, GSUSA took part in the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Our participation in that conference was the subject of numerous internet stories and blogs that were factually inaccurate and troubling. Girl Scouts had no knowledge of the brochure in question and played no role in distributing it.

But you wouldn't want anything distracting like the truth get in the way. Down in Chantilly, Virginia, St. Timothy's Catholic Church is getting in on the act:
Several Girl Scout troops in Chantilly, Va., have been banned from meeting at a local Catholic church and a neighboring school.

St. Timothy Catholic Church said that scouts won’t be allowed to meet or wear their uniforms on church property. The edict also applies to the adjacent St. Timothy School, which enrolls students from preschool to eighth grade.

According to the Arlington Diocese, the pastor did not believe the National Girl Scouts membership to the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts aligned with the message of the church, stemming from a perceived connection between WAGGGS and Planned Parenthood.

The Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital said its parent/national organization is not WAGGGS, but instead Girl Scouts of the USA, which does not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood. Girl Scout Troops Banned From Va. Church

Is this how grown-ups act?

The impressive thing is that these groups, including this Catholic church, are proving how morally superior they are by trying to undermine one thing in the world that really is good for girls. A statement on the Girl Scouts' Facebook page says:
Our Mission in Girl Scouting is to build girls of courage, confidence and character - who make the world a better place. We continue to be proud of our girls and look forward to showing the world what our girls can do.

And this is who the Family Research Council and St. Timothy's select to complain about. Actual child molesters out there, criminals and terrorists, liars, predators, pirates, and the Family Research Council and St. Timothy's choose to complain about the Girl Scouts.

You kind of have to love the absurdity of it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Gazette Hits a New Journalistic Low

An article published in The Gazette this week failed to meet any standard for publication whatsoever. It is riddled with lies, errors, and bigotry. The editors may argue that it is acceptable journalistic practice to misrepresent scientific research and demean minorities in an opinion piece; a better approach would be to find writers who can support their point of view with facts and reason.

We have to comment on this anti-marriage opinion piece in The Gazette last week by the president of the Citizens for Responsible Government, Ruth Jacobs, and the founder of a group called Marriage Savers, Mike McManus.

It is a strange and bizarre an unsurprising article that uses the gimmick of stringing together quotes by people such as Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, Noah Webster writing in his first dictionary, a site called, and others.

It starts like this, just to give you a flavor...
Gov. Martin O’Malley, in promoting same-sex marriage, wants to change the long-established meaning of marriage by promoting an illusion that gender and even biological relationships don't really matter.

Yet the healthiest children are those reared by a married mother and father. Dr. Ruth M. Jacobs and Mike McManus: Why O'Malley is wrong on same-sex marriage

This is online, dated January 13th, I don't know if it made it into the print versions.

It is pretty much a series of cliches that circulate incestuously among the anti-gay community, but at one point they quote some actual pediatricians. This is the legitimate group, the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Most studies of same-sex parenting involve children of divorced lesbian mothers who started out in a heterosexual household, thus providing little or no real information about parenting when dad is axed right out of family. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports, "There is a paucity of data on ... adolescents ... reared in lesbian households since birth."

I smell a rat, don't you? I suspected that the chicanery would be found in the dot-dot-dot parts of the quote, but actually it was even easier than that.

The quote comes from a 2010 study in Pediatrics, the AAP's official journal, titled, "US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents," by researchers Nanette Gartrell and Henny Bos.

You don't have to read very far to find the statement quoted in The Gazette. In fact, it is the first sentence in the document, in a box at the top of the first page. Here is the statement sans ellipses:
WHAT’S KNOWN ON THIS SUBJECT: There is a paucity of data on the psychological adjustment of adolescents who have been reared in lesbian households since birth. No other study has followed a cohort of such offspring from conception through adolescence, prospectively and longitudinally.

WHAT THIS STUDY ADDS: This study expands our understanding of psychological well-being in adolescent biological offspring of lesbian mothers and therefore has implications for the pediatric care of these adolescents and for public policies concerning same-sex parenting.

So the ellipses really didn't conceal anything vital, they just shortened the text, and that's fine, concise is good.

The deceit is much bolder than that.

This paper mentions the "paucity of data" as an explanation for why the study was done; after this publication there is no paucity. This study collected data on the children of lesbian mothers over a period from 1988 to the present, ongoing, with an amazing 93 percent retention rate.

As long as they were reading, Ms. Jacobs and Mr. McManus could have finished the abstract. Here are summaries of the results and conclusions of this study:
RESULTS: According to their mothers’ reports, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts in Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth. Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated.

CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment. These findings have implications for the clinical care of adolescents and for pediatricians who are consulted on matters that pertain to same-sex parenting.

Ms. Jacobs and Mr. McManus started out by telling the reader that "the healthiest children are those reared by a married mother and father." But then they have the chutzpah to actually quote from a peer-reviewed paper published in a highly respected journal that finds exactly the opposite.

The people who wrote in The Gazette obviously only read one sentence of this well-known, widely-cited research paper -- the sentence that said that before this paper was published there was not much data on children raised in lesbian households. If they had finished the page they would have seen that in fact there is very solid research evidence that kids raised in lesbian homes are perfectly normal, and in fact were rated significantly higher in positive characteristics and significantly lower in negative ones.

First we must remark on the intellectual dishonesty of someone who would cherry-pick an irrelevant phrase from a scientific paper, and use the weight of the scholarly publication to justify their bigoted conclusion -- a conclusion that is one-hundred-eighty-degrees opposite of the quoted paper's conclusion.

Second, while we can easily understand The Gazette's willingness to present both sides of a controversy, it seems that they should maintain some editorial control over their content. The Gazette has a stake in this, they should have ensured that quotes were accurate and their context was preserved in the published piece.

The Gazette took fourteen years' worth of scientific research and deliberately misrepresented it.

But we have only just begun. Jacobs and McManus say:
We also know that same-gender relationships lack the stability of traditional marriage. A study of homosexual men found that the "duration of steady partnerships" was 1.5 years.

They give no source for this. Since it is traditional for the Nutty Ones to cite this "fact" in reference to a study called “The contribution of steady and casual partnerships in the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam," published by Dr. Maria Xiradou in the May 2, 2003 issue of the journal AIDS, we assume they mean that. Please read Jim Burroway's dissection of these lies HERE. Xiradou definitely did not find that gay men's "duration of steady partnerships" was 1.5 years, and Jacobs and McManus know that -- they cite the paper, they must have read it.

The Gazette also says:
In a lesbian-parenting study, 60 percent of the mothers had separated before the child's 7th birthday.

No citation is given, so of course we can't say whether this is an accurate report or not. The writers are careful not to say that 60 percent of lesbian couples with children actually split up before the child is seven, because the point here is not to represent facts but to malign lesbians. The statement does contrast poorly with this comment by the American Psychological Association:
Lesbian couples who are parenting together have most often been found to divide household and family labor relatively evenly and to report satisfaction with their couple relationships (Bos et al., 2004; Brewaeys et al., 1997; Chan, et al., 1998a; Ciano-Boyce & Shelley-Sireci, 2002; Hand, 1991; Johnson & O'Connor, 2002; Koepke, Hare, & Moran, 1992; Osterweil, 1991; Patterson, 1995a; Sullivan, 1996; Tasker & Golombok, 1998; Vanfraussen, Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, & Brewaeys, 2003). Lesbian & Gay Parenting

If you are interested you can follow up on the references at the APA site -- the point is, there are references, and the APA stands behind them.

Oh, and here is something I have heard Ms. Jacobs say in speeches, and it is mind-bogglingly wrong.
Gay activists want you to believe that homosexuality is innate, making genderless marriage a "civil right." Yet, studies of identical twins indicate that if one twin is homosexual, in the majority of cases the other is not. There is no "gay gene."

It is shocking to think that any educated person believes that there is a one-to-one correspondence between "a gene" and any complex phenotypic trait, or that everything "innate" must be genetic. It appears they are referring to THIS PAPER, which reports,
In contrast to most prior twin studies of sexual orientation, however, ours did not provide statistically significant support for the importance of genetic factors for that trait. This does not mean that our results support heritability estimates of zero, though our results do not exclude them either. Our findings are also consistent with moderate to large heritabilities for both male and female sexual orientation, and the confidence intervals of our estimates include estimates from earlier studies... Our findings demonstrate the necessity of very large sample sizes to resolve familial variance into its genetic and shared environmental components, when one is studying traits with unfavorable distributions, such as sexual orientation.

In other words, though previous studies had found evidence of genetic factors, this study was inconclusive but did not rule it out.

Further, even though The Gazette has said that there is "no gay gene," Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, has written, "The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality."

I don't know, it's hard to tell who to believe, the head of NIH or the president of the Citizens for Responsible Whatever, who has described herself as "an infectious disease in Rockville, Maryland" (see HERE at 4:47).

This Gazette article just doesn't quit:
In fact, there are more 250 ex-gay groups (

I just looked all over the Exodus International site, and all I found was this statement quoting another source:
"Though it began with only a few people, Exodus now works with almost 250 ministries and is affiliated with organizations around the globe. According to Exodus’ Web site, the ministry is the 'largest Christian referral and information network dealing with homosexual issues in the world.'"
There is nothing about "ex-gays" here, and nothing that says that all these ministries are "ex-gay groups."

In fact the thing you notice is that Exodus is steering away from the term "ex-gay" altogether. This may be related to their president's recent comment that:
"The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction."

The fiction of "ex-gays" is a cruel hoax intended to make gay people think they can escape the bigotry of people like the authors of this Gazette article by changing their sexual orientation and becoming straight. It was also an excellent fund-raising device in its day, but those days are gone. It is now clear that you cannot pray away the gay, and those who cling to the concept are considered extreme, even by extremists.

The Gazette has a journalistic responsibility to report fairly on controversial issues. If there is a reasonable argument, based on facts, for requiring couples to meet a government standard before they can marry, then the public should hear it. But for the paper to publish an article so full of lies and errors is irresponsible.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Insane in Baltimore

Not surprisingly, as Baltimore County begins to debate a gender-identity nondiscrimination law, similar to the one passed in Montgomery County a few years ago, the Nutty Ones are coming out of the woodwork and saying the same things they said in our county, even though those things have been proven by experience to be flat-out false.

Ruth Jacobs, president of our county's Citizens for Responsible Government, testified at a hearing on the matter. Quoted at Think Progress:
JACOBS: It opens up the bathrooms to men who may be just cross-dressers, who may be a pedophile who uses the law to nefarious advantage. It’s a very dangerous bill. In this law, you’re afraid to complain because [you think] Oh my goodness — maybe I’ll be considered a bigot. But, of course it could be somebody who’s trying to rape me.

This takes away from a woman being a woman. Somebody else is just like you. These people are confused about their gender.

The bill is a direct attack on women’s privacy. Maryland Anti-LGBT Groups Object To Transgender Protections As ‘Dangerous’

This prompted a response from Keith Olbermann -- he has three "Worst Persons," Ms. Jacobs is second:

A Facebook event trying to get shower-nuts to attend the hearings in Baltimore had this to say (click "See more" on the top block of text):
Would you like to walk into a bathroom and see a man in there with our Children? This is just not right. Please show your support by objecting In Towson or contacting them here..if no answer you can leave message Or send Email .. (Bill #3-12)

Since Montgomery County passed a similar bill, there have been 4 rapes by men, dressing as women lying in wait for their victims in ladies rooms.

There is no provision in this bill to protect women and girls, leaving it open to all kinds of abuses.

The author of the statement is apparently a woman named Anita Schatz, who according to this Baltimore Sun article, testified at Baltimore's hearing on the bill. I do not find a direct quote, but I believe she also mentioned in her public comments that there have been four rapes by men dressing as women in the ladies room in Montgomery County since the law passed.

This prompted a response by someone who ought to know -- the Montgomery County Chief of Police. Here is his letter in its entirety:
The Honorable Tom Quirk
Baltimore County Council
400 Washington Avenue
Towson, Maryland 21204

I am writing to clarify information that has been brought to my attention regarding alleged sexual assaults in Montgomery County. It was brought to my attention that there is an allegation stating that since the Transgender Law was passed in our county we have experienced four (4) rapes by men dressing as women and lying in wait for their victims in ladies restrooms.

The Transgender Bill was passed by the Montgomery County Countil on Tuesday, November 13, 2007, and it became law shortly thereafter. Since this law has been in effect, we have had no reported rapes committed in restrooms by men dressed in women's clothing.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions.

J. Thomas Manger
Chief of Police

Some people don't like it when I call these people "nuts," like I am being disrespectful or something. I try to stay cheerful about it, I call them nuts as if it were something colorful or charming, like a kid who wears socks that don't match, or a stoned hippie who forgets what he was saying. But really, let's be clear about this. Anybody who actually believes that prohibiting discrimination against transgender people is going to result in men in dresses lurking in ladies restrooms -- even when it has never happened in any jurisdiction where such a law exists -- is not just a nut, they are stark raving insane. These people go out, year after year, and give speeches to tell people that something is going to happen when in reality that thing never happens. And so they lie and say it did happen, and keep going.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oh, Those Evil Girl Scouts, Part II

Following up on the previous post, this is a story that just keeps getting better. The thing that kills me is how the Nutty Ones choose their targets. Like ... Home Depot. The American Family Association says "Rather than remain neutral in the culture war, The Home Depot has chosen to sponsor and participate in numerous gay pride parades and festivals." So they are boycotting Home Depot. Remember when they tried to boycott Disney? SpongeBob SquarePants was promoting the Gay Agenda, remember that? The gay Teletubby. Oh, and Coca Cola, they have just about put Coke out of business with their boycott, because of Cocal Cola 's domestic partner policy for employees. Right? Coke's going broke, isn't that right?

The Nutty Ones hate schoolteachers these days, of all the things. They think schoolteachers are paid too much and don't work hard enough. The Christian Right supports war and torture and opposes tolerance, it is a little crazy to imagine how Jesus would have felt about any of this but they use His name all the time.

And now they have turned upon that Most Evil of all organizations, the Girl Scouts of America. I mean, really -- Girl Scouts? That is what's wrong with the world? They have started a new web site called, where they reveal all the terrible horrible things the Girl Scouts do. Here is a flyer they have on their web site:

So they want you to boycott Girl Scout cookies.

Something tells me they will sell more cookies than ever this year.

Girl Scouts Get It Right, Trigger Reaction

It's Sunday morning, I've got a full pot of coffee, WPFW is on, the dogs have been out, and I am thinking about the Girl Scouts' acceptance of transgender girls and the firestorm it provoked.

You don't have to know a whole lot to respect someone's differences from you, but in this case it is probably useful to review some concepts. When you are born the doctor holds you up and looks you over and decides that you are a boy or a girl, based on visible anatomical features. This information is entered on your birth certificate and becomes a basic fact about your life from that moment forward. For most people this is never a problem, but some small proportion of individuals discover over time that the initial assignment just doesn't fit them. The sense of gender does not just come from what you have been told about yourself, it also derives from the immediate, subjective way you feel. It may seem odd to believe you are one sex when your physical body indicates otherwise, but if you talk to someone who has experienced this you realize they aren't joking, they aren't hallucinating, this is real for them, they know what they are and it is not what that first pediatrician said they were.

People whose gender was correctly assigned are called cisgender, where the Latin prefix "cis" means "to the near side" -- the opposite of "trans." Those people who discover as they mature that they have been mistakenly assigned are called transgender. And by the way, that is an adjective, it is not a noun, you don't say "Mary is a transgender," you say "Mary is a transgender person" or "Mary is transgender." While we're at it, since it is an adjective it doesn't require an "ed" on the end, there are not "transgendered" people any more than there are "gayed" or "straighted" people. Gender identity is who you are, not who you are attracted to, which is sexual orientation; those are two independent dimensions.

It is not unusual for transgender people to know their identity at an early age. It shouldn't be necessary to say this, but when a girl plays with trucks, when a boy plays with dolls, when children dress up, there is no reason to believe it indicates anything more than a good imagination. A child may or may not be able to express verbally the fact that they are not what they seem to be, there is no reason to jump to any conclusion, one way or the other. In an environment that does not judge them, children can feel free to express and explain themselves in good time -- it is for them to discover their identity through living, not for others to impose it.

I am talking about this because the Girl Scouts of America have recently had to consider what to do when a transgender seven-year-old girl -- reported here and in the national media as "a boy who likes girl things" -- wanted to join the Girl Scouts in Colorado. The local GSA chapter accepted the child, who then decided not to join. In the meantime, predictably, three Girl Scout troops at a Christian school in Louisiana disbanded in protest.

According to the Washington Post
Michelle Tompkins, a national Girl Scouts spokeswoman, said the organization “prided itself on being an inclusive organization serving girls from all walks of life”

“We handle cases involving transgender children on a case by case basis with a focus on ensuring the welfare and best interests of the child in question and the other girls in the troop as our highest priority,” she said.

Pretty cool.

This led, next, to the appearance on YouTube of a video where a young woman speaks out against transgender kids in Girl Scouts and calls for a cookie boycott. This is dumb but I'm going to show it to you anyway:

The robotic girl on the video stares into the camera (sometimes glancing at her script) and says, "Did you know that in October 2011 the Girl Scouts admitted that they allow transgender boys from kindergarten through the twelfth grade?" In fact, the whole video is bizarre, it entirely assumes that the viewer will be horrified by the thought of a transgender girl participating in the scouts. The Girl Scouts did not "admit" anything, and they do not allow "transgender boys" into the Girl Scouts, they accept transgender girls; transgender boys should sign up for Boy Scouts if they want a scouting experience.

I think we are supposed to believe that a transgender girl is really a sex-crazed boy who has figured out a way to sneak into the girls' tents, and that is absurd. If you do not make that assumption, the whole video is nothing, it is just a girl talking about the fact that the Girl Scouts have an inclusive policy. Her use of words like "admitted", and the placement of implicative text on the screen -- this video has been produced to look home-made but it's not -- are designed to imply that there is something wrong with the Girl Scouts admitting transgender members, but it is not clear what the problem is supposed to be. If you believe that "boys will be boys" nudge-wink then you might find this new fact disturbing; if you trust that the GSA leadership will make sensible decisions then there is simply no story here. There are transgender Girl Scouts, learning good values and skills in a fun environment, along with the other girls.

I think this was news because she calls for a cookie boycott-- this video got a lot of publicity. Because the Girl Scouts include transgender youth we are suppose to turn down our Thin Mints this year and shortchange our local troop. Great idea.

Compare the script-reading zombie Girl Scout to this one:

That is more like it.

This year the Maryland legislature will almost certainly be considering a bill to ensure equal rights for transgender people. You can be sure that the shower-nuts are going to be out in force, trying to convince the public that women will be in danger if gender-identity discrimination is prohibited. Their usual argument is that such a law will allow men to go into women's showers and restrooms, where they will ogle and molest women. The fact that this has never happened in any of the hundreds of locations with nondiscrimination laws does not deter them; logic is not their strong suit, you might say.

Through all this it will be difficult to keep cool heads. You can figure that a bill passed by the legislature is almost sure to face a referendum effort, which will require a massive public education campaign, since most voters don't know anything about gender identity. It is a good idea for conscientious citizens to take some time now to get up to speed, to learn a little something about our transgender neighbors, so we will be able to endure the inevitable onslaught of hateful propaganda without letting good values of fairness and respect get washed away in the flood of irrational fear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

0.1 Percent is Pretty Close to Zero

This came out a couple of days ago but let's get it on the record here.

Psychologist Warren Throckmorton was one of the original supporters of the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, an anti-gay rightwing cell operating in Montgomery County, Maryland. Throckmorton and a colleague wrote a position paper promoting the CRC's opposition to a sex-ed curriculum that mentioned sexual orientation, and he came to Maryland at least once to speak to the group. He made a video in 2004 called I Do Exist, which showed a stream of individuals claiming they had stopped being gay. The title reflects a false cliche among anti-gay groups, who like to assert that "ex-gays" really do exist.

Throckmorton has taken the video offline and said he regrets "that the video was used as a part in the culture war surrounding homosexuality." He now seems to embrace a belief that gay people can act straight if their environment, in particular their religious environment, demands it -- but they don't ever really change into heterosexuals.

He has stayed in the game, though, blogging about LGBT issues and generally taking a slightly more generous perspective that says it's all right to expect gay people to pretend to be something they are not. Many people think this is an improvement, well it is. It is delusional to believe that homosexual people can learn to be straight. It is only bizarre to suggest that gay people can and should pretend to be straight in order to meet the expectations of people who don't understand them.

Alan Chambers is president of one of the country's largest "ex-gay" organizations, Exodus International. He supports reparative therapy, opposes same-sex marriage, you know the rest.

Throckmorton's blog had this item this week:
As noted Friday, President of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, spoke that evening as a part of a panel discussion at the annual conference of the Gay Christian Network. Audio of the panel is now up at GCN (Part 1, part 2). During part 2, about 5:30 into the file, Alan Chambers is asked, I think by GCN Executive Director Justin Lee, about the way Exodus and member ministries describe the work they do. Specifically, Lee asked about the slogan “change is possible.” Chambers responds by discussing his views of sexual orientation change, saying
The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think there is a gender issue there, there are some women who have challenged me and said that my orientation or my attractions have changed completely. Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know will experience some level of same-sex attraction.

There was also some discussion of change meaning a change of viewpoint and behavior but the consensus was that Chambers was giving an honest appraisal of the aspect of sexuality that involves essential attractions. As one who once defended sexual reorientation change efforts, I have to agree with Chambers’ assessment. Credible reports of change are rare and do come more often from women than men.

Now, I wonder. Will this news be reported by Christian media, or become part of the evangelical blackout?

Members of the Citizens for Responsible Whatever and PFOX have tried to insist that there are thousands, tens of thousands, of ex-gays out there, people who used to be gay and changed. Problem is, nobody can ever find one, except for the ones who make a living promulgating that cruel hoax.

The game is just about played out. Alan Chambers says that maybe 0.1% of ex-gays have really changed, and that most of those seem to be women. He has seen thousands try to change, he has believed in it as strongly as he can, and at the end of the day he looks around and says: it doesn't work.

I have an idea. Let's accept people the way they are. Is there something wrong with that? How about we let people love who they love?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Gimme My Million LOL

I don't expect this to be one of those threads that gets a hundred comments, but I love this stuff. If you ever rented a DVD you probably saw this video at the start of it:

Here's the story from TV Daily Pedestrian:
You wouldn't steal a car, you wouldn't steal a handbag...

We all know how the rest goes, because thanks to the Motion Picture Association Of America and their foreign associates, every time you hire a DVD, you have to sit through this ad before you get to the main menu. But in what must be the most delicious slice of irony served this year, it has just been discovered that the music used to soundtrack this 50-second pain in the ass is actually stolen.

Netherlands composer Melchior Rietveldt composed that ominous techno tune for a local film festival after being asked by anti-piracy group BREIN, who are funded by Hollywood. A few years later, he got himself a copy of Harry Potter on DVD and noticed his music was suddenly being used for much wider use than he had originally agreed to in contract. Which essentially means that when they say 'you wouldn't steal a television', that doesn't quite extend to intellectual property.

Legal estimates put the amount of money Rietveldt is owed by pretty much every movie house on Earth at somewhere close to €1 million. Matters got even worse when the chairman of the board of the royalty collection agency in the Netherlands offered to help recoup the funds - but only if he could take a 33% cut. It's bad timing particularly for the US, where the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is currently a hot topic for its intended transferral of responsibility for pirated from individuals back to small businesses and web hosts. After all, if they can't even look after their own ads, how can they expect anybody else to abide by the law?

Excuse us, we're just going out to steal a handbag. Anti-Piracy Movie Ads Caught Using Pirated Music

This comes on the back of the observation, posted at Boing Boing (great blog, by the way), that Sony Pictures, NBC Universal, Fox Entertainment, and other anti-piracy giants are actually some of the biggest downloaders of pirated material.

Clearly we need a better way of managing this. Congress is about to destroy the Internet to indulge the greed of the movie and recording industries, and yet those very industries can't follow their own ridiculous policies.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

CRW Files Again, Same Old Thing

Did you realize that the Citizens for Responsible Whatever are still moaning about Montgomery County's gender-identity discrimination law? They're still mad because there wasn't a referendum. There wasn't a referendum because their side failed to get enough valid signatures. We are talking about events in 2008 now.

The CRW filed an ethics complaint against Dr. Dana Beyer, who was at that time working for a county council member. They claimed that Beyer had intimidated them, and other things, and to make a long story short, the county Ethics Commission had a big hearing and took depositions and contemplated the evidence and concluded that Beyer had not done anything wrong.

The CRW has filed again to reopen the case. In a December 15th letter to the Ethics Commission which was linked from a CRW newsletter sent out yesterday, CRW president Ruth Jacobs wrote:
On its face, Sec. 19A-14(e) of the Montgomery County Ethics Code’s conflict-of-interest provision reads:
A public employee must not intimidate, threaten, coerce or discriminate against any person for the purpose of interfering with that person's freedom to engage in political activity.

However, in its decision, the County Commission added the words “as a function of being on the job, self-identifying as a public employee, or entailing the prestige of office” to the end of the above provision. See M&O at p. 17, attached. The County Commission did not cite any legislative history or legal precedent to justify its sudden rewriting of the County’s public ethics law. Yet by adding this language to Sec. 19A-14(e) of the Code without any advance notification, the County Commission dismissed MCRG’s complaint because it deemed that Beyer’s harassment did not occur within the conditions of the added language.

Reading this, you might think that the Ethics Commission had said something like this: "A public employee must not intimidate, threaten, coerce or discriminate against any person for the purpose of interfering with that person's freedom to engage in political activity, as a function of being on the job, self-identifying as a public employee, or entailing the prestige of office." That's what CRW president Ruth Jacobs says they said.

Here's what the Ethics Commission actually wrote (quoted HERE):
The ethics law is not an unbounded general code of civil conduct for county employees. Rather, the ethics law is concerned with the way employees conduct County business; the law addresses employees’ private conduct only where the conduct intersects with their public employment. Accordingly, inherent in § 19A-14(e)’s proscription against a public employee’s intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any person for the purpose of interfering with that person’s freedom to engage in political activity is a nexus with County employment. In order for § 19A-14(e) to be violated, the employee’s conduct must be on the job, include self-identification as a public employee, or otherwise entail the prestige of office.

The stark letter of the law is set in a context, this and similar regulations have been argued and interpreted, and given the context of legal precedent the Commission believes that public servants have rights when they act as private citizens, and ethical restrictions when they act in their official capacity. The CRW does not like that, because ... they want to win.

Last night's newsletter from Ruth Jacobs is just like the one they sent out August 8, 2011, it is largely the same as one from April 7, 2011, and they used much of the same content for their October 13, 2010 newsletter. There are indecent personal attacks on Dana Beyer and Duchy Trachtenberg, references to irrelevant hypotheses about the effects of the new law, links to a silly eight-second video, there is simply nothing new here. The group -- assuming the CRW is more than one person at this point -- decided years ago that if gender-identity discrimination was made illegal, women's shower-rooms and restrooms would be jam-packed with sexual predators and pedophiles, and that has simply not happened, not once. Their "not my shower" argument has no support. There is something weird about the fact that they can't let this go.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Tearing Down the Barricades

Today there is clear limpid sunlight on green grass, winter has only tiptoed through our region, has not yet stomped her big foot down. We had a day of snow in October, do you remember that? But it has been a warm winter, these past few days you haven't even needed a jacket, the last week of December. The year that ended yesterday was one of the hottest in history. I understand we will have some cold days this week, so far it has been like Florida here.

Last night they figured a million people would come out to Times Square to watch the ball drop. Lady Gaga danced with Mayor Bloomberg, people wore funny glasses and took pictures of each other, and kissed. We took a sip of champagne and toasted the new year when the ball came down, then returned our attention to the live feed on the computer, where, in another section of New York City, the crowd at Occupy Wall Street was removing the barricades that had surrounded their park.

Zuccotti Park, in New York City, was cleared of occupiers six weeks ago. After the November 15th eviction of protesters, the police had surrounded the park with steel barricades. These are frame structures about ten feet long, they set them up end to end and it isn't hard to move one out of the way but people generally get the idea, when you see a barricade you walk around it. Maybe there is fresh grass or something. These are psychological barriers as much as anything, they tell people to stay out of the park, even though you could easily step over the barricade or push it out of the way.

This particular park is privately owned. I know, what sense does that make? It used to be called Liberty Plaza and in fact some people still call it that, it was damaged in the 9/11 attack and became the focal point of the #OWS movement. People camped out in the park last year until the NYC cops cleared them out, and then you had this park in lower Manhattan with barricades around it to keep people out. I know, what sense does that make?

Yesterday a lady brought her kids to the park and set up a little tent for them to play in and the police came and made her take it down. Then it is not clear how this happened, but by midnight there were thousands of people there. Everyone was surprised, it was not a planned event, it just happened, New Year's Eve everybody came back to Zuccotti Park. The police of course had to manage the crowd at Times Square and were not prepared for an outbreak at #OWS. They tried to herd people around, sprayed a little pepper spray at them, hit a few of them with the barricades, arrested a couple, but basically there wasn't much they could do. The people took the barricades and dragged them into the middle of the park and stacked them in a big heap and danced on top of them, waving flags and chanting.

You have to laugh at the New York Times' pathetic description of the event. I watched it on a live feed over the Internet, well I turned it off after midnight but there was a guy named Tim walking around with a video camera livestreaming the whole thing. Whatever happened happened, and the whole world could see it, unedited and live. The NYT headline is classic: "Surging Back Into Zuccotti Park, Protesters Are Cleared by Police." That is dramatic, isn't it, those dirty hippies had their love-in and our fine men in uniform restored order.

But the story promised by the headline is not mentioned until the seventeenth paragraph: "Just before 1:30 a.m., security guards and police officers entered the park, where only about 150 people remained."

After everybody left, the stragglers were cleared by police.

The #OWS movement is hard for journalists, because there isn't any easy slogan and no leader. It's just people, fed up with the way things have gone. I saw a sign last night that said something like, "It's just one thing -- Everything." And that makes it hard for newspaper reporters to write about. Especially when everything includes the media.

You have to admit, the barricades were a perfect symbolic target. Here is a park in the middle of lower Manhattan, and some company owns it. People went there to express their opinions, and eventually the mayor had the police remove them. Taxpayer money spent to protect private property, a park that is owned by a company. And then they enforced that by putting barricades around it. It's like something in a Shel Silverstein children's book, the mean, miserly company that had a park and wouldn't let anyone play in it.

So the people came and took the barricades down. They occupied the park for a few hours. The police tried to come in and the people pushed them out again. The police tried to hold the barricades down and the people pulled the structures out of their hands and stacked them up and danced on them.

It's not much of a story in the news this morning. It was nothing, really, a little New Years rowdiness in New York City. Americans accept the idea that authorities can set up "free speech zones" where you are allowed to express your opinions, and they can arrest you if you express your opinion in an unauthorized location. Americans accept the fact that a company owns a park and puts barricades around it to keep people out, and that the police will come with guns and pepper spray and handcuffs, to make sure people don't express their opinions in the park. It was no big deal, nothing compared to Lady Gaga dancing with the mayor.

I hope that this year is better than last year. I have personally been through some things that I really hope will recede gracefully into the laughable past, and we as a country are coming out of times that have been embarrassing and awkward; the USA has been on the wrong side of things and maybe we are turning that around but we have to live out this new year to see how it works out. I think the important thing is for each person to participate actively in your society, to take ownership of your community, your government, your life, and actively work to make these things better. If you don't like the way things are, change them.