Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh, Hell No.

Unless you are going to be offering a community education course entitled "Investing and Money Management: How Astrology Can Work for You," I am thinking that the courses "Vaccine Free: A Homeopathic Approach" and "Coughs, Colds, and Flu: A Homeopathic Approach" should probably also be off the table.

A colleague and fellow mother who is likewise frustrated with how pseudo-science is being given equal footing with evidence-based and non-magical thinking, informed me that her local community education program is offering the above courses on homeopathy. This led me to check out my own community education program. (Her community ed program is also offering two courses on Paranormal Investigating, one hilariously titled "Paranormal Investigating: Evidence Review.")

My community ed program has "Balance Your Digestion: Chinese Medicine," and a couple of other classes that might be touchy-feely, but nothing that seems to endanger the broader public health in so brash a way as offering homeopathy as an effective alternative to vaccinating children.

The thing is, how do you go about opposing the use of public funds for such things?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Bad Ideas Just Keep Coming...

from the Minnesota GOP:

Minn. Senate approves photo ID requirement for voting

This is a solution looking for a problem, and yet one more example of the GOP doing nothing to help anyone, and, in fact, doing much to hurt.

I already went over this at length.

Marriage Equality, or: I can't believe I have to resurrect this post yet again with only minor tweaks.

How does having more people in love weaken the power of love?

How would creating more marriage make marriage less meaningful?

I am sorry to be behaving with the innocence of a child and the logic of a sane adult, but I just don't get it.

There is a new battle going on here in Minnesota in which a few radicals (Let's call a spade a spade: these people are radical, not conservative) want to put in place a constitutional ban on "gay marriage" that would also include banning "any legal recognition of domestic partnerships and civil unions or any 'legal equivalent' of marriage." (By the way, the only way to get all the legal benefits of marriage is by getting married. There is no “legal equivalent”.) Which means that the few benefits that do exist here for same-sex partnerships would go away right along with the hope of anything more.

That's sweet.

I bet Jesus is smiling right now.

The thing is, this time, they have the votes to do it.

They say they want to "protect traditional marriage." What does that mean? Don't these people have anything else to worry about? Apparently if Rick and Tom get married, or Susie and Michelle, these different-sex marriages will somehow be less meaningful, begging the question, how meaningful can they possibly be now?

Before I pitch an apoplectic fit and pass out from emotional confusion on my heterosexual living room floor within the context of my heterosexual-legally-recognized-by-the-state-relationship, I'd like to know what makes me so special? Show me a constitutional reason why my relationship gets to be different from anyone else's? I mean, I think it's a pretty good relationship—really good, not to toot my own horn or my husband's (that's against the law in some states, too), but because he has a penis, and I don't, that means we can legally be married? That's not really much of an achievement (sorry, hubby. No offense).

It just seems like such a waste of righteous anger. You're a dude, and you don't want to marry a dude? DON'T. This is America. You don't have to. You're a Christian, and you think being gay is wrong? Fine! You’re (probably) not! See: Declaration of Independence/Inalienable rights/"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Last time I checked, we are not living in a theocracy, and we are actually fighting wars overseas so that other people don't get to, either. We don't have a state religion or even a state language, for that matter. We have an official bird (that we almost poisoned into extinction) but our government does not tell people how to worship, and marriage equality won’t change that. Christians can yammer on all they want about "My Bible this..." and "My Bible that..." but…


My favorite book is Wuthering Heights, but that does not mean that I get to make other people dig up and hug their dead lovers or force children to marry each other and live in seclusion on the wasted moors of northern England. Just because some people believe that the Bible is a divine text does not make it so. Just because some people believe that their translation of that "divine text" says that marriage is between one man and one woman, does not create a basis for a Law in the United States of America.

Many of our ancestors came here to get away from that sort of oppression.

It's important to try to stop these people before we slide completely into a theocratic corporate oligarchy, and I used to think this was just a smokescreen issue. Like abortion. But now that they have the numbers, they are pushing the social end of their agenda, to the benefit of whom? A constitutional amendment against marriage equality will help no one and hurt many.

I am not gay. I am not going to turn gay if I watch Ellen or spend too much time with drag queens or see too much LogoTV. I don't think I am going to want to marry a woman any time soon (Bigamy is not legal, either. Nor will marriage equality make it legal.) On a very base and selfish level, this issue does not affect me. But I don't live that way. Any attempt to diminish my fellow Americans diminishes me and diminishes this country.

Denying basic rights to other Americans makes me less of an American.

And less of a human.

What happens to others matters to me.

I live in a country that used to encourage self-reliance as a tool for being able to help others, but it seems that self-reliance has turned to selfishness.

It does not matter to these people what actually happens to their fellow citizens as long as those citizens are living by a specific, enforced, neo-fundamentalist religious code. Living in squalor with an abusive boyfriend and a new baby when you are 17? At least you did not have an abortion! We saved you from hell! Are you in the hospital, dying of a terminal illness and want to leave your estate to your same-sex partner? Too bad! You don't deserve to because your “choices” are evil and you are going to hell!

This is a waste of time and resources. I am thinking that straight marriage doesn't need any protection, though with divorced people making up 10.7 percent of the population over 15, it might need some counseling.
Why can't our elected officials redirect their energies into, oh, I don't know, working against economic inequality, “creating jobs”, or protecting the environment so our children can be safer (Think about the Children!)? Probably because that wouldn't get as much press. Real, difficult problems don't make headlines, and it's hard to work yourself up into a good, frothy, fear-filled lather over a homeless veteran.

After all, apparently Jesus is only happy when people are hurting because they brought it on themselves.

Book Review: Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry
by Evan Wolfson

"But fortunately, the general story of our country is movement toward inclusion and equality. The majority of Americans are fair. They realize that exclusionary conceptions of marriage fly in the face of our national commitment to freedom as well as the personal commitment made by loving couples. Americans have been ready again and again to make the changes needed to ensure that the institution of marriage reflects the values of love, inclusion, interdependence, and support."

Overall, I found this book to be compelling. His tone and use of language are effecting in making his case; I would imagine that this book could easily turn someone who is for marriage equality, though not at all invested in the issue, into an activist. Mr. Wolfson manages to take a hot topic, normally dripping with thickly-piled-on cliches, value judgments, false morals, and doom-saying, and distill out a cohesive legal and civil rights argument in favor of marriage equality. Neither his writing nor his arguments are strident or preachy, and his style is not pompous or lawyerly; it is accessible and eloquent. Even involved, critically-thinking people who are supporters will find themselves both nodding along in agreement and shaking their heads in disbelief as they read.

This book are divided into chapters that allow readers to hold an intelligent discussion about marriage equality. Chapter 1 answers the question “What is Marriage” and points out that America has been moving steadily toward equality in all things for generations; marriage is the next step. He lays out the many benefits one can only get by getting married, benefits that most married people take for granted.

Chapter 2 points out how marriage has evolved over time, analyzing the issue from a legislative and historical perspective, making comparisons to miscegenation laws and other anti-marriage laws and norms. Women were once property through marriage. People of different races were not allowed to marry. Marriage has been changing along with society. It has not been static.

In Chapter 3, the author takes apart arguments that this will harm society, simply stating that all changes have been accompanied by such doom and gloom prognostications, none of which have come through. Marriage equality benefits society. He points out that changes to the laws regarding divorce, interracial marriage, women's equality, and privacy have all altered marriage. None of this has perpetuated any sort of societal downward spiral.

Chapter 4 answers the "marriage is for procreation" argument, pointing out that the state says nothing about opposite sex couples who have no desire to procreate or cannot. People can and do marry for a myriad of reasons.

Chapter 5 talks about children, and how many of marriage's legal provisions protect children. Denying these benefits to same-sex couples hurts and punishes their children. This chapter takes down the arguments that children are harmed by same-sex parenting, pointing out that studies do not show that, and studies that show that two parents are the best say nothing about the sex of those parents.

Chapter 6 brings in questions of religion, mainly pointing out that the importance of marriage is, first and foremost, legal; 40% (and growing) of married couples engaged in a purely civil ceremony. “The rite is separate from the right”: your religious ceremony means nothing to the law, and changes to the law will not equal changes to your religion. You are free to do as you like in America, thanks to the separation of church and state.

Chapter 7 brings up the “separate but equal” idea that we should just use another word, pointing out that “separate but equal” has never worked because it’s impossible. Separate is not equal.

Chapter 8 discusses marriage portability, further pointing out that “separate but equal” does not work, and this is an issue that should not rest with the states. Married people don't have to worry about whether or not they are married if they leave their home state or the state in which they were married. People in civil unions or other “parallel” relationships, even married people of the same sex, do not have any guarantee that their rights will go with them when they move or travel.

Chapter 9 addresses this issue as a civil rights issue, pointing out that comparisons with other civil rights issues (women, racial equality, etc.) are appropriate. "Gay rights, after all, are nothing more than non-gay rights made available to all."

Chapter 10 discusses why this matters to Mr. Wolfson: "...taking seriously our country's promise to be a nation its citizens can make better, its promise to be a place where people don't have to give up their differences or hide them in order to be treated equally."

Favorite quote: "Gay rights, after all, are nothing more than non-gay rights made available to all."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spending Public Money on Something with a Promise of Positive Economic & Social Return

Sounds like a good idea, right?

Well, it's not a stadium.

Wasting My Money

This wasn't necessary, and I know they won't shut up about it, but everyone can go to the White House Blog and take a look at the President's long form birth certificate. Taxpayers most likely had to pay the costs of obtaining it, so we may as well take a peek.

Good? Are you done now?

Probably not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Church of Legendary British Comics

Burning a Koran is stupid. It's stupid and pointless and only serves to remind me of Nazis, even though that's a hyperbole that won't win me any arguments. "Where books are burnt..."

And getting all worked up and angry and even threatening death because someone stupid burned a Koran is stupid. It's stupid and pointless. Burning an effigy of the stupid person who burned a Koran is stupid. Burning the effigy with a picture of a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe attached to its face, because the stupid person and the comic have the same name, raises the stupidity to a comedy level that is worthy of the comedy troupe whose member's face you have attached to the effigy.

This is how one reaches sublime from stupid.

Even if its really just an accident.

Class War?

Conservatives have been saying for years that liberals are engaging in class warfare. This warfare is on the rich.

The poor, defenseless rich.

And because everyone in America wants to be rich and thinks that they could be someday, this rhetoric has taken hold and become fact, at least in the minds of many. "When I am rich beyond measure, I don't want to have to pay taxes on my estate." This is the bootstrap thing, which assumes that 1) you actually have bootstraps, and 2) America is a level playing field.

This "war on the rich" has taken the form of pushes for fairness in the tax system and... and... what else? Seriously. I don't get it. Don't we usually root for the underdog when there is a contest between opposing forces who have unequal access to resources? Unless their ideology is flagrantly corrupt, evil, or ridiculous, we generally cheer on the side that is smaller, less equipped, or less privileged.

Don't we?

Why are so many regular people putting so much energy into defending our wealthy, our corporations, our privileged few? Never have so many pushed so hard for the rights of so few. Is it the idea that the people at the top have to have as much money as possible, so that they can provide the fuel for the economic engine of the nation? I don't think that the data have borne that out as a sound theory. Aren't we seeing large corporate profits and still experiencing high unemployment? Is that far too simplistic an observation? Because, as I say, I don't get it.

Here in Minnesota, our newly elected republicans in our newly GOP-controlled house and senate are continuing former governor and present presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty's tradition of balancing the budget using only one or two tools in the policy toolbox. It's unclear to me whether or not they have resorted budget gimmicks, but they certainly are using cuts and other cut-like measures. Tim Pawlenty's tradition of tax cuts and his refusal to raise revenue helped to get us into this mess, so I fail to see how more of the same is going to get us out.

It's the same old song and dance that is playing out all over the country. Slash the number of state workers, limit collective bargaining, punish teachers, cut aid to the poor, and generally continue to gut the already gutted. The very people who are out there spending money daily will have less money and will possibly wind up on state programs or otherwise being paid for by the state in emergency rooms or other facilities and programs.

Cutting aid does not cut need. I can't say it enough: someone always has to pay, and it's usually the government. And the government is us.

I fail to see how cutting 15% from the state workforce and pushing those taxpaying middle income workers out of work and perhaps onto unemployment is going to help the economy or, in the long run, the state budget. If the idea is to push them onto the federal budget tally, it flies in the face of their whole deficit reduction obsession.

I fail to see how cutting health care to the poor is going to help, either, for many of the same reasons.

I thought I was living in a country whose government cared for its people, but that's clearly a long-lost idealist dream, if it ever was a reality.We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Some thoughts on the budget battles from Jill Lepore

Just read it.

Poor Jane's Almanac

Thanks to my uncle, Mike, for passing it on to me.