Thursday, December 27, 2007

We're Here ... Barely

Well ... yesterday was an exciting day to say the least!

Our first flight left about 2-1\2 hours late due to a bad thunderstorm in Houston.

So ... we missed the flight to Rome. However, since it stopped in Newark on the way to Rome they put us on another flight from Houston to Newark. But as things worked out, we touched down in Houston at the same time the flight to Newark was scheduled to take off. We made a mad dash through the airport and got there before it had finished boarding, so we got on. But then it sat on the runway for about an hour before taking off and then circled for about an hour before it landed. By the time we got off the plane Newark we had 10 minutes to make the connection to Rome. Another mad dash ... and we got there in time, except for the fact that they had already closed the plane's door. Fortunately they took pity on us and re-opened the plane for us. They had't held our seat assignments, but at least got on.

If there are any bizarre characters in this post it's because this keyboard I'm using in the hotel is quite different than the American style I'm used to. Most of the special characters are in different places, and it took me forever to figure out how to type the @ sign. You have to hit a key with Alt Gr on it (different than the regular Alt key).

But ... we're here and ready to go.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Truth Worth Sharing This Christmas

From Faith in America

The harm experienced by two Florida and South Carolina families this Christmas because of religion-based bigotry against gay and lesbian individuals is very real.

Many evangelical Christians this year may have to admit to their children that they’ve been perpetrating an “untruth.” Perhaps they are made just a smidgen more uncomfortable by the fact that they believe truth was embodied in Christ - who according to their religious teachings was a person born different than any other human being.

So at a time when many Christians are cautioned not to forget the“reason behind the season,” they are confronted with the fact that they must close the door on a part of their son’s or daughter’s childhood by telling them that certain stories about the partially eaten cookies, the hand-scrawled note left behind and the soot smeared on the floor were really not true.

But the young lives of a future generation will go on albeit perhaps a bit more cynical and somewhat dejected from discovering such a truth.

For the families of Pat and Lynn Mulder of Auburndale, Fla., and Elke Kennedy and Jim Parker of Greenville, S.C., the lives of their two children will not be going on. The day-to-day gifts of joy they gave their parents, siblings and friends ended with their deaths - and no amount of perception will make their future lives and their gifts to those around them a reality.

Pat and Lynn’s son Ryan Skipper, who was killed in April 2007, and Elke and Jim’s son Sean Kennedy, who was killed in May 2007, will not be with their families next week to celebrate the season - and there is an underlying reason which we as Americans must confront honestly and truthfully.

Both young men died after attacks that have been reported as acts of violence against them because they were born different. The difference was that they enjoyed dating, being around, spending time with, and bonding emotionally with men instead of women. That difference, according to certain religious and religious/political factions in America, condemns them as sinners, unclean, undeserving of the same rights that other Americans enjoy and unworthy of God’s love.

Gays and lesbian individuals are not the only Americans who have been delegated as second-class citizens at the hand of misguided religious teaching. African-Americans were once labeled as a cursed lot. And with the “Adam first, Eve second” thinking, women also have been denied equality in this country as many people believed they stood more in favor with their God by standing opposed to full equality for women.

The majority of religious-minded people look back on those periods inhistory and realize that religious teachings were misused and misconstrued to deny African-Americans and women full equality.

Yet many Americans today fail to see the history of religion-based bigotry against gay and lesbian citizens and the harm that it causes to millions of wonderful people simply because they are different.

The families of Ryan Skipper and Sean Kennedy this Christmas are experiencing the harm that comes when a social climate o frejection and condemnation is allowed to flourish because a society accepts bigotry against gay and lesbians as religious truth. While those families experienced the physical violence that is promoted by such a climate of rejection and condemnation, millions of other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans and their family and friends experience this violence and in other forms as well - emotional, psychological and spiritual violence.

In South Carolina, where Sean Kennedy parents will spend Christmas, the state in 2006 voted to ban gay marriage and the opposition from Christian churches in that state was instrumental in writing such discrimination into South Carolina’s constitution - which coincidentally still banned interracial marriages until just a fewyears ago.

Next year in Florida, where Ryan Skipper’s parents reside, a ban on gay marriage is being proposed for that state’s constitution and no doubt religious and religious/political groups will lead that effort.

While denying gay and lesbian citizens the right to marry is but one of the many rights they as American citizens are not allowed to enjoy, it is an issue that clearly defines how a majority religious belief is used to justify legal discrimination against a minority.

Let’s hope that people across this nation will pause for a moment to recognize that misusing religious teachings to justify discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens must be recognized just as wrong today as it has been in the past.

Great social injustices of the past have fallen faint when America’s heart and soul bestows its most wondrous gift – equality.

Sharing that truth will most assuredly enrich the lives of future generations.

Brent Childers
Executive Director
Faith In America

Tip of the hat to Pam Spaulding

The End of America

Please take 30 minutes to listen to this interview with Naomi Wolf. She puts things in a perspective we desperately need.

“Recent history has profound lessons for us in the U.S. today about how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, especially in what were once democracies. The secret is that these leaders all tend to take very similar, parallel steps. The Founders of this nation were so deeply familiar with tyranny and the habits and practices of tyrants that they set up our checks and balances precisely out of fear of what is unfolding today. We are seeing these same kinds of tactics now closing down freedoms in America, turning our nation into something that in the near future could be quite other than the open society in which we grew up and learned to love liberty,”

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas from San Antonio

We spent the evening downtown on the Paseo del Rio with friends. And this time I remembered to bring my camera.

We've lived here for 31 years, and the Paseo del Rio still seems magical to us.

Merry Christmas from San Antonio.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

This is an experiment

If there's time during our upcoming trip, I'll try to post some pictures from time to time in this format. Right now I'm just experimenting to see what it takes to get this stuff up. These are a few pictures from the garden and the orchid collection.

Calculated Compassion, Anti-Gay Schismatics, and 'Ex-Gays'

Calculated Compassion (

The growing prominence of the ex-gay movement is the result of a strategic shift within the Christian Right: the new packaging of an old message. The claim that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people can be "cured" has more to do with the Right's political objectives and its bitter opposition to equal rights than with genuine caring. This report examines how the Christian Right has adopted the ex-gay movement in response to increasing pressure to soften its homophobic rhetoric.

We believe the public needs to see the truth behind the mask of compassion. The new softer face of the Christian Right merely hides the old, vicious homophobia. The ex-gay movement, like the Christian Right of which it is a part, is intolerant of anyone who does not conform to its ideals of family, marriage, moral values, and sexual orientation. It exploits and misuses the language of faith, presenting a face of Christian caring while simultaneously condemning gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people outright, and denying them their full humanity and equal rights. In attacking gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, the ex-gay movement, like its parent, the Christian Right, promotes an agenda for all Americans that is profoundly anti-democratic and exclusionary. We stand in opposition.

From Queerty via MadPriest
Anti-Gay Bishop’s Unsavory Past Biting Back?
Predictably Creepy...

Another unholy scandal? Bishop John-David Schofield of San Jaoquin, California recently led his Anglican flock out of the US-based Episcopal church. Why? Because the Americans are too soft on the gays, so Schofield and his pious posse have aligned themselves with South American-based Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. Such a move isn’t that surprising - the Anglicans have been debating the gays for years. Schofield’s past, however, may have played a role in his queer repulsion:

[Shofield] previously attributed his views on homosexuality to his experience of Fresno-based ex-gay group New Creation Ministries. Although he has been candid about his support for ex-gay ministry, Schofield denies claims that he is or ever has been homosexual. A 1995 newsletter from Voice of Integrity, a pro-gay Episcopalian group, said the Bishop “told members of his clergy that he was a “cured homosexual”.”Schofield denies making such a statement.

While we’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, we can’t ignore this internet comment: "As I said, I will state my experience with David Schofield…in court. I know of one other young man (well not young now) who had an almost similar experience to mine. When he told me his experience, it was as if he knew part of what happened to me. David propositioned me on two separate occasions, once in Inverness and once in Paso Robles.…It would be interesting to track down all those young men (emphasis on young) [who] went on retreats in Inverness from about 1972-1980 and see how many of them had similar bed-time experiences. Anyone reading this have an experience they’d like to share?"

Update from Ex-Gay Watch: Even conservative Episcopalian commentator David Virtue said as recently as yesterday [12/21/2007] that the Bishop was a practicing homosexual: "What happens is this. When a homosexual or lesbian renounces the lifestyle they get accused of being “self-loathing” and “homophobic”, much like the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield who renounced the lifestyle many years ago."

SPLC's current Intelligence Report contains a good summary of recent developments in the so-called 'ex gay' movement and its cast of characters.

Straight Like Me
The Christian “ex-gay” movement, which claims to “cure” homosexuals, is booming across the country. At the same time, it has left a trail of shattered lives in its wake.

More information here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Back to Traveler's Checks?

We haven't used traveler's checks for at least 15 years. We've been using our bank ATM cards to get cash while traveling. Yesterday I learned that the days of using ATM's abroad may be coming to an end.

Some time ago my bank instituted a new policy requesting that we notify them before going abroad if we intend to use our ATM cards. Yesterday I called them to tell them of an upcoming trip and learned that there are a number of countries where they have blocked ATM use entirely, most of them in Asia. But they've just added three more blocked countries, the UK, France, and Romania. We'll be in Italy, so we can still use the card ... this time.

They're instituting the blocks because of the amount of fraud originating in those countries. They told me that if I were to use the card in the UK, it would work once only. Then the account would be totally blocked.

As the LA Times reported, some people have learned this the hard way. ON his first day in London, Frank Conlon went to an ATM to withdraw some British pounds. Conlon, a frequent visitor to England, is accustomed to withdrawing cash from machines without incident. But on his trip in February, things didn't go as usual.

Instead of spitting out pounds, the machine flashed a message that his bank was refusing this request. Figuring something was wrong with that ATM, he went to another and encountered the same problem. He tried the toll-free customer service number, but it wouldn't accept international calls. When he finally reached a Wells Fargo representative, he said he was told that the bank had blocked ATMs in Britain because of suspected fraud.

The ATM usually solves the classic traveler's dilemma of getting access to cash in a foreign land. ATMs have become ubiquitous. Convenience coupled with lower fees have made them perhaps the most reliable and easiest way to get currency abroad.

Until now. Recent debit-card frauds have made the ATM a far less certain bet for travelers. Unlike credit cards, which routinely reject as "unusual activity" purchases made in places far from the cardholder's home, debit-card blocks tend to be directed at countries, not at individuals.

The IH-35 'Gay Cure' Was a Lie From The Start.

The Dallas Voice is reporting that the operators of the so-called "ex-gay" ministry, Heartland World Ministries Church, were fully aware that James Stabile had not been 'cured' and was planning to leave the congregation when they asked him to an interview on Pat Robertson's 700 Club in a piece that received wide attention on the internet and in news media. Stabile says that they persuaded him to stop taking his medication for bipolar disorder and as a result he was acting impulsively.

Stabile, meanwhile, apologized to the LGBT community this week and said he hopes his story will discourage others from entertaining ideas that they can change their sexual orientations. Stabile also provided a glimpse inside the ex-gay treatment facility where he went before returning to his parents’ home in Richardson in early December.

“If I could, I would take back everything I’ve said,” Stabile told Dallas Voice. “I’ve hurt a lot of people in the gay community, and I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart. “I’m not here to get any attention,” he added.

“I’m here to say to people that I want to help prevent other young gay guys from experiencing what I experienced, because I don’t want them to be hurt, and I was hurt really badly.” Stabile, diagnosed with bipolar disorder about a year ago, said he hadn’t taken his medication in 2 and-a-half weeks and had been drinking when he encountered the group from Heartland on the strip Friday, Sept. 28.

This is the 700 Club Video

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You can't cure the chill of censorship with silence

Principal Apologizes for Punishing Student for Pro-Gay T-shirt
Advocate 12/20/07

A principal at a central New York high school who sent a student home for wearing a pro-gay T-shirt has issued an official apology.
A principal at a central New York high school who sent a student home for wearing a pro-gay T-shirt has issued an official apology. Heathyre Farnham, a 16-year-old student at Spencer–Van Etten High School, was sent home in September because her shirt, which read "Gay? Fine by Me," was deemed a disruption.

According to a press release from the Student Press Law Center, principal Ann Sincock apologized to Farnham privately after school district officials said that Farnham's shirt was a form of protected expression.

Barrie Gewanter, director of the local chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, pressed the school board on October 23 to issue an apology as well as a public statement that the district would uphold students' right to expression.

"You can't cure the chill of censorship with silence," Gewanter said in a statement.

On November 2, an announcement was made over the school's public address system that the school dress code "does not prohibit students from displaying controversial or political messages" and that tolerant messages are acceptable for expression, according to the release.

Who Would Jesus Endorse?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Colosseum Shines Over New Jersey Vote

"We light it up when there is real good news, a real step forward in the campaign against the death penalty," said Mario Marazziti, a spokesman for Sant'Egidio and coordinator of its campaign for a worldwide moratorium of the death penalty, in a telephone interview from Italy.

New Jersey's legislature voted this week to replace the state's death penalty with life in prison without parole. Gov. Jon Corzine signed the bill in a Statehouse ceremony on Monday. The Colosseum lighting would happen the following day, Marazziti said.

The Colosseum, a site of executions and gladiator contests during the Roman Empire, has emerged as a symbol in organized campaigns against capital punishment. It has received the golden treatment -- its regular lighting is white -- about 20 times since 1999, most recently last month after a committee of the United Nations General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions, Marazziti said.

Other special lightings include when Albania abolished its death penalty in 1999 and in 2003 when then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted all death sentences in that state.

Monday, December 17, 2007

30% of NYC Homeless Under the Age of 25 are G/L/B

"A tree is identified by its fruit. A tree from a select variety produces good fruit; poor varieties don't. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For a man's heart determines his speech. A good man's speech reveals the rich treasures within him. An evil-hearted man is filled with venom, and his speech reveals it.

And I tell you this, that you must give account on Judgment Day for every idle word you speak. Your words now reflect your fate then: either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned."
Matthew 12:33-37

While the religious conservatives are working as hard as they can to retain their ability to discriminate against G/L people and the political candidates are bashing gays as hard as they dare in order to pander for votes from the religious conservatives, something else is happening. The fruit of their tree is turning up on the streets of American cities.
.... And it is tragic.

A new study says there are at least 3,800 people under the age of 25 living on the streets of New York and that almost 30 percent are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Nearly half of all homeless young people were Black, about 25 percent were Latino the study said. Those numbers would be proportionate to Black and Latino populations in New York.

But the high number of gays on the streets is about three times the estimated percentage of New York's LGBT community.

The survey found that while many homeless youth went to city shelters 42 percent slept on the streets, subways or in empty buildings.[...]

The results confirm a warning issued last January by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless which said gay, lesbian and transgender youth make up at least 20 percent - possibly as much as 40 percent - of the total number of homeless and runaway youth across the country.

The two national advocacy groups accused the federal government of neglecting what they described as an epidemic.The NGLTF/Coaltion for the Homeless report cited incidents nationwide of anti-gay harassment at homeless shelters and recommended that some shelter space be set aside solely for gay youth.

They also said any organization seeking public funding to serve homeless youth should be required to prove its staff would treat gay and lesbian young people competently and fairly.

The January report said that roughly one-fourth of gay and lesbian teens are kicked out of their homes after their parents learn of their sexual orientation. The report also said many gay youths experienced physical violence during the process of coming out.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Huckabee's Top 10 Moments of Extremism

Well, it seems like Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee has charmed the Republicans into making him a leader in the polls these days. Apparently the Republicans place a lot of importance on glibness and charm.

But really, now, should someone be elected as president of the US because he's charming and witty? After all, I'm sure Mussolini could tell a good joke ... but really .... ( credit to Paula Poundstone for that one on NPR yesterday).

Fortunately, there are a few people who haven't let Mike Huckabee charm their brains away.

Perspectives brings us the
Top 10 Moments in Mike Huckabee's Extremism

As former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee catapults to the top of the 2008 Republican presidential race, amazed media on-lookers ponder his meteoric rise. The authentic, charismatic former minister, they say, is swaying disheartened conservative voters, especially the legions of evangelicals in Iowa and other states, disillusioned with President Bush and unimpressed with his potential successors. But despite emerging stories from his checkered past such as the Wayne Dumond affair or his past AIDS bigotry, a true portrait of Mike Huckabee as a radical reactionary and dangerous extremist has yet to be painted.

Here then, are the Top 10 Moments in Mike Huckabee's extremism:

Huckabee Calls for the Quarantine of AIDS Victims
Huckabee Enables the Politically-Motivated Parole of Repeat Rapist/Murderer
Huckabee Offers Faith-Based Pardons
Huckabee Undermines the Teaching of Evolution
Huckabee Speaks for God
Huckabee Speaks to God
Huckabee Claims God Behind His Rise in the Polls
Huckabee Proclaims His Theology Degree a Unique Qualification to Fight Terrorism
Huckabee Flip-Flops, Calls for Federal Abortion Ban
Huckabee Calls for Consumption Tax, Abolition of the IRS

And since the article was first posted, there's more ...

As it turns out (and as many readers predicted), Mike Huckabee can shock most Americans' sensibilities at rate far faster than can be documented. DailyKos diarist 4fx notes than in 1998, Huckabee was one of 131 signatories to a full page USA Today Ad which, among other things, proclaimed that "a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." Also hot off the presses from ThinkProgress is Mike Huckabee's declaration that same year that he got into politics to "take this nation back for Christ."

And as Pam Spaulding notes regarding #8 above,, Huck's campaign had to do some backpedaling because the Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor doesn't have a theology degree -- he only spent a year in seminary.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fall Has Arrived

It's several weeks later than usual, but the gingko has finally turned yellow and started dropping its leaves. The yellow leaves that had dropped onto the potted cyclamen caught my eye this morning.

Warmongering Pastor Angers Conservatives

Televangelist warmongering pastor, John Hagee, has gotten himself in trouble with evangelicals for apparently saying Jesus didn't present himself properly to the Jews and that's why they have not accepted him.

Funny, the same people don't seem to mind when he blames the Jews for the their own persecution.

See this chilling video.
Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost on Vimeo.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The New Lavenderized $5 Bill

Starting March 13, 2008 the US $5 bill will have a new look. When I saw the new colors, I couldn't help but think of a poem Lincoln wrote.

"I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary
It is neither a Joke nor a Story
For Rubin and Charles has married two girls
But Billy has married a boy
The girlies he had tried on every Side
But none could he get to agree
All was in vain he went home again
And since that is married to Natty
So Billy and Natty agreed very well
And mama's well pleased at the match
The egg it is laid but Natty's afraid
The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch
But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head
My Suitor you never Can be
Beside your low crotch proclaims you a botch
And that never Can serve for me"

The poem is published in C. A. Tripp's The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.

The book also includes affectionate correspondence between the former president and merchant Joshua Speed, with whom Lincoln shared a bed for four years from his late 20s to early 30s, and an account written by lieutenant Colonel Thomas Chamberlain, a 19th century historian.

Chamberlain wrote that in Mrs. Lincoln's absence, the president would sleep, share nightshirts, and conduct an "intimacy" with David Derickson, who was captain of Lincoln's bodyguard Company K.

Additionally, the book contains descriptions of Lincoln from his stepmother, who said he "never took much interest in the girls," and poet Carl Sandburg, who wrote that both Speed and Lincoln possessed "a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets."

Saturday, December 8, 2007