Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Local Hero

Bill Day, who has AIDS, calls his needle-exchange effort a "moral imperative."
But law enforcement authorities in San Antonio say what he's doing is illegal.
He faces charges of distributing drug paraphernalia.

He's not only just a local guy, but a member of our church, which is behind his work 100%.

The Texas state legislature authorized creation of the state's first legal needle exchange, as a pilot project, in San Antonio. Local officials are blocking the plan and now harm reduction workers involved in a needle exchange there have been arrested.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 28, 2008 ("His Needle Plan Has Touched A Nerve") that "Bill Day doesn't fancy himself an outlaw -- and with his Mr. Rogers demeanor, he definitely doesn't look the part. But soon the 73-year-old lay chaplain could spend up to a year in jail for breaking a law that he considers immoral. Day hands out clean needles to drug addicts on some of the seediest streets in this south Texas city. He does it because he's convinced that it reduces human suffering by curtailing the spread of HIV, a view that has been supported by medical research for more than a decade. However, Day's actions are illegal in Texas -- the only state that has not started a needle-exchange program of some kind. So when a San Antonio police officer spotted him swapping syringes with prostitutes and junkies this month, he was arrested on drug paraphernalia charges."

According to the Times, "Neel Lane, a high-powered San Antonio lawyer who agreed to defend Day for free after learning about his case through their church, St. Mark's Episcopal, said it was time for the Lone Star State to admit it was behind the times. 'When you're the only state that doesn't have [a needle-exchange program], you're either the 2% smartest or 2% dumbest in the country,' Lane said. Though Texas is the only state that has not begun at least a pilot needle-exchange program in any city, lawmakers last year authorized one -- for San Antonio. Bexar County public health officials are studying whether to launch it, but Dist. Atty. Susan Reed has warned that she could prosecute anyone who distributes needles because she considers the act illegal. 'I'm telling [local officials], and I'm telling the police chief, I don't think they have any kind of criminal immunity,' Reed said in August, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Reed has not explained why she opposes the program, and her office did not return requests for comment. But at the request of a state lawmaker, Texas' attorney general is reviewing the dispute. Day and two associates, cited with him on Jan. 5, initially faced Class C misdemeanors, which are punishable by a fine of up to $500. But Reed's office and police plan to increase the charges to distributing drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible one-year jail sentence."

The Times noted that "Day's supporters say they are outraged that police and prosecutors are treating the activists as criminals. 'How silly to arrest senior citizens who are trying to stop the spread of HIV in their community,' said Jill Rips, deputy executive director of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, which provides HIV testing and runs a hospice. 'Don't police have something better to do?' Day said he accepted the arrest as part of a process that his community must go through before it could begin a healthy debate about reducing the spread of AIDS by addicts."

Pell Grants for Kids ... A Reality Check

I've been quiet lately because of several (good) things going on in my life lately. I expect to get around to posting about them one of these days.

It is the astonishing stupidity of Dubya and an e-mail from Greg Palast that bring me back to the blog this morning.

Dub has proposed an oh-so-compassionate-conservative plan that would designate $300 million to poor children to help them realize their dreams of a good education. Sounds nice, eh?

He's also proposing an extension of his tax breaks to the extent of $4.3 trillion over the next 10 years. (Remember those tax breaks you've been getting? ).

Greg Palast decided to put pencil to paper to see exactly what all of this means.

Here’s your question, class:

In his State of the Union, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. As there are, officially, 15 million children in America living in poverty, how much is that per child? Correct! $20.

Here’s your second question. The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts. The cost: $4.3 trillion over ten years. The big recipients are millionaires. And the number of millionaires happens, not coincidentally, to equal the number of poor kids, roughly 15 million of them. OK class: what is the cost of the tax cut per millionaire? That’s right, Richie, $287,000 apiece.

Mr. Bush said, “In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams. And a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.” So how much educational dreaming will $20 buy?

-George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 “Pell Grant for Kids,” as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they’ll have to wake up quickly.

-$20 won’t cover the cost of the final book in the Harry Potter series.
If you can’t buy a book nor pay tuition with a sawbuck, what exactly can a poor kid buy with $20 in urban America?

The Palast Investigative Team donned baseball caps and big pants and discovered we could obtain what local citizens call a “rock” of crack cocaine. For $20, we were guaranteed we could fulfill any kid’s dream for at least 15 minutes. Now we could see the incontrovertible logic in what appeared to be quixotic ravings by the President about free trade with Colombia, Pell Grant for Kids and the surge in Iraq. In Iraq, General Petraeus tells us we must continue to feed in troops for another ten years. There is no way the military can recruit these freedom fighters unless our lower income youth are high, hooked and desperate. Don’t say, ‘crack vials,’ they’re, ‘Democracy Rocks’!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Everything Dubya Touches Turns To ....

Pioneer Woman Hauling Cow Chips

Jon Markman tells us Why Bush's bailout wouldn't work

That rumbling sound you hear coming from Washington, D.C.? It's Treasury Department helicopters packed with bags full of cash about to be dropped on voters, as the federal government prepares to launch a brazen, desperate election-year effort to rescue the economy.

If you thought the government's delayed response to Hurricane Katrina was a study in out-of-control largesse -- replete with no-strings-attached debit cards handed to anyone with a Cajun accent and a damp shirt -- wait until you see what the government has in mind for the rest of us this year.

The latest is President Bush's just-announced call for $145 billion in tax relief aimed at preventing a recession that is actually already here. The intent of the plan is simple: "Letting Americans keep more of their money should increase consumer spending," the president said. Bush said Congress should take steps to implement a stimulus plan as soon as possible.

As you can see from the stock market's response***, the plan suffers from being too little, too late. After years of turning a blind eye to economic imbalances that have thrown thousands of people out of their homes and jobs, Bush now offers the economic equivalent of a Band-Aid. But he's not alone. Members of Congress, presidential candidates and Fed governors have all made promises in the past two weeks to turn the federal piggy bank upside down to ward off the ill effects of a recession.

There's lots more ....

*** Wall St. drops as Bush rescue plan disappoints: Stocks tumbled for a fourth day on Friday to close out the worst week for the S&P 500 in five years on worry that a White House effort to boost the economy may not prevent a recession.

THE Most Important Issue of Election 2008

More from the good folks at The Onion.

Slippery Zippers and Republican Family Values

"I think that this Court having determined that there are certain kinds of conduct that it will accept and certain kinds of conduct it will not accept may draw the line at the bedroom door of the heterosexual married couple because of the interest that this Court has that this Nation has and certainly that the State of Texas has for the preservation of marriage, families and the
procreation of children," Rosenthal told the justices.

"Even if you infer that various States acting through their legislative process have repealed sodomy laws, there is no protected right to engage in extrasexual - extramarital sexual relations, again, that can trace their roots to history or the traditions of this nation."

--- Harris County District Attorney in Lawrence v Texas, arguing that it is okay for heterosexuals to have oral sex, but gays must be imprisoned for doing so.

Ok, ok ... I know this gets really boring after awhile. These Married Republican Family Values Guys just can't keep their pants zipped.

The district attorney who defended the Texas law criminalizing homosexuality before the US Supreme Court is desperately trying to keep his job following the discovery of e-mails containing sexually explicit videos, racist jokes and what is described as torrid love notes to his executive secretary.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal (R) is facing a state investigation into the emails which were discovered on his office computer. If he is found in violation of "official misconduct'' he could be removed from office. The office computer also contained evidence he had used it for political purposes.

Rosenthal who is married and portrayed himself as a "family values" candidate ended his re-election campaign last week after the sexy emails to his secretary were discovered. His current term runs out at the end of 2008.

The e-mails were found during discovery in a federal civil rights lawsuit. The plaintiffs in the case forced Rosenthal into a deposition where he was required to answer questions about the e-mails under oath.

But in 2002 it was "family values" Rosenthal who argued before the US Supreme Court that the Texas law against sodomy was upholding the moral values of the state and was in place to protect families. The case was Lawrence v Texas. In his arguments he condemned adultery and homosexual acts.

White Supremacist Hearts Huckabee

Ezra at Right Wing Watch is posting about the white supremacist in South Carolina who is running pro-Huckabee ads in suport of flying the Confederate flag over the state capitol.

Ron Wilson is the man behind the eloquently-named Americans for the Preservation of American Culture, which is running radio ads lambasting John McCain and Mitt Romney for their stances on the flag issue while praising Mike Huckabee. Huckabee—who recently expressed his enthusiasm for amending the U.S. Constitution to align with God’s standards—said this week that it was a states’ rights matter:

"In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell 'em what to do with the pole, that's what we'd do," Huckabee said.

According to Wilson, “This is close enough now that this issue is probably going to determine whether McCain wins or Huckabee." Huckabee may appreciate the attack ads on his behalf, but he might want to reconsider.

From the
Southern Poverty Law Center:

Wilson is a former member of the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens, both hate groups. His education expertise is limited to the business he ran out of his home selling textbooks to home-schoolers. One of these, Barbarians Inside the Gates, theorized that Jews are working towards world domination — and was specially touted by Wilson's Web site, which insisted, "You MUST READ THIS BOOK."

In his role heading the 32,000-member SCV [Sons of Confederate Veterans], Wilson was part of a takeover attempt by extremists, and led efforts to purge more than 300 members for publicly condemning racism in the SCV.

reported in 2002 on the extremist takeover of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, as members hoping “to take the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, and the skinheads and show them to the door” managed to defeat one white supremacist candidate for leadership in a raucous vote, only to have his close ally, Wilson, elected as a stealth candidate.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

Veterans, Loofah, Falafal, and Lies

Mimi of Wounded Bird posted this the other day. I think it is important information so I'm posting it here as well.

An email from Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

Last night, Bill O'Reilly raised an important topic on his television show: the plight of homeless veterans.

Unfortunately, he got the facts wrong.

O'Reilly: "They (homeless veterans) may be out there, but there's not many of them out there. Okay?...If you know where there is a veteran, sleeping under a bridge, you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it."

Despite O'Reilly's doubts, the facts are irrefutable. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, almost 200,000 veterans sleep on our nation's streets each night. And Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are joining those ranks at an alarming rate.

Click here to sign an open letter to Bill O'Reilly, telling him that he needs to set the record straight as soon as possible. This issue is far too important to be swept under the rug. You can also learn more about the issue of homeless veterans, and find out what you can do to help.

As an IAVA Supporter, you're more familiar with this issue than most people. Sadly, many Americans still don't realize that veterans make up about one-third of the adult homeless population.

No matter how you feel about Bill O'Reilly, there's no denying the fact that he has a huge audience - an estimated 2.3 million people tune in each weekday night. So take a minute to urge Bill O'Reilly to correct his mistake. He has a great opportunity to help homeless veterans by bringing more attention to the issue, and you can urge him to be part of the solution.

And while I was looking for some quick links to answer a question relating to O'Reilly and falafel that came up in Mimi's comments, I ran across the following and can't resist posting it here. I don't remember seeing it before now. If you've already seen it, it's worth a rerun.

Update: New Video From FoxAttacks.com, homeless vets react to O'Reilly's claim that they don't exist.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Great Balls of Protest

Goodness, gracious, great balls of protest in Rome

Half a million multi-colored plastic balls bounced down Rome's famed
Spanish Steps on Wednesday morning in the latest stunt by a man who has become famous for his self-styled protests at the city's landmarks.

The balls were thrown down the steps and into a 17th-century fountain by Graziano Cecchini, a 55-year old artist and right-wing activist who last year dumped a can of dye in the nearby Trevi fountain, turning it into a blood red pool.

"Italians' balls are broken," was written on leaflets distributed
at the scene.

Ted Haggard is Completely Heterosexual

Mitt Romney Defends Himself Against Allegations of Tolerance

From the good people at The Onion.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

National Lampoon's Race for the Nomination

From the "Why I'm Happy I'm Not A Republican" files.

Remember the last few political campaigns when John McCain was the dangerously unhinged one in comparison to the others? Well things certainly have changed.

The most amazing part of this is that people actually vote for these characters!

Mitt Won, Authenticity Lost

RON FOURNIER, Associated Press, Jan 15, 2007

Mitt Romney's victory in Michigan was a defeat for authenticity in politics.

The former Massachusetts governor pandered to voters, distorted his opponents' record and continued to show why he's the most malleable — and least credible — major presidential candidate.
This is a man who campaigned for governor of Democratic stronghold Massachusetts as a supporter of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control — only to switch sides on those and other issues in time for the GOP presidential race. The first thing he did as a presidential contender in January was sign the same no-tax pledge an aide dismissed as "government by gimmickry" during the 2002 campaign.

He was a political independent who voted for Democrat Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Massachusetts presidential primary; now he is a Reagan conservative. He was for embryonic stem cell research; now he favors restrictions on it.

Jean White-Ginder still waiting on meeting with Huckabee
Dallas Voice, Jan 10, 2008

Republican presidential candidate refusing to return calls to set up meeting, despite commitment to talk to mother of AIDS victim Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a Republican candidate for president, told the Associated Press in 1992 that people with AIDS were carriers of a plague who should be isolated from the general population.

Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White and a board member of The AIDS Institute, along with officials at the Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute are still waiting to meet with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee after he committed to meeting and discussing his 1992 remarks that people living with HIV and AIDS should have been “isolated.”
Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, said Dec. 11 that he would be “very willing to meet with” White-Ginder and other AIDS advocates after he was questioned on the campaign trail about his comments in the early 1990s.

But Huckabee has yet to make good on that promise.

“We are still waiting for the meeting,” said A. Gene Copello, executive director of The AIDS Institute. “It is our sincere hope that Gov. Huckabee will keep his word” to meet with White-Ginder. HRC President Joe Solmonese said Huckabee’s campaign has refused to return any calls about setting up such a meeting. “Is Governor Huckabee a man of his word or is this just more typical political double-speak?” Solmonese said. “It has been 29 days, Jeanne White-Ginder and the HIV/AIDS advocacy community
continue to wait.”

Solmonese and Copello said the two organizations sent letters to Huckabee’s campaign on Dec. 10 and again on Dec. 12. The second letter said the groups were looking forward to “discussing our experiences and personal insight with you and your campaign. This was not and is not an issue of ‘political correctness,’ as you have stated previously. Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over
unfounded fear or prejudice.”

Huckabee called White-Ginder directly two weeks after the initial letter and agreed to the meeting, the men said, but since then, Coppelo’s calls to the candidate have gone unanswered.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Straights Can Learn From Gay Relationships

I don't think this will surprise any gay couples out there. But I suspect it might come as a surprise to a lot of straight couples.

Over the years we've had many conversations about this and about how we actually feel sorry for those caught up in the traditional gender roles adopted by straight society.

    What Straights Can Learn From Gays about Relationships and Parenting

By Robert-Jay Green, Ph.D.

Psychological studies of lesbian and gay couples reveal two key factors that promote healthier relationships and provide examples for all couples: (1) flexibility about gender roles, and (2) equal division of parenting and household tasks.

“It all comes down to greater equality in the relationship,” says Robert-Jay Green, PhD, executive director of the Rockway Institute and a nationally recognized researcher in both family issues and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships. “Research shows that lesbian and gay couples-- by virtue of being composed of two partners of the same gender -- have a head start in escaping the traditional gender role divisions that make for power imbalances and dissatisfaction in manyheterosexual relationships.”

Green is Distinguished Professor at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, the nation’s largest nonprofit training institution for doctoral clinical psychologists. In a series of studies he conducted with Michael Bettinger, PhD, and Ellie Zacks, PhD, lesbian couples were found to be emotionally closer than gay male couples who, in turn, were found to be emotionally closer than heterosexual married couples. Lesbian and gay male couples also showed dramatically more flexibility in the way they handled rules and roles in the relationship.Thus they avoided the traditional division of labor and division of expressive versus instrumental roles toward which heterosexual couple typically evolve over time despite their best intentions,especially after the birth of children.
Green’s research suggests some lessons straight men could learn from gay men. Heterosexual men need to “stand up to the pressures of conformity from their male peers and relatives” by becoming more flexible in their behavior and taking on tasks and roles more traditionally assigned to women. Green believes that heterosexual partners could learn by observing how their lesbian and gay coupled friends share
housework, childcare, use softer communication of feelings in conflict situations, and more equally nurturing behaviors toward one another and their children.

“Our research found that the most successful couples demonstrate closeness and flexibility,” said Green. “We found high levels of both characteristics in 79 percent of lesbian couples, 56 percent of gay male couples, but in only 8 percent of heterosexual married couples. Clearly, the more egalitarian approach taken by same-sex couples is an advantage that could benefit straight couples too,” he concluded.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And About John Edwards ....

Just so people don't think I'm snubbing John Edwards by not mentioning him in the post below, here's a copy of a letter I sent to him last spring.

He never responded, BTW.

Dear Mr. Edwards,

I have read about some comments you made recently in New Hamphire about marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. The article quoted you as saying: "Civil unions? Yes. Partnership benefits? Yes," he said. "But it's a jump for me to get to gay marriage. I haven't yet got across that bridge." ... "I wish I knew the right answer"

I hope that is an accurate quote of your words.

I would like to suggest that perhaps you have not yet considered the right question and that perhaps the right question would help you find the "right answer."

First, a preliminary question. "Do all American citizens deserve equal treatment under the law?"
If your answer to the preliminary question is no, then there is no need to go on.

If your answer to the preliminary question is yes, then things get a little more complicated. Here we go.

Which of the three options mentioned in your quote offers genuine equal treatment, at least potentially, to all American citizens who wish to form some sort of legal contract of partnership?
Please keep in mind that the benefits and protections of marriage come from multiple levels of government. The most numerous and significant ones come from the federal level, 1,138 of them according to the latest summary by the GAO. This document, GAO report number GAO-04-353R entitled 'Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report', which was released on February 24, 2004 may be obtained from the United States General Accounting Office website. It is available at the following URL.

Some of the benefits and protections, considerably fewer, come from the state level. Others come from the county and municipal levels as well as from the private sector.

As you know, the federal Defense of Marriage Act currently prohibits any same sex marriage from receiving the 1,138 benefits and protections of marriage. If my recollection is correct, you are on record as opposing DOMA. Unfortunately, however, I think the reason you give is not a fully correct reason. As I recall, your reason has something to do with states regulating marriage. That "reason," which seems to be the Democratic Party line, is oversimplified and misleading. While it is true that each state regulates who can get married, none of the states provide the federal benefits and protections of marriage. They cannot do so. What I'm hearing from your recent comments is that even though you oppose DOMA, you are uncertain as to whether or not gay and lesbians Americans deserve full citizenship benefits.

For the sake of my question, however, lets just assume that DOMA does not exist or has been repealed.

Which of the options you note would provide equal treatment for all US citizens who wish to form some sort of legal contract of partnership?

Civil unions cannot give access to any of the benefits and protections of civil marriage. They require a separate set to be specified. If these civil unions are at a state level, they only apply within the single state that issues them. They are not portable and provide absolutely no protection to couples crossing a state line. More significantly, they cannot provide access to the most significant and numerous set of benefits and protections at the federal level. The first example that comes to mind is the fast-tracking of citizenship in international marriages. This is something completely outside the jurisdiction of the states.

Partnership benefits have exactly the same limitations as civil unions. The difference between civil union and partnership benefits is in name only.

A civil marriage contract is the only option capable of providing access to all the benefits and protections of civil marriage from all levels.

So then, if you truly believe that all American citizens should be given equal treatment under the law, hopefully the answer you have found to be elusive in the past is now within reach. I have taken you to the end of that bridge. Only you can take the final step required to complete crossing it.

Change? ... What Is Obama Talking About?

A couple of days ago I violated one of my hard-learned principles and got into a discussion about the presidential race with a friend who happens to be a big Obama fan as well as a huge Hillary hater. He was quite shocked when I told him I had no reason to trust Obama any more than I had reason to trust Hillary because, despite that fact that both of are trying to make me think otherwise, neither of them thinks I should receive equal treatment under the law.

Oh, says my friend, you really shouldn't be a one-issue voter.

So I asked, "What issue are you referring to? Is it the issue of property inheritance? Would it be the issue of unequal taxation? Maybe the issue that health insurance benefits are pre-tax deductions for some while they are taxed as income for others?" I could have gone on and on with well over 1000 of these issues, but he eventually got the point long before I even reached 10.

In the end, I'll vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination. They all smell a whole lot better than that bizarre bunch in the Republican race that seems more like National Lampoon's Race for the Nomination than a real-life run for a presidential nomination.

However, I certainly won't be an enthusiastic supporter of any candidate who thinks I am not entitled to all the same benefits and protections given to others by virtue of their US citizenship.

Then this morning I ran across an interesting
Huffington Post article written by Barney Frank. Apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't quite trust Barack Obama.

Among other things, Barney Frank says the following:

This brings me to my particular concern with Senator Obama's vehement disassociation of himself and those he seeks to represent from "the fights of the nineties." I am very proud of many of the fights I engaged in in the nineties, as well as the eighties and before. Senator Obama also bemoans the "same bitter partisanship" of that period and appears to me to be again somewhat critical of those of us who he believes to have been engaged in it.

I agree that it would have been better not to have had to fight over some of the issues that occupied us in the nineties. But there would have been only one way to avoid them -- and that would have been to give up. More importantly, the only way I can think of to avoid "refighting the same fights we had in the 1990's", to quote Senator Obama, is to let our opponents win these fights without a struggle.

It would have been nice in the nineties not to have had to fight to defend a woman's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and I would be very happy if that fight ended tomorrow. I was troubled when Newt Gingrich and his right wing band took over Congress after the election of 1994 and sought to put an end to programs to deal with continuing racial discrimination and the resulting inequality, and I am even more distressed that we have to continue to fight that battle against a Republican party largely opposed to all of these efforts -- consider the Bush Justice Department and its role in dealing with people's right to vote. As a gay man, additionally, I would have been delighted in the nineties if our conservative opponents had been willing to recognize our rights to be treated fairly under the law, and I would have saved a lot of time, as recently as this past year, if there was not continued strong right wing opposition to the "radical" position that people should not be denied jobs because of their fundamental nature, or that hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be treated less seriously than those based on racial or religious prejudice. These are three of the major fights in which I was engaged in the nineties, and I literally do not understand what Senator Obama means when he says that he does not want to keep fighting them. I know that he understands that those who were opposed to all three of those causes in which many of us deeply believe in the nineties continue their opposition, and I do not understand how we can avoid fighting those battles other than by conceding them, which I know he does not advocate.

In some cases, Senator Obama does not seem to remember what some of the fights of the nineties were. I agree that it would be a good thing to have the 2008 election be in part "about whether to...pass universal health care" but that in fact is one of the central fights we had in the nineties. The effort of many of us to pass a universal health care plan is precisely one of the battles of the nineties, and it seems to me one that we very much want to keep fighting. Again, the only alternative to fighting it is losing it by concession.

I don't always see eye to eye with Barney Frank, but this time I find myself wondering the same things about what exactly Barack Obama is talking about.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Perceptions of Christianity

I ran across two items in my early morning surfing today that struck me as having something in common. One of the items was on one of my favorite blogs, Father Jake Stops the World. The other is on AfterElton.com.

Father Jake wrote an article about some recent information about how young people view Christian churches.

My friend has echoed some of my own thoughts, which have been generated by a book I'm reading; unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity by David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, and Gabe Lyons, founder of the Fermi Project. Their research project involved interviewing "outsiders" (those who are outside the Christian faith) and young Christians, focusing on the 16 - 29 age group (identified as older "Mosaics" and younger "Busters"). The perception that they discovered of how younger generations view "Christians" is a real eye opener. Here's a few of the top descriptions from the "outsider" group:

Question: Here are some words or phrases that could be used to describe a religious faith. Please indicate if you think each of these phrases describes Christianity.

91% - Antihomosexual

87% - Judgmental

85% - Hypocritical

75% - Too involved in politics

Here's some of the responses to the same question from young adults who are church members:

80% - Antihomosexual

52% - Judgmental

47% - Hypocritical

50% - Too involved in politics

Father Jake ends his article with the following.

May our witness to the healing power of God's radically inclusive love continue to be a beacon of hope for those seeking a safe place where they will be embraced by grace. It is only in such settings, where our human inclinations to judge and condemn are set aside, that we all, "outsiders" and "insiders" together, can anticipate an encounter with the living God.

And then I came across a terrific article on AfterElton.com, Sketch Comedy's Greatest Gay Hits.

Sketch comedy shows have long mined current social issues for inspiration. In the 60s, Laugh-In and That Was The Week That Was regularly brought hippie culture and anti-establishment attitudes – progressive concepts for the time – directly into the living rooms of Middle America. When the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” debuted on Saturday Night Live in 1975, they continued that tradition and carried it through the next three decades, spawning a host of imitators. At its best, sketch comedy became mainstream television’s “town crier,” using humor to defuse otherwise controversial contemporary themes.

As gay issues became increasingly prominent in social discourse, sketch comedy shows began dealing with gay people and themes more frequently. In 1985, Saturday Night Live added its first openly gay cast member, Terry Sweeney, who spent a season impersonating female celebrities and playing the occasional gay character. When the Fox network debuted its Sunday night lineup with The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, one of Ullman’s recurring characters was Francesca, a teen being raised by her gay father and his boyfriend. Shortly after its debut in 1990, In Living Color introduced the flamboyant hosts of the “Men on…” skits, whose stereotyped characters generated laughter as well as debate as to their relative offensiveness.

Gay topics and characters are even more frequently seen today and, thanks to the popularity of Internet video, some of the more notable examples are readily available for viewing. Here we take a look at some of the highs and lows for gay visibility in sketch comedy, and examine whether, when it comes to the handling of gay themes, mainstream television comedy is laughing with us … or at us.

The article contains a number of videos. After reading Father Jake's article, one in particular struck me as perhaps the other side of Jake's coin. This is how gay people feel when attempting to dialogue with Christians, (of course with the exception of Father Jake and the good people who comment on his blog.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Is "Rock Solid" the New "Slam Dunk"?

I have been feeling extra apprehensive about what Dubya is cooking up for his visit to Israel this week. Apparently I'm not the only one.

From Greyhawk

Just a reminder:

About two weeks before deciding to invade Iraq, President Bush was told by CIA Director George Tenet there was a "slam dunk case" that dictator Saddam Hussein had unconventional weapons, according to a new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.

-- From

Now back to the present, where we find this:

ISRAELI security officials are to brief President George W Bush on their latest intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programme - and how it could be destroyed - when he begins a tour of the Middle East in Jerusalem this week.
Israeli intelligence is understood to agree that the project was halted around the time of America’s invasion of Iraq, but has “rock solid” information that it has since started up again.
-- From
Times Online

"Rock Solid" must be the Israeli term for "Slam Dunk" this year.

With two failing military engagements already on the books and just one short year left to his Presidency, it boggles the mind that George W. Bush -- the worst, most deceitful and most dangerous President in US history -- is still pushing to find a reason to justify a strike on Iran.

Or, at least, it would boggle the mind, if one hadn't realized for a long time now that Bush had always intended to strike both Iraq and Iran, well before 9/11 ever occurred.

If you're not familiar with what I think Greyhawk is referring to, be sure to read the "Statement of Principles" on the Project for a New American Century website. And be sure to check out the list of those who signed it.

And if that didn't leave you feeling chilled enough, take a moment to watch this video.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

L'Italia, li amiamo!

There is so much to love about Italy it is difficult to put in words what I like best of all, the history, the art, the food, the architecture, or the wonderfully warm and friendly people. It's an unbeatable mix. We've visited Italy a number of times in the past, and we're still in love with it, perhaps more so than ever. This time we divided our time between Rome and Florence, and it was our first time in Rome. We've been saving that one for a trip with a good block of time. A previous trip to Rome had been scheduled shortly after 9/11 but was cancelled due to all the uncertainty of air transportation. Florence is an old friend that keeps calling me back. (The photo is Florence's Via Calzaiuoli in its Christmas splendor.)

As I think more about it, I think perhaps it is the people who make Italy so magical. Since restaurants open late for dinner by American standards, we found a little bar near our Rome hotel that had happy hour with a wonderful assortment of goodies to munch with a glass of wine while waiting to go to dinner. The second day we went there, the owner greeted us with big handshakes as if we were old friends. And so it went with each place we went to more than once.

And while on the subject of food, I think the winner in the best thing we had to eat category was an exquisite risotto with artichokes in a Florence restaurant ... bravissimo! Oh wait ... there was that delicate pasta with porcini mushrooms topped with shavings of tartufo nero (black truffle) in a little place around the corner from our Rome hotel. Hmmm ... maybe that was the favorite ... well, you get the picture. The food is wonderful, and it's really quite difficult to find a bad meal.

I have to confess that we were at the door of Central Market when it opened early this morning to get some focaccia, Genoa salami, and aged pecorino cheese to try to duplicate our favorite pannini so easily found in all the little snack bars.

And on top of all the wonderful people and exquisite food, the sights of Rome and Florence are an unending feast for the eye and the soul.

L'Italia, li amiamo.