aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
NOLA & Katrina
There’s nothing I can add. So I have decided to go dark today. This will be my only post:
Now, for the last hour or so, I’ve been scanning all the relevant blogs and news outlets, and it does appear at least in the US that the reality of just how devastating and significant what has happened is sinking in. Before I go on, I want to emphasize that this is not some kind of “garden variety” natural disaster like the hurricanes (even some of the more devastating ones) that hit the US southeast every several years. What is happening is frankly unprecendeted, and will send shockwaves across the US and, potentially, the rest of the world for some time to come.
I’ve been scanning too. At first I thought it wasn’t so bad. I’m gratedful that so many people, including those I know, got out. But that 20% stayed or were stranded there is still astounding:
New Orleans as the world has known it will never exist again.
Simply put - and keep in mind, I’m only talking about New Orleans right now - a city of over half a million people is now entirely under 20 feet of water. And because all power, electricity, internet access is out and the entirety of New Orleans’s government and media have left the city, we really don’t know just how bad the human toll is at this point… The reason the death toll counts are so low at this point is only because it is impossible to get close enough to the scene to really know, let alone find those trapped. And again, keep in mind, this is only the toll in New Orleans, which actually escaped the center of the original storm.
I can’t sleep. I’m too upset by everything that’s happening - Americans are dying right now, and there’s nothing we can do.
What the President should do is declare New Orleans a total loss, start building refugee camps further inland, and evacuate as many people as possible… The fact that the evacuation plan was “get in your car and drive north” in a city where hundreds of thousands of people can’t afford automobiles should tell you something.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Looting v finding
Xeni jardin at Boing Boing, Black people loot, white people find?
The images were shot by different photographers, and captioned by different photo wire services. The Associated Press caption accompanying the image with a black person says he’s just finished “looting” a grocery store. The AFP/Getty Images caption describes the white couple “finding” bread and soda from a grocery store. No stores are open to sell these goods.
Perhaps there’s more factual substantiation behind each copywriter’s choice of words than we know, but the difference in tone suggests bias.
She’s got photos and links to both images and the comparison image.
Print a product to your desktop
Andrew Zolli is the guest in the ITConversations’ debut of Globeshakers with Tim Zak:
[My transcription at 21:42] There’s technological change in virtually every area, from material science, to energy, to robotics, all of them are going to play an important role in continuing to dematerialize the economy in many Western nations and continue the shift from a national manufacturing productive sector to an international globalized services sector where much of the manual labor of production is outsourced, not simply because it can be done better by automatic or artificial or robotic means but because it can only be done by those things.
The thing about automated manufacturing is not that a chip is made better by a robot but it’s that it can only be made by a robot. You can actually make a chip today by hand if you wanted to you’d have to build a robot to build it.
Zolli has been chief curator for Pop!Tech, an annual conference taking place in Camden, Maine in October:
[My transcription at 21:42] We’re going to have a fellow there named Neil Gershenfeld who runs MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. He’s currently working on personal desktop fabrication. Imagine a device about the size of a laser printer sitting on your desk, you hit a few strokes on your keyboard and an object is printed on your desktop instead of a document on a piece of paper.
Cool. Can’t wait!
Around here, cursing is frowned upon. In New York I cussed with the best of them. Even there I wondered why and thought that, for my own personal esthetic, I’d rather not. Here I hardly do.
Pupils are being allowed to swear at one Northamptonshire secondary school - as long as they limit their use of bad language to five times a lesson.
“Within each lesson the teacher will initially tolerate (although not condone) the use of the f-word (or derivatives) five times and these will be tallied on the board so all students can see the running score,” [assistant headmaster Richard White] wrote in the letter.
“Over this number the class will be spoken to by the teacher at the end of the lesson.”
All is not lost. Parents of children who do not swear in class will receive “praise postcards.”
When being right is wrong
I understand the urge to make fun of Intelligent Design, because, frankly, it’s laughable. And FSM follows in a long philosophical tradition of making a serious point--in this case that intelligent design is just as consistent with any deity, even a silly one, as it is with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity.
The problem is that phrasing the criticism this way is that it’s likely to alienate the people you’re trying to convince. I suspect that most people who believe in ID are honestly ignorant, not mendacious. Making fun of them probably isn’t the way change their minds. Worse yet, the FSMers aren’t just saying that the FSM is an equally good explanation as Genesis, they’ve also made up a new parody religion based on it, complete with Jesus-fish parody logos. Unsurprisingly, most people who believe in ID are Christians. I’m skeptical that openly mocking their religious beliefs is the best way to convince them of one’s point of view.
I agree with Eric but I’m uncomfortable even with his “honestly ignorant” characterization. Daniel Dennett, unintentionally I think, does a better job of explaining the ID phenomenon.
He concedes that evolution is “mind-boggling” and “seems to deny one of the best reasons we have for believing in God.” And he implicitly acknowledges that for the large majority of us evolution, like much of science, has to be taken on faith:
[I]magine how easy it would be for a determined band of naysayers to shake the world’s confidence in quantum physics - how weird it is! - or Einsteinian relativity. In spite of a century of instruction and popularization by physicists, few people ever really get their heads around the concepts involved. Most people eventually cobble together a justification for accepting the assurances of the experts: “Well, they pretty much agree with one another, and they claim that it is their understanding of these strange topics that allows them to harness atomic energy, and to make transistors and lasers, which certainly do work...”
Fortunately for physicists, there is no powerful motivation for such a band of mischief-makers to form. They don’t have to spend much time persuading people that quantum physics and Einsteinian relativity really have been established beyond all reasonable doubt.
I was at a terrific lecture by Eugenia Scott of the National Center for Science Education last winter that authoritatively proved that these Intelligent Design people are just bringing back a watered down Creationism.
At the end I thought, “that’s all well and good but we’re losing. Only 35% of the American public believes in evolution.” So I asked Ms. Scott, “What do you suggest we do to change that?”
She disputed my statistic - you might too - and she had some ideas but it seemed to me that her real take was that she’s right on the facts and that alone should be persuasive.
I don’t think so.
I’m reminded here of Jack Balkin’s list of progressivism’s defects:
They include elitism, paternalism, authoritarianism, naivete, excessive and misplaced respect for the “best and brightest,” isolation from the concerns of ordinary people, an inflated sense of superiority over ordinary people, disdain for popular values, fear of popular rule, confusion of factual and moral expertise, and meritocratic hubris.
It seems plain to me that the Right has learned it from those of us on the Left. They’ve successfully co-opted our rhetoric of protecting “controversial ideas” and our elevation of “debate” and “diversity” and “academic freedom” to create an effective argument that we can call illegitimate all we like, but majorities of the American public are buying into it.
They’re only asking that our notions of multicultural tolerance and acceptance of differences and moral relativism include them. How can it be, I imagine them wondering, that we can teach gay tolerance in schools but not what they just as deeply believe?
My answer is that it’s our turn to learn from them. The way to address their critique is not by proving them wrong or winning on points. It is by answering on their own terms. I think we have to talk about what we believe and why.
For example, the God I learned about put man on earth and set him free. Free to make mistakes. Free to grow. Free to be. In the words of John Haught, “to meander around, to experiment with various possibilities, to become [one’s] self in the presence of God… The idea that God is primarily a designer is entirely too stiff and dead and lifeless a concept to represent the biblical understanding of God.”
I think if we talk about belief and conviction and our own moral certitude, we can earn some respect. My views on abortion and the market economy and social justice and same sex marriage and pretty much any other topic you want to name are rooted in my morality and I’m glad to defend them on those grounds.
Now I’ve got to go. The Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyers is on Tavis Smiley…
Monday, August 29, 2005
Global warming & hurricanes
Thank God it wasn’t worse! But the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory ("engaged in comprehensive long lead-time research fundamental to NOAA’s mission") warns that it’s bound to get worse:
The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth’s climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although we cannot say at present whether more or fewer hurricane will occur in the future with global warming, the hurricanes that do occur near the end of the 21st century are expected to be stronger and have significantly more intense rainfall than under present day climate conditions. This expectation (Figure 1) is based on an anticipated enhancement of energy available to the storms due to higher tropical sea surface temperatures.
Which reminds me to mention… I wasn’t watching TV yesterday so I missed the media frenzy. What I did instead was read blogs; I got caught up in the blog frenzy. I have to say that much of it was as overwrought and hyperbolic as anything the MSM puts out, if not more so. We’ve learned from the masters.
Why’s the dog not barking?
Far from rallying support for Miller, today’s pitiable plea instead calls attention to how little support for Miller there actually isÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ even among the Times’ own op-ed columnists. Not one of them has written a single word about their incarcerated colleague during the entire month of August, a time when the questions about Miller’s actions have come to the fore. And even before then not one of them chose to devote an entire column to Judy’s plight. Indeed, Bob Herbert, Paul Krugman, Tom Friedman, David Brooks and John Tierney haven’t written a word about it. Maureen Down and Nick Kristof barely mentioned it in passing. And Frank Rich wrote three July columns on Plamegate without once offering even a full sentence to her defense.
It’s the Times version of Sherlock Holmes’ curious incident of the dog that didn’t bark in the night.
Only Bill Safire, by then a former Times columnist, chose to devote a whole column to Judy (on July 29). And Safire is an unabashed Miller supporter. At a recent lunch thrown for him by Mort Zuckerman in his East Hampton home, Safire offered a toast to Miller “because she’s in jail and we’re not”. According to four of the guests, the toast left them and many others at the gathering scratching their heads. As one of them put it: “why the hell should I be in jail?”.
Same sex marriage prospects in MA
Two local lawmakers are rethinking their support for a state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage but allow civil unions, bolstering predictions the measure won’t secure a majority vote in next month’s Constitutional Convention.
State Reps. James Vallee and Stephen LeDuc said they are talking to gay marriage supporters and opponents about whether to back the amendment during the upcoming second round of voting.
“I have been re-evaluating the whole circumstance, and I am keeping an open mind,” said LeDuc, D-Marlborough. “I’m reaching out to people on both sides of the issue.”
Vallee, D-Franklin, said “there hasn’t been any adverse affect on society” since gay marriages started in the state in May 2004, two months after the amendment passed the first time.
Nathan Newman says that’s how the system should work:
While the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, it would only take a majority of the legislature followed by a vote by a majority of the population to reverse that decision.
To the frustration of the proponents of banning gay marriage, the legislature doesn’t appear to have the votes to overturn the court decision.
The legislature probably wouldn’t have had the political will to pass gay marriage on it own, but with the court’s moral argument about what equal protection means, they now have the political courage to uphold it. In some ways, this is a good model for what the judicial role should be in a democratic society and at the federal level. Courts would make clear moral statements of what rights should be under the Constitution, with legislators free to accept or reject that judicial viewpoint.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Events set in motion will run their course
So the storm will hurt New Orleans--the question is how bad? I have family and friends there, and New Orleans is a possible next place for us to live, so I pay attention. I remember reading stories like this one, that Kevin Drum points to, last year when Ivan came around:
A direct hit from a powerful hurricane on New Orleans could furnish perhaps the largest natural catastrophe ever experienced on U.S. soil. Some estimates suggest that well over 25,000 non-evacuees could die. Many more would be stranded, and successful evacuees would have nowhere to return to. Damages could run as high as $100 billion.
Last month, on the topic of global warming, I pointed to an Energy Bulletin post entitled In all likelihood, events are now set to run their course a paper on climate change (link since removed) from the London School of Economics:
[T]he paper argues that human experience of other difficult “long wave” threats (e.g. HIV/AIDS) reveals a broadly analogous sequence of reactions. In short: (i) scientific understanding advances rapidly, but (ii) avoidance, denial, and reproach characterize the overall societal response, therefore, (iii) there is relatively little behavioral change, until (iv) evidence of damage becomes plain.
I wish the people of New Orleans well, but more I wish that our civilization could come up with a political system capable of addressing known long-term threats, whether AIDS, global warming or cities below sea level.
UPDATE: This is terrifying. I can only hope it’s wrong.
LATER: Checking the links again, the “Short term forcast” and “Urgent weaather message” are gone. Maybe that’s good news.
On founding fathers & Iraq
Frank Rich, in a column today with many important things to say, has this brief passage which will afford me the opportunity (below) to get back to something I meant to point to a couple weeks ago:
Before anyone dare say Vietnam, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drag in the historian David McCullough and liken 2005 in Iraq to 1776 in America - and, by implication, the original George W. to ours. Before you know it, Ahmad Chalabi will be rehabilitated as Ben Franklin.
Fred Kaplan writing in Slate on Bush’s lousy analogy, after noting that if it took our forefathers eleven years to come up with a constitution (and that “the American colonies were as well-fit for a democratic union as any society in human history"), wonders shouldn’t we expect it might take even longer in Iraq?
Among other things, he observes:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ A major dispute at both constitutional conventions was how to divide power between the central government and the regional provinces. But in the American case, the provinces-i.e., states-were well-established political units, with governors, statutes, and citizens who identified themselves as, say, New Yorkers or Virginians. There are no comparable authorities, structures, or-in any meaningful sense-constituents in Iraq’s regions (except, to some degree, in the Kurdish territories, and many people there want simply to secede).
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ America’s Founding Fathers shared the crucible of having fought in the Revolutionary War for the common cause of independence from England. This bond helped overcome their many differences. Iraq’s new leaders did not fight in their war of liberation from Saddam Hussein. It would be as if France had not merely assisted the American colonists but also fought all the battles on the ground, occupied our territory afterward, installed our first leaders, composed the Articles of Confederation, and organized the Constitutional Convention. The atmosphere in Philadelphia, as well as the resulting document and the resulting country, would have been very different.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ America had a natural first president in George Washington, the commanding general and unblemished hero of the Revolutionary War. Amid the climate of political brawls and duels that make current tabloid fare seem tame, Washington was the one figure who could not be criticized, whose decisions were accepted by all. Had Washington rejected politics and retired to his estate, the union-and the Constitution that enshrined it-would have fallen apart. Perhaps if Ahmad Chalabi-the Pentagon’s handpicked Washington wannabe-had led a few brigades into Baghdad, his prospects would have brightened.
Good points don’t you think? The emphasis was obviously mine; the whole article is worth reading.
UPDATE Billmon has more: “The framers of the U.S. constitution expelled an occupying army. The founders of the New Iraq are guarded by one.”
Chickenhawks and me
While reading, courtesy of Dave’s slow news day, about Mitt Romney’s upset at being asked whether he’d encouraged his own sons to serve in Iraq and noting that neither he nor any of his five sons had ever served, it occurred to me that, of course, I haven’t either.
The “of course” comes because I came of age in the anti-Viet Nam War era but it might just as well come because I was an out gay man at age 18. I’m about to turn 51 now and I think Gays in the Military should be a top issue among gay rights activists, but bottom line is I couldn’t enlist even if I wanted to, which you might think allows me an all too comfortable perch from which to pontificate.
Thus, it’s worth telling that in the aftermath of 9/11, which shook me to my core and had far-reaching consequences on my life’s direction, I wanted to serve. I want to live my belief in civic duty and give back as much as I can. I also believed, still do, the rhetoric about being in a new world, awakened by the Trade Center attack to the reality of the changed nature of war. We have to think outside the box, throw away all preconceived notions and learn how to respond to this new threat.
So, I thought, in the spirit of Bletchley Park and Alan Turing, the gay mathematician who toiled there and died the year I was born, that at my late age I would enlist in this new war effort. My proven technology skills, I thought, ought to be of value somewhere in government.
I applied to all kinds of military agencies, and the FBI, and the CIA, and the House of Representatives and I’m not sure what all else, believing that my unconventional profile for such a job would bring a needed perspective that might even be welcome in these dangerous times. Political connections got me interviewed at the House of Representatives (but not the job).
That was it. Nothing else. Not-so-polite letters months later telling me that I was not being considered. Thinking back I see that the application process itself is indicative of why no new day is dawning.
I’m now inside the academic world, another closed insular system that, like government, would benefit from allowing experienced outsiders in. I got in that one and I think now that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
But my experience trying to get into government leaves me believing that they’re decidedly not where they need to be. To me from here it looks like business as usual; political posturing to rhetorically address a threat that is real and dangerous and unyielding and demands something more.
I believe the terrorist threat is still out there. And coming here. I just don’t believe we’re doing near what we need to address it.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
[Eric E. Schmidt, the chairman and chief executive of Google] or his proxy apparently was angered by a journalist who did nothing more than use for policy discussion Mr. Schmidt’s own service to gather publicly available material. Mr. Schmidt’s home address comes from a Federal Election Commission database, which lists this and other details about donors who contribute more than $200 in a year to a candidate. If CNET’s mention of the readily available information discomfited Mr. Schmidt, it should not have. Two months previously, when Google was host of a briefing for members of the news media, it was Mr. Schmidt who had explained his company’s ambitions so boldly: “When we talk about organizing all of the world’s information, we mean all.”
Providing access to all information increasingly puts Google in the same defensive position as CNET, repeating the same refrain: This stuff is already out there. Two Dutch politicians created a stir this month when they formally asked the Dutch government to investigate the possibility that Google Earth, which provides aerial views of most everywhere, including the Hague and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, could be used by terrorists. But those images, Google countered, are already available from commercial sources. Google said last week that it had “proactively” reached out to the United States Defense Department to see if it had security concerns, adding that the department had not registered any to date.
More access to information, thanks to improved search-engine indexing, is better than less. But increased vulnerability comes with the package, as the Dutch and Mr. Schmidt have found.
Daniel Dennett on “teach the controversy”
[T]he proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist’s work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a “controversy” to teach.
Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. “Smith’s work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat,” you say, misrepresenting Smith’s work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: “See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms.” And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.
Logan Clements domain
When I first heard about Logan Clements idea to build The Lost Liberty Hotel and Just Desserts Cafe on property that currently serves as the residence of Justice David H. Souter I thought it a terrific political statement and that nothing further would come of it.
Last week Clements flew across the country to visit Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s hometown of Weare, NH:
But the California man who wants to seize Souter’s land through eminent domain to build a hotel didn’t knock on the judge’s front door when he stopped by Saturday afternoon.
“I don’t want to go on his property,” said Clements, who is behind the push to punish Souter for being one of five justices behind a ruling that supports government power to seize private property. The June decision allowed the city of New London, Conn., to take several older homes, so a private developer could build a hotel and convention center, office space, and condominiums. “I just don’t care to, but if he’d like to come out, I’d like to talk to him,” said Clements.
Souter, who neighbors said was home, didn’t come to the door.
Instead, Clements left gifts for Souter - he draped a T-shirt across the justice’s mailbox and propped a copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” behind it. The book, which promotes a philosophy of free will capitalism, is Clements’ inspiration.
“I think it needs a coat of paint,” he said of Souter’s peeling house.
Clements also was in town for a private strategy session with three local supporters, and to promote his plan to townspeople at Weare’s old Town Hall on Saturday. He and his girlfriend, Heidi Xu, had hoped to recoup travel costs by selling $25 “Lost Liberty Hotel” T-shirts.
But only about half-a-dozen people showed up.
Last night he was on Nightline, in a story that made his effort look more possible than the article quoted above. Nightline noted, for example, that a University of New Hampshire poll found “93% of the state’s residents shared Clements outrage.”
In fairness, it did interview a good number of skeptical folks, along with the five citizens of Weare who have formed a committee in favor of taking Souter’s land.
I’m not sure I’d like or agree with Clements on many things, but I think this a brilliant political act, and I wish him well with it.
Win an iPod Shuffle
Freeway Blogger says, “When you put a sign on the freeway people will read it until someone takes it down. Depending on its size, content and placement it can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people.” And there are instructions on how to do it. “1) Put paint on cardboard, 2) Put cardboard on freeway, 3) Repeat.”
Best is the examples. My favorites? “Rumsfailed” and “Can you feel a draft?”
Create signs relating to Operation Yellow Elephant’s mission to expose the hypocrisy of hawkish College Republicans and other young conservatives who are too cowardly to fight in the war they demanded. Post these signs near roadways and pedestrian pathways on or near college campuses. Photograph your work and send it to me. I’ll post them here. In early October, the OYE Contributing Writers and the Freeway Blogger will pick a winner.
Friday, August 26, 2005
The Religious Right is reachable
In a post wishing good luck to Neil G. Giuliano, former four-term Republican mayor (1994-2004) of Tempe, AZ and the new President of GLAAD, Steve Miller criticized the organization for having “spent the last decade not constructively engaging the religious right.”
That led to this later post responding to a comment:
In our mailbag it’s suggested that the religious right is beyond the pale of debate because “bigots [aren’t] capable of dialogue.” I respond that “to refuse to confront the ideas of your opponents is a great, big cop-out,” and that “The religious right is not some splinter, Nazi sect; millions of hard-working, salt-of-the-Earth Americans find spiritual solace in its rituals and worldview. I don’t believe we should simply give up on trying to reach them (the religious right’s adherents, if not its leadership).”
There might be a few adherents out on the fringes of the religious right that might be reachable. They might be one experience of knowing a gay person, or having a gay relative, away from softening their positions. Those religious right adherents might be reachable on a one-to-one basis, such as when gay & lesbian relatives, acquaintances, and co-workers come out. But that’s about all I can see.
Frankly, I’m at a loss as to how to constructively engage the rest of the relgious right’s footsoldiers. Like I said before, they seem to want a world in which we don’t exist. Trying to engage with true believers on the right, with that as a starting point, seems like a collosal waste of time, energy and resources that might be better spent elsewhere.
I’m sure we can each point to the other side’s extremists to prove that we are right in stewing in our own little pot with our like-minded peers but I think that makes us just like them. Only justified in our view. Where does that get us?
My goal is, yes, to reach those “few adherents...that might be reachable” who are “softening their positions” and I’m glad to reach them “on a one-to-one basis.”
To do that I will likely be less strident and more respectful of their positions, not lump them into a stereotype, and consider their opinion. Then they might mine.
Jerry Falwell reminds me of my father, a smart man who sometimes says dumb things. And my mother, a good woman who believes some things I think laughable.
I can scorn them and laugh at them or I can try to change them and make them see my way. Or I can accept them and relate to them as they are and enjoy them in every way I can.
We’re a 50/50 country. I don’t have to change that many minds. But I have to live with all of them. I choose to live in mutual respect and tolerance.
Falwell softens on gay rights
Jerry Falwell may still believe we choose to be gay (remember Chris Matthews asking him on Hardball, ”How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?”) but he has apparently come around to believing we deserve basic human rights. Today
Southern Voice reports on his August 5 appearance on MSNBC’s “The Situation with Tucker Carlson:Ã¢â‚¬Â�
“I may not agree with the lifestyle,” Falwell said. “But that has nothing to do with the civil rights of thatÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ part of our constituency.
“Judge Roberts would probably have been not a good very good lawyer if he had not been willing, when asked by his partners in the law firm to assist in guaranteeing the civil rights of employment and housing to any and all Americans.”
When Carlson countered that conservatives, “are always arguing against ‘special rights’ for gays,” Falwell said that equal access to housing and employment are basic rights, not special rights.
“Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or conservative value,” Falwell went on to say. “It’s an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on.”
Was Soulforce a factor in the shift? Soulforce has done extensive outreach to Falwell:
Soulforce was founded by Mel White, a gay man who had worked closely with Falwell (even ghostwriting his autobiography) and his partner Gary Nixon.
White and Nixon founded Soulforce and moved into a rented house across the street from Falwell’s church in 2001, after they realized that Falwell was not going to change his views and accept gays without long-term persuasion.
“I think last month when he dealt with his heart condition, he got closer to his maker,” Nixon said. “And I think he knows in his heart that what he was doing is wrong.”
Gay billboards in GA
Chuck Bowen, Georgia Equality executive director, will officially announce the addition of nearly three dozen additional billboards during the gay political group’s “Evening for Equality” benefit on Aug. 27.
“We’ll be placing a total of 34 ads on billboards throughout the state beginning Oct. 1,” Bowen said. “And this time we’ll be using real, live gay Georgians in the ads.”
Gates and Discovery
I read in the Times, and was surprised, that the Gates Foundation gave millions of dollars to the Cascadia Project at the Discovery Institute. At the time, and subsequently, I withheld judgment. Maybe there was a good explanation.
Today Salon puts it forward and I’m unconvinced. Instead there are even more connections than I imagined:
The Gates Foundation’s grants to Discovery are not the only connection Microsoft has to the institute. Mark Ryland, who heads the institute’s Washington office, is a former Microsoft executive, and a Microsoft employee named Michael Martin is a current member of Discovery’s board. A spokeswoman for Microsoft says that Martin served on the board in his personal capacity, not as a representative of the company. In an e-mail, Keith Pennock, the program administrator of Discovery’s Center for Science and Culture (which runs its intelligent design work), concurs. “Mr. Martin is a member of the Discovery Board in his individual capacity and does not represent the Microsoft Corporation. Does Microsoft support Discovery’s work on intelligent design? No.”
Kennock ends his e-mail to Salon with criticism over the inquiry into the groups that finance Discovery’s work. “Finally, I have been asked to advise you that it is unseemly for people who dislike one program at a think tank (or a university—or an on-line magazine, for that matter) to try to pressure funders of other programs there,” he writes. “It is illiberal and contrary to the spirit of free speech.”
As I understand free speech it is precisely about a society informed through a multiplicity of viewpoints. They have theirs, you have yours, I have mine. Mine is that it is a mistake to fund a project of an organization that is so clearly anti-science.
They can have and express their views, but I don’t think it is illiberal to call on a funder to look at the totality of an organization’s mission and work when considering grants. I hope the Gates Institute reconsiders.
Even with insurance my deductible and co-pays for routine medical procedures so far this year have cost me thousands of dollars. What was not routine, and cost another couple thousand in deductibles and co-pays and met maximums, was my dental needs.
On vacation a tooth cracked; that called for a crown. Later, another cracked, this one requiring a root canal. I felt lucky; they were concerned the crack went to the root which would have required pulling the tooth and an implant.
That would have cost more thousands of dollars. There are ways around the implant, more expensive in the long run because an implant is permanent, other alternatives are not.
Malcolm Gladwell begins his New Yorker article on the bad idea behind our failed health-care system with a graphic description of tooth decay, then follows up with these anecdotes from ”Uninsured America:”
Gina, a hairdresser in Idaho, whose husband worked as a freight manager at a chain store, had “a peculiar mannerism of keeping her mouth closed even when speaking.” It turned out that she hadn’t been able to afford dental care for three years, and one of her front teeth was rotting. Daniel, a construction worker, pulled out his bad teeth with pliers. Then, there was Loretta, who worked nights at a university research center in Mississippi, and was missing most of her teeth. “They’ll break off after a while, and then you just grab a hold of them, and they work their way out,” she explained to Sered and Fernandopulle. “It hurts so bad, because the tooth aches. Then it’s a relief just to get it out of there. The hole closes up itself anyway. So it’s so much better.”
People without health insurance have bad teeth because, if you’re paying for everything out of your own pocket, going to the dentist for a checkup seems like a luxury. It isn’t, of course. The loss of teeth makes eating fresh fruits and vegetables difficult, and a diet heavy in soft, processed foods exacerbates more serious health problems, like diabetes. The pain of tooth decay leads many people to use alcohol as a salve. And those struggling to get ahead in the job market quickly find that the unsightliness of bad teeth, and the self-consciousness that results, can become a major barrier. If your teeth are bad, you’re not going to get a job as a receptionist, say, or a cashier. You’re going to be put in the back somewhere, far from the public eye. What Loretta, Gina, and Daniel understand, the two authors tell us, is that bad teeth have come to be seen as a marker of “poor parenting, low educational achievement and slow or faulty intellectual development.” They are an outward marker of caste. “Almost every time we asked interviewees what their first priority would be if the president established universal health coverage tomorrow,” Sered and Fernandopulle write, “the immediate answer was ‘my teeth.’ ”
My brother and his wife both have visibly rotting teeth and holes were other teeth once were. They also believe that America has the best healthcare system in the world.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Why does America love its health care system?
Malcolm quantifies the mystery:
One of the great mysteries of political life in the United States is why Americans are so devoted to their health-care system. Six times in the past century - during the First World War, during the Depression, during the Truman and Johnson Administrations, in the Senate in the nineteen-seventies, and during the Clinton years - efforts have been made to introduce some kind of universal health insurance, and each time the efforts have been rejected. Instead, the United States has opted for a makeshift system of increasing complexity and dysfunction. Americans spend $5,267 per capita on health care every year, almost two and half times the industrialized world’s median of $2,193; the extra spending comes to hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
What does that extra spending buy us? Americans have fewer doctors per capita than most Western countries. We go to the doctor less than people in other Western countries. We get admitted to the hospital less frequently than people in other Western countries. We are less satisfied with our health care than our counterparts in other countries. American life expectancy is lower than the Western average. Childhood-immunization rates in the United States are lower than average. Infant-mortality rates are in the nineteenth percentile of industrialized nations. Doctors here perform more high-end medical procedures, such as coronary angioplasties, than in other countries, but most of the wealthier Western countries have more CT scanners than the United States does, and Switzerland, Japan, Austria, and Finland all have more MRI machines per capita.
Nor is our system more efficient. The United States spends more than a thousand dollars per capita per year - or close to four hundred billion dollars - on health-care-related paperwork and administration, whereas Canada, for example, spends only about three hundred dollars per capita. And, of course, every other country in the industrialized world insures all its citizens; despite those extra hundreds of billions of dollars we spend each year, we leave forty-five million people without any insurance.
He then suggests that policy makers have bought into the “Moral Hazard” argument, that universal insurance would act as an incentive to get unnecessary health care, leading to inefficient allocation and driving costs up.
Malcolm trashes that argument pretty effectively, as he does the President’s Heath Savings Account proposal, concluding:
Health Savings Accounts are not a variant of universal health care. In their governing assumptions, they are the antithesis of universal health care… In the rest of the industrialized world, it is assumed that the more equally and widely the burdens of illness are shared, the better off the population as a whole is likely to be. The reason the United States has forty-five million people without coverage is that its health-care policy is in the hands of people who disagree, and who regard health insurance not as the solution but as the problem.
The poor are sick
Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker this week:
The U. S. health-care system, according to “Uninsured in America,” has created a group of people who increasingly look different from others and suffer in ways that others do not. The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. Half of the uninsured owe money to hospitals, and a third are being pursued by collection agencies. Children without health insurance are less likely to receive medical attention for serious injuries, for recurrent ear infections, or for asthma. Lung-cancer patients without insurance are less likely to receive surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. Heart-attack victims without health insurance are less likely to receive angioplasty. People with pneumonia who don’t have health insurance are less likely to receive X rays or consultations. The death rate in any given year for someone without health insurance is twenty-five per cent higher than for someone with insurance. Because the uninsured are sicker than the rest of us, they can’t get better jobs, and because they can’t get better jobs they can’t afford health insurance, and because they can’t afford health insurance they get even sicker.
Buying a flat-panel TV
While we did our floors, we left the TV out on the porch. Now we need a new one. I want a flat one:
With prices dropping on plasmas and LCDs, now is as good a time as any to finally upgrade your big old CRT and mount something sleek on the wall but of course, the longer you wait the more TV you’ll get for a cheaper price. Also worth noting is that HDTV content still feels like it is lagging behind the adoption of HDTV sets—you’ll have a few over-the-air options if you are near a major city, but otherwise cable and satellite HD offerings are still somewhat new and expanding.
PCWorld has a How To Buy Guide. My complications: no Hi Def in my area, my TiVo is not HD equipped, a general sense that it’s just a skooch too early to buy and there’s no real interim step.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I was just 12 years old. My family and I were on vacation in Virginia. My dad and I were watching television in our motel room. Jerry Falwell’s “Old Time Gospel Hour” was on. Reverend Falwell looked into the camera and, preaching against gay people, said, “Even animals don’t do that.”
That was the first time in my life that I ever felt unworthy of the love of God.
Click here to continue to fallwell.com to see why
Rev. Falwell is completely wrong about
people who are gay or lesbian . . .
Jerry Falwell’s sensibilities were injured by a site calling itself www.fallwell.com. The site clearly said that it had nothing to do with Falwell, and was critical of Falwell’s views—it also received only 200 hits a day.
After a district court found that the name was infringing Falwell’s trademark rights, and ordered the site to transfer its name to Rev. Falwell, the site owner bravely appealed. Today the Fourth Circuit acted with enormous sense, and issued an important opinion [pdf] striking down Rev. Falwell’s claims.
A sweet victory. On so many levels.
A liar too
As if Pat Robertson’s call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez wasn’t enough, now he’s a documented liar too:
“I didn’t say assassination. I said our special forces should take him out. ‘Take him out’ can be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted.”