aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Time for change
Here, at our local acknowledgement of the second anniversary of the war, Jen found the event lacking.
When I asked friends on the day before if they were planning to attend, the reaction ranged from tepid ("what’s their position on the war going to be?") to hostile ("It’s a vigil. Prayer. No, I’m not going.")
I argued that any gesture on the part of liberals here should be supported, that it would be good to get press coverage and let our Red neighbors know that we are here, out and proud, and that there is an important legacy of the religious left that should be revived and built on.
Those friends didn’t buy; they were someplace else on Sunday night. Evidently the local newspaper was too; no story ran Monday.
When was the last time that an issue which was supported by a national majority had protests that were so utterly ineffective? We need to wake up and realize that the way we are protesting is part of the problem.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
The Tyranny of Choice
Virginia Postrel (who’s got the best looking blog I’ve yet to come across), has a piece in Forbes on a subject my friends will tell you I’ve been ranting on about for years and years: Choice. Virginia says: I’m Pro Choice.
Well me too. (And in more ways than one, by the way.)
Too much choice may cause regret, but no choice is worse. Subjects who ate a chocolate selected by the experimenter, rather than the one they’d picked, were much less satisfied.
The topic is Barry Schwartz, who wrote the book The Paradox of Choice. Published last year, I’ve been marginally aware of it and am inclined to believe its conclusion: the more choice the more unhappiness.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Raise taxes!Raise taxes!
Although it is politically taboo today, there was a time when government didn’t flinch from raising taxes, just so long as there was a legitimate need to finance new spending. This would seem to be just such an occasion, thanks to three increasingly urgent claims on federal money: protecting Americans from terrorists, providing the aging population with retirement benefits, and patching up (or replacing) the employer-based health insurance system. These are all vital public needs that only the government is in a position to meet, either because they require collective, coordinated action (like maintaining an army) or because they provide a service that the free market won’t (like giving the elderly health insurance)…The relative U.S. tax burden--measured, again, as a percentage of the overall economy--is the lowest in the developed world. And, while high taxes in Europe have sometimes choked economies there, there is an enormous middle ground between the United States, where taxes are 25 percent of gross domestic product, and Sweden, where taxes are 50 percent of gross domestic product. (Besides, Sweden’s economy has actually been performing pretty well lately.)
It was entertaining to see Dobson look foolish and become the butt of jokes because many of us more or less assumed their complaints were too absurd to be taken seriously. But while we were laughing, Dobson’s supporters were keeping the pressure on - and they got everything they wanted. As a result, the tolerance video makes literally no effort to extend those lessons to kids of gay families or gay kids themselves.
From Focus on the Family:
A public school curriculum tied to the much-publicized “We Are Family” video featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and other children’s characters contains no overt references to homosexuality - quite a change from what was reported to be in earlier versions of the document.
It appears the teachers guide produced in partnership with the maker of the video, the We Are Family Foundation, was cleaned up after the media reports earlier this year about the group’s ties to homosexual advocacy groups.
What’s actually cause for concern is that Dobson and his group are still kvetching after winning a fight many of us thought they lost weeks ago.
We’ve got to learn how to fight!
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
How’d she find me?
Read your wed site [a Freudian sic] - pretty nice. The pictures very good. But, I must tell you that the word before has an e on the end. That is the only correction I noticed. Otherwise, good job. Why don’t you think about writing a book? I think you would be good.
Hm. Maybe. If Wonkette can do it...
Monday, March 14, 2005
David Ewing Duncan, who reported the first piece, has an article on the same topic, Implanting Hope, on TechnologyReview.com. Wired has the Mind Control story too. The brain-computer interface in the story is the BrainGate Neural Interface System developed by Dr. John Donoghue of Cyberkinetics, Inc.
I still don’t know which I’d prefer, to port my brain over to the Web, or have enough augmentation that I become more machine than man. Either is a brave new evolutionary frontier that suits me just fine.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
I hadn’t heard about David Horowitz’s scary “Academic Bill of Rights” until reading a Media Matters piece about a made up story he’s using to flack it that’s been picked up and repeated in the mainstream media.
Over the past two months, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee have also started considering bills that would codify Horowitz’s ideas by, say, not allowing students to be punished with a bad grade for their views. Georgia’s senate passed a similar nonbinding resolution last year [B mine], while Colorado’s version was withdrawn after state-university administrators signed a pledge to ensure that “political diversity is explicitly recognized and protected.”
So Georgia’s already in this story.
The [Utah] senators were worried about “the drift of the campus,” says UVSC [Utah Valley State College] president Bill Sederburg, who fielded complaints from them about an Oct. 20 campus speech by Michael Moore, a student production of The Vagina Monologues and a course on queer theory in literature. “The legislators are saying ‘We don’t want the college to go too far and lose touch with the community.’ But we have an obligation to protect academic freedom.”
We have a queer theory course here and the theater department did a production of The Vagina Monologues just last week. I guess we’re lucky Michael Moore has never heard of us and won’t be speaking here anytime soon.
For those on the right, true freedom requires more diversity--which, to them, means more conservatives in faculty ranks. “If the system were fair,” says Larry Mumper, sponsor of the Ohio bill, “Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity would be tenured professors somewhere.”
Michael “Are you kiddine me?” BÃƒÂ©rubÃƒÂ© imagines it were so: Professors Limbaugh and Hannity chair their weekly committee meetings and hold office hours…
Meanwhile, here’s tonight’s lineup on the Renard News Channel:
7 pm The BÃƒÂ©rubÃƒÂ© Factor
8 pm “Informed CommentÃ¢â‚¬Â� with Juan Cole
9 pm “Phun with Pharyngula” with P. Z. Myers
10 pm “Scribbling Woman” with Miriam Jones
11 pm “Preposterous Universe” with Sean Carroll
Friday, March 11, 2005
Rosie & Wil have blogs
The New York Times had two separate celebrity blog stories on the front page of the Arts section yesterday. This one announces Rosie O’Donnell has a blog, formerlyROSIE. And this one announces Wil Wheaton has a blog, Wil Wheaton dot net.
Oh.My. God. The New York Times. And it’s incredible.
In 1000 words John Schwartz captures and communicates who I am, what I am, where I am, and (most importantly) why I am. I always hope that reporters will understand me, but John grokked me.
I’ve added him to my blogroll.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Racism, Rehnquist & gay marriage
Jeffrey Rosen has a terrific profile of William Rehnquist (Rehnquist the Great? Even liberals may come to regard William Rehnquist as one of the most successful chief justices of the century) in the April Atlantic, unfortunately available by subscription only. Rehnquist was appointed to the court at the moment of my political awakening, newly liberated by the automobile and the anti-war movement (in Harrisburg, PA with the Berrigan brothers) at the age of 16 in 1971. When Rehnquist warned, in 1969, of “the danger posed by the new barbarians” I myself was but a budding barbarian.
Later Bob Woodward’s flattering portrait in The Brethren softened me somewhat so that by the time he was named Chief Justice, I was more forgiving. But still, there was this:
During his clerkship, which began in 1952, Rehnquist wrote two highly controversial memos to [Supreme Court Justice Robert] Jackson that would provoke firestorms during his own confirmation hearings, in 1971 and 1986. In the memos Rehnquist seemed to urge Jackson to dissent in two historic civil-rights cases: Brown v. Board of Education, which would strike down school segregation, and Terry v. Adams, which would block efforts to exclude blacks from the pre-primary selection of Texas Democrats. Rehnquist claimed during the hearings that he was expressing these views at Jackson’s request-an assertion disputed by Jackson’s secretary. Several legal scholars believe that Rehnquist probably lied in denying that the views were his.
I’m inclined to believe he lied. I’ve mellowed enough now that I don’t even hold it against him. Those who held views that from our vantage point today are unacceptable, even “barbaric”, are not the problem. It’s those who even today hold those views that I find frightening. That’s not Rehnquist:
Rehnquist ultimately embraced the Warren Court’s Brown decision, and after he joined the Court he made no attempt to dismantle the civil-rights revolution, as political opponents feared he would. His change of position reflected not only his reverence for the Court as an institution but also his sense that once a majority has spoken, the decision has a legal force that must be obeyed.
A reasonable person could wonder, after reading Rosen’s piece, would today’s crop of conservative justices have the same respect for the law and reverence for the institution?
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Lower the drinking age
Morning Edition had a great story this morning on a Maine college that’s trying to instill healthy drinking habits in its drinking age students by allowing those who are over 21 to drink wine and beer with dinner in campus dining halls. I’m all for it. Every college knows the binge drinker/teetotaler dichotomy; there the idea is to model healthy drinking behavior.
That sent me back looking for this September 2004 NYTimes Op Ed piece by John M. McCardell Jr., president emeritus of Middlebury College. He wrote the piece upon retirement, when, as “a less vulnerable member of the faculty once more, I dare to unburden myself of a few observations.”
To lawmakers: the 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law. It is astonishing that college students have thus far acquiesced in so egregious an abridgment of the age of majority. Unfortunately, this acquiescence has taken the form of binge drinking. Campuses have become, depending on the enthusiasm of local law enforcement, either arms of the law or havens from the law.
Neither state is desirable. State legislators, many of whom will admit the law is bad, are held hostage by the denial of federal highway funds if they reduce the drinking age. Our latter-day prohibitionists have driven drinking behind closed doors and underground. This is the hard lesson of prohibition that each generation must relearn. No college president will say that drinking has become less of a problem in the years since the age was raised. Would we expect a student who has been denied access to oil paint to graduate with an ability to paint a portrait in oil? Colleges should be given the chance to educate students, who in all other respects are adults, in the appropriate use of alcohol, within campus boundaries and out in the open.
And please - hold your fire about drunken driving. I am a charter member of Presidents Against Drunk Driving. This has nothing to do with drunken driving. If it did, we’d raise the driving age to 21. That would surely solve the problem.
I agree with his observations on tenure and student/faculty ratios too!
Monday, February 28, 2005
More on ‘Outing’
David Corn is no friend of “Jeff Gannon.” He has, however, written the definitive position piece on the topic, at least so far as two popular conservative bloggers are concerned. (One gay, the other one not.) Thus I feel compelled to return to the topic I had laid to rest a couple weeks back.
Corn tells us that because “Jeff Gannon” was hardly a flame thrower, he’s no hypocrite:
Gannon/Guckert clearly was writing for a conservative audience. But he was hardly a flame-thrower on gay issues. His observation about Kerry was clumsy but not homophobic. Sure, he worked for an organization that supported an administration and party opposed to gay rights, and he was a Bush-backer. But does that automatically qualify him for outing?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! The hypocrisy here is not in the product he puts out but in the fact that he works for an anti-gay organization and in favor of the anti-gay policies of an anti-gay administration. If he can keep it a secret, fine by me. But if I find out, it’s in my interest for the world to know.
Why? Because I want to normalize gay in every way. The closet never was and is no longer a normal place. Gay people are everywhere and in every walk of life. And I want everyone to know it. The stakes here are rather high. Dare I point out that the volume of anti-gay rhetoric has been heightened by the administration’s courting of its religiously conservative base?
Thursday, February 24, 2005
I say eat him
There’s a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig—an animal easily as intelligent as a dog—that becomes the Christmas ham.We tolerate this disconnect because the life of the pig has moved out of view. When’s the last time you saw a pig? (Babe doesn’t count.) Except for our pets, real animals—animals living and dying—no longer figure in our everyday lives. Meat comes from the grocery store, where it is cut and packaged to look as little like parts of animals as possible. The disappearance of animals from our lives has opened a space in which there’s no reality check, either on the sentiment or the brutality. Several years ago, the English critic John Berger wrote an essay, ‘’Why Look at Animals?’’ in which he suggested that the loss of everyday contact between ourselves and animals—and specifically the loss of eye contact—has left us deeply confused about the terms of our relationship to other species. That eye contact, always slightly uncanny, had provided a vivid daily reminder that animals were at once crucially like and unlike us; in their eyes we glimpsed something unmistakably familiar (pain, fear, tenderness) and something irretrievably alien. Upon this paradox people built a relationship in which they felt they could both honor and eat animals without looking away.
I look my dogs in the eye. Read the article. It deserves another look.
Monday, February 21, 2005
Rodriguez & Lincoln
In a stunning piece on The Newshour tonight that really deserves to be widely acknowledged, Richard Rodriguez did a President’s Day essay on the CA Tripp Lincoln biography. In it he looked at the camera and said this:
As a queer man who learned irony because I could not say directly, who learned the uses of a wider imagination, who learned to read between the lines where centuries of gay lives lie. Undetected, I find C.A.Tripp’s portrait of a homosexual Abraham Lincoln convincing.
I am not interested in the political implications of Lincoln’s intimate life. I am interested that Lincoln, along with Walt Whitman, those two most important voices for national unity at a time when Americans were killing one another as gray against blue, Lincoln and Whitman may have both been unable to speak of their love.
He did this in the face of what have been terrible (and I believe homophobic) reviews of the Tripp book.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Everyone’s getting down on Google
First I got a ”Very Important, please read!” email from three people telling me that Google has a “new feature” that let’s you type someone’s phone number in and get back a map to their home. Horrors! This from people in Manhattan, which is about the easiest place to get around without a map that I know of. (The feature doesn’t work where I live - and believe me, you need a map to find me here.)
...say you’re browsing a web page with numerous addresses on it. AutoLink will turn each of those addresses into direct links to the Google Maps database.
More horrors! I’m with A Bluegrass Blog, Autolink is good, not bad. (You can set it to Yahoo or Mapquest if you change a setting.) And while we’re on it, I wasn’t upset about Microsoft’s “Smart Tags” either.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Some of us think it’s a choice
At least this one of us does:
Yep. I said, “choose.” And yes. I think that our sexual orientation is a choice...I am thrilled to have chosen lesbianhood. I consider myself a gay activist. I feel like I am privileged to be gay. But gay men and lesbians still get upset when I start talking about choice, and I believe it’s because they think I’m saying that everyone is straight and some people choose to be gay. Not at all. I think everyone is bisexual, and people choose to be gay or straight.
She essentially confines her examples to women, even as she applies it to both genders. I’m inclined to agree with those who imply sexuality is more fluid among women than men, and that for more and more of us it is a choice. But I promise you, for this one of us, there was no choice.
Sidebars, blogrolls & why I blog
This site is a work in progress; I’m pleased with the progress. Most recently I’ve been working on sidebars. On the left is my ”Blogroll," powered by Blogrolling. It could use some arranging and sorting, but each and every one of them is a blog I’ve enjoyed. I urge you to visit all of them. On the right, sites I visit regularly, people who have influenced me, organizations I respect, or things I’ve found interesting. One day soon I’ll add advertising; on both sides.
A section I’m particularly pleased with is “On Blogging” over on the lower right (and detailed below). There you’ll find a collection of links to resources that have helped me build this blog, and inform how I conceive this blog. I recommend them to anyone who wants to put together a blog of their own.
I look at my blog as a garden; the sidebars are two flower beds. Now that they are seeded, I must tend to them, cultivate them and prune them from time to time to ensure that they will bloom, blossom and grow. Thank you Basil of Basil’s Blog for working out my alignment issue; and Harry of Kudzu Files for solving my blogrolling problem.
I’ve also added a post here on why I blog. It’s lifted unedited from my old blog where it was originally posted when I first started blogging on December 7, 2004. If you’re interested, check it out.
Monday, February 07, 2005
A bumper sticker on a local pickup truck reads, “At least it’s still legal to smoke in my car.” This in a town that defeated a No Smoking ordinance a few years back. Here we have No Smoking sections but, with no meaningful space dividers in the small local restaurants, smoke wafts freely through the entire space, including the No Smoking sections.
One man is credited with defeating the ordinance, a local restaurant and bar owner who has recently been buying up all of downtown. A nice enough fellow, he argues that the ordinance would have covered only the downtown restaurants and not his prime competition, the popular chain venues outside of downtown. But maybe the ordinance would have helped his business.
In the same year the smoking ordinance was defeated here, New York passed the toughest smoking ban in the country. No smoking in any indoor public spaces. Period. James McBratney, president of a local restaurant and tavern association there considered the (moderate) Republican mayor who championed the ban a billionaire dictator with a prohibitionist streak that would hurt small businesses like his.
Asked last week what he thought of the now two-year-old ban, Mr. McBratney sounded changed. “I have to admit,” he said sheepishly, “I’ve seen no falloff in business in either establishment.” He went on to describe what he once considered unimaginable: Customers actually seem to like it, and so does he.
But not just he and his customers; even smokers like the ban:
...a vast majority of bar and restaurant patrons interviewed last week, including self-described hard-core smokers, said they were surprised to find themselves pleased with cleaner air, cheaper dry-cleaning bills and a new social order created by the ban.
The smokers I know here, and there are many, might find themselves agreeing. None I know wants to keep on smoking. Friends in Macon won’t smoke in their own home, choosing instead to sit on a cold screen porch in winter under an electric blanket to watch TV. Just the same, I don’t expect a no smoking ordinance will pass here any time soon.