March 30, 2013

Religious persecution and the gay marriage debate

We have talked about the victimization complex so often employed by the religious right.  Well represented in our political system, and hardly discriminated against, the victimology is a little tiresome.  But not terribly surprising, as that has been their MO for the last 30 years.

Now, those opposed to same-sex marriage are claiming that they are now the victims and one even claiming that they are "more scorned than homosexuals."  Forget the tacit admission that they have been scorning others for years.  This is the part of the evangelical world that drives me crazy.  When people criticize you, it isn't necessarily because you hold dear to values while others around you change with the wind.  You are not always the principled one and they are not always the people without any morals.  In fact, Christians have demonstrated one hell of a lot of scorn and hatred toward gay people over the years.  They had their chance a long time ago to embrace their gay brothers and sisters and push for equal rights.  Opposing gay marriage might have looked ok in that light, because they could have claimed some vague "traditional" marriage claim, but held up their allegiance to legal rights and treatment of gay couples.  But they didn't.  They opposed every step out of that closet, and scorned and shamed along the way.  They told gay people to get therapy and force themselves to be straight.

As Josh Marshall wrote yesterday, religious conservatives are watching the polling changes too, and fear that they might be witnessing a sea change where openly espousing anti-gay sentiments may be politically and publicly unacceptable.  Just as the 1960s saw that change where politicians and public figures could no longer espouse white supremacy without a backlash.

Here is my prediction.  In 20 years, most evangelical organizations and even evangelical individuals are going to be claiming that they were always for committed and monogamous gay marriages.  They will rewrite their past and claim that their only objection was promiscuity, but they were always for committed relationships.

Mark my words.

March 26, 2013

Gay Marriage, pro and con

Watching this debate unfold over the past decade, it is hard to imagine another social issue that has changed as much as gay marriage.  As many observers have noted, it was just in 2004 when Bush (with the help of then closeted gay RNC chair, Ken Mehlman) made gay marriage the wedge issue that would make sure social conservatives got to the polls.  It worked, and Bush narrowly won reelection.  There were some attempts at the same thing in 08 and 12, but clearly, that argument has fallen by the wayside.

Not only is the national scene shifting, with over half the country in support of gay marriage, but the polling is even more eye-popping when you look at younger people.  Their numbers, across political and religious lines, are much higher for gay marriage than people over 50.

And some of this is the reason why the argument against gay marriage is losing ground, and the opponents know it.  After all, it was not that long ago that opponents said that our civilization would crumble and our culture would fall apart if we allowed gays to marry.  Several states have passed gay marriage, and the sky has not fallen.  Our younger people know very well that gay people are just as good, bad and indifferent as straight people.   They know kids who have gay parents, and their parents are just as messed up as anyone else.

The biggest problem for the traditional defense, I think, is that they are defending an institution that has largely never been what they thought.  Marriage has always evolved and changed, as ideas about the family changed, and as economic pressures changed.  Marriage was originally about property, but that no longer is even a requirement.  It was about family too, but family, like marriage has changed tremendously. We all know divorced, cobbled, single, unmarried families, and often will put all of those varied versions of the family up against the traditional model.

This isn't just about hypocrisy, but it is incredibly hard to shout piously for traditional marriage when so many people are divorced or live in highly dysfunctional families.  And I think most of the American people reflect this basic reality.  They know full well that their relationships all need work, and who are they to tell others how to live.

March 21, 2013

Do conservatives only care when they can personally relate?

I don't think that is true, but unfortunately, it seems to be the case.  As Fred notes, there are several cases where conservatives change their approach when they have a personal connection.  With Mark Kirk, it was a stroke that made him realize that poor people with the same issue would never be able to recover.  With Rob Portman, a gay son made him realize that he didn't oppose marriage for his son.

Why then?  Is it too difficult for conservatives to imagine life for poor people struggling with a major illness or what it might be like to be gay?  To be very fair, of course, the other conservatives could not wait to say that they would still oppose gay rights even if their own kids were gay.  When you are in the conservative tribe, nothing loses you membership like backing off of bigotry.

March 19, 2013

Fiscal conservatism?

Republicans claim to be fiscally responsible and to be fiscally conservative.  That means saving money, having a balanced budget, etc.  

But from where I sit, I see an awful lot of conservative proposals that do not save money, but actually cost the state or federal government.  Here are a couple:

  1. Passing unconstitutional laws as exercise in defiance.  These usually require the state or federal government to defend those laws in court.  Examples include:
    • DOMA at the federal level.  Republicans are funding the defense, all at the same time while cutting WIC and other safety net programs.  
    • State efforts to test welfare recipients for drugs.  Questionable under 4th amendment (and Florida's law just got thrown out on those grounds.
    • Anti-abortion laws that proponents know will be thrown out.  Attacking access to abortion clearly trumps any claim for fiscal conservatism.  
  2. Then there are those laws that are supposed to save money but do not.  
    • Best example that I can think of are the aforementioned laws drug testing welfare recipients.  Every study I have seen suggests that welfare recipients use drugs at the same level as non-welfare recipients.  Small percentage, actually, and so the savings to the system are usually vastly out weighed by cost of administering the program.  
    • Here in OK, the House Speaker has proposed a law to mandate that able-bodied persons spend somewhere around 30 hours a week in "work like" activity (or something of that sort.  Requires more staff and oversight to make sure that this actually occurs, and the estimates were that it would cost far more to implement than you would see in actual savings.  
Others?  I am not bashing conservatives here, but noting that the version that is leading most states and the House of Representatives seems to have not thought some of this through very well.  

March 18, 2013

10 years ago--the Iraq war

I remember it well.  I was returning from a ski trip with a friend and we stopped at a hotel in Tucumcari, New Mexico.  We knew the war was coming, but I still remember watching the beginning with great trepidation.  

I opposed that war very much.  When I knew we were going in, I hoped for the best that we would actually have success.  I pointed out to SOF (who was even more against the war) that we had a chance in Iraq to build something positive, given their history of institutions.

It wasn't long after when we found out--at least those of us paying attention--that the argument for the war had changed from WMD to exporting Democracy.  We learned there were no WMD, and that Colin Powell's speech at the UN was based on falsehoods fed to him by the war hawks in the admin.  (Powell's own biography revealed later that Cheney and others worked very hard to keep Powell in the dark.  After all, the last thing Cheney wanted was a thoughtful soldier looking at the big picture.)

Bush and Cheney still insist that they were right.  Interesting, btw, that Bush's speechwriter, David Frum--he of "axis of evil" fame--even admits now that the war was more about oil and American Exceptionalism than anything related to our national security.  But even his mea culpa glosses over key information and perpetuates misinformation, as Greenwald notes here.

For me, I have to say that this war has changed me in ways that I never anticipated.  Not only did we watch our government lie about this war at a brazen level, but we learned soon that that same government, led by a man who claimed, of course, to hold Jesus close to his heart and to speak to God on a daily basis--create one of the largest torture regimes since the Soviet Union.

Of course, for me, the biggest disillusionment has come from the church that raised me and taught me my morals.  Not only did they cheer the war, but they also defended, ignored, or openly supported the torture regime.  Since then, I have seen nothing from the vast bulk of them to suggest any more introspection than Bush and Cheney themselves.  Those Republicans who defended this war never lost support from their base.  Of course, as we see this week, the only thing that can really lose support from the uninformed base is to support gay marriage.  That's right.  You can defend torture all you want and the conservative base will vote for you.  But defend gay rights?

Over that last ten years, I have discovered that I am far more informed than most of my conservative friends.  Not all, of course, and certainly there are uninformed liberal voters as well.  But I have been rather stunned by the lack of information in many of my conservative friends.  Most of them didn't know about torture at any detailed level, and most of them have no idea what their party actually does.  They only know what it supposedly stands for.

Conservatives could gain some ground back by really assessing their actions and votes over the last ten years.  Some have.  I know a small group who supported Bush in 2000 but turned away as they realized the party was rotten to the core.  The others just ignore the past, or so it seems.  I doubt very much they will reassess.  As my former therapist said, "the best predictor of future behavior is the past.  That being said, people can change, but only through hard work."

March 17, 2013

Conservatives and poverty

My imagined dialogue between a person struggling to make ends meet and an average conservative voter.

Poor person:  I am struggling to make ends meet and that means that my family doesn't always have good food to eat.  We often skip meals, in fact.

Conservative voter:  You need to get a job and stop expecting others to take care of you.

PP: I have a job.  In fact, I have two.

CV:  Oh.  Then you need a better job or to ask for a raise.

PP:  I would love more money while working.  Perhaps we could raise the minimum wage?

CV:  No, that inconveniences people with money.  You should go to school and get better trained.

PP:  I would love to.  Can you help me get affordable loans and affordable tuition?

CV:  No.

PP:  Ok, in the meantime, could you assist me with some food stamps or TANF?

CV:  No, that is bad for you.

PP:  But I am working hard and trying to do the right thing by my family.  Why is that not enough?

CV:  Life isn't fair.  Sorry to be you.

PP:  I see a Jesus fish on your car.  Don't you believe that Jesus told you to help people like me?

CV:  I am helping people like you learn self-reliance and hard work.  I am helping those who have money because they have earned it and are not asking for a handout.

PP:  you mean like tax breaks for the wealthy people who have expensive horses or private jets?

CV:  You should not envy people who have more than you.

PP:  sigh.

PP:  Ok, what about healthcare?  My wife is sick and the bills are really adding up.

CV:  Healthcare is for the people who can afford it.  We don't let people die on the street here.  You can go to the emergency room.

PP:  but that is stupid.  My wife has a chronic illness that requires expensive medicines.  And our children have no healthcare coverage.

CV:  Stop asking for socialism.  You shouldn't have had kids if you couldn't afford to take care of them.

PP:  Should we have had that abortion?

CV:  Of course not.  You should have more money and the ability to take care of your family.

PP:  Sigh.

March 15, 2013

Government spending is bad for other people. Not for me.

Republicans Develop Sequestration Buyer’s Remorse | TPMDC

This is just beautiful.  Now, Republicans are quibbling with cuts to programs they like.  Kind of makes you wonder if they don't quite understand that they when they are attacking government that includes programs they like.

Fits my basic argument that most conservatives don't actually know the areas that government actually helps them until it is cut by some idiot conservative they voted for.

And this on gun stuff, btw:

Pro-Gun Measures Snuck into New Government Funding Bill:
A bipartisan Senate bill preventing a federal shutdown would make four long-standing gun protections permanent, including one preventing the Justice Department from requiring firearms dealers to conduct inventories to make sure weapons haven’t been stolen, congressional aides from both parties said. 
Another provision made permanent would prevent the government from changing the definition of antique guns, which can sometimes be easier to obtain than modern weapons. Two others would block the department from denying a license to firearms dealers who report no business activity, and require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to include language in firearms data stating that the information can’t be used to make conclusions about gun crimes.
I love the idea that limiting access to information, refusing to track guns at all, and refusing to even consider addressing how guns are sold in this country should make me respect gun people.  

March 14, 2013

Gun laws and fewer deaths--Gun culture redux

Study Finds States With Most Gun Laws Have Fewest Gun Deaths But… | Here & Now.  I listened to this interview on the way home from work the other day.  To be very fair, I was pretty exhausted, but I found it enlightening.

The big takeaway, frankly, was the recognition that the gun lobby and gun culture have stymied research into gun deaths.  The numbers this doctor cited on suicides were enough to make one a little ill, but he kept noting that we don't have good data because the NRA and gun lobby won't let us.

I can't help but wonder if this comes from the conservative side that simply doesn't trust science.   Because investigating this should be a no-brainer.  I suspect that conservatives know that more guns doesn't make us more safe, and they fear that good studies might show that.  Otherwise, if more guns make us more safe, and if gun laws don't actually help, why not let the research money flow?  Why not get as much data as we can on child deaths or on suicide by gun, or accidental shootings in the home.  Likewise, why not gather as much data as we can on those incidents where gun ownership saves lives?

March 7, 2013

The least of these get the least attention

As people like Rand Paul cheer the sequestration and want even more cuts, the rest of the country appears to not care about who will suffer most from the cuts.
Poor Face Most Pain As Automatic Budget Cuts Take Effect - Unless a deal is reached to change the course of the cuts, housing programs would be hit particularly hard, with about 125,000 individuals and families put at risk of becoming homeless, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated. An additional 100,000 formerly homeless people might be removed from emergency shelters or other housing arrangements because of the cuts, the agency said.
I have had conversations with several conservatives about this issue.  None of them believe they are uncaring about the poor.  To the contrary, they get quite annoyed with me when I suggest that.  Yet the numbers are quite stark.  Republicans want these cuts to the poor to happen.  My conservative friends vote Republican because they say they believe in some form of fiscal responsibility.  Yet, those cuts will make more poor people suffer--of that there is no question.

I don't doubt that my conservative friends care about the poor and most of them either donate or volunteer to help the needy.  But as I have pointed out several times, that help is unlikely to increase now that there are more people in need.  It will not increase enough to make for these 200,000+ people who are now at risk for homelessness.

Who will make up the gap?  No one, is the likely answer.  Some charities will try, no doubt.  But all of them are over-burdened now as it is.  I have one friend who seems convinced that these cuts will be covered by some other government agency.  He has no idea if such an agency exists, but is sure someone will keep these people from dying in the street.

And yes, someone will, probably.  But that doesn't take away from the fact that this is a horrible and completely immoral way to address poverty.  If you haven't watched the new documentary on hunger, "A Place at the Table," it is well worth the rental.  One of the points they make very clear is that charity, while important and good, is not a long term solution.  It is there for emergency help, not long term change.  One of the more poignant images in the film is the cop who has not had a raise in years.  He now has to use local food pantries to make ends meet.  A cop.  A public servant is paid so poorly that he requires public assistance to eat.  And that doesn't even cover the impact of poor nutrition and hunger on developing children, or the shame and fear that accompanies this inability to feed their families.

So this is the upshot.  Conservatives want less government programs because they believe government cannot help poverty.  They want private charities--who cannot address systemic poverty. They can help here and there, and they are keeping people from starving.   But they cannot fix wage issues, healthcare, access to education and training, etc.  Yet, my conservative friends want to cut those government programs that help, turn things more over to the private charities who can only provide bandaids--all while tacitly acknowledging that they themselves will do no more to help the increasing number of needy.

Don't tell me they care about those needy who fall behind.  Or at least, let's acknowledge that that concern is a poor substitute for food or jobs.

March 6, 2013

Gun culture just a few doors down

I can barely type this right now, I am so livid.  If anyone gives a shit about the gun culture that I hate so much, this is it.  And this is so close to my house that I can't believe it.  We walk our dogs in front of this asshole's house.  School children walk this street every day.

Authorities say a man fired two shots at some people who stole a microphone the man was trying to sell on Craigslist. 
The alleged thieves were supposedly interested in buying the microphone, but instead swiped it once they arrived at the home. That is when the homeowner fired his weapon. At this time, police do not believe anyone was hit.

Police Respond To Shooting At Norman Home - - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

This is it.  This is the crazy nutjob insane and stupid gun culture.  The culture that says, I should fire a gun rather than just eat the loss of a microphone.  The report says they detained the homeowner.  I honestly wonder what will happen in the state that worships guns and gun rights.  The fact that he endangered all of us, I suspect will mean nothing to the Republican morons who run this state.

If any of you are wondering, these are the people who shouldn't have guns. And I would prefer that we do something about it before he shoots me, my wife, or my dogs.