Friday, February 12, 2010

Odd Book Titles

The Guardian has announced the list of books that will vie for this year’s “Oddest Title” award.  The winner will be announced on March 26.  Here are some of my favorites.  I'll be back on Monday!

100 Girls on Cheap Paper
A Tortilla is Like Life
Advances in Potato Chemistry and Technology
Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter
An Intellectual History of Cannibalism
Bacon: A Love Story
Briefs for the Reading Room
Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich
Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes
Fluffy Little Kitten in Fluffy's Brother
How YOU Are Like Shampoo: For Job Seekers

I'm Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears
Mickey Mouse, Hitler and Nazi Germany
Planet Asthma: Art and Activity Book
Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Bean Conference
Soft Drink & Fruit Juice Problems Solved
The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin
Venus Does Adonis While Apollo Shags a Tree

I must admit that one of my favorites did not make the list because it didn’t meet the publishing criteria for the award: On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers in 1895.

How history is made

The Texas Board of Education is one of the most influential school organizations in the country.  Because the state of Texas is such an enormous purchaser of text books, the board exercises a tacit control over what is put in and left out of text books.  As a result, the board's influence over curricula nationwide is significant.

Yesterday The New York Times ran an article that I found deeply troublesome.  At a public meeting about the state's social studies curriculum, Don McLeroy, an arch conservative, strong armed the board into passing a deeply flawed and partisan course of studies for Texas students.  According to The Times (the emphasis in bold is mine):
McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she “and her followers promoted eugenics,” that language be inserted about Ronald Reagn's “leadership in restoring national confidence” following Jimmy Carter’s presidency and that students be instructed to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands. 
Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton,  and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down.
Wow.  This is what our kids are learning?  That Phyllis Schlafly (left) and Newt Gingrich were more important figures than a man who is widely considered -- by both Republicans and Democrats -- as one of the most influential senators in our history?  And if you're going to promote the National Rifle Association and ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, where's the ACLU?  What about feminist leaders?

Scary stuff, I think.

Freedom to Marry Day

Today is Freedom to Marry Day.   I don't know who chose the day, but I assume that it's not a coincidence that it comes the week of Valentine's Day.

Below is a video that was made by a group hoping to put same sex marriage on the California ballot this fall.  Not all LGBT groups agree that the vote should be so soon after the 2008 loss.  Many are pushing for a 2012 ballot question.  It will be interesting to see what happens if the group gets the million plus signatures to put the question before the voters.

What I find fascinating about this ad is that if it weren't for the same sex couple, this would be an ad that even the Family Research Council would love.  Equating religion with values, promoting multi-generational families: it's all there.  It's clear who the group is targeting.  The question is: will they listen?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's all in the words

No wonder why opponents of LGBT people use the word homosexual instead of gay or lesbian.  Look at the results of this CBS poll that uses the word gay for one group and homosexual for another.  In both surveys, the use of the words gay men and lesbians produced greater support for LGBT people serving in the military.  Words matter, and opponents of LGBT rights are keenly aware of this.   (H/T: Joe.My.God)

Interesting map

I found this map rather inspiring.  Ten years ago, the map would have been all one color.  Remember when Vermont civil unions created such a controversy with declarations of the end of the world as we know it?  Yes, equality is moving slowly, but we are moving, gradually, in the right direction. I know this is hard to read, so just remember that the red and pink states offer either marriage or civil unions.  That's almost a fifth of all states.  But also remember that not one same-sex couple in the country is recognized by the federal government. (Thanks to the Freedom to Marry Coalition.)

What were they thinking?

 Has anyone told this family that their photo is a bit....awkward? 

Good news from New Hampshire and Iowa

Attempts to block equal marriage in both New Hampshire and Iowa have failed, at least for now.

According to, "a House committee that deadlocked a year ago over legalizing gay marriage voted Tuesday against repealing New Hampshire's five-week-old law allowing the unions.
The Judiciary Committee also voted to recommend that the House kill a proposed constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman."

The vote was 12-8, more or less along party lines, with the Democrats opposing the repeal.  Gay marriage opponents recognize that passing a repeal this year is highly unlikely, but according to, "they want to keep the issue before voters in hopes Republicans will regain control of the Statehouse from Democrats in November and succeed then in banning gay marriage."

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Republicans have failed in their effort to "start the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to ban gay marriage -- meaning it will likely be 2014 at the earliest before voters could decide on the issue."

Because it is nearly certain that the measure to amend the Iowa Constitution to ban same-sex marriage will fail this year, the earliest voters could decide on the issue would be in 2014.  Iowa requires passage of an amendment in two consecutive legislative sessions.  Republicans have vowed to unseat Democrats in November who voted against repeal.

The situation in Iowa is very similar to the situation in Massachusetts shortly after the Supreme Judicial Court declared that denying marriage to same-sex couples was unconstitutional.  The process for amending the constitution in Massachusetts is like the process in Iowa, requiring two consecutive legislative votes.  Republicans in Massachusetts vowed to oust Democrats who supported same-sex marriage.  Instead, even with Mitt Romney's pledge of financial resources to Republican candidates, not one Democratic legislator lost reelection.

Even Scott Brown, once a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage, declared the marriage issue "settled" during his campaign for senator.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Day!

I'm taking the Snow Day (Wednesday) off from blogging so I can spend some more time working on some fiction I'm writing.  See you Thursday!

How can you not love Betty White?

Those of you who know me know that I'm an avid fan of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Betty White is one of my favorite actors on that show.  Here she is after being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in television.

What does the church mean by the right to religious liberty?

“In short, the panel found a right for same-sex couples to marry by ignoring the right to religious liberty,” charged the archdiocese.  The archdiocese further argued that the Board of Elections and Ethics committee's decision advances "paternalism under the guise of righteousness.”

Okay.  Under the same-sex marriage statute, no church or religious group will be required to marry same-sex couples.  No religious group will even be required to accept gay people into its community. So just whose religious liberty is being ignored here?  The only "freedom" I can think of is the "freedom" to keep LGBT citizens from accessing the rights of every heterosexual citizen in Washington, DC.  I hadn't realized that "freedom to oppress" was an American value we needed to preserve.

And as for the "paternalism under the guise of righteousness" charge, how can anyone possibly take the statement seriously when issued by an institution that has advanced patriarchy under the guise of religion for centuries?

Not your typical school mail

High schoolers in Maryland are required to take home this flyer that reads in part, "As a gay man I never thought I could change WHO I was.  Until I realized there was a choice...and I chose to change from gay to straight."

In Maryland, schools are required to send home information from any nonprofit that isn't promoting hate speech.  Perhaps this flyer isn't overt hate speech, but I have to ask: What if instead of being gay, any religious group was inserted in this flyer?

As a Mormon I never thought I could change WHO I was.  Until I realized there was a choice...and I chose to change from Mormon to Catholic.

As a Christian I never thought I could change WHO I was.  Until I realized there was a choice...and I chose to change from Christian to atheist. 

As a Jew I never thought I could change WHO I was.  Until I realized there was a choice...and I chose to change from Jewish to Christian.

I bet that flyer would sound a whole lot more like hate speech under these circumstances.  Why should we expect less from people who are telling kids that it is not okay to be who you are if you are gay?

Maybe it's time for Maryland to take another look at his ridiculous law.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jon Stewart on the Democrats

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A Baltimore weather announcer freaks out

Thanks to Towleroad for this clip of a public nervous breakdown.

Don't kill us, jail us

According to Americablog, Peter Spriggs (left) from the Family Research Council of Super Bowl ad fame has called for the criminalization of homosexuality.  Bryan Fischer (right) of the American Family Association agreed, because homosexuality "represents an enormous threat to public health."  Said Fischer: "It's a simple matter of common sense, sound public policy, and a concern for public health. … Whatever we think we should do to curtail injection drug use are the same sorts of things we should pursue to curtail homosexual conduct."

He further justifies his jailing gay folks by claiming that 1 Timothy1:8-11 says that "those 'who practice homosexuality' should come under the purview of the law just as much as those who take people captive in order to sell them into slavery." 

As Americablog points out, "Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) are important players in Republican politics. So, we have to start asking Republicans if they agree with this proposal to jail the gays."

So, I guess these folks think that killing gay people is a little too much.  Jailing us will do just fine.

Double standard in Prop 8 case

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the federal judge, Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker, who will decide the challenge to Proposition 8. is gay.

According to the newspaper,  the judge, who was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1989, has never hidden nor called attention to his orientation.

Will this influence Judge Walker's decision? One only has to study Walker's decision years ago when he ruled against organizers of the Gay Games to call the event  The Gay Olympics.  (God forbid the word gay should tarnish the Olympic brand.)

Some folks are calling for him to step down from the case, citing a conflict of interest.  If that's the case, the five Catholic judges should step down from the US Supreme Court on any ruling regarding same-sex marriage or abortion, since their religious leader, The Pope, insists that both are contrary to Roman Catholic doctrine.

Gee, that would leave four judges to decide these cases.  The point is, heterosexual, wealthy, white males have decided the lion's share (and then some) of the Supreme Court cases throughout history.  Why wasn't attention paid when the biases they brought to the court might have influenced their decisions?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What if the Obamas behaved like the Palins?

Imagine the following:

Barack Obama stands before a predominately African-American audience. “America is ready for another revolution!” he shouts to the crowd.  The entire auditorium stands, applauds, and shouts.

Now imagine that Michelle Obama has been part of a movement to get her home state of Illinois to secede from the union.  She is a mover and a shaker in this movement, convincing her husband to speak at  a convention designed to further this cause for succession.  When asked about his attendance, Barack Obama lies about it, saying he never attended.

Now consider this:

Sarah Palin stands before a predominately white audience. “America is ready for another revolution!” she shouts to the crowd.  The entire auditorium stands, applauds, and shouts.

Husband Todd Palin has been part of a movement to get his home state of Alaska to secede from the union.  He is a mover and a shaker in this movement, convincing his wife to speak at  a convention designed to further this succession movement.  When asked about her attendance, Sarah Palin lies about it, saying she never attended. (

Of course, if the first two scenarios had occurred, there would endless fear mongering among right wing pundits.  Can you imagine what Glenn Beck -- who has accused President Obama of being racist -- would say about this?  Can you imagine Barack Obama ever in a million years becoming Senator, let alone President, if Michelle were a member of a succession movement? And if Barack Obama had addressed the group supporting Illinois leaving the United States?

The Sarah and Todd Palin scenarios have actually happened.  Todd Palin's membership in a party whose purpose is to get his state to leave the union was barely an issue in the campaign.  And while Sarah Palin's speech at the recent Tea Party Convention was been widely covered, I haven't read much about her use of the word revolution in her speech.  Does anyone actually believe this would be the case if Barack Obama used this language in front of an African-American audience?  Remember when he was "palling around with terrorists" because he attended a grassroots meeting with William Ayers?

I know the myth is that the media is liberal.  I think we should question this assumption whenever we can.