Thursday, June 30, 2005

What Kind of Cream Are You?

Yay, Canada! Viva Espana!

In the wake of the recent legislative victories in Spain and our northern neighbor (unless you live in Detroit, in which case part of Canada is south of you -- fun fact for the day!) I decided to check out one of my favorite websites, that of the American Family Association, to see what brilliant insights they had into these recent developments.

I needed to look no further than their "Homosexual Agenda" menu to find a compelling article by America's favorite former homosexual, Stephen Bennett.

Have you ever wondered what, really, is the difference between heterosexuals and gay people? Bennett sums it up for you with this most astute of analogies:

At the end of my speech, I held in one hand a coffee creamer from our dinner table. I read the simple wording on the label to the attentive audience: “100% REAL CREAM – ALL NATURAL.” That is all the label said.

In my other hand, I held another coffee creamer. Yet this one was very different.

It was a sealed paper packet that had a drawing of a farm, sitting on rolling hills. The sun was setting in the background, the picture very beautiful and peaceful. I read the label to the audience:

“Wholesome Farms – NON-DAIRY CREAMER. Ingredients: Corn Syrup Solids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Canola Oils, Sodium Caseinate (A Milk Derivative), Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono and Diglyceerides, Artificial Colors, Silicon Dioxide, Lechtin, Artificial Flavors.”

You see, one coffee creamer was “REAL” – and the other was “ARTIFICIAL.”

I said, “As a former homosexual, I stand here before you today and say to you first hand, THIS is the difference between the God ordained institution of marriage between one man and one woman – and so-called homosexual “marriage.”

I stand in awe of the profundity.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Scary Scalia

So I read Antonin Scalia's dissent in McCreary County v. ACLU, the Supreme Court case about the Ten Commandments display in a Kentucky courthouse.

It's an issue of concern only to radical fundamentalists, both those who maintain the Commandments form the basis of American law and those who think religion is a contagious virus, transmitted by reading, which renders the victim unable to think for himself. Neither group is particularly well-informed or rational.

Here is Scalia's description of the display in question:

"Entitled "The Foundations of American Law and Government Display," each display consisted of nine equally sized documents: the original version of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Star Spangled Banner, the Mayflower Compact of 1620, a picture of Lady Justice, the National Motto of the United States ("In God We Trust"), the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, and the Ten Commandments. The displays did not emphasize any of the nine documents in any way: The frame holding the Ten Commandments was of the same size and had the same appearance as that which held each of the other documents."

Only a truly paranoid person would worry that this constitutes an outright government endorsement of religion. But that's not the scary part. What is frightening is that Scalia accepts Kentucky's defense and premise that the Commandments do, in fact, form the foundation of American law. He quotes the text of the display:

"The Ten Commandments have profoundly influenced the formation of Western legal thought and the formation of our country. That influence is clearly seen in the Declaration of Independence, which declared that, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.' The Ten Commandments provide the moral background of the Declaration of Independence and the foundation of our legal tradition."

As I pointed out in a recent post, there are only four commandments that could be said to be in common with American law, and none of them are unique to either Christianity or America. To me, of far more significance is not what the Commandments have in common with the Constitution, but how they differ. For example, Commandment #1 is, "I am the Lord your God; Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me." This is reflected in American law where, now? How about #2, the ban on idols and graven images?

And, Earth to Scalia, none of the Commandments are found in the quote from the Declaration. The Commandments do not speak of unalienable rights. A "right" is not a "commandment." A "commandment" is something you are required to do, not a God-given freedom.

Scalia thinks that the mere presence of the word "Creator" in the Declaration, and "God" in the Constitution, is sufficient proof that our laws derive from the Founders' undeniable Christian heritage. As proof, by reason of contrast, he quotes the French Constitution. Sort of.

He relates an anecdote -- which conveniently works in a 9/11 reference -- about a judge from an unnamed European country who laments, "How I wish that the Head of State of my country, at a similar time of national tragedy and distress, could conclude his address 'God bless ______.' It is of course absolutely forbidden."

Scalia writes, "That is one model of the relationship between church and state--a model spread across Europe by the armies of Napoleon, and reflected in the Constitution of France, which begins "France is [a] . . . secular . . . Republic."

If I were to ask you, "How does Shakespeare's play Richard III begin?," would you answer, "Set down, set down your honorable load"?

No. Because that's first line of scene 2. Everyone knows it starts, "Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York."

So how does France's Constitution begin?

"The French people hereby solemnly proclaim their dedication to the Rights of Man and the principle of national sovereignty as defined by the Declaration of 1789, reaffirmed and complemented by the Preamble to the 1946 Constitution."

Scalia's excerpt is actually the first line of Article II. And it, in fact, reads "France is an indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic. It ensures the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction as to origin, race, or religion. It respects all beliefs."

Read that last sentence again. "It respects all beliefs." That is, in fact, a more explicit endorsement of religious tolerance than can be found in our own Constitution. Conveniently leaving that part out and using the surgically redacted "France is [a] . . . secular . . . Republic" -- not to mention claiming the constitution "begins" with this phrase -- sure makes France sound like a bunch of God-haters, doesn't it?

I mean, you might as well say Hamlet opens with the line, "To the question."

Look, here's my question: if the Ten Commandments were such an essential foundation of our national legal system, why didn't the founding fathers mention them ANYWHERE? If our national values were derived from the Christian tradition, why is there no reference anywhere to Jesus? Why not a single quote from the Bible in any of our national documents? Did the founders go around erecting monuments with Bible verses on them?

Scalia tries to argue that the Ten Commandments are not an endorsement of a specific religion because "the Ten Commandments are recognized by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alike as divinely given."

Look, find me a Muslim who supports having this version of the Ten Commandments posted inside an American courthouse, and I will STFU.

Meanwhile, let's bow our heads and pray that a judge willing to engage in cut and paste intellectual dishonesty does not, by the Grace of God, become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Thank You for Not Beating Around The Bush

After work last night I stopped in at one of my favorite bars to kill some time before I met up with some friends.

As I looked around the room, I thought, "My...there's an unusually high concentration of guys that appeal to me in here, hmm..."

There was a group of 20-30 somethings, good-looking, nicely dressed, very all-American type, very "next door," you know and I was sort of looking them over. One of them looked over, broke away and approached.

"Hi, are you here for the Log Cabin event?"

Sigh. So close. And yet...sooooooo far.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Karl Rove, Homophobe

It occurred to me that the real reason that Rove's comments about liberals and their reaction to 9/11 was offensive was that the subtext was that the "manly" response would be to go kick some ass, and that being compassionate is "gay."

When Rove says "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," he's using the same brand of conservative code for "gay" that Cheney used almost a year ago when he criticized John Kerry's call for a more "sensitive" war.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pandering to the Base

base (bās) adj. bas·er, bas·est

Not adhering to ethical or moral principles; "base and unpatriotic motives"; "a base, degrading way of life"; having or showing an ignoble lack of honor or morality; "that liberal obedience without which your army would be a base rabble"- Edmund Burke; "something essentially vulgar and meanspirited in politics"; illegitimate.

Karl Rove made an appearance in Manhattan last night at a fundraiser for the Conservative Party of New York. He had a couple of interesting thoughts he wanted to share.

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," he said.

What an amazingly contorted view of recent history Mr. Rove possesses.

Also, for someone who is a self-described Christian (alas, he's Episcopalian, my own affiliation) and has spent tremendous amounts of time, effort and money energizing Christian conservatives, he's got some very questionable theology.

I've brought up this Scriptural passage before, but allow me to point it out one more time:

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:38-41 )

I can't recall hearing a single conservative Christian inviting us to turn the other cheek, as Christ commands. In fact, Rove seems to be accusing Liberals of reaching out in exactly the way God would have us act. Funny, then, that so many in the GOP think of themselves as God's party, even going so far in some cases as to claim it's a sin to vote Democrat.

"I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground, a side of the Pentagon destroyed, and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble," added Rove.

Well, I was actually in Manhattan that day, and I remember exactly how I felt. (Granted, I was thankfully many blocks north of the tragedy; presently I work about a 10-minute walk from the WTC site.) I had a nauseating, dizzy emptiness radiating out from the pit of my stomach. Manhattan was absolutely silent that morning, except for the sound of sirens. No one spoke, except with their eyes. It wasn't a question of feeling restraint; it was being too stunned, too grief-stricken to do anything at all except stare southward at the billowing black cloud that stretched its way toward Brooklyn. There was also a numbing terror, as I wondered, "Is it over? Is there more?"

I also remember that President Bush sat on his ass and read that goat book. Then he hopped on Air Force One and fled.

I don't want to criticize anyone's gut reactions to such a horrific event. Anger and rage are certainly valid responses; there is no justification for the slaughter of thousands of innocent people.

But politics is not about gut reactions. Government shouldn't be run on the basis of gut reactions. For those who think the American government should operate more from a Christian perspective, I might offer this passage:

Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:5-9)

There's more in the passage above than what's directly relevant to this post, but it's one of my favorites so I just wanted to share it.

Rove concluded his address by saying, "No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

Indulge me for one moment while I throw out one more passage from Scripture: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

Let's have a quick historical re-cap: the attacks of September 11, 2001, were carried out by al Qaeda, which was operating out of Afghanistan with the support of its Taliban government.

Three days after the terrorist attacks, the Senate voted 98-0 and the House voted 420-1 for a resolution authorizing Bush to use ''all necessary and appropriate force'' against those responsible for the terrorism.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Happy Summer Solstice!

There is no believing in God. You either know God, or you do not.

Iranian Proverb

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Where's Batman When You Need Him???

I just saw Batman Begins.

This is all I have to say.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

All the Grapes You Can Eat

Why are so many Christians under the impression that the Constitution and U.S. law have some Biblical basis? As I pointed out in the comments section of another blog recently, some politicians' understanding of the foundations of the American legal system seems to run something like this: murder is illegal; murder is forbidden by the Bible; therefore, American law is Bible-based. (As if there is a country in the world in which murder is legal or a religion which permits murder; true, different cultures have different understandings of what constitutes murder, but whatever they call "murder" is always forbidden.)

Recently we've heard a lot of talk about The Ten Commandments, specifically about monuments on public or government property. Ironically, many of the monuments in question were placed there in the 1950s as part of a marketing strategy for the Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza The Ten Commandments, despite Hollywood being one of the Christian right's favorite whipping boys and despite the fact that Charlton "My Cold Dead Hands" Heston as Moses goes around reciting a lot of pretty liberal claptrap on the nature of slavery ("God made men; man made slaves," etc.) that is a far cry from the words of the Biblical Moses ("When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money.")

As I read the Ten Commandments, I see only four in common with American law: Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not commit adultery; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. But these laws are unique to neither Christianity nor America.

Yet some politicians and religious figures persist in maintaining that American law has a Judeo-Christian basis that reflects Biblical law. That link is made most often when people talk about gay marriage. There is no rational basis for discriminating against gay people, only religious prejudice. But because so many people operate under the false assumption that American law is Bible-based, they feel it's sufficient to point to Leviticus and that ought to be the end of the discussion.

Despite their protests that Biblical law and American law are interchangeable, and that all things Biblical and Christian are good, and that everything in the Bible is still currently valid, relevant and enforceable, and that everything in the Bible is literally true, conservative Christians only agitate for Bible-based legislation that doesn't inconvenience them and allows them to legitimize cultural prejudices.

For example, cotton-polyester blends are forbidden. Women having their periods are unclean and cannot be touched for seven days. All debts must be canceled every seven years. (That would certainly solve Bush's budget problem!) It is forbidden to send a man to war within one year of his wedding. It is forbidden to yoke an ox and a donkey together. (Someone please explain that one to me.) Pork chops are an abomination. Let's not forget Deuteronomy 23:24.

None of this is reflected anywhere in American law, or even in the lifestyles of most conservative Christians. I'd like to see someone push legislation to enforce the requirements set forth in Leviticus for dealing with mildew.

Actually, what I'd really like to see is conservative Christians acknowledging that they are selective about Biblical truths and requirements, just like everyone else, and that American law does not have to have a religious basis to be valid and moral and that secular or non-Christian ideas are not necessarily bad or amoral or even different from Christian ethics.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Must-Read

I couldn't have said it better myself, though I've tried many times.

This Op-Ed in today's New York Times absolutely encapsulates my views on religion and politics. It's an outstanding piece written by former Republican Senator John C. Danforth of Missouri. (Yes, I am in agreement with a Republican! And you will be, too.)

Don't miss this.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


gemini horoscope

Your Birthday Horoscope, Andrew! A romantic escapade seems tempting, so why not indulge? Focusing on the side of pleasure today may be a way to reward yourself for a recent job well done.*

I'm accepting invitations for romantic escapades below.

* I guess they're referring to that desk business.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

31 Years Ago Tomorrow...

I think I was a yogi in a former life. How else to explain being in a perfect baddha konasana just days after birth? Posted by Hello

More Fun with Furniture

Today a desk for one of the new offices was delivered.

Well, half of it, anyway.

Apparently I only ordered the left half.

Actually, I blame Staples for this. Why the fuck would anyone want half a desk? Why is that even an ordering option? Why didn't they tell me over the phone, "You realize you're only ordering the left half, don't you want the whole thing?"

To eliminate confusion in the future, I suggest that they revise their catalogue to show the desk in two separate halves in the photograph with big red text that says RIGHT AND LEFT HALVES SOLD SEPARATELY BECAUSE WE SUCK.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Worker's (in)Comp(etence)

We've created a couple of new positions where I work, so I've ordered some additional office furniture. The chairs arrived today, and I had to put them together. On one of them, I had four screws left over.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Where's an Activist Judge When You Need One?

This might come as something of a shock to some people, but I think the Michael Jackson jury got it right.

Let me be the first to admit I didn't follow the details of this case. And I think Jackson probably did all or most of the things he was accused of. However, I'm not convinced that in his mind he actually understands that what he did was wrong.

I think he's a profoundly unbalanced person, with deep, deep psychological issues, and I really pity him. My guess, if I may be allowed a moment of amateur analysis, is that showbusiness pushed him into an adult world with adult issues long before he was ready for it, and he never really got to be a child. Now he's trying to recapture for himself the childhood he always wanted, and he wants to surround himself with children. I think he truly enjoys their company, loves them deeply, and enjoys being in a position to help them.

That's all well and good, but somewhere in his mind his desire to be like a child himself runs up against his adult physical needs, and the distinction between what is appropriate behavior and what is not was totally lost.

Packing him off to prison might indeed prevent him from having inappropriate access to minors, but it certainly isn't going to help him. (Of course, I'm not suggesting we send criminals to jail for their own benefit.) But much as we despise what he's done, can you picture Michael Jackson in jail?

The jury did him an enormous favor, one he didn't really deserve. If he is not able to seize this incredible opportunity to make changes in his life, then his so-called friends need to step in and do a major intervention. Liz, Liza, Jay and others: you need to make it clear to him, no children at his house ever again. Period. Let's not go through this again.

[I do want to be clear: I don't think the jury was convinced he was guilty but rendered a not guilty verdict anyway. The evidence was insufficient and the witnesses had, shall we say, credibility issues. Hurray for a jury that actually upheld a reasonable standard of a burden of proof, unlike the Laci jury which only seconded the verdict Fox News had already reached.]

Likewise, any parent who allows their children near this guy without supervision deserves to be charged with reckless endangerment. The mother in this particular instance should probably go to jail. At the very least, she whored her children out to a media circus in the hopes of making a buck -- and potentially, she knowingly exposed them to physical abuse for the same reason.

Now that that's over with, is there any the media will start covering actual news?

Shameless Plug

My wonderful friend Scott, whom I've known for like 16 years, has co-authored a book coming out soon! Not exactly beach-reading, unless you're a hardcore Geek.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Audience Review

This afternoon I went to see my dear friend make her Carnegie Hall debut as the mezzo soloist in Mozart's Requiem.

As it was 90 degrees and a bezillion percent humidity, decided to risk wearing shorts and sandals to the concert; I did wonder if perhaps there was a dress code for the dress circle. As it happened, had I worn cut-offs and a tank-top and brought a can of Bud with me, I would have fit right in.

It was the New England Symphonic Ensemble and an entire gaggle of guest choirs from all over Red America, with the audience consisting of several busloads of uncouth relatives. But first, the music...

The unnecessarily long afternoon (it dragged on for a full three hours, and the Requiem was last -- this is how much I love you, honey) opened with American Journey by Jackson Berkey, a piece designed to "show America's history in six diverse movements." The music was just a hair more complex than the score of Red, White and Blaine, but without the sincerity and clever lyrics. There is a long and honorable tradition of working folk melodies into serious music; however, in my opinion, there are many miles between Brahms' "Zigeunerlieder" and "Camptown Races." "Skip to my Lou" is not a piece I needed to hear orchestrated. Ever. The orchestral and choral voicing was so consonant it could only barely be considered polyphony. To be fair, the arrangement of "Amazing Grace" was inspired and original, and deserves a concert future above and apart from the rest of the work.

The second of the three halves [sic] consisted of Robert Paul Baker's Requiem of Psalms, which accomplished the singular feat of taking Christianity's most sacred texts and setting them in a way which utterly drained them of any meaning whatsoever. The composer obviously views blandness as a virtue, as if John Tesh were exploring the frontiers of western music. The baritone soloist possessed a heroic, ringing healthy voice of impressive range and vibrant color. I did not understand a single word.

I did not realize how much I hated the first two pieces until the Mozart began. I mean, I knew I disliked them intensely, but the contrast was astounding, as if I'd been invited to a dinner party where the cocktail hour consisted of diet Pepsi and defrosted wiener wraps and the main course was chateau briand and Veuve Clicquot. Hearing the Dies Irae makes you begin to wonder if that text had not been pre-ordained to be set to that exact music at some point during the six days of Creation, the fit is so miraculous. Mozart makes you tremble before a God of immense and terrifying power, whereas the same movement in the Baker work gave the impression that God's most devastating weapon is ennui.

The soloists were more than competent; the baritone did not quite possess the power of the lower range necessary to really nail the opening bars of the "Tuba mirum," but that's me being picky. The soprano sang as if her vocal cords were located somewhere just south of her gall bladder. The tenor had singer hair. Bias aside, the mezzo soloist looked and sounded ravishing, confident and fully involved in what she was doing. The 50 minutes of the Requiem passed many times faster than either of the preceding pieces, which were about half as long.

Now the gloves come off.

I stopped in the mens' room before the concert began, and noticed I could smell my own cologne, which is a bad sign. (As it was super hot today, I over-spritzed, I guess.) I hoped that I did not end up sitting next to someone with a sensitive nose. I worried about this because, you see, I am a sensitive, thoughtful audience member, who is aware of those around him trying to enjoy the performance.

I sat next to a woman who was so completely doused in perfume that I sneezed twice before the lights went down; she had an intensely floral, powdery aroma. In fact, I think it might have been Glade. She was also carrying an enormous bouquet, which I assumed she intended to give to one of the performers after the concert. I had never seen such large blue flowers before, so I gave them a closer look: they were silk. I had the following vision:

A double-wide trailer, somewhere in Tornado Alley, Nebraska. The year is 2041. A woman gestures toward the bouquet on the vanity. "Now, thum thar, that's the BOO-kay that my mama done give me when I sanged at CarNaygee Hall in New York City back in 2005."

I will say this much for her: at least she came on time, unlike about 60% of the rest of the audience. I can only surmise that by arriving 20 minutes late they had hoped to miss the previews.

The gentleman in front of me had to be told by the usher three times that photography is forbidden in the hall. "Even when they ain't nobody singin' nothin?" he said, the third time he was reprimanded.

At one of the intermissions, a twenty-something girl in pigtails ran to the front of the balcony and yelled out, "Yoo-hoo! Ellie Mae! Up here! Yoo-hoo! Heya, Ellie Mae!" She pronounced "here" with two syllables: "hee-urr." She really did say "yoo-hoo." Then: "Shoot! Why idn't she wavin' back? I guess mebbe she cain't hee-urr me." That, or perhaps Ellie Mae has a sense of decorum.

A cell-phone rang during the first piece. No one answered. It rang until it stopped. It rang again at the start of the second piece. Again, it rang until it went to voicemail or they hung up. A few minutes later, it rang again. An usher came looking for the source. It was the woman at the end of my row. She was unaware that it was her phone. She claimed she didn't know how to turn it off. Then...she answered it. "Ma'am, I have to ask you to leave," said the usher. "Just a minute, I'm on the phone," the woman said.

Sadly, I am not inventing this.

Aside from the talking, the lateness, the cell phones, the flash photography, the crinkly wrappers, the people shuffling through plastic bags looking for god-knows-what and two stultifyingly dreadful pieces, it was a horrific afternoon. Doesn't anybody have any class at all anymore?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

GWM, 30, Seeks Stadium Supporter

Everyone I know is practically dancing in the streets now that the proposed west side stadium is dead. Yet the tabloids are abuzz with editorials criticizing Albany for thwarting the "needs" of the city. Is there anyone out there from Manhattan who wanted this thing?

White? Yes. Christian? Yes. Republican? Not so much...

I never thought I'd say this, but: Howard Dean, shut up!

I admire his passion for his new post, but the big reason I supported him is that during the primaries he had the courage and conviction to say what many of us were thinking, while the rest of the Democrats covered up their cowardice with faux-bipartisan rhetoric. It was his blunt honesty and feather-ruffling that attracted so many of us to him. As the old Washington saying goes, "a gaffe is when someone tells the truth."

And so it used to be with Howard YEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRGGGH Dean, and I loved every minute of it. But now he, too, has descended into the ugly realm of divisive partisan name-calling.

In what possible context is describing the GOP as "pretty much a white, Christian party" a constructive tactic? Are there valid points to be made hidden within that smear? Yes. And there are far better ways to address them. His language was so clumsy and his brushstroke so broad that his Republican counterpart Ken Mehlman was able to snarkily respond, "a lot of folks who attended my Bar Mitzvah would be surprised" to hear that he heads a "Christian" party.

The Bush administration and the Republican Party are so corrupt, so vulgar, cruel, mendacious, arrogant...well, you get the idea...and there are so many facts we can use to point out their criminality, that we hardly need to resort to making ugly generalizations based on stereotypes.

Worried about the way the Christian Right is co-opting the political process? Fine. But don't accuse the GOP of being the Christian party; it's rhetoric that just plays right into the hands of Fundamentalist nutjobs and their sycophants like Bill Frist, and it perpetuates the dangerous myth that Christianity is a monolithic and conservative group.

What we should be talking about -- in measured, objective tones -- is the way the radical ideology of a narrow segment of the population is having an undue influence on national policy. There is something wrong with senators participating in the "Filibuster Against Faith" telethon; there is something wrong with legislation being signed in the gymnasium of an evangelical Christian school. There is something wrong with a President who favors ideology over science.

How do you accuse the party of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice of being "white"?

Howard Dean, who used to speak fluidly and eloquently on issues of race, has now lost his moorings. It's not that the Republican party only has white people; it's that the GOP pursues policies which adversely affect the lower economic strata of our society, which are disproportionately non-white. Talk to people in real terms about wages and the cost of living and the cost of healthcare and higher education, and ask if the Republicans have a plan to address these issues or if they're simply exacerbating the problems.

The issues on which we can legitimately attack Bush and Friends are endless: Social Security, healthcare, homeland security, tax cuts, North Korea, Iraq, etc., etc., etc. Dean would do far better to stick to real issues and tone down the empty rhetoric. I know he can do it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

This is the pic I tried to embed in the post about Switzerland below...don't know why it didn't appear. Looking north up the Limmat River through downtown Zurich. En guete! Posted by Hello

Hot Thoughts from New York

Phhhhewwww, pass the air conditioning, summer's here. And so are the tourists. On my way to lunch just now, I passed a guy with a video camera who was walking backwards up Water Street. Obviously unable to see where he was going, he turned around and ran right into a suited-up Wall Street type.

"Hey, watch it, asshole," said the suit. Why do I suspect that will be the highlight of the video?

Well, whodathunkit, but common sense prevailed in Albany yesterday: the proposed west-side stadium for the Jets is as good as dead, and with it the 2012 Olympics.

I am not opposed to the idea of having a stadium on the west side. I am opposed to spending 600 million taxpayer dollars to construct a stadium without plans for improved traffic flow, parking and public transportation for a consumer base that lives largely outside of the city. I am opposed to the cash-strapped MTA (the agency that runs buses and subways in NYC) selling the property to the Jets for less than half of its appraised value.

In response, Mayor Bloomberg chastised Speaker Silver and Senate Leader Bruno and said those who opposed the stadium would have to explain why they were against jobs and economic growth. Bloomberg, I gave you more credit than that. Opposing a completely unnecessary and potentially disastrous venture to be paid for by people with many other urgent priorities is not being against economic growth and jobs, it's being responsible. I still want to see the far west side developed; we can create jobs and housing and make great use of that area.

And I, for one, am delighted that the Olympics won't be coming to Manhattan. What a mess that would be.

Outside of New York, a judge in Washington State pulled the plug on the trial accusing Governor Gregoire and the Democratic party of rigging the election using illegal votes. Turns out the only illegal votes the Republican challenger could prove were cast were for him. Seriously.

Back in New York, I went to a take-out Chinese restaurant for lunch today for cold sesame noodles. (Mmmm.) I asked for chopsticks. "We no carry," was the response. What the hell?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Hoi, tsäme!

A big "Gruezi!" shout-out and thank-you to my peeps in Switzerland, after voters approved a measure extending the same tax and pension status as married heterosexuals to registered same-sex couples. It's not "marriage," but it's a heckuvalot closer than what we've got here.

Switzerland is a weird place. I lived in Zürich for eleven months. In many ways, it's conservative beyond Red-America's wildest dreams. Switzerland is closed on Sunday. No, really, I mean that. In fact, it closes at 4:00 on Saturdays. Some things are rather fascist: my building management left a note on my door to say that someone had complained that I had laundry hanging up to dry in my apartment that was visible from my window on a Sunday.

The Swiss also tend to be humorless and dull. I think this is part of their Calvinist heritage, the idea that if you're having fun you must be sinning. Laughing takes valuable time away from making money. They also have some issues with xenophobia. Some Swiss aren't even nice to people from the next town. And truly, once I saw a woman vacuuming her driveway.

Despite their conservative demeanor and traditional customs, socially they are a lot more progressive than conservative Americans, probably because Swiss conservatives actually read the Bible, instead of waving it around as either a fundraising tool, a weapon or the 2005 edition of Government for Dummies. (If Republicans were serious about enforcing the Ten Commandments, we'd have Superbowl Saturdays instead.)

So hurray for the Swiss, for passing this legislation. It's great not just because gays and lesbians now enjoy rights there that are denied here in the U.S., but because a majority of voters approved it and no one can cry, "Activist judges!" Given how reserved and circumspect the Swiss are, it just goes to show how behind we are. Come on, America, catch up.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hot Priest: Here I am made up for my role as a Vatican cardinal in Philip Glass' opera Galileo Galilei. I'd do me. Posted by Hello

A Neighborhood Wish List

I have lived in Washington Heights now for eleven years, and I've seen a lot of changes, mostly for the better. Here are some things I think still need some work:

The Monkey Room: we love you! I don't know where you get your bagels from, but they are awful. Please, it's Manhattan. To borrow a phrase from Howard Dean, "We can do better." Also, please keep serving coffee all day, even when you officially become a bar at 4:00 p.m. or whenever. Sometimes when I get home from work I want a coffee; Frank's is too weak and Starbucks is too far. Some evenings it would be wonderful to sit out on your patio with a big cappuccino. Please bring back gay Wednesdays. I promise I'll go more. More dancers, less Chablis St. Croix, or whatever the trannie-host's name was.

Associated Super Market: Now that you have those electronic scanners, there is simply no excuse for your inconsistent inventory other than managerial incompetence. Here are some items that you are frequently out of: sweet italian sausage tortellini, breaded chicken patties, Reduced Fat Wheat Thins. Also, how can you call yourself a grocery store if you have never once in eleven years had a frozen Sara Lee cheesecake for sale?!?!?!?!?!

On the subject of frozen pizzas, you need a lot of help. Is it any wonder that you always have Jeno's and Celeste in stock? It's crap. You've always got it because no one wants it. You have never carried Tombstone. You have never had Stouffer's French Bread pizzas. Sometimes you have DiGiorno in stock, but only the small size and usually only the cheese version. When you started carrying California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas, I nearly had a heart attack from joy. However, there are seven varieties available. Once I saw some Thai Chicken, a while back we had Five Cheese & Tomato, and often, to your credit, you have the famous BBQ Chicken. But you have not had a single CPK pizza in stock for three weeks now. For shame!

Don't get me started on your Ben & Jerry's supply. Oh, and your checkout counter girls wouldn't know customer service if it came up and bit them in the culo.

Speaking of customer service, Frank's: you're amazing, we love you, but the thugs who work your deli counter are incompetent and occasionally rude. Would it kill you to hire a butcher who knows what he's doing?

Trattoria Bleu/Monkey Room people: back when Monkey Room was Capo Verde, you guys made the bestest burritos ever. Please find a way to work take-out burritos back into the business.

For that matter, someone please get Washington Heights a mexican restaurant. Oh, and edible Chinese. Also, for the love of God, a NYSC, a decent newsstand, a laundromat that is open later than 7:30 and a video store that has more Joan Crawford movies than they do copies of Soul Plane. (Fort Washington Video has 4 Soul Planes and no Crawford.)

More A trains.

Cute, slightly overweight guy on said A train who smiles at me: just get a haircut and I might smile back.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves... the books in the library at work.

I am currently in the process of supervising a minor construction project at my job, in which we are subdividing what passes for our library/small conference room in order to create two new offices. One full bookcase that had to be emptied out in advance of the construction contained random, gay-related books on pretty much every conceivable subject that somehow we've collected over the years. No one really knows what's there and they're not really resources for us, so I am advocating having everyone just take what looks appealing to them and we shall recycle the rest.

There were a few books on the topic of religion and sexuality; I thought I would take those, since I honestly doubt anyone else there would be even remotely interested. I'm not sure these are any good, but here are the titles I brought home:

Gay Theology Without Apology

Is the Bible True?

The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion

The Man Jesus Loved


Queering Christ

The last title sounds absolutely awful, but if it's garbage I know where to put it. Some titles I decided I would leave behind for others included:

Sappho Was a Right-On Woman

Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them

True Stories of Homosexuals in College (because there were no pictures)

*Trivia: the popular maxim "God helps those who help themselves" is not found in the Bible.

Friday, June 03, 2005

I Still Hate the NY Post

Complaining that the front page of The New York Post is offensive is like complaining that dogshit smells. It's obvious, everybody knows it, and it's never going to change.

Thirty-eight people were killed in violence in Iraq yesterday. What's on the front page of the Post? Michael Jackson and the Runaway Bride.

What gets me most is not just that they willfully direct readers away from the important news of the day toward Bennifer or the latest Monical Lewinsky sighting, but that they vulgarly editorialize the headlines. The big, bold text under the photograph of Michael Jackson says, "Sweat, Freak."

I'm not going to defend Michael Jackson; I think he's obviously troubled. But labeling him a "freak" on the front page of a widely-read publication is cruel; plus it seems like they're rooting for a guilty verdict. That's just coarse and tacky.

To their credit, though, I have to confess that the crack newsteam at the Post did put to rest a question that had been keeping me awake for years now: does Saddam wear boxers or briefs?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sucked into Oblivion

I count myself very fortunate that I live in a basically roach-free apartment. I see one maybe twice a year, which for New York City is pretty great.

Last night, however, I was most displeased to see, for the first time in the nine years I've lived in this apartment, one of those GIANT roaches in the bathroom, also known as "water bugs" or "palmetto bugs."

There is no rational reason why I should be afraid of one of these things, but they are terrifying. I thought about smashing it with a shoe, but I recalled trying that once before in my previous apartment: as I picked up my shoe, I swear the thing turned and charged me. When I finally did get up the courage to get close enough to thwack it, it took like four smacks before it stopped running. And then there was the mess...

Not wanting to try that again, I rolled over him with the vacuum cleaner.

Re-Inventing Myself as a Boring Person

I rode the subway home tonight with one of my co-workers from the new job who lives in my neighborhood. In the short time I've been there, we've developed a nice, easy working relationship, but at work there is never all that much time to talk and also, non-profit or not, it's still a business setting. Know what I mean?

Anyway, so we're walking to the train and he says, "So, tell me about yourself, where did you grow up, etc."

This was my response, word for word: "Well, I was born in Seattle, then we moved to California, then we moved to Denver, then in 1980 we moved to Oregon and I grew up there, I lived in Los Angeles for a year, and then I moved to New York, and here I am. Oh, well, I did live in Europe for a year."

I guess it's still just too difficult for me to talk about my former life as an aspiring opera singer. For one thing, it brings up depressing waves of nostalgia, and also because it didn't work out, it's a source of enormous embarrassment and shame for me. I feel like a flake. I don't even tell people that I lost my voice to acid reflux because I fear they'll conclude that's just how I comfort myself and can't admit that I didn't have what it takes in the first place. I mean, to be honest, that's probably what I would assume of someone with that story.

All that hard work, the years of sacrifice, the ambition, the dedication, the many great successes: it's been cut from my bio.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

George Lucas' Misguided Liberal Propaganda

I think Jar Jar Binks set the gay rights movement back by at least three or four days.