Monday, September 29, 2008

Hi...Sorry! Yes, I'm Still Alive


The last week was just kerr-ayyy-zeee busy! and then this weekend I went on another solo retreat at the Oregon Coast, thanks to a co-worker who generously offered me the use of his beach time-share. I had a wonderful, incredibly relaxing, restorative and insightful weekend -- much better than my last attempt! Hopefully I will blog about it sometime real soon, photos and all!

This week, however, I anticipate to be a magnitude 8.9 on the suckitude scale. It's not a lot of fun to be working in corporate finance during an economic crisis that is putting all of the financial planning we've been doing for the last couple of years in jeopardy.

Anyway, I hope to have an update for you soon -- thanks for checking in and for all your kind emails inquiring as to my whereabouts.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Help! I Can't Finish This Book

I'm stuck. I'm trying to read Robin Lane Fox's The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible, but I'm on page 165 and don't think I can go any further.

I really like biblical history; that, to be clear, is not so much history as portrayed by the Bible, but rather the history of the writings themselves -- who wrote it, when, where, why and for whom. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea; a lot of people just aren't going to be open to the suggestion that Deuteronomy not only wasn't written by Moses, but was composed at the conclusion of the Babylonian exile by Jews returning to Jerusalem seeking to codify and re-establish temple practices and culture that had withered in captivity. See, I find that stuff fascinating.

This book is full of interesting information but there are two huge flaws: structure and style.

The chapters seem out of sequence. Presently I'm stranded in a chapter that seeks to define agreed-upon standards for what constitutes an ancient "historian." I can't help but feel that this probably belongs at the beginning of the book, and, at fourteen pages, is at least nine pages too long. There does seem to be a vague arc; the first chapter talks about the two separate creation traditions that got spliced together in Genesis, and most of the stuff relating to the New Testament is clumped together at the back. But it feels haphazard, and what comes in between does not have a sense of flow or development.

And, oh...the prose. Dull does not begin to cover it. Mr. Fox just has no voice. It's an effort just to turn the page.

There's stuff toward the back I'm interested in, but I feel like what I'm reading now is supposed to be laying the groundwork for what I'm to take away in ensuing pages. I'm tempted, however, to regard it more like an encyclopedia and just skip to what interests me. I'm also tempted just to put it back on the shelf.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Belated Blogoversary To Me

Oopsie. Missed my own blogoversary, which was September 19. (Thanks, Assisi, for the generous reminder!!!)

The truth is, I'm kind of depressed.

I have a good job, but it's not really a fit. I can't really call it boring, because the pace is frantic and I spend most of my time lurching from crisis to crisis. But not huge, important, world-saving crises, like protecting endangered species. When I get home I am exhausted. I'm good at my job, but it doesn't really play to my talents or passions.

Now, I knew it would be like this going into it. I never thought that my calling in life was to be a corporate tax admin. My circumstances are what they are, and I have to pay the bills, and this is the most money I can make given my skills and experience. So, there it is. Nonetheless, it's kind of a drag sometimes. I don't blog as much because I'm just uninspired; I feel like my creative, analytical brain is atrophying, like a houseplant in a room with bad light.

My social life isn't quite what I'd hoped for, either.

It's not all bad news, though.

Since May I have been working with Integrity and the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon to develop an outreach program on LGBT faith issues, and last Thursday was the project's first outing. I thought about advertising it on the blog, but then I panicked and thought, "Oh...what if it turns out I'm terrible at this?" So I didn't.

The program features a licensed screening of the 2007 documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, followed by a moderated dialogue on homosexuality and the church (hosted by yours truly), and our first event was held at St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukie, Oregon. We had about 25 people show up, and it was a wonderful experience.

To be honest, it was a little bit like preaching to the choir, or at least the parents of the choir; no one was hostile or unreceptive to the issue. I heard some incredible and moving stories; there were elderly parents of a gay man there and they recognized their own journey of reconciliation in the film, and a man whose son had married a woman who turned out to be a lesbian. Another woman shared that she had a transgender brother. The vast majority of attendees were heterosexual.

I left feeling excited and inspired. When I come home from work, I feel literally physically heavy, like I have lead in my blood, but on that night I felt alive. I need to do more of this. Fortunately, I have at least two more "gigs" on the line, one in Monmouth, Oregon at the end of October and another at my own parish, date TBD. (Note to self: talk to rector today!) I need to try to get more opportunities like this, and maybe someday I can even branch out of the Episcopal Church to face a more skeptical audience.

Why I Don't Like Sarah Palin, Continued

She's totally Christy Masters from Romy & Michele's High School Reunion.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Andy Declares War on Sarah Palin

BREAKING NEWS: A personal friend of Governor Palin's revealed to ABC news this horrifying secret: "She doesn't care for cats."

A spokesperson for Rocky and Starbuck this morning responded, "The feeling is entirely mutual."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Earmarks vs Pork

One of the strangest themes of John McCain's campaign is his crusade against earmarks.

Congress exists to write and pass laws, yes. But another important job is to take taxpayers' money and divvy it up in appropriate ways, to determine how this money can most effectively be spent. We voters send our representatives and senators to Congress to fight for our piece of that pie. This is how Congress works; this is how Congress was intended to work. Specifically, "under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power to direct appropriations of money drawn from the national treasury. This includes the power to "earmark" funds it appropriates to specifically designated projects."

An "earmark" is just a piece of tax pie that Congress decides will be set aside for a particular program or project. Earmarks help fund all manner of projects, from public transportation to education and research. The Iraq Study Group was funded through earmarks. Earmarks can also be used for the national infrastructure like, oh, I don't know, let's say...umm...levees in New Orleans and, um, bridges in Minneapolis. Not incidentally, all of our aid to Israel is earmarked. Is John McCain really opposing aid for Israel?

Now, let's be honest: Congress is not infallible. Sometimes they screw up. Sometimes they want to fund projects for political purposes that will cost the taxpayers more than they will yield in public benefit; that's not an earmark, that's pork.

In the second part of her interview with ABC's Charles Gibson that will air tonight, Governor Palin will say this: "And it's not inappropriate for a mayor or for a governor to request and to work with their Congress and their congressmen, their congresswomen, to plug into the federal budget along with every other state a share of the federal budget for infrastructure."

That's right. That is one of the main responsibilities of Congress. No argument from me.

But this statement comes in response to a reasonable question about her repeated claim to have "told Congress thanks, but no thanks, on that Bridge to Nowhere."

The plain fact of the matter is that Congress stripped the earmark of funds for the bridge in November 2005.

Sarah Palin did not become Governor of Alaska until 2007.

In fact, as she campaigned in late 2006, she expressed support for the bridge.

The first time Sarah Palin told Congress "thanks, but no thanks," was at the Republican National Convention in August 2008, almost three years after the bridge became a national laughingstock.

That's not change you can believe in.
But wait, this gets better. Recently McCain and Palin accused Barack Obama of requesting "nearly $1 billion" in earmarks for the state of Illinois. But Obama has requested no earmarks for 2008, and in 2007 only $311 million, which works out to $25 per Illinois resident.

This year, Sarah Palin asked Congress for $198 million in earmarks. That's $295 per Alaska citizen. In 2007, she requested $256 million. While she was mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla, she hired a Jack Abramoff-affiliated lobbyist and secured "14 earmarks totaling $27 million."

Here are some sterling examples of recent Alaska "earmarks."

Friday, September 05, 2008


Tomorrow I am attending the bar-mitzvah of the autistic son of two gay men, one Jewish, one Episcopalian, being held at a Presbyterian church.

Is it too much to hope for kugel at the reception?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why Sarah Palin's Family is Fair Game

"I have said before and I will repeat again: People's families are off limits," Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said on Tuesday. "And people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Governor Palin's performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18 and how a family deals with issues and teenage children, that shouldn’t be a topic of our politics."

Noble words, with which I'd happily be first to concur. But no...not until I hear the same principled stance from Republican activists who have made discrimination and fear-mongering a rallying cry and make people like me political props in their campaign of distraction.

The 2008 Republican Party Platform explicitly calls for writing discrimination into the Constitution, seeking both to deny same-sex couples the right to marry and to deprive the courts of their proper role in protecting the civil rights of all citizens from the tyranny of the (shrinking) majority.

Their defense of "traditional" marriage is lined with all the discredited tropes of the waning anti-gay movement. They insist that restricting marriage to heterosexual couples protects "our children's future," although the government neither requires nor recognizes procreative intent or capability as a characteristic of civil marriage. The platform paints a disparaging view of children who grow up "in homes without fathers," while failing to note that the research they cite exclusively refers to the children of heterosexual mothers whose fathers chose not to live up to their responsibilities, not the children of committed same-sex partners. We are meant to ignore that some children of single-parent households turn out just fine (see Obama, Barack) and others have two fathers.

You see, according to Republicans like Sarah Palin, a family like this one is a better place for children than this one. The belief that any pairing of married heterosexual parents provides a stabler, healthier home than any same-sex couple could possibly offer is just not born out by any sort of evidence, at all.

Never mind their foreign policy disasters or the tanking economy -- look out! Here come Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi! Give me a break.

This is not a trivial issue. Palin and her ilk have literally campaigned on the promise to protect America from gay bogeymen (and women). Sure, in an ideal world, Bristol Palin and her circumstances would be irrelevant. They should be. And so should the private lives of millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, taxpaying, hard-working citizens. But when the RNC uses us to scare up voters, I refuse to sit idly by and not point out the egregious hypocrisy of people like Sarah Palin.

So Bristol Palin is 17, pregnant, and scheduled to marry the teenage father. Now, who knows? Maybe these two are genuinely in love and will live a happy, committed life together. It's entirely possible. My grandmother was pregnant (turns out, with someone else's child, my father) when she married her husband, and they're still married 65 years later and raised three kids, two of whom are divorced. But the research shows that pregnant brides are 50% more likely to get divorced, and that's factoring in a heterosexual divorce rate that isn't anything to be proud of.

Here's why Sarah Palin's family matters. You won't find anyone to argue that Bristol was being responsible by getting pregnant while unmarried and still in high school, even if they now assert she's doing the right thing by marrying the charming father. Though McCain aides may protest that the "liberal media" is smearing Palin's family, it was the GOP that first trotted out the Palins as a model to be emulated.

If you agree with Barack Obama that this subject should be off-limits, then you're at odds with James Dobson, whose activist organization Focus on the Family -- note the name -- is at least as political as it is religious. Here's his statement on the Bristol Palin situation.

Now, let's reflect back on his comments regarding the daughter of a sitting vice president who got pregnant outside the bonds of civil marriage.

Seventeen year-old Bristol Palin is about to marry a fellow teenager; they will have full government recognition and protection for a relationship that is, let's face it, a last-ditch attempt to make right a stupid mistake made in a brief moment of passion. Sarah Palin thinks this is just great. Yet compare that to Mary Cheney, who had been in a committed relationship with her partner for 15 years when they made the conscious decision to raise a child. (They're now at 17 years together, 6 years past the average heterosexual marriage duration of 11 years.) Sarah Palin thinks that Mary and Heather deserve no recognition or protection; Mary is the biological mother, so in the unfortunate event of her death, Sarah insists that Heather has no claim to the child. Sarah thinks Heather should not have been allowed to be present in the hospital for the birth, nor should she be allowed to be with Mary in the hospital under any circumstances. The couple, according to Palin, is not entitled to any insurance, inheritance or social security benefits.

Sarah Palin is receiving heaps of praise for supporting her teenage daughter's decision to have a child before she even completes high school and to marry another student who openly boasted on his MySpace profile that he doesn't want kids while simultaneously insisting that Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who had been in a committed relationship longer than Sarah has been alive, deserve no protection or recognition.

John McCain, Sarah Palin's running mate, cheated during his first marriage which ended in divorce.

Gay folk get scapegoated for the political gain and moral failures of uninformed ideologues like Sarah Palin, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and David Vitter. I will heed Barack Obama's call to leave her family alone just as soon as she stops blaming me for everything that is wrong with heterosexual marriage.

Republican, heal thyself.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Straight Talk Express

PBS Gets Catty

I set the DVR to record the Republican National Convention. Of course, the program has been adjusted in light of Hurricane Gustav.

The first hour was replaced by Antiques Roadshow.

Andy for GOP Secretary of State

If John McCain wins in November, I think based on my extensive foreign policy experience that he should definitely consider me for Secretary of State.

First off, I was born in the State of Washington, which is on the border with Canada, and I have even visited Victoria. I grew up in Oregon, which is right across the water from Korea, which means that I am familiar with the threat posed by Kim Jong Il. After a year in Los Angeles (which is close to Mexico), I spent nearly fourteen years in Manhattan, which, as everyone knows, is the home of the United Nations.

In high school I traveled as an exchange student to Japan, which is close to China. I also visited Hawaii, which has only been a state since 1959 and so barely counts as the U.S., which is why Barack Obama is only kinda-sorta an American. From 2000-2001 I lived for 10.5 months in Zurich, Switzerland, which is a real diplomaticky sort of place, and I spent a major percentage of my time there as an ambassador for our nation, explaining to the citizens of "Old Europe" why it was that the candidate who received fewer popular votes was actually the rightful winner of the election and assuring them that, despite what they had heard about George W. Bush, everything would be fine. "What's he going to do," I asked them. "Start a war?"

During this time I also sang for the Mayor of Zurich and the President of Switzerland. I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of queens.

In addition to Switzerland, Canada, Japan and the Kingdom of Hawaii, I have also traveled to Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy. While in London, I saw Buckingham Palace. I speak fluent English, conversational German, passable Italian and can read French. Perhaps more importantly for present times, I have sung in Russian, Spanish and Hebrew. I also took three years of Japanese in high school, and once slept with the son of a Brazilian diplomat. (Okay, twice.) Oh! and a friend of mine is married to woman from Zimbabwe.

I have never been to Washington, D.C., but this just means that I would confirm McCain's outside-the-beltway-box thinking and his maverickyness.

Though I admit I have never served on the PTA, my stepfather was a teacher. I was elected to the Vestry in January of 2008, which means I have held elected office longer than Barack Obama has been the Democratic nominee.

Given the depth and range of my foreign policy experiences, I believe I would make an outstanding Republican Secretary of State. Oh, and as for the vetting process, I assure you that Rocky and Starbuck are up to date on licenses and vaccinations. Thank you.


PS, on an unrelated note, prayers for the people of New Orleans.