Friday, June 29, 2007

3 Former Leaders of Ex-gay Ministry Apologize

Via Ed Brayton, 3 former leaders of ex-gay ministry apologize:
Three former leaders of Exodus International, often described as the nation's largest ex-gay ministry, publicly apologized Wednesday for the harm they said their efforts had caused many gays and lesbians who believed the group's message that sexual orientation could be changed through prayer.

Speaking at a Hollywood news conference, the former leaders of the interdenominational Christian organization said they had acted sincerely in their years of work with Exodus. But they said they had all, over time, become disillusioned with the group's ideas and concerned about what they described as the wrenching human toll of such gay conversion efforts.


"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," the three, including former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, said in a joint written statement presented at the news conference. "Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates."

Now a licensed family therapist in Riverside, Bussee left Exodus in 1979 after he fell in love with a man who was a fellow ex-gay counselor with the group. He speaks out frequently against ex-gay therapies.

"God's love and forgiveness does indeed change people," said Bussee, who remains an evangelical Christian. "It changed me. It just didn't make me straight."

That must have taken a lot of guts. Kudos to them. Not that it will necessarily change anything:
Exodus' president, Alan Chambers, reached by phone at the meeting in Irvine, said he disagreed with its critics, adding that its methods have helped many people, including him.

"Exodus is here for people who want an alternative to homosexuality," Chambers said. "There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there's room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn't dangerous."

Monday, June 25, 2007

On Immigration: Why I Favor Amnesty

The immigration debate contains so many issues that it's taken me a while to figure out where I stand. At present, I'm in favor of amnesty for all illegal immigrants currently in the country who are not convicted felons, gang members, or likely terrorists. Going forward, I think we need to get rid of unrealistic immigration laws.

Because the debate is multifaceted, I'm going to attempt to address each aspect of the debate individually.


There appear to be two main economic arguments made against amnesty and for stronger border enforcement:

1) Illegal immigrants are a net drain on the economy. I believe this claim is simply false. A poll of economists conducted by the Wall Street Journal found that:
On balance, nearly all of the economists – 44 of the 46 who answered the question – believe that illegal immigration has been beneficial to the economy. Most believe the benefits to business of being able to fill jobs at wages many American workers won't accept outweigh the costs.

2) Illegal immigrants are bad for lower-class American workers. This appears to be true, but not very significant:
Nearly 80% of economists who responded to questions about immigration in the latest forecasting survey said they believe undocumented workers have an impact on the bottom rung of the wage ladder. Twenty percent believe the impact is significant, while 59% characterize the effect as slight. The remaining 22% said there is no impact.

It also occurs to me that we don't oppose computers or robots despite the fact that they take jobs away from people, because we think the trade-off will be worth it. Workers who lose those jobs will be able to secure different jobs created in large part by the extra wealth provided by the increased productivity. I don't see why immigration would be any different.

One final point. Those who argue that illegal immigrants are bad for the economy don't seem to factor into their calculation the cost of preventing illegal immigration, which would involve construction of the largest fences/walls in the world as well as the deployment of many soldiers along the border. They also don't take into account that native-born Americans are not reproducing at greater than replacement rates, which in the absence of immigrants would make it harder to support retired Americans.


It is my impression that this is the underlying motive of normal Americans opposed to amnesty or anything resembling it. Illegal immigrants are here illegally, by definition, so we shouldn't reward them for it. Humans have strong innate negative feelings towards cheaters and, in my opinion, often overreact to them even when it goes against their own self-interest. While I agree that it's generally bad to reward illegal behavior, I think that when a law is so flagrantly and massively violated, it's because the law was impractical to begin with. (Other examples: prohibition and a speed limit of 55 mph.) At some point we have to recognize that even if in an ideal world where everybody followed the law it would be a good law, in reality an unenforceable law simply erodes respect for the rule of law and harms the exceptionally law-abiding.

Some may argue that it's not that the law is unenforceable but that we have chosen not to enforce this. They will point to polls that suggest a majority of Americans would prefer better enforcement against illegal immigration. However, I believe that if and when the public realized what would be involved in seriously enforcing the law (mass deportation, tons of spending, harm to the economy) support would quickly dissipate.


Some claim that the porous borders are a grave national security threat. I do not believe that this is true, or if it is true, that we can effectively do much about it. All of the 9/11 hijackers entered the country legally. There are between 2 and 10 million Muslims already living in the U.S. We have no shortage of homegrown criminals or gangs. While it is true that Mexican gangs are a problem in some areas and that terrorists might sneak across our borders, locking down the entire border strikes me as a ridiculously inefficient way to deal with the threats. Furthermore, terrorists attempting to enter the country would undoubtedly have vastly more resources than the average poor Mexican immigrant, so enforcement would have to be incredibly severe.

The essential truth of the matter is this: life is not safe. The government can do only so much to protect us. They are happy to, however, make enormous promises about security in order to get votes and money. Take one look at the woefully ineffective war on drugs or the inanity of post-9/11 airline security, though, and it's clear that many of their promises are just wishful thinking. Security would be more effectively increased with intelligence and police work than by erecting the Great Wall of America.


Finally, there are those who argue that Hispanic immigrants are not assimilating well enough or quickly enough, that they aren't learning English, and that they don't fit into the American way of life. I think this is mainly untrue. By the second generation, virtually all immigrant families are fluent in English and the U.S. hasn't had a mono-culture in decades, if indeed it ever did. Even if immigrants have, on average, more problems than native-born citizens, it's not of enormous significance and, again, not worth the costs of keeping them all out. America has long been successful in large part due to immigrants who come here for a better chance at life, who are willing to work their asses off chasing the American dream. Every previous wave of immigration had similar opponents, yet in the long run, all have proved to be a net plus to our country. I think the Latin immigrants, legal and not, will do the same.

Obama on Religion and Spiritual Hunger

That God does not exist, I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget. --Sartre

David Brody, a correspondent for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, writes approvingly of Obama's public expression of faith. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

While Obama's potential to siphon the hard-core Christian vote from the Republicans is an interesting story in itself, as is the question of whether we should worry about Obama's own mingling of faith and politics, Obama's description of the void that religion fills in people's lives deserves a post of its own:
There’s a hunger that’s deeper than that – a hunger that goes beyond any single cause or issue. It seems to me that each day, thousands of Americans are going about their lives – dropping the kids off at school, driving to work, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets, trying to kick a cigarette habit – and they’re coming to the realization that something is missing. They’re deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down that long road toward nothingness.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Loving Wife Spanking in a Christian Marriage

Here's an interesting site which appears to be created by and for female Christians who are (sexually) into spanking but can't admit it to themselves:
We hope you'll enjoy your stay here. This website was created to provide a home for couples involved in a Christian Domestic Discipline marriage where they might find information and share fellowship with other CDD couples without having to wade through pornographic or warped practices of what God created for marriage...

A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is one that is set up according to Biblical standards; that is, the husband is the authority in the household. The wife is submissive to her husband as is fit in the Lord and her husband loves her as himself. He has the ultimate authority in his household, but it is tempered with the knowledge that he must answer to God for his actions and decisions. He has the authority to spank his wife for punishment, but in real CDD marriages this is taken very seriously and usually happens only rarely. CDD is so much more than just spanking. It is the husband loving the wife enough to guide and teach her, and the wife loving the husband enough to follow his leadership. A Christian marriage embodies true romance and a Christian man a true hero.

Yes, thank God we don't have to wade through pornography or warped practices! :-)

The friendly atheist demonstrates that this site has more to do with sex than with Christianity, considering they sell crotchless pantaloons, for example. He also quotes a blog post by one of the site's authors:
Okay…last night wasn’t too bad, I guess, though at one point I did think if he swatted that one spot again the spanking would no longer be quiet, despite his use of the “quiet” evil spatula. I know I’m a weinie. He knows that too, thank God, and he loves me enough not to spank me too hard no matter how irritated he is with me. However, last night was enough to remind me to keep up with my duties as his wife. I respond well to discipline. It will be a long time before I slip up on that again.

Too funny.

It's a shame when people can't admit their sexual proclivities to themselves, but you've got to admire their creativity.

Update: Maybe they aren't as deeply in denial as I first thought:
Though we recognize by its very nature this subject can be erotic, we will keep this website as clean and wholesome as possible. However, we will not seek to deny the erotic nature of some CDD marriages as we believe it is a natural consequence of following God's plan. After all, He created eroticism to be enjoyed inside a Christian marriage.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Blogging and Friends

So it's well-known that it's inadvisable to discuss sex, politics, or religion in social settings because feelings run so deeply on the issues that discussion may quickly lead to arguments and the destruction of friendships or at least a pleasant afternoon. When I first got into blogging, I thought it was perfect because it let me say what I always want to say but am too polite to do in person. ("What are you, nuts?? You believe that God literally dictated the Torah to Moses?")

Then, of course, because bloggers are human, we start getting friendly. And then we face the reality that engaging in these debates even online means pissing people off and creating strife.

At least anyone I've met (or "met") through the blogs already knows where I stand on all the issues, so if they have become friendly, it's with that knowledge. Still, it's kind of a shame that it's so hard to discuss these issues without everyone getting all riled up.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mildred Loving on Gay Marriage

She was one of the Lovings in Loving v. Virginia, a woman of color who, with her white husband, was arrested because they were of different races.

For the 40th anniversary of the case, she released this statement:

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person.

Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” a “basic civil right.”

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan, of course.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Short Movie Reviews

I see a lot of movies. Thought it'd be fun to throw out some brief reviews of movies I've seen that I've recently seen... and some not so recently.

Knocked Up A

Great comedy by the makers of the 40-year-old virgin (A-). It doesn't really work as a romance, but that doesn't matter because it's so funny.

Volver A

Great Spanish (subtitled) movie starring Penelope Cruz. It's not like many other movies.

Fracture B

Solid thriller starring Anthony Hopkins and one of my favorite young actors, Ryan Gosling. Hopkins and Gosling are better than the movie, but it's worth it to watch them.

Speaking of Gosling...

Half-Nelson A

Gosling plays a high-school teacher with a crack habit who befriends one of his students... and tries to keep her away from the influence of drugs. Great movie.


The Believer A

Gosling plays a Jewish anti-semite, apparently based on a true story.

Spider-Man 3 D

The worst of the trilogy. The action's okay, but the story is poor even for a movie based on a comic book.

Speaking of comics...

American Splendor A

A fantastic movie starring Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, author of the comic book series of the same name.

Ghost World A

Another great movie based on a comic book (graphic novel, really) starring a young (pre-hotness, really) Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch. It's Steve Buscemi who makes the movie, though, as Thora Birch's friend and pseudo-boyfriend. (Think Johansson and Murray in Lost in Translation. [A-])

Shrek the Third C-

Awful. I couldn't wait for it to end. I would have left if I were alone. Not nearly as good as the first two (B and B-, respectively, iirc.)

I Think I Love My Wife B

Interesting film starring Chris Rock as a married man tempted by another woman. n.b. Rock is not his on-stage persona in this film.

The Last King of Scotland B

Forrest Whittaker is great, as usual, playing the charming but ultimately evil real-life dictator Idi Amin. Not for the squeamish -- there are some brutal scenes. (Also, it turns out that Gillian Anderson looks great as a blonde, although she's not in the movie enough.)

The Namesake A

Great drama covering two generations of an Indian-American family. Stars Kal Penn, which reminds me of...

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle A+

Two kids get high and develop a serious craving for some White Castle hamburgers. Hi-jinks ensue. One of the best comedies in years.

Waitress B+

Sweet little movie starring Keri Russell of Felicity and the captain from Serenity and Firefly, an unhappily-married and pregnant Southern waitress with a gift for creative pie baking who meets a young doctor that's everything her controlling husband isn't.

Speaking of which...

Firefly (t.v. series) and Serenity (based on the series) receive an A for science fiction, which is not equivalent to an A in other genres simply because there's so little good science fiction out there.

Once A

Great little movie about an Irish busker and a Czech folk singer who get together and make some great music. Both are in the real-life band The Frames and both are adorable.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Why We Leave Orthodoxy

Rabbi Gil Student approvingly links to an article by Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin about "the Current Crisis of Rebellious Adolescents."

This paper will review the items commonly mentioned as risk factors in Orthodox children becoming rebellious ("going off the derech"). I will demonstrate that there is a strong tendency - albeit with the best of intentions - to downplay the role of parents in this problem. The reasons for this avoidance and how it can impede efforts to alleviate the problem will be explored.

Here is the comment I left at Rabbi Student's blog:
I find the constant conflation of teens "at-risk" of going off the derech with teens "at-risk" of getting into drugs and destructive lifestyles infuriating. There seems to be no recognition that it's possible -- indeed common -- for children to decide Orthodox Judaism is simply not right for them, for various reasons. A quick look around the Jblogosphere reveals a great number of people who left or are leaving due to theological differences with Orthodox Judaism.

I had a pretty good childhood. I loved my parents and continue to do so today. The reasons I am not Orthodox are that I honestly believe that Orthodox Judaism is factually incorrect. I believe God does not exist and that, even if he did, he certainly did not dictate the Torah to Moses at Sinai.

Maybe instead of seeing every child who goes "off the derech" as a tragedy, Jewish leaders should focus on those children who are legitimately in danger of unhealthy behaviors.


The following excerpt better represents what I'm responding to:

More recently, a prominent mechanech in Bnei Brak wrote a sefer on chinuch12 where he does spell out the painful truth clearly [free translation]:

The mecahnchim who deal with at-risk youngsters report that all of the youngsters who dropped out did so only because they received insufficient love and respect at home. Not even one of these youngsters claims that that he dropped out because of complaints c"v against Hashem or against the Torah. A child who receives sufficient love and acceptance at home will never go off the derech.

So I'll say it clearly, for the record. I dropped out because of complaints (c"v!) against Hashem (or at least against his existence) AND against the Torah.

A Legislator Explains Why She Changed Her Mind On Gay Marriage

Via Andrew Sullivan, One lawmaker, in her own words, who changed her vote on same-sex marriage.

For me, what all this comes down to is this: Same gendered couples are taxpaying, law-abiding citizens, who are important community contributors, well-loved and well-respected by their families, friends, neighbors and employers. They deserve and are entitled to the same legal protections enjoyed by all others citizens of our state. This is the law of the Commonwealth, articulated by our Supreme Judicial Court in Goodrich v. The Department of Public Health, decided in November, 2003.

Despite dire predictions, there has been no adverse societal impact from this decision and most people now express little concern about same gender marriage.

Springfield and Western Massachusetts needs these families, and all our families, to help rebuild our neighborhoods and the peaceful and productive society to which I know, whatever our differences on some things, we all aspire. As a practical matter, I believe we simply cannot afford to marginalize our human resources. Most importantly, I feel strongly that no child should ever be made to feel "less than" or "second-best" nor should any of our children be exposed to a public campaign focused on adult matters of personal privacy. There is altogether too much unseemly information brought into our homes and schools already. It is in the best interests of our children that we accept fully these new families.

I also want to address directly one of the more contentious issues in this debate: Same gender couples have been adopting children and building families here in the Commonwealth for about twenty years. In many instances, same gendered couples have adopted children with severe challenges, children no one else wanted, and they have worked miracles with them. These children would have lived lives of despair without these families. This underscores how we cannot afford to marginalize any of our people; make anyone second-class citizens. We are all precious resources to each other, and to generations yet to come.

We have had a full and fair public discussion and debate, and today we must settle this matter so we can move on to other issues of equal and, perhaps, even greater import to our state. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that the finality of judgments is the concession we make to the shortness of life.

I know from listening to my constituents, since I first became Senator this year that this vote, the vote I take today, is the right vote for the people I serve. I have been most impressed by the number of individuals who have called me and asked me to change my vote because they have changed their minds. One grandmother told me she had changed her mind and wanted me to change my vote in case one of her grandchildren grew up to be gay or lesbian. She did not want any of her grandchildren to be denied the right to marry the person they love. This is exactly the legacy we will leave to generations beyond us, and the example we can set for the nation and, I daresay the world, which is certainly paying attention to what we do and say here today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Happy Loving Day!

40 years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statutes were unconstitutional.

Let me repeat that. 40 years ago, it was against the law in many states for a white person to marry a black one.

Let us hope that one day soon, laws against gay marriage go the same way. I have no doubt that our children and grandchildren will look at today's laws against gay marriage with the same horror and disbelief that most of us now feel about the anti-miscegenation laws.

[T]here is a striking similarity between the arguments used to justify anti-miscegenation laws and the arguments put forward today against gay marriage. Tradition, a respect for majority opinion, religion, science, sociology -- all were invoked with great somberness and much citation of experts and their research. The prejudice that propped up all the arguments -- and, for us, invalidates them -- was invisible or inevitable to their proponents.

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents, their sentencing judge decreed. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix. --Fred Hiatt

You opponents of gay marriage, I beg of you to consider your position in light of the positions of people opposed to interracial marriage just a single generation ago. How was it possible that so many American citizens believed then what seems to be a gravely immoral position today? What questions have you asked yourself to ensure you aren't making a similar mistake today?

Another Poll on Evolution

Gallup: Now thinking about how human beings came to exist on Earth, do you, personally, believe in evolution, or not?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bush's Nominee for Surgeon General Worse Than I Thought

Previously, I pointed out that he had written a ridiculous paper attempting to prove that homosexuality is not "natural."

It gets worse:

Additionally, Holsinger and his wife were founders of Hope Springs Community Church which, according to the church’s pastor, ministers to people who no longer wish to be gay or lesbian. The pastor, the Rev. David Calhoun, said that the church has an "ex-gay" ministry. "We see that as an issue not of orientation but a lifestyle," Calhoun said. "We have people who seek to walk out of that lifestyle." This type of "ex-gay" conversion therapy has been condemned by almost every major, reputable medical organization — including the American Psychological Association, which issued a condemnation more than 10 years ago.

George Bush nominated this man for Surgeon General.

Israeli Rabbis Curse Gay Pride Parade Participants and the Police Who Protect Them

New rule: any organization that puts a curse on others is to be laughed at and dismissed as crazed lunatics. (With apologies to Bill Maher, whose new rules I love.)

The Orthodox Righteous Court of Law (Badatz) have placed a curse on the organizers and participants in the gay pride parade scheduled to take place in Jerusalem next Thursday. The curse also applied to police forces that will secure the event.

Rabbis from the Orthodox Edah Haredit sector (Badatz) published a message in Jerusalem on Sunday which read: "To all those involved,
sinners in spirit, and whoever helps and protects them, may they feel a curse on their souls, may it plague them and may evil pursue them; they will not be acquitted of their transgressions from heavenly judgment."

Badatz is quite powerful in Israel -- they offer the most strict kosher certification in Israel. It's also strongly anti-zionist and opposes the Israeli government. (I don't mean the current people serving in government, but the actual government itself.)

Orthodox Israelis of any sense should boycott these crazies.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Homophobes vs. our Troops

Don’t Ask, Don’t Translate, by Stephan Benjamin

IMAGINE for a moment an American soldier deep in the Iraqi desert. His unit is about to head out when he receives a cable detailing an insurgent ambush right in his convoy’s path. With this information, he and his soldiers are now prepared for the danger that lies ahead.

Reports like these are regularly sent from military translators’ desks, providing critical, often life-saving intelligence to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the military has a desperate shortage of linguists trained to translate such invaluable information and convey it to the war zone.

The lack of qualified translators has been a pressing issue for some time — the Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators in 2001. Cables went untranslated on Sept. 10 that might have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Today, the American Embassy in Baghdad has nearly 1,000 personnel, but only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers.

I was an Arabic translator. After joining the Navy in 2003, I attended the Defense Language Institute, graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and then spent two years giving our troops the critical translation services they desperately needed. I was ready to serve in Iraq.

But I never got to. In March, I was ousted from the Navy under the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, which mandates dismissal if a service member is found to be gay.

What the hell is wrong with this country?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bush Nominates Homophobe for Surgeon General

To paraphrase David Spade, wouldn't we be more surprised at this point if he didn't?
President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., wrote a paper in 1991 that purported to make the medical argument that homosexuality is unnatural and unhealthy. Doctors who reviewed the paper derided it as prioritizing political ideology over science, and Democratic aides on Capitol Hill say the paper will make his confirmation hearings problematic, if not downright bruising.

Holsinger, 68, presented "The Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" in January 1991 to a United Methodist Church's committee to study homosexuality. (Read the paper here.) The church was then considering changing its view that homosexuality violates Christian teaching, though it ultimately did not do so. Relying on footnotes from mainstream medical publications, Holsinger argued that homosexuality isn't natural or healthy.


Noting that Holsinger also belongs to a church that offers a ministry to "cure" gays of the sexual orientation, gay and lesbian rights advocates immediately protested Holsinger's nomination. "His writings suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans," said the Human Rights Campaign in a statement. "It is essential that America's top doctor value sound science over anti-gay ideology."


In the context of the larger argument in his church as to whether homosexuality should be accepted, Holsinger presented a medical and scientific argument that anal intercourse was not natural.

"It is absolutely clear that anatomically and physiologically the alimentary and reproductive systems in humans are separate organ systems, i.e., the human does not have a cloaca," he said, referring to the posterior orifice that serves as the one opening for genital, urinary and intestinal tracts in amphibians, birds and reptiles. The surgeon general nominee wrote that "even primitive cultures understand the nature of waste elimination, sexual intercourse and the birth of children. Indeed our own children appear to 'intuitively' understand these facts."

Does this strike you as the doctor most suited to the job of Surgeon General of the United States?

It's reasonable for a doctor to write an article about risks men and women face from anal sex to educate people who might choose to practice it. To argue that homosexuality is not "natural" (what is it then, supernatural?) by pointing out that "the alimentary and reproductive systems in humans are separate organ systems" is just dumb.

I wonder if he practices oral sex with his wife. Surely he knows the digestive system is a wholly separate organ system as well.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Reader Poll: Children, Religion, and Happiness

For the religious: Would you prefer your [hypothetical, if necessary] child to be religious or happy, assuming only one was possible?

For the nonreligious: Would you prefer your [hypothetical, if necessary] child to be nonreligious or happy, assuming only one was possible?

I recognize that the assumptions are not true, but it's still an important question.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Zakaria on our State of Fear

NEWSWEEK's Fareed Zakaria has a must-read piece on what a cowardly nation we have become. (My words, not his.)

An excerpt:
We have become a nation consumed by fear, worried about terrorists and rogue nations, Muslims and Mexicans, foreign companies and free trade, immigrants and international organizations. The strongest nation in the history of the world, we see ourselves besieged and overwhelmed.


Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face.

In a global survey released last week, most countries polled believed that China would act more responsibly in the world than the United States. How does a Leninist dictatorship come across more sympathetically than the oldest constitutional democracy in the world? Some of this is, of course, the burden of being the biggest. But the United States has been the richest and most powerful nation in the world for almost a century, and for much of this period it was respected, admired and occasionally even loved. The problem today is not that America is too strong but that it is seen as too arrogant, uncaring and insensitive. Countries around the world believe that the United States, obsessed with its own notions of terrorism, has stopped listening to the rest of the world.

More troubling than any of Bush's rhetoric is that of the Republicans who wish to succeed him. "They hate you!" says Rudy Giuliani in his new role as fearmonger in chief, relentlessly reminding audiences of all the nasty people out there. "They don't want you to be in this college!" he recently warned an audience at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. "Or you, or you, or you," he said, reportedly jabbing his finger at students. In the first Republican debate he warned, "We are facing an enemy that is planning all over this world, and it turns out planning inside our country, to come here and kill us." On the campaign trail, Giuliani plays a man exasperated by the inability of Americans to see the danger staring them in the face. "This is reality, ma'am," he told a startled woman at Oglethorpe. "You've got to clear your head."

The notion that the United States today is in grave danger of sitting back and going on the defensive is bizarre. In the last five and a half years, with bipartisan support, Washington has invaded two countries and sent troops around the world from Somalia to the Philippines to fight Islamic militants. It has ramped up defense spending by $187 billion—more than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, India and Britain. It has created a Department of Homeland Security that now spends more than $40 billion a year. It has set up secret prisons in Europe and a legal black hole in Guantánamo, to hold, interrogate and—by some definitions—torture prisoners. How would Giuliani really go on the offensive? Invade a couple of more countries?

I agree. The United States lived for decades with the possibility that the human race could be almost completely obliterated at any moment if the Soviet leader got an itchy button finger. Today, we've let our media and politicians terrify us into overreaction at some two-bit terrorists who managed one spectacular attack that killed fewer Americans than have died in Iraq.

Somebody has got to stop the madness, but the Republicans are outdoing each other in their hawkishness ("We ought to double Guantanamo!") and the Democrats are stumbling over each other to prove that they can be as crazy as the Republicans.

One of the main reasons I hold such hopes for Obama is that I think he might be able to straddle that line of assuaging peoples' fears while not engaging in a counterproductive foreign policy to achieve it. George W. Bush has played directly into bin Laden's hands and, I'm sorry, has done more harm to America than those 19 terrorists did on 9-11.

I'll leave you with one last quote from Zakaria's article:

Such overreactions are precisely what Osama bin Laden has been hoping for. In a videotaped message in 2004, bin Laden explained his strategy with astonishing frankness. He termed it "provoke and bait": "All we have to do is send two mujahedin ... [and] raise a piece of cloth on which is written 'Al Qaeda' in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses." His point has been well understood by ragtag terror groups across the world. With no apparent communication, collaboration or further guidance from bin Laden, small outfits from Southeast Asia to North Africa to Europe now announce that they are part of Al Qaeda, and so inflate their own importance, bring global attention to their cause and—of course—get America to come racing out to fight them.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Obama on Gay Marriage and Self-Doubt

Barack Obama made an interesting statement in his book The Audacity of Hope:
It is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus' call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I might be seen on the wrong side of history.

It reveals a man with a healthy dose of skepticism about his own beliefs but perhaps lacking the courage to take the step he knows he should. Is that better or worse than someone who is sure gay marriage is wrong and always will be?

Right now I'm going with better, since he at least has the courage to ask the question. I'd prefer a president who makes mistakes with the understanding that he is fallible to one who makes mistakes with 100% certainty. Presidents can't publicly precede the people to the right conclusion on every issue, but Obama has at least done so on one major issue: the Iraq war. If he merely rides the public wave of support for gay rights as it continues to grow, it's at least better than most of his rivals can be trusted to do.

Obama does, for the record, support laws against discrimination and for civil unions. He must also have an innate sense that the public can be wrong about questions of civil rights and marriage -- his black father and white mother were married in 1960, when miscegenation was illegal in half the states in America.