Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Love A Clever Review...

Especially when I agree!

Peter Jackson didn’t particularly want to direct The Hobbitand I didn’t particularly want to be bored to tears, but there we both were, fulfilling what could only be described as some sort of cinematic murder-suicide pact.

Read the rest of Simon Miraudo's review here

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jackson's "Hobbit" a Disappointment

A Tolkien fan, not a geek, I was thoroughly delighted by Peter Jackson's faithful rendering of each volume of The Lord of the Rings.  Despite some story changes (e.g. The deletion of Tom Bombadil) and moving some major events from book to book, each of the films left me satisfied and ready for the next.

For many years I read the Hobbit aloud to elementary kids.  It's a great story where the good guys come out ahead and evil is overcome.  (I usually summarized the battles at the end.)  One of my favorite scenes and a particular challenge was Gandalf's imitation of various troll voices to extend their discussion of how best to prepare the dwarves to eat is one of my favorites.  Under Jackson's direction Gandalf's cleverness becomes a warrior splitting a rock.  It robs the scene of intimacy and that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.  It's a video game, not a film.

While beautifully filmed and cleverly crafted the grand scale that must be imposed to satisfy audience expectations, overwhelms many an opportunity for empathy. This is a direct outcome of Jackson's division of the book into 3 movies.  While many of the expansions of story are true to Tolkien's universe, incorporating minor characters from ancillary materials, such as Radagast the Brown, it just isn't needed.  The original story is complete and well fashioned.  Jackson has shown his reverence for Tolkien in three brilliant films, but it seems that, like Smaug, greed is the undoing of the New Zealander.

One ring to rule them all.  One film to tell the tale of the Hobbit would have been plenty,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where to "Spend" Your Holidays

The "American Family Association," mostly noted for their opposition to anything gay, gets to the really important stuff this time of year.  You know the stuff that Jesus really would have been worried about.  The war against Christmas.  Thank the Eternal One that they are counting how many times "Holiday" is used instead of "Christmas." You can even download their "Naughty or Nice" list and choose to shop where the true spirit of Christmas, AKA the commercialization of the holiday, is alive and well.

I suggest you use their list as well.  I might not agree with them about HOW to use it. Perhaps instead of a trip to any store you could visit an LGBT welcoming church, synagogue, mosque or temple.

May your holidays, including Christmas if you celebrate it be filled with joy!  May you remember the real message of every religion and may there be peace on earth, good will to all.


The AFA's most recent letter follows.  My favorite part is the ad after the signature.


Humbug! Three companies lose rank on AFA's 'Naughty or Nice' list

December 11, 2012

Dear Neil,
As you finish up your Christmas shopping, three companies have noticeably reduced their use of "Christmas" in newspaper advertising and on their websites from past years.
After carefully reviewing L.L.Bean, True Value and Sam's Club, the AFA Naughty or Nice list has downgraded them from being "For" Christmas to "Marginalized."
L.L.Bean told AFA it would increase its use of "Christmas" in advertising, but after two weeks, we haven't seen it. Instead, it continues to reference its "Holiday Gift Shop" for those "holi-daily deals" that includes a "holiday" delivery schedule. Ironically, L.L.Bean touts a "Christmas" catalog, but you won't find "Christmas" anywhere but on the cover. Throughout the catalog, everything is "holiday."
True Value Hardware Stores
True Value's website offers "holiday" coupons, "holiday" gifts, "holiday" decorating and "holiday" lights when you "Shop the Holidays." There are very few references to "Christmas," but the overall theme is dominantly focused on using "holiday."
Sam's Clubs
Sam's Clubs website homepage reminds you to check out their "Holiday Entertaining Catalog" for those "Perfect Holiday Values." Sam's Club is owned by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is listed on our list as a top promoter of Christmas, but the Sam's Club subsidiary is the company's Scrooge and is hoarding the word "Christmas" from the shopping public.


Tim Wildmon, President
American Family Association
P.S. Are you looking for a tour that will help you capture the deep, rich, Christian heritage of our county and the people who founded it? If you are, then our Spiritual Heritage Tour is for you. Experience America's Christian Heritage on our DC/Mount Vernon or Williamsburg Tour.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reductio ad Absurdum

As a gay man finally able to be legally married, the next 6 months will be nerve-racking.  While waiting for my right to legally and publicly solemnize and celebrate my love for another man, there is nothing I can do but wait and speculate.  There is no lobbying the Supreme Court.  The Justices's positions are for life and their decisions cannot be appealed.  There are no more powerful people in the United States.

Today I heard that Justice Antonin Scalia had been questioned about his dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas and comments afterwards.  Lawrence declared that 'sodomy laws' violated the constitution.  Here is a snip from his dissent:
The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are “immoral and unacceptable,” Bowers,supra, at 196–the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity.

When questioned by an openly gay freshman law student on his comments Scalia refers to a legal argument technique called reductio ad absurdum, or reduction to the absurd.   From the great majority of sources, Saclia is quoted, "If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?"

In an article "Gay Student asks Justice Scalia to defend his 'bestiality' comment,"  NBC news reports about Scalia's appearance at Princeton.  

At a more dramatic spin on his response is posted.  Their post is Scalia Defends Comparing Sodomy to Murder. Most notably a part of the quote missing in the NBC report is here.  The reference to murder. 

Fox News had this headline: Confronted by NJ Princeton student, Scalia defends arguments that strike some as anti-gay

Reduction to the absurd is where we are headed as a nation.  We may have arrived. Most Americans get their news from one source.  Going no further than a headline, which is essentially what most TV news does, look at how dramatic or benign a news story may seem.

While writing this I was also following "right to work" legislation in Michigan.

NBC:  Michigan passes anti-union 'right to work' measure over protests of thousands.

Fox News: Michigan House approves right-to-work bill, as teachers ditch school to protest

Reductio ad Absurdum indeed.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Show Biz Folks and AFER

Thanks to Betty for sharing this!  Variety reports on the reaction from those who have championed the cause to have this brought before the Supreme Court.

The industry figures backing the federal suit to overturn California's Proposition 8 welcomed the news that the Supreme Court would review the case, and the show biz activists for same-sex marriage expressed confidence in the outcome. 
It was just over four years ago, in the aftermath of the passage of the state's ban on gay nuptials, that Rob Reiner, his wife Michele and their two political consultants, Chad Griffin and Kristina Schake, hatched the idea to fight the initiative through the federal courts. Enlisting Ted Olson and David Boies, two legal eagles on opposite ends of the political spectrum, to lead the case provided a dose of publicity. David Geffen and Steve Bing provided the millions in seed money to get the effort launched. 
Griffin, who is now president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that the court's decision was "nothing short of a milestone" in the movement for marriage equality.
From the start, the goal had been to get the question of same-sex marriage before the high court. 

Read the rest here,

If You Really Understood What God Meant!

"Gay Marriage" is the topic of the day.  Please, people, it's not just gay marriage, it's marriage equality.

The internet is littered with people re-energizd to debate the topic, including this writer.

But there is something that many of them rely on:  The Bible.

I've read many posts that try to defend marriage equality by pointing out that "traditional marriage" was not so traditional in scripture.  It's true.  Polygamy was OK. Slaves sleeping with masters. The list goes on.

One of the Christian faithful responding that the person who posted a graphic of the various forms of marriage and relationship in the Bible said  they were just people working out the kinks until we got it right.  "If you really understood what God meant..." she wrote.  Of course I could argue against that easily.  It's always seemed to me that the ultimate heresy is to claim to know the mind of God.

But, folks, all of this is meaningless.

Certainly our faith helps to inform us is broad questions of justice and injustice.  But the 9 people below are called upon to interpret the Constitution of the United States without regard to the dogma of their particular faith.

Suppose that in Loving v Virginia (1967) the majority of justices used the tenants of the Mormon faith held until 1978 that black people could not be full members of the LDS church?  They certainly would not have acted to allow inter-racial marriage and Justice Thomas would be "living in sin."  (Though one could argue that he indeed is, but for very different reasons.  Chiefly hypocrisy.)

Kyle and I have been discussing who might vote how.  We both agree that Thomas will most surely not support marriage equality, at least as it applies to gay ad lesbian Americans.  We also expect that Alito will not, though he said in his dissent to Lawrence v. Texas  that overturning Sodomy laws would open the door for "gay marriage."  Justice Roberts on the other hand is not a slam dunk.  He is conservative, but often in the true libertarian sense and his legacy as Chief Justice just might make him move in the direction of real justice.

Speculation is academic.  But we can hope and pray that this Supreme Court will do the right thing.  In the light of recent elections and public opinion shifts we are very, very optimistic.

NYLS Professor Lays It Out

In Gay City News, a professor at New York Law School, Arthur Leonard,  lays out the history, the SCOTUS orders, the outs they have left themselves and a prediction on the DOMA case.  He says the the Prop 8 case is a toss up on the standing issue and if it rules the direct and narrowness of its decision is anyone's guess.

Justice Walker of the California Supreme Court issued a broad decision declaring that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.  From there Leonard continues....

The Proponents appealed Walker’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit, which stayed his order pending the outcome of the case. The Ninth Circuit first held that the Proponents had standing to appeal Walker’s ruling, after obtaining an advisory opinion from the California Supreme Court that initiative sponsors enjoy that right under state law. The appeals court then affirmed Walker, but on the narrower theory that no rational basis had been shown for the state to withdraw the right to marry after it had been granted.
In their petition to the Supreme Court, the Proponents posed the broader question –– on which the Supreme Court has now granted review –– of whether same-sex couples are entitled by virtue of the 14th Amendment to the same right to marry enjoyed by different-sex couples.
But the high court will revisit the question whether the Proponents have standing to represent the State of California in defending Prop 8. If the Court rules that they did not have standing to appeal Walker’s ruling as a matter of federal law, that would mean that neither the Supreme Court nor the Ninth Circuit would have jurisdiction to decide their appeal. In that event, Walker’s ruling, which was not appealed by any of the named defendants in the case –– such as the governor or attorney general –– would be the final ruling, binding in the state of California. Same-sex couples would once again have a right to marry there.
If the Supreme Court finds that the Proponents did have standing, it would proceed to consider the merits of the case. It could decide to answer the question on which it granted review –– whether California can reserve the status of marriage to different-sex couples –– or it could, if so inclined, accept the narrower reframing on which the Ninth Circuit decided the case and find that that Prop 8 violated the 14th Amendment because no rational grounds exist to rescind an existing right to marry, especially in a state whose Supreme Court had ruled that same-sex domestic partners were entitled to all the rights of marriage. 
In other words, the December 7 decision by the Supreme Court offers no guide as to how broad or narrow its final decision might be.

The DOMA challenge involves a New York woman, Edith Windsor, who petitioned the IRS to return $380,000 she would not have had to pay were it not for the federal government's refusal to recognize her legal marriage.  When her wife died in 2009, Windsor was left the entire estate. Under laws controlling inheritance a spouse should not be liable for this tax.

There are "standing" issues here as well. Because neither the President nor official bodies of the legislature wished to challenge the lower court's ruling in favor of Windsor, a so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group was formed at direction of Republicans in congress headed up by a former Solicitor General Paul Clement to challenge the decision.  Now the current solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. has filed a petition supporting the lower court's decision and asking the Supreme Court to hear the case for the sake of resolution.  Again, the court has asked for the respondents to argue first that they do indeed have standing.  If they are found not to, that would end the case and the lower court's decision would stand.

Leonard says:
At the end of the day, I don’t believe the Supreme Court will find that the US solicitor general lacks standing to bring these cases before it. The number of federal district courts that have ruled against the constitutionality of Section 3 is steadily mounting, more lawsuits are in the pipeline, and a nationwide resolution of its constitutionality is needed.
As a result, my conclusion is that the court will likely proceed to the merits on Windsor, and I think there is a good chance it will decide, by at least a vote of 5-4, that the lower courts are correct in holding it unconstitutional. The progress of the marriage equality movement may help to influence the court in reaching that conclusion. As of January 1, same-sex marriage will be legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, and if Judge Walker’s ruling eventually goes into effect, in California as well. As the proportion of the country living in marriage equality states increases, the “anti-democratic” effect of a Supreme Court ruling on this issue decreases.

Read the entire article here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What Americans For Equality Rights Has To Stay

Strange bedfellows, conservative Theodore Olsen (counsel to Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush) and liberal David Boies (who argued for Al Gore in Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court) joined together to for AFER,  American For Equality Rights, to overturn Proposition 8.  Both found common ground in defending the right of lesbian and gay Californians to marry.

These two lawyers assembled a crack team to take the case of Perry v. California forward.  Watching their arguments at the California Supreme Court and at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, both of which found Prop 8 unconstitutional, it is hard to imagine that the Supreme Court will overturn these rulings.

What SCOTUS Said

Here are the two postings from SCOTUS regarding Marriage Equality:
                   The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted.  In
             addition to the question presented by the petition, the parties
             are directed to brief and argue the following question:  Whether
             petitioners have standing under Article III, §2 of the
             Constitution in this case.
                 The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted.  In
             addition to the question presented by the petition, the
             parties are directed to brief and argue the following
             questions: Whether the Executive Branch’s agreement with the
             court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this Court of
             jurisdiction to decide this case; and whether the Bipartisan
             Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of
             Representatives has Article III standing in this case.
What in Means:

PROP 8: (12-144)

In the first decision the court has agreed to hear the Prop 8 case.  That is bad news for Californians who were hoping they would refuse to hear it.  If they did refuse marriage for all would have resumed in California very quickly.  HOWEVER there is a hopeful part.

In directing the petitioners to argue whether they have standing, there is a very big out.  California refused to argue against Prop 8, which reversed marriage equality in California by popular vote.  The State was saying tacitly "we want this to be overturned."  California, under Gov. Schwarzenegger, saw gay marriage as in the best interest of the state.  The people who opposed marriage equality were then forced to defend their position.  They were granted "standing", that is the right to pick up the state's role in defending the proposition, by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The ninth circuit upheld the State Supreme Court decision that Prop 8 was unconstitutional.  But they also issued a stay of overturning the marriage ban pending the Supreme Court decision.

In raising the question of standing once more, it is possible that SCOTUS could rule that the petitioners cannot, in the absence of the State of California, proceed. If they do, it's done. The decision stands and gay marriage resumes in California.  If the petitioners do have the right to argue, then a ruling on Prop 8, up or down, will be rendered.

DOMA: (12-307)

The Defense of Marriage Act, ironically named from the point of view of gay and lesbian Americans, denies federal rights and responsibilities to gay couples.

The conservative leaning court is of concern.  However we must remember that they found a way to allow "Obamacare" to stand in the face of vocal opposition from the right.

There are some big "outs" for SCOTUS in the questions included in the writ of centoriari.  This one is too complex for me.  I need to read some more. But, if the court were to decide that it could not decide, as silly as that sounds, it could allow them to kick this can down the road.

The arguments will happen in March and a decision will be rendered in June.

I only hope that reading one more explanation of this will not confuse my readers.  In the meantime, here is the perfect picture to support the right to marry.  I suspect it will challenge the stereotypes of many.  This couple is applying for a marriage license on the first day of availability in the state of Washington.

All I Want for My Birthday is SCOTUS Decision

Assuming that SCOTUS, The Supreme Court of the United States, does not act today, the may issue an order on Monday about up to 10 cases affecting marriage equality.

In case they are reading my blog, here is what I would like:

1) Deny the appeal of Proposition 8 in Perry v. California.  This would allow the 9th circuit court's decision that declared denial of marriage as unconstitutional under the California Constitution to stand.  The court would then lift its stay and marriage in California would resume.  Following previous posts you may know that would restore full marriage rights to 38 million people.  Thirty percent of the population would then have equal access to marriage.  That's 92 million of 312 million according to the 2010 census.

2) Hear any of the cases that challenge the constitutionality of DOMA, The so-called Defense of Marriage Act.  DOMA says that not federal rights or responsibilities tied to marriage can be granted to a marriage unless it is between one man and one woman.   This of course runs up against Article 4 of the Constitution which grants "full faith and credit" to the laws and statutes of other states.  There are 8 of theses cases.  Massachusetts has had marriage equality since 2003.

UPDATE: Moments after posting: 3:15 PM.  SCOTUS is hear both DOMA and PROP 8.  This is potentially bad news.... it will not be argued/decided until March.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In the Straight Closet

Can you find the straight man in this picture?  According to Tim Kurek (center), the gayborhood of Nashville couldn't.  For a year.

Kurek was raised in an evangelical household, spent a year at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's pride and joy) and like most of those around him believed that homosexuality was an abomination.  During a Soul Force demonstration at Liberty University, Kurek argued with a protestor from the pro-gay evangelical group, founded by Falwell's former closeted aid, Mel White.  Shortly after that Kurek left Liberty and during the course a few years started to question the talking points about gay people with which he had grown up.

His plan was to go into the closet as a straight man and come out to his family and friends as gay.  He wanted to walk a mile in the shoes of a gay man. So for one year he lived among the homosexuals.  The LGBT community around Church Street in Nashville became his friends and, as to his family... Sorry I will keep spoilers to a minimum.

Kurek's decision took a lot of criticism. Many LGBT activists said he was making light of the situation by imagining that he could really "get it" in just one year and with the knowledge that he could walk away whenever he wanted. Kurek takes this criticism on honestly.  He never wanted or expected to find out what it was like to be gay.  He did want to challenge his prejudices and clearly in a very big way.  He wanted to find out what the LGBT community was like and not just as a casual observer.  His "experiment," as he calls, accomplished this.  It's really a must read for anyone, gay or straight.  Period.

I read this book on the recommendation of a straight friend.  Our discussions about the book revealed how our different points of view informed our reading.  My friend was more interested in his changed perspectives.  I found that his experience of living in his own closet was more powerful.

The friends he makes and the people he meets really are quite a broad spectrum of the community.

Several things about the book were of concern to me.  I bought this as an e-book and was quite distracted by the number of misspellings and typographical errors.  The center part of the book does become repetitive and well, a bit preachy.  Kurek gave himself away as open-minded too soon in the book for my liking.  I found it harder to believe early on that he would have shouted down the protestors in Soul Force than that he would following through with the experiment.  But hidden later in the book are perspectives that make his epiphanies seem more believable.  Kurek makes contact with folks from the Westboro Baptist Church family.  I found that interesting.  The reaction of his new community when he revealed that he had been lying to them for a year kept me reading at a pretty good clip.

Every gay Christian should read this book.  Every Christian should read this book, but I fear that will not happen. I will be recommending this to my church's book club.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Tumultuous Affair With Tassimo

I am a coffee addict. Nothing short of it. Two years of sharing my life with a coffeemaker has been work.  All good relationships are I suppose.

MSNBC had a Tassimo commercial on about 5 times an hour during the season leading up to the holidays and I had decided that I wanted a single serving brewer.  After lots of research and tasting I picked the Tassimo.  Here are the reasons:

1. It produced a whole gamut of hot and even cold (sort of) beverages.  Coffee, espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, iced coffees (brewed over ice), teas (and iced tea if brewed over ice), low fat lattes.... and of these various strengths, cremas and flavors.

2.  There were only two brewers that promised to stay around long term: Kruerig and Tassimo.  Between these two the quality of the coffee brewed was no contest.  Kreurig brewed a weak version of coffee and no other options.  Tassimo's bar code reader adjust the heat of water and pressure of steam automatically to brew a strong, full bodied cup or a less robust cup if you experiment and find the brand  that suits your taste.

3. Choice.  This was a hard one, but between Maxwell House, Gevalia and an array of European brands Tassimo had plenty of variety.  The fact that Starbucks only made single brew pods for Tassimo cinched my choice.  Clearly the broader array of American choices would be available for Kreurig, but given number 2 above, I really didn't care.

I got my Tassimo and was prepared to live happily ever after. Then things started going wrong.  First Starbuck terminated their contract with Tassimo.  They clearly saw that the big market was with Kreurig and the quality of the brew be damned.

Then there was the recall.  The pods apparently "exploded" and showered user with hot water.  My guess is that these folks opened the machine before the brewing was complete, but the company sent a new pod holder that tightly locks it in place.

Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I bought the machine, started scaling back their offerings of t-disks, as they are called. With the loss of Starbucks (I still have two packages that cost $12 which are on ebay for $300 each) I started experimenting with other brands available from Amazon and Tassimo direct.

I discovered some wonderful new coffees, notably Maestro Lorenzo Crema and Carte Noire.  Gevalia and Maxwell House both have a T-disc that brews a 12 oz cup.  Kyle likes the former.

I was wondering if Tassimo would go the way of some other single cup options, but Bed, Bath and Beyond has restocked and TIM HORTON'S is now selling their coffee in t-discs.  For those of you who don't know, Tim Horton's is the Canadian version of Dunkin' Donuts. They have great coffee, and while I haven't tried their Tassimo version yet, it's a good sign.

Which brewer would I buy now?  Tassimo, hands down.  It just brews a better cup of coffee.  Period.

Now Kreurig is selling a new version of their brewer which claims to brew a stronger cup of coffee.  Just one catch.  It's a whole new pod, the K-cup Vue, I think.  Really?  Just how confusing will that be?  And Starbucks has their proprietary system, Verissmo.  It, of course, only brews Starbucks coffee, espresso and frothed milk-like something.  It is powdered, unlike Tassimo, which has a liquid "Milk Creamer."

Tassimo has a great product and I enjoy it almost every day.