Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The New Jim Crow

Hobby Lobby is not a slippery slope, it's greased wall that will now have to be climbed before laws like Mississippi's new "Jim Crow" can be challenged.

The Supreme Court, well the 5 Roman Catholic Men on the Bench, have started to dissect according to particular beliefs of particular denominations.  If people are worried about Sharia law, perhaps the should broaden that to any law that is based on a particular set of religious sectarian beliefs.  That's the real issue in Iraq. America was not established as a theocracy. Separation of Church and State was particularly meant to avoid a theocracy.  It has struggled to hold it's own amidst many challenges. It has been eroded by "In God We Trust" and the addition in the 1950's of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.  Prayers, specifically Christian, are now allowed in public meetings thanks to those 5 Roman Catholic men.

This stuff scares me...

Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act now allows businessowners to turn away LGBT customers if they claim their existence conflicts with their religion.
The law passed in April and was quickly signed by Republican governor Phil Bryant; it went into effect July 1. Several cities in Mississippi, including Jackson and Hattiesburg, are challenging the insidious law by passing resolutions affirming all patrons are welcome. Equality Mississippi is distributing stickers that proclaim, "We don't discriminate: If you're buying, we're selling."
The American Family Association has found a way to take umbrage with the stickers.“It’s not really a buying campaign, but it’s a bully campaign, and it’s being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture," AFA's Buddy Smith stated, according to Pink News.
Local merchants and professionals like chef John Currence bristle at the law's effect on the state's already inhospitable reputation. “We are not going to sit idly by and watch Jim Crow get revived in our state," he said, vowing to fight the law. Similar legislation is wending its way through Kansas.

From The Advocate July 6, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Where's the Beef? In the PROUD Whopper!

It's been a while since I have tended this blog. Here's a great reason to get back into the swing of things!


Monday, April 28, 2014

Rating the Cosmos

Being in a household without kids, I rarely think about the rating code.  This evening I was watching Cosmos, the reboot of Carl Sagan's series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson: pure science and presented with the latest digital graphics.  It is awesome in the true sense of the word.

So why is it given the TV rating of PG?  The sub ratings tell the story.  "V" for violence and "D" for suggestive dialogue.  I suppose nothing is more violent than a super nova (except a hyper nova), but that rather distorts the intent of protecting the innocents from Game of Thrones type brutality.  But "challenging dialogue," usually reserved for talk about sex?

Of course you know the reason this is challenging dialogue.  It challenges the Biblical literalists. Evolution and an earth 4.5 billions years old rather than 6,000 is too much to discuss with the kids.  I wonder how old a child must be before PG does not apply?  Ratings are applied by the network.  How must you be before Fox thinks you must be before you "question everything?"

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Facts? Who needs facts when you are talking about the ACA?

If you ever thought that the Kochs’ attack ads weren’t full of egregious lies, take a look as the non-partisan Washington Post Fact Checker debunks some of their recent attacks against Democrats.

Claim in Koch Attack #1: “I found this wonderful doctor and a great health care plan. My insurance was canceled because of Obamacare. Now, the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable. If I do not receive my medication, I will die.”
Washington Post Fact Check:
FACT #1: “[She] suggested she had lost her ‘wonderful doctor’ when in fact she could keep that doctor in the new plan.”
FACT #2 “Her premiums were cut in half, from $1,100 a month to $571.”

Lie Detector: “One cannot claim that a plan is ‘unaffordable’ when over the course of the year it will provide you with substantial savings.”
Claim in Koch Attack #2: “Our health insurance plan was canceled because of Obamacare...This new plan is not affordable at all. My husband is working a lot more hours just to pay for these new increases.”
Washington Post Fact Check:
FACT: “The family qualified for Medicaid, but she was opposed for philosophical issues… So the family opted for a more expensive plan”

Lie Detector: “It is [the family’s] right to choose a more expensive plan. But it makes her claim of ‘unaffordable’ harder to swallow.”
Claim in Koch Attack #3: “Health care isn’t about politics. It’s about people. And millions of people have lost their health insurance, millions of people can’t see their own doctors, and millions are paying more and getting less.”
Washington Post Fact Check:
FACT #1: Many have not lost their health insurance -- “Many [have been] rolled into new plans, and Obamacare has reduced the number of uninsured.”
FACT #2: People don’t lose doctors because of Obamacare -- “This was true before Obamacare; employers changed plans all the time.”
FACT #3: People aren’t getting less for more -- “Obamacare mandates many new benefits.”

Lie Detector: “Once again Americans for Prosperity makes sweeping claims about the health-care law that lack context or offer a misleading picture.”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

OSCAR: Best Picture

For the second year in a row I have seen all the nominated Pictures.  My impressions...

American Hustle:
Totally entertaining. Great ensemble cast. How fun it is to find out the background behind an event that happened when you were alive.

Captain Phillips:
Best Picture? Really? Give me back 5 nominees.

Dallas Buyers Club:
Must see. A story that is little known, but should be well known. Best Actor to to Matthew McConaughey, hands down.  The rest of the cast is amazing. Kyle's pick for Best Picture.

Stunning visuals. This will win every special effects award and probably best director, though the later challenges my understanding of director.

Great concept.  I bit full of itself.

THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR!  Understated everyman exceptional study of small town middle America.  Funny, touching.  What i missing in movies is back.

Fantastic.  All "Christians" should see this.  Chritianity is summed up in one line in this movie.  You WILL know it when you hear it.  Live it.

12 Years a Slave
Slavery is bad.  It's really, really bad.  We know that.  Good flick.  Not great flick. Lupita will win.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Educating Prisoners: A Reponse to Congressman Chris Collins

In his irregular email newsletter, my representative, Chris Collins (R-NY 27th) let me know that he was sponsoring legislation to stop Gov. Cuomo's plan to allow prisoners to take college courses at state expense. 

My note to the cogressman:

Representative Collins:

I recently received your email stating that you are sponsoring legislation to stop Governor Cuomo's funding of College Education for Prisoners.  There are many of the Governor's policies and initiatives with which I disagree.  This is not one of them and I believe that your efforts are short-sighted.  We no longer have penal colonies, we have correctional facilities.  While recidivism is a problem, it can only be reduced by attempts to release prisoners who are more prepared to be released into society equipped to cope and become employed.  What the Governor proposes is actually the fiscally responsible thing to do in the long run.  It is consistent with the society in which we live that only looks at the here an now to take your position.  But we owe it to the future of New York and the US to invest in the future. Education at all levels and available to all is that sound investment.

Thank You for taking the time to read this.  I hope you will thoughtfully reconsider your position.


Neil D. Houghton
3873 Rush Mendon Road
Mendon, NY 14506

Friday, February 28, 2014

OSCAR: Short Subject - Animated

The tale of a wild child brought from the forest to the city, where to no ones surprise he does not fit in. The charcoal morphing surreal rendering is fun to watch.  The story is nothing new. 

Get A Horse
We missed this. Released with Frozen, apparently we are among the few that haven't seen it.  Although our cable on-demand offered "the Oscar nominated short films," this was not included.  Some snarky jokes about Mickey Mouse by the animated hosts explain its absence.

Mr. Hublot
Am intricately engaging visual environment tells a simple, but heartwarming story.  The juxtaposition of intricate visuals with the simple story makes for a charming cinema.  This is my pick. 

Beautifully flowing animation and a tale of healing.  This is Kyle's pick.

Room On The Broom
Here's sweet old fashioned animation of a children's story.  Lots of visual humor added to engae everyone. A close second for me.

OSCAR: Short Subject Live

Beautiful Poetry.  Moving. What a short film can say with so much more style and without the fillers that a feature film would demand.  With nods to "The Red Balloon" and even Spielberg, this was our favorite. Called sappy by many, it had me blubbering.

The Voorman Problem
The ubiquitous Martin Freeman is this short tale of solipsism gone wild.  Worth seeing.

Just Before Losing Everything
An important subject is dealt with in several new ways.  The abused are center stage and the abuser is given little focus.  The workplace as a support community was positive. A contrived parking lot encounter and non-ending made it less effective to my eye. This is LA Times Martin Tsai's pick to win.

That Wasn't Me
Here's an example of subject matter that needs more in depth exploration that short film can offer.  Perhaps the complete stripping of humanity from the characters was the point. It didn't work so well for me.

Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?
Humorously injecting slapstick into an everyday setting, this is fun film.  Too close to home, but fun.

Helium is our pick to win.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bishop Smith of AZ Reponds to Jim Crow's Return

It's another day to be proud to be an Episcopalian.  Members of my LGBT community who shun the church for thousands of years of persecution certainly are justified. But there are so many wonderful leaders in this church who have finally returned to the fundamental message of Jesus Christ.  All are welcome in this church.  We are a place to find refuge from the sin of churches that divide, devalue and reject the humanity of any group.  Today's example:

The legislature of Arizona has passed what can only be described as 'Jim Crow' laws aimed at the LGBT community.  Based on "sincerely held beliefs" any person can deny another person service. A legislator appear with Anderson Cooper last night appears not to know what he signed, saying it was just to prevent a clergy person from being forced to perform a same-sex marriage.  He was either ignorant or lying.  NO CLERGY PERSON can be FORCED to MARRY ANYONE.  No church, mosque or temple can be forced to offer their worship place for an event that they don't want. 

Bishop Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona issued this statement on their website:
Who among us doesn't want to support religious freedom? This argument seems to be the tactic of some arch-conservative lawmakers, who have convinced our Arizona legislators that it is fine to deny people basic human rights under the guise of religious freedom. Lawmakers in other states and members of both political parties have been astute enough to see what bills like this really are – a wolf in sheep's clothing that masks discrimination under a veneer of piety. Arizona, however, with its propensity for making itself into the political laughing-stock of the nation, has been duped once again. One can only pray that our Governor will, as the Arizona Republic said this morning, “get out her veto pen.”
From the Very Rev. Troy Mendez, an outline of the law and its effects:
What is being proposed?  Actually, several things are being proposed in this bill, including the following:
a)         Enables Discrimination based on “sincerely held beliefs.” The bill expands the term “exercise of religion” to include elements of practice and tacit “observance” of the religion (i.e., enacted beliefs). A person’s “religious practice and liberty” could be used under this bill as an excuse to deny people fair housing, job opportunities, and any kind of equal protection under the law. The framework of the bill is state-sanctioned discrimination.
b)         Expands the legal definition of personhood. In the current legislation, a “person” by definition becomes any and all entities, including “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity. Personal morals could therefore apply to the way commerce is conducted, theoretically denying access or services to another group, under the grounds that offering them would be religiously reprehensible.
c)         Overrides any municipal non-discrimination legislation. The ordinances of local governments would be subject to the state’s legislation, thereby nullifying the will of the people of a community, including recent legislation passed in the City of Phoenix about a year ago.
Read the entire post here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Philomena and Christianity

We are now only short seeing one nominee for Best Pictures for the Academy Awards, 2014. Last night we saw Philomena.  When one knows the basics of a story, it is always wonderful to be as completely surprised by a film.  Without any spoiler, the film is a must see and is now tied with Nebraska for my personal best picture selection.

These two movies, in totally different ways, take an everyday person through a journey of faith, one secular and one religious, but both very personal.  Both put a brilliant actor in the role.  Both resolve these journeys of hope in ways that the audience can relate to, both subtle and with a powerful message.

As a Christian following Philomena's relationship with her church was also a personal journey.  There was no personal trauma on the scale of hers in my life, and I have been much less faithful. But after an hour and half living with two people whose views on faith were very different, one line summed up the core messages of Christianity. Don't worry you won't miss it and you won't forget it.

Philomena far surpasses the cinematic attempts at portraying the life of Christ thus far and I suspect it will be the same with the upcoming Son of God in delivering what Christianity, and indeed every religion, should be about.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gay "Life " in Russia

"Tradition Values" and raising a "pure generation."  Sound familiar?  The first is a buzz phrase of right wing groups today, the second is a phase that anyone aware of history would connect with Nazi Germany.  These are the phrases that are being used in Russia today to suppress LGBT people and those that support their right to be out.

An article in the February issue of GQ helps us to understand the reality of gay life in Russia today with the stories of these people:

Please read the entire article to find out who these people are.

As the Olympics approach we need to know that this is more than just a campaign to criminalize LGBT activity in Russia.  At its root it is an attempt to cleanse the impure... not a new idea in Russia unfortunately. 

Here is the closing paragraph of GQ's article:

One man was charged for holding up a sign that saidbeing gay is ok. Pride parades are out of the question, a pink triangle enough to get you arrested, if not beaten. A couple holding hands could be accused of propaganda if they do so where a minor might see them; the law, as framed, is all about protecting the children. Yelena Mizulina, chair of the Duma Committee on Family, Women, and Children's Affairs and the author of the bill, says that it's too late to save adult "homosexualists," as they're called, but Russia still has a chance to raise a pure generation.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Globes and Oscar and Cinema 2013

Last year I did it. Settling into a seat, watching lots of trailers, I saw every one of the Oscar Best Picture nods and most of the Actors, leading and supporting.  This year I (we) have made a start.

American Hostle

American Hustle was our first. Tons of nominations and deserved.  Perfect 1978 set and costumes, great writing, unpredictable twists (unless you remember Abscam) and the dream ensemble cast that David O. Russell seems to enthrall, including an un-credited list of actors as long as your... well longer! ... that included Robert De Niro. Must see.

Bruce Dern and June Squibb
The next day we went to "must see more."  Nebraska came highly recommended by a movie buff friend which made me leery.  Black and white, small town story.  I was thinking quirky and maybe a bit of what we call "poverty porn."  But, oh my, no.  This was the movie of the year for me. Plain folk, being plain, and sweet and funny but so subtly.  If anyone deserves best actor, it's Bruce Dern and the writer and director that made this character perfect.  It so easily could have gone pathetic.  Crazy old guy that gets the "You have won one-million dollars..." letter.  Of course the fine print be damned, he was determined to walk to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his prize. Avoiding any pathos, or cliché, this movie takes you on a journey through small town America and small town family life with gentle humor and love.  Nothing saccharine.  The acting, cinematography and music vanished into the reality of Nebraska so well that it was nothing short of brilliant.  I would love to see June Squibb win an Oscar.  The Golden Globes seemed to miss the brilliance of this film. I expect even less of the Oscars.  Dern might have a chance though because of the voters.  He is "an actor's actor" and that body-of-work thing might kick in.  I think he deserves without any of that.

August: Osage County (Margo Martindale, right) 
The next day it was August: Osage County.  Poor timing.  The antithesis of Nebraska this we acting to beat the band.  Too gritty. Too present. Too obvious.  Streep was Streep. Roberts was trying to keep up. Kyle's comment was "I liked it the first time.  When it was called Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff?" The unsung actor of the film, the only one believable and the only one deserving an award was Margo Martindale.  She acted circles around Julia Roberts who got a nod from the Academy.  Not even  a wink for Martindale.  Another dysfunctional family story where the family has no one to blame but themselves.  Actorial masturbation. Who cares?

Her:  Phoenix meets OS1
Tonight it was Her, where Joaquim Phoenix falls in love with his computer OS.  Nice concept. Explored some interesting areas.  But too long.  Not enough material for a 2+ hour movie.  Joaquim was fine as well as the ubiquitous Amy Adams.  Best Picture? Nope.  Surprising it got a slot.

Quite few more important films to see by so far Nebraska is way ahead of the pack.

Monday, January 6, 2014

UT Becomes CA 2012

Utah has become California as it was before the Supreme Court allowed lower court rulings that Prop 8 was unconstitutional to stand.  Now Utah has three classes of citizens, Lesbian and Gay folks who are legally married in Utah, Lesbian and Gay people who cannot get married in Utah and the other citizens of Utah who can legally marry someone of the opposite sex.

Those gay and lesbian residents of Utah who were poised to get married the minute the opportunity was available, are married.  Those who might have seen the dream of  proposing and planning the wedding of their dreams, inviting family and friends to celebrate their joy have had the rug pulled.

It's a Jim Crow like position we find ourselves in as Gay Americans in 2014. We live in and travel to and through states where our marriages might or might not be recognized.

This decision, while disappointing, is not surprising.  The Supreme Court's decision on Prop 8 was not based on the merits, but of the standing of those that appealed.  The State of California refused to appeal the overturn of Prop 8 recognizing that it was unconstitutional. The State of Utah is appealing.

This may be the case in which the idea that people can deny marriage as a right is decided.  Let us hope and pray that the Court will act boldly to to be on the correct side of history.  If one were to ask me I would say I am an American before I would say a New Yorker.  Marriage equality must be an American right.