Archive for July, 2004

warum, indeed

Friday, July 30th, 2004

It’s Friday afternoon so I haven’t got anything pithy to add to this amusing story.

doesn’t make sense

Friday, July 30th, 2004

How can the new Bush campaign slogan be saying that it’s your record as president that’s important, and also say “we’ve turned a corner and we’re not going back”? So basically he’s admitting that it’s all been crap so far but we’re going to be OK now? Not inspiring. It’s a little like former UK PM John Major who famously said that “We’ve got our backs against the wall but we’re going to turn and start fighting”.

kerry

Friday, July 30th, 2004

We watched John Kerry’s speech last night and I was very impressed. I was expecting to cringe a little or be bored but on the whole it was strong, exciting, inspiring and, I must say, presidential. He had some excellent points which I just pray he’ll be able to put into practice next year. I throught he had a good balance between setting out his own policies and criticizing the other guy, but without being too negative. He was definitely tough on Bush though. Had a bizarre and vivid dream about it last night – it was the speech but his teleprompter broke down and he kind of froze up mid-speech. There was a shocked silence from the audience and he kind of bowed his head and sank down behind the podium. It was a very strange thing to see a man’s total ambition vanishing so suddenly.

However, it wasn’t as bad as what happened to the person in charge of the balloons. Listen to the audio link for full effect.

Edwards

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

Em and I watched a bit of the John Edwards speech last night from the Democrat Convention. Quite inspiring stuff I thought, not least because he seems to be a highly intelligent politician who doesn’t raise feelings of repulsion and I don’t seem to want to punch. We liked that he raised some uncomfortable truths about the country – tens of millions of people have no health insurance for example – and said that it doesn’t have to be that way. Obviously he was preaching to the choir but it did seem to go over well. Slightly unnerving feature – during the many periods of extended applause he would do this quick flash of his famous smile and kind of lick his lips and teeth, which seemed a tad lizardy.

In home news, Toby’s been in the wars a little at daycare. He took a tumble off a climbing frame a couple of days ago and has a bump on his forehead, but more worryingly he’s been bitten by one or more of the other kids a couple of times this week. It doesn’t seem to have caused him any long term upset but it’s enought that the daycare providers have put together an info pack for all the parents in the class. Seems it’s quite a common thing for toddlers to do when they get frustrated but I’m not too wild about seeing bite mark bruises on Toby’s arms.

government

Monday, July 26th, 2004

Paul’s guest blogging on Pharyngula at the moment and doing a very nice job too. He posted some good thoughts on the differences in public discourse between the US and UK here with examples of interviews with Bush and Blair. It’s interesting that a couple of months ago when Bush was given a slightly confrontational interview in Ireland it was Big News, but that’s the kind of thing you expect in Britain when you’re a politician.

It also reminded me of something Emma said a couple of weeks ago – if we’re trying to install good old American democracy in Iraq, how come they have a Prime Minister and a President, when we just have a President (to say nothing about the actual quality of the current one – I’m meaning more the office of President)? Does that mean what’s there is actually better than what we have here? Are we being short-changed?

toby news

Monday, July 26th, 2004

I was talking to my old friend Chloe in Edinburgh over the weekend – she says I’ve been putting too much political stuff on the blog with not enough family things, and that I sound kind of angry about the state of things. Well, there’s a lot to be angry about here, as she agreed. I think it’s important for people who don’t live in America to realize that there are a lot of Americans who are really upset at what’s being done in their name, and do not feel that Bush etc represent them, or have any right to do so.

But anyway, here’s a little family news. Toby was 18 months old yesterday. He’s growing up really fast, as you can see in the new photos on his site. Lots of running and talking, he’s starting to get sentences together which is pretty amazing to hear. We had a good sociable weekend, including a delicious meal at our friend Mark’s on Saturday – Toby has always liked Mark and they had some great games together. Then our friend Jay came over for barbecue last night – it was great to see him. Toby was really comfortable with him too, and halfway through the night learned to say “Jay”. The problem was when Jay left – Toby was heartbroken and looked at the door crying “Jaaaaaaayyyy” for about five minutes.

unpleasant

Thursday, July 22nd, 2004

Someone’s pinned tickets to the noticeboards at work for the upcoming Twin Cities Festival with Luis Palau. Now I’m all for freedom of speech, but there’s something kind of spooky about this guy. Emma’s seen some of his followers through a work-related thing she went to and they all appeared to be suburban, whitebread, Republican-voting, polo-shirted, pleat-fronted-trousered, enormous-car-driving, men-wearing-slip-on-shoe types. Palau himself appears to be some kind of evangelical guy who does free festivals in big cities with Christian rock and various events including “extreme skateboarding” – bring the kids! He’s clearly in touch with the youth, in fact here’s what he says about the misguidance of our youngsters: “Adam and Eve, they think, is a rock group. The Virgin birth, a song by Madonna.” Yes sir, he’s clearly in touch.

His homepage doesn’t say much about his conservative “Christian” views, except for the suspicious first line in his Statement of Faith: “We believe that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, without error in the original writing, and the supreme and final authority in doctrine and practice.” While I’d love to believe that makes for pious followers it raises a flag to me that it’s almost guaranteed to make for selective Biblical reading, and for lots of people giving money from their fat wallets to good causes (a good thing) while believing that gays and people who believe in evolution will burn in hell. Sorry to be so cynical about it, because I’d like to hope that there are some genuinely good people who follow this kind of thing but experience tells me that these good folks are going to be few and far between.

cutting through

Thursday, July 22nd, 2004

In my inbox today I had the following email from Senator Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat. I had written to him to thank him for opposing the constitutional amendment which would have outlawed gay marriage. I hope it’s OK to post his message in full – I looked for his floor statement on his own site but it wasn’t there yet. So please read the whole thing. I’m reeling from the fact that a politician can actually speak sense and humility.

July 21, 2004

Dear Mr. Mogendorff:

Thank you for contacting me about the proposed Constitutional amendment on marriage. I did not support the amendment, because I believe that marriage is “an institution created by God,” and, thus, should be under the authority of religion.

I am attaching a copy of the remarks I made during the Senate’s recent debate on the amendment. I spent a long time in preparation for it, including rereading The Bible’s New Testament and reading the “Defense of Marriage Act.” That federal law, which was enacted in 1996, defines marriage in the United States as only between one man and one woman, and also says that no state need recognize a same-sex marriage performed elsewhere. Thus, it has already provided marriage in the United States

with the definition and protection which the amendment’s supporters want.

Please contact me again regarding this or any other matter.

My best regards.

Sincerely,

Mark Dayton

United States Senator

MD:

Floor Statement of Senator Dayton on the Federal Marriage

Constitutional Amendment

July 13, 2004

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . . .”

With those immortal words 228 years ago, the signers of the Declaration of Independence set forth the founding principles of this country. They chose the word unalienable to mean that those rights were God-given. They were rights with which every person was born, not to depend upon the attitudes or ideologies of any government.

11 years later, after winning their War of Independence, after trying one unsatisfactory design of government, after many discussions, debates, arguments, and compromises, others signed their names to our United States Constitution. It was a remarkably farsighted document, deserving of the word visionary. It was intended to define, provide, and protect the rights of American citizens and the structure of their democratic government.

Unfortunately, their founding principles and idealism had some glaring deficiencies. When they said all men were created equal they meant only men, and only white men. It took 130 more years before those Constitutional rights were extended fully and equally to all citizens – to African-Americans, to women, and to everyone else. Those Constitutional amendments signaled only the starting points, not the finish lines, to

full opportunities, equal protections, and freedom from discrimination, harassment, and assault. Those paths were difficult, often dangerous, and sometimes even fatal for their travelers. Slowly, too slowly, unevenly, yet inexorably, this country has progressed toward the realization of those God-given rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for every American citizen.

The life that God gives each of us, the liberty to be as God made us, and the right to pursue our individual needs, goals, and fulfillments – whatever necessary ingredients of our happiness. We receive no assurances of happiness, but the promise we have the God-given right to pursue it. Today, we are a nation of 293 million citizens. That is a lot of very different people pursuing a lot of very different forms of happiness. It is an enormous and continuous challenge for government to permit life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness and to decide where limits must be

established.

The Constitution requires, however, that those limits must apply fairly and justly – and that those liberties can only be taken away for a compelling reason, and through a due process.

People’s differences are no longer legitimate reasons. Not different colors of skin, different religious beliefs, different genders, nationalities, or physical characteristics. People don’t have to like other people’s differences; but they must allow and tolerate them.

Allowing and tolerating differences are what separate democracies from dictatorships. Even dictatorships allow behaviors and beliefs which conform to their ideas and ideologies. However, they will not permit or tolerate behaviors and beliefs which differ from theirs. Those groups of people are persecuted, punished, and even murdered for their differences.

It is sometimes difficult for those of us who live in democracies to allow other beliefs and behaviors, which we dislike or disapprove of. It is especially difficult if those other beliefs or behaviors differ from our own moral or religious views. Although our Constitution separates “church and state,” we do not willingly give up or even compromise our strongly held beliefs based upon our religious teachings or moral values.

Many Americans, who oppose gay and lesbian relationships or marriages, believe they are called to do so by God, by Jesus Christ, by the Bible, or by another religion’s instructions. Recently, I reread the Bible’s New Testament, which provides the foundation and instruction for my Christian faith. I bring the Bible into this debate, because I often hear people, who denounce homosexuality, claiming that “the Bible” or “the New Testament” supports their views.

However, in the entire New Testament, there is only one reference to same-sex relationships, in Chapter Two of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Jesus Christ does not mention them even once in any of the four Gospels.

Instead, His overriding instruction was to love thy neighbor as thyself. That was his Second Great Commandment, which superseded all the rest.

Jesus also warned several times to beware of false prophets. How could they be identified? He said that they spread hate, instead of love.

I do not understand how some religions developed their strong prejudices against gays and lesbians – prejudices which are not only unsupported by Jesus’ teachings in the Bible, but which even violate his instructions to love one another, as I have loved you. To judge not, lest ye be judged. To spread love, not hatred.

Yet, the discrimination against gays and lesbians in this country has been filled with judgment and hatred.

Thousands of American citizens have been fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, harassed, threatened, assaulted, even murdered, because of their sexual orientations. Some other Americans have spread this hatred and caused that harm, while professing their own religious piety and moral superiority.

Who has the authority to dispute that every human being is God’s intentional creation?

That we are different, because God made us different. Not superior, not inferior, just different?

Equal in the sight of God. Equal in the United States Constitution.

There is a better way to resolve this widespread concern about the effects of a couple state court decisions on marriage.

Decisions which are being resolved by the legislatures and the people of the states.

And which, contrary to the “marriage is under terrorist attack” hysteria, which some politicians are prompting, do not threaten either the federal law or other states’ laws against same-sex marriages.

As others have noted, a 1996 federal law, called the Defense of Marriage Act, already does what the proponents of this Constitutional amendment want to do. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed “to define and protect the institution of marriage.” That law states, “in determining the meaning of any act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

The law goes on to say that no state shall be required to recognize a same-sex relationship treated as a marriage anywhere else.

That’s the law of the United States of America. Unchallenged federal law. How much more “protection” could the institution of marriage need from the United States Congress?

None.

The proposed Constitutional amendment adds not one whit of additional legal protection to what this federal law already provides.

So why are we being subjected to this charade of politicians’ piety?

An oxymoron, if there ever was one!

It’s an election year! A Presidential election year!

It’s no coincidence that the Defense of Marriage Law was passed in 1996 ? another Presidential election year.

One can only wonder how marriage managed to make it through the 2000 Presidential election without something being done to it.

That’s what is really going on here. This political ploy isn’t about “saving marriage.” It’s about “saving politicians’ jobs.”

Thank goodness we have Senator So-and-So to save us from the heathen hordes.

Thank goodness we have the President saving us, too.

We may not have jobs. Or health care. We can’t afford prescription drugs or gasoline.

They’re bankrupting the federal government with deficits.

They’re destroying our credibility throughout the world.

They’ve made a mess of Iraq. They can’t find weapons of mass destruction; or Osama bin Laden; or whoever shut down Congress with anthrax or ricin.

But they’re defending marriage. Again. And again and again and again.

Let re-elect them!

It’s a tragic day in America when politicians would exploit the Constitution to get themselves elected.

It’s a tragic day for millions of Americans who are being exploited by those politicians. This is a hurtful, harmful, hateful debate for America. One that will only get uglier, meaner, more divisive, and more dangerous, if it moves on to state legislatures, as the Constitutional amendment process requires.

That is why it must be stopped here and now.

That is why I will vote against this Constitutional amendment.

If my colleagues really do want to save marriage – for now and for posterity – let us turn it over to the authority of established religions.

In many wedding services which I attend, marriage is described as “an institution created by God.” Many conclude with, “Whom God has joined together, let no one cast asunder.”

If marriage belongs to God – as I believe it does – then, by our separation of church and state, government should not interfere with its administration by the properly chosen religious authorities.

Instead, government should adopt a different term to use for the legal rights and responsibilities under a civil contract, which, I believe, any two adults should be equally able to enter into.

Giving marriage back to the churches, synagogues, mosques, and separating it from government, and away from the connivings of Congress, is marriage’s salvation and society’s solution.

Let us direct our efforts to protecting America from Al Qaeda.

Leave the Constitution alone, and leave marriage to God.

phew

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

Here is the hour by hour weather for where I live. Currently it’s 92°F, but with a dewpoint of 71° it apparently feels like 102°F.

For you Europeans that’s 33°C, dewpoint of 22°, so feeling like 39°C. Not very pleasant.

we’ll fall for anything

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

Another Mark Morford piece about how so many people are falling for the subliminable [sic] messages being spouted by the Administration. And I heard more of it on the radio today – a poll in which over 50% of Minnesotans still believe that there’s a link between Iraq and al Quaeda, despite consistent reports and committee findings and complete lack of credible evidence that this is the case. Quote from one suburban woman: “They’re terrorists – they behead people!” Gawsh, and do you think that Bush swaggering in there may have in some way caused the horrific lawless yee-ha state which allows people to do that kind of thing? And, madam, you live in a country where your very own President, prior to election, in between promising not to engage in nation-building or creating a mind-boggling federal deficit, smirked and joked about the fact that as Texas governor he’d had a mentally disabled woman executed despite her hilarious pleadings to keep her life. Clearly the fact that five or six terrorists who saw an opportunity in Iraq and admittedly committed horrible crimes means that minivan driving suburbanites on their comfortable fat asses have the right to watch sanitized Fox News footage of actual people’s houses being obliterated while those actual people’s families and hopes and dreams go up in smoke. People, PLEASE wake up.