Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Christmas with the Prices

Dale Price mentions my coming to the abode of himself and the fair Heather for Christmas this year, just a month after visiting Detroit for the baptism of my god-daughter Elizabeth.

One thing I learned with the Price kids this year is that presents matter, not so much for what they are as for their very existence (and by this I don't exactly mean "it's the thought that counts"). Dale mentions the Dec. 27 death of his cat Molly, including that the final collapse began Christmas morning. When I arrived at their home late Christmas morning, all three of the kids were wiping away tears and sobs. Heather told me that they had just been told that Molly, who is older than any of them and even than their parents' marriage, was dying and not likely to make it through the day.

I had left my presents under the tree the previous night (and this year managed to traipse from my car to the home without slipping, falling, and leaving bows all over the Price yard). But apparently Dale and Heather had told the kids not to open them until I got there. So when I arrived, that meant they had more presents to open, something good to think about and do other than the dying cat -- two presents each (one video and one nonvideo) and two more for all of them collectively (a candy box and a Wii game program). The tears were gone pretty quick, and stayed away for the rest of the day. Which matters more than whether D3 actually liked the Lone Ranger episode set or whatever else they got.

I also took all the kids, along with Heather, to see "The Princess and the Frog." Rachel is very *into* princesses, so I volunteered to take the girls and at least invite D3 (unsure whether he'd be interested). But Heather brought along the whole brood, including two-month-old Elizabeth. I liked the film, with its blend of New Orleans jazz and cajun music, magical voodoo, and old-school cel animation like "Beauty & the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid." Though the minute I saw that a major character was named Stella, my heart kinda sank at what a New Orleans-set work of art would HAVE to do. (Yes, I know ... Tennessee Williams and all ... but I'm still tired of other works stealing Marlon Brando's glory.) And when that inevitable moment came, Heather smiled and cheered at me from the other end of the row. Though the kids were overall well-behaved, Heather also told me later that, as she knew, the film's length proved too taxing for 2-year-old Louis. But she added that every time the movie would burst into music or song (some of the best sequences by the way, particularly the fantasy montage to "I'm Almost There"), Louis would get off his seat and start dancing, boogieing on down on the row's floor as only a 2-year-old white boy can. (Here's the film's soundtrack, where you can sample all the major cuts.)

Speaking of entertainment choices though, I think the Warren County Department of Family and Children's Services may need a call. Rachel was, as always, fascinated by my iPhone and the revelation that it could play music, using iTunes. I haven't loaded my purchases from my computer, but I told Rachel I could play at least 30 seconds from any song in the world (the browse and listen function at the iTunes store). And Rachel and/or Madeleine asked whether I could play Joan Jett. My ears popped out of their eye sockets ... appalled that these young impressionable girls are being schooled by their parents in the biker-slut-in-hot-leather-pants look. I asked the girls what Joan Jett songs they knew, and it was "I Love Rock N'Roll," ... it was ALL I could do not to show the girls this video of Joan Jett at her role-model-for-young-girls finest

... don't you just love Joan Jett as a flasher??

Anyhoo ... I regretted having to leave Detroit on early morning of Dec. 26, which made my visit a bit short, but work required it. Thanks to Dale and Heather for having me and Madeleine, Dale, Rachel, Louis and especially Elizabeth (whom I was able to get to go to sleep a couple of times) for making the holiday.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bradley Effect on gay "marriage"?

The public discourse surrounding gay "marriage" has been so dissatisfactory that it may have contributed to the surprise defeats in the last two big referendums. The gay groups' idea of an argument is "BIGOT!!!" (or more-nuanced claims such as "you hate me" or the supremely sophisticated "this argument is by definition bigoted").

Yet, the last two states to hold referendums on the issue were the solidly-blue states of California (in November 2008) and Maine (in November 2009). In both cases, polls were mixed or favored gay marriage slightly in the final days (here is a Maine preview; here is a California rundown) only for the poll that took place on Election Day to come out significantly different. In Maine, the repeal of state legislation won by 5 1/2 points; in California, a constitutional amendment to reverse a state high-court ruling won by 4 1/2 points.

The lead art on this item shows how stunned the pro-gay folks in Maine were by their defeat. Indeed, a report at Politico (where you can see the ghosts of earlier-filed stories) said everything went right for the pro-gay folks, and the various excuses they've given for their spectacular losing streak did not hold -- they were not outspent (can't blame that flood of Mormon and Vatican money); turnout was high (nor the few who are passionate about their bigotry); they were in a liberal state most of whose neighbors have gay marriage (nor their whole cultural narrative of opposing antedivulian knuckle-draggers ignorant of how awesome gay marriage is)
As voters went to the polls on Tuesday, gay marriage advocates were emboldened by what appeared to be higher than expected turnout in Maine. Even before polls opened on Tuesday roughly one-tenth of the state’s registered voters submitted mail-in ballots or voted early.
And in an interview late Tuesday night on MSNBC, Maine Democratic Gov. John Baldacci said that at polling places it looked like “the presidential election all over again.”
“A lot of young people were showing up, a lot of first-time voters were showing up,” Baldacci said. “I was encouraged by that.”
Supporters also hoped money would make a difference in the outcome. The main group working to keep the state’s marriage law on the books, Protect Maine Equality, outraised the leading opposition group, Stand for Marriage, by more than $1 million.

Which led me that very night to think that opposition to gay marriage must "underpoll," meaning "does less well in surveys than on Election Day," for some systemic reason. Pollster Nate Silver looked at the Maine results and also broached the possibility of a "Bradley effect," named after Tom Bradley, the black mayor of Los Angeles who surprisingly lost a California governor's race he had been leading in the polls.¹
As for the polling, I think we have to seriously consider whether there is some sort of a Bradley Effect in the polling on gay rights issues
The "Bradley effect" posits that people will tell a pollster that they back the black guy while voting for the white one in a voting booth. I should add that even if black candidates suffer from some general "Bradley effect,"² that doesn't mean nefarious racism is the motive. Just as plausible, at face value anyway, as "phew ... I'm free to express my bigotry in the privacy of the voting booth" is that voters are unwilling to dismiss to a pollster (i.e., in a social situation) an underqualified minority or a minority whom they'd never support, for sound ideological reason, from fear of being thought racist.

This latter dynamic, I think, has more to do with gay issues. It is now a fact, that somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 percent of the US population has convinced itself that opposition to gay marriage is, in itself and necessarily, a mere expression of bigotry and prejudice. And that ~30 percent (or whatever exact number) dominate the instruments of culture and information and constitute nearly 100 percent of the experience of most open gays. Indeed, the 8 Maps and the enthusiasm that they and other forms of public menace generated among gays in California in the wake of their defeat indicate that many think "the time for reason is past." Folks are now fearing that a California judge may be preparing a show trial.

The one point gay-"marriage" folks have pounded on the table over and over is "BIGOT!!!" And a "Bradley effect" is the fruit this strategy has borne. Nobody wants to be thought of as a bigot, but yet you cannot persuade someone that he is one. The charge "BIGOT!!!" is not a bid to persuade but an attempt to anathematize. Thus, all it can do is intimidate, which can have an effect in a social situation like talking to a pollster but not a voting booth. This also might explain why legislators, at least in liberal states like Vermont and Maine, can be bent to oppose the popular will -- their votes aren't really secret. The more gay-"marriage" backers yell "BIGOT!!!" the more pronounced this Bradley effect is likely to become.
¹ Yes, I know that politics scholars and pollsters debate whether there is indeed a "Bradley Effect," and some of the most skeptical are those who were involved the race itself. Whether there is, isn't or once was such an race-based effect doesn't change that the term is a good form of shorthand for a similar phenomenon re gay marriage.
² Though there's so many obvious exceptions that it's near impossible to believe in the Bradley effect as a general rule. It may be possible, nevertheless, to believe it holds in some cases or types of contests.
³ Nor should my willingness to use the term "Bradley effect" in re gay issues be taken to mean that I buy the "sexuality = race" narrative and all it implies.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Hate speech

Read this self-identified "gaytheist" ... and keep in mind, this person is talking about Dignity.

Rarely will you see, without the use of profanity, such utterly unhinged ignorance and hate.All Christians see reason as the anti-Christ?' the very existence of any Catholics oppresses her; and ... well .... here are the choicest quotes.
"helping the church to oppress gay people simply through the idea that it’s okay to be Catholic."

"The Catholics, like all Christians, see rational thinking as the anti-Christ and work to vilify it as much as possible."

"The whole Catholic church is gayer than the Metropolitan Community Church. Come on, the men dress up in dresses and funny little hats and hang around altar boys all the time. The act of communion is essentially kneeling down with your mouth open in front of a man in a dress, how can you say that it is not gay?"

"The one thing about being Catholic in general (not just a gay or straight issue) is that to be a Catholic, you immediately have to hate everything that is essentially human about yourself."

"LGBT Christians are confusing but LGBT Catholics are just mentally ill."
Words fail. Remember this because the cultural narrative about us Catholics and the gays is ... we hate them, we hate them, we hate them ...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

CPAC fight

I don't have any particular stake in the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual February event in Washington, this year running Feb. 18-20. I'm not much of a joiner and so have never gone, even as [my real name]. And for the same reason and others, I have never had any interest in the various gay-Republican groups, the latest of which is GOProud. They and other groups like Log Cabin Republicans and the Republican Unity Coalition have all generally supported the gay political agenda, which I emphatically do not, on public issues like marriage and military service (see 4 and 7 here for GOProud). 

All this by way of saying "I ain't got no dog in this fight." 

But although I'm a political conservative by any rational definition, nothing brings out my inner gay activist more than some of the pro-family groups on the right, as is now happening over this year's CPAC. One of the about 70 sponsoring groups this year is the newly-founded GOProud, and that has a lot of people unhappy. Americans for Truth, Liberty Counsel and Jerry Falwell Jr., Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defense Fund and the American Family Association all have denounced GOProud's involvement and/or threatened a boycott. 

Rumblings got so bad that David Keene and Lisa DiPasquale both have issued public defenses of GOProud's involvement -- Keene to Texas radio host Adam McManus and DiPasquale to popular conservative blog Hot Air. Keene said GOProud's "interest is in demonstrating that not all gays are liberals rather than promoting their life style ... we find it difficult to exclude groups because of disagreements on one or two issues no matter how important many of us believe those issues to be," citing disagreements on the Bush administration's wars and immigration. DiPasquale told Hot Air's Ed Morrissey she was "satisfied that they do not represent a 'radical leftist agenda,' as some have stated, and should not be rejected as a CPAC cosponsor."

There's also more at conservative blog Gay Patriot on the issue of whether (as Keene can be read as having said in his e-mail) GOProud will be muzzled at CPAC, which the gay group denies, saying, among other things, that the speakers haven't been picked yet.

We'll see if this goes farther than this (it hasn't broken into the mainstream media, best I can tell). Of the 10 items on GOProud's Legislative Agenda, eight are solidly conservative, while the other two are not. And while I generally favor broad coalitions that include 80-percenters over narrow purist ones -- they're more likely to win, in a democracy -- the political question isn't exactly what makes me ashamed of many social conservatives. No ... it's because reading some of this stuff really makes it harder to believe that social conservative really believe in "love the sinner and reject the sin."

To start with, there's an unseemly interest in reductive and disgusting descriptions of gay sex from the likes of Matt Barber, the kind one expects from cranks like the Catholic Caveman, but not someone who leads a group that aims from respectability. Here is Americans for Truth's rant statement which approvingly quotes the "inimitable" Barber:
It boils down to this: there is nothing "conservative" about — as Barber inimitably puts it — "one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it 'love'." 
... which hardly merits a response (though here is one; starting with "His second point ...")

But more directly -- OK, so GOProud is wrong about marriage and military service. Why does that make *their* participation in CPAC so wrong? More wrong than any of the hundreds of pro-gay-marriage libertarians at CPAC? Or more wrong than the corporate involvement of such libertarian-leaning or -inclusive CPAC-sponsoring groups as the Competitive Enterprise Institute or the Manhattan Institute? And it is a moral certainty that CPAC-sponsoring groups with specific-issue focuses other than pro-family ones (like Americans for Tax Reform or the National Rifle Association, say) include gay-marriage supporters? 

This kind of nonsense does nothing but make a prophet of the Andrew Sullivans of the world and gives credibility to their lies about the Church denying gay people's personhood per se. The issue isn't ... "are (misguided) supporters of gay-marriage et al gonna be at CPAC?" They will -- whether GOProud is there or not. Particularly given those previous comments, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that what these pro-family groups object to is the corporate personhood of GOProud. In other words, the objectionable point is a group of gay people. After all, social conservatives have no problem breaking bread with straight libertarians or bohemian neocons or others who back gay marriage. Social-conservative groups **who involve themselves in politics** have to ... well ... grow up. Get used to the presence of open gays in politics. We don't have gay coodies. Social conservatives might even find that some of "us" are also some of "them."

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Backing down (?) ... or not (?)

In a post last year, I made the simple point "if you make a threat, you MUST carry it out." The context there was the Church and Britain's adoption law, which requires private groups to let gays adopt. Now, it's coming up again in my back yard, over D.C.'s gay "marriage" law, and at least prominent gay site is already claiming the Church has pussed out.

In November, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement saying that a gay-marriage bill, which by that point looked inevitable, needed a religious-exemption. Otherwise the Church's social missions, which frequently involved partnership with the city, could be hampered. This was interpreted, thanks to ham-handed headline-writing at The Washington Post, into a threat to abandon city social services. (A couple of degrees of the Internet equivalent of the "Telephone" game made things even worse.)

Then the day D.C. created gay "marriage," the Archdiocese issued the following statement:
Today the District of Columbia joined a handful of states where legislatures or courts have redefined marriage to include persons of the same sex. Since this legislation was first introduced in October, the Archdiocese of Washington opposed the redefinition of marriage based on the core teaching of the Catholic Church that the complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the definition of marriage. However, understanding the City Council was committed to legalizing same sex marriages, the archdiocese advocated for a bill that would balance the Council’s interest in redefining marriage with the need to protect religious freedom. Regrettably, the bill did not strike that balance.

The Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities are deeply committed to serving those in need, regardless of race, creed, gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. This commitment is integral to our Catholic faith and will remain unchanged into the future.

Religious organizations have long been eligible to provide social services in our nation’s capital and have not been excluded simply because of their religious character. This is because the choice of provider has focused on the ability to deliver services effectively and efficiently. We are committed to serving the needs of the poor and look forward to working in partnership with the District of Columbia consistent with the mission of the Catholic Church.
Now this contained no threat. And that had Jim Burroway at Box Office Turtle a-crowing:
Remember when the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington threatened to shut down its homeless shelters, food services and other community services if the D.C. city council approved same-sex marriage? Well now they’re saying “never mind.” ... This is the opposite of what they said before the same-sex marriage bill passed. At that time, they said they would be “unable” to continue those services if same-sex marriage became legal.
I know how this got jumbled. If you are looking for clear statements of principle, of whatever kind, Archbishop Donald Wuerl is not your man. The one thing he is, according to everybody I know who deals with him, is a smoothie. He is very reluctant to commit to anything concrete and pinning him down on something is the proverbial "Jell-O to the wall" experience.

Read the December statement carefully. Nowhere does it say the Church will abide by the D.C. law and treat same-sex "marriages" solemnized by the city as marriages. Nor does it say it won't. Keep in mind, the scenario the Church claimed (despite the Washington Post's dramatic headline and lead) was not "if there's gay marriage, we're pulling out of the city." Nor even "if a poor person is in a same-sex 'marriage,' we won't serve him." Rather it is "if the city requires us under non-discrimination law to recognize same-sex 'marriages' in our ordinary business (like providing spousal benefits for, say, a school librarian) as a condition of eligibility for city contracts, then we will not be eligible for them." Pro-gay-marriage blogger E.D. Kain explains here these distinctions, based on the November statement. At Box Turtle, a commenter noted that the Church had issued a clarification in the wake of the Post report.

And the D.C. city government hasn't issued any threats nor actually "married" anyone yet (the law can't take effect for a while because of the waiting period required to give Congress a chance to veto most DC laws; which won't happen here, but nevertheless ...). Nor has D.C. issued or not issued any social-service contracts. Nor has any gay person working in the Church has tried to claim spousal benefits. Until the rubber hits the road, there's nothing to do but wait.

In other words, both in November and December, the Archdiocese of Washington did not carve out a clear position. Even saying "we just won't be eligible for city contracts" isn't really a position. And here is the rubber-road meetings will take place:

(1) What will the Archdiocese do when Adam, husband of Steve, demands spousal benefits?
(2) What will the Archdiocese do when Adam and Steve, having been denied, take a discrimination claim to Caesar, in the form of a city panel or a federal court, and win?
(3) What will the Archdiocese do if, having said no to Adam and Steve, the city then pulls any or all contracts with it on the grounds that the Church is a discriminatory organization?
(4) What will the Archdiocese do if it sues the city for religious discrimination under scenario (3), but loses the case and Caesar orders the Church to choose between providing social services and maintaining its "discriminatory" policies?

Those are the real questions in this case ... and neither statement really addresses them, one way or the other.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Paging Dr. Freud

I'm curious about, and would like to hear from others¹, whether sexuality or "issues" about sex have anything to do with how one learned about that subject.

I'm aware of course that boys and girls have always "played doctor" and picked up a certain amount of "knowledge" from the schoolyard rumor mill. And some of that will always be the case, I suspect. But I can't help but think that an ambivalence towards the sex act itself can't (ahem) bend a vulnerable branch away from normal sexuality.

To say that I'm ambivalent about sex is an understatement. My father never had a self-conscious The Talk. When I had my first emission, it was my mother who cleaned up the sheets I thought I had peed. My father said it was nothing to be ashamed of, just an accident that happens when you grow up. Which isn't exactly wrong, and I accepted that and moved on without giving it another thought. I knew babies had something to do with sex but never connected it to those weird muscle cramps between my legs until I learned the mechanics of the sex act when I was about 17, by looking it up in the encyclopedia. (In this case, it was the Teen Intellectuals equivalent of sneaking a peek at National Geographic.) My lack of interest in girls was chalked up by others to my being a bookworm. When a high-school friend asked me if I'd like to go on a double date (us and two girls, that is), I said "no" so vigorously that he told me later "you acted like you were offended by the very invite." Understand as well, that any identification as gay or pursuit of same-sex sex was even farther from my mind than dating girls. I simply was not interested in the genital areas at all. To this day, I cannot even imagine my mother and father in bed together, even though I am quite aware it happened (at least twice; probably more often)

Now don't get me wrong ... I am not now and never was a prude in any overt way. I can tell an off-color or even downright-filthy joke with the best of them. I watch R and NC-17 movies without a qualm, and am rarely offended, except by its use for titillation. And even blunt depiction and frank discussion of homosexuality do not per se offend me. (Pornography does make me wince, but only when I have my, so to speak, social clothes on.)

But what I'm suggesting, from my own experience, is that to speak of "sex as an act of love" is simply speaking a foreign language. Maybe that's not the right metaphor -- perhaps speaking a language one knows the grammar and syntax perfectly but not the meanings of the words. Oh, I've read Christopher West and all -- I know how the words fit together. I can even talk about it intellectually in a persuasive way -- I had a strange encounter with a waitress at a sports bar a couple of months ago I may describe soon. But at some level, it simply isn't something within my experience.² And perhaps that is why so many same-sex-attracted men, even those who identify as gay and maintain their satisfaction with that, have so little difficulty with overtly loveless promiscuity (I have had sex with more than 40 men -- only one under any impression that I loved him.)
¹ If anyone is still reading...
² Which makes it a *good* thing that I've never believed that one's own experience creates either morality or truth.