Monday, March 31, 2008

Um, why?

From the coverage of Rudd's overseas adventures in this news article:
"The day before he [Rudd] had met United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, advising him of Australia's plan to seek a permanent seat on the United Nations' Security Council in 2013/14."

We're seeking a what in the where, now?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oh for fuck's sake

Bush direct quote:
And the reason why it's successful -- important to be successful in Iraq, because, one, we want to help establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East -- the most volatile region in the world. Two, we want to send a clear message to Iran that they're not going to be able to have their way with nations in the Middle East. Three, that we want to make it clear that we can defeat al Qaeda. Al Qaeda made a stand in Iraq. They're the ones who said, this is the place where the war will take place. And a defeat of al Qaeda will be a major victory in this war against extremists and radicals. Four, we want to show what's possible to people. There are reformers all over the Middle East who want to know whether or not the United States and friends will stand with these young democracies.

One: "Establishing democracy" has been the calling card for failed invasion after failed invasion for the last half century. It DOESN'T FUCKING WORK.

Two: Is Mr Bush not aware that Iran already has significant influence within the current Iraqi government that HE HIMSELF SUPPORTS? Credible commentators are wondering if the Basra crackdown was actually INSTIGATED by Iran since it largely supports their agenda in the country. But of course, America supports good guys (that's how you can tell they're the good guys) and you can tell that the bad guys are supported by Iran by the simple fact that they're the bad guys, right? *sigh* The really sad thing is that a goodly proportion of the US voting public is so provincial that this ludicrous oversimplification actually seems plausible.

Three: this point made my jaw drop in awe at the stupid. It was AL-QAEDA who said "this is the place where the war will take place"? AL-QAEDA WAS NOT IN IRAQ UNTIL YOU GAVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITY TO SET UP SHOP THERE YOU GIBBERING MORON. YOU CHOSE THIS PLACE TO FIGHT. YOU INVITED THEM TO COME. REMEMBER "BRING IT ON!"?

Al-Qaeda's a global organisation, perhaps you've heard. You could have chosen to focus anywhere. Why the FUCK would you choose to "go after Al-Qaeda" by invading a country that creates so many problems and dangers that are COMPLETELY unrelated to anything remotely related to Al-Qaeda's goals? Well, apart from that goal of making America look to the world like an evil tyrant that wants to destroy all Islam and militarily occupy the entire Middle East. How you doing on defeating THAT goal, sir?

Four: I have only this to say in regards to whether people want to know if America will "stand with" democratic reformers in the Middle East:“It’s the kiss of death. The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win.” - Saudi reformer Turki al-Rasheed.

On the plus side, my country's Prime Minister currently stands to gain from the Bush Effect: just by standing near to Bush when he opens his mouth to utter his stupidity, you immediately look more sensible simply by actually being slightly sensible.

Bush and Rudd at a press conference earlier today, plus Iraq

The Whitehouse website helpfully offers a transcript. Allow me to summarise Bush's introductory remarks somewhat:

Kevin Rudd is a straight shooter. I'm from Texas. Texans like people who are straight shooters. Being from Texas, I like straight shooters. So I like Kevin Rudd.

*facepalm* I'm not sure exactly when I started to get really annoyed at Bush's folksy reminders to everyone that he's from Texas and he's what Texans are like. At least the Australian public had the sense to realise last election that the nerdy policy wonk was a better choice as leader than the old guy running on a platform of "I'm just like you, my fellow Australians! PS: Tax cuts!"

Yay human rights and the rule of law. Yay free trade. China and India are the main obstacles to international co-operation on the environment, not us. Technology has cures for what ails the environment, so buy our technologies and don't put up tariffs that will obstruct our buyers. Rudd's fully committed to keeping troops in Afghanistan. Did I mention the importance that Australia and America both put on the commitment fighting in Afghanistan? Afghanistan is very important because we're promoting freedom and democracy there....oh shit, I'm going to have to say something about Iraq, aren't I?

Rudd has a "campaign commitment" about Iraq. He said he'd pull troops out, so let me pull my "I like straight shooters" schtick to show that I'm okay with him doing what he said he'd do. He did ask us nicely first, so don't make it like he's putting his own people's desires above what America says he should be doing, that would make me look bad. The commitment of Afghanistan is not to leave Iraq alone; it's to change mission.

That last sentence is a direct quote. Whatever could it mean?

See how Kevin Rudd helped out Nouri Al-Maliki? He believes in what I'm doing to Iraq, really he does. Ignore the "campaign commitment" to withdraw troops and focus on the money he's giving to teach Iraqis how to do dry-land farming properly. And on a final note: BOO! IRAN

Doing that to Bush's ideological grandstanding makes it so much more bearable.

On a more serious note, there's some good overview in there that clarifies a few policy positions held by Rudd, and even some of those held by Bush. Rudd for instance is fully committed to global trade, and is hoping that the upcoming Doha talks will be a good thing. He's hoping for what he calls a "a psychological injection of some confidence in the arm" to the global economy from a positive outcome there, however "positive outcome" is defined.

I really dislike my ignorance on the matter of global economics, you know? Wish I could elucidate on that comment from Rudd more.

Rudd has also promised to give a $165 million dollar assistance package "a large slice of which will go to how we assist Iraqis train their people better in agriculture and in the wider economy." There at least I have a slightly better understanding of the underlying theory driving Rudd's actions. As mentioned elsewhere, Rudd believes "that it's failing economies" that "cause social and political instability". The idea is a common one on the Left and goes back to Kennedy's time: that social transformation comes about through the economic drivers of building infrastructrure, funding education, reducing unemployment and so forth. The success of such an approach is arguable at best.

I do hope that someone's keeping tabs on that $165 million as well. The last thing we need is to see something similar to the AWB's corruption in the oil-for-food scheme.

As might be expected, the questions from the press mostly focused on the situation on Iraq, particularly the Iraqi government's crackdown on Basra. I don't really buy Bush's line that this is a simple case of the good guys (the Maliki government) cracking down on the bad guys (unspecified "evil-doers", but basically it seems like the main target is Moktada Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army). I do find it interesting that he claimed ignorance about why Maliki did what he did: "And so I'm not exactly sure what triggered the Prime Minister's response. I don't know if it was one phone call. I don't know what -- whether or not the local mayor called up and said, help -- we're sick and tired of dealing with these folks. But nevertheless, he made the decision to move. And we'll help him."

One popular theory is that Maliki cracked down on Basra not at the instigation of Bush, but of Dick Cheney, based on the fact that Cheney visited Iraq not long before this crackdown occurred. A less America-centric version says this is Iran's show, based on Ahmedinejad's recent visit to the region. That last link explores the various theories in more detail.

Iraq is, as usual, confusing. But I feel obligated to try and make sense of it given my belief that it was naivety and ignorance of the Iraq situation that brought me down on the wrong side of the question of the Iraq invasion initially. I try to follow as best I can.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Obama and Wright: thinking out loud

I'm currently going through Obama's speech called A More Perfect Union. It's interesting so far, though not directly relevant to the Australian experience that I can see. My primary interest is in terms of its relationship with the US media controversy over Pastor Jeremiah Wright. There's some deep-seated issues coming up over there.

Around the blogosphere I see people still even now asking of the Obama/Wright situation "how can he keep going to the same church for 20 years if that man is his pastor?". I regret that I have been so far unable to directly hear the controversial statements of "that man" myself. I would point out that Obama has already given an answer to that question in his speech:
Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Perhaps Obama's asking too much of people to put aside their first impressions? I know from my own experience it's hard to unform a conclusion about something once it's been formed - nobody wants to believe that they have poor judgement. But looking at the statement given, I recognise also a danger inherent in insisting that certain statements from a spiritual leader be "seen in the context of everything else that he's done" - the local example of Sheikh Al-Hilali's disturbing comments about women come to mind. I did not accept that the balance of evidence was in favour of Al-Hilali at that time. Is Obama's answer enough to excuse Wright? I don't know. But I would hope future commentators would at least acknowledge that he's tried to do so. So few of them have even now.

But the controversy isn't supposed to be about Wright, is it? It's supposed to be about Barack Obama, and how he's supposed to remove himself from Pastor Wright's church. Even if I reject the "but look at all the good the pastor's done too!" argument, I can't find a way to believe that Obama should physically reject Reverend Wright. I can and have been perfectly willing to condemn Reverend Jerry Falwell for comments made by Reverend Jerry Falwell, Sheikh Taj Aldin Al-Hilali for comments made by Sheikh Taj Aldin Al-Hilali, Pastor John Hagee for comments made by Pastor John Hagee, and Reverend Jeremiah Wright for comments made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Why is it that I must condemn Barack Obama for comments made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright and demand that he distance himself? Does the phrase "individual responsibility" mean nothing to Americans anymore?

I suspect cultural difference between Australian and American views on religion: it seems the claim is that Wright's public statements supposedly demonstrate that Obama has been indoctrinated into being racist and anti-American through the constant bombardment of over twenty years' worth of sermons containing such sentiments at Wright's church. Leaving aside how one can conclude the existence of "constant bombardment over twenty years" from some selected highlights from some selected sermons put up on Youtube, the whole idea that your entire worldview on racial and political issues is shaped by your pastor - in fact, MUST be shaped by your pastor - seems completely alien to me. Yet the American commentators complaining about Obama's association with Wright seem equally unable to comprehend the idea that Obama's worldview on racial and political issues could ever be different from that of his pastor in any way.

Is it because I'm not religious that I don't understand this powerful hold that pastors supposedly have over their flock? I'm pretty sure that there are plenty of people who have pastors with whom they disagree, often strongly. There's nothing in Obama's speech or demeanour that suggests he has any racist sentiment towards white people, or any hatred of America. In fact his pro-American sentiments are part of his appeal to me: he gives me a reason to believe that the ideal to which America aspires still exists behind the weight of the Bush years, and can still come to the fore. And yet now, because of statements said by somebody else and which Obama has repeatedly condemned and denounced, I'm supposed to stop believing in that?

To anyone that can't understand why Obama never walked away from Pastor Wright's church, please answer a question for me, asked in all sincerity: why should he? I genuinely don't understand why he supposedly had to.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mercy Ministries to applicants: "Have you ever been in any form of same-sex relationships?"

The initial form used to ask if they'd been involved in lesbianism, but apparently the wording changed in 2006.

What looks to be the last of the Herald's articles on the matter was posted today, and details Mercy Ministries' explicit link to the American ex-gay movement. Article available online here.

The claim is that people subjected to Mercy Ministries' treatment are given a video series to watch that was made by prominent American ex-gay Sy Rogers. it's the usual stuff: homosexuality is not God's plan, homosexuals can change (for a certain given value of "change", anyway). Disturbingly, women who have gone to Mercy Ministries for issues completely unrelated to homosexuality claim that they were required to watch these videos as part of their treatment. The focus on teaching about the evils of homosexuality seems to have far more prominence than you'd expect from a place ostensibly intended to help people deal with their own personal problems:
"While I was there, we received much teaching on the evils of gay and lesbian lifestyles," said Naomi Johnson, who spent nine months in the ministry's Sydney house.

Mercy Ministries denies that they are running an ex-gay program. This is technically accurate - their ministry is not an explicitly ex-gay one - but somewhat misleading in my opinion: they still teach that homosexuality is a moral sickness, and teach that it can be "cured".

And finally....

Gloria Jeans CEO steps down.

And with my uni assignment complete, I've run out of excuses to sit at the computer and post incessantly about this. For now, anyway.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mercy Ministries admits to taking people's Centrelink payments, and more

Mercy Ministries media response

Looks like they're going for the angry denial for the most part - we're Christian, we don't hide anything from anyone, the media is unfairly attacking us, blah blah blah - with one exception. And what an exception it is:
We work closely with Centrelink and where a young woman is eligible for Centrelink benefits, this amount goes a small way towards providing 24 hour care, 7 days a week.

Okay. Boy. Is this "working closely with Centrelink" statement implying that Centrelink knows what's going on and doesn't disapprove?

And once again, Mercy Ministries' own website provides many interesting details. From their Frequently Asked Questions:
6. How much does the program cost?
Mercy Ministries program is provided at no cost to the young women.

For young women who are eligible for a Centrelink payment (eg. Youth Allowance, Newstart, Pension) we ask that they contribute their payment to Mercy Ministries for the duration of their time in the program. From this payment the young women receive an allowance for weekly shopping for incidentals.

Upon entry into the program a deposit of $200 is required from all young women (whether eligible for Centrelink payment or not), to cover the cost of any impending medical expenses.

It will then be necessary to replenish the deposit to take it back to a balance of $200 for any further medical treatment that may be required.

For young women who are not eligible for Centrelink support, Mercy Ministries does require them to have a sponsor to support weekly shopping for incidentals and medical expenses.

As Mercy Ministries is not a medical facility we work with the young women alongside medical professionals who support Mercy Ministries to access excellent and affordable medical care.

Any remaining part of this deposit will be refunded to the resident on departure from the program.

This "free" "psychological program" requires that the residents pay for all their medical costs. The required $200 deposit is also an interesting pyschological hold that Mercy Ministries' angry denials about "voluntary participation" neglects to mention.

Also? People not on Centrelink payments are required to have a sponsor to cover their "incidental and medical expenses"? Why? And perhaps more importantly, who?

Mercy Ministries cont.

The SMH is not letting up on the Gloria Jean's/Hillsong/Mercy Ministries story. More coverage today, with the print edition also featuring a teaser for tomorrow's paper to the effect of "how Mercy Ministries and Hillsong claim they are able to 'cure' homosexuality".

Online articles are available. There is an examination of the ties between the 3 organisations by Ruth Pollard. Pollard also details the Australian Medical Association's concerns about Mercy Ministries' practice of requiring their members' medical visits to be monitored by a Ministries member. Corporations formerly listed as sponsors on the Mercy Ministries homepage - Rebel Sports, Bunnings Warehouse and LG - are denying any connection and their logos have apparently now been quietly removed from that section of the Mercy Ministries website. Other women have been contacting the Herald in the wake of the coverage. And finally, a former member of Hillsong has written an editorial about the issue.

That last one is hair-raising. Consider this:
The teaching when I was at Hillsong included the lesson that women are attached to their offspring eternally. All the miscarriages, terminations and stillbirths a woman has during her life time grow up in heaven, waiting for their mother to join them.

Probably the most serious allegation so far is the claim that women on Centrelink benefits in the program are "encouraged" to sign them over to Mercy Ministries for a period of one year. There's also the claim that women are "encouraged" to go on a disability support pension so that the organisation could claim carer's payments from the government.

Some brief fun with Google: the Darlene Zschech mentioned in the first article has a vanity site: True to Pentecostal form, she's a singer-songwriter who uses her music to praise the Lord and evangelise for Hillsong. The SMH says she and her husband Mark are no longer affiliated with Mercy Ministries. They were both involved in another project called Hope Rwanda in 2006. The who's involved page for that site lists Mark Zschech as, among other things...Chairman of the Mercy Ministries International Board.

Hmmm....the Hope Rwanda page hasn't changes since mid-2007 from what I can see. It might just be out of date.

I'll be interested to see what comes out tomorrow.

Update: how the hell did I miss this right from Mercy Ministries' own site?:
In 2000, Mark and Darlene Zschech launched Mercy Ministries in Australia, a residential program for young women that was founded in America by Nancy Alcorn.

Today as the CEO of Mercy Ministries, Mark leads a team of 27 national staff and through his appointment to Mercy Ministries International Board in December 2004, Mark oversees the expansion and development of Mercy Ministries into the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Asia.

"No longer affiliated", huh?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Gloria Jean's, Mercy Ministries and Hillsong in the news again

In November 2007, local Australian coffee chain Gloria Jean's came under fire for its affiliation with an outfit named "Mercy Ministries", supposedly a sort of Christian live-in psychological counselling program. There was concern among the local gay press in particular about how "overcoming homosexuality" was one of the services it offered. As I recall Mercy Ministries said that they were going to stop treating people who had issues with homosexuality. They still continued their services in addressing other issues, though.

Today, Mercy Ministries made the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. The online coverage is here and here. Far from offering the "professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers, career counsellors and daily education from program staff" that is described on their website, Mercy Ministries' actual "treatments" are described by the SMH as consisting merely of prayer readings, Bible study, exorcisms and speaking in tongues.

The SMH reports that Gloria Jean's has not reconsidered its affiliation with Mercy Ministries, and that donation box in Gloria Jean's stores which collects on behalf of Mercy Ministries is apparently going to stay there. Peter Irvine is listed in the SMH coverage as "former managing director, now director of corporate sponsorship" of Mercy Ministries. I think people should know that the original Crikey story from November 2007 linked above also lists him at that time as "executive director of Mercy Ministries" as well as "managing director of Gloria Jean's". Like many of the upper management of Gloria Jean's, he's also a Hillsong member.

I just bought coffee from there this morning, too, since the university's coffee place hadn't opened yet. Goddamn.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama, Rev Wright, McCain, Pastor Hagee, politics and religion

Interesting. We have the inflammatory statements of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, religious mentor to Barack Obama appearing in the news. I've been reading commentary on the American political blogs, and people are basically lining up on the sides you'd expect them to.

Curious lead in the linked article: "Barack Obama was forced to distance himself yesterday from his former pastor and religious mentor", with the editorial implication perhaps being that Obama's only publicy disagreeing with Rev Wright's views out of political necessity. Can't say I agree with that interpretation.

The full text of Barack Obama's most recent condemnation of his Reverend's statements is available online. I'm not that thrilled with Reverend Wright's statements, don't particularly think that Obama's demonstrated any kind of sympathy with such statements to date (quite the opposite in fact), but do feel that any statement from Obama on the issue should offer an explanation for how he feels about the Reverend.

Obama's explanation is one I find satisfactory. One sentence in particular I find eminently satisfactory: "he [Reverend Wright] has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor". In fact, I think that sentence goes even deeper than the current issue, and strikes at the core of a severe problem with American politics today: the conflation of religion and politics.

Is it possible to separate spiritual and political statements from a pastor? I believe that is. So, if I accept this statement as a true indicator of his feelings, does Barack Obama. It has pained me to read the comments of so many Americans, inhabitants of the nation that basically invented the laudable notion of separation of Church and State, who are unwilling or unable to make such a distinction between the spiritual and the political.

Yet it is the importance given to that distinction which contrasts, say, the relationship between Obama and Reverend Wright with the relationship between John McCain and Pastor John Hagee. One is, if we accept Obama's comments, a matter of shared religious affiliation that does not intrude into Obama's personal politics, while the other is an explicit political endorsement of a political candidate by a religious figure.

Certainly there are people in America who would disagree that Obama's approach is better. I've read plenty of people who write about "the myth of the separation of Church and State in America". I personally feel that if America does not have such a separation, then it should. I hope that Obama is sincere in his apparent effort to honour that division. I feel no compunction or double standard in applauding Obama for that effort while condemning McCain for his efforts, through seeking the political endorsement of Pastor Hagee, in breaking it down.

Are opponents of homosexuality working against freedom?

Claim: statements made against homosexuality by anti-gay activists sometimes encourage their followers to believe that they themselves will personally suffer for the actions of homosexuals, and for the beliefs of those who have no moral qualm against homosexuality. Such people are therefore compelled by their own sense of self-preservation to deliberately interfere with the actions and beliefs of others by any means necessary. This goes completely against the ideals of self-governance and self-responsibility that characterise a free, open society.

Exhibit A: Pastor John Hagee's statement that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment on everyone in New Orleans, regardless of their personal viewpoint towards homosexuality, because a gay pride march was going to be held there.

Exhibit B: Sally Kern's statements, specifically "Studies show no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted for more than a few decades" and "If you have cancer in your little toe, do you just say that I'm going to forget about it since the rest of you is fine? It spreads! This stuff is deadly and it is spreading. It will destroy our young people and it will destroy this nation."

"Live and let live" means either punishment by God or the complete destruction of the society in which you live? No wonder some people can't leave gay people alone.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The benefits of free speech illustrated: Rep Sally Kern(R)

I'm a strong supporter of freedom of expression. I believe that expressing even the most vile, hateful idea serves an important purpose in allowing the rest of us to see for ourselves just how vile and hateful an idea it is. This puts me at odds with people who support putting restrictions on "hate speech" and "villification".

Much buzz has accompanied the public airing of a tape of Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern saying some truly appalling things about homosexuality and gay people in general. Her subsequent two-pronged defense is interesting in what it reveals about free speech issues.

In the first instance, she insists in an interview with a local Oklahoma news outfit called that she
is just exercising her right to free speech:"What is wrong with me as an American exercising my free speech rights on a topic that is a very big issue today?" she asks. Absolutely nothing, says I. Everyone should have the opportunity granted by her free speech rights to hear what she has to say if she thinks that it's such an important issue for her to comment upon.

Yet funnily enough, Rep Kern herself doesn't see it that way. In fact she's very unhappy that her statements have been given the wide audience that such a "very big issue" would presumably deserve: "Shame on the person who didn't have the courage to come and say, 'I'm going to tape you and put it out on YouTube,'" she opines.

She wants to speak out on an important issue, but she compains when people actually hear what she says?

The idea of free speech in JS Mill's formulation of the concept is that it is a free people themselves, not their government representatives, that is best suited to judging the merit (or lack thereof) of an idea, through ongoing public discussion amongst each other. Good ideas will tend to rise up, bad ideas will tend to be discarded. It doesn't take too much thought to view something like "homosexuality is more of a threat than terrorism" as a bad idea.

It is very telling that Rep Kern, for all her protestations about free speech, is unhappy with her statements being subject to the scrutiny of that marketplace of ideas. It tells me that she knows her statements won't stand up to that scrutiny. She might view this as evidence of a "homosexual agenda" working against her, but I would say that it is an example Rep Sally Kern rejecting the belief that the benefits of freedom of expression are valid ones: the principle of freedom of expression allows noxious and paranoid ideas like the ones held and promulgated by Rep Kern to be publicly seen for what they are, and publicly rejected. That can't sit well with her.

It is the broad distribution of this speech, not the restriction of it, that has best served the cause of gay rights here. It is a commitment to the principles of freedom of expression through public exposure and condemnation of noxious ideas, not a commitment to the restriction of freedom of expression through banning of "hate speech" and "villifying" speech, that best serves the cause of gay rights in general. Or so I believe.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Examples of Christian "persecution"

Far be it from me to let a list composed in comments go to waste. Forthwith:

A small compendium of four examples of "christians being persecuted for their views on homosexuality" which on closer examination proved to be anything but:

1)In Massachussetts, self-described "pro-family" group MassResistance claimed that "gay activists" had encouraged children to beat up the son of David Parker for Mr Parker's stance on homosexuality. But Mr Parker later admitted to the Boston Globe that "there was no evidence that an adult had directly incited students to bully his son", and everything that the superintendent had said about it being a small scuffle over lunchroom seating, unrelated to Mr Parker's political activities, has never been formally disputed by anyone. This backdown by Parker and Massresistance from their false and hurtful accusations didn't occur until AFTER Superintendent Paul Ash and principal Joni Jay had received hundreds of vitriolic and threatening e-mails and phone calls from "loving" Christians telling them what they really thought of them, by the way.

(2)At Arlington Fair, the anti-gay group PFOX made grandiose claims about being the victim of a "hate crime" (a concept which they completely oppose, by the way). Yet when other people at Arlington Fair asked if events transpired the way PFOX claimed, the answer was unequivocal: It did not happen, according to Vice President of the Arlington County Fair, Jackie Abrams. John Lisle of the Arlington County Police Department have "no records, reports or recollection of any incident at the Arlington County Fair as described by PFOX."

(3) Most telling of all is the incident at the Falls Church Community Center. In this case, all that happened is that a person tried to take a picture of a PFOX activist and this was immediately slammed as "causing an altercation" by the person involved. When the person being threatened by this anti-gay activist merely asked "Do I have to call the police?", the anti-gay activist then said that this amounted to "accosting him".

(4) In New York, Christian protestors were arrested and fined for nothing more than "praying silently", if you believe the anti-gay version of events. A mainstream news report which names the actual charges paints a very different picture: they disobeyed a police order to stop blocking the event, and when they refused, were fined. The horrible, horrible tally of this fine for disobeying a police order and obstructing the stage? $100, plus $95 costs. Gosh, however would the saints of yesteryear cope with the terrible, terrible persecutions suffered by "Christians" (or more accurately, Christianists) today?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Day of Silence, its opposition, and information leakage

The things you find online...

The Day of Silence has an opponent in the US, in Snoqualmie Valley school district to be exact, calling itself the Coalition to Defend Education. Someone's apparently figured out that objecting to the Day on the basis that it's "pro-homosexual" isn't working out. This group bases their opposition to the day on the claims that "it creates unsafe conditions for students, disrupts teaching, and contributes to a biased environment at MSHS[Mount Si High School]."

Since I've yet to see a group that objects to this Day that doesn't have an anti-gay agenda tucked away somewhere, I decided to have a look at what was out there on this group. Besides their love affair with the man who proudly advocates that "God hates effeminate men", Pastor Ken Hutcherson, I haven't found a great deal about them.

Strange what I have found, though:
Here [UPDATE: I have voluntarily removed the actual hyperlink to this page as a gesture of goodwill to the Garding family, after someone complained about me "publishing that family photo on my site"] is a fairly cheesy photo of what may or may not be the members of this CoDE organisation, courtesy of a family website maintained by the Garding family.
Here is a public listing of when CoDE has booked out a Meeting Room at North Bend library on March 12th, from 6pm to 8:30pm.

Nothing particularly useful. But it is kind of personal. I know it's standard among heavy net users to view all information that a person or organisation chooses to make world-readable as fair game for the rest of the world to read, but still..

The whois data comes back with a private registrant called Oneandone private registration. No leads there.

Not much more I can say unfortunately, except I'm impressed that a day intended to highlight the problem of anti-gay harassment is successfully attracting so much public harassment. Kind of proves the point I think.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Does the American Family Association think anti-gay violence is acceptable?

A few weeks back, the ever-insightful Box Turtle Bulletin questioned the supposedly "loving" attitude that anti-gay groups claim to have towards gay people, noting that in the wake of the murder of 15-year old Lawrence King, any suggestion of compassion from these "loving" groups towards a person who was killed for being gay was nowhere to be found, anywhere.

On April 25th, many high school students in the US will be participating in the Day of Silence, a day that seeks to draw attention the dangers that many gay high school students, such as Lawrence King, face.

This really upsets a lot of "loving" Christian organisations. The American Family Association, for instance is urging parents to keep their children home from school on April 25th. It appears that they are unable to conceive that a day intended to oppose anti-gay violence can entail anything other than, as they put it, being "taught that homosexuality is a worthy lifestyle, homosexuality has few or no risks, and individuals are born homosexual and cannot change".

What message does this send? Is there any form of opposition to anti-gay violence that does not somehow "promote the homosexual lifestyle" in their eyes?

If not, can it not reasonably said that an organisation which opposes "promoting the homosexual lifestyle", and which thinks that opposing anti-gay violence is "promoting the homosexual lifestyle", is opposed to the idea of people thinking that anti-gay violence is wrong? In other words, does the American Family Association think anti-gay violence is acceptable?

Some people might think this is hyperbole. I would point them to the fact that the AFA is praising the "bold example" of Pastor Ken Hutcherson in opposing the Day of Silence. Here is what he has had to say on how to treat gay people:
“God hates soft men” and “God hates effeminate men.” Hutcherson went on to say, “If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I’d rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end.”

Lawrence King was killed because "he began to act in an effeminate way".

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Political heresy on terrorism

Just a thought:

The goal of terrorism is to terrorise people and make them afraid. The actual killing of people is the means of achieving this goal. It is not the goal itself.

Most if not all of the wrong-headed thinking on terrorism today stems from viewing deaths caused by terrorism as the goal rather than the means.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pastor John Hagee, homosexuality and collective punishment

John Hagee, Christianist pastor, whose endorsement John McCain was "very honored" to receive, has stated, among many other things, that in regards to the destruction of New Orleans
there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.....and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.

Plenty has been said by others about Hagee's many statements, but I think it's worth highlighting this particular one and how it influences thinking on homosexuality.

Why do some Christianists insist on interfering in consensual sexual practices that don't affect them? The standard answer is that they're doing it out of concern and love for the "poor" homosexual caught up in their "destructive" "lifestyle". Yet if you accept Pastor Hagee's comments as a valid statement of how God works, another answer becomes apparent: they interfere because they fear that the actions of homosexual people will affect them, and in a very bad way.

Believing that God would level an entire city, everyone there regardless of the inhabitants' own individual attitudes towards homosexuality, means accepting that God judges people for actions that they did not themselves perform. It isn't possible for a Christian to believe that this judgement is wrong since the judgement is being made by the entity who Christians believe is the One actually responsible for setting out what is right and what is wrong. So Christians who accept Hagee's comments as valid would view themselves as, for the sake of their own safety from God's wrath, personally responsible for stopping the homosexuality of others.

It's a statement that compels a True Believer to interfere in the personal lives of others. It seems to me also to be an exhortation to behave in a way that is completely at odds with a free society.

I actually can't fault True Believers for doing what they sincerely believe they have to do in order to avoid God's punishment on their lives. I'm not nearly so understanding towards Pastor Hagee, though.