Thursday, September 24, 2009

language for a proposed CA Constitutional amendment

I really wish they would have waited, but here's the language submitted to the California Attorney General by Love, Honor, Cherish, (and a coalition of other groups) seeking to over turn Proposition 8 on the 2010 November ballot.

This amendment would amend an existing section of the California Constitution. Existing language proposed to be deleted is printed in italics type. Language proposed to be added is printed in bold type.

Section 1. To protect religious freedom, no court shall interpret this measure to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person authorized to perform marriages by any religious denomination, church, or other non-profit religious institution to perform any marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs. The refusal to perform a marriage under this provision shall not be the basis for lawsuit or liability, and shall not affect the tax-exempt status of any religious denomination, church or other religious institution.
Section 2. To provide for fairness in the government’s issuance of marriage licenses, Section 7.5 of Article I of the California Constitution is hereby amended to read as follows: Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, creed, ancestry, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.

Whether the proposition actually gets on the ballot in November next year depends on the ability to gather the required signatures. The group has plans to start signature gathering in November. They appear to have sufficient financial resources to succeed with that step.

Of course I'll vote for the proposition if it appears on the ballot, but I won't sign a petition to place it there. I don't have the energy, or the time, or the money, to contribute to a political campaign on this issue next year. And like me, I don't think many of the folks who worked on the No on 8 campaign last year are eager to do it again. Marriage equality is important but it's not the only issue competing for my dollars and time. Nor do I think our chances of being successful are much improved from last year. It's more difficult to ask people to change existing law (our task now) than it is to affirm an existing law (our task last year - which we lost). The people who voted Yes on 8 haven't changed their minds since a year ago, and the midst of a political campaign where they receive conflicting sound byte messages is not a great place to persuade them to change their minds. Furthermore, every time people are asked to confirm their opposition to marriage equality (by casting a vote or responding to a poll) it gets that much harder to get them to change their minds in the future.

And finally there's that ballot language itself. Section 1 is obviously designed to counter the argument that conservative churches will be forced to marry same-sex couples. But that argument was never valid in the first place. Does raising the issue, even to deny it, not also give the argument validity? Was this language sufficiently focused-group to make sure it isn't counter-productive? And section 2 is a land mine waiting to explode. Does "persons" include children? If it only means adults why doesn't it say so? Does "sexual orientation" protect pedophiles? Does not discriminating against "ancestry" mean that the State can't forbid a brother and sister to marry?

Please don't let this get on the ballot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

public transportation commuter

I rode the bus to work today. I walked down the hill from my house to West Silver Lake Drive. waited 25 minutes at the bus stop. Then paid $1.25 and rode the bus for less than 15 minutes to the corner of Wilshire and Vermont. I bought a small coffee and a chocolate croissant at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and then walked down Vermont three blocks to the church.

Later this morning I'm going to walk back up to the same intersection and board the Red Line subway for a trip downtown to join a healthcare rally. Then I'll subway back to the church, work a little more, then take the bus back home.

Except for the long wait at the bus stop the commute was easy. It did make a trip that takes less than 20 minutes in my car last nearly an hour. But that inconvenience would be ameliorated if I had a better notion of the bus schedules. The real problem with the bus though is that I hardly ever have a day when I only need to go to work and then back home. I almost always have to be in several places around town during the course of the day. Or I have an evening meeting and I don't really want to be waiting for the bus at 9:30 at night.

But it did feel good to do it today. And I'll do it again as often as I can.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Maine ballot language

I just saw the actual ballot language that voters in Maine will see in their voting booths on November 3. Consider your response carefully:

"Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"

"Hmm... If I want to allow my priest to refuse same-sex marriages, then I should approve the law by voting to reject the ballot measure which would... wait, what?"

Friday, September 11, 2009

iLove my iPhone

I love the way it syncs with my laptop computer address book and calendar. I love the built-in GPS. Three times already (I got it about 6 weeks ago) I've been in the car with an address but no directions and the phone gave me a turn by turn route. I love my NY Times app. I can sit in a restaurant and catch up on the latest news as I eat my lunch without having to buy a paper. I love the voicemail menu that allows me to go directly to the message I want to hear, and fast forward or go back in the message - like to recheck a phone number. I love the voice control command. And so on and on and on. Genius.

But I've had a problem with the phone itself. I could barely hear anyone calling even with the volume turned all the way up. If I used the earbuds, OK, but not possible to use the phone with the thing pressed against my ear. I thought about taking it back to the store but hadn't gotten around to it. Then a friend suggested it might be a problem with the clear plastic screen I had bought to protect the phone. The screen has a cut out for the speaker but my friend suggested that even if the plastic was covering the speaker a tiny bit it might be causing the problem. That sounded plausible but on the other hand I'd been really careful putting the screen on in the first place and it didn't look misaligned.

Finally yesterday I got around to peeling the screen off and taking a look. Surprise surprise. the little piece of plastic that is supposed to be cut out wasn't actually cut out. It was still attached to the screen, and perfectly covering the speaker. I popped the plastic piece out, put the screen back in place - now with an actual hole over the screen - and now it works perfectly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

a moral obligation to care for the sick.

In my previous post on the healthcare debate I was reacting not to any proposed policy but rather the tone and tactics of the discussion. (How I wish it actually were a discussion.) I was very pleased in Obama's speech last night that he addressed that issue as well as specific policies. He named the lies for what they were. He accurately characterized some of the arguments as designed to kill reform to score a political "win" rather than seeking to improve a bill or offer alternative ideas. And he reiterated his conviction that it is still possible to have a reasonable discussion that doesn't descend into acrimony and name calling. (During the speech he was named-called on the House floor, "You lie!" so I'm less optimistic about this point but I hope it's true.)

But what about the policy itself?

Universal health care.
We have a moral obligation to care for the sick. This is not a situation where people must take personal responsibility or suffer the consequences. Few of us are willing to simply let the sick among us suffer because of lack of money or because of a bad decision they made some time earlier. Healthcare is a community responsibility. We have already adopted this principle through our policy of allowing the indigent to use emergency rooms. The reform movement only wants to build on this principle in a way that is more efficient and less expensive.

Portable, secure, healthcare
Healthcare should not be dependent on life circumstances that are transitory. Employment is transitory; no one should lose healthcare because they lose a job, or change jobs. Good health is transitory; no one should lose healthcare because they get sick. Place of residence is transitory; no one should lose healthcare because they move from one city to another or from one state to another. Family situations are transitory; no one should lose healthcare because they get divorced, or their spouse dies. Age is transitory; no one should lose healthcare because they age-out of a covered age bracket. All of this simply points back to the first principle: healthcare should be universal. We have a moral obligation to care for the sick. Anyone who is a citizen of the United States should be guaranteed healthcare by the US government.

Private insurance is incompatible with universal healthcare
The benefit of health insurance is that by buying into the system when I'm healthy, if I get sick I know I will receive the care I need regardless of my ability to pay. But if health care without regard to ability to pay is required by law (and moral obligation) than the insurance company no longer adds any benefit. Private insurance companies can only add an expensive drain on a universal health care system, adding costs of redundant staff and paperwork and advertising and so on. A single-payer system could provide the same administrative function much more efficiently and inexpensively.

rationed healthcare
Not to avoid the elephant in the room, healthcare is not an infinite resource. There are limited numbers of hospital beds, doctors, MRI machines, transplantable organs, and so on in every area of healthcare. A universal healthcare policy must have some means of guaranteeing a basic amount of coverage to all persons before it agrees to fund higher levels of care for some few people. People seeking care beyond the basic level would then have the option of paying out of pocket or entering into something like the current private healthcare insurance system.

If I'd only twitter'd

My cleaning lady showed up at the house this morning and told me she had seen a great crowd of cyclists in Griffith Park this morning. She wondered if I had been among them and had looked for me, but of course I wasn't there. She said there had been traffic control officers and everything was quite orderly but a lot of people.

I was curious because I hadn't been aware of any big cycling event planned for today.

Later in my car I heard on the news that Lance Armstrong had decided on a whim to twitter the fact that he was going to go for a ride this morning and invited anybody who wanted to come along to meet him at the LA Zoo. Damn! And the thing is, Lance Armstrong is the only person I actually follow on Twitter, only I had come home from a late church meeting last night, had a snack and went to bed without checking my feed.

People apparently drove for hours to get a chance to meet him. I would only have had to hop on my bike - the LA zoo is 10 minutes from my house and I pass it regularly on my standard park ride. And so many people turned up that even for a spontaneous event they had to call in crowd control forces. Amazing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Healthcare debate

The Healthcare debate has left me very disappointed in the American people. What a colossal show of ignorance and incivility we've suffered through for the last month. Is it no longer possible to have a civil political discussion? Can we no longer disagree respectfully? Is there no chance of engaging in discourse with the intention of listening and learning rather than shouting down and storming off?

The glee with which the right shut down town hall meetings rather than presenting alternative ideas, the ease with which ideas were dismissed with pejorative words (socialism, facism, Nazi) rather than engaged and dealt with on their merits, the circus-like atmosphere of hijacking meetings with death threats and public displays of weapons, all horrified and shocked me. Even if the nonsense was amplified by the media (which it surely was) even a small amount of that kind of nuttiness deflated a lot of my faith in democracy.

My faith tells me that humans beings have inherent worth and dignity. I believe that, while also admitting that people are not always going to act out of that essential quality. But I also know that if we are going to succeed in the great transformation of society into the realm of peace, love, and justice, that I seek, that it is going to require the cooperation and co-creation of all of us (or at least most of us - we can carry a few with us who refuse to do their share, but these are big goals that require a lot of workers). When I see people who not only don't want to work toward the same goals I seek, but don't even seem interested in the idea of working together with anyone on anything, who seem gleefully happy merely at sowing confusion and mistrust and anger, then I despair as to how we would ever achieve transformational goals.

Los Angeles back to normal

We have had a miserable couple of weeks in Los Angeles. The huge fire in the Angeles forest is still only about 60% contained, but the fire has moved east, away from populated areas, and the wind is now blowing the smoke further east rather than into the city. Temperatures have dropped by more than 10 degrees. It's actually beautiful today.

When the fires were burning I could see flame from my bedroom window. The fires I could see were about 10 miles away on the sides of the hills above La Crescenta and La Canada. The first night of the fires the flames were near the top of the ridge but on the other side, rather than flames I could only see the orange glow of the flames reflected on the under side of the clouds. But by the next day the fires had come over the ridge and were moving down the hills. My house was in no actual danger, and although I could see that some houses were threatened that was not much danger for anyone in the area I could see. But still it was disturbing to see the flames burning all night. And then especially disconcerting as they continued night after night with the fire for several days getting steadily larger.

On top of that there was very little wind so the smoke settled into the LA Basin and just stayed put. The air was thick. It smelled. News reports told people to limit activity and stay inside. Even with minimal exposure I could feel myself getting sick: respiritory symptoms like a cold or allerigies, fatigue, and a headache. And being warned away from exercise also meant suffering through the usual symptoms I experience when I'm disconnected from my gym days and cycling: more fatigue, depression, and decreased spiritual health.

It's great to be back to normal

Al Franken is rapidly becoming the coolest Senator



and Here:


why is it always so frakin cold in every Starbucks? Are they trying to sell more hot coffee? Or are they trying to make the folks on laptops (like me) so uncomfortable that we give up our seats?