Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Nanny" Laws

Today, the city council of a nearby city passed a comprehensive smoking ban ordinance. Smoking is now banned in
public buildings, offices, restaurants, shopping malls, sports arenas and bars. Exempt from the ban is smoking in private homes, designated smoking rooms in hotels and motels, retail tobacco stores, private clubs, and outdoors more than 10 feet from a building entrance.

Not only will violators be fined, but business owners who allow smoking on their premises will be fined as well.

I'm not a smoker, but I have a few problems with this new ordinance. Not only is it an inappropriate legal intrusion into how a business owner chooses to do business, but business owners are not police officers and should not be expected to act in that role by enforcing this law. They're in business to make money, not be unpaid police officers.

I think the present system of smoking/nonsmoking areas and other types of designated smoking areas works well enough. More importantly, this system recognizes business owners' rights to operate their businesses as they see fit, smokers' rights to engage in a legal activity, and nonsmokers' rights to avoid unwanted secondhand smoke.

I've also heard there are plans in the works to try to ban fast food restaurants from serving unhealthy food. Again, information is already available about what is in individual menu items, so that customers can freely make their own choices accordingly.

Such kind of "nanny" laws treat adults like children, who cannot be trusted to take responsibility for the choices they make in life, good and bad. No one is forcing nonsmokers to patronize smoky bars, nor force-feeding them Big Macs.

The government can properly provide information about healthy life choices, but should never legally mandate them. As long as they don't harm others or infringe on their rights to do differently, people should have the right to make their own choices in life.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Wrong Information

Were you ever given information as a child from your parents, other relatives, and adults that later turned out to be totally wrong? I mean stuff they told you in good faith, believing it true themselves, and not attempts to mislead you.

I can remember being in the fourth grade or so and asking my mother what B.C. and A.D. meant. She got it half right; she told me B.C. meant "Before Christ", but she thought A.D. meant "After Death". It was several years later that I learned it was Anno Domini. I became suspicious of the accuracy of what she said when I realized that Christ was supposed to have died in 33 A.D., so what about the previous 32 years? It wouldn't make sense if A.D. was "After Death".

Another time, I asked her what would happen to our house if a tornado struck. She told me that the house could withstand it, which I don't think she actually believed, but told me that so I'd not worry. Nevertheless, I didn't quite believe her, my common sense telling me different after having seen the Wizard of Oz.

I remember my mother's aunt telling me that via meaning "by way of", as used in postal communications should be spelled "vie". I didn't say anything to my aunt, but even at ten years old that didn't sound right to me.

Lastly, I remember learning about the Hindenburg in school and then discussing with a friend at his house, referring to it as a "dirigible". I pronounced it correctly, but his father broke in and told me I was wrong; that it should be said, "dur jibbel". Again, I knew he was dead wrong, but I held my tongue, though later I laughed about it with my parents.

What kind of wrong information did you get as a kid?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Political Correctness and Childbirth

Recently, I heard a group of women talking about fathers in the delivery room, breastfeeding, "natural" childbirth, and the like. They were all in agreement that fathers should witness their childrens' births, that mothers should have unmedicated births and should breastfeed afterwards. It would seem as if political correctness extends in how people have children.

And it seems as if my one connection to a child being born was in no way politically correct, according to these women's standards.

I was not present in the delivery room for my son's birth, though I sat with her a good bit in the labor room. She was reticent about the matter, and I wasn't really eager to see it, either. I also thought the medical team could do their jobs better if I were not there underfoot as well.

I don't have a problem with couples who want to share this experience, but I scratch my head at those who want to make a big production about it: filming it, allowing every relative, friend, and acquaintance up to and including the mailman to be there watching, too. It seems to be a very private, personal thing that should be limited to the couple responsible for it.

She also wasn't interested in being a hero by going for unmedicated birth. Both of us were wanted the ordeal to be as smooth and pain-free as medically possible. We both had the idea that pain = bad. We considered that as long as the baby was born alive and healthy, how one chose to give birth was immaterial.

The ex also chose not to breastfeed, as she didn't want to have to be the one who always got up in the middle of the night to feed him. And, yes, I took my turn at this quite a few times. It also allowed her to go back to work without worrying about the logistics of how the baby was to be fed. As it turned out, with her running off before he was a y ear old, this was one less logistical problem I had to deal with when I was left to raise him alone.

Pretty much, though, we didn't see anything wrong with how our parents had handled these matters when we were born and saw no reason to change.


Monday, October 23, 2006

America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty

America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty (Sex, Love, and Psychology)

Marty Klein

Date: 2006-08-30 — Book

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Review of America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty (Sex, Love, and Psychology)

America's War on Sex is a look at the various violations of our civil liberties in reference to sexual freedom. The author, Dr Marty Klein, a certified sex therapist, clearly shows that sexual freedom for all consenting adults is an integral part of our rights under the First Amendment.

Dr Klein believes that "those who are trying to 'clean up' America say they're fighting for a number of critical reasons; children, the family, marriage, morals, education, community safety. But this isn't really true. It's a war against sex: sexual expression, sexual exploration, sexual arrangements, sexual privacy, sexual choice, sexual entertainment, sexual health, sexual imagination, sexual pleasure....The public is manipulated into fighting sexual expression, not sexual ignorance or poor sexual decision making."

Elaborating on his original premise, Dr Klein talks about abstinence-only vs comprehensive sex education, the campaigns to suppress and censor pornography, abortion, contraception, attempts to censor the broadcast media, adult entertainment, and the internet. He also takes a look at those involved in censorship and anti-sex campaigns, particularly religious fundamentalists, showing what drives them and how they operate. One chapter is nothing but outrageous quotes by many people who would seek to limit the sexual rights of others.

Most useful is a chapter about sexual privacy, particularly how it related to sexual minorities, which includes examples of how the law discriminates against sexual minorities, which is pretty much everyone who doesn't practice heterosexual monogamy within a legally recognized marriage. In this chapter, Klein focuses mainly on gay people, swingers, and aficionados of BDSM, but what he writes applies to other sexual minorities as well.

Also included are extensive source notes and an up-to-date bibliography.

He's preaching to the choir here, but I took one star away for his writing style which is a little strident and over the top. Nevertheless, this is a book that should be in the library of anyone who takes the American ideal of liberty and privacy seriously, especially as how it pertains to our sexuality.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Getting Sick

People deal with getting sick in various ways. For the purpose of this entry, I will limit myself to minor, common illnesses of a limited nature, particularly how they relate to work attendance. I will not touch upon anything of a serious and/or life-threatening nature.

On one extreme, we have people who go to the doctor at the slightest sign of the sniffles and on the other, there are those who would drag themselves into work on their one good appendage even if the other three were broken. I fall somewhere in the middle, perhaps erring on the side of caution.

Even when I have had health insurance, I am not one who makes a habit of going to the doctor for every little thing. Perhaps it's "white coat syndrome" or perhaps its the cheapskate in me, but I reserve visiting the doctor to absolute necessity; for things that will not go away on their own within a few days.

However, I'm most definitely not the type to drag myself into work when I'm sick. If I've got a fever, have gastrointestinal problems (one end or both), feel dizzy, if I've had insomnia to the point of getting less than two or three hours of sleep, or a bad cold, especially in the germy stage, I'll stay home. It does an employer no good if a sick employee infects other employees or if they spend most of the day running back and forth to the bathroom, not to mention that it slows the recovery time.

Some places I've worked at supported this approach -- the police department had a generous sick leave policy of 18 paid sick days a year, built up at a day and a half a month. Even when one had run out of paid days, it was possible to use unpaid ones, as the attitude was, "If you're sick, stay home. Don't come to work and make everyone else sick, too."

Other employers, however, pretty much have expected us to come in no matter how sick or contagious we were. I've found that the more menial the job, the more this is true. It's ironic, because it's much easier to tolerate working at a higher level of sickness in an office job, where one can sit down and be near a bathroom, than it is when one is doing manual labor without immediate bathroom access.

I've known some really gung-go, diehard types who will come to work, no matter what. On the police department, I knew a jailer who worked third shift who once came to work so sick with the flu, that he had to lay down on the floor with the phone there beside him because sitting in a chair made him too dizzy. To me, that's completely nuts. He was not only prolonging his recovery time, he was also creating a security risk, as he'd not really be able to respond quickly with any effectiveness if there had been a problem in the jail.

I do what I have to do when I'm feeling really bad, pay or no pay. I figure that if I take one day to rest, I'll be much less likely to have to take several days after getting even sicker after pushing myself to go to work when I'm sick. In jobs with no health insurance, I've had to raise the sickness bar a bit higher than I'd ideally be comfortable with, but there's no way I'm going to work if I'm throwing up or in danger of embarrassing myself if I can't get to a bathroom without a couple of minutes.

In this, I'm reminded of what my father always said in relation on how to prioritize what is really important: "If you've got your health, you've got everything."


Thursday, October 19, 2006


The word of the day is:


Like duty, tradition is a loaded word, a double-edged sword. To conservatives, tradition is considered almost synonymous with what is good. They often defend certain customs, practices, and beliefs by pointing to tradition. To say "We've always done it that way!" is an appeal to tradition.

Obviously, such reasoning can fail. Tradition, in and of itself, is neither inherently good or bad.

Up until the Civil War, slavery was certainly "traditional" in the US, but it certainly wasn't a tradition we needed to continue. The Catholic Church continues to bar women from the priesthood, largely because it's not traditional. Priests have always been male, they say, so in their reasoning, they always should be male. Currently, those against gay marriage point to tradition, underlining the fact that marriage has traditionally been between men and women (at least they can't factually say that monogamy is the only "traditional" form of marriage!). In these instances, it is wrong and short-sighted to insist upon continuing a tradition, no matter how much it hurts real people. Traditions are meant to benefit people; people aren't meant to benefit traditions.

But tradition isn't always bad or necessarily a sign of conservatism. Many times benign traditions make us feel connected to our pasts and our families, as in the ways we celebrate holidays. Keeping certain traditions such as these help us to remember and feel close to family members who are no longer with us. I know when my sister sends me Christmas cookies she made from my mother's recipe through the mail, I think of my mother fondly and I know these cookies connect both my sister and I to the same memory.

So, to me, tradition is neither a sacred cow, nor is it something I automatically reject out of hand. I accept what is meaningful and relevant to me and I disregard the rest. Another alternative is to create new traditions of one's own -- after all, even the old traditions had to start somewhere.

What does tradition mean to you?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blinded By the Light

Because of my job, I'm on the road at night. There are many irritations associated with driving, but I think the biggest driving peeve I have has to be fog lights, especially on SUVs.

The problem is that most people who have the damned things don't restrict their use to foggy nights; they use them all the time. In essence, these people have four headlights, not fog lights which would be properly used with their regular headlights in foggy weather.

I have a sports car that sits low to the ground. An SUV, with all four of these lights blazing, approaching me will blind the hell out of me to the point of me sometimes having to stop the car until they get by. I sincerely hope that no one will ever choose to walk out in front of my car at those moments; as I'd likely not be able to see them. And there is no way in the world to find an intersection where I wanted to turn left, when they pass by, either.

In the case of the ones coming up behind me, they'll throw a glare into my rear view mirrors and into my face, plus they light up the interior of my car. Again, it reduces what I can see in front of me, particularly if I'm trying to hunt an address number on a mailbox or house. Instead of putting up with one of these obnoxious drivers riding my ass, I pull over and motion to go around me.

On large SUVs, the headlights are mounted higher than on cars. Large SUVs have headlights mounted 36 to 39 inches above the ground - the same height as the side mirror on a small car. The glare from SUVs' headlights can appear to other drivers as bright as high beams. Glare can be 10 to 20 times worse than recommended levels when headlights are at the height of a driver's eyes or side mirror, according to a study by the Society of Automotive Engineers

While browsing the net, I found many sites where people were complaining about this very thing, so I know it's not just me. I also found out that improperly using fog lights when the weather conditions don't warrant it is prohibited in the UK.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration takes this problem seriously as well. In a report about headlight glare, they said, in part:

2.4 - Glare from Fog Lamps, Driving Lamps, and Auxiliary Low Beam Headlamps

Fog lamps, driving lamps, and auxiliary low beam headlamps are lamps used in addition to the normally required headlamps. These lamps have been identified in state laws for decades as being allowed to be used under certain conditions of visibility.

Driving lamps are lamps not intended for general driving, but are intended to supplement the upper beam headlamps... they should never be used under conditions that do not permit the use of upper beam headlamps.

Because of fog lamps' limited performance, they by design will not markedly improve seeing under normal conditions.

These auxiliary lamps are now becoming a source of complaint for glare. Often described as another set of headlamps, sometimes mounted lower, the public reports that these lamps seem to be used all the time at night. In fact, research has now documented that the public is right. Sivak et. al. reported that fog lamps were in fact used much more often than was appropriate for the conditions... (see Sivak, M.; Flannagan, M. J.; Traube, E. C.; Hashimoto, H.; Kojima, S. 1997, "Fog lamps: Frequency of Installation and Nature of Use," No. UMTRI-96-31, available as Docket NHTSA-1998-8885-1).

This documented misuse of fog lamps in particular helps substantiate the complaints that NHTSA has been receiving. NHTSA has had complaints about fog lamp use for a while, but never so many as recently... Because of the significant increase in complaints, NHTSA plans to propose action independently of outdated industry standards for fog, auxiliary and driving lamps to regulate these at the federal level.

So, in closing, I would urge drivers in vehicles equipped with fog lights to treat them like high beams and to limit their use to only when it's foggy out.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

No Longer the Majority

Religious fundamentalists and other ultraconservatives oppose gay marriage and other sexual minority relationship types for a variety of reasons. One reason sometimes cited, along with many others is that the one man/one woman, legally married couple is the majority form of relationship in the US, and that the majority should rule. It's "traditional", ergo desirable, in their viewpoint.

But that is no longer true. The Census Bureau has recently announced that families organized around a monogamous, heterosexual, legally married couple is no longer the majority. Legally unmarried households of various types now constitute 50.2% (55.8 million HHs) of all family households, with the "traditional" married household now coming in with 49.8%(55.2 HHs). This is a fairly significant shift from six years ago, when households headed by "traditional" married couples were at 52 percent. All present indications are that this trend will continue.

The unmarried family HHs consisted of 14 million single mother HHs and 5 million single father HHs. 36.7% were considered "nonfamily"! households, which were mostly of legally unmarried gay and straight marriage-clone relationships.

There are also 30 million households of people of both sexes living alone, which are not counted as families.

These statistics indicate that conservatives attempting to impose a single tyoe of relationship form for all households is maladaptive and short sighted. It's also a wakeup call to legislators to rethink many of our country's laws, which assume families will be headed by legally married couples.

Presently, marriage brings with it a host of legal perks and benefits: tax breaks, sharing health insurance which gives lower rates to married people, next of kin status, inheritance rights, and so on.

Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of the California-based group Unmarried America, which disseminates information on singles trends, agrees that society and government need to rethink the system in which legally married couples receive a larger share of benefits..

“It made sense to have employment benefits geared toward married couples with children when, in the 1950s, 75 percent of American households consisted of married couples with children at home,” Coleman said. Taxes, employment benefits and even working hours should be reconsidered now that 42 percent of the workforce is single.

“Marriage is a very highly personal matter,” he said. “The government needs to tread very lightly with how it uses marital status to reward or punish people, so to speak. People should be treated more as individuals."

I agree with Coleman, and think this is a further indication that marriage should be discontinued as a legal status and that households of all types should turn the the LLC model to negotiate the various legal perks that now come only with marriage on a case-by-case basis, picking such benefits as needed from a master legal menu. In this way, different kinds of relationships could tailor their benefits to their needs, instead of either being totally excluded or being obliged to enter into an ill-fitting "one size fits all" relationship.

Our government can respond by allowing law to evolve to recognize reality or it can doggedly cling to now increasingly maladaptive laws reflecting a reality that no longer exists, thus eventually imploding the entire system.
We can lament that "traditional" marriage is dying or we can celebrate diversity.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sperm Wars

I've been doing a lot of browsing at Amazon lately in order to beef up my "Books to Buy" list. One that I put on my list recently was entitled "Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles" by Robin Baker.

The title immediately drew my interest, but the book description clinched it. Baker explores some recently discovered facts about sex that completely debunk some age-old biological assumptions.

Hogamus, higamus
Men are polygamous
Higamus, hogamus
Women, monogamous

It turns out that this old bit of folk wisdom isn't quite so true or wise after all. What is true is that ten percent of children are not fathered by their legal "fathers"; less than one percent of a man’s sperm is capable of fertilization (the rest is there to fight off all other men’s sperm); vaginal mucus encourages some sperm but blocks others; and a woman is far more likely to conceive through a casual fling than through sex with her regular partner.

In other words, nature itself expects people to be nonmonogamous, at least biologically, and has adapted reproductive strategies to this fact. Society may take a dim view of
infidelity, group sex, partner-swapping, and the like, but these practices nevertheless may enhance an individual's reproductive success compared with long-term monogamy.


Friday, October 13, 2006


The word of the day is: DUTY

I've never been a very dutiful person. I generally need a motivation to do something more precise than I "should" do it. I've always had to know why I should do something, and if the reason does not make logical sense to me and I see no benefit in doing so, more likely than not, I'll not do it.

I'm the type of person who eats dessert first, who takes the path of least resistance, and does as little as I can to get by on a job and still keep my job. I'm a procrastinator at home and on the job and I'm quite creative in the art of wasting time. I leave the dishes in the sink and I let my grass grow to my knees, only cutting it when I get a nasty letter from the city.

I fully admit it: I'm a slacker.

I'm an INTP personality type, according to the Myer-Briggs test. Reading about my type, I've found that I come by my cavalier attitude toward duty quite honestly. Apparently people who share the P part of my INTP personality tend to be quite laid back when it comes to doing things others think we "should" do.

Nevertheless, I'm not entirely without a sense of duty. I've had quite a few unpleasant jobs, to put it mildly, but I've never quit a job just because I've hated it. I despise my present job with every fiber of my being, yet I continue to grit my teeth and put in my hours, even though my gut instinct is to tell them to stick the job where the sun doesn't shine.

I also will take pity on coworkers occasionally and give them a hand if I see they're overloaded. But I never do so out of duty; it's always done freely mainly because I hate to see others having to work too hard, too.

That, I believe, is the difference between "duty" and "necessity". Though I'm not good at being dutiful; I excel in doing what's absolutely necessary. And even though I recognize the necessity of having to work, like it or not, I prefer to work smarter, rather than harder. I'm not going to do things the hard way if I can find a more expedient way to do it.

I dream of the day when I'll never have to work again, never have to give up another hour of my time for someone else's purposes, never have to censor my honest reactions in order to keep a job. I doubt if I'll ever be able to retire, but it's nice to dream.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Conservatives Without Conscience

Conservatives Without Conscience

John Dean

Date: 2006-07-11 — Book

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Review of Conservatives Without Conscience

John Dean, a traditional conservative in the mold of Barry Goldwater, was moved to write this book after seeing the changes in his beloved Republican party over the last twenty-five years, changes, he believes, that betray the principles of classic conservatism.

Dean pinpoints this change to a growing authoritarian mindset within his party, accelerated by the influence of Religious Right.

He gives an overview of the history of conservatism in the United States, showing how earlier generations of conservatives differ from those of today, breaking down and describing various subgroups of conservatives today.

The concept of the authoritarian mindset in covered, especially as it relates to politics, and he gives descriptions of authoritiarian follower and leader types, and those who display traits of both, which he refers to as "Double Highs". After describing common character traits of authoritarians, and how such personality types are naturally attracted to far right ideas, both politically and religiously, he gives several thumbnail sketches of prominent right wing people, from years past and in the present, focusing on how they fit the authoritarian profile.

Dean also is careful not to paint all Republicans and conservatives with the same authoritarian brush. He provides a useful summary guide on how to distinguish conservatives without conscience from conservatives with conscience.

This was an enlightening and useful book, one I hope that voters will read before heading to the polls in November and again in 2008.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Marriage: Mating in Captivity

While surfing the net the other day, I came upon an interesting phrase that turned out to be the title of a book:
Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic by Esther Perel.

Intrigued, because this pithy phrase sums up exactly how I feel about marriage, I went over to Amazon to read about this book.

The author bases the book on these questions:

Why does great sex so often fade for couples who claim to love each other as much as ever?
Can we want what we already have?
Why does the transition to parenthood so often spell erotic disaster?
Does good intimacy always make for good sex?

My first reaction to the book's premise is that Perel is ignoring the elephant in the living room: that monogamy and domesticity itself inherently kills desire. Passion-killing boredom inevitably sets in when the novelty wears off; the old "familiarity breeds contempt" problem.

However, a couple of readers' reviews of the book gave me hope that she might recognize the problem after all.

...she is open minded, accepting, and understanding of the incredible impact that sexual freedom and individuality have had on marriage. She does not sugar coat the fact that monogamous marriage is "dying." She advocates being proactive about ensuring passion and desire within your marriage.

Here's a radical thought: don't do everything together. Cultivate your own set of friends. Create differences, not affinities. "Ruthlessness is a way to achieve closeness" --- ponder that for a while. Monogamy? Great if you can honor it. But it is, statistics show, "a ship sinking faster than anyone can bail it out." Infidelity is a symptom of deeper problems in the relationship? Many believe that. Perel doesn't. She finds life...complicated

This book sounds like it's worth reading, so I'll check it out and see what she has to say.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Dealing With Death in My Own Way

It's October again. Since childhood, this has been my favorite time of the year, with its cooler temperatures and impending holiday season. But because both of my parents ending up dying in October, it's also a bittersweet time for me.

My father died in the middle of October several years ago, after an unsuccessful attempt to recover from a massive heart attack and emergency bypass surgery he'd had the previous July. Indeed, I now believe that he only lasted as long as he did because of his stubborn nature -- no one can say that he didn't try to get better. But I think once he realized that all the will in the world would not return him to the life he'd known before, he just slipped away, once he'd accepted that fact.

It had been an exhausting and stressful three months, hoping against hope that he'd eventually turn a corner and begin to improve, despite all indications to the contrary. It was exhausting to see the person who loved me most in the world to teeter so long at the brink of death, never quite knowing whether he'd beat the odds or not. It was stressful for other reasons as well; during this time, his relatives showed their true colors and openly expressed their disapproval of me, at a time when I didn't need to be dealing with such things. Oh, I'd always known the sentiment was there, but as long as my father was alive and in full possession of his faculties, they'd dared not express it openly. But no sooner than his grave condition became known, their discretion was gone and the gloves came off.

After he died, we had a memorial service for him here, with the funeral to be held a few days later in another state, where he was to join my mother for burial. My son and I were to accompany him there on his last flight.

At the memorial service were many people I didn't know, along with the relatives from his side of the family, and some friends. One of my lovers at the time also came to support me in my hour of need, even though she'd never met my father.

After the service, there was a gathering at my father's house, complete with food and drinks. I drove my son over there, but I had no intention of staying and making nice with the relatives who'd only added to my burden in the previous three months. I'd spoken with the lover mentioned above right after the service and she'd invited me to come to her house and I'd accepted.

As I turned to leave after dropping my son off, one busybody aunt who'd given me a particularly bad time during my father's illness called out, "Where are you going?" in the same tone of voice one would use when catching a dog shitting on the living room rug. Not wanting to create a scene, I ignored her, got into my car and sped off.

I spent the afternoon in bed with the lover, drowning my sorrows in the pleasures of sex. It's always been natural for me to turn to sex as a balm to soothe any kind of problem I might be having, as well as enjoying it for a host of various other reasons. Sex also represents hope and life to me, and these were two things I most needed to remind myself of on that particular day. Nevertheless, this day was one of the few times I ever did the deed with tears in my eyes.

I returned to my father's house a few hours later to pick up my son and take him home. My busybody aunt was in the kitchen doing dishes as I came in and lit into me immediately, correctly guessing what I'd gone to do. In a loud voice, she told me what a miserable excuse for a human being I was and how could I go off and "tomcat" on a day like this, blah, blah, blah, blah. All this was said in front of my not quite fifteen year old son, and the relatives that were still lingering.

Still, I didn't want to get into a shouting match with her, as my father's widow didn't need to deal with that, so I merely told her to go to hell and motioned my son out the door and we left.

This aunt had, for all intents and purposes, become the family matriarch after my grandmother had passed away in the late 80s. After this day, and apparently because of her influence, none of the family has had anything to do with me.

I can't say that I miss them.


Saturday, October 7, 2006

The Neighborhood Nazis

We've all heard of them. Most of us have seen them. And some of us even live in them.

They're known as "gated communities" or "homeowner's association communities". These are the neighborhoods where, even if you own your own home or condo, the Neighborhood Nazis, aka the Homeowner's Association, regulate such trivial matters as what type of mailbox you may have, fence types and colors allowed, if any, permissible forms of landscaping, draperies, where you may or may not park your car, and so on.

Such neighborhoods always look neat and tidy, but usually have little charm, with each property having a depressingly uniform appearance, with nothing on the outside to indicate each owner's individual tastes.

I can't imagine shelling out big bucks for a nice home and being subject to a group of anal retentives with no life telling me what kind of mailbox I can use, where I can park my car, and what kind of curtains I can hang in my windows. If I wanted people micromanaging my life in that much detail, I'd have joined the Army.

Those who choose such neighborhoods cite that property values are protected when residents group together to enforce such regulations for their communities. That may be so, but I still believe people are giving up quite a bit more than they're getting. To me, freedom to live as I see fit on my own property is worth a hell of lot more than getting a few extra bucks if I ever decide to sell my house.

In recent years, many homeowners have run afoul of their local homeowners' associations for installing flagpoles and flying the American flag. These residents were ordered to remove the poles, even when no neighbors had complained, with the main objections being that the flagpoles violated the uniform appearance of the neighborhood.

In response to these cases,
President George W. Bush signed into law H.R. 42 "The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005", on July 24, 2006. H.R. 42 prohibits community associations from adopting or enforcing a policy or agreement that "would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use."

I find myself in the odd position of approving of the President's actions concerning this issue.


Friday, October 6, 2006

The Shoe is Now on the Other Foot

I suppose everyone has now heard about the former Republican Representative Mark Foley, who resigned on Friday after being accused of sending sexually explicit instant messages and emails to teenage male Congressional pages in the last ten years.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reacted by commenting that Democratic sex scandals have been far worse than what Mark Foley allegedly did.

I'm guessing this is a thinly veiled allusion to the Clinton/Lewinsky brouhaha. But I beg to differ with the erstwhile speaker. Both Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were consenting adults, unlike the pages Foley allegedly sexually harassed, who were all minors.

Vice-President Dick Cheney said,
"I don't think we fear investigations. I don't think they would get much done, if that's all they've got. And I don't think there's great enthusiasm on the part of the country for that," Cheney added.

This didn't apparently bother the Republicans when they went after Clinton for the Lewinsky affair, and were more than willing to go the distance with this issue, despite a similar lack of public enthusiasm then.

Some Republicans question the timing of this story going public, fearing it will adversely affect their chances in the midterm elections, especially if
evidence develops to verify allegations that some Republican leaders knew about Foley's activities for months or years, but had suppressed the information, failing to act.

Ah, well. What goes around, comes around. The shoe is now on the other foot and we can only hope that the shit will hit the fan for the Republicans next month.


Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Just Say No to Discrimination

Up on the ballot next month in my resident state of South Carolina is an amendment proposing to write discrimination into the state constitution by legislating that marriage is legally entered into solely by "one man and one woman".

I visited the site maintained by those who are for this amendment, South Carolina for Marriage.org. Below is their FAQ, with my responses in bold below each point. Needless to say, I'll be voting NO on this amendment, and I urge all those in my state to do so as well.

* Marriage is a legal contract. To say that government should not get involved in legal relations is to say that government has no business governing. Marriage is also a social contract as well because the issues involved go beyond just the married couple.

Marriage is, at root, a private, personal relationship. Though it is presently available as a legal contract and can be a religious matter, it should not necessarily be either. The "social contract" part also does not overrule the essential private nature of it. Government has no business promoting, defining, or regulating what marriage is between consenting adults.

* The debate over the meaning of marriage is not a “civil rights” struggle. Those who fought for civil rights on matters of race didn’t put themselves above the law like the activists judges of today. Judges who do so are using the power of the law to subvert the law.

Actually, those who argue against same-sex marriage use some of the same arguments that those who argued against interracial marriage did forty years ago. Interpreting the law isn't necessarily the same as subverting it, and so-called "activist" judges who favor same sex marriage are no different from those who favored interracial marriage forty years ago.

* The debate over marriage is not an issue of “equal rights”, as marriage is not an individual right. Otherwise, why limit marriage to unions of two people instead of three or four or five?

The right to freely enter into intimate relationships between consenting adults is indeed a matter of equal rights. Why, indeed, should we limit marriage to only monogamous couples?

* Traditional marriage opponents claim that maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is “discrimination”, but refuse to admit that, by that same logic, it would also be discrimination not to allow polygamy.

I freely admit that it is indeed discrimination to not allow non monogamous marriage. As long as marriage is a legal category, it should be open to all consenting adults in the form they choose.

* Marriage is not a right that is extended to individuals by the government. It is a government restriction on the individual rights they already have.

They contradict themselves from their third point where they said that
"marriage isn't a matter of equal rights". I agree that legal marriage is a restriction on individual rights that people already have, which is why I am for the ultimate abolition of legal marriage.

* What traditional marriage opponents want is government sanctioned approval of a particular lifestyle. What they are seeking is not equal rights, but official social approval, which is the opposite of equal rights.

Isn't that what the one man only/one woman only marriage proponents have now -- government sanction PROMOTION of their lifestyle, not just approval? Equal rights would eliminate the promotion of any one relationship form and allow for toleration of all.

* If one group of individuals has the “right” to everyone else’s approval, then no one has the right to their own opinions and values.

Everyone has a right to their own opinions and values. Granting equal rights to everyone doesn't affect opinions, but merely allows everyone the right to live their private lives as they see fit, regardless of the opinions of those whose own private lives would not be affected in any way by those who choose to live differently.

* This issue is not about rights, but about redefining marriage by judicial decree. By circumventing the democratic process, overriding majority opinion and excluding the rest of society from something as fundamental as the definition of marriage, activist judges make themselves a threat to the rule of law.

Marriage is a personal, private, intimate relationship that should not be defined by law, but by those who enter into it. It is a private relationship between consenting adults, thus should not subject to "democratic process" nor subject to the opinions of those not personally involved in any particular marriage.

* If activist judges are permitted to rewrite laws, redefine families and to restructure our society, then we no longer have a democratic form of government.

"Activist judges"? Is this a euphemism for judges who simply hold differing opinions? It should not be up to the law to define families in the first place -- it's a private matter. Democratic government shouldn't intrude into how we enter into our private, intimate relationships.

* Current “Defense of Marriage” laws are subject to interpretation by courts and have been declared unconstitutional in some states by liberal judges. A constitutional amendment is much more secure and more difficult for judges to attack.

That's because they are unconstitutional, as would a constitutional amendment be. The amendment process was not meant to address relatively trivial matters, nor to enforce prejudice.

* Four out of seven judges on Massachusetts’ Supreme Court redefined marriage in that state without so much as a vote of the people. One judge in San Francisco declared California’s marriage laws unconstitutional…and one judge threw New York’s marriage laws into question. Clearly, the judiciary is out of control and citizens must rise up and protect marriage by defining it in our constitution.

I think ALL marriage laws should be thrown out and consenting adults to be left in peace to order their personal relationships as they see fit. People need to attend to their own marriages and not meddle into the relationships of others.

* It is important to note that the push for gay marriage is coming not from the people and their elected representatives, but from a small minority attempting to impose its views on the rest of society through the least democratic branch of our government.

Gay people and other sexual minorities just want to be first class citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else.

* US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has noted that, if gay marriage becomes a reality, it opens the door for the legalization of bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.

Bigamy and adultery would become legal non-concepts if monogamy was no longer promoted by the government through legal marriage. Incest, though not a good thing, is hardly unknown simply because it is illegal -- and should continue to be prosecuted when it involves children.

* Several groups are now trying to use the debate over gay marriage to advance the cause of polygamy at the same time, initiating challenges in federal courts to allow “marriages” of multiple partners.

As well they should be. As long as marriage remains a legal category, then such marriages should be allowed.

* Marriage is a unique institution that is central to the welfare of our society, and as such it must be protected.

Privacy and freedom are even more central to the welfare of our society and the right of people to freely enter into whatever form of relationship they desire should be protected. People are free to advocate whatever particular form of marriage they choose, but shouldn't be allow to deny others the right to do differently.

* If marriage comes to be defined as encompassing any type of union, then it is no longer marriage. If it comes to mean “everything”, then it will mean “nothing”.

It should be those personally involved who give marriage its meaning, not the legal system. People need to take responsibility for their own relationships without the intrusion of a "nanny" government. Religious people can continue to derive meaning for marriage from their various faiths without having to involve the government.

* It’s up to us to have as many South Carolinians as possible to stand up and oppose those judges who may try and overturn our laws…or oppose those who may get married in one state and come here and try to sue for recognition. A constitutional amendment gives more weight to our state’s legal definition of marriage as opposed to a just a law.

And keep South Carolina's reputation up as a small-minded state? I, for one, will vote against this amendment and I will refrain from meddling into the personal relationships of others.


Monday, October 2, 2006


I've been told that I'm intelligent for most of my life. My intelligence is largely of an intellectual nature, and, of course, my sexual instincts and aptitudes. However, I have absolutely no mechanical aptitude and I had to learn "street smarts" the hard way while on the police force.

One day during the spring before I started first grade, my mother took me to the school to go through a battery of IQ and aptitude tests. All these years later, I remember the teacher being obviously impressed, telling my mother how smart I was, also remarking about the fact that I already knew how to read.

During my elementary years, I got good grades with not an inordinate amount of effort on my part. Once in high school, I discovered that I wasn't quite so naturally talented in math as I was in other subjects, and I had to put more effort into getting good grades in any form of math.

In the eighth grade, our school offered classes in three levels for each subject: Remedial, Average, and Advanced. I was placed in Advanced for English, science, and social studies/history, and in Average for math.

In the ninth grade, I began taking German. I chose this language because of my interest in the Second World War. Again, I got good grades easily, because of my high interest in the topic. I was even appointed as a tutor for the students having trouble with it. I remember tutoring one girl, but those sessions tended to turn into sessions of a different sort...

But I digress.

Because of losing my mother in the eighth grade, I lost interest in excelling in school and only got good grades in the subjects that came easy to me. So, I was neither the valedictorian nor the salutatorian when I graduated from high school. Nevertheless, I was first in the class by IQ -- the guidance counselor called me into his office right after I turned 18 to tell me so.

Once I went off to college, I discovered I could write and began to do so avidly. I'd never taken any courses in creative writing. To this day, I've not had any formal instruction in writing; I still write "by the seat of my pants". However, I've been an avid reader since age four, so I'm guessing I picked it up by osmosis.

Over the years, I've written essays, term papers, and so on for students from high school to Master's level, and managed to get them good grades. (John and Paula, cover your eyes!)

When I applied to the police force, I had to take an aptitude test, and I ended up getting the highest score they'd seen in many years. The woman in HR told me the last person who'd scored that high had a Master's. Why someone with a Master's wanted to be a street cop is beyond me, but that's neither here nor there.

However, my intelligence has not given me any real advantages in the work world. Without that piece of paper, employers don't care anything about raw intelligence, aptitude, or potential, even if they know you're intellectual light years ahead of another candidate who has the requisite degrees. Human resource departments of most firms are notoriously blockheaded; rules are rules and they either can't or won't operate outside the box when it comes to hiring.

Nevertheless, I'd not trade the intelligence for all the money in the mint, and it's something that no one can ever take from me.

Enough of tooting my own horn for now.


Sunday, October 1, 2006

A Rant About Hair

While reading a blog yesterday, one commenter stated that she didn't like men with long hair; that she preferred the "clean cut, All-American looking" type.

Now, if she'd just said she preferred men with short hair and left it at that, I'd have had no problem with it, as we all have our individual tastes. But there's nothing guaranteed to set me on fire faster than the above phrase, which is inane to the point of meaninglessness.

I've never quite understood this expression. Why is there an assumption that men with long hair don't keep it clean? No one assumes that about women with long hair. I take every bit as good care of my hair as would an average women with hair the same length as mine.

And what in the world does "All-American looking" mean, anyway? I didn't know that American men were the only ones in the world to have short hair or that having short hair distinctly marks a man as American. I can assure the commenter that many completely American men have long hair.

She said she prefers the "ALL American" look -- can one look partially American, in varying degrees of "American-ness"? And why is it so important to look "American" in the first place? I wasn't aware than attractiveness had a nationality.