Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas

Tree is lit, turkey is stuffed, stockings await, kidlets are still snug in their beds, and I'm having a quiet cup of coffee while watching my girlfriend wrangle more onions. Have a lovely day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Forward, Back, Forward, Back

Goddammit. President Obama's "Out of many, we are one" moment had me hopping out my chair with a swelling heart yesterday morning. Then there's this.

Barry, honey, wrestle with it on your own time. You essentially told Commandant Amos to wrestle with the concept of out gay Marines yesterday morning because, as you said, we are not a nation that says, "don't ask; don't tell." Because it's the right thing to do. Our clock is ticking. Do the right thing and sort out your discomfort later.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Score One for St. Joe

In what was probably intended as a punishment, Mullah Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has stripped St. Joseph's Hospital of its Catholic affiliation for its Satan-inspired decision to perform a life-saving abortion on a pregnant mother of four who was at a nearly 100 percent risk of dying from pulmonary hypertension.

"In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld," Olmsted said at a news conference announcing the decision. "The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph's medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed."

Olmsted is correct that the disease needed to be treated, but forgot the part about the only treatment being ending the pregnancy. Ah, but why split hairs when the Church needs to remind people that "dignity of the mother" is just another handy Catholic hierarchy catchphrase that sounds very measured and logical and thought-through but really is just a flapping red flag meaning: warning, oppression ahead (see also: intrinsic moral disorder)?

My lingering question is whether the administrator nun Olmsted excommunicated for approving the abortion gets her job back now. Well, that and why anybody willingly lets this guy be their spiritual authority.

Monday, December 20, 2010

End Times

End of the year, that is. Despite the changes that rolled in, moving some people around the country and sending some people into eternity, the calendar relentlessly marches along. Christmas knocks on the door and dances inside, trailing familiar players and trappings in a cloud of new traditions and arrangements. I'm not sure who's in charge now that my grandparents are gone. I think it might be me. My parents and uncle and aunt spent a week here, sightseeing and helping prep for our annual holiday party. Now they are back home and I'm taking a breath before the next wave of relatives from my girlfriend's side of the family come to town and trying to remember that we're still waiting for Christmas Day to come.

My grandparents' bedroom was always off-limits in December, partly to shield scattered unwrapped presents from prying eyes, but mainly to shield my grandmother's dignity from relatives seeing the utter chaos that lurked behind the door during those 24 days, paper and ribbons and boxes covering every horizontal surface as if a Christmas bomb had gone off mere moments before, no matter when you looked in there. I went back into my own bedroom this morning to retrieve my shoes and realized that one more circle has come full. Jesus. The Christmas Bedroom Bomber has tracked my genetic code 1,600 miles from southern Illinois and detonated several megatons' worth of paper, ribbons, and boxes all over every horizontal surface. And so it goes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Hiatus

The boy is back from college, the family has descended on Tucson in droves, the annual holiday party is looming, and I've had waaaaaaaaaay too much egg nog. Posting will be sporadic for a while.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Uh, No

Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word “science” from a statement of its long-range plan.

Well, I'm a fuckin' scientist. With stats and graphs and everything. Screw the Triple Ehs. The end.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Straight Privilege and Double-Dipping in Illinois

The Illinois legislature passed a civil unions bill earlier this week that gives same-sex couples all of the same rights the state accords opposite-married people. Medical access and decisions, inheritance, immunity from testifying, pension survivors benefits, the whole deal. And there was much rejoicing.

When it became apparent that the legislation would sail through Governor Pat Quinn's office, barely stopping on his desk long enough for him to scrawl his signature on the giddy bill, the what's-next discussion turned to whether civil unions will be a stepping stone to full marriage rights in Illinois or a final, second-class destination, although, absent changes to the federal DOMA, it looks like semantics at this point. As in, about the only change you could make to the Illinois civil unions to advance them into the "marriage" sphere is to go ahead and start using the word "marriage;" the state-level rights are in place--although whether insurance companies or benefit managers might try to be dicks about it like they did, for example, in New Jersey after that state enacted their own civil unions--remains to be seen.

However, what's next is something I didn't quite anticipate: straight people, and old straight people in particular, want in on the action.

While celebrated as a historic step forward for gay rights in Illinois, the new civil union bill that awaits Gov. Pat Quinn's signature also offers opportunities for heterosexual couples who don't want to wed but seek many of the legal protections of marriage.

Granted, this is likely to be a narrow swath of the population, but those who drafted the law felt it important to be inclusive, particularly given that the bill's intent was to open up rights that had long been denied to a demographic group.

"It just seemed wrong to me to write a law that would be discriminatory," said state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the bill's chief sponsor in the House.

He said some senior citizens lobbied for the bill. Seniors with survivor's benefits from Social Security or a pension could lose that income if they remarry. A civil union allows them to keep that benefit while providing the same state-level rights as a marriage.

"If you go to a senior building, you'll find a lot of people who face this dilemma," Harris said. "They may be the largest single group of beneficiaries by number."

In other words, a demographic that (1) spent much of their lives benefiting from their (and their parents') ability to marry and (2) historically has opposed extending those same benefits to gay people now (3) want to keep the benefits they accrued by being in a state-sanctioned opposite-sex relationship while simultaneously (4) glomming onto benefits that are now being extended to people in same-sex relationships who historically have been denied the exact kind of financial security the oldsters are loathe to give up now that they've met someone new.

I understand why it is important that a law about inclusion appear to be as inclusive as possible, even including groups who, at first blush, do not seem to need the protections extended by the new law because they are already covered by existing laws. And I understand that some straight people don't want to get federally married for realz until equality is extended to everyone. That's lovely, y'all, really, thanks.

But it wears on my very last nerve when one of the loudest responses to this legislation is BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STRAIGHT PEOPLE. But what about the straight people who want this new, lesser-than status? What about the straight people who want health benefits without having to get married first? What about the straight people who don't want to give up a Social Security survivor's benefit?

Well, what about them? If you're in Illinois and you trip-trap down to the courthouse for a shiny new civil union because you've been going out with this guy for a few months and really need health insurance, well, surprise, when you decide to dump him after you land a job that gives you your own coverage, you're going to find that CUs don't just approximate marriage fairly well. The process of getting out of one also approximates divorce to a T. If you're in a CU, you're married without the feds and federal programs being involved. There is no advantage if you're a straight couple. And then there's this:

Courtney Greve, spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr, said the clerk's office gets weekly calls from heterosexual couples who don't want to marry but are interested in some sort of domestic partnership. Some, she said, are young couples facing a loss of health insurance, who want to wait to get married until they can plan a more elaborate wedding.

Yeah, fuck that. Civil unions, flawed as they are by being limited to state-level legislation, are still closer to the brass ring than anything in Illinois has been before. People have fought for this stuff for years and years. They fought for domestic partnerships and the small set of protections those brought. Now they finally won civil unions, the culmination of decades of struggle, and... young straight people want to use them as a stopgap measure until, you know, they can have the real wedding of their dreams, and old straight people want to use them as a double-ended scoop that gives them the benefits of both their former marriage and their new relationship.

Can we just have our nice thing, please? Or as nice a thing as we can get until civil marriage simply means civil marriage across the board?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

And There You Have It

Grandma was the organist and music director at St. Joseph's Church in Olney, Illinois for... 30 years? 40? 50?--a very long time, in any event, before finally giving it up a few years ago--and was a stickler for precise performance. She insisted on playing the organ for one son's wedding and two grandchildren's weddings, for a great-grandchild's baptism, and for countless other weddings and funerals besides a million or so regular Sunday masses.

The choir sang at her funeral mass this past Monday, of course, but the current organist was out of town, leaving them without an accompanist. But--but!--back in 2004-2006, the current music director had spent many sessions making digital recordings of Grandma playing the choir's entire repertoire on an electronic clavinova in case they ever found themselves without a backup organist...

And that's how Grandma managed to pull off the exceptionally rare trick of playing at her own funeral. WIN.