Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Here's my present to you all:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why the "Kill the Bill" people have no sense

OK--This is my last post of the year (besides a Christmas video I just set on auto-post) So I'm gonna rant about something that has been making me absolutely crazy: Reading all of these lefty bloggers like Jane Hamsher trying to say that instead of passing the bill without a public option, they should just kill it and start over. This is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have heard since, well, shoot, I just remembered this, so I guess it's been the past two weeks or so.

In evaluating whether to pass any policy, there are three questions to ask:

  1. What are the benefits of the proposed policy compared to the status quo?
  2. what are the costs of the proposed policy compared to the status quo?
  3. Do the benefits of number 1 outweigh the costs of number 2?

Any other question is irrelevant and should not be considered. The questions to not be considered include the question "could the policy be better?"* That may be a good question when it is time to craft or amend legislation, but is totally irrelevant when asking whether the policy should be passed or not. Advocating that a bill be defeated because it is not as good as the best option, even though it's better than the status quo is not progressive or idealistic--it's petulant and naive.

For those of you who would argue that it is the "progressives'" way of trying to make the senate accede to their demands as they do with conservative democrats, I have news for you--these sorts of threats only work if they're rational. Conservative democrats have leverage on this issue because based on their interests, their objections are rational. No amount of wailing about the lack of a public option would give you leverage because at the end of the day, if you are rational, everyone knows you'll vote for the bill. What's more, If you're the kind of progressive who would cut off his nose to spite his face, the conservative faction won't hesitate to give you a knife.

While no one would argue that this is an ideal bill, the bill goes a long way to fixing what is wrong with out insurance system. That's pretty amazing. Now is the time to celebrate and encourage the conferees to make the final bill as good as it can be, rather than throwing rocks at the Democratic leadership because they didn't make a perfect bill.

* There is one important exception to this--if passing the policy now would make it harder for a better policy to pass in the future than it would be if we didn't pass the policy, that is a valid consideration in determining the costs and benefits of the policy. Since this is a bill that comes once in a generation and progressive reforms tend to lead to more progressive reforms being passed, this argument does not apply to the health care debate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Max Weinberg repays Orrin Hatch for the Hanukkah Song he inflicted upon the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Church and the Gays: A Modest Proposal

This will likely be my last post on this topic for a while, as I have managed to say everything that's been floating around in my head. I believe I have said on this blog earlier that I am in an uncomfortable position. Being gay and in a lover of the LDS Church and its members, I have a foot in two worlds that seem diametrically opposed to each other. However, I firmly believe that there are far too many good people on both sides to keep us apart forever.

But what would a rapproachment look like? I think it has to take into account the core concerns of both communities. The LDS Church's core interest is in protecting their ability to preach, congregate, and worship as they please. The gay community's core concern is making sure that their relationships are on an equal footing with straight relationships in the eyes of the State. Any compromise would have to guarantee religious freedom and civil equality. I have written on this issue quite a bit, and have come to the conclusion that same-sex marriage does not infringe on religious freedom, while creating marriage-like statuses that are called something other than marriage does not lead to civil equality.

With that in mind, here is my idea of a compromise that would cover each side's core concerns:

1. The Church reiterates its religious opinion that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” and that they will continue to only recognize and perform temple and non-temple marriages for opposite sex couples.

2. The Church also notes that marriage is both a secular institution and a religious institution. To the extent that the State would attempt to impose upon the Church the obligation to accept practices that are against its doctrines, the state would be committing a grievous violation of the “sacred freedom of conscience” and the Church would actively resist any efforts to have such an obligation imposed on them.

3. However, the Church also notes that marriage is the institution that the government has chosen to regulate and organize secular society. The Church admits that, even though they may not believe that homosexual behavior is consistent with God’s will, as a matter of good policy and fairness, these relationships should be equal under the law. While the Church had hoped that a parallel institution would protect the rights of same-sex couples wile recognizing the religious importance of marriage, if the civil authorities, including the legislature, electorate, or the judiciary, decide that such a parallel institution cannot be equal, the Church will not oppose the use of the term marriage to describe these relationships for governmental purposes.

4. The Church issues this statement with the full cooperation with Joe Solmonese or some other mucky-muck from a prominent gay-rights group. Said person will make some appropriate conciliatory gesture, including apologies for intemperate rhetoric and lack of civility, the importance of the freedom of conscience, which protects both the Church and the gay community (explicit reference to the 11th article of faith would be appropriate), the mutual commitment to protecting the integrity of all families, and the commitment to work together in unity.

This is just off the top of my head and may be far too weak and capitulatory as far as the Church is concerned. I admit that this may look as though they are bowing to outside pressure, so any and all adjustments to this hypothetical scenario are welcome.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shameless Advertising, Part 3

One final reminder: the Christmas Concert is tonight and tomorrow night--hope to see you there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If you're always this grumpy, why would you ever need them?

I've never denied the charge of being a bit persnickety about grammar and punctuation. But this polemic against emoticons takes the cake:

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Death to Smiley: Why Emoticons Need to Die*

I think the appropriate response is as follows:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shameless Advertising, Part 2

More of what you'll be missing out on if you don't show up Friday or Saturday:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beginning of the end for DOMA part 2

I previously blogged about a very interesting pair of cases in the Ninth Circuit refusing to apply Federal DOMA. It turns out that the Office of Personnel Management has refused to comply with the order, leading Chief Judge Kozinski to issue the following memorandum decision. Judge Reinhardt issued a similar decision here.

I'm not sure what the Obama administration's motives are here. If this is an attempt to to set up an appeal over federal DOMA, it seems that it would have been better to appeal the case in the first instance rather than just refuse to follow the court's order. I suppose we'll find out within a few days, however. The OPM has until December 18 to file an appeal.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shameless Advertising, Part 1

More music from the concert on the 11th and 12th--If you're in the SLC area, come. Tickets are $10 at the door, or get a hold of me if you need a discount...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Music Post: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Something to get you in the Christmas Spirit.

Oh, and don't forget the Christmas concert:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On the supernatural

This is the most evenhanded illustration of the difference between science and the supernatural I've ever seen. Would that we all had such a measured and logical way of communicating:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's December!

Let's get the holiday season started off right:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The LDS Church and Gays--The Long and Winding Road

As I stated before Thanksgiving, it seems that the Church's about-face on housing and employment rights is indicative of a wider change of attitude toward recognizing that sexual orientation actually exists. The following is from a paper I wrote while I was in law school that documents some of the changes:

The present attitude toward homosexuality seemed to begin in about the late 1950s. Before this, it had been common practice to simply “drop them from positions they held,”1 to use J. Reuben Clark’s words. Elders Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen were called to counsel homosexual members in about 1961,2 and Brigham Young University began electroshock aversive therapy to “cure” homosexuality.3 In 1962, the Church issued a directive that “no one will be admitted as a student at the B.Y.U. whom we have convincing evidence is a homosexual.”4

The rhetoric of Church leaders became harsher as well. President David O. McKay declared homosexuality in his view to be “worse than [heterosexual] immorality . . . , a filthy and unnatural habit.”5 Spencer W. Kimball called homosexuality a habit based on selfishness and caused by masturbation,6 declared that it was contrary to the nature of God and therefore unnatural,7 and concluded that no real love could spring from homosexual coupling.8 He also believed it could be cured, and suggested that those who had failed had simply not tried hard enough: “How can you say the door cannot be opened until your knuckles are bloody, till your head is bruised, till your muscles are sore? It can be done.”9 Boyd K. Packer, in a talk in a 1976 general conference, cited with approval the assault of a homosexual by his missionary companion for “self-protection.”10

Church leaders’ abhorrence of homosexuality is not all that surprising given the dominant paradigm of homosexual culture at the time. In the late 1960s and -70s, the sexual revolution was just gaining momentum, and gay culture was at the forefront of a movement that seemed to have abandoned any semblance of morality in favor of a hedonistic existence. Gay journalist and scholar Jonathan Rauch recounts: “The master narrative for gay life was: come out, leave home, gorge at the banquet of sexual liberation. Gay men celebrated their image as sexual rebels; straight America was happy to consign them to that role.”11 Is it any wonder that Spencer W. Kimball questioned gay members of the church that he counseled: “what would [your homosexual partner] do for you . . . should you suddenly fall victim to a dread disease, an incurable disease? Suppose your body shriveled; suppose you could no longer satisfy or get satisfaction sexually; suppose you could no longer be ‘used.’ How long would the alleged friendship or friendly ties last?”12

Kimball’s words were prescient. The dread disease did come; the AIDS epidemic changed the narrative of gay culture “from ubiquitous sex to ubiquitous death . . . . For the stricken there were lesions, chills, wasting, death; for friends and lovers, there was grief compounded by despair.”13 But this culture of death provided a crucible out of which was forged a culture of life. “Lovers, friends and AIDS ‘buddies’ were spooning food, emptying bedpans, holding wracked bodies through the night.”14 Many gay couples proved that same-sex love was more than the pursuit of pleasure; it was love and community as real as that found in traditional society. This shift in gay culture has not gone unnoticed by Church leaders, who have more recently softened their rhetoric regarding homosexuality. The focus of many general authorities when discussing the subject has tended to emphasize the difference between orientation and behavior and admitting that for many, homosexuality may be a lifetime condition.15

  1. D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example 376 (1996).
  2. Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball 85–86 (2005). Kimball and Petersen reported counseling almost one thousand individuals between 1961 and 1968. Id. at 86 n.4.
  3. Quinn, supra note 1, at 379. While some documentation suggests that this practice was ended in the late 1960s, see Gary James Bergera & Ronald Priddis, Brigham Young University: A House of Faith 82 (1985), there is evidence of these practices continuing on well after that time, see Rocky O’Donovan, “The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature”: A Brief History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980, in Multiply and Replenish 123, 157 (Brent Corcoran, ed. 1994) (citing several doctrinal dissertations from BYU students on electroshock therapy conducted in the 1970s).
  4. Quinn, supra note 1, at 379.
  5. Id. at 376.
  6. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness 78 (1969) [hereinafter Miracle of Forgiveness]; Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball 275 (Edward L. Kimball, ed. 1982) [hereinafter Teachings].
  7. Teachings, supra note 6, at 276 (“‘God made me that way,’ some say . . . . This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be ‘that way’?”).
  8. Id. at 274.
  9. Miracle of Forgiveness, supra note 6, at 82.
  10. Boyd K Packer, To Young Men Only (1976) (“There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist . . . .While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess . . . . After patient encouragement he finally blurted out, “I hit my companion.” . . . After learning a little more, my response was “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn't be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.”). This talk has been excluded from the Ensign and Conference reports, but is produced as a pamphlet and published by the Church.
  11. Jonathan Rauch, Families Forged by Illness, N.Y. Times, June 4, 2006, § 4, at 15.
  12. Spencer W. Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals 28 (1974).
  13. Rauch, supra note 11, at 15.
  14. Id.
  15. See Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Issues Resources: Same-Gender Attraction (Aug. 14, 2006), (the 2006 interview with Elders Oaks and Wickman).