The Bigots are Coming

November 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Religion 

US Army Specialist Eric Rivera was recently killed in the line of duty in Iraq.  His funeral is scheduled for this coming Friday, December 2 in Atlantic City, NJ.

The Westboro Baptist Church (mainly composed of the family of Rev. Fred Phelps) of Topeka, Kansas has announced their intention to protest at Rivera’s funeral to show that Rivera died because the United States supports fags.  (No, I didn’t make that up.)  Apparently, they believe that 9/11 happened to the US because of gays, and that our soldiers are fighting to support a gay america.

This group is the group responsible for many states writing laws restricting protests at funerals (or at least at military funerals).  NJ is one of those states, and NJ law prohibits any protest within 500 feet of a funeral or funeral procession for one hour before, during and one hour after a funeral.  Also included is a clause banning the obstruction of entry into a funeral or related building or procession.  The penalty is up to 6 months in jail.

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I hope that a number of my fellow citizens will show up and give them the treatment that they deserve.

UPDATE:  Within 24 hours of posting this, I have received 8 hits from in Topeka, Kansas.  Interesting.

NJ Gay Activists – Pause While You’re Ahead

October 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Life, Religion 

Gays and lesbians in NJ are celebrating the Supreme Court decision on Wednesday that will eventually give them the right to marry or enter an equivalent union.  However, some don’t believe that the decision goes far enough.

In this article, Steven Goldstein (the head of Garden State Equality) is quoted as saying that he will continue to fight for the term marriage to apply to gays and lesbians until there is “blood on these knuckles”.  He continues:  “We will outwork, outplay, outthink and demolish the other side”.  The Garden State Equality website says:

Those who would view today’s Supreme Court ruling as a victory for same-sex couples are dead wrong.  So help us God, New Jersey’s LGBTI community and our millions of straight allies will settle for nothing less than 100% marriage equality.  Let decision makers from Morristown to Moorestown, from Maplewood to Maple Shade, recognize that fundamental fact right now.

My day job is that of an IT Project Manager.  In both my college days and in the years since, I’ve received training in change management.  One fundamental principle of change management is that you must leave those impacted by the change enough time to process the change and make it a part of their world view.  Attempting to force a change upon masses who may not agree with the change in a short period of time by fiat is a bad idea – the change is doomed to be actively resisted at best and to fail at worst.  The bigger the change, the bigger the amount of time required to process it.  Any attempt to force change to happen faster merely causes a backlash against that change.  In the workplace that results in passive and aggressive behavior:  refusing to use the new process, intentionally working slowly to punish those forcing the change, excessive sick days, negative comments passed behind the backs of those making the change, etc.  In society, imagine failure to recognize the change as the best case, with actual violence as the worst case.

When a minority (numerically) wins a victory over the majority, they must behave as a good winner.  That means acknowledging the loser’s value even though they have not triumphed, and choosing not to emphasize the loser’s attributes/mistakes/ability.  “Yay, we won!” not “Yay, you lost!”  Then, the losers need to be given space to grieve for their loss and incorporate the new reality into their worldview.  Pressing for the next concession immediately is only going to infuriate those who are already wounded by the decision.  That puts them in fight or flight mode, and with societal change flight isn’t really a possibility.

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Let’s face it, time is on the side of the gay community.  Polls show that gay rights are increasingly supported by the public, and that the support is more positive among those who are younger.  Time will finally erase the stigma incorrectly applied to non-heterosexuals, but it will take time.  Just as it has taken time to reduce racism and gender bias.

Winners have a responsibility to losers to ensure that the loss is not so painful that the losers walk away from the game (or worse, change the rules to cause the winners to lose next time).  Losers have a responsibility to accept the loss and act graciously towards winners.  Both must do this because next time, they could be on the other side.

This principle is too often lost in today’s society, religion, and politics.

NJ and Gay Marriage

October 26, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Life, Religion 

In case you missed it, the NJ Supreme Court made an important ruling on gay marriage yesterday.  In a 4-3 vote, the court ruled that while the NJ Constitution does not guarantee the right to “marry” to gay people, the court requires that the NJ legislature in the next 180 days pass laws to give all rights, privileges and responsibilities of married straight couples to committed gay couples.  Those include:

  1. a surname change without petitioning the court (after a marriage or union)
  2. ownership of property as tenants by the entirety, which would allow for both automatic transfer of ownership on death, and protection against severance and alienation
  3. survivor benefits under New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Act
  4. back wages owed to a deceased spouse
  5. compensation available to spouses, children, and other relatives of homicide victims under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act
  6. free tuition at any public institution of higher education for surviving spouses and children of certain members of the New Jersey National Guard
  7. tuition assistance for higher education for spouses and children of volunteer firefighters and first-aid responders
  8. tax deductions for spousal medical expenses
  9. an exemption from the realty transfer fee for transfers between spouses
  10. the testimonial privilege given to the spouse of an accused in a criminal action
  11. the requirement for an employer to extend health care coverage to a spouse
  12. statutory leave to care for an ill spouse
  13. the requirement that a bequest is automatically revoked to a spouse after a divorce
  14. the requirement for an estate to pay for support and maintenance of a surviving spouse when a will is contested
  15. parentage, custody, visitation and child support rights when a child is born during a marriage
  16. support requirements after a divorce (alimony)

It is important to note that the minority set of 3 justices in this case filed a dissent stating that they would prefer to grant marriage rights to homosexuals immediately rather than letting the legislature take action.  That means a 7-0 unanimous vote for gay marriage in some form, and a 4-3 split on whether or not to use the word “marriage”.

At least one state legislator has announced her intention to create an amendment to the NJ constitution restricting marriage to one man and one woman.  Another legislator has announced his intent to create and amendment to the NJ constitution to specifically redefine marriage to include gay couples.  Yet another legislator has announced his intention to impeach all justices involved.

I applaud this ruling.  I want to make my feelings and beliefs very clear.
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While growing up, I was subject to the misconceptions and outright lies about gay people told to me by my parents.  I remember one conversation in the car at about age 13 in particular – so vividly that I remember exactly where on the street we were when it took place.  In that conversation, my parents informed me that all gays were diseased, that they all had sex with anybody and regularly had multiple partners, and that they were all drug addicts.  In their defense I will state that we do have one gay cousin on my mother’s side who at the time did fit all of that.  My parents’ bigoted attitude is shocking to me, particularly given their more permissive and understanding attitudes towards racial issues, gender issues, and even those of other religions.  Since then their attitudes have softened a bit but they are still against homosexuality in general and gay marriage in particular.

Luckily for me, my church activities brought me into contact with homosexual people.  At events like the Synod meeting and the Presbyterian Youth Triennium I came in contact with Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (PLGC – now known as More Light Presbyterians).  I discovered a group of people who had the same life issues that I had – going to work, buying groceries, changing cat litter, etc.  These were folks wrestling with the same issues that I did – issues of faith, issues of life.  Unfortunately, these folks also had other issues – being accepted in society, being accepted in the church.

Shortly after that I found that I had some gay friends at college.  Again – just regular folks who prefer romantic partners of the same gender.  All of the same joys and concerns were there, including building solid romantic relationships with one person and searching for a lifetime partner.  The only difference was that I couldn’t talk to others openly about these friends for fear of what others might do to them.

And that has continued until today.  I have one good friend that I met through camp who is a lesbian and in the middle of her search for a soulmate.  She may have found that soulmate now and I celebrate as I watch that relationship grow.  She’s having to make up for lost time – the issues that society (and particularly the church) have with her sexuality have slowed down her personal growth in relationship areas but she’s moving along now and will probably catch up soon.

So – to be clear.

I am in favor of full equal rights for homosexuals.  I include bisexuals and transgendered people in that group.

I am in favor of full marriage rights under the name “marriage” for a joining of two people of the same sex.

I am opposed to polygamy.

I feel that polygamy, bestiality and pedophilia are often linked to homosexuality by those whose arguments against homosexuality are weak.  This linkage is false.

I am in favor of full rights including marriage for homosexual couples within the church.  I have read the biblical arguments for and against.  I remain unconvinced that the Bible passages used to prohibit homosexuality are actually speaking of a committed relationship as opposed to temple rituals or prostitution.  Additionally, there is clear speech from Jesus regarding marriage, but there is also clear speech from Jesus regarding divorce and we seem to be free to ignore that as well.  In short – in the face of contradictory biblical arguments I must go where the Spirit leads me, and that is this position.

I believe that all parties in this debate must learn to speak to each other.  The folks at both extremes talk past each other.  On the one hand, the gay lobby fails to take into account the beliefs and fears of those who oppose them.  On the other hand, the anti-gay lobby fails to take into account God’s creation of gay people, the fallacy of choice of sexuality, and the effect on people’s lives that accusations of antisocial behavior hold.

I look forward to the day that I can attend the wedding in NJ of my friend mentioned above.

Back to the Old Days

October 9, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Life, Science 

Yesterday … North Korea successfully tested a nuclear weapon. (CNN Article)

Duck and Cover

For years and years, Americans grew up knowing that their world could end at any moment, ended by a nuclear war.  From the 1940’s and 1950’s through 1989, Russia and China were the nuclear enemies.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.  This was the end of communism in Europe, and later in the Soviet Union (now called Russia, for the most part).  In 1994, Russia announced that their nuclear weapons were no longer sitting on the pad pre-aimed at the United States.  The nuclear sword of Damocles that had hung over our heads since birth was no longer a threat.
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Today, Russia is fairly stable and a sometimes-ally of the United States.  China is a major trading partner with the US and currently not considered a direct threat (though their industrialization shows that this may change in the future).  The other nuclear powers (United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, Pakistan) are not considered to be threats to the United States.  With today’s test, North Korea is the first nation considered an enemy of the United States to have nuclear weapons.  The Sword is back.

I feel most for those born after the early 1980’s.  These kids and young adults were born without the fear of imminent nuclear annihilation.  The rest of us “knew” that at any moment, somebody might do something somewhere and that the result would be a bright flash and then whatever your religious beliefs say happens.  These youngsters are dealing with it for the first time.

Don’t worry – life goes on.  You just have to assume that today is not that day.

We Are All Brits Today

July 7, 2005 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Current Affairs 

Union Jack

The prayers and determination of my family (and undoubtedly most of the USA) go out to the people of the United Kingdom and especially to the victims and their families.

Hopefully, this event will wake up those who want to coddle the Islamic extremists who are perpetrating these atrocities.
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Thanks to Bull Moose for reminding me to post this.

On-going updates at The Command Post.

Louie Louie and Benton Harbor, MI

May 5, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Current Affairs, Music 

Paula Dawning, the Superintendent of Schools in Benton Harbor, MI, has banned the McCord Middle School marching band from playing Louie Louie this weekend in the town’s Grand Floral Parade.  (AP Story via Yahoo)

Apparently, she’s concerned about the “raunchy lyrics”.  As far as I know, NOBODY knows what the lyrics to the song are.  However, the ability to play it must be a human instinct – I’ve never seen a marching band use any sheet music yet all marching bands are able to play it instantly with or without a conductor.

I sent the following letter to Ms. Dawning urging her to reconsider:

Dear Ms. Dawning,

I read a news story today stating that you had banned the McCord Middle
School band from playing the song “Louie Louie”.  I would urge you
to reconsider.

At age 36, I fondly remember my years playing music in school.  I
strongly believe that my musical experiences, in addition to being fun,
were a major part of the foundation that was built for my future
success.  I played in the school’s band and jazz band, and
ultimately was a member of the NJ All-State Band and All-State
Orchestra.  I went on to be a member of the Rutgers University
Marching Band and Pep Band.

Music is important in many ways to a student.  It builds
confidence through public performance.  It builds character
through the discipline required to practice and learn your
instrument.  It builds the ability to work smoothly in
groups.  Evidence shows that music builds mathematical ability as

And “Louie Louie” is an important tradition in marching bands.  I
have never been a member of a marching band where that song was not
played.  I have never met anyone who belonged to a marching band
that did not play that song.  In fact, “Louie Louie” seems to be
more of a natural instinct – I have never seen any sheet music for it
but I’ve also never seen a band that didn’t know how to play it –
nearly flawlessly on the first try.  If you leave a marching band
alone long enough, it will spontaneously play “Louie Louie”.

I feel that I must address the question of the lyrics.  While I’ve
never met a band that didn’t know “Louie Louie”, I’ve also never met
ANYONE who knows the lyrics.  In the 1960’s, the FBI investigated
the allegedly obscene lyrics and concluded that they were not obscene,
and in fact were “unintelligible at any speed”.  I have seen many,
many Internet websites purporting to have the lyrics – and no claimant
has any better claim than any other.  The song has just never been

I hope that you will reconsider your decision, and allow the band to play “Louie Louie” this weekend.


Mark Smith

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UPDATE: (5/6/05) – The superintendent has relented.  After hearing from a majority of parents (and not just the single complainer), she has decided to let them play Louie Louie in the parade.

And I got a nice note from the band director in response to my e-mail above, which I had forwarded to him.


The Time Traveler Convention

May 7, 2005, 10:00pm EDT (08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC)

East Campus Courtyard, MIT

42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W

(42.360007,-071.087870 in decimal degrees)

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Please note that the date is in reference to the Gregorian Calendar in use at the host time.

I’m posting this here, as I believe that my blog will become so popular that transcripts should be available well into the future!

Judicial Overkill

April 21, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Current Affairs 

Michael Mayo, of the Sun-Sentinel in Florida talks in his column about judicial overkill.

Male juror Stacey Forbes, age 19, was arrested and sentenced to 4 MONTHS in jail for lying on a juror questionnaire.  He has been arrested twice before for minor drug offenses (but never convicted), and answered “no” to the question asking if he’d been arrested.  According to him, he thought that they’d meant convicted, not arrested.  He’s a high-school dropout with reading problems.

In Broward County, Florida, failing to show up for jury duty gets you at most a $100 fine.  Showing up and accidentally lying on the form?  4 months.

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He’s currently free on bond awaiting appeal, but has to report to authorities 3 times a week and has a 1am curfew.  Here’s hoping that the Appeals Court has better judgement (and is less fascist) than Judge O’Connor.

Note that Mr. Mayo has posted her office phone number in his column.  Feel free to use it.

Anthrax – Here We Go Again

March 15, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

Over three years ago, several Anthrax-tainted letters were handled at the Trenton Main Post Office in Hamilton, NJ.  That building was closed from October 18, 2001 until yesterday – March 14, 2005.  Trenton Times Story My mail was delivered from that building before it was closed (and may be again).  The building was fumigated and essentially gutted and rebuilt.  I still have mail in special baggies from the irradiation facility that was finally received in January, 2002.

The same day (March 14, 2005), anthrax was again detected at external mail processing facilities for the Pentagon.  Fox News Story

It’s time to be afraid of your mail again.  What may be scary here is that the mail was already irradiated, but the anthrax organism was found on filters at the plant.  Perhaps it was already-killed anthrax (I hope so), but you really don’t know.

My tips for being afraid of your mail:

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  1. Keep all mail outside of your house until opened/discarded.
  2. Discard any mail that you don’t intend to open (advertising, etc).  This probably includes mail that doesn’t have a return address, or mail with a “suspicious” address (misspelled – handwriting doesn’t match return address).  Go ahead and recycle it – it’s probably clean.
  3. Open all mail outside of your house (perhaps on a porch or in the garage).
  4. If anything untoward falls out of the mail, DON’T GO BACK INSIDE.  Get someone to call 911 for you.  Try to stay where you stand, to avoid spreading whatever it is.  Don’t panic – most powdery substances in mail turn out to be hoaxes.  Back in the fall of 2001, my company (a direct mail company) had at least a dozen hoax envelopes containing salt, talcum powder, etc.
  5. Wash your hands it hot soapy water after opening ALL mail.

Good luck, and let’s hope it’s a false alarm.

Help, or Get Out of The Way

January 7, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Current Affairs, Life 

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Unprofessional – maybe.  Absolutely the right thing to say – definately.

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