Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Architecture Wednesday: Chongwe River House

Here are a couple of things I love:
  1. Classic cartoons; and I’m not talking The Simpsons or any of those Fox Sunday night cartoons. I’m talking Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, The Jetsons, The Flintstones.
  2. And I love cool and quirky and outside-the-box, in-your-face, what-the-hell-is-that architecture.

Which is why I lovelovelove the Chongwe River House, a stunning holiday home — yes, you can rent it — located in Lower Zambezi National Park, in Zambia, and overlooking the Chongwe and Zambezi rivers that looks like a place that Fred and Wilma might visit; though, of course, they's call it Zambia, Af-rock-a..

The villa has four bedrooms and your stay can include guides, canoes, a boat, and armed scout and private vehicles for exploring its wild surroundings.

Plus, maybe dinner with Betty and Barney Rubble one night?

The Boy Scouts Strike Again

Garrett Bryant has been a member of the Boy Scout since he was a boy; he spent his summers at Boy Scout Camps and decided he would apply for a job as a camp counselor this summer at the BSA’s Camp Geronimo to help with his college tuition.

But all that changed because of an innocuous Facebook post.

Garrett is openly gay, and knew he needed to keep that secret if he wanted to stay in the BSA as an Eagle Scout and camp counselor — you can be a gay scout, but you cannot be a gay scout leader — but earlier this year he posted what he calls a “gender neutral relationship status change” on his Facebook page.

It was then that he realized his secret — a secret he kept only from the BSA, as his friends and family knew he was gay — was out. It wasn't his status, though, it was the comments from supportive friends, who posted things like  “Awesome man, who is he?” and “Oh, good for you, man, what’s his name?”

In a state of fear, Garrett deleted any post that referenced his orientation and hoped that anyone associated with the BSA hadn’t seen his friend's comments, but not long after, the trouble started.

Garrett called a friend to see about his application to work at Camp Geronimo — where he had worked the previous summer — and rather than being told he’d been accepted, he was told he needed to speak with the camp’s director.

He made that call and the director told him he wouldn’t be offered a job this summer; he was said to be ineligible because of his “personal choices.” When Garrett asked what that meant, the camp director said “the homosexuality” — seriously, the homosexuality — and then he mentioned the Facebook posts.

Now, after more than a decade with a group that is supposed to build leadership, Garrett Bryant is told he cannot be a leader because he’s gay. It's as simple as that except …

Since he was outed, Garrett's friends and family, and even some members of the Scouts have been supportive; one friend even offered to resign from scouting himself. And his mother and some friends are helping him establish an Arizona chapter of Scouts For Equality, a national organization that advocates for gay Scouts and works to end the BSA’s ban on openly gay scout leaders.

Sadly, though naturally, as homophobes are apt do, the BSA isn’t responding, saying only that Garrett Bryant’s situation is a private employment matter and that the organization would not offer a comment.

Bigots always hide behind silence.

United Church of Christ Sues For Same-Sex Marriage In North Carolina

Quick story before I get going this morning: yesterday Carlos, as part of his job, gave a presentation on rising drug and alcohol use among teens in South Carolina. As part of the presentation, it was explained that some young girls use tampons to , for lack of a better word, suck up alcohol — apparently tampons hold a lot of liquid — and then drink from them at will; there is also a rise in soaking Gummy Bears in booze and then getting drunk off those as well.

Now, the presentation was simply to inform parents and teachers of certain things to look out for, but one mother actually said, out loud, that she doesn’t have that kind of problem in her home because she runs her home by the rule of the Bible.

I know. Sigh. Big sigh. See, that’s the — well, one of the — problems I have with religion; nothing in the world affects these religious zealots because God is in their lives. Yet we all know that just because you go to church and read the Bible and say your prayers on bended knee each night does not guarantee that your children aren’t drinking and drugging and having sex. All it means is that you’ve closed your eyes to potential problems.

Well, a group of religious leaders in North Carolina have opened their eyes about same-sex marriage and have filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates their religious freedom.

These members of the clergy say they would like to perform same-sex ceremonies in their congregations, but can't because of the "unjust law" so they’ve brought the only case citing First Amendment religious freedom claims to the more than 60 marriage equality cases pending in courts around the country.

It’s a novel approach, no?

The lawsuit — which was filed by the United Church of Christ and a group of clergy and same-sex couples in North Carolina — argues, for the first time, that North Carolina’s marriage amendment ban violates the religious beliefs of denominations and congregants who support the recognition of same-sex couples in marriage, and the clergy who wish to perform those ceremonies.

If this case goes forward, and perhaps wins, it will strike a bow to those groups who use their so-called religious beliefs to divide us from one another. There are similar cases in Tennessee, Georgia and, yes, South Carolina where same-sex couples are suing for their right to marry and having a group of churches and clergy on our sides is a huge step forward.

Perhaps, rather than using the Bible as blinders to avoid what’s happening in the world, people should read the Bible for what it says about love and judgment …

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Georgia, Reap What Ye Have Sown

I was strolling around the web yesterday and found this story and, sadly, my first thought was, "Well, that didn’t take long."

A mere few days after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a new gun bill into law — which allows one to carry a concealed weapon just about anywhere in the state, save anywhere near Nathan Deal’s office — a gun nut has come out of the woodwork to terrorize children at a Little League game.

He walked around the parking lot at the game, showing his gun to parents and children, and shouting:
“There’s nothing you can do about it.”
One parent complained about him brandishing his weapon, asking children if they wanted to see it, while he raged on and on about how he had every right to do so. He knew he was frightening people; I mean, who in their right mind … and I know this is Georgia, but there’s bound to be some folks in their right mind … wouldn’t be afraid of a man waving a gun in the air?

And there were some sane folks in the park that day; there were two dozen 911 calls to local police about the lunatic with the gun at the ball field, but there was nothing the police could do about it because he had a permit and wasn’t actually threatening anyone.

Not threatening anyone? Hmm, a guy in a park, waving around a gun isn’t seen as a threat? I guess he’d have to actually shoot someone before anyone would take it seriously.

And say there was yet another gun nut in the park that day — again, it’s Georgia, it's not that far-fetched — and say that gun nut was there with his family. And say that gun nut thought the first gun nut was a threat? Would he have the right to shoot? Or do we wait for Gun Nut #1 to begin firing into a crowd of children before the other gun-toting, pistol-packing, armed Georgians step forward and start shooting?

This is America, people, where the GOP is owned by the NRA and they have become the beck-and-call girls to the gun lobby. It’s an America where it’s perfectly fine just to wander through a park, down a city street, into a church, or school, or bar, or shopping mall, waving a gun around and telling people they can’t do a thing about it.

Is that the America any rational person wants?

Mint Springs Farms Says 'Yes' To Same-Sex Commitment Ceremony, Then Says 'No' ... Now Says 'Yes'

Nine years ago, Anthony Wilfert and Brian Blas met while serving at Fort Campbell, Tennessee; they served together in Iraq, under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, keeping their relationship a secret. But with the repeal of DADT, and now civilians, the couple wanted to hold a commitment ceremony to honor their relationship.

That’s when the shiz hit the fan.

Wilfert and Blas found the Mint Springs Farm — whose website deemed it an “all-inclusive venue” — and together they toured the facility with an employee, who told them there would be no issue with the couple having their ceremony at the site.
"I made it clear from the get-go that it was a same-sex ceremony. He explicitly made it clear that it was not an issue, that they would host that type of ceremony."—Anthony Wilfert
Two days later, they got an e-mail from the owner at Mint Springs Farm that stated:
"Unfortunately, until same sex marriage is legal in the state of Tennessee, we cannot participate in this ceremony at our venue. I wish we could help, I truly do, but our hands are tied in this situation."
Okay, fine, and understandable. Except this wasn’t a marriage ceremony, but a commitment ceremony. There was no marriage license involved and no need for the state of Tennessee to get involved. It was to be a symbolic commitment ceremony between two men, and not a legally binding marriage. So why the kerfuffle?
Once the story broke, Mint Springs Farms released a statement:
"We are deeply sorry that a staff member of ours was unaware of our policy and truly understand the disappointment of this couple. Our employee was simply trying to be helpful to this couple who visited our venue after hours. 
We only do weddings at our facility. When we went into this endeavor, we knew that due to the nature of our business, this situation would arise. However, Tennessee law currently states that same-sex marriage is prohibited by the Tennessee State Constitution. Because we only host weddings, we cannot violate Tennessee law. 
This decision does not in any way reflect or convey any personal feelings on this matter. 
We wish this couple the very best."
So, let me get this queer: your staff member, who takes prospective clients on a tour of the facilities doesn’t know the rules of who can, or can’t, use the venue? Your staff member doesn’t know that you don’t do commitment ceremonies? And what does the fact that Wilfert and Blas toured the facility “after hours” have to do with anything?

Again, Anthony Wilfert and Brian Blas were not having a wedding, so Tennessee law has no place in the story, and the fact that you call your facility an “all-inclusive” venue is not quite the truth. And that’s where, as always, I have the issues.

Post it on your website: We don’t do same-sex ceremonies, marriage, commitment or otherwise. And then maybe Anthony Wilfert and Brian Blas wouldn’t have chosen to tour Mint Springs Farms, and then maybe your employee, who knew what the two men wanted, wouldn’t have told them that their ceremony wouldn’t have been a problem.

As it stands, Anthony Wilfert and Brian Blas are making new plans for a day friends and family can gather to celebrate their nine years with a simple, symbolic ceremony. And they’ll be holding their celebration at another venue that doesn’t promise one thing and deliver another.
"To have fought in the military for freedoms and liberties of all Americans, it can be quite deflating to come back to fight a whole new set of obstacles.”—Anthony Wilfert
Good for them, and bad on Mint Springs Farms.

UPDATE: It seems that Mint Springs Farms has had a change of heart and has released a new statement detailing their new policy:
"As owners of Mint Springs farm we have had time to regroup and reflect. We have reached out to the community and started a dialogue with Tennessee Equality Project. The Executive Director, Chris Sanders was able to meet with us. In order to move forward we have decided to change our policy. We will offer commitment ceremonies for any future couples that have a legal license from other states or countries. We also want to broaden this offer to include couples who simply want a commitment ceremony with no intention of obtaining legal marriage license. This will be our policy moving forward, it will remain true to all future prospective clients."
Okay then, good on them, though no word on whether or not Anthony and Brian will use the facility now.

Republican Governors Association Runs Atrocious Political Ad

Down here in South Carolina — where It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity — our governor, the Transparent Nikki Haley is running for reelection against the Democratic candidate, and resident of Smallville where yours truly resides, Vincent Sheheen.

Last time out the GOP barely eked out a victory over Sheheen to put Haley in the Governor’s mansion and this time around they want to make sure it isn’t even closer or, goddess forbid, Haley gets bounced out on her ass, so the Republican Governors Association [RGA] has decided to run what many are calling the Most Atrocious Political Ad Of 2014.

In the ad, Vincent Sheheen our state Senator and criminal attorney is blasted for representing civil and criminal clients because, apparently, our GOP in South Carolina does not believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, or that everyone even deserves to have a lawyer.

The new ad, produced by the RGA, targets Vincent Sheheen for “defend[ing] violent criminals” and ends with the tagline “Vincent Sheheen protects criminals not South Carolina.”

Basically, what the RGA is trying to say is that Sheheen should never be governor because he once provided counsel to people who were accused of a crime; not guilty of a crime, mind you, just simply accused of a crime.

And the ad plays up that Sheheen has represented every kind of criminal, even :::gasp::: sex offenders and child abusers and, yes, while maybe some of these people were guilty of their crimes, they all had the right, under our laws, to have legal representation.

And true, some of Sheheen’s clients might have been guilty, but in this country, so far, we don’t lock people up in prison because they are accused to crimes. We have a trial, and even the criminal has a lawyer; evidence is heard and finally a ruling on guilt or innocence is rendered.

How does that may anyone unfit to be governor? Oh, yeah, it doesn’t, unless you’re the GOP of South Carolina; unless you’re Nikki Haley.

Monday, April 28, 2014

UPDATE: Transgender Teacher Gets Her Job Back, As Long As She Isn't Near Any Children

Back on April 15, I posted about Laura Jane Klug, a substitute teacher in Lumberton, Texas who was removed from her classroom because she’s transgender — see post HERE. She didn’t do anything wrong in class — she wasn’t trying to enroll the students into The Gay — but apparently some parents felt so uncomfortable with her that they asked the school to get rid of her.

Well, the good news is that the school cannot get rid of Klug just because she’s the T in LGBT, at least according to a decision by Superintendent John Valastro, who reinstated Klug after a bitter school board meeting. But when Klug complained again, after her reinstatement that she had yet to receive a new teaching assignment Valastro said he hadn’t made a decision about her future.

Hypocrite say what?

Now, it appears that Klug will be given a new, temporary, full-time position that will keep her at the school at least through the end of the school year, but the bad news is that she will not be working in a classroom around The Childrens lest their parents get their homophobic undies in a bunch and start storming the school with their pitchforks and torches.

“I was asked not to say where I was working because we don’t want the media and we don’t want angry parents down there, because it’s near one of the schools. I said I’m willing to do whatever because I really need a paycheck. It doesn’t make me very happy, but I think it should placate them [the parents] somewhat.”—Laura Jane Klug
So, what? Is she working in the cafeteria? As a janitor? Anywhere that she won’t be around children? How is that a solution?

The fact is, and should always be, was she doing her job to the best of her abilities? Was she teaching the children, following the guidelines of the school? Then she should be allowed to teach and it shouldn’t matter what her orientation is; it’s hard enough finding good, qualified, dedicated teachers these days to just throw one out because of her sexual orientation.

And the case might not yet be over. Lambda Legal is looking into the idea that, even though the district is allowing Klug to work, reassigning her to9 an area where she isn’t around children could constitute a prohibited adverse employment action.

I hope she doesn’t give up her fight; I hope she takes it as far as she can; I hope, one day, these kids all turn to their parents and ask them why they wanted Klug removed from the classroom.
I want to hear them justify their transphobia to their children.

WTF? Nick Cannon

Okay, Nick Cannon, we get it.

You're "married" to Mariah Carey and she makes all the money and gets all the attention, so you're reduced to acting the fool in public.

Doesn't mean you have to dress the part.


When BYU Asks About Sexual Orientation, LGBT Is Not An Option

Out there Utah way, the folks at Brigham Young University — fully owned and operated by the Mormon Church — distributed a survey to students so that, ALLEGEDLY, the school might better understand these “Millennial’s” attitudes regarding The Gays and same-sex attraction.
Trouble is, nowhere on the questionnaire is there a place to mark if you’re a gay.

The survey begins: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS] is conducting a focus group to better understand your views on marriage and same-sex attraction … ”

But, while the short survey asks basic questions — Are you intimidated by people you are unfamiliar with, or Do you enjoy participating in new situations; Are you open to new ideas and experiences; Are you comfortable expressing your opinion to others — the survey also asks students to rate their “stance on social and moral issues” on a scale of 1-5 scale: “Traditional / conservative” to “Progressive / liberal.”

Simple, basic questions, no? Sure, until you get to that question; the one where Brigham Young asks the students: “What is your sexual orientation?”

The students have three options:
I am heterosexual, but I struggle with same-sex attraction.
I am heterosexual and do not struggle with same-sex attraction.
Other, please specify.
So, it seems that the Mormon Church, which has recently created a website called “Mormon and Gay” does not believe people can be gay; they can either be straight, or straight and “struggling with a same-sex attraction" but not gay, never gay. of course, you could check ‘other’ and then specify, but why is it so hard to ask folks if they’re gay, even for the Mormons?

Seriously, LDS, get ye olde arses into this century; there are gays everywhere, even sitting next to you in church, even in your family, in your classrooms, on your job site, and when you make it clear that ‘gay’ is not an answer to the question What is your sexual orientation, you are continuing to deny our existence.

We’re here, we’re queer and, some of us, are Mormons.