The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Recommended Reading While Daddy’s Home

The hubby and I are alternating our family leave time, so that we’re both at work a few days a week this month. It’s pretty much the way we handle all of our parenting duties, and it seems like second nature to us. But it’s interesting when we talk to people, because we’re almost invariably asked “How do you handle getting up at night?”, and individually, we’re asked “How many diapers have you changed?” The answer is that we take turns getting up at night when Dylan’s hungry because neither of us is nursing, and who changes diapers depends on either (a) which of us is taking care of Dylan at the moment or (b) has a free hand. Though often if I changed the last diaper then the hubby will take the current one, or vice versa.

Because there’s no gender-based division of labor in our house. Who takes care of Dylan and/or Parker, who changes diapers, who makes bottles, makes dinner, does laundry, loads the dishwasher, etc., has more to do with who prefers to do it or has time at the moment than which chromosome we were born with.

All the above was to say that today’s my day to be at home with Dylan, so between taking care of him and getting a little work done during his naps, I’m probably not going to be blogging much today. But it’s been a while since I’ve done a round up of what I’ve been reading lately. Now seems like as good a time as any.

It seems that just about everyone has decided that the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has narrowed to a three person contest. For a lot of reasons, that leaves me feeling like I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Still, there’s plenty of good writing out there about what’s left of the field of candidates.

Chris Crain gives a good explanation of why independents swoon for Obama.

McCain showed that type of independent in 2000, arriving in South Carolina and declaring Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance.” His “Straight Talk Express,” his maverick streak, his campaign finance reform — all suggested political independence. Of course he long since sold his soul to the same “agents of intolerance” he called out eight years ago, but we still see signs of it in his resistance to the Bush tax cuts and his sane approach to immigration reform. Unfortunately, his positions on the Iraq War and gay rights eliminate him from serious consideration.

Then along comes Obama, with a deeply inspirational narrative and a message of unity and hope. Like McCain, he isn’t an establishment candidate. And even better than McCain, he seems above the partisan fray and willing to stand up to his party’s entrenched interests — whether labor unions, the black clergy, anti-war zealots and (yes) gay activists.

Obama’s combination of political independence and unifying, hopeful message is what has exhilirated so many. His steadfast opposition to the war and support for gay rights only make him more attractive as a candidate. There’s still plenty of time for him to disappoint, and his relatively short record raises yellow flags, if not red.

Then he does a pretty good job of picking apart the gay case for Hillary.

How is Hillary’s record better than Obama’s? If Hillary wants us to count the eight years she spent beside her husband as president to qualify as experience, then at least some of the gay-related mud of the Clinton years has to stick to her, too. In fact, Hillary has defended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a “necessary transitional measure,” although she now favors its repeal. She has never even stated whether she agreed with her husband’s decision to sign the Defense of Marriage Act, and unlike Obama and John Edwards only favors a half-repeal of it.

The only example I’m aware of that shows Hillary actually “working for change” on gay rights — as opposed to talking about it — was the vignette she and the Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese like to tell about their coordination to fight the federal marriage amendment in 2006. Her help was admirable but speaks more to the close ties between HRC the pol and HRC the group than anything. The defeat of the amendment was also a foregone conclusion. And to the discredit of both HRCs, the strategy they adopted was a huge missed opportunity. Rather than discuss marriage or even gay people in the Senate debate, they opted to attack President Bush and the Republicans, as if that would somehow advance the movement.

The primary race is mostly a spectator sport to me at this point, but the tensions between the Obama and Clinton camps has made it slightly more interesting. The Clinton campaigns attacks on Obama may be beginning of a pretty bruising battle, especially now that Clinton appears to have won New Hampshire.

According to Liza, this means it’s gonna get ugly.

If Hillary Clinton wins today, the big money that has been thrown her way is going to not only come back with a vengeance but it’s going to come back to hurt anybody on her path, especially Barak Obama.

The Clintonites want a dynasty.

The Clintonites want lobbyists and big money in Capitol Hill.

The Clintonites want Bill Clinton back in the Oval Office.

Plain and simple.

This is not about the best candidate.

This is about the best royal couple.

Pam has a must-read post up about Obama and speaking the unspeakable about race.

Inevitably, one of these campaigns will (or supporters with enough distance from the campaigns for plausible deniability) “go there” and use tactics meant to scare voters about their country being led by a black man. Everyone knows that fear works, particularly if it’s done in a subtle way. We already know the fringe element will take care of doing the hardcore Stormfront-inspired dirty work.

Can you just imagine all the pundit apologists trying to explain it away if they even bother to acknowledge the problem. It will be like Imus all over again, the MSM racing to find some color to put on the air to discuss a third rail topic for fear of the usual talking heads appearing “racist” (as re-defined by current culture).

The other oft-cited defense for avoiding discussions about race is to make the claim that they are unqualified to discuss race matters because they aren’t a person of color. This of course, is absurd, but the fear is well-founded because of the elements in the black and other minority communities that loose their cookies when anyone white makes a statement on race that remotely reflects a lack of knowledge about the issue. The blowback only drives whites further into the closet, and any opportunity for a teachable moment is lost because of defensiveness.

The “Break It Down Blog” breaks down how you can get depressed about politics in the U.S. real fast. The compilation of news stories is depressing enough, but this chart on collapsed civilizations and the five factors that contributed to their decline ought to give folks something to think about.

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In other topics, I had to go back to December to read David Sloan Wilson’s post about atheism as a stealth religion.

The real world is full of messy trade-offs. When behaviors are evaluated for their effects on self and others, for example, some are good for both (++), or bad for both (–), but many are good for some and bad for others (+- or -+). Any belief system that accurately represents the real world will include examples of all four possibilities. The main purpose of a religion or a stealth religion, however, is not to describe the real world but to motivate a given suite of behaviors. One way to do this is by creating a stylized world without tradeoffs, in which the prescribed behaviors are portrayed as good, good, good for everyone and the prohibited behaviors are portrayed as bad, bad, bad for everyone. Behaviors with mixed effects are absent from the stylized world because they do not clearly tell the believer what to do.

Using this simple method, it is easy to show that fundamentalist religions portray a world without trade-offs, very unlike the real world, which propel the believer along a single path toward glory and away from ruin. Unfortunately, at least some version of atheism fare no better.

The rest is worth reading for his use of Ayn Rand and her followers as an example of what he’s talking about. (And after reading it I understood why, after reading The Fountainhead, Rand and her philosophy left me as cold as my Baptist upbringing.)

I had to go back and read Wilson’s post, which inspired 250 comments, after reading his follow-up post.

What do I mean by a stealth religion? I clearly define a stealth religion as any belief system that distorts the facts of the real world (yes, there is a real world out there, and it does not include people sitting on clouds) for the purpose of motivating a given suite of behaviors. Beliefs in supernatural agents are a particular distortion of factual reality and I want to broaden the discussion to include all distortions of factual reality. It’s no good quoting dictionary definitions of atheism and religion, when I clearly state what I mean.

What do I mean by factual and practical realism? A belief is factually realistic when it accurately describes what’s really out there (e.g., there are no people up there sitting on clouds). A belief is practically realistic when it causes the believer to behave adaptively in the real world. If you were to ask me for advice about a plan of action, and I replied that your plan is not realistic, you would understand me correctly to mean that your plan is unlikely to work. Thus, the term “practical realism” is fully intuitive, as long as I clearly define its meaning, as I have.

Amanda’s post on feminist atheism is worth checking out as well.

The assertion that god thinks women are inferior is appealing because the only argument against it is, “Nuh-uh, my imaginary creator thinks that god is all for the ladies,” and then you’re at a standstill that can only be resolved by violence, which I do believe traditionally favors male domination. The patriarchy really needs religion to exist, which is why the term “people of faith” has become synonymous with “fans of an old-fashioned patriarchy” in the media. The motivator of the Bible-thumpers is not so much love of some 2,000-year-old Jewish carpenter living under Roman rule, but the need to have the bitches at home under the thumb, and religion, because of the inarguable irrationality aspect, is the perfect disguise. And it always will be. The high hopes of those who hopefully work towards a world where religion is more a force of good than a force of evil forget this much—good is generally arguable on its own terms, but evil needs some extra oomph, something to quiet the conscience and desire for peace. Religion will always be perfect for the job of arguing that evil is actually good, and as such, it’s going to be a tempting tool forevermore. Being a feminist led me to being an atheist in a fairly straightforward way, and this is basically why.

No fight is ever finished in the blogosphere, and Holly resurrects the ENDA controversy when she answers the implied question, “How dare you distrust our rich white gay men?”

You know, I can give some of the rhetoric surrounding the ENDA controversy in the last few months a pass. Some people were making arguments about political wheeling and dealing, the price of doing business in Congress, and other “it’s an ugly political world out there and you take what you can get” arguments. At least those stances admit that the limited ENDA has all the regrettable problems of cut-throat pragmatism. But I always get the feeling that the emotional current that underlies most of these “incrementalist” arguments boils down to the same thing, over and over: get in line! I was here first! No really, I was, forget about Stonewall. There’s not enough for everyone, and I want MINE first! It’s a race to see who gets to Congress with the most cash first and who can yell the loudest, and what I care about the most is ME, not anyone else! Haven’t we learned better than that by now? Haven’t we learned that scarcity of liberty is a damned trick they try to play on you? Don’t make me start quoting Audre Lorde and Booker T. Washington on your ass. Hasn’t history taught us the value of solidarity and the fact that oppressions are interlinked? Ironically, ENDA is a brilliant example of that principle, if you follow the first link of this post.

Susan Stanton spoke up about the ENDA controversy, and ticked off a lot of people with her comments, including Marti, who is not like Susan Stanton.

The divisive and patriarchal attitude Stanton is spewing will throw us back years. Instead of being the leader of the transgender community, she sounds like a better fit for the transsexual separatist movement.

Many of us are trying to find work, even if we don’t pass so well. Many of us are a secure in our own sexuality. Many of us do not spew self hating homophobic and transphobic statements. Some of us do sex work because we can’t find any other work. Some of us live in the streets because our families have abandoned us. Some of us look like Aunt Bee.

If she don’t understand us, and in fact has contempt for us, she probably shouldn’t speak for us. She isn’t helping us.

I’m not like Susan Stanton, and I hope some day she isn’t either.

That’s all for now. There’s more, but this is being written in wee hours of the night, and Dylan will be waking up soon for his next bottle, after which Daddy will be going to bed.

One Comment

  1. Hillary is a machine, an appartus intent on political gain. She might be less concerned with the health of the nation than her own political resume. In some ways, the tears she shed were those of a young girl, an immature person intent on getting what she wants no matter the cost. It is the cost, however, that makes me sympathize with her. I would argue it is harder for a rich, educated person to identify with the poor, disenfranchized margins than for an Obama-type to do so simply because those margins are not as removed from his personal history. Hillary is scared and her fear makes her political aspirations all the more tragic and heroic. Obama is the moment: he’s captured former President Bill Clinton’s legacy and taken it to a new level. Hillary is scared, frustrated, maybe even a bit angry, certainly entitled. In an ideal world, they would both run!