Saturday, January 27, 2007

Victims of gay families

No: victims of antigay bigotry

The Sacramento Bee was rash enough to include same-sex couples in a January 21 article titled “New family portrait.” A letter-writer promptly chastized the newspaper for failing to attack gay couples as evil.

From the January 27, 2007, Letters to the Bee:

Gay families and kids' welfare

Re “New family portrait,” Jan. 21: The Bee's article failed to present the perspective of an adult survivor of same-sex marriage. This would come from someone who had time to reflect objectively on her experience and be able to speak freely about it. Dawn Stefanowicz does this in the August 2005 issue of the American Family Association Journal. This article challenges most of what the “experts” said in The Bee article and leaves one wondering about how objective they were.

Stefanowicz says, “Not only do children do best with both a mother and a father in a lifelong marriage bond, children need responsible monogamous parents who have no extramarital sexual partners. Parental promiscuity, abuse and divorce are not good for children.” No matter what our opinions are about this subject, we ought to stay focused on the long-term best interests of our children.

Chuck Muller, Shingle Springs

I've heard Stefanowicz interviewed on EWTN's Catholic Answers, where she held forth on her miserable childhood and replied to callers' questions on gay parenting. With her book and website and lecture tours, Stefanowicz is a successful victimization entrepreneur. During her Catholic Answers appearance, Stefanowicz was a font of shocking revelations. Speaking about her experience as the child of a single-parent gay father, she told listeners that she was traumatized by her father's love life: “There can be multiple partners over the years.” This egregious behavior by a gay father stands in stark contrast to the strictly monogamous lifelong commitments of heterosexual people. No wonder Stefanowicz grew up in anguish and misery.

Having a gay parent also caused Stefanowicz to suffer isolation: “I felt really different: that I didn't belong.” As we all know, gay parents could not possibly relate to this terrible sense of isolation, accepted as they are by mainstream society and the liberal opinion-makers who dominate our culture.

Even worse, Stefanowicz's father was unable to teach her about femininity:
My father couldn't affirm me as a young girl growing up into a woman. It was only a father who loved his wife—who loved women—could really affirm me as a daughter growing up in this situation. Gay men cannot affirm a young woman that's growing up in this environment. There's absolutely no way.
This is an excellent point. Gay men are too wrapped up in sports and macho posturing to have any time to nuture their daughters' tender feelings. (Perhaps we could allow gay men to raise their sons because so many provide wonderful role models of masculine muscle culture, but certainly we mustn't let them raise daughters.)

Stefanowicz took a call from Nina, who offered her own testimony:
You know, Catholics in favor of same-sex marriage, they don't realize the deep harm that will come to the souls and minds of children of these couples. I was raised by parents who were openly bisexual. After my stepdad died, my mother went completely lesbian. I was fifteen. We were shunned by my grandparents, aunts, uncles, their children my cousins, who to this day are still distant from me. You know, I suppose I ought to thank my lesbian mother for making me a traditional Catholic.
Stefanowicz was quick to join Nina in blaming Nina's mother for the destruction of Nina's family ties. It did not occur to either of them to consider that Nina's grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins were bad Christians. Of course, I do not expect professed Christians to be examples of perfection (and most do not claim to be such), but it seems the height of hard-heartedness to reject a child because the mother is out of favor—even “to this day,” as Nina pointed out, now an adult and apart from her mother and still rejected by her family. Nice Christian witness, you guys.

A voice of reason

As one might have expected, The Bee did not simply accept Mr. Muller's stern rebuke and recommendation that we all learn from Stefanowicz and her “gay victim” schtick. No, the newspaper let another correspondent put bigots in their place with a simple expression of gratitude for the common courtesy of being acknowledged as a human being who lives and loves much as others do.

Same-sex parents still parents

I was so pleased to see gay dads and lesbian moms represented in your cover story as a “rock steady” part of our bigger community. We need more and more of this type of coverage of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We raise children who are healthy and strong, we do some things better than others and we make mistakes with them; we show up at the PTA meetings, we have to meet with the teachers when something goes wrong and we are there when something goes right. We are parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and grandparents of children all over the world. We teach love and understanding that “differences” make this world what it is.

Thanks for showing us in a day-to-day light, living our lives and contributing to our community by illustrating such wonderful families in your article.

Tina Reynolds, Sacramento

Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't blame me for term limits

Not guilty!

The liberals have gone and upset Bob Dunning of The Davis Enterprise. It seems that Bob just noticed that we're about to lose Lois Wolk as our representative in the State Assembly. Bob thinks that liberals are to blame.

(January 23, 2007) So long, Lois ... whichever so-called “progressive” came up with the notion of term limits should be taken behind the woodshed and banned from voting for the next 40 election cycles ... I mean, there I was, minding my own business and reading the front page of the Sunday Enterprise when I stumbled upon a story with the headline “Five names emerge early for 8th Assembly District.” ... and all I could think was “Lois, we hardly knew ya.” ...

“With Wolk reaching the end of her allowable three terms or six years in office next year,” the story noted, “someone new will be taking her place as the representative of the 8th Assembly District.” ... poof, just like that, no more Lois ... and I asked myself why on earth we would do this to ourselves .. just when Lois is hitting her stride, she's gone.”

Don't blame me, Bob. This liberal voted against Proposition 140 in 1990, which nevertheless passed by a narrow margin and imposed ridiculously draconian limits on our legislators' terms. We may value experience in most other professions, but we Californians seem to prefer our legislators callow and disoriented. It's a dirty shame. And liberals did not draft Proposition 140 or organize the campaign that enacted it into law. It was conservatives.

I know the source of Bob's confusion, because he told me himself. When I gently corrected his mistake about Proposition 140, Dunning simply replied that “Many of my friends, who claim to be ‘progressives,’ were very much in favor of term limits.” It's the “some of my best friends are—” defense. I'll grant him this much: there are undoubtedly plenty of progressive good-government types who think term limits are a good way to stir up the pot and ensure broader representation in elected bodies. Term limits probably accelerated the arrival of more women and minorities in the legislative ranks, although that trend was already well established in California before the voters installed rapidly revolving doors on the State Capitol. Some progressives concerned about entrenched incumbents—particularly if they were friends of Bob, apparently—might have been suckered into casting a vote in favor of a right-wing power play.

A short history lesson

The right-wing power player behind Proposition 140 was Peter Schabarum, a disgruntled former legislator who followed his service in the State Capitol with a lengthy stint on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (1972 to 1991; Schabarum favored term limits only for other people). His initiative contained a provision that gutted the generous legislative retirement system, but that was probably mostly window dressing to attract the support of resentful voters. Schabarum was eager to enact the term limits that would end Democratic domination of the state legislature and, in particular, bring to a close the long reign of Willie Brown of San Francisco as Speaker of the Assembly. Schabarum was joined in his push for term limits by Lewis K. Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee. In brief, the leadership of the Proposition 140 was an assembly of all of the usual right-wing suspects.

Proposition 140's victory in the 1990 general election did not quite deliver the results that its conservative sponsors had hoped for. While the legislative pension system was abolished and the term-limit clock began to tick for all of the incumbents in office, Speaker Brown soon demonstrated that his hold on the legislature was perhaps a bit shaken, maybe slightly stirred, but by no means broken. He remained ensconced in the Speaker's office till nearly the end of the his six-year limit.

While subsequent elections chipped away at Brown's majority (some of his allies grabbed opportunities to run for seats in Congress, where term limits did not apply), Brown's power survived even the narrow Republican victory of 1994. He peeled one crucial vote away from the Republican caucus, negating their majority and permitting himself to be re-elected as Speaker with the aid of his Democratic minority. Before he left the Assembly to take office as mayor of San Francisco in 1996, Brown continued to deny the speakership to the leader of the Republican caucus, twice engineering the election of GOP mavericks as his short-term successors. The Republican caucus finally managed to install one of their own as Speaker once Brown was gone, but the GOP speakership was ended a few months later by the Democratic return to power in the 1996 election.

The advent of term limits in California state politics was as dramatic as a professional wrestling match and just about as pertinent to the goal of good government. After more than sixteen years of the term-limit experiment, the legislature continues to be populated by careerists, except that they now are forever climbing over one another to switch from the State Assembly to the State Senate (or vice versa) and seizing every opportunity to seek election to Congress.

Term limits? Bah, humbug!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bloggers can't get no respect

Nor can meta-bloggers

I know John Hughes mostly as the nice guy who occasionally tells me that The Sacramento Bee can't run one of my missives* in the Letters to the Editor column. More recently, however, Hughes has been trying to make something of Ipso Sacto, an ambitious project to sift through the offerings of blogs in northern California. He idealistically thought that a major news organ like The Bee would be eager to take of the pulse of the local blogosphere, with its fervent advocacy and free-wheeling commentary.

He was mostly wrong.

(Jan. 3, 2007) When I started this site it was in close association with my employer. My situation at work has changed, and it no longer appears likely that any of my demonstration projects will be adopted.

What to do? I could simply turn off I own the domain, the server is housed in my home office, I work on this in my “spare” time. Bottom line: I get to decide.

In the 22 weeks that I have been working on this, I've come to genuinely enjoy reading the regional blogs. I would continue reading them even without this web site.

So what went wrong? It may well be a cultural thing. There are certain professions—journalism is one of them, teaching is another—where it is easy to have a sense of mission. Sure, life would be rough without plumbers and electricians, but journalists serve Truth (and occasionally Justice) by carefully and dispassionately dispensing the first draft of history in the pages of their newspapers and the sound-bites of their broadcasts.

Well, sometimes they do. Writing on deadline is tough work, and tight deadlines are the enemy of accuracy, limiting as they do the opportunity to check and recheck one's facts. I know a little something about this, having sampled the news writer's experience during a summer job in journalism several years ago. My first published article was less than a stellar exemplar of fact-checking. I had to learn fast—and write fast. (One of my acquaintances is retired Bee journalist Walt Wiley, who once laughingly told me that my ten-week fellowship as a science writer at the Albuquerque Journal was “more than enough” to turn me into a journalist. I suppose it was a decent apprenticeship.)

Journalists have also been lionized by their association with the famous Woodward and Bernstein, whose series of investigative reports at the Washington Post were crucial in destroying the Nixon presidency. One could get a swelled head. (Bob Woodward's cranial edema was so severe it clogged his critical faculties. It took three books on the Bush administration before he realized they're all compulsive liars.)

By contrast, what is a blogger? And what are the qualifications to be a blogger? These are easy questions, since the simple answers are, respectively, “anyone” and “none.” Who would want news and information from folks with no qualifications at all?

Well, frankly, lots of people. Haven't you noticed the exceedingly slender credentials held by most of today's noisiest opinion shapers? The talkers on radio are most skilled at heaping praise on callers who agree with them and cruelly taunting those who do not. The books by Coulter, Hannity, Ingraham, and Savage (even when largely ghost-written) are simply their on-air rants in print form. Essayists they are not. (In her last book [and pray that it may indeed be her last], Coulter devoted three chapters to attacking Darwin and evolution, cribbing almost everything from a couple of “intelligent design” apologists.) When the so-called mainstream media are being denounced for blandness and irrelevance, why should journalists not feel defensive? Hughes has certainly encountered this sentiment himself:

(January 4, 2007) As if my self-esteem as my employer's principal blog-watcher isn't low enough already, I get to edit and publish this opinion from a co-worker:
The initial source of Boxer's concern was the blogosphere, that sometimes subterranean sewer of suspect journalism, where reputation-besmirching rumor runs rampant.
Thank you very much.

Yeah, bloggers get no respect. And neither does the effort of John Hughes to track the local blogosphere. Say, wouldn't it be nice to go visit Ipso Sacto and show John some support.

Oh, and add Ipso Sacto to your link list.

*Hughes once gave me one of the nicest rejection notices ever, when he took the trouble to tell me how much he liked a bit I did on UFOs, men in black, and black helicopters. It was just too long (and probably no longer timely). I'd run that piece today as a blog post if it weren't long lost in the ozone of my abandoned CompuServe account. I doubt that John's archives go back that far.