Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thought Experiment for my Straight Friends

Imagine that you grew up in a world dominated by gays, where straight people were called "fags" and teased mercilessly at school. Imagine that movies and television focussed almost exclusively on same-sex relationships, and that any straight characters who did appear were portrayed as stereo-typed weirdos. Imagine that the only straight people you ever actually saw were treated as outcasts by the rest of society, and that you attended a Church where the minister told you that a relationship with a person of the opposite sex was a sin in the eyes of God, punishable by spending all eternity in hell. Imagine that marriage between a man and a woman was illegal.

How do you imagine this kind of upbringing would have impacted you? Specifically, how do you think this would effect your ability to form and maintain a meaningful relationship with someone of the opposite sex, even assuming that you could find someone with the courage to have such a relationship with you? How would your life be different? How would you be different?

There is no question that the treatment of gays has improved tremendously over the past 20 years. Back then, gay marriage was not on anyone's radar. But then again, neither was a Black president of the United States. So things have changed, and it seems that the tide is moving inexorably in the right direction.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Republican Treason

Rick Perry, the leading Republican candidate, recently referred to social security as a "Ponzi scheme." He further stated that telling young people that they will receive benefits when they retire is a "monstrous lie."

It is Perry, and the rest of the Republicans, who are the scam artists. Perry knows that what he is saying is, at best, a gross overstatement. His goal is not to inform, but rather to misinform. He knows that if he can convince people that they cannot rely on social security, they will support reducing or eliminating the entire program, a key element in the Republican agenda.

Playing fast and loose with the truth is not treason, but other Republican tactics are. The Republicans are presently engaged in a war on our own economy, knowing that Obama's chances of reelection are far lower if we are still in a recession come Fall of 2012. The Republicans are willing to damage their own country to achieve the key item on their agenda: making sure that Obama is a one-term president. That is treason.

And these treasonous tactics are nothing new. The Republican party regularly sabotages government institutions -- ranging from public schools, to FEMA, to the EPA -- by shackling them with absurd regulations such as "No Child Left Behind" that are designed to cause failure. Similarly, the Republicans appoint incompetent or willfully negligent individuals to leadership positions within those institutions. The Republicans then point to the institutional failure they have caused and demand that the institutions be shut down.

Willfully causing our a government institution to fail to advance one's own agenda is treason, even if that institution is not the armed forces.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Republicans Seem Determined to Destroy the Economy in an Attempt to Keep Obama from Getting Re-Elected

The Republicans created the recent budget and debt ceiling crisis for one reason: they seek to destroy our economy, and thus prevent Barack Obama from being re-elected in 2012. What they did was tantamount to treason, and will cause untold misery in the United States and elsewhere by derailing the nascent economic recovery. We need to call the Republicans out on what they did, and hold them accountable in the next election.

The Republicans, like everyone else, know what it takes to get a country out of recession: spending. Yet, they insisted on just the opposite, demanding cuts in spending at what they knew to be exactly the wrong time. And, by acting irrationally, they intentionally panicked the stock market, with predictable results.

The basic economic facts are not complicated, nor in meaningful dispute. The solutions are fairly straightforward. I propose:

We need to spend money to get the economy out of the current recession. At the same time, our infrastructure -- roads, bridges, electrical power grids -- are in need of repair. In addition, there are projects, like the high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco, that would be highly beneficial. The obvious solution is to get to work on these projects. In the short run, the spending will stimulate the economy, creating jobs at levels ranging from engineers to construction workers. In the long run, this kind of spending will leave us with capital improvements that will improve the economy and our standard of living for years to come.

Similarly, we should invest in education. Among other things, we should hire more teachers and pay them more. Teachers do not make much money, and they therefore spend a higher percentage of every additional dollar they receive (unlike the rich, who are more like to save a dollar they receive in tax cuts). And, education is just another form of investment. A child who is educated is more likely to earn a good living, pay taxes, invent useful things and otherwise be a benefit to society as a whole. We spend the money now, we get a return on our investment later.

Spending on war, by contrast, is of little or no economic benefit. War creates nothing. Bombs blow up, and they are gone. A solider who spends a year in Iraq could instead by creating something of value here, or anywhere else for that matter. A bomb or missile just blows up and is gone. Military hardware wears out, and while it is still operational, does not add to our economy anyway.

Cutting taxes on the rich is the least effective way to stimulate the economy. Give a poor man a dollar, and he will almost certainly spend it. That means someone else will earn that dollar. Give a rich man a dollar and he may well put it in the bank. At best, that lowers interest rates by making more money available to lend. But, interest rates are already low. And, some rich people will simply buy gold or other commodities, creating no jobs at all.

If you agree with me, please speak up. Vote. Don't watch Fox. Call the Republicans on what they do. Write a blog that no one reads. But please don't sit there quietly.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Stand Up and Be Counted

Our firm recently interviewed a young job applicant whose resume states that he is a member of the Christian Legal Society. A Google search reveals that the CLS is a student club that requires its members to sign a Statement of Faith that, among other things, rejects homosexuality as inconsistent with Christian values. The CLS sued Hastings Law School, claiming that it was entitled to funding and recognition despite its discriminatory policies.

Presumably, this applicant would not have applied to our firm if he had known that one of the partners is openly gay. Or perhaps he would have simply removed that item from his resume. But no matter, because what he actually did was present a resume identifying himself as a member of the CLS. Needless to say, he did not get the job.

The majority of the members of our firm felt that the best course of action was to simply allow the applicant to go through the interview process, and later tell him that we would not be offering him a job, with no explanation. I disagreed.

This man needs to know that his membership in a group like the CLS has real consequences. Specifically, if he chooses to belong to an organization that espouses hate towards gays, gay people will not hire him. That may not change his views on gay rights, but at least he will understand that his views have consequences in the real world. And he will understand that gays are not just outcasts who can be attacked at will, but rather include people who matter to him -- in this case, someone he wanted to give him a job. Next time, it could be a friend or family member who is afraid to come out of the closet in light of his views.

Telling a single job applicant that he cannot have a single job because of his membership in an anti-gay group is not going to change the world. No single event of this kind matters. But if everybody ignores things like membership in the CLS, then the members will rightly think that nobody really cares. They will think their views are acceptable to all. But they are not, nor should they be. Anyone with a conscience has a moral obligation to speak up in situations such as this. There is no need to be rude or disparaging; in fact, that would be counter productive, but the message must be delivered clearly: you are not welcome here because you are a member of a hate group.

Some of my friends and colleges have asked whether telling the applicant why he was rejected could expose our firm to liability. I believe that the answer is "no." No gay person has a legal obligation to hire someone who is openly hostile to gays, nor does a Black man have to hire a racist. The fact that the CLS is also a religious organization is utterly irrelevant. We did not deny him a job because he is a Christian, nor is his Christianity in any way relevant to our thinking. If he had been a member of a non-religious skinhead gang, for example, my position would be exactly the same. Whereas, if he were a member of a normal Christian group, the topic would not be relevant to our hiring decision. It is the hate, not the religion, that disqualifies him. You say you hate me, I won't hire you. It is as simple as that.

And, if I am wrong and the laws of this State compel me to hire a man that hates me simply because his hate comes from or is cloaked in religion, then perhaps it is time for me to stop paying taxes and leave this State.