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Archive for September, 2014

September 30th, 2014

Gaining A Body, While Losing A Heart

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…

Another Year of Decline for U.S. United Methodists

Unfortunately, 2013’s picture is no different from previous years: the vast majority of annual conferences are in a membership and attendance decline.

This is written from a religious conservative point of view, so it’s unsurprising they see the decline of the progressive churches in the denomination as validation of their stand against the homosexual menace. But look closer, at what the self assured fail to see right in front of their noses…

It’s hard not to look at the list of fastest declining annual conferences in light of the continuing debates over Scriptural authority and sexual morality within the United Methodist Church. Of the 16 fast-declining conferences listed above (excluding Rio Grande’s unusual circumstances), at least 12 have passed resolutions at recent annual conference sessions stating their support of the LGBTQ movement, and another (Alaska) belongs to a jurisdiction that has done the same. Meanwhile large and growing UM annual conferences have overwhelmingly rejected such resolutions.

And there it is…“passed resolutions”.  Oh they did, did they?  Yes, and that’s all those churches Could do for their LGBT members and their families and friends…pass resolutions. They can’t marry the same-sex couples within them. They can’t allow their gay members to fully participate in church life. So the people of conscience in them are leaving. But note that this isn’t conservatives leaving liberal congregations, that’s people leaving Methodism because they can’t in good conscience stay.

Yes, yes…some conservatives in those churches may also be moving to other congregations more in tune with their bar stool prejudices, but that can’t explain the numbers you see there. What’s happening is people in more liberal parts of the country are leaving the denomination itself.  And it goes further…

“Nones” on the Rise

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

That’s an article from October 2012, but more recent Pew polling finds the trend continuing. Look here…

…many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics…

And over and over again what you see triggering this abandoning of organized religion is distress over the way churches are treating women and gay people. And in denominations structured in a rigid top down hierarchy, that distress is going to be most pronounced in the progressive congregations that can do nothing except utter polite words of protest. Unlike denominations such as Baptists (I was raised in a Baptist household), they can do nothing other than appeal to the conscience of the powers that be. But that tomb is sealed. Or…they can walk out the door.  And maybe just keep going.  But for people raised in those churches, that can be a horribly traumatic experience. Like the wounded survivors of a bitter divorce, they’re deeply reluctant to go back to the altar.  More and more people, especially young people, seeing the cheapshit prejudices of their neighbors being cloaked in and even validated by their religions, find themselves not only on the other side of the church door, but questioning the whole christianity/religion thing.

So there is an overall decline in religiosity happening now in America and the west, even as the conservative churches gain membership. That isn’t growth, it’s hardening of the arteries.  Of course the more conservative churches are holding onto, or even growing membership: they’re fine with the law the hierarchy is laying down on those matters.  Some of the commenters in that article above seem to realize this and they’re fine with that. They want the progressives out. They may get their wish. But the ones that go, whether they remain Christians or not, will eventually find there is a richer, more deeply spiritual life to be lived out in the world, than inside a tomb.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gaining A Body, While Losing A Heart

September 29th, 2014

Ultra Rich United

This from Rolling Stone…

Three New Ways the Koch Brothers Are Screwing America

The update [to the documentary film The Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition], which is now available free online, is centered on their influence in (and outpouring of money since) the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. While researching and producing it with his small staff at Brave New Films, Greenwald says he was “surprised by not just the sheer numbers, but the extraordinary lengths they go to legally to hide the amounts they’re giving.”

The Rolling Stone article goes on to document three areas where the Kochs are surreptitiously funding “Think Tanks”, lobbyists and astroturf groups to achieve their political goals. This is the problem with the argument that even billionaires and corporations have free speech rights too. Yes they do, but they also have a power that the rest of us do not: they can drown out the national dialogue in their own manufactured noise and make it seem like it’s the sound of Americans talking to each other when it isn’t.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Ultra Rich United

September 24th, 2014

Karma Is A Bezos

@paulconstant: “Remember that brief moment when people thought he’d save newspapers? RT @aaronbrethorst: Real classy, Jeff. “

SLOG writer Paul Constant tweeted that the other day, along with this link…

Washington Post announces cuts to employees’ retirement benefits

The changes will hit hardest at employees hired before 2009 who could plan on receiving pension payments based on their income and years of service. Each of those employees could see scores — or hundreds — of thousands of dollars less over the course of a retirement. More recent hires do not have traditional pension plans.

The Post’s pension fund is running a surplus. Jeff Bezos, the new owner, is cutting benefits so he can raid it. I don’t know why anyone should be surprised. Just take a look at how he treats his Amazon workers. Or better still, listen to the workers on the picket lines in Europe, where American billionaires haven’t yet managed to succeed in strangling people’s sense of self worth and pride in their jobs…

wokers not robots

No you’re not. You’re Jeff Bezos’ lunch and your future is his dessert. Bezos is classic predatory rich, pure and simple.  And naturally he calls himself a libertarian, which is how the rich assure themselves that with great power comes no responsibility whatsoever. Greed is good. Selfishness is a Virtue. Eat or be eaten.

So here’s another example of the rich raiding the pension funds of working people, perhaps a more blatant one than most but then hey, Bezos is a libertarian after all and they have a moral code that says it isn’t you stealing from your employees it’s the invisible hand of the marketplace and if they would only stop being so lazy they could be billionaires too. All those city employee union pensions that have gone bankrupt over the years we’ve been told, made unrealistic promises they couldn’t keep and all those elderly workers will just have to learn to like eating cat food. But look closer and what you see are a lot of tax breaks to rich people and businesses that cities and counties could not afford, and so pension plans were raided to make up the difference, until there wasn’t any left to raid. For decades now a lot of worker retirement money has essentially gone straight into the pockets of the rich who couldn’t need it less but for whom more is never enough.

Which brings us back to The Washington Post, which has been tilting more and more to the republican party and the right ever since Reagan.  There is some degree of poetic karma going on here I can’t help but appreciate with delight. You get into bed with vampires, don’t complain when you wake up one day with holes in your neck.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Karma Is A Bezos


Let’s Be Real…

Native American poet and author Sherman Alexie (Reservation Blues, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven) tweeted this earlier today…

@Sherman_Alexie: When someone says “Don’t overthink things” they mean “I’m worried that my entire life is a lie.”

Not sure what happened to him to make him make that observation, but I know what happened to me.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Let’s Be Real…

September 22nd, 2014

Insomnia TV Theater

I popped awake around 3am this morning and eventually wandered downstairs and flipped on the TV.  God I love MeTV.  Some of the old shows I used to watch as a kid I never really got when I was that young.  One of those was Route 66, which is just amazing to watch now that I’m older and been around the block a few times.

This morning’s episode was titled “Love Is A Skinny Kid”, which is from a line of dialogue that will probably haunt me to my grave.  Buz and Tod find themselves in a small Texas town when a young woman wearing a very disturbing Japanese Kabuki mask gets off a bus. She burns a doll on a stake in front of someone’s house, and a crowd gathers and the local sheriff takes her into custody. Then the following exchange happens between Buz and Tod…

Buz: I can still smell it.

Tod: Mm-hm.

Buz: No, I mean the hate. That girl — she hates so hard it came right through the mask. You know what I mean?

Tod: No, I’m not sure I do.

Buz: I guess you gotta be around it the way I used to be. It’s like … malaria. One sniff of it, it comes right back. You can forget anything, except … hate.

Tod: What about the little item that makes the world go ’round?

Buz: Love? Love’s a … a skinny kid, that can catch cold and die, from just standing outside a locked door, begging to come in. But hate … now that’s a tiger in the hall. Hot or cold, it busts in, chomps out a piece. And it never grows back.

Wow… Just…wow…  Some of those early TV shows had some amazing writers working for them. And actors. That episode, in addition to regulars Martin Milner and George Maharis, also had Burt Reynolds, Tuesday Weld, Veronica Cartwright and Cloris Leachman in it. All of them gave amazing performances. But the writing…I never really appreciated it…couldn’t have back when I was a kid. That line, Love’s a skinny kid that can catch cold and die from just standing outside a locked door, begging to come in…But hate…  It will haunt me forever.

skinny kid mask

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Insomnia TV Theater

September 14th, 2014

Message In A Bottle…

To whom it may concern…

Thank you for giving me permission to stick to my script for A Coming Out Story as I originally wrote it.

Also for some much needed motivation to get working on it again!

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Message In A Bottle…

September 3rd, 2014

Renewable Energy Is A Good Thing…Pouring Sludge Into My Car’s Engine, Not So Much…

Link to this post here on my blog about the problems with running biodiesel in modern diesel automobiles, from a MB Sprinter owners forum, leads me to this MB fact sheet (PDF document).

Biodiesel Information for Mercedes-Benz Vehicles 2014 Edition

I had a brief argument with a guy in Kansas about all this. The problem here is the religious zeal of the ideology behind it. Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels is a Good Thing. Mandating bio fuels without regard for what they’ll do to modern engines isn’t getting us there if what people experience is catastrophic engine failure and massive repair bills.  Two winters ago, before taking the drive out to California in my new ‘E’ class diesel, I worried about what I was hearing regarding the proliferation of biodiesel my car can’t drink. What I was told by a mechanic at a Mercedes dealership, was I could always get pure petroleum diesel at an oil company owned filling station because that was all they sold. Truck stops and independently owned filling stations might sell bio, but the oil company ones didn’t. Now the oil companies are not very high on my list of things I approve of, but I found this to be a big relief.  Not any more.  Several states have apparently now mandated at least B10 only, everywhere.  I suspect paying for the repairs to people’s engines when a steady diet of B10 has completely trashed them, let alone paying owners for the lost value of their automobiles, because basically those states have made all the passenger car diesels that can’t take that fuel worthless, isn’t in the cards.

There’s a lot of bullshit going on here in the biodiesel camp, and a lot of deliberate misrepresentation of what some diesel automobile makers are saying. In the above document Daimler makes it abundantly clear that they do Not approve biodiesel in their vehicles in percentages above B5, and even then only those biodiesel blends that meet ULSD specification ASTM D975. The document says straight up: “Diesel fuels between B6 and B20 or higher pose risks of engine and fuel system damage, and are not approved by Mercedes-Benz.”

I don’t know how you can interpret that as “Mercedes approves B20 so long as you keep an eye on the oil level” but that is what some people are saying glassy eyed on that MB Sprinter forum. No…what they are saying is if you can’t avoid using diesel higher than B5 (thank you jackass state legislatures!) then here is what you can do to minimize the risk of damage to your engine:

• Fill up with ULSD (B5 or less) whenever possible, from a name–brand fuel station.
• Regularly monitor your engine oil level if you have to use B20 fuel. (this is because biodiesel has a tendency to accumulate in the crankcase oil)
• Strictly follow the oil change intervals quoted in the instrument cluster and within your maintenance booklet, and use
ONLY engine oils and filters approved by Mercedes-Benz for use in the vehicle.
• If you do not plan to drive your vehicle for several weeks, fill your vehicle’s fuel tank completely in advance with ULSD
fuel. (this is because biodiesel has a tendency to sludge up when it just sits in the tank for not very long periods of time. Even the states mandating B10 or higher are saying during the winter months filling stations can sell B5 because it does not have the cold weather sludge characteristics higher percentage biodiesel blends do.)

That does not constitute approval of B10-B20, it only acknowledges a problem they have no control over…the one H.L. Mencken noted when he said that an idealist is someone who, noticing a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes it will also make a better soup.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Renewable Energy Is A Good Thing…Pouring Sludge Into My Car’s Engine, Not So Much…


The Fine Art Of Inciting Violence While Looking Like A Victim

Most heterosexual Americans probably don’t have the Google “personalized” news page I do, which has a custom section powered by a google search that seeks out stories relating to Gay people. That custom news section gets me a torrent of news stories from news sources here in the U.S. and all over the world. And much of it is about violence directed at gay people.

I’ve been reading the news about my people, that goes largely under the radar of most Americans, for decades now. Back in the BBS days I did volunteer work for a nonprofit Gay BBS that involved sifting through wire service stories and reposting them for the other BBS users. As my online world expanded, so has my ability to seek out news that would otherwise get lost in the background static. So I have decades of awareness under my belt that maybe you don’t.

So it might be hard to really appreciate how to read crap like this from Life[sic]site…

He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

“John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint. While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

“According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,’ Herodias became ‘furious’ with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech…”

“The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice…”

…but I’ll give you a clue: The vast majority of violence directed at gay and gender nonconforming people, nearly 100 percent of it, is religiously motivated. Either the perpetrator acted from a violently twisted religious passion, or they acted knowing they have social permission to attack gay people. Sure I might get caught, I might even get sent to jail, but it won’t be like I killed a real person…  And that permission comes directly from the pulpit.

Not all pulpits by any means…I am not pointing my finger at Religion capital ‘R’ or Christianity capital ‘C’. But you need to understand this: not all predators actually like having blood on their hands. Some predators do, others enjoy watching. There are the rapists, and there are the voyeurs. The relationship is a simple one: thugs beat the living crap out of gay people, sometimes killing us, because they hear the permission they’re being given to do exactly that from the pulpits. “Their blood is upon them…” And those voices from behind those pulpits know exactly what they’re doing, exactly what effect they want their words to have. It’s a symbiotic relationship, that benefits both parties.

So it may look superficially like Lifesite is warning Christians to beware of the impending gay holocaust, but what they’re actually doing is inciting the mob in the traditional, old-fashioned way, with whatever tools are handy at the moment. Militants in Iraq and Syria beheaded two American journalists recently, so here comes Lifesite with a story about how John The Baptist was beheaded after condemning a pagan king’s ungodly false marriage…AND YOU KNOW WHO ELSE DOESN’T LIKE IT WHEN CHRISTIANS STAND UP FOR GOD’S PLAN FOR MARRIAGE…

The homosexuals want to behead Christians…just like those scary people you see on TV…you know what to do…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Fine Art Of Inciting Violence While Looking Like A Victim

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