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The President's approach to ISIS is a symptom of national failure, intellectual, institutional and leadership fatigue engulfing the US.  The idea that we can do something, anything, about ISIS is an illusion.  

Johan Galtung:

There are other factors, but the common denominator is us, US.

Change that policy and the world would be easier to cope with.

But, the problem is whether Washington is too autistic to think thoughts beyond its bombing-droning-sniping obsession.

The Guardian, 9 July 2014: “Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown. Social science is being militarized to develop social tools to target peaceful activists and protest movements.” The US military is turning inward, obviously to protect the white 1% who feeds them.

Galtung sees the phenomenon of mass shootings in the US as a symptom of our political problems:
Moreover, it comes on top of another sad phenomenon in the USA: the increasing collective shootings all over the country, geographically and socially, in addition to the usual homicides and suicides, bad enough. The standard analysis is to psychiatrize the murderer, searching for a profile and its likes in society to prevent more shootings.

Another approach would focus on the shootings as a collective, slow suicide of a US incapable of solving its countless problems, even addressing them, to the point that people simply give a damn, kill what they see as the problem including, often, themselves. General demoralization has such consequences, like the suicide epidemic at the end of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and beyond, lasting to our days.

The US can solve the problems facing us.  We have to admit that the problems exist before we can solve them.  The end of empire is a delicate time.  We have the wit, the innovation, the intellect to navigate successfully.  Do we have the will?

I've been thinking about the question of "Who benefits from marriage equality?" for a while.  I recognize that I'm wading into deep water here and I hope it doesn't get over my head.  As I've been pondering it, I realize that multiple isms crop up in the discussion - racism, sexism, classism, appearance-ism and heterosexism.  

I've heard glbt persons of color comment that the community is very often dominated by the concerns of gay white men.  The standard for gay male attractiveness is almost always the fit, white man in his 20s or 30s.  Media portrayals of gay men very often show professional and financially successful white men.  As I think back to the Showtime series Queer as Folk (2000-2005), I don't recall any characters of color on the show - despite the fact that the show was set in Pittsburgh, a city in which 28% of the population is African-American.  

A while back, I came across an article by Janani Balasubramanian in which they described arriving at a "Very White Gay Bar."  I realize I live in Utah and Utah is white as wonder bread, but Salt Lake isn't as white as wonder bread, but when I think about the crowd I see at Pride or Equality Utah events, what I see is Janani's "Very White Gay Bar."  What they wrote in the article caught my attention and has been nagging at my consciousness so, I did some googling and found other pieces of Janani's art - poetry, spoken word performances and so on.  One piece that I should have bookmarked (because it was a nightmare to find again) was a slam poetry performance on marriage with Alok Vaid-Menon and Cam Awkward-Rich that continues to echo in my awareness:

This poem, “Marriage”, also known as “Queer Rage”, is a critique of gay marriage politics as a strategy of liberation.  Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage (or anyone else’s) is not where the struggle ends, or even begins, really.  In the piece we call for a consideration of race, class, and other systems of control that complicate and intersect with queerness.  We also point to the increasing corporatization and overwhelming whiteness of gay marriage politics.
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No surprises there, really.  The Attorney General's office said:

A spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office says that while his office isn’t advising county clerks at this time, the law now provides that they must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby "has put out his ruling that anyone who denies a marriage license is in contempt of the court and in contempt of the law," said Ryan Bruckman on Tuesday. "According to that, everyone should be [issuing licenses]."

Of course, Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson was not swayed:
Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson issued a statement Tuesday, reiterating that he is seeking clarification from the state and the Utah County Attorney’s Office.
Unlike Wallace who shouted from the rooftops "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" Bryan Thompson is holding the line against same-sex marriage in a most Utah way.  He doesn't want a confrontation, we dont' do that in Utah.  He's simply sidestepping the issue, delaying wihtout ever raising his voice.  He's waiting for clarification, it's nothing personal or bigoted, it's really about being "correct".  It's all very professional sounding and impersonal.  Cause here in Utah, we don't openly discriminate against or feel bigoted toward anyone.  It's all very restrained.  It's so very Utah.

Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 08:50 AM PST

Utah Marriage Equality Update

by glendenb

Here's a great photo gallery of the couples waiting in Salt Lake County to marry.  I'm hearing that couples in Cache, Davis, Grand, Morgan, Salt Lake, Summit, Tooele, Washington and Weber counties are receiving their marriage licenses.  In Tooele, the county apparently a Judge and a county council member are on hand to conduct the ceremonies.  For those keeping count, those 9 counties are home to almost 2 million of Utah's 2.8 million residents.


Are conservative Christians harmed by compliance with nondiscrimination laws?   It's a more complex question than it appears at first blush.

I'm glad I don't have to adjudicate any of these cases.  Like people who want to ban books, conservative Christians who raise objections to non-discrimination laws as they apply to glbt persons are acting from a place of good intent, even if I disagree with their conclusions.  Book banners want to protect children from ideas they believe children aren't ready to deal with; conservative Christians who object to complying with nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious freedom perceive themselves as the aggrieved party being asked to violate their conscience.

US law has long recognized the right of individuals to request exemptions from certain laws and practices based on questions of conscience and religious faith.  As I understand it, Quakers are not exempt military service, they are however exempt from participating as combatants.  A number of years ago, I helped a friend draft a statment requesting status as a conscientious objector and be granted exemption from combat duty (he was a veteran and member of the reserves at the time).  His statement was lengthy, thoughtful and carefully written; he was granted conscientious objector status and ultimately was not recalled to active duty.

US law has, also, long recognzied the right of individuals to be free from discrimination in the public square, which includes small businesses which are public accommodations.  Businesses are public accommodations, which means they are subject to generally applicable laws and those signs that many small businesses post that read "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" should have a huge asterisk that qualifies that statement.  You can't legally refuse to serve someone because of their race, gender, religion, national origin and so on.  Increasingly, that list includes real or perceived sexual orientation.  To put it in simple terms, business owners have to make business decisions for business reasons not from animus toward a group of persons.

As more US cities, counties and states adopt nondiscrimination laws covering sexual and gender minorities, and as more states legalize same-sex marriage, I believe there are going to be more cases like that of Elane Photography and Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which small business owners seek exemption from nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious objections.

What happened in these cases is instructive.

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I'm sure some very smart person has written about this topic and I didn't see it.  What the heck, I'll plunge boldly ahead.

Manuel Castells' three volume study The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture includes a section, in volume two, The Power of Identity, discussing the militia movement.  Castells discusses the ideology, values and roots of the militia movement.  The following quotes from The Power of Identity describe the Militia Movement:

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Despite having a wealth of knowledge and skills, we keep collectively creating results nobody wants.  To me, that reality is the biggest problem of our era.  Whether it's governmental systems that impose austerity while unemployment is high, or corporations that force employees to choose between work and family, sacrificing one or the other, or nonprofit organizations that seem to invest huge resources into fundraising rather than service, or schools designed to turn out industrial age employees when we need information age employees, our institutions are structured to meet yesterday's challenges and are failing to meet today's challenges.

Our problem isn't a lack of knowledge.  It's not a lack of skill.  It's not even a lack of resources.  We have sufficient knowledge, we just don't use it.  We have sufficient skill, we just misemploye it.  We have sufficient resources, we reoutinely misallocate them.

Our public discussion is trapped in yesterday's rhetoric - regularly dragged into an either-or dichotomy of free markets versus socialism as if our current corporate capitalism in any way resembles the idealized small enterprise version of capitalism that so many people hold dear.  I recognize, for example, that my basic liberal instinct to use government to constrain and restrain corporate power is part of the old dialogue, while the conservative call for deregulation is also part of the dialogue.  The tendency of corporations to use their wealth to influence government is also part of the old frame of reference.  When oil companies lobby to preserve the status quo, they are working from the old way of being in the world - and while protecting today's profits, doing so at a vast cost to the world.

Otto Scharmer argues the source of our age's problems is between our ears - how we think about the world is our problem and our collective inability to shift to new ways of thinking creates a feedback loop in which the outcomes we want remain out of reach and the outcomes we don't want keep coming back.

How do we fix the problem between our ears?

Cross posted to One Utah.


Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 03:49 PM PDT

Privilege, Sexuality and Date Rape

by glendenb

My earlier post (Are We Doing Young Persons a Disservice by Teaching them No Means No?) garnered over 380 comments.  When I had a chance to delve into the comments, I found myself wanting a graphic recorder to organize the rich array of facts, concepts, perspectives and personal experiences in the discussion.  It was an incredibly rich discussion, but I suspect for many commenters very frustrating.  At times it seemed as if there several conversations going on near each other and at each other but not with each other.

Some commenters took strong exception to my diary.  These commenters pointed out that we, collectively and forever, have been teaching women to not do certain things in order to avoid being raped and obviously it hasn't worked.  They also pointed out we haven't taught men the things we need to teach them.  We don't say to men, "Don't rape."  These commenters also pointed out that 2/3 of rapes, are committed by serial rapists who are not going to be dissuaded by conversation.  These points are correct and I agreed with them before any one made them.  But obviously, they needed to be made in response to my diary.

So where did my diary go awry?

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I've been teaching sexuality education to teens for a decade now.  In that time, I've seen a huge shift in the way young women respond to the issue of date rape, although almost no change in the way young men respond.

The date rape lesson in Our Whole Lives for high school students takes the form of the story of a date told from the perspective of each person.  Participants divide into two groups, each with one version of the story, which they read aloud.  The basic facts of the date are the same in each account - they go to dinner, drink a bottle of wine, go back to his room at the frat house, drink some more, play music, dance, get partly undressed, make out.  It's at this point the stories diverge radically - his version ends with them having sex, her version with her being raped.  After reading the story, participants answer a series of questions which include "What could he/she have done to change the outcome of the evening?"


How was your sexuality edcuation?

8%40 votes
23%112 votes
62%297 votes
2%11 votes
2%14 votes

| 474 votes | Vote | Results

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The American right has transformed from conservative to reactionary to revanchist in an incredibly short period of time.  Today's Republican base voters feel a toxic mix of anger, frustration, and isolation.  The general perception of America outside their communities is almost entirely negative.  They are keenly aware of themselves as the last holdouts against a rising tide of racial pluralism and cultural tolerance.  The forces at work are complex, but at the same they are the same enemies liberalism has always opposed - the forces of social order which presume that some people are 'more equal' than others.  Today's Republican party has been transformed from a political party to a fundamentalist movement with all that implies about in group and out group dynamics; organized around the ideas of Constitutional purity, American exceptionalism, and traditional culture, this political fundamentalism movement is motivated by fear, anger and loss.

On October 3, Democracy Corps published Inside the GOP, their findings from a series of focus group discussions with Republicans.  They identified the GOP's three key constituencies - evangelicals, Tea Partiers and moderates and held focus groups in various cities around the country. The memo as a whole makes for depressing reading - it describes a group of Americans who see themselves as socially, culturally and political isolated, a faithful remnant fighting to restore the America they understand and value against a devious and largely victorious enemy.  The average member of the Republican base feels besieged, angry and frustrated.  Their sense of isolation within contemporary culture cannot be overstated.  Tellingly, the members of the focus groups reported that the focus group time was a unique experience of being around like-minded people:

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Well they actually did it - they shut down the government.  The howler monkeys also known as House Republicans got their wish.  They're making their principled stand to end the scourge of America also known as Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act.

It's easy to argue the Republicans have clearly gone insane.  Their tactics - from repeatedly holding votes to repeal the ACA to shutting down the government to threatening to crash the world economy by refusing to raise the debt limit - look like the self destructive behaviors of a party gone crazy.  I disagree.  Republicans have not gone crazy.  From the conservative perspective, America is careening wildly toward destruction - worse it's self-destruction in the form of "creeping socialism" symbolized by the Affordable Care Act.  Republicans are pursuing tactics that can be understood simply as "Desperate times require desperate measures."

Conservative critiques of the ACA portray it as a government takeover of health care that will lead to catastrophic outcomes - brutal rationing of care and prescription medications, senior citizens denied health care, a nameless faceless board in DC dictating to doctors what treatment their patients can receive (one scenario actually included doctors being issued government controlled iPads that would transmit treatment instructions from DC to the doctors - my boss made company management attend a speech by the ill informed MD claiming this outcome).  

If you live in Teabagistan, you've heard these horror stories and you've never heard them debunked.  

You and your friends have linked and shared atrocity tales about the outcomes of socialized medicine in other countries (a favorite meme is that Canadians are all frantic to come the US for health care because they're being denied life saving treatment in Canada).  Again, those stories have been debunked but you've never heard it because in Teabagistan, nobody hears the debunking and if they do, they dismiss it as a liberal conspiracy.  

For the teabaggers, the ACA is not just a bad policy, it is an existential threat to America.  If it is allowed to go into full effect, the ACA will destroy America.  The teabaggers were sure the Supreme Court would strike down the ACA.  They were certain they could recapture the Senate and White House in 2012.  Those things didn't happen.  Legitimate, normal avenues of preventing the ACA from taking effect, normal avenues for repealing it were closed.  Repeated House votes to repeal it haven't worked (despite the obvious problem with those repeated votes, conservative voters read articles saying "House votes to Repeal Obamacare" and then read that it's still going into effect and conclude some devious force must be at work to frustrate an outcome they believe should be happening).  So conservatives are left with drastic measures.  

If you genuinely believe the ACA is an America destroying bill, a government shutdown and all the attendant disruption is a small price to pay to "save" America.  It doesn't hurt that many teabaggers genuinely believe the government is irrelevant on a daily basis anyway.  Believing we face such dire circumstances, the teaparty contingent in Congress (driven by their base which believes we face such circumstances), is fully prepared to do anything to "save" America.  

From the conservative perspective, it's better to suffer through what (conservatives believe) will be short term discomfort than allow the ACA catastrophe to occur.  It's political triage - the teabaggers believe the damage to America from a shut down and debt default will be repaired easily while allowing the ACA to go into effect will be the end of America.  Better to have to clean up a national mess than to let the nation die.

(this is an updated and revised version of this postfrom One Utah.)


This month, millions of Americans will receive letters from their employers explaining the state health insurance marketplaces (formerly known as exchanges).  I know because my job required me to send the letter to a sizable number of people.

If past experience is any guide, at least two-thirds of the people who receive the letter will glance at it, be confused and come to my office with questions already answered in the letter.  The remaining third will be split between people who threw it away without reading it, people who read and understood it, and people who didn't read it, didn't understand it and are confused and/or angry.  People have heard so much disinformation that I will spend the rest of the month and probably a good chunk of October debunking lies, correcting misinformation and calming terrified people.

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