Dear Brian Browns of the world….

With everything that has been written about the oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Supreme Court case challenging California’s Proposition 8 (spoiler alert: Prop 8 will most likely be a thing of the past), I’d like to take  a different approach and address the haters…….of the LGBT community, specifically those who frequently bring religion into the equation.

Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), recently compared same-sex marriage to slavery. He is one of many on the far religious right who have, for years, demonized and insulted members of the LGBT community. People like the American Family Association’s (AFA) Bryan Fischer and the Family Research Council’s (FRC) Tony Perkins have consistently outdone themselves in a sick game of who can say the most outrageous and degrading things about gays and lesbians. According to bigots like them, gays and lesbians are perverts, degenerates, pedophiles, into bestiality, unhealthy, Nazis, and unfit to raise children. Don’t believe me – simply visit the websites of these hate spewers.

Because actual  professionals in psychology, psychiatry, sociology and even biology long ago destroyed the many ridiculous arguments against homosexuality with reason, rationality and compassion, bigots like Brown and Perkins are left with using old-time, Hellfire and brimstone religion. However even that is becoming unacceptable as more and more religions and faiths move to accept members of the LGBT community just as they are. How do they respond: Homosexuality is wrong because sexist, homophobic, genocidal Bronze Age men said so!

To which I respond with this: If there really is a higher power, whether it is an actual being or energy force or what ever, I strongly suspect it does not care who I fall in love with just like it doesn’t care that women vote or people from different ethnic backgrounds marry. Your side of the argument has consistently used god and religion to fight against everything progressive, from the abolition of slavery to women’s rights and interracial marriage. What kind of deity punishes people with eternal damnation and suffering anyway?! What about the “God of Love?” The whole “You will burn in Hell for ________ (insert various actions)!” line is really getting old. Times change. Cultures change. The meaning behind words are in a constant state of change (Communication Theories 101). Religions, thankfully, also change.

If you still want to use hate, go right ahead; it’s a free country. However, here in the United States, there is separation of church and state. All citizens are seen as equal and are consitutionally guaranteed equality under the law. There’s a pretty big difference between consitutionally protected civil rights and religious doctrine. No one is coming or will come to your church and force you to marry same-sex couples. It’s not going to happen – get that myth and scare tactic out of your mind.

It is 2013 CE, not 2013 BCE. We don’t stone women and children and we no longer think Earth is the center of the known universe. America is not a theocracy, nor are its churches controlled by the state. It is time for your loud screaming and hate to go the way of Senator Joe McCarthy’s career – a disgraceful part of our history.

If you still cling to a brand of religious faith that preaches such hate and intolerance of everything different from it, that says something about your humanity (or lack thereof). The fact that there are countless compassionate, intelligent religious leaders and practitioners who accept their LGBT family, friends, doctors, lawyers, and coworkers just as they are delegitimizes your excuse for continuing to use religion as a tool to discriminate and oppress. Evolve or be left on the wrong side of history.

marriage equality

Rachel Maddow Sums It Up Beautifully

After an amazing night, where the country chose to progress forward into the 21st century, I was incredibly happy…and I slept quite well, I might add. I expected the President to win a second term, but I didn’t expect the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to shrink and the Democratic majority in the Senate to grow. I was pleasantly surprised that, for the first time in U.S. history, voters approved of marriage equality in three states and against discrimination in Minnesota. It was an incredible night for the entire country.

I am so proud to be an American. We finally have the chance to have a government that works for the 100 percent. Climate change can finally be seriously addressed. The United States now ensures access to healthcare, and we’re closer to achieving universal healthcare like the rest of the developed world. Marriage equality across the land is even closer to becoming a wonderful reality. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by dark money groups to ensure the status quo remains ultimately meant nothing. Americans spoke loud and clear. Our democratic republic is alive and well.

Rachel Maddow summed up just what this election meant for the nation:

“We are not going to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade. There will be no more Antonin Scalias and Samuel Alitos added to this Court. We’re not going to repeal health reform. Nobody is going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to try to get themselves health insurance. We are not going to do that.

“We are not going to give a 20 percent tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and kid’s health insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut. We’re not going to make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on. We are not going to redefine rape. We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married. We’re not going to double Guantanamo. We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or [the Department of] Housing [and Urban Development] at the federal level. We are not going to spend two trillion dollars on the military that the military does not want. We are not scaling back on student loans because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents. We’re not vetoing the Dream Act. We are not self-deporting. We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt. We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January. We are not going to have, as a President, a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared gay kid, to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors while that kid cried and screamed for help, and there was no apology, not ever.

“We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton. We are not bringing Dick Cheney back. We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with architects of the Iraq War. We are not going to do it. We had the choice to do that if we wanted to do that as a country, and we said ‘no’ last night, loudly.

….

“Ohio really did go to President Obama last night, and he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii, and he really is legitimately President of the United States, again, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month, and the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy, and the polls were not skewed to over-sample Democrats, and Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math, and climate change is real, and rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes, and evolution is a thing, and Benghazi was ‘on’ us, it was not a scandal ‘by’ us, and no one is taking away any one’s guns, and taxes have not gone up, and the deficit is dropping, actually, and Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and the moon landing was real, and FEMA is not building concentration camps, and UN election observers are not taking over Texas, and moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in the country are not the same thing as communism…

“…in this country, we have a two-party system in government and the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing our country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems, and we debate between those possible solutions, and by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff…if the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement and the conservative media is stuck in a vacuum-sealed, door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good and denying the factual, lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate between competing, feasible ideas about real problems…they [GOP] are going to have to pop the factual bubble they have been so happy living inside if they do not want to get shellacked again, and that will be a painful process for them I’m sure, but it will be good for the whole country, left, right and center.

“Surviving Progress” For A Sustainable Future

Can progress be a problem? Is bigger, better, faster and cheaper really the best way to advance as a society? How much more can humanity extract and deplete the world’s resources as more nations become “developed?” Could it be that Homo sapiens are evolutionary dead ends?

All these provocative and controversial questions are tackled by the critically acclaimed 2011 documentary Surviving Progress. Executive producer Martin Scorsese brings together some of the world’s greatest minds to discuss humanity’s history, its present “predicament” (to say the least), and what can be done to overcome our self-destructive tendencies (for starters, making a distinction between what Ronald Wright calls “good progress” and “bad progress”).

 

The film destroys the conventional concept of “progress,” one of constant expansion and growth. In short: overconsumption, disregard for the planet, overpopulation, massive debt to private interests, grotesque amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and the alarming growth of income inequality are anything but progressive. How can we praise and preserve the status quo when our very survival is at stake? Our current course is clearly unsustainable and until we realize this and do something to change it, we’re doomed to failure.

“Unlimited economic progress in a world of finite natural resources doesn’t make sense. It’s a pattern that is bound to collapse and we keep seeing it collapsing. But then we build it up because there are these strong vested interests; “We must have business as usual.” And…you get the arms manufacturers. You get the petroleum industry. You get the pharmaceutical industry. And all of this feeding into helping to create corrupt governments who are putting the future of their own people at risk.”

– legendary primatologist Jane Goodall during one of her interviews in the film.

Things clearly have to change. We have to realize that progress does not simply equal more more more.

“All the civilizations of the past and, I think our own, only seem to be doing well when they’re expanding, when the population is growing, when the industrial output is growing and when the cities are spreading outwards. Eventually, you reach the point at which the population has overrun everything, the cities have expanded over the farmland. The people at the bottom begin to starve and the people at the top lose their legitimacy. And so you get hunger. You get revolution.

– Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress, the book on which Surviving Progress is based on

 

Surviving Progress delivers a dose of reality and offers a challenging solution. To overcome this challenge, it is going to take the one thing that seems to have brought us to this point: our brains. The world is an international one. We’re literally one people now and all of our lives are interconnected. It is going to take cooperation with other nations. It’s going to come from consuming less and fundamentally altering our view of what makes life “good.” My two cents: living to make humanity and the world better than it was before our own, mediocre existences began is the “good” life. 😉

Madonna, Mitt Romney & One World Trade Center in One Post

It’s been a little while since my last post and some very interesting things have happened since then. So, here’s my take on a few subjects that piqued my interest.

 

 

Madonna’s New Music Video, “Turn Up The Radio,” Came Out

Because I am a Madonna fan extraordinaire, it is only natural that I blog about her latest work. “Turn Up The Radio,” the third music video and single from her 12th and most recent studio album, MDNA, debuted on VEVO on Monday. In it, we see the Queen of Pop trying to get away from the paparazzi (while channelling a sort of updated ’60s go-go dancer look). The theme may be a bit cliché (escaping life’s troubles through music), but the video itself is different…in a good way. Throughout the video, Madonna embraces different kinds of people, from hipsters to a transgender woman, while riding through the Italian countryside in an old school car (not a car person – don’t know the model 😛 ). No matter who you are, turn up the radio until the speakers blow 😉

 

 

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Mitt Romney? Lie!

This election cycle wouldn’t be complete without some good ‘ole fashioned manipulation and outright lying. The Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, has many problems, one of which is his venture capital firm, Bain Capital. Under his supervision, thousands lost their jobs and had their lives ruined…but not according to Mitt Romney. He claims he left Bain in 1999 (before they effed up American workers’ lives by sending jobs overseas). There’s a big problem with that version of the story; It’s literally not true. Company documents show Romney in charge of Bain years after he supposedly left.

Then there’s his most recent distortion of reality, this time involving a campaign speech by President Obama. Romney claims the President told small business owners that they did not build their companies, that others are completely responsible for building their businesses. Outrageous, right? Wrong…here’s what President Obama actually said (in context):

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that [public infrastructure].  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Leave it to someone like Mitt Romney to turn a message of the goodness of public investments into one of something horrible. Way to go, Mitt.

 

 

One World Trade Center Update

One World Trade Center is expected to top out within the next few weeks. The steel structure has already made it to the top floor, 104 stories above Lower Manhattan. Concrete flooring is being installed above the 93rd floor and the beautiful glass facade that encapsulates the building has risen above the 80th floor. The tower is also 55 percent leased, which is a promising sign since two of the towers in the complex were stalled due to a lack of tenants. It should be noted that the federal government pushed the leased space to 55 percent – it has agreed to occupy six floors, or 270,000 square feet. The Vantone China Center (cultural/business center – 190,000 square feet) and Conde Nast (publisher – 1.2 million square feet) will also call the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere home.

incredible photo of One World Trade Center at sunset – July 2012

One World Trade Center Keeps Moving Forward

In my last post about One World Trade Center, I wrote about how the entire World Trade Center project was facing a number of roadblocks, from a bigger price tag to delays in construction. It seemed like the phoenix was in danger of stalling out at 93 floors.

As a matter of fact, One World Trade Center was always rising. According to the building’s designers, floors 94 through 99 technically don’t exist. The building’s 13 ft. ceilings, 186 ft. uninhabited base and a few mechanical and service floors with ceilings over 13 feet account for this. With a planned height of 1,368 ft (1,776 with the pinnacle), the final floor count will be 104…somehow. 😉 In a matter of weeks, One World Trade Center will top out.

One World Trade Center is up to 100 floors now and stands high at 1,244 ft. It is only six feet away from overtaking the Empire State Building as the tallest building in New York City and third tallest building in the United States. Upon its completion, it will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and third tallest building in the world.

Four World Trade Center is also on schedule to top out later this month at 975 feet and 72 stories.

While the picture currently looks grim for both Two and Three World Trade Center, due to a lack of confirmed tenants, things could get better soon. One World Trade Center is the poster child for an effort to revitalize downtown Manhattan, in much the same way the original World Trade Center did in the 1970s. One World Trade Center is 60 percent leased and with the official logo that was recently released, it should be up to 100 percent very soon, bringing more tenants to the rest of the complex as well.

Official Logo for One World Trade Center

NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams did a special on the building’s construction. When William’s asked veteran journalist Harry Smith if he would work in One World Trade Center, Smith quickly responded…

In a heartbeat…you see it now, you go in it and realize, especially talking to the guys who work there how, literally, safe it is…People are saying, ‘We’re not going to let the other guys win. We’re going in. We’re moving in. We’re going to work there.'”

It should also be noted that One World Trade Center will be one of the safest buildings in the world, both structurally and security-wise, as well as one of the most environmentally friendly. By the time the building opens next year, it will be more than ready to face the 21st century and beyond. The Phoenix continues to rise.

The World Trade Center - April 11, 2012

The iconic Empire State Building, as seen from one of the floors of One World Trade Center. Photo credit: John Makely, MSNBC (4/11/12)

What Year Is This?

When did things become so partisan? I believe church and state should be separate and that same-sex couples should have the same recognition as straight couples under the law and suddenly I’m radical?

I accept climate change is real and that there’s mountains of evidence that humanity descended from the same common ancestor as the other great apes and suddenly I’m a part of some secular conspiracy to destroy America?

I think that government investments in education and infrastructure should be greatly increased and that defense spending should be greatly decreased. I think the rich (several hundred thousand+ a year in income) should pay higher tax rates, considering taxes are at historic lows. Now I’m a commie?

Why, in 2012, are we still talking about whether or not birth control is ethically permissible? Why, despite the great advances in science, technology and human understanding of how the universe works, is there a backlash against progress?

How come, in 2012, the candidates for president of the United States of a major political party embraced things like reparative therapy (“Pray the gay away”), climate change denial, bigotry and ignorance?

I know old habits and ways of thinking die hard and with pain, but c’mon. We’re 12 years into the 21st century. We should’ve been beyond these old “controversies” long ago. This is the Age of Information, is it not? Inform yourself and move.

The Phoenix…..Hits Another Roadblock

The once-rapid progress at the World Trade Center site has been slowed to a near halt…again.

For years, the World Trade Center site hit setback after setback, until a couple of years ago, when design changes and bureaucratic gridlock appeared to be gone. The smooth sailing has hit the wall again.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the two-state infrastructure agency in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center, was blasted as being “dysfunctional” and plagued with “poorly coordinated capital planning processes, insufficient cost controls, and a lack of transparent and effective oversight…” by auditors on Tuesday, February 5.

In 2008, the entire project had an estimated cost of about $11 billion. Independent companies that are contracting with the Port Authority said they would pay for a large part of the construction and the agency itself would only be spending a few billion (because, you know, that’s such a light number these days…). As of 2012, the cost has risen $3.8 billion, giving the site a current price tag of $14.8 billion. Even with independent companies picking up a large chunk of the tab, the Port Authority will end up spending nearly $8 billion, quite the far cry from the $6 billion estimate from way back when in 2008.

What did the Port Authority have to say? “It isn’t our fault!” They blamed the companies they had contracted with for delays and the bad economy, the latter becoming an increasingly irrelevant explanation.

Even before this report came out, I suspected something was wrong. I wrote monthly updates on progress at the World Trade Center site last year, using the title “The Phoenix Rises” followed by the appropriate month (ie: “November Edition”). Now it appears that the Phoenix is having a little trouble being reborn.

One World Trade Center’s (the main building in the complex) one-floor-a-week method of construction appeared to stop almost two months ago. Construction of the steel framework got to the 90th floor in mid December and then it awkwardly stopped. Since then, I’ve consistently checked construction updates and…..it’s early February and….still at the 90th floor. My plan was to write about how the tower had reached the 93rd-95th floor in January. By now, it should have been around 98 floors high.

The Port Authority blamed bad weather for the delayed construction….of almost two months. That would’ve been believable if it had been said in late December or early January.

Sadly, progress on both Two and Three World Trade Center has been postponed. Two World Trade Center, planned to be 88 stories, is stalled at ground level and the beautiful, cross-beam-styled Three World Trade Center, planned to be 80 floors, is in danger of becoming a seven story stump.

Let’s hope the Port Authority gets its act together, Oh, wait nevermind. It’s just the weather and those darn third parties…

World Trade Center - late January 2012