The Mango Stand

Monday, April 25, 2005

Gay Rights in Mason (or a lack thereof)

Thanks to CincinnatiBlog for starting the ball rolling. Here's my $0.02 on this.

First off, some disclaimers:

1) I am a member of the Mason Community Center, and I excercise there all the time.
2) I have an aunt who is "married" to her girlfriend, and I think it's great.

However, I think the Mason Community center did absolutely the right thing, and here's why:

1) They aren't really being discriminated against. They are allowed to join, just as individuals, not as a married couple, as long as it applies uniformly (so that unmarried hetero couples can't get family memberships either, and all hetero couples wanting a family membership have to prove it).

2) Granting them a family membership would be a violation of the Ohio Constitution. If the City of Mason decided to recognize the Stotts as a family for purposes of membership in the community center, Mason would be "recognizing a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals" under this amendment. Moreover, the Mason officials repeatedly state that they are merely following the definition of marriage under Federal law--stating at one point, "If they can claim a family dependent (on their taxes), they can get a family membership with us."

What Mason is doing is following the law. I don't agree with the law, but the referendum passed, and that's all there is to it. Mason cannot, on its own, recognize a status that neither Federal or State law does.

What Cincinnati Blog is arguing here, is extremely disingenuous. The Ohio Constitution applies to Cincinnati as well, so turning this into a city/suburban issue is just silly. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time I checked, the City of Cincinnati is hardly a shining beacon of tolerance for homosexuals.

My point: I disagree with Mason's policy, I disagree with the result, but I really can't fault them for it.

Back on Track

OK, so my self-imposed hibernation is over, and I should be posting more regularly now. Busy at work and more than a little bit sick lately, and I just haven't been in the mood to post. However, there are some issues requiring me to vent a bit, so if there's anyone still reading, I should have some more substantive posts up shortly.

Things to look for: Gays in Mason and some more Papal blogging, maybe with some foreign policy thrown in for good measure. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I think I safely speak for many when I say:

Who knew West Chester had a symphony? (I sure didn't). And to get Stoltzman to stop by--amazing. And, if WC gets the Wi-fi they're contemplating, West Chester, that uber-suburb that it is, might be on the verge of becoming something it's never been before--cool.

I may move back. (just kidding)

(Thanks to Wes for the tip)

The tragedies of the clueless

Indulge me for a moment, this is something that's been on my mind lately:

Societies that adhere to ideology in denial of reality fail. Sometimes with a bang, sometimes with a whimper, but they fail. Sometimes they just decline, or fall beind to the point where they can be manipulated or defeated by more powerful societies more in touch with reality. This isn't some crackpot hypothesis; as much as anything is a historical law, this is.

Theories of imminent destruction have been argued and disproved since at least since Malthus and Marx; and each time some variable they didn't consider possible dooms their predictions to the wastepaper basket of history. Malthus's theories of mass starvation were disproved by the industrial revolution, and the way food production, like population growth, grew exponentially instead of geometrically; and Marx's predictions of capitalism's collapse didn't come to pass because capitalism proved capable of adapting--the contradictions of capitalism he observed were overcome by social policies that allowed the standard of living of ordinary people to grow.

I don't want to add to this pile of discredited pessimism except to add some observations:

--Our Republican freinds no longer give a damn about reality, and they are in charge. One wonders: do they know they are lying, or are they just ignorant? Do they know their numbers simply don't add up? Do they care?

--What happens when the piper has to be paid? When the beast has been starved, when government is, in Grover Norquist's evocative phrase, is "small enough to drown in a bathtub," what will America look like? Will it be the capitalist utopia these guys are assuming? Or will it be a lot worse? Here's one fictionalized vision--not anywhere I'd want to live, anyway. (Side note: if you aren't familiar with Neal Stephenson, you're missing out. He's probably my favorite author right now.)

--In short--are we living in one of those times, when the policies of our leaders take their leave of common sense to the point where our society declines? Will China be eating our lunch in a few decades? Are the Greenlanders who starved to death instead of eating fish, or the Easter Islanders cutting down the last palm tree?

Now, I'm no communist. I'm not even much of a socialist. However, I believe that markets and governments are not opposites, but symbiotes that work best when they are both big enough to do their jobs but not so big that they overwhelm the other. Put another way, gov't and markets are tools for the allocation of resources within a society and the world. Tools which, like most tools, can be used constructively or destructively--the same hammer that I can use to build you a house I can also use to bash your skull in.

Anyway, this stuff has been on my mind for a bit. Especially when I see the repubs pass an estate tax repeal that will cost the treasury $1 trillion or so; propose a social security "reform" that will bankrupt the system and make current benefits impossible; and on and on. I don't think any sort of collapse is imminent, or even likely--more likely is just some relative decline that hopefully will be reversed when more responsible heads prevail. Anyway, it's been on my mind lately. More later.


IN response to Karen's post about getting the area bloggers together for a beer: I'm afraid I must decline. Not out of any aversion to alcohol or anythiny--quite the opposite, actually--but more because, at least for the time being, I intend this site to be anonymous.

Now, that may seem somewhat silly to some people. In fact, I imagine some of the posters I've seen on this site so far probably have a fairly good idea who I am. Also, I'm not silly enough to imagine most of you would care that much whatever the hell my name is (it's not like I'm Spiderman or anything), but I want to use this space to comment on certain things w/o being constrained by possible implications elsewhere in my life; to wit, I want to talk about certain aspects of my professional life w/o having to worry that it will turn around and bite me in the ass. Now, I'm not going to reveal any trade secrets or anything that could get me sued, fired, or shot at; still, I don't want to have to explain anything at a meeting with my boss, either.

At some point my confidence may grow to the point where I identify myself on this site, but not just yet. Thank you for your patience.

Thoughts for the day

OK, so I'm having a lousy morning, and it's only just begun. Just thought I'd share.

I've got some substantive posts in the works, which I should have up this evening.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Thanks, WF!

Wow--my first blogroll appearance. Thanks!

I've also noticed that as a result, a lot of new people have stopped by. Thanks for visiting, come back soon & often. This blog is still very much a work in progress so bear with me, but I'll try and keep it interesting.

PS: I've updated my blogroll, adding Walk In Brain. Thanks again.

Shakespeare in Cincinnati

Lately, I've been dragged to not one but two area Shakespeare productions, and I loved them both. (I especially love the fact that, there are at least two professional theater companies downtown doing Shakespeare at the moment. This may be old news to some people, but it's news to me.)

The two I've seen were Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of Troilus and Cressida and Ovation Theater Company's Macbeth, at the Aronoff. They were both very good, but Macbeth really floored me. Done in the round, with minimal sets and props, the acting really shone through, and was just awesome. The three principals all nailed their parts--Jeff Groh as MacBeth, Andrea Sayre-Brook as Lady MacBeth, and Michael Sherman as MacDuff. Of the three I thought Groh really shone through, especially when he started going insane. Liza Forrester as Hecate stole every scene she was in, however--she's a student mezzo-soprano from CCM, and at one point she sang her part (I still have chills).

I had forgotten about how many of my favorite Shakespeare lines are from MacBeth--"Out, out, damn spot!," "Is this a dagger I see before me," and "Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" and so on.

Well, I had fun. Troilus ended its run a while ago (Cincinnati Shakespeare has moved on to Much Ado About Nothing), but Macbeth is still playing. If you get a chance, go.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Buffalo Tom

OK, so I'm still developing my digital life, so I'm a bit behind the curve on some things, but I recently found out via iTunes that there are not one but three Buffalo Tom albums that I don't own. Three!

Well, I plan on buying them via iTunes soon, but I have some misgivings. I'm not all that comfortable paying for music when I don't have an actual, physical, resellable piece of plastic on my shelf. Nevertheless, it's a lot cheaper than buying it from a store, I'll get it immediately, and I don't have to search half the stores in the city just to find the damn things.

Has anyone done this? What are your experiences?

UPDATE: Upon further examination, it turns out there are four Buffalo Tom albums I don't have. I guess I'm not the fanatic I thought I was.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Monty Python

I can't find the reference, but, from my dad, the other day on NPR someone said:

"Do you realize that the people who are running the country today grew up watching Monty Python and are liable to break out into the 'Parrot Sketch' at any moment?"

On one hand, this explains a lot. On the other, I have a real hard time imagining Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld rattling off a list of cheeses in a fake english accent. (For some reason, however, I have less trouble imagining Dubya doing this. Or dressing up like an elderly British housewife, for that matter).

Me, I think I'll apply for a job at the Deparment of Silly Walks.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Papal blogging

As others have noted, the U.S. press and foreign press has taken completely different approaches to the death of John Paul II. The American press has been extremely kind, verging on the hagiographic. And don't forget the American flags at half-mast and the vast migration of American politicos to the funeral--finally, a point of bipartisan agreement: the pope was a good guy.
The foreign press (even in Ireland) has been more critical, with even an Irish newspaper laying into the dearly departed.

Much of the Pope's legacy is not in dispute: history will remember him as the traveling Pope, the ecumenical Pope, and the Pope that ended Communism. (A lot better than his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who, in his 33 days, is the "Smiling Pope.") John Paul II is certainly one of the most significant Popes of modern times, and one of the most important people of the 20th century.

That said, as others have pointed out, his papacy had its moments of controversy--his ultra-orthodoxy on matters of church doctrine, his squashing of liberation theology, his militant opposition to contraception even in light of the AIDS crisis--and yet, the American press and polity have been very hesitant to point all this out.

I think this difference reflects two things: the retail nature of journalism and politics in this country, and a lack of confidence in our religious institutions overall. First: retail. The 66 million Catholics in this country comprise the single largest religious denomination, and, as everyone who watched more than five minutes of news last fall knows, are a major swing constituency in American politics. Advertisers and politicians both are hesitant to do anything to piss these people off, and running more than the occasional op-ed piece critical of the Pope might do that. And about the journalists specifically: as news agencies have become parts of large corporate empires, the broader corporation becomes susceptible to PR problems created by the news division. So the NBC, for example, doesn't want to do anything that will get GE in trouble with its suppliers, customers, etc. or get the entire corporation targeted by a religiously motivated boycott.

Speaking of boycotts (and while we're at it: protests, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, etc.) again, this is old hat-but with the Christian Right's wholesale coopting of the civil right movement's playbook, the Christian Right has adopted the stance of the victim, and with it a sense of insecurity, the idea that the status quo could change and their position within society could be undermined. Therefore, it seems, these political Christians are more sensitive to perceived slights in ways that, say, Christians in countries with established churches like Ireland and England are not.

Therefore, we get hagiography where we should be getting journalism. Oh well.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

This is cool

As I said, this is cool. As it has, by now, been noted ad nauseam, modern conservatism didn't simply emerge, it developed over decades into an interlocking network of thinktanks, policy groups, lobbying firms, and political campaigns. The only way to take this down is to replicate it for the left (or hell-even the center could use a little help at this point). Fight fire with fire--it's the only way. More later.

So here I sit . . .

mulling over another post about what I'm doing here. In general, I'm a bit scornful about too much self-reflection in this sort of thing, but I'm new at this, so forgive me for a minute. I've had a few ideas I've been kicking around for awhile I'm going to try and develop on the site, covering a wide range of topics, and in some depth, as opposed to the sort of running commentary on daily events some blogs specialize in. For the most port, most of these topics are ones that I have had some sort of experience reading about and researching, but can't find a more constructive outlet for. Feel free to comment as they appear--constructive criticism always appreciated. Some topics to look out for:

-tort reform
-health care/medical ethics
-environmental issues

among others. Periodically, I'll include some dirty jokes and bad puns just to lighten the mood. Enjoy.

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