Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

April, in case you didn’t know, is Fair Housing Month, and today was the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center’s annual Fair Housing Luncheon. Every luncheon such as this has speakers, of course, and often one doesn’t really want to hear the speakers. Today, however, I was pleasantly surprised by one person who spoke.

G. Michael Payton That person was G. Michael Payton, the Executive Director of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the agency at the state level responsible in Ohio for enforcing non-discrimination laws.

Before I get to the pleasant surprise, let me remind you that Ohio, along with 29 other states, has no statewide laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, so if you don’t live in a city such as Dayton or Columbus or even Yellow Springs, it’s perfectly legal to refuse to rent to someone because he’s heterosexual or to fire an employee when you discover she’s a breeder (but not to fire her because she has kids—familial status is a protected class, so if you fire a breeder, make sure you keep a dyke with kids on staff to show that it’s the breeder’s heterosexuality that offends you).

Now Fair Housing events, at least the ones I’ve attended, are predominantly about issues related to racial discrimination or discrimination against people with disabilities or discrimination based on familial status, etc., not about discrimination against queers, and that’s fine because discrimination against African Americans is indeed a big issue (still a big issue, despite our having elected Barack Obama as president—on-going testing of how people are differently treated based on the color of their skin proves it) and because, as I also heard today, people with disabilities are the largest group in America facing discrimination these days. I don’t expect Fair Housing events to be all about sexual orientation and in fact as a fairly affluent middle class white gay man don’t think I’ve ever faced housing discrimination because I’m queer.

Still it was nice to hear Mr. Payton come out* and say that he thought Ohio's non-discrimination laws should be updated to include protection based on sexual orientation. A racial bias I have to own is that my gut instinct when guessing a black person’s views on homosexuality is to prejudge that they’ll be negative. There are, of course, African Americans who think it should be perfectly legal to refuse to hire queers or to refuse to rent to queers or to refuse queers service in their businessses, and I’ve heard some of these African Americans come right out and say as much at Dayton city commission hearings. But there are also black folk who think that discrimination against queers is wrong and, beyond that, there are black folk, including Mr. Payton, who not only think such discrimination is wrong but who will say so in public (I make the distinction because I know one leader in Dayton’s black community who won’t).

Mr. Payton even said that having faced and worked against discrimination against African Americans, how could he turn around and condone discrimination against queers (I’m paraphrasing here—he didn’t actually say “queers”), and he said that there’s a difference between whether or not one approves of people and whether one thinks discrimination against them should be legal. None of this “if we make discrimination against the queers illegal, we’re practically condoning sodomy” stuff. For Mr. Payton, that’s no excuse for tolerating discrimination.

I went up to Mr. Payton afterwards to thank him for his remarks, but I think what he said was important enough to thank him publicly. Thank you, Mr. Payton, for caring about the civil rights of all Ohioans.

*No, not that kind of coming out, silly.

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Glitch this, Amazon!Yes, I’m jumping on the #amazonfail bandwagon, but it’s incredibly annoying that they think they can pass off the de-ranking of LGBT books as a "software glitch."

Sorry, Amazon, but enough LGBT-people are tech-savvy enough to know that it’s not some programmer leaving out a semi-colon someplace that caused all LGBT books, including ones such as Virtually Normal by Andrew Sullivan to be classified as “adult” while pornstar Ron Jeremy’s The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz wasn't also classified as adult.

What it was, instead, was a decision by some human being at Amazon to protect their “wider customer base” from having to see any LGBT titles at all. Don't condescend to us. If you’re going to be bigoted, be honest about it.

Good luck trying to spin this, Amazon. And who do you think has more discretionary income? Christianists who don’t want to see any LGBT titles or queers?

What makes me even angrier than the boilerplate "glitch" response I got to the e-mail I sent yesterday about this is the completely ignorant response I got this morning when I got a call back from a front-line customer service person. She thought I had a problem with a particular item on an order. She hadn't even heard of the issue with what is trying to call a glitch. I made her transfer me to a supervisor, and he at least got what I was calling about, even if he had no satisfactory answer. Hint to Amazon — when in the middle of a public relations fiasco, make sure your customer service department is better informed.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I’m not surprised when I get alarmist e-mails containing half truths from the American Family Association, but when it comes to the Human Rights Campaign (as Rachel Maddow describes them, the largest gay rights group without the word “gay” in their name) I’d expected better. But no, I just got an e-mail from Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, warning me that “if we don’t act decisively, America’s next Proposition 8 could happen in Iowa.”

Now I don’t think Joe is a stupid man and thus I think he knows better. I think he knows that unlike in California, where a simple majority of the voters in a referendum could strip from a minority what California’s state supreme court deems a fundamental right, in Iowa it requires votes of the state legislature in two consecutive sessions before the people get to vote to strip queers of the right to marry. Joe knows it won’t be “Proposition 8 all over again” anytime soon, even if Iowa’s legislature were inclined to vote for a constitutional amendment.

And I’d be really surprised if Joe hadn’t heard Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal’s impassioned speech in which he declares that he will not help to reverse the marriage equality decision. Why? Because the video of Gronstal saying that is on HRC’s own website!

Human Rights Campaign headquarters building, Washington, DC
HRC’s $26.4 million headquarters building in Washington, DC

Joe Solmonese is being disingenous and he knows it. He wants to scare HRC members into clicking on the big “Donate Today” button at the bottom of his e-mail.

It’s not a bad thing that HRC keeps vigilant about gay issues around the country, and it’s not bad that they raise money to support their efforts. But why can’t they be honest as they go about it?

Actually if I were cynical, I might know why. It might be that HRC’s headquarters building cost $26.4 million and so the fundraising can’t ever stop. Compare and contrast to Connecticut’s LGBT civil rights group Love Makes a Family, which is planning to close down after this year, having completed its mission. Sure, HRC’s national mission isn’t even close to being done, but they sure do have a lot of expenses in the meantime.

(I have in fact given money to HRC and think queers are better off having them than not.)

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Some people think #amazonfail was an overreaction and that we should be #sorryamazon.

I’m not sorry. Amazon has done an absolutely shitty job of communicating with its customers. Just a tad more effort on Amazon’s part could have avoided much of the #amazonfail anger. They could have acknowledged the problem on their front page. They could have tried a better explanation than saying it was just a “glitch.” They could have said that they value their LGBT customers and never intended for our books to be de-ranked. They could have used the words “sorry” or “apologize” in their “ham-fisted cataloging error” “statement.”

More importantly, let’s all realize that even though Amazon probably did not intend to piss off its LGBT customers, Amazon did in fact adopt a policy of de-ranking adult books, a policy they implemented without telling their customers or giving their customers the option to continue to see sales rankings of adult books or to continue to see adult books in our searches. Google has SafeSearch, but they’re up front about telling you that some results have been excluded because of it and they allow you to decide you want to see all results. Amazon should also do that if they’re going to continue to de-rank adult titles.

Amazon may be hoping this will blow over (although we can’t know that because Amazon isn’t communicating with us), but if they are, they’re wrong, and they’re misguided. They may be a behemoth, but they’re not a monopoly. We do have other choices, and many LGBT consumers will use those other choices unless Amazon does some better PR.

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Good Friday Greek Orthodox-style
(Click to embiggen)

Dayton skyline at night
(Click to embiggen)
The new CareSource all alit
CareSource’s building all alit
(behind some others)

Tonight I heard singing and chanting outside that I couldn’t understand. It was Greek to me, and when I went to look for its source, wouldn’t you know, it was! Tonight the church across from my apartment celebrated Orthodox Good Friday, and part of their service was this candlelit procession around their building. Fun!

While I was out I got a decent shot of Dayton’s skyline at night. Healthcare must be really profitable because not only could CareSource afford to build a brand new building downtown but they can also afford to keep all the lights inside fully blazing along with fancy colored trim lighting along the roof.

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

The results of our workships
(Click to embiggen)

The results of my gardening
(Click to embiggen)

Today I did two things:

1) I participated in work-ship at my church, where during worship we bagged household supplies such as toilet paper, paper towels and dish soap to be given away to clients of our food pantry, Feeding Friends.

2) I bought some gardening supplies and planted some flowers on my balcony.

You can see the results to the left and the right.

Monday, April 20th, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL

The Dayton Daily News published an article today about Austin Pike Boulevard that shows how technologically-inept they are:

There’s a lot that could be said about this story’s content, stuff that DDN writers won’t say — such as how the nameless “local officials” quoted in the story as hoping for the sparking of “development in the area” aren’t helping Greater Dayton by promoting on-going urban sprawl — but what struck me (and other readers who commented on the article) is that the article was about a “radically different intersection design that will be the first of its kind in Ohio” yet included no graphics or photos to illustrate what this new type of intersection looks like.

Yes, if you go to the story now, you’ll see a graphic, but it was added hours after the story hit the DDN website, and it features text that is illegible, and you can’t even click on the graphic to make it large enough to read the text in it!

Forget Web 2.0 when it comes to Cox Ohio Publishing. They're at Web 0.2.

Update: They updated the article yet again with a link to an enlarged version of their graphic, but as you can see from my screenshot, that hadn’t occurred to them initially!

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL #2

Reading an interesting opinion piece today by Kathleen Parker that appeared Sunday in the Washington Post and yesterday in the Dayton Daily News, I came across a less obvious instance of Dayton Daily News FAIL than yesterday’s example, one that though less obvious is probably more egregious.

If you read the Washington Post’s version of Parker’s article, you’ll notice phrases such as “radio ads” and “National Fair Housing Alliance” and “report,” phrases that are in a different color from that of the rest of the text in her article, that are underlined and that when you click on them with your mouse bring you to other websites related to them. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it’s called hyperlinking, and it’s what the World Wide Web is all about.

In contrast, the Dayton Daily Newsversion of Parker’s article, although otherwise a copy, headline and all, has no such differently-colored, underlined phrases linking to other websites. This omission demonstrates that my claim yesterday that the DDN web team is still at Web 0.2 is wrong; they don’t get the web at all.

(In fairness, other sites reprinting Parker’s syndicated column have stripped the links as well, for example, the Jewish World Review’s version; why do they do that?)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

The American Family Association is at it again. This time they’re claiming that the Hate Crimes bill (H.R. 1913) will make incest and “30 different sexual orientations” into “federally protected classes.”

Such bullshit!

No one, other than crazy Christianists such as Don Wildmon, thinks that incest and apotemnophilia and toucherism are sexual orientations. They couldn’t win by convincing Americans that it’s okay to allow hate crimes against queers, so now they’re desperately trying to make people think that sexual orientation isn’t just whether one is straight or gay or bi but also is whether one wants to have sex with amputees. Gotta give them credit for imagination.

Well I say, more power to ’em! The crazier the Christianists talk, the more irrelevant they become. Go ahead, rant and rave about how Congress is about to make hate crimes against kleptophiliacs illegal. Yes, try to make Americans believe that should H.R. 1913 become law that our country will be overrun by gerontosexuals. Good luck with that.

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