Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

A.J. Wagner, Twitter and gay rights in Dayton

Perhaps you read recently that former Montgomery County auditor/former Montgomery County Common Pleas judge A.J. Wagner is running for mayor of Dayton. Wagner has’t made a formal announcement and perhaps hasn’t even actually decided yet whether he’s running, but he did go so far as to have someone set up a website for his campaign. I read about it on Esrati.com.

One thing interesting about Wagner’s new mayoral campaign website stems from the recent furor over the City of Dayton’s having gone out of state to find a developer for a website for the city. The story about the city’s choosing a Colorado web developer was also on Esrati.com. The main point of Esrati’s post about Wagner’s website was Wagner’s status as a career politician and some history on how he resigned his judgeship, but Esrati did mention at the bottom of the post that Wagner, like the City of Dayton recently, went out of state to find a web developer.

Now City of Dayton officials are defending their decision to choose a Colorado firm, so perhaps Wagner too looked locally for a web developer but decided that to get what he needed he had to go with a DC firm—namely, Code and Politics, “a Washington, DC based firm specializing in online strategy and creative for candidates, organizations and causes that we believe in.”

The logo for Wagner's DC-based web development firm
Having your web developer’s branding/link on your site isn’t uncommon and might get you a discount—but—having a link to an out-of-state web developer might not be the best choice
for a Dayton politician
What did Wagner get by going out-of-state?

He didn’t get a developer who thought about hiding Wagner’s new website—ajwagnerformayor.com (which has since been pulled down, though Google’s cache will work for a while yet)—from prying eyes until the site was finished and until Wagner was ready for it to be seen. Perhaps the strategy was that by hiring someone outside of Dayton, no one in Dayton would know about the site. Oops.


ajwagnerformayor.com, as it looked Saturday morning, with a couple tips added (click to embiggen)
And Wagner didn’t get a developer who thought about registering the Twitter handle to which the new website prominently linked. Atop ajwagnerformayor.com was a prominent list of “Four Things To Do RIGHT NOW,” the fourth of which was to “FOLLOW Us On Twitter.” Unfortunately for Wagner and for his developer, when I visited his new site early Saturday morning after reading Esrati’s post, I clicked on the links and tried to follow him on Twitter to no avail—the Twitter handle @wagnerformayor did not exist! Major oops that leaves one open to mischief.

What kind of mischief, you might be asking? Well the kind of mischief that befell Dean Lovelace last year when he or his web developer (Dayton-based or out-of-state, I don’t know) let his domain name registration lapse. Someone—okay, it was me—registered Dean’s domain name and put up a website opposing his re-election to city commission (for all the good it did). When I saw that @wagnerformayor was up for grabs, perhaps I should have been kind and notified someone, but I was evil and registered it myself, although to be fair, I did use the name FakeAJ Wagner so people would know it really didn’t belong to the real A.J. Wagner. (As any political web developer should know, fake Twitter accounts are not uncommon.)

Why’d I do it? Not because I had any grudge against A.J. Wagner (as opposed to the grudge I had and still do have against Dean Lovelace). I can’t claim that I thought A.J. Wagner was anti-gay or that I had some noble cause in mind when I snagged that Twitter account. I was bored, and I thought it’d be funny to do it. And it was kind of funny.

But you know, things in my life have a way of turning out pretty gay, and this was no exception.

Esrati posted a list of questions for Wagner, and I, as FakeAJ Wagner, started answering some of them. One question was what Wagner thought of Mayor Leitzell (another person about whom I’ve posted here on my blog), and FakeAJ said, “About Mayor Leitzell’s stance on traditional marriage—gays marrying has never harmed my marriage to Joan.” That was just an off-hand quip (and a little dig at Leitzell), but I do think it’s true—Wagner and his wife have been married for a long time, and queers getting married hasn’t hurt their marriage.

 


Late to the game and curious about what FakeAJ Wagner said before @wagnerformayor was taken over by the real A.J. Wagner? Click on the image above or PDF screenshot of FakeAJ’s tweets
So people started reading FakeAJ’s tweets, and comments started heating up on Esrati.com about FakeAJ, and someone who it seemed might be Wagner’s DC developer posted an angry comment, and so I officially came out as FakeAJ (although jeez, it shouldn’t have been that hard to figure out). Finally, Wagner’s real DC developer made an appearance, denying that he had posted the earlier pseudonymous comment, acknowledging he’d made a mistake and saying he was just working hard to elect real progressives. Which raised the question—is A.J. Wagner a real progressive?

For me, admittedly a rather single issue person, a real progressive is someone who believes in equality for LGBT people. Dayton has some real progressives, including on its city commission, people who were willing to take what shouldn’t be a risky position these days, standing up for extending non-discrimination protections in the city based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (It shouldn’t be a risky position, but Dayton also has some real bigots—more on that in a moment.)

Wagner’s new mayoral campaign site, although it had been revealed to the public before it was done, was rather light on its issues page. No mention of LGBT issues. Contrast that to President Obama’s 2012 campaign site, which has a whole Pride section aimed at the LGBT community. Sure, the non-discrimination ordinance is a thing of the past, but I’d bet there are some who’d like to see it repealed; would Wagner oppose that? And yes, although Candidate Leitzell volunteered his position on traditional marriage, marriage is not a local issue, although plenty of mayors are indeed willing to come out for marriage equality; where would Wagner, who touts his Catholic faith, stand on that?

And a very current local LGBT issue is the domestic partner registry that Dayton’s city commission is considering. Would A.J. Wagner as mayor be for or against that? If ever he actually announced his candidacy I would want to know the answer.

So no, I didn’t snag @wagnerformayor thinking to punish A.J. Wagner or even thinking to make him come out on gay rights, but the more I thought about it, having that Twitter account might be a way to get him to say something about where he stands on my issues. And wouldn’t you know it, it worked.

Late last night A.J. Wagner emailed me to say he is “fully supportive” of the “the City Commission Gay Registry Ordinance” (if a little misinformed—it’s not a gay registry but a domestic partner registry that would be open to unmarried heterosexual couples too) and that moreover he is “also supportive of gay marriage.” Wow!

Wagner also told me that he had also written about the registry for his column in this week’s Dayton City Paper, which came out today. His column (which is not yet available in HTML format but which will appear on this page when it is and which is available on page 22 of the Flash version) talks about Dayton’s proposed “marriage registry” (again, a bit misinformed—it’s not a marriage registry) and explains Ohio’s constitutional amendment against marriage equality, the chances that it will be overturned by the courts and why, and the upcoming campaign to put repeal of that bigotted amendment up to a vote next year.

Wagner didn’t come out in so many words in his column and say he’s for the registry and for marriage equality, but the tone of the article is supportive, and I don’t think he’d have said what he said in his email to me if he didn’t mean it. When his mayoral campaign website (which, by the way, will no longer be done by that DC-based firm) does come out, I hope he states his position clearly on it.

But that’s good enough for me for now to turn over control of @wagnerformayor to Wagner. I’m going to post this blog entry and then put a final link on the Twitter account, and then I’ll change the password and give it to Wagner. I hope he has a good local developer who can help him with it.

And it’d be great if he showed up at tomorrow’s city commission hearing and spoke in favor of the domestic partnership registry. The bigotted pastors from the Dayton Baptist Pastors & Ministers Union plan on showing up to advocate that queers’ civil rights should be put to a public vote (see their semi-literate letter to the Dayton City Commission).

Years from now (and not too many years from now) our kids and grandkids are going to wonder what the big deal was about treating LGBT people fairly. It’s a battle we’re going to win. Straight people have two choices—drag their heels and fight on the wrong side of history, or become allies so that we no longer have to waste time on this issue and can move on to other things (like feeding the hungry, building stronger communities, etc., all the issues that queers too do care about and would fight harder for if we didn’t have to fight on this issue).

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Is it an insult to claim Sean Harris is a liar?

Sean Harris, pastor of the Berean Baptist Church of Fayettesville NC, is being oppressed by queers and liberals, including, I guess, me.

Harris was caught on video ranting about effeminate sons and urging any father of such a boy to “give him a good punch.” The Jesus whom Sean Harris follows would seem to be a manly man who advocates violence.


See a screenshot of the full retraction
(in case Harris retracts his lying retraction)
I’d heard about Harris’s egregious advocacy of gay bashing from his pulpit, but it was only today that I found out that Harris, in addition to thinking queer kids just need a punch or two to get straightened out, is a liar.

Lawrence O’Donnell calls Sean Harris out on this in a fun segment you can watch on YouTube. Harris has the audacity in his official retraction to say, “I have never suggested children or those in the LGBT lifestyle should be beaten, punched, abused (physically or pscyhologically) in any form or fashion.” As O’Donnell points out, that’s not only a lie, but it’s a stupid one, easily disproven.

I googled Berean Baptist Church because I wanted to contact Harris about his lie. They’ve taken down their Contact Us page, but the Internet Archive still has a cache of it.

I called and left Harris a message saying that he should be ashamed both for having advocated violence against queer kids and for lying about having done so. I gave my real name and phone number, did not use any profanity and kept my message brief. I probably shouldn’t have bothered because it will just add to Harris’s growing sense of being oppressed.

I also sent an email to everyone listed on BBC’s now-defunct contact page. I got an automated reply from Harris with a link to an important clarification, in which Harris claims, “My words, from Sunday morning’s sermon, about effeminate behavior in children are being completely taken out of context by those in the LGBT community. (Nearly every article is misquoting me.)”

Sorry, dude, but you’re on video saying that fathers should punch their effeminate sons, and you posted on your own blog that you never suggested children should be punched. Try to put that in context if you want, but those are not “misquotes.”

I also got a personal reply from Bill Sturm, a colleague of Harris’s, asking me “to pray for him instead of mass emailing insult.” Apparently Pastor Bill thinks that if I call out his colleague as a liar, that I’m insulting him.

Here’s the email exchange in case you want to see whether I insulted Sean Harris:

Date: 05/05/2012 9:26 AM
Subject: Don't punch your kids, gay or straight
From: David Lauri <david@davidlauri.com>
To: dpidkaminy.bbc@gmail.com, twoosley.bbc@gmail.com, tjoiner.bbc@gmail.com, ckerr.bbc@gmail.com, swilson.bbc@gmail.com, jdrullard.bbc@gmail.com, dcsmith.bbc@gmail.com, afarmer.bbc@gmail.com, sharris.bbc@gmail.com, dharris.bbc@gmail.com, bsturm.bbc@gmail.com, jandrews.bbc@gmail.com, jbrunson.bbc@gmail.com, pbrutout.bbc@gmail.com, thecafe.bbc@gmail.com, cwixson.bbc@gmail.com

Your pastor is a liar. He said that he never advocated violence against LGBT kids. God knows otherwise, and so do we because what your pastor said was caught on video. He can apologize if he wants, but to deny that he advocated fathers punching their effeminate sons is a lie. Doesn't the Bible teach us not to bear false witness?

Date: 05/05/2012 9:51 AM
Subject: Re: Don't punch your kids, gay or straight
From: Bill Sturm <bsturm.bbc@gmail.com>
To: David Lauri <david@davidlauri.com>

David,
We are not in favor of child abuse and Pastor Sean is imperfect. I ask you to pray for him instead of mass emailing insult.

Thank you, sincerely, for your feedback. Please enjoy your Saturday.

Pastor Bill

Date: 05/05/2012 9:54 AM
Subject: Re: Don't punch your kids, gay or straight
From: David Lauri <david@davidlauri.com>
To: dpidkaminy.bbc@gmail.com, twoosley.bbc@gmail.com, tjoiner.bbc@gmail.com, ckerr.bbc@gmail.com, swilson.bbc@gmail.com, jdrullard.bbc@gmail.com, dcsmith.bbc@gmail.com, afarmer.bbc@gmail.com, sharris.bbc@gmail.com, dharris.bbc@gmail.com, bsturm.bbc@gmail.com, jandrews.bbc@gmail.com, jbrunson.bbc@gmail.com, pbrutout.bbc@gmail.com, thecafe.bbc@gmail.com, cwixson.bbc@gmail.com

Could you please point out what I said that you think was an insult?

Your pastor said, and it's on video, that fathers should punch their effeminate sons, and then your pastor said that he never advocated violence against LGBT kids. That's a lie. Sure, your pastor, as are we all, is imperfect, but to lie about what he did makes his apology suspect.

Date: 05/05/2012 10:13 AM
Subject: Re: Don't punch your kids, gay or straight
From: Bill Sturm <bsturm.bbc@gmail.com>
To: David Lauri <david@davidlauri.com>, dpidkaminy.bbc@gmail.com, twoosley.bbc@gmail.com, tjoiner.bbc@gmail.com, ckerr.bbc@gmail.com, swilson.bbc@gmail.com, jdrullard.bbc@gmail.com, dcsmith.bbc@gmail.com, afarmer.bbc@gmail.com, sharris.bbc@gmail.com, dharris.bbc@gmail.com, bsturm.bbc@gmail.com, jandrews.bbc@gmail.com, jbrunson.bbc@gmail.com, pbrutout.bbc@gmail.com, thecafe.bbc@gmail.com, cwixson.bbc@gmail.com

David,
Thank you for your reply. Whether you agree that our pastor is lying throughout his apology is a judgment of yours. I pray God softens your heart toward us and our pastor.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
Pastor Bill

Date: 05/05/2012 10:21 AM
Subject: Re: Don't punch your kids, gay or straight
From: David Lauri <david@davidlauri.com>
To: dpidkaminy.bbc@gmail.com, twoosley.bbc@gmail.com, tjoiner.bbc@gmail.com, ckerr.bbc@gmail.com, swilson.bbc@gmail.com, jdrullard.bbc@gmail.com, dcsmith.bbc@gmail.com, afarmer.bbc@gmail.com, sharris.bbc@gmail.com, dharris.bbc@gmail.com, bsturm.bbc@gmail.com, jandrews.bbc@gmail.com, jbrunson.bbc@gmail.com, pbrutout.bbc@gmail.com, thecafe.bbc@gmail.com, cwixson.bbc@gmail.com

Did I say that he was "lying throughout his apology"? I said that he lied about never having advocated violence against LGBT kids.

Sean Harris said in his apology, "I have never suggested children or those in the LGBT lifestyle should be beaten, punched, abused (physically or pscyhologically) in any form or fashion." He's recorded on video as having said, "Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up! Give him a good punch." He can apologize for having advocated that fathers punch their effeminate sons, but to deny that he said fathers should do so is a lie and therefore diminishes his apology.

I pray that you see that your pastor has indeed advocated violence against children and that you will take action to firmly and unequivocally disavow such actions.

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

How to improve a government form website (part 5)


The Greene County Recorder website (click to embiggen) is a marvel of intriguing web design
Today’s government form that can be improved (see earlier improvable government forms) is actually not a form but rather a website, specifically the Greene County Recorder website, a site so rife with intriguing design choices that one might hardly know where to begin.

The document search page on the Greene County Recorder website, before and after
a tweak with Greasemonkey:

Before (with grey labels):

(click to embiggen)

After (with bold green ones):

(click to embiggen)

However, I do know where to begin, namely with the Document Search page. A co-worker came to me because he had a hard time seeing some of the result page’s labels, specifically those that are in light grey on a white background. This intriguing design choice isn’t just a matter of taste; it’s really rather difficult to read light grey on white.

Luckily the Interwebs offer us the ability to override web designers’s choices which we find “intriguing” (or with which we simply disagree). The tool that comes to mind for this job is Greasemonkey, an add-on originally for Firefox that allows web surfers to install or write scripts that change the look or behavior of a web page. Do you prefer Google Chrome? Greasemonkey user scripts are supported directly in Chrome. (Do you prefer IE? Why?! If you insist you can try this.)

You can find lots of Greasemonkey user scripts already written for popular websites, but I didn’t bother trying to find one for the Greene County Recorder website because, already having extensive experience with Javascript and CSS, I have no trouble rolling my own Greasemonkey scripts. This blog post is not intended to cover that topic fully (Google is your friend if you want to learn how) but rather is just to report on what I did about the Greene County Recorder website’s stupid choice of grey text on white.

An easy option for using Greasemonkey to change a web page’s appearance is to inject some custom CSS that overrides how certain elements appear. Luckily one smart thing the Greene County Recorder’s web designer did was to enclose each of the offensive grey labels in a SPAN tag tied to a particular CSS class: <span class="style1">. So all we have to do is change the CSS applied to the “style1” class. (Actually after I first tested this, I realized there was also one DIV with the “style1” class.)

So here’s a user script that changes all the style1 class SPANs and DIVs from light grey to bold and green (honoring the Greene County Recorder’s web designer’s overall choice of colors):

// ==UserScript==
// @name Fix grey labels on Greene County Recorder website
// @namespace http://www.davidlauri.com
// @description Change formatting of style1 class SPANs on Greene County Recorder website
// @include https://www.co.greene.oh.us/recorders/*
// @include https://co.greene.oh.us/recorders/*
// ==/UserScript==


(function () {
//EDIT ME

var newstyle = "span.style1, div.style1 { color: #006400 ! important; font-weight: 900 ! important; font-size: 105% ! important; } ";

//END EDIT ME

var ss = document.createElement("style");
var t = document.createTextNode(newstyle);

var root = (document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0] || document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0]);
ss.appendChild(t);
root.appendChild(ss);
})();

If you too use the Greene County Recorder website and dislike their grey labels, you can install this Greasemonkey user script on your computer. If you”d prefer the grey labels be some color other than green or formatted in some other way, you can copy the script above and modify the line between the lines that say “EDIT ME” and “END EDIT ME.”

 
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david@davidlauri.com