James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Posts Tagged ‘domestic policy

How gay is this story?

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I was sitting in a fairly religious  environment yesterday. The group I was with was a little over 10 people. Because we had a group of 10, one person decided that they needed to tell this story. I think it’s one of the gayer stories I have heard in a pretty long time.

Here it is …

Jon and his dad run a family business. One of Jon’s coworkers, Dave, is their top worker. In fact, he’s so good that he can literally kill the competition 10 times as well as can Jon’s dad.

Now, Jon’s dad was a little jealous about this. In fact, he learned that Jon admired Dave quite a lot, and because of this, Jon’s dad was out to get Dave.

I mentioned that Jon admired Dave, but that might not be sufficiently strong description. Jon so admired Dave that he actually proclaimed that he loved him as much as he loved his own soul.

So, Jon and Dave make a plan to determine what Jon’s dad is actually intending to do. Jon finds out that his dad is planning to summon Dave in order to bury him.

Jon sends a message to Dave that Dave is at serious risk of losing everything. Dave is hurt by this. And when he next sees Jon, he runs up to him, they kiss, and then they weep together. When Jon tells Dave that he must go, the two of them swear (before God!) an eternal bond.

… pretty gay, no?

I mentioned that the group that I was with while hearing this story was pretty conservative. And yet, they demanded everyone’s attention for the telling of this story.

What I have not noted is that this all happened at the synagogue during morning services. The 10 people were a minyan, and the story was read in Hebrew. Yesterday was Shabbat, and today is Rosh Chodesh. On such a day as yesterday, we read a special Haftarah portion. That portion is from I Samuel 20, Jon is Jonathan son of King Saul, Dave is to become King David, and the family business is the Kingdom of Israel. Of course I and II Samuel contain several such stories of the intense love between David and Jonathan. These stories are replete with multiple expressions of a covenantal relationship between the two and even describe their souls as being intertwined using language as strong as any that describes a marital relationship. Upon Jonathan’s death, David goes so far as to proclaim that Jonathan’s love was more wondrous to him than the love of women.

This is particularly timely given the judicial retention vote in Iowa. In a bizarre retention election, voters threw out three judges who were part of the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court decision to end marriage inequality. Of course, much of the rhetoric against marriage equality is based on the moral offense that many people find in sodomy and their presumption that gay marriage is based on sodomy. I don’t know if any of the gay married couples I know engage in such conduct any more than I know whether married straight couples obey the sexual purity laws of niddah.

But, if you ever meet a married gay couple, such rhetoric is divorced from reality. The gay married couples I know reflect the love of David and Jonathan much more than they reflect the immoral sexual violence of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible gives us a way to model and celebrate such bonds, and yet my fellow residents of Iowa seem to remain committed to a voyeuristic and sexually obsessive view of gay couples. What a shame. They should read this Haftarah portion.

postscript … I ran across this site that specifically deals with these issues from a more Christian point of view.


Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Schooling 1040 WHO’s Jan Mickelson on gay rights.

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1040 WHOI had the chance to talk to Jan Mickelson on 1040 WHO yesterday and lecture him on gay rights.  My call begins at 58:40.  You can listen to it at this link.

Written by JamesEJ

Friday, August 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm

My column in the Press-Citizen: No valid objection to Park 51

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My column on the Park 51 project (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”) is in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen.  Here is the opening:

The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is not planned for anywhere on the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Manhattan. It is in the Financial District, but it is at least two blocks from WTC 7 — the nearest part of the massive WTC site.

via No valid objection to Park 51 | press-citizen.com | Iowa City Press Citizen.

Read the whole thing.

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Three hours in Ben Gurion … I know the experience …

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Anyone who has been through Ben Gurion Airport in Israel knows what real security looks like.  On one hand it is inconvenient, but on the other security personnel are doing their jobs well.  It is a far cry from the security theater we have here in the US.

Even so, the news of search and detention there is not always good.  Recent days brings us one such case:

[Donna] Shalala, the health and human services department secretary in the Clinton administration, said she was detained at the Tel Aviv-area airport in July for three hours for interrogation and a luggage check.

via Shalala says she was interrogated in Israel | JTA – Jewish & Israel News.

I know first-hand what Shalala experienced.  I experienced a very similar three-hour detention that included a thorough search of all my belongings and a series of interviews.  It was tiresome, but necessary.  Israel has faced “tourist” based terror threats from as far away as Britain and Japan in the past.

People who understand this do not take Israeli security procedures personally.  Shalala is a case in point:

“While I was inconvenienced, Israel’s security and the security of travelers is far more important,” Shalala said in a statement issued after returning to the United States. “I have been going in and out of Israel for many years and expect to visit again.”

And, I would agree.  Moreover, I was impressed at how well Israeli security operated.  It is not the pro forma security typical of the US.  It is real and investigative.  And, the officers tend to be particularly courteous and considerate.  Once they determine you are not a threat, they take you past all the usual security and baggage check lines and ensure you make your flight in spite of the delay.

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 7:48 pm

The joke that is airport security …

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Tonight with a few friends, the conversation turned to airport “security.”  Anyone who has been to Israel knows that American airport security leaves much to be desired.  Whenever the topic comes up, one article comes to mind.

Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in the Atlantic, offered what is probably the best critique of airport security that I have ever read.  Here is an opening bite:

Suspicious that the measures put in place after the attacks of September 11 to prevent further such attacks are almost entirely for show—security theater is the term of art—I have for some time now been testing, in modest ways, their effectiveness. Because the TSA’s security regimen seems to be mainly thing-based—most of its 44,500 airport officers are assigned to truffle through carry-on bags for things like guns, bombs, three-ounce tubes of anthrax, Crest toothpaste, nail clippers, Snapple, and so on—I focused my efforts on bringing bad things through security in many different airports, primarily my home airport, Washington’s Reagan National, the one situated approximately 17 feet from the Pentagon, but also in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, and at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

via The Things He Carried – The Atlantic.

You will have a hard time believing what Goldberg did.  You will have a harder time believing that he never got arrested.  If you have not read the piece, read it.   When you are done, if you want more, start reading Bruce Schneier’s excellent blog.

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 12:35 am

Bill Clinton was a great President.

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At the time  of his presidency, I was not a fan of Bill Clinton.  But, times have changed and my mind has changed along with it.  It is my reflection on Clinton’s tenure that have forced me to reconsider how I label myself.  I am comfortable with the term “liberal” largely because of what it meant then, even as talk radio was flushing it down the toilet.

Here’s Matt Welch over at Reason:

[A]s the Bush-Obama era of bailout economics and Keynesian rehabilitation settles into something like cruising speed, perhaps the most fantastic fact to swallow will be that once upon a time the United States had a president who restrained government spending, balanced the budget, argued forcefully for the benefits of free trade, and declared that “the era of big government is over.” And he was a Democrat.

via The Death of Neoliberalism – Reason Magazine.

The whole piece is worth reading.

Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Airport Searches Must Be Limited

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Anyone who has been through Israeli airport security knows that American screening is a joke.  My first time back, I was detained for a few hours because I was carrying some of my wife’s research materials in my luggage – and none of that time was spent just sitting around.  Israelis rely on multiple identity verifications, multiple human-to-human interactions, extensive bag searches, and almost universal chemical swab testing of baggage.  Each time I went through, the process had minor differences, but it was always thorough.  If you fly Israel’s El Al airline, the security is tighter still.

There is no privacy in flying from Israel, but the intrusion seems balanced by a genuine concern and effort to ensure security.

I have even had experiences with Chilean airport security that were better balanced than my American experiences.  Once when going through security there, a screener pulled me aside and simply said, “show me the knife.”  I wasn’t sure what he was talking about and so I completely dumped out my carry on.  At the bottom of one of the pockets was a nail clipper with a small folding knife.  It was what he was looking for, but once he saw it was not dangerous, the screener gave it back to me and sent me on my way.

Nowhere more than this country have I felt that airport security is tailored for maximum intrusion and minimum security.  If you want to read some really great examples of this disturbing truth, read Jeffrey Goldberg’s ‘The Things He Carried’ in The Atlantic.

Fortunately, the courts seem to be rolling back the incentives for unnecessarily intrusive searches.  This example, among others, was in today’s Wall Street Journal:

A federal judge in June threw out seizure of three fake passports from a traveler, saying that TSA screeners violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Congress authorizes TSA to search travelers for weapons and explosives; beyond that, the agency is overstepping its bounds, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley said.

via Airport Screening – Are TSA Searches Going Too Far? – WSJ.com.

Of course, this only helps at the point where a court gets involved.  If a search is merely inconvenient and intrusive, but leads to no criminal charge, it is hard to see what remedy is available.  Sue for nominal damages?  Maybe a class action for lost airfare due to delays that cause missed flights?  We can hope …

Written by JamesEJ

Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 1:56 am