Thursday, November 30

Eski Kavgalar

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It’s so nice to see the Roman pontiff and the spiritual head of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians getting along together after that nasty tiff back in the eleventh century. Now if only we can get Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan to end their little cat fight, the world can breathe easy again.

Still, the historic rivalry between the eastern and western branches of Christendom was apparent on Thursday when Pope Benedict XVI joined Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul to celebrate the Orthodox divine liturgy at the patriarchal church of Saint George, a modest structure compared to the opulence of Saint Peter’s and the Vatican. Bartholomew certainly outshone Benedict in the vestment department. I mean, just look at that hat and those sleeves!

I imagine Bartholomew was trying to compensate for his more humble digs. He must have felt that by donning his ecclesiastical finery he could draw attention away from the fact that the patriarchal complex in Istanbul’s Phanar (Fener in Turkish) district sits in the middle of what is pretty much a Turkish slum. Back in the summer of 2000 when I visited, it was pretty ghetto. It didn’t look to me like gentrification was right around the corner. Perhaps a Starbucks has opened up since then.

In all seriousness, Benedict’s visit to Turkey has been enormously controversial, sparking protests among many Turkish nationalists who are still seething over his comments back in March when he quoted the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos who said: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by sword the faith he preached.” On Wednesday a group of 40 nationalists briefly occupied the Haghia Sophia in opposition to the pope’s planned visit to the 6th-century church turned mosque turned museum, once the spiritual center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The protesters, members of the Great Unity party, were later detained by the police.

Some in Turkey have argued that Benedict has no business praying in the Haghia Sophia, and that doing so would be an affront to Turkish sensibilities, since any religious gesture would be interpreted as a Christian claim on the edifice, which became a museum in 1935 as part of Atatürk’s campaign to secularize modern Turkey.

“The risk is that Benedict will send Turkey’s Muslims and much of the Islamic world into paroxysms of fury if there is any perception that the Pope is trying to re-appropriate a Christian centre that fell to Muslims,” said an editorial in Turkey’s independent Vatan newspaper on Sunday. Pope Paul VI’s decision to drop to his knees in prayer when he visited the museum in 1967 shocked his Turkish onlookers.

This baffles me in light of the fact that Benedict joined Mustafa Cagrici, Istanbul’s chief cleric, in prayer at the Blue Mosque on Thursday. Why is Benedict allowed to pray at the Blue Mosque, but not the Haghia Sophia? It’s difficult for me to understand why some Turks would be offended by prayer at the Haghia Sophia, since one could just as easily claim that the pope’s decision to pray in the Blue Mosque shows that the Christian West has designs on that building as well. Such an interpretation would be ridiculous, but to me it’s equally ridiculous to ascribe any political meaning whatsoever to a brief prayer inside the Haghia Sophia. After all, it is an awe-inspiring structure.

It’s not as if the Vatican requested to hold mass there. That would probably piss off Istanbul’s Greek minority as much as it would Turkey’s ultra-nationalists.

The Latest from Massachusetts

Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Judith Cowin has granted the Romney administration’s request for a hearing before the full seven-member court to decide whether Secretary of State William F. Galvin will be directed to put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the voters on the November 2008 ballot. The hearing date has been set for December 20.

Romney and opponents of same-sex marriage were outraged when the state’s legislature recessed on November 9 without voting on an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. They tabled the vote until January 2, 2007, the last day of the legislative session, two days before Deval Patrick, a supporter of same-sex marriage, is to be inaugurated as governor.

Cowin was one of the 4-3 majority that issued the November 2003 Goodridge decision, which recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts.

Supreme Denial

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingObviously U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia hasn’t seen Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

In his ignorance, Scalia (shown left) might be surprised to learn that those of us who did see Gore’s film and believe that global warming is going to have a devastating impact on our planet aren’t able to predict the cataclysm, which is what he sarcastically demanded of James R. Milkey, the top environmental lawyer in the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, who argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the EPA’s failure to limit greenhouse gases has had a detrimental effect on coastal areas in Massachusetts and worldwide. Massachusetts is one of 12 states suing the EPA for its 2003 decision that carbon dioxide emissions are not subject to regulation by the Clean Air Act.

Environmental advocacy like Gore’s film and the science of global warming aren’t about predicting the precise moment of the cataclysm, and neither is the current case before the Supreme Court. People like Scalia think they are scoring points when they get us to acknowledge that we don’t know exactly when our coastlines will be inundated by rising sea levels or when the Greenland ice sheet will melt to the point that the Gulf Stream shuts down. We have no problem admitting that we don’t know these things.

The science of global warming isn’t about predicting the precise moment when climate change will produce a cataclysmic event. It’s about documenting climate change that has already taken place (and continues to occur) and making predictions based upon those scientific observations. Scientists have offered some models based on past and current patterns, but the business of predicting future climate change and the impact it will have is tricky, though still within the realm of science. It is important to remember that evidence of past and current climate change offers clues to the future, not a crystal ball.

Contrary to what Scalia would have us believe, however, the inability of scientists to predict “the precise when” of climate change does not undermine the scientific findings that since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased 30 percent and that rising levels of carbon dioxide produce a “greenhouse effect,” otherwise known as global warming.

In this specific case, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions on the grounds that they (auto emissions, for example) constitute “air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Also at issue is whether or not Massachusetts and the 11 other states have legal justification to challenge the EPA in court. The Court questioned whether or not Massachusetts could demonstrate that it has suffered sufficient harm because of the EPA’s current standards on greenhouse gas emissions.

Gregory G. Garre, the deputy solicitor general representing the Bush administration, argued that stricter limits would have no appreciable impact on the various states, since the subsequent reduction of greenhouse gases would be small. Newly appointed justices Roberts and Alito seemed to go along with that argument. However, that kind of thinking shifts the burden of proof onto the regulations themselves, when in reality the Clean Air Act was written to place the burden on the pollution. If a form of air pollution can be reasonably expected to cause harm, then, the law states, it can be regulated.

Garre’s argument seemed to rely on the fact that the United States alone cannot solve the problem of global warming. He is correct in his assumption that global warming is a complex problem requiring a global solution. However, that should not cause us to conclude that because the United States alone cannot solve the problem, we should do nothing. Changing our policies is not enough to reverse global warming if, for example, China does nothing to address its own greenhouse emissions. That type of reasoning should not be used as an excuse for inactivity, and, in fact, the text of the Clean Air Act was written to prevent that kind of inactivity. The Clean Air Act does not require that we singlehandedly solve the problem. The standard it sets for legal regulatory action is much lower than that.

Regulations such as limits on auto emissions do not have to demonstrate their ability to eliminate air pollution or reverse global warming. They must only show that they reduce air pollution that can be reasonably anticipated to cause harm. This should be relatively easy to prove based on patterns of climate change over the course of the last half century.

The United States cannot hide behind the fact that we are not lone players on the global stage. Nor can we sit idly by while temperatures and sea levels continue to rise. What is required is leadership, not denial. The United States cannot afford to adopt a custom-fit version of the classic “I’m only one person, what can I do? How could I possibly make a difference?” approach, the way someone might when choosing to ignore the homeless, but that is precisely what Garre seemed to be saying. Sure, we are one nation among many and we are not required to solve the problem by ourselves. However, we are required to stop contributing to the problem, so that we become part of the solution.

Monday, November 20

Activist Judges to the Rescue

Is Romney nuts?

That was more of a rhetorical question, folks. After being thwarted by the legislature just two weeks ago, our lame (duck) governor is now looking to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to intervene in the same-sex marriage debate—yes, that’s right, the same seven judges who started it all back in 2003 with the Goodridge decision that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Romney announced yesterday that he will ask the state’s highest court to order onto the November 2008 ballot a question putting same-sex marriage to the voters if the legislature fails to take up the issue when they reconvene in joint session on January 2, 2007, the last day of the legislative session.

You will recall that a few weeks ago on November 9, the legislature voted to recess their joint session without actually voting on whether or not a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage should be put to the voters as a ballot question in November 2008. Romney, who hopes to run for president in 2008, wants desperately to see the question of same-sex marriage puts to the voters and is probably having weekly wet dreams in which on the morning following the November 2008 elections, he opens the newspaper to learn that not only is he the new president elect, but that the people of Massachusetts have done the Lord’s will by voting to amend their constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Clearly Romney’s decision to call upon the state’s highest court shows that he is out of ideas. It is the legislature’s prerogative to determine which constitutional amendments are put to the voters in the form of ballot questions. That is the way our representative democracy works. For someone who has been screaming about activist judges for the past three years, Romney ends up looking like a shrill, bigoted fool when he asks the state’s highest court to step in and play referee between the legislature and the 170,000 homophobes whose signatures on the original initiative petition brought the issue of same-sex marriage to the legislature for the second time in three years.

Opponents of same-sex marriage regard the legislature’s failure to vote on the initiative petition as a subversion of democracy. In fact, it is too early to make that determination. The legislature still has one more opportunity in January 2007 to decide whether or not to put the ballot question before the voters. However, it is clear that they have no intention of voting on the issue at that time. It is in response to that eventuality that Romney has asked the court to intervene, but clearly he is premature. How can he ask the court to rule on a contingency? I’m not a legal expert, but I’d be shocked if the court agreed to rule on what they’ll do if the legislature fails to vote in January.

I’m not even certain that the court even has jurisdiction here. The constitution talks about what happens if the legislature adjourns without having taken action on the initiative petitions put before them. In that case, the governor can call them back into session:

“and if the two houses fail to agree upon a time for holding any joint session hereby required, or fail to continue the same from time to time until final action has been taken upon all amendments pending, the governor shall call such joint session or continuance thereof” (Article XLVIII, Part IV, section 2).
It says nothing about the court’s role in this process. It is the governor’s prerogative to call the legislature back into session if they fail to vote on the petitions put before them. In this case, however, the legislature has agreed to reconvene on January 2, the last day of the legislative session. Deval Patrick will be inaugurated two days later on January 4.

What Romney is basically asking the court to do is compensate for the fact that he will no longer be governor and therefore no longer be in a position to order the legislature back into session. In effect, he’s asking the court to usurp the governor’s role, since the man who will become governor on January 4 has made it clear that he has no intention of doing anything if the legislature fails to vote on same-sex marriage in January.

I might be wrong, but I don’t really see the court helping him out here. Perhaps he should have thought of that before he decided not to seek a second term.

Thursday, November 9


This evening the Massachusetts legislature effectively killed an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage by postponing their vote on the measure until January 2007. Because they did not adjourn, but simply recessed, Governor Romney cannot order them back into session. Romney was understandably pissed and accused the 109 legislators who voted to recess until January of disgracing their oath of office. By January, however, we will have a new governor, Romney will be soon forgotten, and same-sex marriage will have become a permanent feature of our landscape.

The above photo shows a group of anti-gay protesters across the street from the Massachusetts state house on Beacon Hill in Boston. They stood with their signs and their chants and their prayers, while for the most part, it was known since late last evening that the legislature would recess without voting on the issue of same-sex marriage.

In the background is the Robert Gould Shaw (1837 – 1863) memorial. Shaw led the very first African-American regiment to be formed in the North, the hallowed Massachusetts 54th, during the American Civil War. Although Shaw and many of the brave men under his command were cut down at the battle of Fort Wagner (South Carolina) in 1863, their legacy is one of freedom and courage in the face of inequality and injustice.

In the photograph, it almost looks as if Shaw and his regiment are marching over the protesters.

Those who made their slogan “Let the people vote” believed that they could win by masking their bigotry as democracy. Despite the appeal that their false populism had for many in Massachusetts, there is absolutely nothing democratic about relegating an entire class of people to second class status. Democracy can never allow itself to be subverted in order to inflict inequality and injustice upon a minority group. Our legislators in Massachusetts demonstrated today their grasp of this basic truth. They did the right thing.

Tuesday, November 7

Rembetiko of the Month

As a favor to a friend, I was all set to post Κουβέντα με τον Χάρο, written by Panatiotis Toundas (ca. 1885 – 1942) and recorded by Kostas Roukounas (1903 – 1984) in 1935. It’s going to have to wait until next month, however, because the sordid business of Haggardgate brought to mind the lyrics of Μπαμπέσα, which Roza Eskenazi (ca. 1880s – 1980) recorded in 1934 with the great violinist Dimitris Semsis, aka “Salonikios” (ca. 1883 – 1950) along with an unknown mandolin and guitar.

Click here to listen.

Σ’αγάπαγα καί έλεγα πως είχες λίγη μπέσα,
Μα σύ μου την κοπάναγες γιατ’ ήσουνα μπαμπέσα.

Μπαμπεσικά τα μάτια σου, μπαμπέσα καί η καρδιά σου,
Μμαμπεσικά με κοίμιζες μέσα στην αγκαλιά σου.

Καθημερνώς μπαμπεσικά μ’εμέ συνεννογιόσουνα,
καί μ’είχες καί περίμενα καί μ’άλλον εξηγιόσουνα.

Φτάνει πλέον τις μπαμπεσιές καί βάλε λίγη μπέσα,
γιά νά σ’αλλάξω τ’όνομα νά μη σε λεν’ μπαμπέσα.

Μη μου το λες μπαμπεσικά, πες το με την καρδιά σου.
Ξηγήσου μιά φορά σπαθί μπαμπέσα στο νταλγκά σου.

I loved you, though I had my doubts about you;
but with you it’s always the same, you’re always unfaithful.

Your eyes tell lies, and so does your heart;
and every night that I fell asleep in your arms was a lie.

Everyday you conspired to betray me;
even though I was yours, you were off gettin’ some on the side.

Enough backstabbing, I want to trust you,
so that the whole world won’t call you unfaithful.

Enough lies, tell me what’s in your heart;
for once in your life, tell it to me straight.

Μπαμπέσα (bam-BEH-sa) literally means “unfaithful,” but in Rembetika, it often has the connotation of “backstabber.” That makes it an apt song for the pain that disgraced ex-pastor Ted Haggard has caused with his lies. The lyrics remind me the betrayal his wife must be feeling right now, thinking that the man she’s called her husband for so many years has suddenly become a stranger to her.

However, the gay community also has a right to feel betrayed by Haggard. The rantings and political machinations of the Religious Right are bad enough, but when we learn that one of our most vocal opponents was someone who secretly turned to the gay community for personal gratification, we cannot help but feel betrayed by his μπαμπεσιές.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingΜπαμπέσα is a good example of a Smyrnaïc song in makam Rast with a very Western sound (notwithstanding its periodic forays into makam Houzam), both in its overall melodic structure and in its instrumentation. It features an especially dulcid Eskenazi (pictured left) and is more reminiscent of an Italian-inspired καντάδα (cantata) than the oriental melodies and αμανέδες that were the mainstay of Eskenazi’s repertoire.

Recommended Listening:
Roza Eskenazi: Rembétissa 1933 – 1936

Sunday, November 5

Repulsive and Dark

Having been dismissed as senior pastor of New Life Church, Ted Haggard has finally admitted that he lied about his relationship with Mike Jones and in a letter to his former congregation, confessed to “sexual immorality,” by which we can be fairly certain that he was referring to his homosexual desires. He went on to speak of his urges as “repulsive and dark,” calling them “the dirt that [he] thought was gone” but that “would resurface.”

Haggard clearly considers himself as having been a slave to his “unnatural desires.” In reality, he is a slave to a backward and inhumane religion that deems love between two people of the same sex to be “sexual immorality.” Haggard is as much a slave as he ever was.

Though he has confessed to being “a deceiver and a liar” for not being forthcoming about his relationship with Jones, his biggest deception is yet to come; namely, he will now join the ranks of those pathetic, self-loathing ex-gays who sing the praises of reparative therapy and claim to be cured.

Next stop: Exodus International. Don’t worry, Ted. I’ve heard that lots of guys hook up there.

No Hypocrisy There

“Confronting society with the relevance of the gospel by being salt and by reflecting Christ’s light is one of our missions.”

From the National Association of Evangelicals on their “Witness to Society”
Rob Brendle, an associate pastor at New Life Church, recently said he sees no hypocrisy in former pastor Ted Haggard’s indiscretion:
“To my knowledge, Mike Jones has not alleged that Ted asked him to marry him... No, I do not see this instance as hypocrisy. I do see it as indiscretion, and I am grateful that Ted is repentant and humble.”
Yes, that’s right. Ted did not ask Jones to marry him. He paid him for sex and illegal drugs. While Haggard has been publicly condemning those who live “the gay lifestyle” as sinners and campaigning to prevent respectable same-sex couples from receiving legal recognition for their stable, loving, and in many cases long-term unions, he has been deceiving his family, his friends, his colleagues, and his church by privately engaging in the very acts he condemns. This is a classic case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” But, according to Brendle, that’s not hypocrisy.

Haggard wanted his congregation to believe that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, but in reality his high came from someplace else. What’s worse, Haggard lied about his involvement with Jones and continues to lie about the full extent of their relationship. While it is natural for his flock to circle their wagons, it is just as natural for intelligent, thoughtful people to recognize a brood of vipers when they see one.

Haggard and his people have been ruthless and mean-spirited in their attacks on the GLBT community. They accuse us of immorality. They say we are dangerous to children. They talk about the transformative power of God, about how they are different. It’s true; they are different. They are worse. Much worse.

They never tire of prophesying the demise of traditional marriage that will follow in the wake of same-sex marriage, yet Haggard’s lies and double life have done more damage to his marriage than any gay couple ever could. Like the Roman Catholic heirarchy’s protection and coddling of those who endanger children by knowingly and repeatedly placing pedophiles in parishes, the failure of Haggard’s church to condemn his hypocrisy demonstrates their moral bankruptcy. With each day that they refuse to acknowledge the hypocrisy of Haggard’s misconduct and lies, the credibility of the Religious Right erodes a little bit more in the eyes of the general public.

Haggardgate demonstrates that evangelical religion is theater, and men like Haggard, mere actors. The problem is that they are not content to stand at the pulpit and enact their drama for their own personal entertainment and edification and be done with it. They want our laws to reflect a morality that they themselves are unwilling and unable to follow.

Haggardgate’s witness to society is of a god that is a lot like Santa Claus. He’s useful for keeping wayward children in line, but grown-ups don’t really believe in him themselves. The Religious Right clearly wants others to believe in their god. The question is, do they believe in him? I find it difficult to believe that Haggard for one takes his god very seriously. And yet, he wants his congregation and the larger society to do just that. Haggard’s reputation and the lies he’s telling to protect it have become his gods.

But, according to Brendle, that’s not hypocrisy.

Friday, November 3

Meth and Massage

The latest in the Haggardgate affair has Haggard admitting that he purchased crystal meth because he was curious, but never used it, and that he received a massage from Jones, but that no sexual intercourse took place. Click here for the full story.

Why do these guys always exacerbate their difficulties by lying?

Haggard, who has been extremely vocal in his opposition to same-sex marriage has, like many of the Religious Right, relied on the argument that marriage between a man and a woman is the best situation for children, while same-sex marriage is harmful to children.

I wonder what kind of harm Haggard’s purchasing of crystal meth and hiring a male escort is going to do to his five children.

More on Haggardgate

In a not entirely surprising turn of events, Ross Parsley, the acting senior pastor of New Life Church, has revealed to KKTV 11News that Ted Haggard has admitted to “some” of the indiscretions alleged by former escort Mike Jones, but not all of them. “I don’t have an accurate description about the precise details,” explained Parsley. “I just know that there has been some admission of indiscretion, not admission to all of the material that has been discussed, but there is an admission of some guilt.”

In an email that Parsley (pictured right) sent to congregants, he wrote: “It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true… He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.”

Mike Jones, who underwent a polygraph test this morning on Denver’s KHOW 630 AM, failed the test, though he has volunteered to retake it. To listen to the broadcast, click here.

In a related development, KUSA 9News is reporting that a voice recognition expert, Richard Sanders, compared a recording of Haggard’s voice with a voicemail provided by Jones and found that they matched, supporting Jones’ claim that Haggard was one of his clients.

Naturally, James Dobson (Focus on the Family) has come to Haggard’s defense: “Ted Haggard is a friend of mine, and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election—especially the vote on Colorado’s marriage-protection amendment, which Ted strongly supports,” Dobson argued.

I hope that even more of these wingnuts for the Religious Right—including Bush—come forward to defend him. There’s plenty of egg here to go around.

The Surest Sign of Guilt

Ted Haggard has resigned from his post as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and has placed himself on “administrative leave” as pastor of New Life Church, pending an internal investigation of the accusations made by a former male escort that he and Haggard had sex over a three-year period.

While this is not proof that the allegations are true, it suggests to me that they are.

Thursday, November 2

Something Stinks

Caught this little tidbit this morning. It could amount to nothing or it could turn out to be something big. I’m going to keep an eye on this one.

I mean, how great would it be if Ted Haggard, the homophobic pastor of one of the nation’s most successful mega-churches—a guy who’s president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), was voted one of “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” by Time, and who participates in a weekly conference call with the White House—turned out to be a closeted homosexual who carried on a three-year affair with a male prostitute?

The former escort, Mike Jones, called into a Denver radio show (KHOW 630 AM) last week during a segment on same-sex marriage—Colorado will vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on November 7—and during the course of the conversation, he explained that most of his clients (surprise, surprise!) were married men, some of them prominent (conservative) politicians and clergy, though he always exercised the utmost professional discretion.

He was later interviewed by Denver’s KUSA 9News, explaining that he chose to come forward with his story because of the hypocrisy demonstrated by closeted politicians and clergy who pay to have gay sex and then, as soon as they’ve zipped up, turn around and attack the GLBT community and work to undermine the rights of GLBT Americans.

Haggard has vehemently denied the allegations. Jones, who claims to have voicemail messages and correspondence from Haggard, has offered to undergo a polygraph test on the air this Friday. Stay tuned.

To listen to recordings of the radio broadcasts, click here. Registration on the site may be required in order to listen, but registration is free.

Wednesday, November 1

Κουρασμένος Νοέμβρης

This Νοέμβρης (November) looks tired (κουρασμένος ) to me. I can relate. I’m feeling very tired. September and October were exhausting. I’d explain what made them so, but there are some things about which I don’t feel compelled to blog. Too personal, I guess.

I began this blog last November after a frustrating trip abroad, which had me in a bit of a funk upon my return. A friend had started a blog (now dormant) while I was away, which eventually intrigued me enough that I created one on a lark. It wasn’t something I ever saw myself doing. I ended up enjoying it and I still do.

I guess I’ll keep doing it.
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