Category: "culture/news"

Vicky Hartzler's 10 Gay Marriage Analogies

In 2004, before she ran for Congress, Vicky Hartzler was the spokesperson for the campaign to amend the Missouri Constitution to outlaw same sex marriages and civil unions. A Massachusetts court had just ruled in favor of marriage equality, so some on the religious right were nervous, upset and willing to work to prevent gay people from getting legal recognition for their relationships. On July 27, 2004, Hartzler went on a Christian radio show to promote her crusade against marriage equality. In the course of the 15 minute interview, Hartzler draws comparisons between gay marriage and 10 different things that are very different from gay marriage. Here's her list:

1. Untested social experiment
2. 12-year-olds with driver's licenses
3. Blind people with driver's licenses
4. Impersonating a doctor
5. Counterfeit $20 bills
6. Driving 90 miles per hour
7. Three people getting married
8. Five people getting married
9. Polygamy
10. A man marrying a horse

Here is a 2 minute video highlighting each of the items above:

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And here is the full 15 minute interview:

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Here's a transcript of the full interview.

Hartzler is running for reelection this year in Missouri's 4th Congressional District. If you would like to be represented by someone who doesn't go on the air and compare same-sex relationships to man-on-horse sex, then you might want to vote for her opponent, Teresa Hensley.

First Annual Adrian VEX Robotics Competition

Yesterday Adrian's award-winning robotics program held their first competition at home. Teams from Kansas City and Clinton, MO joined Adrian for a day of VEX robotics matches. Students have been building their robots over the last few months and practicing the task of picking up balls and putting them into goals. Each match begins with a 20 second period where robots can perform the task autonomously. None of yesterday's teams attempted that, but then it's followed by a a couple of minutes where the teams can use a remote control to drive their robot. And many of these teams were quite well-practiced at driving their robots. Here's an excerpt from one of the matches:

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Congratulations to Mr. Hogan and all of his students for organizing a great competition. Despite some difficulties, they managed to get through over 70 matches in just a few hours. The team who won the tournament was made up of Adrian students and one robot ended the day undefeated (you can see it in the video above).

Swarm of Flying Robots

This is very cool. Be sure to watch to the end to see the swarms flying in formation.

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Infrastructure: Our Shared Investment

Flush a toilet, take a shower or drive across town. What makes these important, everyday things possible? Over several generations the citizens of our community have pooled their resources in the form of a city government. One of the main functions of that government is to build and maintain the infrastructure that we all depend on: streets, water and sewer. If we want to see our community flourish, we must continue to invest in the maintenance and expansion of these vital systems.

In the summer of 2011, the city street crew applied three inches of asphalt to 1st Street, Old 71 and Kentucky Street. In the summer of 2010, they did the same to 8th Street. That spring the city government purchased the equipment to allow our crew to do this work in-house, stretching your tax dollars to cover as much street as possible. I'm proud of the work of our crew has done and I look forward to seeing the improvements they bring to other streets in the coming years. All of this is possible because the citizens of Adrian voted on a tax issue in 2000 to provide funds for street maintenance. The money was raised ahead of time and the work was done without borrowing money.

In 2010 and 2011 city crews and private contractors replaced over three miles of water mains in the city. These new lines deliver water to local homes and businesses and provide enough pressure to supply fire hydrants around the city. Many of the retired water mains were smaller, corroded, cast-iron pipes.

In 2009, after years of frequent boil orders, the city of Adrian opened its new water treatment facility. The 500,000 gallon per day membrane filtration system was capable of providing clean, safe water to the residents of Adrian for the next two decades at least. In the fall of 2011 the plant capacity was doubled to 1,000,000 gallons per day, enough to provide water to the city of Adrian and Public Water Supply District #5, which serves the surrounding area.

These improvements were possible because of a new contract with District #5 and because we made use of grants and low-interest loans. But, the city also had to increase water rates to cover the ongoing costs of producing cleaner water in the new plant. That rate increase would not have been so dramatic if the city had gradually raised its rates as the old plant approached the end of its life. While I'm convinced that our new water production system is worth the cost, I think there are lessons to be learned when it comes to future infrastructure improvements.

Our sewer system is the next element of our infrastructure that needs some attention. Aging and leaky sewer lines around town are allowing too much water into the system, which risks overloading our simple lagoon based sewage treatment system. In a few spots, the water coursing through leaky sewer lines is even allowing raw sewage to escape the lines after heavy rainfall. The city council has already begun to consult with our engineering company about ways to assess what needs to be done to our sewer system.

For years now, the city has been pursuing grant money for sewer improvements, but we also need to begin to gradually raise our rates. That's why I proposed a $0.50 increase (per 1000 gallons) in December of 2011. The rate change passed, so a household that uses 3000 gallons of water per month will see their sewer bill go from $10.50 per month to $12 per month. I don't take this increase lightly, but I think we should start to invest in our sewer system now rather than waiting until we have an emergency and need a dramatic rate increase.

This spring we will perform some tests on the sewer system and then we’ll be able to plan for addressing the system’s most critical problems. Our sewer rates are still lower than most towns in the area and there will almost certainly be a few more gradual rate increases in the coming years.

We will continue to pursue federal and state funds to help with the costs of these improvements. You may be able to help with one of these. One of the grants we would like to apply for requires that we first collect some data about the income levels of a random selection of households. We have sent out these surveys twice, but there haven’t been enough responses to allow us to apply for the grant. If you received a survey, but didn’t return it, please call or stop by city hall and get another copy of it. It won’t take more than a minute to fill out and it will make a big difference for our infrastructure and the rates we charge over the coming years.

The health of a city’s infrastructure is no accident. It requires careful planning, wise management of limited resources and, most importantly, a shared investment by the citizens of our community.

Money in Politics

The conclusion of the dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission:

At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

Religious Slogan in City Hall

A lawyer in Springfield, MO is sending out letters to several cities in Missouri, asking them to prominently display the motto "In God We Trust" in city halls. He even sends along a sample resolution so the councils can vote the display in. Our mayor decided to bring the resolution before the council during our regular April meeting on Monday. We engaged in a discussion for about 15 minutes and then voted 3-1 to place a 8.5" x 11" sign with the slogan in city hall. I read the following statement and had it entered into our minutes:

Questions of religious faith are not the business of this municipal government. As Thomas Jefferson said, "the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions." I support the right of everyone to express any belief or opinion they like and the government must protect those rights. As part of that protection, the government remains neutral on questions of religious opinion.

I spoke in favor of the separation between church and state when I was a pastor and I continue to do so today as a non-believer. 35 million American citizens are non-religious and there are almost a million in Missouri. I've spoken with several people in Adrian, both religious and non-religious, who oppose the posting of this motto in city hall.

We have gotten along just fine without a motto on the wall of our council chambers. If we were going to add one, we should choose one that's more inclusive such as the original motto of the United States, "E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one)" or the motto of Missouri "Salus populi suprema lex esto (Let the good of the people be the supreme law)."

Regardless of your religious perspective, I hope you'll recognize that this entanglement between religion and government is good for neither the church nor the state. Our fourth President, James Madison, said it well, "I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

This sign will be a minor annoyance and discouragement to me when I see it. And it may serve as justification for further government endorsements of religion, just as "But it's on our money" was repeatedly presented as evidence in favor of posting the motto. But will it have any substantial effect on the business we conduct on the city council? No. I also trust that this episode won't prevent the council from continuing to work for the good of our city. I have no doubt that the aldermen who voted for this had the very best intentions. I hope that they also understand that I, too, was doing what I thought was best for the city. If you'd like to see what was said during the discussion, take a look at this transcript I prepared.

WBC is Not Welcome Here

A family in our area is suffering through the tragedy of losing a loved one who was in the military and the hateful Westboro Baptist Church is coming from Witicha to Harrisonville to rub salt in their wounds by protesting the funeral. I think everyone in the area can agree that these people are not welcome. Regardless of our opinions about gay rights, we can all recognize that this stunt is just mean. Here's what they had to say when announcing the protest on their website:

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Harrisonville, MO November 23, 2010 9:15 AM - 10:00 AM

WBC will picket a respectful distance from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Whorehouse where they will take a break from raping the children long enough to worship the corpse of Cpl. Jacob R. Carver whom God blew up with an IED, dispatching his soul to hell forever. He is not a hero! He fought for the fags' rights to eat each other's feces and the whore's right to murder her unborn child. Our message is for the living, and we remind you Missouri brutes again that you have made God your #1 enemy by your refusal to obey. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. (Pr. 1:24-30.) It's too late for Doomed america and Doomed missouri! If there be any among you that has an ear to hear, come out from among them and be separate, and do not partake of their wickedness -- DO NOT WORSHIP THAT DEAD BODY! Fear God and keep His commandments -- that is the whole duty of man. (Ec. 12:13.) Amen!

As hateful and nonsensical as that is, it's still mild compared to this law, supposedly from the mouth of God:

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Leviticus 20:13

Though the WBC only uses words, this verse promotes commands actual physical violence and murder. It's good that so many of us can agree that the WBC is wrong and unwelcome. Will you also join me in condemning and rejecting the Bible verses that fuel their hate?

Priorities

I just heard a story on the radio that mentioned the cost of the Human Genome Project. I was amazed at how cheap it sounded compared to some other things our country spends money on. I thought it sounded like less than we spent on war over any given weekend. Sequencing the human genome will have a lasting impact on the well-being of humanity from here on out. In a few years getting your DNA sequenced will probably be a regular part of visiting the doctor and will provide insights into your health that we can barely imagine now. I'm proud of our country for leading this groundbreaking effort.

I also thought about another of my favorite scientific endeavors, the Hubble Space Telescope. It is one of the most powerful scientific instruments that humanity has created. With it we've seen back in time to the infancy of the universe. Hubble has shown us how vast and full our universe is. It's opened up new areas for us to discover and, like the genome project, its cost is minor compared to what we spend on killing people and breaking things:

Charting Software

How much could we learn and how much could we improve the lives of all humanity if we spent that money on science rather than war?

Sources:
Cost of War
Hubble Space Telescope
Human Genome Project

Give Change a Chance

In 2008 Barack Obama was elected by a sizable majority of voters. Now, just over a year and a half into his term, he has accomplished about as many of his campaign promises as you would expect a president to be able to do in such a short time and during a recession.

If anything, he has been more of a centrist than many of us hoped. Don't ask don't tell has yet to be repealed. The American military detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is still open. We still have troops in Iraq (though it's much fewer than when he took office). Last year's health insurance reform bill did not include a public option, and we're still waiting for energy reforms and reforms on Wall Street to ban or regulate some of the risky practices that contributed to our current economic troubles. But on each of these issues, Republicans would be much worse.

All things considered, I think the Obama administration is doing an excellent job. He passed health insurance reform that will rein in some of the most abusive practices of insurance companies and help more people get coverage. The Obama administration has increased funding for our veterans. He passed consumer protections for credit cards. Scientific research is getting more funding. Lobbyists are getting less access to executive branch officials. And he hasn't started any new wars.

The economic stimulus bill has created jobs and helped to start our recovery. Forty percent of it was tax cuts. It also provided $1,500,000 to the Adrian community for education and infrastructure improvements, protecting jobs in our area and preparing us for the future.

Obviously many people disagree with my assessment. It's typical for the party in power to lose some congressional seats in a midterm election during an economically tough period (Clinton lost 52 House seats in 1994), but I don't know of any good reasons to give control of Congress back to the Republican Party.

Many of the complaints I'm hearing are related to budget deficits, and it's true that the deficits have increased under Obama. But again, this is typical for recession. And he certainly doesn't deserve all the blame. The previous administration made the unprecedented move of cutting taxes during wartime. Bush also signed into law an expensive and unfunded Medicare drug program. With two extremely expensive wars, tax cuts for the richest Americans and many other spending increases, Bush took the budget surplus given to him by the Clinton Administration and turned it into the deficit that he handed off to Obama.

There are two ways to reduce the deficit: increase revenue or decrease expenditures. Though there is a lot of noise from the right about the deficit, I'm not hearing many concrete and feasible ideas for reducing it. The GOP and the Tea Party want to cut taxes. That will make the deficit worse, not better. They do talk about cutting spending, but they are rarely specific. For example, the Republican running for the house in my district was pressed for suggestions on spending cuts and she named the federal highway beautification funds, a budget item only slightly larger than the subsidies paid to her own farm.

Only two years after America voted to put the GOP out of power and give the Democrats a chance to fix the mess, people are getting impatient. But giving control back to the Republican party is a mistake. Missouri is poised to elect Roy Blunt (R) to the Senate. He's consistently rated as one of the most corrupt members of the House. Do we really want him representing us in Washington? I'll be voting for Robin Carnahan. I would be proud to have her serve alongside our other Senator, Claire McCaskill.

I'd like to speak to the people who supported the Democrats in 2008 who are thinking about switching or just not voting. Get out and vote Tuesday. Obama is accomplishing what we sent him to DC to do and I'm proud to continue to support him. Let's keep the change going.

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