"The politics of division"

I just got an email from Equality California, one of the big gay-rights groups in California. I'm getting increasingly frustrated with them, and the other groups that fought against prop 8 this year. The latest scandal is that Barack Obama has asked Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, and this has gotten the gay community into one of their big hissy fits, because he was a vocal proponent of proposition 8.

The email is actually from Geoff Kors, the director of EQCA, who apparently was invited to attend Obama's inauguration...
It is extremely disappointing and hurtful that President-elect Obama has chosen California Rev. Rick Warren, who actively supported Prop 8 and the elimination of existing civil rights for LGBT Californians, to give the invocation at his inauguration.

Accordingly, I have decided to decline the invitation to attend the inauguration as I cannot be part of a celebration that highlights and gives voice to someone who advocated repealing rights from me and millions of other Californians.

I was looking forward to hearing a speech by the new President about his vision of a new America and an end to the politics of division where one group is pitted against another.

I can't say that I'm particularly happy with Obama's choice, but I would definitely call this an overreaction, which represents my biggest problem with the gay-rights movement right now. People seem to be absolutely unable to see that just because someone disagrees with us, doesn't mean they hate us. I'm sure the accusations against Warren have some truth to them, and I'm sure if I did some research, I could find several things he's said which are extremely offensive to the gay community, and are probably flat-out lies. But if we want to end "the politics of division," how do we do it? Refuse to attend an event where someone who disagrees with us is going to speak? Accuse our opponents of "actively working to divide Americans"?

and Biden were both on our side on the issue of prop 8. Let's not forget how meaningful that is. I doubt any politician could afford to oppose prop 22, and that was only 8 years ago. Now Obama is trying to demonstrate that he understands where the other side was coming from. He's trying to make those opposed to same-sex marriage feel like Obama is not their enemy. As hard as it is to hear, the people who are against same-sex marriage are people too. They're not stupid, or hateful, they just have differing opinions. And by the way, they also represent some 52% of California voters. The only way they're going to go away is if we can convince them to change their minds. For many people, this may impossible. Rick Warren may be one such person. But for the director of one of the biggest gay rights groups in the state to make a refusal like this... to me, it just seems like a huge step in the wrong direction.

Here's my prediction. Warren's invocation will include something like, "Let us unite as Americans" or "Let us put aside our differences, as we welcome a new era in American politics" or something like that, urging Americans to come together. That clip will be posted on youtube, and GLBT people will post the link over and over on their blogs, facebooks, etc., with comments like "Oh, how ironic. He wants us to be united, after he used his church to divide us," followed by some kind of insulting, divisive comment about Warren, his church, or Christianity in general.


Science TV

I feel like I've talked about this before, but I wish there was more TV out there for science-minded people. I'm a physics major, which of course means I'm more knowledgeable about physics and the terminology it uses than most people. But I'm no more knowledgeable than anyone else about, say, biology, chemistry, neuroscience, or any number of other disciplines. It would be nice to see some TV shows about those things that were aimed at a "science-minded" audience.

I was watching Discovery Science channel the other day (which, when I first heard about it, I thought might be the kind of sciencey TV I was hoping for) and they were talking about how a microwave works. They said something like, "the transformer and the capacitor cause the electricity to become supercharged before sending it along to the magnetron." I guess because "supercharged" supposedly sounds cooler than "high voltage" (if that is in fact what they meant). It's just imprecise and uninformative.

Not to mention the point later on where they talked about electrons moving back and forth in a circuit at "nearly the speed of light." (It turns out this is one area where Wikipedia appears to be weak, but see here for at least some kind of explanation.)

Americans are dumb, and I don't think Discovery Science is helping as much as it could be.


How they see us

Arianna Huffington was on the Daily Show last night talking about blogging and how great it is and how she has this new book out which is all about blogging. And one of the things she said is that blogging should be all about the first thought that comes to your head, rather than the conclusion you come to after lots of pondering.

I don't know how much I agree with that, but here's a thought I had today.

We get a lot of mail that's not for us, or at least that we didn't ask for, because of all the previous residents that have lived in our apartment. So today we got an envelope. The first thing I noticed was: "Your opinion matters!" and the fact that the return address was somewhere in Pennsylvania. The next thing I noticed was who it was addressed to: "Current resident"

I think that pretty well sums up the way that companies look at us. They want to know a lot about us: what we eat, what we buy, how often we buy it, what kind of stores we like. Basically, our opinion matters. But of course, what doesn't matter is our name. We don't want to know WHO you are, we just want to reduce you to a bunch of useful marketing data.

I feel so needed.