Why have gun control?

Knocking on someone’s door on Hallowe’en night shouldn’t be a capital crime. A man named Quentin Patrick was home on Hallowe’en night. His porch light was on. When a small group of children and their father came and knocked on the door, Quentin assumed that he was being robbed and shot them down with an automatic assault rifle. He killed a 12-year-old boy and wounded a 9-year-old boy and the boys’ father.

No one should have an automatic assault rifle in the home. Its only purpose is to kill people.

Protecting yourself means increasing the chance that you’ll gun down your family or neighbours.

Oh, yes. Patrick didn’t answer the door: he shot through it, spraying at least 29 rounds into a neighbourhood full of trick-or-treating parents and children.

Hat tip to Greg Laden: “Quentin Patrick: The newest poster boy for gun control.”

Tangled Bank #117 at the Neural Gourmet

The Tangled Bank is a fortnightly collection of science writing by bloggers. Tangled Bank 117 is at the Neural Gourmet.

Neural Gourmet-does that mean they eat brains?

“Why marriage matters” by Andrew Sullivan

I don’t get why making marriage legal for more consenting adults invalidates it. If anything dishonours marriage, it’s Hefner-like cavorting,Larry Craig’s hypocrisy, and Mormon polygyny and child marriage.

I read this a few years ago and it made clear to me the real tragedy of denying some people the right to marry those they love. I think it’s impossible to take the sugar out of the coffee but some people are agitating to do just that in California. “Proposition 8” would take away the right of same-sex couples to marry and enjoy the same legal status as heterosex couples. At the moment, they have that right. Many are married. Yet certain busybodies want to dissolve their marriages and change their legal status. I don’t know if this is a legal opinion or not, but I’ve heard the argument that it’s a principle that if some people have a right then everyone should have it. That is, if some people to marry a man or woman, then every consenting adult should be able to. And that automatically makes same-sex marriage legal.

Anyway, here’s Andrew Sullivan’s article: “Why marriage matters.”

What really mattered was family and the love you had for one another. The most important day of your life was not graduation from college or your first day at work or a raise or even your first house. The most important day of your life was when you got married. It was on that day that all your friends and all your family got together to celebrate the most important thing in life: your happiness — your ability to make a new home, to form a new but connected family, to find love that put everything else into perspective.

But as I grew older, I found that this was somehow not available to me. I didn’t feel the things for girls that my peers did. All the emotions and social rituals and bonding of teenage heterosexual life eluded me. I didn’t know why. No one explained it. My emotional bonds to other boys were one-sided; each time I felt myself falling in love, they sensed it, pushed it away. I didn’t and couldn’t blame them. I got along fine with my buds in a nonemotional context, but something was awry, something not right. I came to know almost instinctively that I would never be a part of my family the way my siblings might one day be. The love I had inside me was unmentionable, anathema. I remember writing in my teenage journal one day, “I’m a professional human being. But what do I do in my private life?”

I never discussed my real life. I couldn’t date girls and so immersed myself in schoolwork, the debate team, school plays, anything to give me an excuse not to confront reality. When I looked toward the years ahead, I couldn’t see a future. There was just a void. Was I going to be alone my whole life? Would I ever have a most important day in my life? It seemed impossible, a negation, an undoing. To be a full part of my family, I had to somehow not be me. So, like many other gay teens, I withdrew, became neurotic, depressed, at times close to suicidal. I shut myself in my room with my books night after night while my peers developed the skills needed to form real relationships and loves. In wounded pride, I even voiced a rejection of family and marriage. It was the only way I could explain my isolation.

It took years for me to realize that I was gay, years more to tell others and more time yet to form any kind of stable emotional bond with another man. Because my sexuality had emerged in solitude — and without any link to the idea of an actual relationship — it was hard later to reconnect sex to love and self-esteem. It still is. But I persevered, each relationship slowly growing longer than the last, learning in my 20s and 30s what my straight friends had found out in their teens. But even then my parents and friends never asked the question they would have asked automatically if I were straight: So, when are you going to get married? When will we be able to celebrate it and affirm it and support it? In fact, no one — no one — has yet asked me that question.

When people talk about gay marriage, they miss the point. This isn’t about gay marriage. It’s about marriage. It’s about family. It’s about love. It isn’t about religion. It’s about civil marriage licenses. Churches can and should have the right to say no to marriage for gays in their congregations, just as Catholics say no to divorce, but divorce is still a civil option. These family values are not options for a happy and stable life. They are necessities. Putting gay relationships in some other category — civil unions, domestic partnerships, whatever — may alleviate real human needs, but by their very euphemism, by their very separateness, they actually build a wall between gay people and their families. They put back the barrier many of us have spent a lifetime trying to erase.

It’s too late for me to undo my past. But I want above everything else to remember a young kid out there who may even be reading this now. I want to let him know that he doesn’t have to choose between himself and his family anymore. I want him to know that his love has dignity, that he does indeed have a future as a full and equal part of the human race. Only marriage will do that. Only marriage can bring him home.

Alabama: Selma Times-Journal endorses Barack Obama

How times have changed! The Selma Times-Journal is endorsing Barack Obama as the better chance for improving quality of life in Alabama.

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

If it takes dirty tricks to win, you’re not qualified to be President

If you start out with dirty tricks, lies, and cheating people out of their rights, how will you go on? The litany of Republican dirty tricks in the 2008 U.S. federal election is staggering. Most of the tricks are aimed at making sure that legitimate voters don’t get to the polls to cast their votes. WHAT DOES THAT SAY about John McCain’s devotion to democracy? It says that he’s a slimeball.

Telling people to vote on the wrong day, threatening them with everything from immigration problems to parking tickets, and spreading lies about opposing candidates expose the character of the Republican party. And slime drips from the top down. The perpetrators of those dirty tricks really deserve their nickname, “Rethuglicans.”

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

Four years of science blogging

It’s been four years since the Globe & Mail stirred my indignation by promoting a caricature of evolution in its headlines. There’s nothing more egotistical than presuming someone will be interested in your words. But then I was fascinated by the story of H. floresiensis, a new species of Homo that apparently lived into modern, almost historical, times. Flores Woman appeared to have descended directly from H. erectus rather than H. sapiens sapiens or H. sapiens neandertalis. A fine scientific controversy erupted, with some people resisting the conclusion and others pointing to the gathering evidence that H. floresiensis really was something different. Why shouldn’t island dwarfing apply to humans? Why couldn’t there be an branch of the family isolated for 800,000 years? Heck, one isolated valley in Australia still has a remnant population of Tree 2.0, from 100 million years ago, with leaves like a cross between a palm leaf and pine needles. H. floresiensis was worth blogging about. I began to discover other online sources and other people discussing the issues.

It has been a journey that has educated me in several ways. I’ve experimented with thrice-daily updates, automatically scheduled and leavened with LOLcats. In the end, I switched back to more spontaneous and longer articles.

more funny cats

I’ve learned a little bit about presenting information and more about HTML. In fact, the technical skills enabled me to accept contracts for creating HTML Web content.

It has gotten me a little bit of recognition and enabled me to meet a lot of very interesting, intelligent, and just plain nice people. I met Prof. Larry Moran and benefitted from his understanding of evolution. I’ve had dinner with science bloggers from other countries and enjoyed their conversation.

This culminated in a major vacation, where the excuse was this year’s scienceblogging conference at Research Triangle Park, followed by a visit to a major exhibition of Chinese dinosaurs, and a side trip to see Nigersaurus at the National Geographic Society Museum in Washington, D.C. Without science blogging, none of those experiences would have happened.

In addition, I took part in creating the media hype that exposed the movie Expelled as a trashy piece of propaganda. When PZ Myers was barred from attending the movie, I was blogging about it before the movie ended. (See “Expelled: FAIL!” and “Expelled producers wield weapons-grade stupidity.”) It was gratifying to see the story picked up in the New York Times.

It also gave me a chance to highlight issues that I think are important, from upcoming plagues to global warming and the nature of scientific thought.

In the excitement of following the U.S. federal election campaign and PZ Myers’ visit to Toronto, I missed the actual blogiversary. And that’s good: it’s more important to enjoy the journey than to count the days.

Republican ad II

Republicans: “We love America…”

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