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June 28th, 2009:

Pride

So yesterday was the annual Pride parade in Houston. It was greeted by this sweet article in the lifestyle section.

Today’s Pride Festival will celebrate the diversity of the Houston area’s thriving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

That diversity includes the determinedly domestic life that Ben Austin and Bill Thomasson have carved out with their two children in a southwestern suburb.

The walls of their roomy Sugar Land home are filled with family pictures — Thomasson is one of 11 siblings — as well as multiplication tables, maps and pennants of potential colleges. Not that Ava, 7, and Elijah, 6, are ready to think about college just yet. Elijah’s interests encompass the world of sports, while Ava is expert on all things canine.

The couple adopted the children from state authorities while living in Oakland, Calif., after taking required parent-training classes and fostering each of the children for more than a year. Ava was almost 4 when she entered the system, and Elijah was just a month old.

[…]

Austin, an adopted only child who went to Bellaire High School, met Thomasson in a gym in Oakland, Calif., in 2002. He says the two fell into domestication almost immediately and in April 2004 made it official with a domestic partnership. Both men wear wedding bands.

Both men played college baseball, which gets Elijah’s approval.

“He just thinks it’s better to have two dads because they both play baseball,” Austin says.

Gotta admit, that would be a bonus. The story made a nice and necessary counterweight to this remarkably self-loathing op-ed from Friday.

The gay parenting movement is still more evidence of the fundamental selfishness of post-Stonewall gay America. Whereas many gay couples can and do bring parentless children into their homes in an act of loving and giving, thousands of other gay couples who could have adopted use various technologies and arrangements to make babies that from the start have no mother or have no father. This cruel act — to one’s own child — is almost never criticized in the gay community, which is so focused on everyone’s freedom and self-esteem, it doesn’t seem to want to bother to notice that children are being hurt by being denied up front the right to have both a mother and a father.

The gay and lesbian community today is infected with what I like to call Equality Mania. That’s the belief that there is literally nothing more important than total equality between gays and straights, no matter what the costs. They are willing to sacrifice other good, important values in the name of gay equality — such as the religious freedom of same-sex marriage opponents, the welfare of children and (in the case of gays in the military) even national security.

I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, “Equality Mania”? Who knew a desire to be treated like everyone else was a disorder of some kind? I’m just dumbfounded. I think it’s safe to say this is an extreme minority position, one that’s in decline, but one that likely will never go away completely.

Anyway. To get the bad taste of that piece out of your mouth, here’s five great moments in Houston’s gay history, and here’s the news that the Caucus blog is back. Hope everyone had a happy weekend.

Weekend link dump for June 28

Six months (almost) down, six to go…

Curving a bullet.

The fringe, quantified.

The pundit-industrial complex.

I before E, except after the British government gets rid of it.

However beautiful the strategy, sometimes you have to check the results.

So, who’s next on the GOP’s list of voters to alienate now that they’ve done such thorough work with Latinos?

Good for you, Senator Dodd.

The Michelle Bachmann comic!

That which doesn’t kill science makes it evolve into something stronger. Via Falkenberg.

The math geek in me says it’s now (-Jon) + Kate + 8. Yeah, I know.

Possibly the best explanation you’re going to get for what South Caolina Governor Mark Sanford was doing last weekend. OK, we know it’s not true. But hey, some of the professional journalists who’d covered the story would have bought it.

And now, of course, “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” is now a part of the vernacular. Here are some other suggestions.

The first baseman who put the “cheese” in “machismo”.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Wayne Slater.

When wallabies get stoned.

Happy birthday, Derek Jeter.

Watch those roaming charges.

Our local mental health crisis

Today’s must-read is this op-ed by Dr. Stephen Schnee, the executive director of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, about mental illness and the Harris County jails.

The Harris County Jail is now the largest mental health facility in Texas. Approximately 2,400 inmates a day are now diagnosed with a psychiatric illness that medically justifies the provision of psychiatric medications. There are almost as many psychiatrically ill inmates in the jail on psychiatric medications as there are patients in all of the Department of State Health Services hospital beds across the entire state.

Let that reality sink in.

How is this occurring? Several critical factors contribute to this disturbing trend. First, many individuals with a serious mental illness need early access to appropriate professional diagnosis and treatment and, often, supports to achieve and maintain stability in their psychiatric condition. These conditions aren’t, as a general rule, cured by medication. Stabilized, yes — cured, no. These individuals need education about the condition, available treatment options, impact on personal capabilities, stability and maintenance over time, etc. — all of which are made more difficult by the nature of these disorders affecting the information-processing organ of the body — the brain. These are neuro-chemical — disorders of the brain. And, if one throws into the mix that many untreated or undertreated folks with mental illness self-medicate with street substances, alcohol or both to ease the internal pain, one has a recipe for people recycling in and out of the criminal justice system because their behaviors run afoul of the law.

The discrepancy between the funded treatment capacity (8,500 per month) for only the three eligible diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression (let alone all the other serious psychiatric conditions for which people end up in jail) is huge. A conservative estimate of the incidence/prevalence of these three diagnoses in Harris County is 170,000.

There is a growing awareness among our key county officials that the county simply can’t afford to continue housing this growing population in the jail. More cost-effective options for certain misdemeanor offenses by people with mental illness are under active consideration. This will require literally building out an array of services and supports that don’t currently exist in the form or quantity necessary to effectively impact this subpopulation.

Yes, he’s talking about an expansion, probably a big one, in government services. I realize words like those will get knees jerking in certain quarters, but let’s face it: We’re already expending vast public resources on this problem, and it’s getting worse. We need to do a better job of it, and that’s going to require a different approach, for just as using the emergency room is the least efficient way to deliver health care to those who can’t otherwise afford it, using the jails to deal with the mentally ill has got to be the least efficient way of handling that problem. Perhaps if we were already doing something different, we wouldn’t have such severe and longstanding problems with the jails, and we wouldn’t feel the need to spend millions of dollars to build a new jail to house all the inmates we can’t current squeeze in. Point is, we’re paying for all this now. We may as well get a better return on our expenditures.

Hot enough for ya?

Yeah, it’s really hot out there.

Houston’s relentless heat wave prompted the National Weather Service today to declare a “Heat Emergency,” a designation that air temperature and humidity is a potential health threat for all people and is particularly dangerous for high-risk groups.

The emergency designation is expected to last through Friday, said Houston health department spokeswoman Kathy Barton.

Barton said the health department has accordingly invoked its heat emergency plan, which involves working with Metro to bring people to designated cooling centers, such as libraries, and generally urging people to take extra precautions to stay inside.

It is not uncommon for the weather service to declare a heat emergency in Houston, though it didn’t happen last summer. Such an emergency is declared when the heat index, a computation of air temperature and humidity, reaches 108 degrees on two more consecutive days.

The index reached 108 Wednesday and is expected to reach that level today and Friday. Houston’s actual temperature hit 104 degrees Wednesday, the hottest it’s ever gotten in June.

It’s pretty much a given that any time there’s an extra cold winter day somewhere, the global warming deniers point to it as evidence that it’s all a hoax. Here’s a recent example of that, from someone who unfortunately was in a strong position to emasculate the just-passed climate change legislation. This kind of thinking is stupid on many levels, not the least of which is that if a bit of unseasonably cold weather means global warming is a myth, then what does a record heat wave imply? Not that logic is a strong suit for the head-in-the-sand crowd, but you’d think this sort of thing might have occurred to them. Ah, well. At least so far there’s no evidence that this means a worse hurricane season is in store. I’ll take my silver linings where I can find them.

Compost or else

Go, San Francisco!

Trash collectors in San Francisco will soon be doing more than just gathering garbage: They’ll be keeping an eye out for people who toss food scraps out with their rubbish.

San Francisco this week passed a mandatory composting law that is believed to be the strictest such ordinance in the nation. Residents will be required to have three color-coded trash bins, including one for recycling, one for trash and a new one for compost — everything from banana peels to coffee grounds.

The law makes San Francisco the leader yet again in environmentally friendly measures, following up on other green initiatives such as banning plastic bags at supermarkets.

Food scraps sent to a landfill decompose fast and turn into methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. Under the new system, collected scraps will be turned into compost that helps area farms and vineyards flourish. The city eventually wants to eliminate waste at landfills by 2020.

Awesome. Houston offers a separate compost pickup, but it’s voluntary and frankly I doubt more than one person out of ten is familiar with it. When the city decides to get serious about increasing recycling rates and cutting down on its landfill use, this is the kind of approach I want it to take. Speaking as someone who has a compost pile in his backyard, the marginal effort it takes to separate this kind of trash from the rest is miniscule. There’s no reason we couldn’t do this, and no reason I can think of that we shouldn’t. Via The American Scene.