Exodus: fleeing from themselves

Earlier today news broke that Exodus International, the “gay cure” ministry that provided support for the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, was “shutting down” and offering an apology of some sort from Alan Chambers, President of the organization.  And the apology struck me the wrong way, and it’s been bothering me all day, so I have to write about it.

Specifically, this part:

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage.

Among all the quote-apologies-unquote that the letter included, this was the part that stood out.  Because this is the same old “love the sinner, hate the sin” horseshit.  Here is someone who is supposed to be apologizing for the shame that his organization has caused; for the self-hatred, the trauma and embarrassment and fear it has caused in people who were genuinely confused and looking for help, and were instead told that they were sinners and broken and undeserving of love.

And yet the one thing he won’t apologize for is for continuing to believe the exact same beliefs that are the root of ALL that shame, the reason for the self-hatred and the fear.  He just doesn’t get it: the reason suicide rates among gay teens are so high is precisely BECAUSE of those beliefs that he still embraces, which leads them to be cast out from their families and rejected from their peer groups.  His “deeply held biblical beliefs”, the element that is the absolute core issue at stake, the beliefs that lead him to the conclusion that LGBTQ people are broken and need to be fixed, that they are sinners who need to change: those biblical beliefs that led him to join Exodus International in the first place… those are things he won’t apologize for.  He still believes them, and feels no need to change them.  And is there any reason to believe that his “new ministry” will be founded on beliefs that are any different than the ones he refuses to apologize for?

In spite of his apology, which he presumably believes is heartfelt, he has completely missed the point.  And now that Exodus International is shutting down, they will be launching a new ministry that is “more welcoming” to LGBTQ folks.

You have to consider the context: Exodus International and its members have probably ALWAYS considered themselves “welcoming” to LGBTQ folks.  That is, welcoming them into the therapy that is supposed to “cure” them so they can no longer be sinners and broken and deserving of punishment and definitely not deserving of equal rights.  Do you really think that this new transformed organization is going to start working to defeat DOMA and fighting for same-sex marriage?  Or is this just a re-branding exercise after the board of Exodus came to realize how much they had poisoned the well?  If the board has been discussing this for a whole year before coming to the conclusion that they needed to shut down and launch a new ministry, wouldn’t they already have had a little time to set up their new website and help people understand what the new direction will be, instead of a “coming soon!” web page that contains zero information?  Look for Chambers to make the TV show rounds in the next few weeks, making a big deal and raising publicity and awareness, and yet providing very little insight into what he intends to do to fix the trauma that his organization caused, or how his new organization will be the same in all but name.

Imagine if your favorite bully came to you during one afternoon at recess and offered an apology.  “I’m sorry for all the times I stuck your head in the toilet.  I realize that my beliefs that you were a four-eyed nerd who deserved to be punished caused you some pain.  By the way, I still believe you are a four-eyed nerd who deserves to be punished, and that you don’t deserve the lunch money that I take from you, but I promise I’m going to change my name now, and I’m going to find a way to take your money that is less hurtful to you.  And from now on I will be more welcoming and friendly to four-eyed nerds who have to give me their lunch money.”

Now imagine that this bully had caused you so much pain that you had been led to consider suicide.  Imagine that this bully HAD ALREADY LED OTHER PEOPLE TO COMMIT SUICIDE.  Imagine if this bully had traveled to another schools in the past to help show other bullies how best to lead other people to suicide.  Imagine that in his apology to you, the bully crowed about the “thousands of people” his bullying had “positively affected.”

In an interview with the LA Times, Chambers said last week “We need to change the way we do things.”

Not WHAT we do.  HOW we do it.

“I’m sorry for what I did, but I’m not sorry for the beliefs that led me to do them.”

Horseshit.

If you truly understood the reasons you should be sorry, Mr. Chambers, you would understand why your “apology” should taste like the ashes of the dead in your mouth.

The scandal was in 2001, today we just see the results of ignoring it back then

I am still uncertain about my position on the recent NSA/PRISM “scandal”, mostly because (a) we knew that things like this would happen because of the Patriot Act, we warned against it at the time because of EXACTLY this type of situation, and yet it passed overwhelmingly and has been re-extended by huge margins ever since.

But also: (b) I’m not convinced that it’s as bad as the people WHO HAPPEN TO BE THE ONES WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM HYPING IT THE MOST are… hyping it up as much as they possibly can. Especially when those hyping it up the most as a huge scandal are the people who voted for it to be allowed in the first place <ahem>members of Congress who seemed to be OK with the program and its sweeping powers when there was a different President in place AND when other evidence of the program came out in 2006<sub-ahem>anyone remember wiretapping?</sub-ahem></ahem>

Don’t get me wrong: I do take, and have always taken, the position that the Patriot Act was hugely misguided, as is the NDAA. Both were railroaded into law by fear, and trample significantly on important civil liberties in order to provide some tiny semblance of security theater that makes us feel safer without actually being so. What I don’t understand is the pearl-clutching outrage of people who are shocked… SHOCKED that the government actually USED the powers that they were given to legally use, and by all accounts seem to be using within the confines and constraints that they were given by law, approved by your legislators.

If you are outraged and shocked right now because of the NSA doing what they were legally enabled to do, then I suggest you must have been in a continuous state of shock and outrage for the past 12 years, because this is exactly why we were against the Patriot Act back then.

That being said, if more information about actual abuse comes out I am free to change my stance. But as of right now, I see the side trying their damnedest to turn this into a scandal happens to be the same group who has been obsessed with turning the Benghazi attack into some massive coverup by a President who hates the troops and is a secret Muslim. The other side (who by all accounts, actually know what they are talking about) seems to be far more rational and reasoned about the discussion. See this article as an example, from Vanity Fair writer Kurt Eichenwald, an author and self-described civil libertarian who spent a long time post-9/11 investigating and publishing a book about the NSA data-mining programs.

The core takeaway, which has now turned into a significant crux issue of the whole conversation, is that the reported “direct access” the NSA had/has to Google/Facebook/Yahoo/etc. did NOT mean they could tap into those companies’ servers whenever they wanted to retrieve information. It means that when the government requested information, those companies put that information onto specific shared servers (FTP servers, in Google’s case) that contained only that information that was requested and approved. It appears that these companies did their best to ensure that the data being requested was done so legally and with the appropriate approval as well.

To me, those two scenarios are VERY different. I expect the second one to happen: it’s good security practice. The “direct access” that was implied in the original article was spun to imply that first one, which is incorrect, misleading, and hype intended to spin up outrage.

Which is exactly my point. The government asking for data from a company, with legally-approved methods, processes and set of approvals for doing so, and getting ONLY that data on an intermediate server that is isolated from the rest of the company’s data? That’s the process I would expect to see, and is a normal part of law enforcement.

Again, don’t get me wrong: do I hate the Patriot Act and the NDAA with all my tiny black and shriveled heart? Yes, yes I do. Do I hate the government snooping on everyone’s conversations? Absolutely, I do. In addition, the “what do you have to hide?” responses to this issue terrify me: if the government showed up at your door and demanded this information in person, you would be up in arms, and rightfully so. I don’t want the government snooping on me without significant protections, without due cause, without a WARRANT.

But when you give the government the legal right to do so, you give up your right to be indignant about it when they actually take you up on the offer.

Scalia’s “belief” in molecular biology?

A great 9-0 ruling from the Supreme Court: you can’t patent natural, unchanged genes. A huge victory for cancer patients, among other people. It does leave an opening for modified genes to be patentable, but does not necessarily imply that they can be.

But here’s the weird thing: Justice Scalia felt he needed to submit a separate, one-paragraph concurring opinion in which he expressed that he was “unable to affirm [details of molecular biology in the main ruling text] on my own knowledge or even my own belief.”

Did Justice Scalia just put out an opinion specifically so he could point out that he doesn’t *believe* in molecular biology? I mean, I understand him saying that the molecular biology detailed in the opinion is not something he is clear on, but saying he doesn’t *believe* in it?

Maybe molecular biology can’t be reconciled with an originalist interpretation of the Constitution?

Electronic surveillance and freedom of speech

Via the EFF and a UN report: the “chilling effect” that electronic surveillance has on a country’s freedom of speech.

“The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression. Undue interference with individuals’ privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas. … An infringement upon one right can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.”

Here’s the interesting implications of this discussion: it’s been established that people change their behavior when they know they are being observed. It’s so embedded in our psyche, that just being aware of a pair of googly eyes pasted on a wall can change the way we act and the opinions we express. I know that sounds like a joke, but it’s not.

When the government is pursuing ridiculous attempts to weaken cryptography and security to allow for wiretapping, as if we learned no lessons during the cryptography developmental years of the 70s and 80s, the concept of limiting our technological development in order to allow authorities to keep an eye on our communications should be completely unacceptable. Instead of weakening our protections, we should be regulating governmental surveillance even more using these same technologies, and protecting the free expression of opinion as strongly as we can, strengthening laws and legal standards wherever we can.