Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Oregon legislators' pay vs. minimum wage

(WARNING: 'way things should be' rant)
I've always thought elected officials' pay rates and benefits should be linked to the average worker wage and benefits. Afterall, why should elected officials get to set their own pay and benefits? Shouldn't elected representatives' compensation and benefits reflect the conditions of all workers? Certainly, such a compensation system would give political leaders a built-in incentive to improve their constituents' minimum wage rates, health insurance, and social services. For example:
Governor Salary: 2 times average citizen* annual wage State Senator Salary: 2 times annual minimum wage State Representative Salary: annual minimum wage benefits: average citizen* paid holiday, paid vacation, retirement, and health insurance
* "Citizen" wage and benefits -- not "worker". The elected leaders' compensation would be adjusted to reflect current unemployment rates and social service benefits. Imagine the attention the state's healthcare "system" would get if lawmakers' healthcare benefits equaled the benefits the State provides its beneficiaries. I could go on and on in "world according to me" mode, but at least I know I'm not alone in this thought. A letter in today's edition of The Oregonian about Rep. Doyle's personal-use-of-campaign-funds scandal contrasted legislators' pay and the minimum wage:

Did anybody else pick up on the irony [when] former Rep. Dan Doyle's attorney Marc Blackman explained his client's predicament by stating "everyone knows you can't live on that, let alone support a family," referring to Doyle's legislative salary of $1,248 a month?

This from a legislator and his party that have consistently voted to reduce or restrict the minimum-wage laws in this state, which currently provide $1,257 a month for a full 40-hour workweek. Evidently, that extra $9 a month makes all the difference in acting honorably in our society.

STEVE R. YATES, Southeast Portland

I have heard some comments that the Doyle scandal highlights that the need for Oregon to have a full-time legislator system instead of the part-time legislator system we currently have. I believe one of the purposes of having is part-time legislator system is to maintain a representative body in which lawmakers maintain real jobs instead of full-time politicians.

Switching to a full-time legislator system would be a real challenge. I think basing legislators' compensation (including benefits) on actual average citizen compensation would be one way to sell such an unpopular switch to voters.

Of course, crowning me Supreme Ruler of the World is a great idea too.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

movie: Never Been Thawed - C

I missed the Portland Gay and Lesbian Film Festival except for the one movie I saw today, Never Been Thawed. This film came to my attention a while ago because I read a news article that referenced the movie's ex-gay storyline. Quick Review: STRENGTHS: Funny Gags: No Choice Cafe, William Jefferson Clinton Abstinence Center, Frozen Entree Club, Ex-gay Firefighter, ChrisTers rock band, Apathy Magazine, etc. Suburban/30Something/Christian Humor: Film mocks the pointless lives of 30 somethings, suburban life, and Christian media/consumerism. It reminds me of American Movie and Saved!. I have also heard it compared to a movie I haven't seen, Napoleon Dynamite. Good Production: Obviously a low-budget, independent movie, but there appeared to be a lot of attention to detail. WEAKNESS: Repeated/Overused Gags: The Frozen Entree Club, which all the storylines intersect at, becomes overused and a liability akin to a SNL skit gone too long. The magazine gag was cute the first few times, but it also eventually became overused. I became more interested in the contemporary cultural storylines such as the No Choice Cafe, Abstinence Hotline, and Christian Rock Band. Too Many Characters: All the characters had so many eccentricities that they became almost too many to follow. There was Shawn (obsessed entree club president, unhygienic dental hygienist, insincere Christian rock star); Al (unenthusiastic entree club member, clown barber, Shelly admirer); Shelly (entree club member, Christian virgin, abstinence hotline operator, Shawn admirer); Scott (entree club member, ex-gay, firefighter, firefighter training video producer/director); Matt (entree club member, urine catheter promoter, highway slug bug/alphabet leaguer); Vince (entree club member, POW-style corporate trainer); Milo (No Choice Cafe owner, Christian Rock promoter); and Chris (Shawn's deaf brother). Too Long: Although a lot of ideas were squeezed into this film, some just weren't needed to be seen beyond one scene. The later frozen entree scenes became painful to watch and the romantic storylines seemed to go on forever. The movie seemed to drag on 30 minutes beyond its entertaining peak. OVERALL: Grade C Not terrible, but not recommendable either. The movie came close to being as good as a Christopher Guest mockumentary like A Might Wind. However, it needed a more interesting mockumentary topic with more facets and angles than frozen entree collecting allowed. The real funny aspects of the story involved the more contemporary and critical humor about Religious Right surbanites. addendum: I'm not sure why this movie screened at the gay and lesbian film festival. Although there was the funny ex-gay parody subplot which included a hilarious interview with the ex-gay man's butch ex-lesbian bride, I wouldn't consider it a gay-themed movie. In fact, some of the gay and lesbian stereotypes portrayed could be considered somewhat offensive or at least immature. However, I do understand that a gay and lesbian audience may find the film's overall parody of dorky, straight, fundamentalist Christian suburbanites entertaining. Also, the movie was already conveniently scheduled to open at the festival's second venue, The Hollywood Theater, the following weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

IKEA coming to Portland!

image stolen from ikea.com

I know I shouldn't be this excited. Afterall, it's just a furniture store that sells cheap furniture. But it's been rumored for so long now.

Metroblogging posted today's PDC press release.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

FRONTLINE: US supports torture

image from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/

Last night, I watched FRONTLINE's documentary on the US torture of Guantanamo "detainees" (POWs) and Iraqi POWs. Clearly, Bush/Rumsfeld encouraged and supported the military's torture policy. Now that shocking photos are out, the administration is prosecuting the men and women who carried its orders. And I thought Republicans stood for personal responsibility. Meanwhile, US military personnel and even US contractors continue to torture and terrorize Iraqis. I could go on and on, but it's all been said before.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

marketing gay-friendly churches

image from www.stillspeaking.com

Ben's ex-gay blog, Scattered Words, referenced a church marketing blog called Church Marketing Sucks. The marketing blog had an interesting commentary by Brad Abare about gay and lesbian brand loyalty and gay-friendly churches. I posted the following comment:

Brad Abare: "Shouldn't gay and lesbians feel most welcomed in the Church? In other words, shouldn't every church be gay-friendly, just like every church should be adulterer-friendly, liar-friendly—in short, sinner-friendly? Me-friendly?..."

Most churches have already changed their doctrines to be divorce-friendly. The bible speaks much more strongly and clearly about divorces than same-sex relationships. Also, divorces are a much great "threat" to straight marriages than gay marriages. However, many churches are more vocal about opposing gay marriages than no-fault divorces. Afterall, opposing gay marriages alienates a tiny market opportunity whereas opposing no-fault divorces and second marriages alienates a huge market.

In a related story, there seems to such a thing as being too welcoming. According to an article in the gay magazine The Advocate, Viacom's CBS TV network again rejected a television ad from the United Church of Christ. The rejected ad mentions that UCC welcomes gays and lesbians. According to UCC, a CBS executive claimed that "it would have to become commonplace across the United States for churches to welcome gays and lesbians" in order for CBS to allow the ad to air. So according to the alleged comment from the CBS executive, it's commonplace for US churches to NOT welcome gays and lesbians.

re-thinking Shari's discrimination suit

Back in April, I heard that a jury awarded a gay employee $122K in his discrimination lawsuit against one of Oregon's largest private employers, Shari's Restaurant. According to an article I read somewhere, the employee, Kevin Turner, was harassed by his co-workers "because he failed to display traditional male behavior". Oregon laws do not specifically prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. However, the Oregon Court of Appeals' 1998 decision in Tanner v. OHSU included sexual orientation in Oregon's laws against sex discrimination (see: HRC, BRO). So employers probably cannot discriminate against GLBT employees. Interestingly, the lawsuit was not based on state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, but on federal law against gender discrimination. According to a blog entry on the employment law website Employment Law Information Network, Turner's lawsuit was based on "the theory that sexual stereotyping—discrimination because a person’s conduct or appearance does not fit that traditionally expecte for their gender—is a type of sex discrimination under [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964]". When I first heard about the jury award, not very many details were available. I assumed that the case was based on Shari's management condoning harassment of GLBT employees. This assumption was based, in part, on my bias that suburban and rural employers are more likely to discriminate against GLBTs. I also thought Turner v. Shari's was an opportunity to demonstrate why Oregon needs laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination against GLBT employees. In addition, as a frequent Shari's customer, I felt responsible that I could be supporting an anti-gay business. However, now that more information about Turner v. Shari's is available, I'm re-thinking my assumptions about the case. According to an article on The Advocate's website, Turner's case was not a clear example of gay discrimination. Rather, the case is complicated because Turner's complaint resulted from Shari's investigation regarding a female co-worker's complaint against Turner. A female co-worker claimed that Turner grabbed her breasts. However, Turner says he touched the woman accidentally during a moment of horseplay. The complications of the case may be fancy lawyering of the case by Shari's lawyers, but it seems there may have been other motives to Turner's complaint. Although the jury agreed that he was discriminated against based on gender, the same jury did not agree that Shari's retaliated against him. So there seems to be more going on than a simply case of gay discrimination.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Southwest Airlines, "Fuck", & 'progressives'

It's amazing how some progressives' values are so extreme that they seem to validate the religious Right's argument that the Left is out of the 'mainstream'. On BlueOregon.com, the author, Kari Chisholm, and many commentators seem to defend the lewd behavior of a Southwest Airlines passenger, Lorrie Heasley. According to PortlandTribune and other accounts, Heasley chose to wear a political t-shirt with the word "fuck" printed on it. Southwest asked her to cover the shirt which she complied. However, later the cover supposedly fell off. So, Southwest asked her to remove the shirt, turn it inside out, or leave the plane during a stop over in Reno. Heasley decided to throw a fit and left the plane. Heasley makes several silly and contradictory arguments. First, she left the plane only after she claims Southwest promised to refund her ticket. Secondly, she claims her freedom of speech rights were violated. Thirdly, she tries to relate her supposedly violated rights to the rights of the Iraqi people being violated (or some other argument). If this were a free speech issue, as Heasley claims, then why would it matter that Southwest promised to refund her ticket? Is she that easily bought off? Of course, this isn't a free speech issue and Southwest is under no requirement to protect her freedom of speech. She failed to comply with a reasonable request and was given two opportunities to comply. Southwest should not have to refund her ticket because she chose not to comply with policies that all other customers are asked to comply with. What is interesting is that the Tuesday incident was pick-up so quickly by the media which seems to suggest that someone actively publicized the incident - probably Ms. Heasley or her lawyer. I e-mailed the author of the PortlandTribune article, Todd Murphy, as to how the Tribune became aware of the story so quickly. Although I agree with the overall political statement Ms. Heasley's t-shirt made, I disagree with the method ("fuck") and forum (airliner) she chose. Her immature and rude behavior does nothing to unite or persuade people. What is more disturbing is that some liberals/progressives/Democrats/etc. seem to be defending her behavior. No wonder we are seen as being directionless and without values. Revised and edited 10/11/2005 @ 11:30 AM