Archive for the ‘The Western Tribune’ Category

>The Bible and Homosexuality: Part 4 Jesus and the Centurion

April 13, 2010

>This is the fourth and final segment in my series on homosexuality and the Bible. The series is in response to questions raised by a letter writer in the Western Tribune.

Read part 1 (Leviticus) here Part 1

Read part 2 (Romans) here Part 2

Read part 3 (Jonathan and David)here. Part 3

This is the fourth in my series on homosexuality and the Bible.

In the New Testament Jesus himself affirms a same-sex relationship in the story of the centurion coming to Jesus and pleading for his servant’s healing, a familiar story.

Jesus offers to come to the centurion’s house but the soldier refuses, saying that all Jesus needed to do was to speak the word and his servant would be healed. The story is told in Matthew 8 and Luke 7.

The Greek word used in this story is pais, which could have three meanings depending on the context in which it was used. It could mean “son” or “boy”, it could mean “servant”, or it could mean a particular type of servant who was his “master’s male lover”. Servants were often purchased to fulfill that role, and the term pais sometimes describes that type of servant.

Why would we think that pais has this meaning in this passage? Look at the passage in Luke. In Luke the one who was sick is described as an entimos duolos.

Duolos is a generic term for a slave, and was never used to describe a son or a boy, so we can rule that out.

Entimos means “honored,” so this was no ordinary slave, so we can rule that out.

That leaves only the “male lover” interpretation for the word pais used in Matthew.

Further, in Matthew, when speaking of his ordinary slaves, the centurion uses the word duolos, but when speaking of the sick person he uses pais, again leaving the only definition that fits, that is, the “master’s male lover”.

Jesus did not use the example of the centurion and his sick lover as an example of God’s judgment on their relationship, rather he healed the man’s lover and then held the centurion up as an example of a man of great faith, the type of faith we should all aspire to.

In writing this series, I realized that there would be some who would argue that I am merely misinterpreting the passages to fit my agenda and I admit that it is impossible for me or anyone else to know precisely the intent of each word in a 2000 year old manuscript that has gone through multiple translations. But as I combine biblical interpretation with history and science I see no other way to interpret it.

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>Western Tribune column march 10, 2010 Reconciliation

March 12, 2010

>

Reconciliation? If that’s what it takes

President Obama understands the importance of health care reform and said that Democrats have the “opportunity of a generation” and should seize the moment and pass health care overhaul.

He is focusing on members of his own party after Republicans have once again indicated they will not support anything with his name attached to it, even though he took several of their proposals and incorporated them into the bill.

Democrats may use the procedure known as reconciliation in order to get the legislation to the president’s desk. Reconciliation has been branded as a bad word by the Party of No, while ignoring that such important legislation as COBRA was passed by reconciliation in 1986. COBRA included provisions that allow employees who have lost their jobs to keep their insurance for a period of time. At that time Republicans controlled the senate and Ronald Reagan was president.

Since 1980, 17 of 23 reconciliation bills have been signed by Republican presidents and more often when Republicans controlled one or both chambers of congress.

With the publicity last week surrounding the Republican National Committee playbook that featured demeaning pictures of the president and democratic leaders in congress, it is clear that their party is not about the issues or about addressing a problem that must be solved. Rather, it is about demonizing the opposition, something we have suspected since the first “Tea Party” where similar images were displayed on posters. Now the extremists we once called the fringe of the Republican Party are setting policy.

So if reconciliation must be used to pass Health Care Reform with no Republican votes then so be it.

It is right to ignore the Party of No when it is clear that their lack of cooperation will place greater hardship on the Americans who work every day to make this country what it is.
“The time for debate is over,” the President said. Republicans want to “start over.” But starting over would just lead to the same point while Americans continue to suffer.

The Republican playbook urged supporters to use “fear” and “extreme negative feelings toward the existing administration” as fund raising tools. If that is your marketing strategy, then it stands to reason that your governing strategy must be to not cooperate with anything the “existing administration” proposes.

If they choose not to participate, that is their prerogative. But it could also be their downfall.

>Letters in the Western Tribune

March 3, 2010

>Here are 2 of the 24 letters received by the Western Tribune regarding Aubrey “Snuffy” Garrett’s letter.

Reader’s Opinions

Outraged by the odious comments about gays

As a citizen of Jefferson County, I am outraged by the comments from Snuffy Garrett comparing loving, same sex relationships to having sex with animals! What? Really?

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are responsible, productive, taxpaying, caring members of our community. Everyone has free speech in our society, protected by our Constitution, so I challenge you to print this rebuttal to Mr. Garrett’s odious comments. An apology to the gay community is also necessary. We look to the media to expand our horizons and open our minds to diverse ideas. You have done just the opposite. See if you can do better.

Mary McGlaughlin
Birmingham

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I find the hateful comments made by Aubrey “Snuffy” Garrett unconscionable. I am certain this writer must be closeted as are the most vocal opponents of homosexuality.*

Why does it bother him so much?

My husband and I have many gay friends. Love IS a Christian value. You should be ashamed of printing such filth.

Mia Fiterman
Birmingham

Editor’s note: Twenty-four letters critical of Snuffy Garrett’s Feb 24 letter to the editor were sent to the Tribune. The above two letters were most representative of the others.

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The first letter writer demands an apology from the paper to the gay community. There has been none. None!

Let me clear up one thing. The Western Tribune believes in free speech. They do print a diversity of opinions. The fact that my columns appear each week is evidence enough for that. In my opinion, and that of many in the gay community, it is not so much a free speech issue as it is a matter of decency.

A letter (Snuffy’s) was printed that allowed the writer to insult an entire group of people by using a biblical reference to compare our love for one another to beastiality.

Would the newspaper therefore allow a racist letter writer to promote a return to slavery based on biblical references (“Slaves are to be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back .” – Titus 2:9 “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel. ” – 1 Peter 2:18)?

This is not too far-fetched, as the book I have been referring to, Slavery by Another Name, documents how African-Americans were enslaved, bought and sold, in Alabama well after the end of the Civil War, and I’m sure these Bible verses played a role in that. And we do still live under the 1901 Constitution.

This 1930’s picture shows an enslaved Georgia man being punished under the inhumane system that allowed blacks to become forced laborers in the not so distant past in the south. Picture credit Slavery by Another Name website (go there to see more and read about the book).

Freedom of speech does not mean that a newspaper has to print every vile and hurtful letter it receives. I know for a fact that the Western Tribune receives letters that are not fit for printing. Why then, did it feel that it was OK to print this one?

The second letter writer may be referring to this University of Georgia study which showed sexual arousal in homophobic men when shown adult male pornography. The study is interesting, if somewhat flawed, and the results not conclusive. Or she may be referring to anecdotal examples of clearly closeted homosexual men who are vocally anti-homosexual . Ted Haggard comes to mind.

OK, gay and fair minded straight folks. Has the Western Tribune done enough by printing these two letters?

>Western Tribune column March 3, 2010 Lawrence McAdory

March 3, 2010

>This is my column printed in the March 3, 2010 edition of the Western Tribune (with added emphasis and photos).

Last week the Alabama House of Representatives voted to table a resolution that would allow voters in the state to decide if they want a new Constitution.

We are currently governed under the 1901 Constitution.* John Knox, the convention president, clearly stated the purpose of writing a new constitution: “(We must) take care of the Negro problem” and “establish white supremacy in this state.”

John B. Knox, 1901 Convention President, who led the way in establishing white supremacy in Alabama

Since that document was passed and approved (by deceitful and fraudulent means) we have learned the problem has not been the “Negro” but rather the powerful special interests that controlled the state legislature then and continue to exert their power and influence today.
The 1901 constitution invokes the “favor and guidance of Almighty God,” but since God and any reasonable person would reject the racist document it seems safe to say that the favor of God has never been bestowed upon the state and never will be as long as that constitution prevails.

The rich, white men who wrote the 1901 Alabama Constitution, under whose racist and elitist mandates we now live, 109 years later

For years there has been an effort to replace the Alabama Constitution by allowing a convention of citizens to draft a document and allow the voters to approve or reject it.

Their efforts have not been successful, but citizen support continues to grow.

This brings us to 2010 and the attempt by legislators to move the resolution forward.

Lawrence McAdory was elected to represent the people of Bessemer in a special election last year. He voted against allowing the people he represents to decide if we want a convention of citizens to draft a new constitution.

It would be hard to imagine McAdory being a supporter of the 1901 Constitution except that we know he is supported by a radical right winger who in a letter to this newspaper wrote that he was “supporting Lawrence McAdory for a house seat not because he is black but because of what he brings to the table.”

It is also possible that McAdory feels more aligned with the special interests that fund his campaign than the people he represents.

Whatever the reason, this vote is enough to alert the citizens that Lawrence McAdory is not the person we should have representing us in Montgomery. We are fortunate that even though he was just recently elected we will have an opportunity to replace him in the Democratic primary this year.

As of this writing no candidates have qualified for the race according to the party web site. Expect that to change.

*this link to the 1901 Constitution may not get you there today for some reason. It’s the same link I’ve been using, but this morning I can’t get there. I’m working on it.

>Newspapers have a responsibility

February 25, 2010

>During the years after World War I a wave of antisemitism swept the country, and some newspapers printed articles or opinions that fueled hatred against the Jews. An example would be the automobile manufacturer Henry Ford’s reprinting of Protocols of the Elders of Zion in a series of articles in the Dearborn Independent.

This action was widely criticised and Ford later apologized.

In the late 1800’s the Birmingham News warned that the Negroes in Birmingham be restrained lest they “develop into human tigers and give vent to their hatred of some white men.” The ‘restraint’ which ensued included banning Negroes from the front of streetcars, public parks and white-zoned neighborhoods. (Diane McWhorter – Carry Me Home)

During the mid 20th century in Birmingham, a newspaper (the Birmingham Post) fueled racial hostilities with its support of Bull Conner with an article headlined “Commies Sponsor Negro Youth Meet.” (McWhorter)

I give these examples to show that newspapers sometimes choose to act in irresponsible and harmful ways. They sometimes allow debate where there is clearly not an issue that is debatable. They sometimes allow rhetoric that is clearly hateful, that is clearly meant to inflame, and that clearly crosses the boundaries of decency.

Always society looks back in amazement if not disbelief at the hatred that was allowed or encouraged by the media. Henry Ford was forced to apologize. The Birmingham News sort of apologized years…many years, later.

Now the media thinks it is ok to allow smears against the gay community in the form of debate or opinion. Terms such as “sodomite” might be used, which immediately gives an impression of a Higher Power giving disapproval, and thus influencing the reader toward disapproval.

The Western Tribune has allowed a reader to respond to my writings in that paper and in the Birmingham News in hateful ways on more than one occasion.

“It is well known that there are biblical injunctions that prohibit the crime of sodomy, so sodomites must overcome this injunction.

“They do it by several means.

“First, they ignore the bible or pass it off as an antiquated and irrelevant document because it prohibits what a sodomite desires to do.

“Other sodomites claim the biblical passages – and there are many – are unclear and therefore they obfuscate the arguments opposing their acts of sodomy.

“Some sodomites have made this argument null and void by producing their own version of the Bible and omitting those scriptures that condemn sodomy, therefore exposing their knowledge that the injunctions exist.

“To give you the right to legally engage in sodomy (marry another man) is to grant you supra-rights (rights above and beyond the rest of us).”

Aubrey “Snuffy” Garrett” Western Tribune 10-14-2009

The letter writer repeats the term “sodomy” in an effort to defame, with God’s blessing, the gay community.

Would the same newspaper, or any other, allow a letter to be printed that defamed the black community in the same way?

Imagine reading a letter in your paper calling for suppression of blacks using biblical references. (this is not a real letter)

Dear Editor,

The blacks are getting too much power. The Bible instructs us

“Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

“Slaves are to be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back .” (Titus 2:9)

“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel. ” (1 Peter 2:18)

We would never stand for such to be printed in the newspapers. Why, pray tell, can the Bible be used to degrade gays? Why would a newspaper allow it?

What really gets me is that this is a newspaper that I write for!!!

In this week’s Western Tribune Mr. Garrett continued his biblical assault on the gay community.
In a letter Mr. Garrett responds to my recent letter in The Birmingham News supporting marriage equality, in which I used the terms “loving relationships” and “sacred.”

“You must ask yourself the question: If God condemns an act, how could He consider it sacred or holy, the answer is of course, He cannot. A man could so love his horse that he commits sodomy with it and then calls it a loving relationship but God would still call it sodomy!”

Aubrey “Snuffy” Garrett Western Tribune 2-24-10

So loving relationships between gay men or women are compared to having relations with a horse, with the premise that the Bible, and God, back up this comparison.

Just as using the Bible to support the enslavement of blacks is a form of spiritual terrorism, using it to slander the gay community is spiritual terrorism as well.

This egregious example is from the Western Tribune, but the same thing happens every day in newspapers and on radio and TV across the country.

This will continue as long as we allow it. A good start to putting an end to this would be to contact the Western Tribune. Contact information can be found here.

>Western Tribune column February 24, 2010 Hate Crimes

February 24, 2010

>My Western Tribune column for today, Wednesday, February 24, 2010.

I wrote this because another columnist wrote a homophobic column degrading gays and using religious based bigotry in denouncing hate crimes legislation.

This person is the former owner of an ambulance company and often brings to our attention his ties to the medical field. One might think that he would be aware of, or even seen, victims of hate crimes (beaten and bloodied that he made money off of by transporting them to receive medical care) and that his heart might have been softened a bit.

Apparently not. I’m not going to copy his column here, you will have to find a Western Tribune to read it. Or come over.

He doesn’t do any name calling re gays but he falls back on that old tired hateful use of the bible and that classifies as homophobia in my book.

At the end of the column I have inserted a video of the 12th annual Hate Crimes vigil in Montgomery on Sunday, including excerpts of Ox Freeman’s moving and powerful speech.

I am also sharing a couple of exclusive photos of the event.

Western Tribune column:

It bothers me a bit when someone claims, for whatever reason, that hate crimes laws are not needed. Maybe they’ve not had a son or daughter or friend attacked because of who they are.
In 2004 Christopher Gaines tightened the rope around 18 year old Scotty Joe Weaver’s neck as he cried in anguish, “Chris, please stop.”

Christopher didn’t stop, in spite of Scotty’s cries. Chris hated gay people so much that he felt it was OK to kill an 18 year old boy, then urinate on the body and set it on fire.

Some claim that homosexuality is a sin, and that the Bible backs them up. Yet Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, instead he preached about heterosexual relationships and divorce. If one really studies the Bible, instead of just memorizing the talking points, they would recognize that the verses that mention same-sex activity are not at all critical of homosexuality as an orientation, but rather against specific immoral acts involving abusive relationships or improper worship.

Yet just last year I saw Christians holding signs that say “sodomites are vile, unnatural and worthy of death,” here in Birmingham. I saw Baptist minister Fred Phelps in town a few years ago holding signs that said “God hates fags.” Phelps was here to protest a memorial for Billy Jack Gaither, another gay man who was murdered and burned in 1999.

When I see Christians actively promoting the death of gay people and others who claim to be Christian looking for reasons not to enact protections against such crimes, I am disheartened.

All crimes are not based on hatred, as some think. A mugger does not attack and kill his random victim because of hatred of the individual he has chosen. But a man who chooses his victim because of his race or his sexual orientation has allowed his hatred to dictate his actions.

Speaker Ox Freeman and Equality Alabama board members at the rally

On Sunday the 12th annual Hate Crimes Vigil took place on the steps of the capitol in Montgomery. The event remembered Scotty Joe Weaver and Billy Jack Gaither and others, and awareness of the need for a state law was raised.

Adam and Steve (yes, God did make them) at the vigil

You may not be gay, but you might have a child or sibling or other relative or a friend who is.

Let’s stop using religious based bigotry that endangers them and pass a state law that helps to protect them.

Here is the video of the event . Thanks Lori!

Here is a documentary about Billy Jack Gaither. There are interviews with family members and there is a homophobia questionnaire that I think some acquaintances of mine need to take.

Frontline documentary

The interview with Charles Butler is particularly fascinating, as he speaks about Steve Mullin’s likely sexual relationship with Billy Jack, and why he thinks he turned on his friend and killed him.

Such self hatred is very dangerous, and religious based bigotry only fuels the fire.

>Western Tribune column January 27 2010 Supreme Court Decision

February 1, 2010

>My column from the Western Tribune January 27, 2010

It’s not how democracy should work

Never again should conservatives speak out against “activist judges” after the decision handed down by the U. S. Supreme Court last week that affirms corporate personhood and allows corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money toward electing and defeating political candidates.

In doing so, the court reversed long standing legal precedent and overturned laws that had been on the books for decades.

How might this affect the election process?

Think of Exxon Mobil, the largest corporation in the country. In 2008 their operating profits equaled $85 billion. If they decide to spend just 10% of their profits on political campaigns, they would spend $8.5 billion, and this would be more than three times what President Obama, John McCain and all the House and Senate candidates in 2008 spent on their campaigns.

Does anyone think the environment stands a chance against this type of potential assault? Remember the Exxon Valdez?

At the risk of sounding like the Teabaggers, it’s “We the People,” not “We the Corporations.”
And we, conservatives and progressives, should fight this.

In a radio interview American University constitutional law professor Jamin Raskin proposed some steps that can be taken to return democracy to the people.

Raskin stated that since the early 1800’s corporations have been viewed as artificial creations of the state, but the state does not have to permit its creature to consume it.

He says that first; the president should call for a constitutional amendment to declare that corporations are not persons having the right to political expression.

Second, Congress should pass legislation stating that if you do business with the federal government, you cannot spend money on federal elections.

Third, the great people of this country and shareholders in the companies should demand that corporations not spend money on elections; rather they should involve themselves in the economy by economic production.

Short sighted conservatives may view this ruling favorably, as an opportunity to get legislators elected that will defeat attempts to pass progressive health care or environmental legislation. If they look to the future, they will recognize this tactic actually takes the power away from them.

After all, my measly contributions to political efforts, and theirs as well, will have little or no effect when matched up against the billions of dollars that corporations can offer.

And that is not how democracy is supposed to work.

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You’ve seen the video of Justice Samuel Alito during the president’s speech. Here it is again if you want to refresh.

>Western Tribune column January 20, 2010 – Haiti

January 21, 2010

>My column from the Western Tribune on January 20, 2009, regarding the earthquake in Haiti.

The 7.0 earthquake that occurred in Haiti last week is not the first major seismologic event to occur in that country. Recorded history tells us that in 1842 a major quake struck in north Haiti, destroying the city of Cap-Haitien and killing thousands. Geologists are able to document many quakes prior to that which affected Haiti as well as other Caribbean islands.

Televangelist Pat Robertson, quick to assign blame whenever a natural disaster occurs (and sometimes before they occur), said that a long time ago the enslaved Haitians made a deal with the devil in order to gain freedom from the French. He said that ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.

Robertson is referring to the Bois Caiman ceremony, a poorly documented event that some scholars doubt is accurately remembered, in part because the earliest account was written by a white man who may have had an ulterior motive in denigrating the slaves.

If Haiti is cursed, it is not because of the sacrifice of a pig centuries ago, rather it is because it lies above the boundary between the Caribbean and the North American Plates, and these geologic plates are always moving.

Nature does not take sides and certainly natural events do not occur in response to ritual religious practices that may or may not have occurred centuries ago.

But as certain as we can be that devastating events will occur, we can also assure ourselves that Americans will respond generously. The rebuilding of Haiti will take years, but right now the major need is for medical relief and money for supplies. The best thing we can do is offer our prayers and donate money to The Red Cross or another reputable service organization. In addition, President Obama has called on former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to head our country’s effort and you can support them online at ClintonBushHaitifund.

President Clinton, who honeymooned with his wife in Haiti in 1975, stated that hopefully as the city of Port au Prince is rebuilt, it can be done using better materials and with better construction techniques that will reduce the loss of life and injury should future earthquakes occur. But that type of construction will cost more money, so our assistance will be needed for years.

Let’s be there for Haiti. Let’s stand behind Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton in this huge humanitarian effort.

>Western Tribune column January 13, 2010: Avatar

January 13, 2010

>This is my Western Tribune column for January 13, 2010. I have seen Avatar twice, and probably will see it one more time. There are so many lessons to be learned from this film, it’s hard to explain in 400 words. Here goes:

Picture credit: James Cameron’s Avatar Wiki page

I will assume that most readers have seen the movie Avatar, but just in case someone reading this has missed the record breaking sensory feast, there will be no spoiler here. The details that I reveal have already been mentioned in news stories.

On Pandora, the planet like moon where the story takes place, a world is seen where the creatures and plant life – nature – are in tune and exist in a sort of harmony that still allows an acceptance of death and sorrow.

But in the year 2154 our planet has become “brown” and humans have found a new source for resources that are much needed on earth.

With that set up in mind, some conservative and religious leaders are claiming that there is a hidden message promoting a liberal tree-hugging, anti-Christian agenda.

Hardly. I mean, the message is not hidden; it’s the theme of the movie, with a love story entwined.

Nature is a powerful force, and we witness this every year with hurricanes and tsunamis and mudslides and such. Nature affects us in other ways as well, from the microbes that help us digest our food to the diseases that we seek to conquer.

On Pandora, rather than battling nature, the Na’Vi (the indigenous blue-skinned stars of the film) enjoy a spiritual connection to the other species with a simple understanding of the circle of energy and life.

We have tried to separate ourselves from the rest of nature, in part due to religious beliefs that promote us to a status above the animals over which we have dominion and just below the God we worship, but also because of what we have accomplished with the larger brains and opposable thumbs we developed.

In doing so, we link God and nature together in much the same way the Na’Vi link their natural life with their spiritual force, Eywa. We, or most of us, just don’t admit it.

Oddly enough, we have chosen to abuse our planet and ignore the signs of peril and the results are becoming evident, through climate change, and epidemics and such.

Nature versus God, or nature equals god, are arguments as old as humanity itself.

But as in the movie, nature “does not take sides.” Yet we will continue our attempts to shift the balance of life in our favor.

We may have to wait on the promised Avatar sequels to learn how that works out.

>Western Tribune column January 6, 2010 Testosterone

January 7, 2010

>Waiting on snow and Alabama football (that’s hard for an Auburn fan to say) and wondering why homophobic hatred is replacing racial hatred in Birmingham.

I had so much fun writing this column and love sharing the information.

Western Tribune column

Now we understand anti-Obama frenzy

After Barack Obama took the oath of office it didn’t take long before those who voted against him to ramp up the rhetoric in opposition. Led by their leaders Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, they reached a frenzy during the summer with wild accusations hyped at “tea party” rallies.

Now we know why, extrapolating from a report in the January, 2010 issue of Scientific American.

Biologists from Duke University and the University of Michigan have determined that male voters who back a losing candidate experience a rapid drop in the hormone testosterone following a loss. Specifically, levels of testosterone remained stable for males who voted for Obama, while those who voted for John McCain and Robert Barr had a decline.

One of the effects of testosterone is increased libido, and when levels decrease, well, a man might get frustrated and angry as a result.

The study also showed that women’s levels of testosterone levels did not change significantly after a win or a loss by their candidate. But I suppose they might react to a decrease in affection by their mate.

The research team admits that there are many factors that influence testosterone levels and they controlled for many of these during their election night sampling. They do not know how long the effects due to the election loss will last, but they conjecture that since the dominance held by a winning presidential candidate lasts at least four years, it’s plausible that testosterone levels could remain suppressed in males for that long.

That’s a long time to do without, so don’t expect any taming of the rhetoric anytime soon.
And while my conclusion about libido and anger was not among the conclusions expressed by the researchers; they did state that the McCain voters reported feeling significantly more unhappy and unpleasant after the loss.

The researchers now want to focus on spectator sports to see if fans, lacking a direct influence on an outcome like voters do, exhibit similar changes in testosterone after a loss.

That makes me wonder if outcomes of policy battles (health care) might lead to fluctuating testosterone levels among members of congress that will be voting but also among the supporters and detractors of reform.

And I wonder as well just how much of how we act and what we do is controlled by hormones and chemicals in our body and not by our minds as we would like to believe.