Monday, June 23, 2014

Crime and Punishment

In this country, politicians often like to talk about being tough on crime. Unfortunately they are rarely tough on crime, what they are is tough on criminals. Our criminal justice system is unquestionably focused primarily on punishment, it is regulated vengeance, with a side order of supposed "deterrence". Yet there's little evidence that prison time is a particularly strong deterrent for the most common type of criminals. Consider this TED talk.

The FATALITY rate during the crack epidemic for low level drug dealers was absurd, and yet people continued to do it. If the fear of death doesn't dissuade people from committing crimes, what chance does 5-20 years of prison stand? So our prisons are simply warehouses intended to make the rest of the population feel better because the criminals are "paying for their crimes". Yet crime is still a major problem, and though violent crime rates has been steadily declining for decades, our incarceration rates are higher than ever. This is because we treat criminals as the disease, rather than crime. Criminals are symptoms, and incarcerating them is just treating the symptom. Crime is a societal disease which grows most readily in areas of persistent poverty, disenfranchisement, and lack of stability. So long as we simply leave crime to fester in our prison populations and then release them back into the same desperate communities they came from, with no serious attempt at treating the underlying causes of the disease, with no intervention to change the social dynamic from which consistent crime originates, we will never see a truly profound reduction in crime. Simply writing off criminals as "deserving what they get" is both unethical and horribly shortsighted, as it ignores the reality of recidivism and the long term impacts of a large convict and ex-convict population, a population even more locked out of the system which is meant to nurture this country and all it's citizens. So long as we have large populations of people who feel that the system hurts them more than helps them, we will continue to see high crime rates, and all the costs associated. There are people looking to change our approach to crime and punishment, among them Shaka Senghor.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Three Reforms

TL:DR - Our political process is broken, to fix it we need to stop letting every rich person or company that wants to influence policy spend as much as they like trying to elect people who will therefore be beholden to them, stop letting which ever party is in power draw district lines to artificially skew representation in their own favor, by creating increasingly safe districts for both parties (but more of them for their own, with fewer, even less politically diverse districts for their opponents) and change the way we vote so that your second, third, fourth, and so on choices are also considered, allowing you to vote for who you want, then who you'd prefer, then who'd you accept, and then who you really would rather not have, removing the requirement that you vote not so much as for one person, as against that person's opponent (who ACTUALLY voted for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein?). Doing so would allow moderates to get (and stay) elected, and third party candidates to actually see how much support they have when people aren't forced to chose the most likely winner they don't hate.

*Edit* And if you are convinced about these reforms here's an organization that's doing something about them and other reforms aimed at fixing our electoral process.

The political process is, to my mind, and apparently that of about 93% of America, broken. Never have we been so united about how terribly our government is doing it's job, and so divided on who's to blame. I, as a liberal, find it oh so easy to blame conservatives, the Tea Party, and the Republicans. I could point to their stated primary goal of making Obama a one term president, or their insistence on denying even the existence of anthropogenic climate change, or their overuse of the filibuster, or their holding the countries finances and thus economy hostage in order to try to score a political victory. All of this I have done as have other liberals, but the fact is that I'm biased and I can find plenty of instances of liberals taking a political victory over a compromise that would actually help the American people. Why do we have this state of affairs? I propose that it is because of a structural problem with our democracy which has become more evident as time wears on and the political process becomes increasingly important in people's lives. We have a system which rewards ideological purity over statesmanship and effective compromise building, one which almost mandates a two party system, and one which is heavily polluted by special interests and money. Our political duopoly has created a scenario of constant campaign and almost no actual governing, and it has led to a bifurcation of the populace, with a shrinking group of people in the middle, and a growing group of people who are so fed up with the system that they reject it out of hand. We have a system which encourages secrecy and deceit, and discourages candidness.

  I refuse to accept this as an inherent flaw in the democratic system, but rather as a bug, which can be fixed with the proper application of reforms. The first is campaign finance reform, which I've written about before and won't go over again. The others are redistricting reform, and voting reform.

Redistricting reform is something you may have heard about, or more likely the problem which it aims to correct, gerrymandering. The problem is that we allow politicians to draw up voting districts, which back in the days of limited data, was not a big problem because mostly politicians just used common sense and tried to keep districts fairly normally shaped. Increasingly however politicians and their partisan advisers have complex population data which allows them to craft districts which are very safe for their party, while limiting the number of safe or even competitive districts the other party has. This happens every 10 years, and 4 years ago Republicans used their newly gained power in many states to draw up districts that allowed them to win over 53% of the house seats in 2012 with under 49% of the vote. This however is not really the problem, though it irks me as a liberal. The problem is that we've allowed political parties to create districts designed to be "safe" for their candidate. While of course it is inevitable that some regions of the country will be overwhelmingly supportive of some ideology or party, intentionally creating such districts in toxic to our political process. The reason for this is simple. Instead of trying to find a compromise, appeal to moderates of both parties, and focus on the general election when the most people are going to vote, in a great many districts the focus is on the primary. This is highlighted by the Tea Party wing of the Republican party which has been very effective and winning high profile primaries and forcing the entire party towards the extreme right wing. Democrats however are no doubt concerned in many of their districts more with getting the nomination than with appealing to those in the middle, much less the other side. This means that extremism is rewarded and bipartisanship is more of a liability than an asset. The solution for this could be non-partisan panels, or perhaps even better, simply an algorithm which takes population data and creates districts which minimize distance to the reasonable polling stations for each district while keeping the districts with equal populations. No potential for gerrymandering, and an almost guaranteed increase in the number of competitive districts.

Perhaps even more important than redistricting reform (though not as important in my estimation as campaign finance reform) is voting reform. I mentioned the need for candidates to aim for moderate voters from both parties, since doing so would allow them to reach across the aisle, made deals which allow legislation to go forward, and preferably, to do so while using the ideologies and expertise of all politicians to create particularly robust laws which work to improve the nation for all, regardless of political preference. In order for this to happen however, we cannot continue to use a voting system which is absolutely rife with inherent flaws. The most important of these flaws is the obvious encouragement of strategic voting. Strategic voting is something nearly everyone does, including myself, every time they vote. At its most basic it means choosing who you vote for by criteria other than who you most want to win. Generally this is expressed by people of all political ideologies choosing either a Republican or a Democrat, even though there may well be people in the race who they would rather have voted for, because they know that a vote for their preferred person is a vote thrown away. This means that people who vote for their preferred choice, something I think we can all agree is a good thing, are often effectively disenfranchised, their voice unheard. To many this seems like an intractable problem, inherent to the whole concept of voting, however that is only true in our (America's) most common voting technique. There are many systems out there which aim to correct for this problem, including one which California has adopted known as "Ranked Choice Voting" or "Instant Runoff". In this system you may vote for as many candidates you would like, in order from most preferred to least preferred. Then when the votes are counted, if one person got a majority of the first choice votes then he or she is the winner, if not then the person who got the fewest is eliminated and everyone who chose that person has their vote switched to their second choice. This continues until one person has a majority. It ensures that voting for one candidate doesn't make any other candidate you might chose less likely to be elected, so long as they are also on your ballot. The only way a candidate can be hurt by your vote is if someone you placed higher than them gets elected. This system works well for eliminating strategic voting, and giving voters the option to honestly voice their opinion as to who should win without fear of disenfranchisement. It does little however to increase bipartisanship or moderate candidates. Instead I support what's known as "condorcet voting" The process of casting a ballot remains the same as the ranked choice, with each voter placing their choices in order from favorite to least favorite. The winner however is chosen by comparing all candidates in the field to each other as if it were a two person race, and finding the candidate who is ranked higher than all the others by a majority of the voters. This is difficult to understand, but the math isn't actually that hard. I'd suggest googling it if you want more details on how it works. What it does better than ranked choice however, is allow a nuanced vote from each voter, since it is not simply a matter of who gets the most first place votes, but also who is commonly accepted as a better option than most. In such a system a candidate could win not because they were beloved by many people, but because they were respected, or at least not reviled, by most people. This could well encourage moderates from both parties, both the voters and the candidates, to take back some control from the more extreme wings, and in so doing create a real middle ground where deals can be made and legislation drafted.

Ultimately what we want is a representative democracy where the people elected are generally respected by those they represent, even by many who disagree with much of their ideology. One where Republicans, instead of slavishly sticking by "no new taxes" and "small government" could focus on improving efficiency without limiting the scope or quality of much needed programs. One in which Democrats, instead of seeing any criticism of the cost of our social safety net and the problem of constant state dependency could instead work with Republicans to find solutions that actually improve the financial status of impoverished Americans, thereby changing them from a burden on the state to an asset. What we want is a system which uses passionate, well informed difference of opinion to craft legislation which is more effective than what either side could have created without opposition, one which views political opponents not as enemies but as partners. We need to chance our political process in order to change our political outcomes. Rather than rejecting politicians and the political process and pointless and out of touch, lets work to improve is, and bring it back in touch.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dear Google.

I'm not a software developer, not a coder, I don't even know HTML despite many years of swearing I'd learn it (some day, some day), but I am an avid software consumer, and a designer, and I feel I have some advice to give to you. Yes, I've going to give advice to one of the most successful and powerful software companies in the world.

Here it is.

Make google+ useful WITHOUT the social component, and then the social component will evolve on it's own, with the added benefit of it STILL being useful for people who don't give a damn about facebook OR google+ or the various other social networking sites.

Here's some ideas of how.

Make it replace iGoogle. I loved iGoogle, and was saddened to see it go. I had my e-mail, my weather, my news, my xkcd comic, and several other useful apps all in one place. I could have used it better if it were better designed, or I'd given it more thought, but it did what I needed and there's nothing out there that I like quite as much, especially because they aren't native to google, so my g-mail's a bit kludgy on them. So how about this.

Make my Google+ homepage work like that. Have apps that I can add, things like the much missed Google reader, which have the added advantage of linking right into the Google+ pages of the blogs, zines, and publications which are publishing the content, maybe even make THEIR Google+ profiles flexible enough and user friendly enough that they could easily use Google+ as their primary, or at least close secondary, online distribution venue. How much would you love that? In addition to all the feeds (using tags to tailor them to my interest, in addition to circles to allow me to include or exclude people and organization from different feeds) have apps like weather, taking it straight from your beautiful and useful weather search result app thing, games (Words with friends?) movie times, in other words, all the things you already had in iGoogle. Boom, people suddenly like seeing their social media homepage, and want to set it as their browser homepage, because it's not just a random feed of whatever their 400+ friends happen to have said recently. It could be sorted into categories, filtered, and mixed with decidedly non-social media but even more decidedly useful "apps".

Allow for an increased connection between Blogger and Google+. Currently it's just an option to link your blog to your Google+ account. If you could allow people to merge their blog with their google+, then go ahead and add an extra option of posting a status OR a blog post (or even a blog post with an accompanying status) then limiting the number of characters in a status update, that would be great. Rather than having overly long status updates, it would just automatically make it a blog post, which people could treat differently among the people/organizations they follow.

This is somewhat unrelated to Google+ but would be absolutely wonderful. Allow people to switch google services between accounts. It used to be that people had Gmail, and that was it. Well now they might well have Gmail, YouTube, GooglePlay, Google+, Blogger, and who knows how many other services on ONE ACCOUNT. That is so many places for there to be access, and since access to e-mail is pretty much an all access pass to someones ENTIRE LIFE these days, that's kind of scary/dangerous/annoying. For instance, someone might have a googleplay account they'd like to let their boyfriend access, just as a for instance, but not really give him their Gmail password because that's just kind of intrusive. Well, tough titty you say to the completely hypothetical girlfriend, because that googleplay account is inexorably linked to the Gmail account you set up ages ago and can't possibly abandon because it's your only contact for many people and would be a gigantic hassle. If however they could create a new Google account, one which didn't have any (important) Gmail attached they could use it for all their non essential google services while safeguarding their hyper important personal Gmail account which gives access to, as I said, practically their entire life. Awesome right. And I know you're all about having it all linked up for purposes of getting as much information as possible about every individual but frankly, that's creepy and it's why people are starting to turn on you. Fun bonus, people could create an account JUST FOR YOUTUBE, have it be named whatever they want, and not have their comments turn up with their Google+ page, thus responding in part to the many complaints your recent change to YouTube commenting garnered.

Just a few thoughts, go ahead and contact me if you want me to hash them out more for you, because I really do still like you, and want to see you succeed. My hourly rates for advice are extremely reasonable, and you're extremely rich, so that shouldn't be a deterrent.

With love

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Campaign Finance Reform

    Our federal legislature is utterly dysfunctional at the moment. This is a widely accepted fact, including by most of the members of the federal legislature. There are a multitude of reasons for this, varying from political self sorting (the tendency for voters to chose to live in places where they feel they belong, thus creating radicalized districts and radicalized representatives with strong disincentives to compromise) to the compartmentalization of news, whereby voters opt to get their news from sources which generally espouse views they agree with. All of this has led to a rush for the wings in both political parties (with the Republican's leading the way, as might be expected from the party in the weaker position, but with Democrats increasingly responding with more calls for extreme liberalism.) Many of these problems are integral to our system of representative democracy, and are therefore very difficult to address.

    One major aspect of our political system, however, one which is broken so severely that it impacts nearly every step of the political process, is our campaign finance system. Every 4 years now BILLIONS of dollars are spent in the presidential election, along with the thousands of other smaller elections, some of them still involving many millions of dollars in ad buys. This money has many consequences for the American political system. The first, and most widely focused on is that it gives far too much power to the people and organizations supplying the money. This problem has been vastly exaggerated in the wake of Citizen's United and other related rollbacks of campaign finance restrictions. The power is wielded in several ways. The most direct of these is organizations like the Heritage Foundation spending huge sums on negative ad campaigns against politicians who go against their will, and bankrolling those they think will. With this kind of money legitimate candidates can essentially be shouted down and out of the race. Even small errors, or fallacious ones, can be repeated, reinforced, embellished upon, and repeated again until a candidate is widely known by that perceived "error" without that candidate being able to respond unless xe too has a large war chest to purchase counter ads, and ads which attack the opposition in order to change the tone of the campaign. Without that, almost inevitably, that candidate will lose. The fickleness of the average voter is well known, as are the effective methods for influencing them through advertizing.

     This leads to the next, and far less well known, problem caused by such tremendous amounts of money in politics. Time is money, and therefore money is time. Politicians have to spend a significant portion of their time and energy raising funds rather than working on policy. The parties have quotas for more senior and powerful legislators, money they're expected to raise in order for the party to back less senior and therefore more vulnerable candidates, and to keep on hand in case the opposing side tries to flood an election at the last minute, or other such maneuvers. Politicians have to put together dinners, call major donors, and, increasingly, woo lobbyists.

     Ah yes, lobbyists, the third major problem caused by the money. People often see lobbyists as the active pursuers of legislators, offering money, threatening to bankroll opponents, generally trying to get legislators (in particular) to do their will, a combination of bribery and extortion, all sanctioned by law. The reality is more nuanced, but in large part flipped. Legislators seek out lobbyists for many reasons, including funding.  Mostly lobbyists, as I understand them, are just political insiders who have been hired to be, more or less, private politicians. They study issues related to their employer's business or personal interests, work on policy, and draft legislation. They attend all the same events, move in the same circles as the elected officials, and they will be consulted by politicians from both sides of the aisle both for their expertise, and in order to determine how major interest groups are feeling about various pieces of legislation. Rarely, I suspect, will overt demands be made by lobbyists, though I'm sure it does happen, however in all these conversations, there will be the unspoken understanding that if the legislation goes the way of that lobbyists interests, the politicians involved will be viewed favorably by that lobbyist, and their fundraising will have gotten that much easier. The more powerful and wealthy the interest group, the more prestige will the lobbyist have, the more parties, and more important parties will xe be invited to, and the more credence will be given to xis suggestions. This is the subtle but powerful influence lobbyists have on the political system (emphasized no doubt by the fact that many lobbyists are friends and former co-workers of the more senior and thus influential politicians on BOTH sides.)

    The last impact I will discuss is the tendency for such huge sums of money to lead to entrenchment exclusion, and a close approximation of a plutocracy, wherein only those of a certain class, particularly those BORN of a certain class, have much of a chance at political power. Since there is such a tremendous financial barrier to get over, one which requires the help of monied connections poor and middle class people are unlikely to have. There are ways around this, and many examples of people who have gained popular support before receiving financial backing to turn their campaign into a viable one, but they are far rarer than might be expected in a country which purports to value "bootstraps" and "the common man". Instead we are given financial elites, with a well crafted and expensive veneer of everyman. Surely this has something to do with the deep sense of mistrust and apathy the average American now feels towards Washington.

    And what benefit is there to all this money? Certainly it raises the awareness of politics, but only in a very superficial way. Most people will be able to name the Democratic and Republican candidate in any presidential, and possibly Senate and House race they can vote in, but that might well be the extent of their knowledge. Others will buy into one sides advertizing, accepting it wholesale, and thus having a deeper, but fundamentally biased understanding of the race. Many Americans however seem to simply be burned out by all this advertising, considering, with some reason, that all politicians are essentially the same, crooks, and therefore none of the are worth paying attention to. This leaves us with many mainline Americans withdrawing from the political process, especially the primary elections, leaving only the most motivated, and often most extreme elements of both parties to dictate the fate of prospective politicians. This at a time when access to fairly non-biased, understandable information on every political candidate and issue is increasingly wide-spread and easy, at a time when the political challenges facing us are greater than perhaps ever before, and more complex.

    Beyond the burnout, there is the waste. Money spent on elections, past a certain point, is essentially wasted. It doesn't produce any real increase in knowledge, or participation, not when it's constantly be countered by money on the other side. It is money used to cancel out other money, and that is truly inexcusable.

    So those are the problems, here's a possible solution.

Establish a fund, cared for by the federal government, which bankrolls political campaigns up to a point. Require that people achieve a threshold of signatures before receiving this funding, to ensure the money isn't wasted on non-viable candidates. Candidates can use these funds up to the limit, and beyond that limit they have to raise their own funds. These could be raised up to twice the federal funds, with each dollar raised taxed at 50% to help pay for the general fund. That is to say, if a presidential candidate reached the say, 10 million dollar limit on federal funds, and wished to raise more, they could raise up to 20 million more, but 10 million of that would be placed back in the general fund. Outside groups which wanted to campaign for an issue (directly campaigning against or for a candidate wouldn't be allowed) could go through the same process, receiving funds if they reached a threshold of signatures, or simply paying for it themselves, but with a 50% tax. Different levels of funding could be set for different numbers of signatures, and different offices/issues.

     There would be kinks that have to be worked out, but the returns would be a drastic increase in accessibility, a change in focus for politicians from working with lobbyists to working with citizens, and a huge saving in both time and money for all politicians who would no longer have to worry about being massively outspent, or having to raise huge amounts of money. Setting the limit far lower than common values currently spent on elections would also mean campaigns would have to be more efficient, search for ways of reaching voters that cost little, and produce much, far better practice for actual governance than swimming in a sea of money and focusing on how to make sure it keeps pouring in. The reality is that these days, with the internet, many voters can be reached not by jamming ads down their throats, but by engaging them in ways they care about, addressing issues they want addressed in more than superficial ways.

     I know this won't solve all the problems our political system is suffering from, but it's a good start, and to my mind, one which really HAS to be the start, since without a major shakeup of how we conduct business in Washington, there won't be any significant progress in dealing with all the OTHER challenges we face. We have to change the paradigm under which laws are made, before we can hope for those laws to be changed in any meaningful way.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Student Political Party Party-Off

Holy cow, another microblog.... you know, for me. Though this one is a bit of a cheat since it's really just an overlong facebook status. Cheers all four of you readers who get this on facebook AND Google plus.

I think, as a means of boosting political awareness and engagement and raising funds to do even more of that, all party affiliated student groups should get together at every university where enough exist, and create an early in the fall semester Party party off. Essentially this would be a competition in which each political party's student group would host a party, raising money, planning, advertising and so on. Then on the arranged date, early in the semester they would all host simultaneous parties, preferably in fairly close proximity to one another. Wristbands would be sold which would gain access, and alcohol rights to all of the parties, and people would go from party to party, and then, at some point in the near future there would be a vote (with people turning in their wristband as the vote, ensuring no voter fraud, just for you Young Republicans out there) as to which Party's party was best. The money earned from the wristband sales would be split with 15% going to the outright winner, and the remaining 85% being split between all the teams according to their percentage of the vote. This would be an excellent fundraiser, and an amusing way of creating a uniquely student appropriate parody of the political process which may none the less educate and interest some of the people who get involved to help with the party, and even some who attend the event(s).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The "Sustainability" movement in architecture.

Architecture has had many styles, or movements. They blend, and are fractured, and are in some ways arbitrary, however as the job of Master Builder transformed into the profession of Architect and communication and literature became more widespread, and education more formalized, movements began to be recognized in their own time. Of this modern era of Architecture the most important, defining movement was appropriately, the Modernist movement. It is a broad term, with many internal divisions and precursors, and the era it covers is nebulous in the extreme, but it is a recognizable movement, and it is one which transformed, dramatically, not merely the aesthetic of Architecture, or even the structure, or functional theory of Architecture. It transformed the entirely philosophy of the profession, it introduced social duty, an engineering of society through the design of buildings. It taught that architects were in the vanguard of progress, interdisciplinary designers who drew upon the most up to date theories of structure, materials, social science, health, and industrial design. There were many different visions of the future that was to be built, and the style of buildings varied greatly, but there was a tremendously powerful underlying intention, and belief. Since that movement (roughly 1900-1950, with a buffer of about 10 years on either side) there have largely been a series of reactions to it, followed by odd excursions into different materials, aesthetics, colors, etc. From Brutalism to Deconstructivism the movements were largely concerned with skinning. Many of the advances made in the Modernist movement have been continued, some even improved upon, but much of the social duty of architects appeared to have been forgotten, the structural advances were increasingly left to engineers, and residential design stagnated.

 I see the Sustainability movement to be fundamentally similar in scope and importance as the Modernist movement. It is the most important movement since the Modernist, and has the possibility of even eclipsing it. The Modernist movement was born of a need for designers to solve the problems of the turn of the century, the growth of the middle class, the aftershocks of the industrial revolution, and indeed, two world wars.  These were huge social challenges, and so there was a great need for a change of paradigm in order to come up with solutions, and architects were major players in that paradigm change. So it is/should/shall be with Climate Change and the Sustainability movement. In fact, Climate Change is only part of the problem, the world is facing a huge number of changes all occurring at once. The climate is changing, deserts are expanding, and society is urbanizing and becoming increasingly interconnected. Poor countries are getting richer, and better educated. Oil is running low, technology is outpacing governments, and species are going extinct at an alarming rate, most of which is not the result of Climate Change, but will no doubt be amplified by it. Humans are not merely posing a threat to one another, we are literally threatening the wellbeing of the global ecosystem. This challenge is almost certainly greater than that faced by the Modernists.

The challenge is greater, and it is also more multifaceted, fortunately, the tools we've got are FAR FAR better than the modernists had. We can automate, compute, and calculate things that were far beyond the abilities of the modernists. The modernists considered the ways in which people lived, or could live if given the right environment, They considered the structure, and aesthetic of materials, but little of their function in terms of insulation, or for that matter, health. They dreamed up new structural systems to reach great heights, but gave very little thought to the impact of their buildings, or their materials, on the environment. Since the Modernist movement however much of the focus in architecture has reverted to the skin of the building, and architects have withdrawn from the position as engineer, to be largely concerned with the look and to a greater or lesser extend, feel, and function of the space. The sustainability movement needs architects who consider ways of integrating the building into the environment, building with a focus on efficiency, and low impact, including finding ways of building less. Architects will have to once again be multidisciplinary, to integrate plants into their designs, make use of emerging materials and systems, understand end users needs and proclivities to tailor the buildings to those so that the building functions like the delicate, efficient, vibrant, evolving environment it should be. Architects will have to learn to take cues from nature in order to design buildings, and spaces, which are in tune with nature, rather than in harmful discord. Buildings will have to be made with both an entrance strategy and an exit one, or designed to have an extendible lifespan. It's an exciting time to be in the field, since the stakes are high, and the weapons at our disposal are powerful. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

How I've taught myself to love the homophobe, but hate the homophobia.

You like that title? That's right regressionist homophobic religious types, I've found Jesus, in that I've found that core part of his message, empathy. I understand why you rally so strongly against homosexuality, it's acceptance in our culture, and the equal treatment of those who practice it. I don't accept it, I know it to be wrong, unnecessary,  and immoral, but I understand how you arrive at it with only good intentions, and bad logic.

You will never read this, likely almost no one will, but perhaps some liberals will and it will give them insight into your mindset.

There are two types of you, and I know you both, deep down.

There are the ones who are rarely, if ever, tempted by homosexual desires.
And there are those of you who, almost certainly in secret, have felt, still feel, perhaps ONLY feel attraction to who's bits look a bit like your bits.

The first, I consider understandably, and frankly, pretty typically lazy ethicists. Most ethical people fall into this category. Most people consider themselves ethical, so most people fall into this category. You learn a set of ethics, and then adapt them to your situational needs and desires, in order to make yourself feel good. This is fairly easy, and thus common. Often (in the USA and Europe) it's the bible, with various denominational, cultural, and personal slants upon it. Sometimes it's the law, including a collection of family law. Many rules are shared broadly (murder, theft-*with addendums, adultery, cruelty, etc.) others much more specific (you never sit in Dad's chair, no matter what.) These are learned, adhered to, and (usually) used to judge other people. Sometimes rules are considered to only apply to those within the culture group, other times not. The key point however is that often times, perhaps much more so today than in the past, people emphasize aspects of their personal rulebook which allow them to feel better about themselves and worse about other people (superior). Rich people considering how lazy, stupid, criminal, etc. the poor are, considering their lack of success to be a mark of poor character, since they themselves value success highly. This plays into their morality by making themselves feel better, which allows them to ignore those other aspects of their learned rulebook they are failing at (charity? fidelity? honesty? pride? greed? that's right boys, keep telling yourself how good you are.)
The same effect drives much of homophobia. It's an easily justified sin, whatever your feelings are towards the Biblical view of homosexuality, it's certainly easy to make the case that the Bible DOES condemn it. So it's not a stretch, but playing up it's importance is easy and lazy because most people don't have much in the way of homosexual tendencies, and so they can feel absolutely pure and free of sin in this regard, unlike for instance, violence, theft, lust, and so on. Even if they manage to remain righteous in act, they still feel the temptation, and that would of course make them worried, and feel bad, so they focus on something they are never tempted to do, homosexuality. This is then compounded by the fact that homosexual acts are indeed disgusting. To heterosexuals with very little experience, openness, or interest in homosexuality, rather as I'm fairly certain many strictly homosexual men and women find the concept of heterosexual acts utterly disgusting. (Am I right Lesbians, how disgusting is a dick?) This is simply the difference between sexuality, heightened by the unfamiliar, and cyclically reenforced by the learned unethical nature of the acts. It's not a rational basis for an ethical position, but it lends visceral credence to what they are being taught, their own bodies seem to reject the mere notion of the act, and so surely it must be both unnatural and sinister. This makes a very convincing case to someone who has absolutely nothing to lose by embracing the sinfulness of homosexuality with open arms. They get to feel pure, see others as sinners, and themselves and bulwarks of morality standing against a tide of terrible sinfulness, by which they themselves are not even tempted. What a glorious feeling that must be, and the best part is, up till recently (maybe) you were still the majority, and that meant you could stand against this seemingly powerful tide, and not be harmed by it, could win against it. This is changing, because the tide you are standing against isn't immorality overtaking society, it's progress in moral improvement, it's further civilizing, moving away from our brutal past into our more accepting future. But for 60+ years now, you've had a hell of a good time. Oh you've seen barriers fall, but most of your real strongholds held out till very recently. It wasn't a crime anymore, but then, neither are lots of sins, you still got to rail against it, hurt people who embraced it, marginalize them, demonize them. You've been fighting a war of attrition, and it let you ignore so many of your own demons, since you were busy fighting someone else's. And you were clothed in the pure shining cloth of morality, and godliness, and you KNEW you were fighting the good fight. You still do, but now you're losing it, the bulwarks are falling, and you will become mere footnotes in history, while champions of the movement will live on for many years as icons.
So you see, I understand the appeal, and know that many on my side would do the same had they simply been given a different rulebook. I know you're wrong, but I understand the appeal of believing you're right.

Then there are the others.
The ones who hide in a closet with an N.O.M. poster on the door.
Oh you poor poor people.
This time is hell for you.
You're lucky though, because this hell is far better, and won't last as long, as the hell which has existed for those who COULDN'T hold it in for the rest of recent history. Those people suffered tremendously throughout much of time, and just have to suffer somewhat tolerably for about 70 years.
But right now is nearing the worst of it.
What to I mean?
These are people who have learned that homosexuality is a sin, and because in their immediate circle, it is widely discussed and condemned, they have this emphasized, again and again. They worry about it more than ANY other sin, not because it's the worst, but because it's so prevalent, in their environment, and in their lives. Because after hearing this so much, they can't help but believe it strongly. This is then further reinforced by their fear, often legitimate, that if they acted upon, or embraced those urges their world could utterly collapse, family and friends would utterly abandon them, they could become outcasts in their school, town, church, business. They would be destroyed, and they aren't about to suffer both earthly and heavenly damnation, so they fight it. Now in the past, I'm sure that fight was sometimes difficult, but all of society was structured (by intent perhaps?) to defend against such actions, leaving people with an easier job avoiding temptation. Now however, just as the sin is increasingly emphasized, culture is moving towards accepting the sin, and temptation abounds. Hell the internet is right there, you could be with your new gay lover in literally days. I'll bet there are hundreds of beautiful gay men who would sleep with a Republican senator no matter what he looked like, or had said. Just for the bragging rights (Am I right Gays? Who doesn't want some of John's Boehner?)
eh hem, getting away from tempting people into sin, and back into commiserating in as offensive and insulting a way as possible.
I get why you would be absolutely frothing mad at all these liberals who are making it so easy for you to be tempted off your righteous path, you who are so naturally inclined to be tempted, you who have sacrificed sexual and relationship satisfaction for acceptance in the community and biblical morality for so long. I completely understand and feel for the hatred you would have towards those people who pile literal insult upon literal injury by, after creating a society which hurts you daily with temptations you dare not act on, and which acting on would do tremendous harm to you, then go about acting on the same impulses you dare not. And now, they're being fucking praised for it, winning all the rights you have sacrificed for, and being socially accepted. Plus they have MUCH MUCH better parties, those outted homos have all the luck amirite? How could you not fight tooth and nail for the societal armor that in the past sheathed those who like you had a tender hold on (hetero)sexual morality to begin with? How could you not lament and object to the granting of rights, freedoms, opportunities, and privileges to those people who have given in to their depravity while you have rejected it at great personal, and entirely secret, cost. Sadly though, you are so twisted about by fear and anger, you cannot see that the best path forward is to embrace the change, and in doing so accelerate it, so that you could possibly enjoy your own entirely ethical and honest sexual existence, and the personal success and acceptance you currently have (admittedly likely in a different community). The reason this hell is far less serious than that faced by those who couldn't suppress their feelings in the past is that you probably won't be killed no matter what you do. The reason it will be shorter lived is that there will reach a tipping point very soon where only in very small and isolated communities will anyone again grow up denying their sexuality out of fear, of immorality, of social rejection, of God.
Damn I'm a champion rambler.