August 31, 2008
Posted by: Chris
For awhile now, I have been posting the most popular stories for the previous 24 hours and the previous week from GayNewsWatch.com, the website I run. But I've noticed that our wonderful readers have tended to pick, shall we say, the "spicier" stories rather than the most important. I've decided to try posting stories instead according to their "buzz factor," which is how we rank them by their newsworthiness. I'll still post one or two popular stories that don't make the more serious list.
I'm thrilled, by the way, at the growth of GayNewsWatch. At this point, the site is averaging more than 300,000 page views a month, and more than 150,000 unique visits. Apparently Google approves, since GayNewsWatch ranks in the Top 5 when you search for "gay news."
One other interesting factoid: While the U.S. ranks first as the geographic location of the site's readers, China (not including Hong Kong) is in the second spot -- ahead even of Canada and the U.K. Of course there's the overall population factor, but given the barriers of language and censorship, it's very encouraging.
Among other anti-gay hotspots, Saudi Arabia ranks 17th, just behind Japan, followed by India (#31), Romania (#35), Serbia (#39), United Arab Emirates (#51), Pakistan (#65), Iran (#72) and the Palestinian Territories (#77), with the others with too few visits to merit a mention. There was only one visit for all of last month from Iraq, but I'm guessing many more from there (including U.S. servicemen and women) and from other hostile countries visit via proxy servers, which can be used to bypass government censors.
With that said, here are the stories from the last week with the biggest "buzz factor":
- Openly gay diver wins an Olympic gold for Australia: QUICK LOOK: Diver Matthew Mitcham, the only openly gay male athlete in the Beijing Olympics, won gold in the 10m platform. He beat Chinese favorite Zhou Luxin by 4.8 points, preventing... (MORE)
- Don't ask, do kill: ongoing persecution of gays in Iraq: QUICK LOOK: When militiamen from the Mahdi Army came by the compact, two-story stone home in the Doura neighborhood of , they weren't looking... (MORE)
- Draft Republican platform is lean, but is it just as mean?: SPECIAL REPORT: The draft Republican Party platform produced this week is dramatically trimmed down from the 40,000-word document adopted four years ago, but some gay voters will likely... (MORE)
- Activists criticize McCain pick Sarah Palin on gay rights: QUICK LOOK: Republican Senator John McCain has selected Sarah Palin, Alaska's governor and a little-known conservative with a slim record on gay and AIDS issues, to be his running... (MORE)
- Hurricane Gustav threatening Southern Decadence: QUICK LOOK: As of Saturday morning, organizers of the annual gay Southern Decadence festival in New Orleans said all events are still scheduled to take place despite Hurricane... (MORE)
And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:
- NBC apologizes for snubbing gay gold medalist driver: QUICK LOOK: NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel has issued an apology for his reporting team not mentioning on air that gold-medal diver Matthew Mitcham is gay and has a partner:... (MORE)
- 'Another Gay Sequel' flick features 'gays gone wild': QUICK LOOK: Previously on Another Gay Movie, Todd Stephens's racist and pandering but almost canny response to American Pie, Nico thankfully lost his shit before almost getting it... (MORE)
- Woman ejected from federal building for lesbian T-shirt: QUICK LOOK: A routine trip to the Social Security office Monday turned into 30 minutes of shock, disbelief and irritation for Lapriss Gilbert, who was forced to leave the federal... (MORE)
- Gay boat dancer killed by S.D. police had taken meth: QUICK LOOK: Steven Paul Hirschfield, 37, a bodybuilder and actor from West Hollywood, was hired to dance on a chartered harbor cruise ship on July 19 as part of the city's gay... (MORE)
Posted by: Chris
As Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Louisiana coast, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is there on the scene in his tight T-shirt to give viewers the blow by blow. Unfortunately for Cooper, a longtime closet case, the annual gay bacchanalia Southern Decadence was canceled this afternoon in response.
All hope for Anderson isn't lost, however, since many of the gay boys who apparently "packed Bourbon Street" just last night are no doubt still there and even more stir crazy.
For those who believe that God uses hurricanes to express disapproval with His peeps, the message here is clearly mixed. On the one hand, this is the second time in four years that a tropical storm took out SoDec, since Katrina did the same in 2005. On the other, the Katrina aftermath was a disaster for an anti-gay White House, and Gustav has already claimed as its victim the first day of the Republican National Convention.
(For a good laugh or disgust -- you choose -- check out this Gustav thread from the arch-conservative FreeRepublic.com. It's since been pulled -- the Freep moderator explained, "We really really REALLY don't need this" -- but Google has it cached for posterity's sake.)
(SoDec photo via David Dust's blog)
Posted by: Chris
All signs point to a forthcoming Log Cabin endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket, which would be profoundly disappointing from a group I believe is committed to the struggle for gay civil rights and equality.
As much as my co-blogger Kevin predicted "gay Democratic hacks" would exaggerate Sarah Palin's mixed record on gay issues, the nation's largest GOP group is so far playing the same game:
Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon
She's a mainstream Republican who will unite the Party and serve John McCain well as Vice President. Gov. Palin is an inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters.
Log Cabin spokesperson Scott Tucker
Sen. McCain’s choice for Vice President, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is a smart choice on many levels. She unifies the GOP across the spectrum. Plus, Gov. Palin will help appeal to disaffected Hillary supporters. Also, so-called “pro-family” groups love her because she’s solidly pro-life. …
But, let’s remember one thing: pro-life doesn’t equal anti-gay. Her record on gay issues is unclear, but it’s not anti-gay and news reports say she has expressed sympathy for gays who face discrimination. In 2006, she said she’s “not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay.” Her record doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to support pro-gay issues, but it indicates she’s an inclusive leader who isn’t a bigot. …
The only decision she made as governor affecting gay people benefited our community. In late 2006, many social conservatives wanted her to sign a bill that would’ve blocked benefits for the same-sex partners of state employees. She vetoed the bill. Though she disagreed with the Supreme Court order that directed the state to offer the benefits, she said the anti-gay bill was unconstitutional.
Tucker at least acknowledges Palin disagreed with the Alaska Supreme Court ruling that denying gay government workers equal benefits violated the state constitution, but he leaves out that also she opposed granting the benefits as a policy matter -- a different and more question than the constitutional one. That's especially the case since the Democratic-controlled Congress will likely pass a bipartisan bill (praised by Log Cabin) that would extend D.P. benefits to federal employees.
Our gay Republican friends at GayPatiot, frequent critics of Log Cabin, are even more ebullient and appear no more interested in scrutinizing Palin's record:
Just as I couldn’t imagine me disliking the Obama ticket more after he picked Biden, I’m shocked to now find myself EXCITED about McCain’s pick and Vice President Sarah Palin. I almost can’t believe that he has done it.
Gay Patrot West
Sarah Palin is anything but a Bush Republican. And we gay Republicans have something to cheer in her record. Shortly after taking office, she vetoed legislation that would have prevented the state from providing benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.
Another prominent gay Republican blogger, BoiFromTroy, is refreshingly skeptical of her overall qualifications and does a good job of analyzing her on the issues (details in his post). But ultimately he, too, sets a pretty low bar:
Boi From Troy
So the person with the most executive experience of any Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate is a 44 year-old woman who served as Governor of Alaska and Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin. … Regrettably, [she is] about as progressive as a Republican can be on gay issues and be at the top-of-the ticket these days, but also makes me hope that Sarah Pallin can be persuadable if need be.
There are still important blanks to fill in about Palin -- on a whole range of issues, but on gay rights as well. Although Log Cabin credits "news reports" that she's "open" to non-discrimination laws to protect gays, all I've seen so far was a Wikipedia entry to that effect, without any supporting citation. The reference has since been deleted from the entry.
With those specific questions still hanging, there remains a much bigger question, for Log Cabin as a civil rights group and for gay Republicans individually: Is the McCain-Palin ticket one they can in good conscience support?
As much as Log Cabin wants to be a part of the GOP "big tent," I cannot see how this ticket has earned their endorsement. McCain has a full record of opposition to every form of gay rights legislation -- state, federal or local -- ever introduced.
The only thing that separates him from George W. Bush, who Log Cabin under the leadership of former president Patrick Guerriero declined to endorse, is McCain's opposition to a federal marriage amendment.
That's old new, unfortunately. Even though McCain said during that 2004 Senate debate that such an amendment is "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," this month the GOP delegates he controls voted in favor of a draft party platform that backs it. At the recent Saddleback forum, McCain softened his own opposition, saying he would support amending the U.S. Constitution if even one federal court concludes the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
Surely Log Cabin requires more of a presidential candidate than such weak, conditional opposition to the FMA, especially since McCain is on the wrong side of every other gay rights issue.
Consider that none other than former Log Cabin leader Rich Tafel, who along with Guerriero and my co-blogger Kevin is most responsible for the group's prominence, publicly supported Barack Obama during the Democratic primary. Kevin has also had very positive things to say about Obama, if less so recently. Rich and Kevin haven't yet said whether they prefer Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin and no one expects Log Cabin to back a Democrat for president. Still, endorsing McCain isn't the gay GOP group's only option.
With so little in McCain's record or positions that merit praise, Log Cabin has made a big deal of trumpeted its "productive" relationship to the McCain campaign, pointing out that it netted a personal meeting between Sammon and the candidate himself back in June. Putting aside that the campaign initially said the meeting was unplanned and coincidental, an open door is nonetheless important. If McCain is elected, Log Cabin might well be the only gay rights group with White House access.
Log Cabin's leaders no doubt worries that open door will slam shut if they decline to endorse, but still they should consider the very real cost of going along to get along. It sends the message that whatever their opposition on the issues, Republican politicians need only answer their phone calls to win their support.
Considering the very justified grief that gay Republicans have given the Human Rights Campaign and other D.C. groups for confusing cocktail party access with real progress, that's not the message Log Cabin needs to send now.
(Photo of John McCain and Sarah Palin via AP)
August 30, 2008
Posted by: Chris
What a day for my Internet service to be interrupted! Right after I learned yesterday that John McCain had basically blown the presidential election by picking a singularly unqualified vice presidential candidate, the signal cut off. I am overstating the point, of course, but what the hell was he thinking?
My hat's off to my friend Kevin and others for trying to put lipstick on a pig, but McCain has just punted on the single issue that was most likely to beat Barack Obama. Sarah Palin is completely unprepared to be vice president, much less president -- and far, far less experienced than Obama.
The only point the McCain camp can tout is her executive experience as small town mayor and, for two years, governor of a small population state. Even that can't compare to Obama's management of a massive undertaking like a presidential campaign. (Just ask Hillary Clinton.)
Kevin is right about gay political groups grossly overstating the case against her on civil rights issues, although he's overstating the point himself to predict "press releases calling her the girlfriend of Satan and the most dangerous, hateful maniac in history are no doubt flying off the laser printers of gay Democratic hacks as we speak." A great turn of phrase, though!
Our friends at the Human Rights Campaign wasted no time in labeling her "anti-gay" and "a fierce opponent of equality":
“America may not know much about Sarah Palin, but based on what our community has seen of her, we know enough,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Sarah Palin not only supported the 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment banning marriage equality but, in her less than two years as Governor, even expressed the extreme position of supporting stripping away domestic partner benefits for state workers. When you can’t even support giving our community the rights to health insurance and pension benefits, it’s a frightening window into where she stands on equality.”
The truth, as Kevin points out, is far more subtle. Palin backed a 1998 state constitutional amendment that overturned a preliminary ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court on gay marriage, but then again, so did John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago. He nonetheless received a hearty endorsement from HRC.
Gov. Palin also vetoed a bill that attempted to defy an Alaska Supreme Court ruling that gay state employees could not be denied health benefits for their domestic partners. She backed an advisory ballot measure on the question and made clear that she disagreed with the court decision but ultimately abided by it:
"We may disagree with the foundation [of the court decision]," she said, "... but our responsibility is to proceed forward with the law and abide by the constitution."
Solmonese is right that it's a bit extreme -- and heartless, I would add -- to oppose health insurance coverage, especially since she claims to have many gay friends. After all, D.P. benefits are the norm throughout the private sector. But these days it's still something for a conservative Republican to respect the role of the judiciary.
It's premature and a bit silly to label Palin "a fierece opponent of equality." (The blogs are a bit more bombastic, of course.) Unlike the man at the top of the ticket, Palin is said to be open to the idea of anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation, though I've yet to see a solid citation on that.
With many reasons already to doubt Palin's qualifications and McCain's judgment for selecting her, it's entirely unnecessary to caricature her on gay rights.
Posted by: Andoni
Palin would be a heartbeat away from the oldest president ever elected to a first term, and one who has had the most malignant form of skin cancer times two. Malignant melanoma can re-appear any time, any where, even years after a "cure."
So let's get right to the readiness to be president issue. It is arguable that Palin has the same experience Barack Obama had 18 months ago when he first declared for the presidency. However, since then we have all watched Obama grow tremendously. For the past 18 months he has been vetted by the national media, tested by 20 debates, and been approved by millions of voters in all 50 states. He ran one of the most sophisticated and successful campaigns in history. You could say that his character has been tested and forged over the past 18 months by running the grueling minefield our country demands of future presidents and passing with flying colors.
Even if Palin is equal in experience to what Obama was 18 months ago when he began his campaign, McCain has chosen someone who 99% of America does not know and there are only 67 days to put her through the tests to become familiar with her and to determine if she is ready. This is impossible and demonstrates a carelessness on McCain's part. The fact that he only met her twice and is now vouching for her to all of America is reckless. If he had known Palin for years before he pulled her out of a hat and then vouched for her to America that she was ready, that would be an entirely different story.
Furthermore, just as politicians criticize an activity that we later find out they themselves are doing (think Larry Craig, Elliot Spitzer), McCain now is a member of that club. For months he has been condemning Obama on the grounds that he is inexperienced, not ready, and untested. Now McCain does the opposite of what his words would indicate, and picks someone with less experience and readiness than Obama has. (By her own admission, she knows nothing about the Iraq War, and doesn't even know what the vice president does.) In addition, McCain attacked Obama for not choosing Hillary Clinton, the person who criticized him the most during the primaries, saying Obama could not stand to run with a critic of his because the criticism was true. Guess what? Mitt Romney criticized McCain most during the primary season and was the leading candidate for V.P. until the last minute. Could McCain not stand to take as his veep the candidate who was his sharpest critic? Another hypocritical moment for McCain.
McCain has been described as a maverick over the years. I think this is a euphemism for "loose cannon" or even reckless, just as you would describe a spoiled brat child as precocious if you want to pretty it up a bit. Remember McCain is the guy who does whatever he wants regardless of the rules or conventions. He was a hell boy in the Naval Academy, breaking all the rules just to break them and barely graduated. Some think he graduated only because he came from a family of admirals and privilege. During pilot training he crashed 3 planes and was considered one of the worst pilots ever by his instructor. And in both his marriages, he has exhibited reckless, oh make that maverick, behavior.
People don't really change that much over the years. You may wish to use the term maverick to describe McCain. However, I think reckless or loose canon is a better description --- and this latest episode makes me conclude that he really is not fit to be president.
August 29, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
But many Americans down in the lower 48 are asking themselves, who the hell is Sarah Palin?
The Governor of Alaska is perhaps best known anywhere for having an approval rating of around 90% in her home state, which for any Republican these days is a remarkable achievement. And Palin is 44 years old, three years younger than Barack Obama.
And no matter who she is or what she believes on a full range of federal matters of interest to gay people, the press releases calling her the girlfriend of Satan and the most dangerous, hateful maniac in history are no doubt flying off the laser printers of gay Democratic hacks as we speak. They will wisely leap on how unknown she is, and will burst into a chorus of screeching like the finger-pointing little girls in "The Crucible." They saw Goody Palin with the Devil.
What little I know about her is that she is a native of Idaho and a social conservative, but cut from the Alaska cloth in terms of her politics. She is much more active in the pro-life movement, largely tied to the symbolism of her personal experience (she gave birth to her fifth son in April, who was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome early in the pregnancy).
On gay issues, there is a discordant mix. Palin said during her 2006 campaign for governor that she has many close gay friends, and that she is "not out to judge anyone." She used her first veto as Governor to strike down a law which would ban domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, effectively clearing the way for those benefits to be granted, when the state's Supreme Court found the measure unconstitutional. She complied with the decision, but also said she would support putting the issue to the voters in a referendum. "Signing this bill would be a direct violation of my oath of office," she said at the time. In April 2007, 53% of the voters in Alaska gave their approval to putting the issue on the ballot this year, but the measure has not been put forward. Palin also supported the state's ban on gay marriage in 1998, and said she didn't know whether being gay is a choice or not, but the exact quotes on those positions are not available anywhere. All of this needs a lot more definition from Palin herself.
However, for those who continue harboring a concern that Barack Obama does not have the experience to be President, Palin's resume is even thinner. A year and a half in office as governor, and years of experience in civic politics before that. No national experience and no foreign policy background. The one area where she has some real gravitas is on energy policy, which is a crucial one in this election. However, as those who doubt Obama's experience may persist in them, one could also argue that Obama's camp couldn't credibly lob the same criticism at the number two on the GOP ticket when their number one has the same problem. McCain would win that draw in the minds of many.
Palin was elected in 2006 -- an upset victory against better funded and better known candidates, on the worst year for Republicans in a generation. For those who followed that race, she truly earned it. At a time when the state's GOP establishment is sinking in sleaze - embodied in the now-indicted Senator Ted Stevens on corruption charges - Palin personally went public with her knowledge of a corruption scandal that involved the state's Republican Party chairman and the Republican state Attorney General, both of whom were brought down by the scandal, and she crusaded against much of the pork barrel spending that Stevens himself became famous for, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere". All of this is in line with McCain's own reformist agenda, and she is probably the most successful maverick Republican in office. Perhaps McCain will bask in her success, and the pick is more one of synchronizing attitude on reformist zeal. Palin will also be a ferocious running mate, and an effective attack dog, if her upset 2006 campaign is any indication. She will also spend her time going after every disaffected Hillary voter she can sink her nails into, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Iowa and Michigan, among other states.
I'll leave it to Log Cabin to do the grunt work of reaching out to Palin and McCain and reporting back to all of us on their progress. Nobody else will have any hope of impacting the ticket. Their endorsement is not a dead letter now, as Romney has been brushed aside. The question is whether McCain wants to gain it, no matter which non-Romney has joined as his veep.
August 28, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
John McCain is expected to announce his running mate in the next 24 hours. The rising speculation from Republican and conservative circles is that it will be Mitt Romney, McCain's defeated foe from the primaries. Knowing how Republican activists and pundits operate, the buzz could be a combination of wishful thinking, bullpen calculations and a bit of actual intelligence from balloon-floating campaign aides. Who knows?
What is known for sure is that, besides McCain himself, no more than four or five of his aides know the name of his choice at this hour.
A couple things would be certain if the choice really is Mitt Romney. It would be the end of the road for McCain with a lot of gay Republicans, whose loathing of Romney is perhaps even more intense than for much of the Christian Right's various backbenchers, given his betrayal of a decade of strong public support for gay rights (and strong gay Republican support in return) once his ill-fated presidential campaign began. A Romney pick would also make a Log Cabin endorsement for McCain nearly impossible, despite the iron will among some hardline partisans within the organization to ensure an endorsement at almost any cost. From what I can measure picking Romney would be felt like a knife in the chest even by some of McCain's oldest and strongest admirers within Log Cabin.
It is also hard to imagine what good Romney would bring to McCain's presidential effort. He's a very wealthy man and a gigantic target by an increasingly populist Democratic Party, particularly among those looking to bring Hillary Clinton's working-class whites back into the fold. Perhaps Romney could help in his native Michigan, though it has been 40 years since his father was governor so one wonders how many voters today actually remember his father. Michigan has been hemorrhaging jobs so Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, where layoffs were sometimes part of the “turn around strategy” for good or bad, will cause problems among blue collar voters.
Also, Romney’s selection could only hurt in frighteningly vulnerable states for the GOP like Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi, where Republican base voters are evangelical Christians whose petulant intolerance against "heretics" (like the Mormon former governor of Massachusetts) has been intensely stoked by their political leaders for too long to change course this late in the game. There are a lot of evangelical voters in the GOP fold who would rather vote for pro-choice Rudy Giuliani than for an adherent to a religion that many of them consider a cult. Political 'heresy' is very different from outright religious heresy to those folks.
Romney was also defeated in the primaries largely because of Republican unease with his oily shift on so many issues -- he was a pro-choice, pro-gay reformist 1994 Senate candidate and governor from 2002 to 2006 who suddenly pirouetted into a staunchly anti-gay, anti-abortion midwesterner before he even left the statehouse in Boston. He leapt on the anti-gay-marriage train so severely and eagerly that he gleefully self-immolated in Boston to foist his martyrdom aloft for all the Red States to see. It won him enough calculating Republican activists to gain traction in some of the primaries, and to generate lots of buzz, but McCain and Mike Huckabee tore at his flanks from both sides fairly easily right out of the gate and Romney was stopped.
Picking Romney would also raise more doubts about McCain's own beliefs, especially among his most fanatical primary supporters who bitterly fought Romney in every state they contested. The McCainiacs were fighting against a man who came to represent the worst aspects of a post-Bush GOP establishment: an empty suit, a weirdly naive and creepily clean-cut face ready to believe anything and do anything to win. It would also cement a disturbing transformation inside McCain himself. For a man, whose great appeal has been rooted in his maverick instincts, to choose Romney as his running mate at this moment of triumph would be perplexing and confusing to independent voters, who shunned Romney in the primaries. And that could cost McCain the margin he desperately needs to hold in November.
Whoever McCain picks, the reasons behind it, and the strategy it will come to represent, should become very clear over the weekend as the campaign rolls out its ticket in a battleground state tour that will end up in Minneapolis. We'll be seeing the final touches being placed on the real campaign that will be unfolding over the coming months.
Here's hoping the campaign isn't over by this time tomorrow. Those of us who remain undecided have fairly open minds, but not that open.
August 27, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I enjoyed Jamie Kirchick's great op-ed today in the Los Angeles Times about the brouhaha over the donation to John McCain from Manhunt co-founder Jonathan Crutchley -- and not just because his view mirrors my own on the subject.
There are differences in nuance, for example in the way Jamie describes the "liberal intolerance" that motivated the Manhunt boycott:
In the minds of too many on the left, gay people (like women and ethnic minorities) have to be liberal and support Democratic candidates. To do otherwise -- that is, to have opinions on issues (even issues utterly unrelated to gay rights) that don't follow the left-wing line -- is to be a traitor to the gay "community."
That's undoubtedly true of some on the politically correct gay left, but many intolerant gay liberals really don't care so much about how gay Republicans feel about "issues utterly unrelated to gay rights," except to assume unfairly that their motivation is probably selfish (i.e., lower taxes) rather than not (i.e., national security, foreign policy, etc.).
The real source of their trouble is their singular focus on gay civil rights as an issue that ought to trump every other, so much so that they bear real feelings of betrayal and outright hatred for any one of "our own" who support politicians or even political parties on the other side of that issue. (No doubt that singular focus is easier when they just so happen to agree with Democrats on most every other issue.)
I understand and sympathize with their fervent commitment on equality for gays. I quit the Republican Party years ago in part because of the willingness of GOP leaders to pander and placate and empower gay rights foes and outright anti-gay bigots.
The problem with the witch hunt at Manhunt, to slightly restate Jamie's point, is too many on the gay left who believe that because of how the parties stand on gay rights, to be gay and Republican is a betrayal not to be tolerated, especially if you support individual politicians like McCain who have a rotten gay rights record.
For those who can't get enough of this issue, check out my gay press column last week on the topic. Parts will be familiar to regular blog readers but I think it's a fun read. The column also follows after the jump.
Posted by: Andoni
Two pieces in today’s New York Times gave me an idea for something Barack Obama should talk about in his acceptance speech tomorrow night. Not that he has asked me for advice on what to say in that stadium with 75,000 people, but I do have a suggestion.
It’s a variation of Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid” -- “Rebuild America, stupid.”
In today’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman compares China’s past seven years with our last seven years and finds that China took very good care of China by building an infrastructure, while in America, we neglected America and only addressed military and terrorism matters. We let our infrastructure decay.
On the same day, in a Front Page story "Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid's Limits" the Times reports that the electrical grid serving America is running at 100% capacity and cannot carry any more electricity. This is at a time when more and more wind and solar energy are trying to get online. The booming field of wind and solar energy is generated in the middle of the country, but cannot be transferred to the coasts where most of the electricity is used. The power grid is 100 years old – ancient, and cannot handle any more traffic. It’s like the old U.S. highway system (remember Route 66), and needs to be replaced by an interstate highway system with greater capacity and the ability to quickly transfer energy from where it is generated to any other part of the country where it is needed.
Some experts believe that the U.S. can generate 20% of its electricity needs from wind in a matter of a few years. Currently, we only generate 1% from wind, but even if we can generate 10% within a year or two, there is no way to get that electricity to market with the current grid. Same for solar farms.
This is a huge problem that will cripple any attempt to get off fossil fuels, no what is invented in clean energy sources. It will keep us dependent on oil, and mainly foreign oil.
This is a no-brainer.
Obama should put his people to work to come with a very specific plan that connects building a new power grid, which will create jobs, help get us off foreign oil, help the renewable energies industry, and help repopulate the communities of the Midwest where power will be generated. This is a win, win, win.
I’m sure it’s possible to figure out the cost of building the new grid, how many jobs it will create, how much money we all will save over the long run in energy costs.
This is just one of many specific economic proposals Obama can make to revitalize our economy. He can tie energy, jobs, energy independence, security, and rebuilding our small communities together with a nice bow.
He can do same for many other projects: a coast to coast broadband network, our pipes and sewers, and our levees and dams. The economy can be jump started, millions and millions of jobs will be created and America will be back.
I’m sure all you conservative readers will say, that’s all well and good, Andoni, but who is going to pay for all this.
Answer: patriotic Americans will gladly buy “Rebuild America Bonds.” As the great inspirational speaker that he is, I’m sure Obama can sell “Rebuild America Bonds” as a way for people to demonstrate their patriotism and love of country.
Posted by: Chris
Those looking to Barack Obama's vice presidential pick for some reassurance that the presidential nominee's strongly supportive gay rights talk will translate into legislative walk once in office will find little of either in running mate Joe Biden, the longtime Delaware senator.
The selection of Biden was immediately praised by gay and trans groups in Washington and by activists from his home state, but the good senator's record doesn't live up to such laudatory rhetoric. In fact, Joe Biden was without question dead last on issues important to LGBT voters among the eight Democrats who ran for president this year.
As usual, the Human Rights Campaign did the Democratic Party's bidding, "hailing" Biden as "a proven and effective advocate for fairness and equality," according to HRC president Joe Solmonese, whose "support and understanding has been unwavering."
"Unwavering"? HRC's own congressional report cards tell a very different story. Biden scored "unwavering" (i.e. "100") only one time in the decade, and has trended downward in recent years, from 89 ('97-'98), 86 ('99-'00), 100 ('01-'02) to 63 ('03-'04), and 78 ('05-'06). Do you know any parents or teachers who would look at report cards like that and pronounce those grades an "unwavering" success?
Neither Biden nor Obama supports same-sex marriage, of course, but Biden's opposition runs much deeper and is much more troubling. Obama opposed the passage of the notorious Defense of Marriage Act, as did John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago. Not Joe Biden. He sided with Republicans to enact DOMA into law, and has never once said publicly that he regrets his vote or favors a full or even partial repeal.
Biden's position on DOMA and other important issues remains a mystery in part because he was one of only two Democratic presidential hopefuls who chose to skip last fall's televised forum on gay issues sponsored by HRC and Logo. He claimed to have a "scheduling conflict" but his campaign website showed no appearances scheduled for the day of the forum.
Rather than consider that poor choice an example of "wavering," Solmonese points to the recent repeal of the discriminatory HIV travel and immigration ban as proof of "the type of leadership we can expect from Senator Biden on the issues important to our community."
Let's hope not. Solmonese credits Biden's work as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as important to passage of the repeal, but really it was the least that Biden could do. After all, he was one of those who voted in favor of the original Helms Amendment back in 1988 that put HIV on the list of communicable diseases that could get you barred from entering the country.
When Louis Sullivan, the health secretary under Republican President George H.W. Bush, tried to take HIV off the list back in 1992, Joe Biden was one of only a handful of Democrats who broke ranks to support a Republican amendment that made the ban on HIV tourists and immigrants a matter of statute.
The "wavering" doesn't stop there, on either HIV or immigration. Biden has declined to date to sponsor the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which would allow states to use Medicaid money to help low-income folks who have HIV but not full-blown AIDS. When HRC asked the Democrats running for president to say "yes" or "no" about whether they support the bill, Biden was alone among the eight in dodging the question.
On immigration, Biden has not only declined to co-sponsor the Uniting American Familes Act, legislation that extends to gay Americans the right to sponsor foreign partners for citizenship, his only public statement on the issue is so vague that's impossible to tell for sure which way he'd "waver" if it came to a vote.
Mara Keisling, who heads up the National Center for Transgender Equality, also cut Biden a whole lot of slack, saying: "We have reason to think he's very positive on all LGBT issues."
"All LGBT issues"? The Delaware senator was very, very late among Democratic senators to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, back when it only protected "sexual orientation." Biden waited more than five years after ENDA was first introduced and finally signed on only after some thirty-four of his party colleagues -- and even three Republicans! -- had already done so. Is this the "leadership" HRC says "our entire community can be proud of"?
The HRC candidate questionnaire asked each of the Democrats running for president if they would "support and work for passage" of the new version of ENDA that prohibits protects both "sexual orientation and gender identity," Biden responded only that he supports outlawing bias based on sexual orientation, making him one of only two candidates to dodge the question.
Despite a lot of lazy fact-gathering on the blogosphere, there’s no clear evidence Biden favors adding transgender protections to ENDA. Aren't we supposed to care about that?
None of this is to suggest that Biden is actually anti-gay or has a record anything comparable to John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who is a gay rights nightmare. Biden has voted in favor of gay workplace rights, hate crime laws, against a federal marriage amendment and is solid on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He's even said some encouraging things on the campaign trail about civil unions and the inevitability of gay marriage.
But LGBT voters deserve to know that the real Joe Biden bears little resemblance to the steadfast champion portrayed by the groups in Washington that supposedly advocate for our equality. If they've "pinkwashed" his record simply because an Obama-Biden administration would be far and away superior to a McCain-[fill in the blank] administration, then fair enough -- say so.
Don't mislead gay voters by lying about Biden's mediocre record because it only signals to Democrats (yet again) that something way less than a full loaf of equality will keep our stomachs from grumbling.
For more information about Joe Biden's position on gay rights:
August 26, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
No, I'm not mocking Senator John McCain. There was a point in my life when I owned eight houses and the only reason I bring this up is that some of the criticism leveled against McCain for his seven houses is off the mark. However, there are other points about the answer to his houses question that need to be made.
I owned so many houses because of the tax laws at the time. The time was between the late 70's and the mid 80's and I was earning a 6 figure income as a physician. Most accountants at the time advised people in these high tax brackets to buy real estate in order to lower their taxes.
This is how it worked. If you purchased houses, you could depreciate them and deduct the depreciation directly off your earned income. It was legal and it saved tens of thousands in income tax by reducing your taxable income on paper (but not in reality). Additionally it got you out of those very tax high brackets -- 50 to 70% if I remember correctly. It was the greatest tax saving devise I ever encountered. Today they would call it a loophole for the rich.
Why am I telling you all this? First, despite my eight houses, I think I was and still am very attuned to the middle class and people's economic problems. There is no correlation between my owning eight houses and not being able to relate with working people. So I don't buy the Obama line that McCain owning seven homes means he cannot understand or relate to ordinary folks.
However, when I owned my eight houses, if someone asked me how many places I owned, I would know exactly. Furthermore, I could tell them where these houses were and what the monthly mortgage payment was.
So when John McCain stumbles over the question of how many homes he and Cindy have, I think there are three possibilities:
1. he instinctively knew that 7 wouldn't sound good, so he played ignorant
2. there is a neuron problem and he simply couldn't recall
3. he really doesn't know the details of his finances because he is not privy to them. a.) Maybe he is a kept man or b.) he is so unknowledgeble on economic/financial matters that he doesn't care to know, want to know or try to know.
Number 1 is supported by the fact that when McCain was making major renovations to a new house at the time he was first running for the Senate in 1986, he used a false name to try to fool the public.
Number 3, part a.) wouldn't be good because that would open him to the same charge the Republicans made against Senator John Kerry when he ran for president in 2004 -- that he was a kept man. Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz was the one with the money.
Number 3, part b.) that he doesn't know or care about economic or financial things is a death knell and a reinforcement of statements McCain has made in the past.
So, any way you slice it, McCain's house problem is not good. But saying that he is out of touch with people simply because of the seven houses he and his wife own is not really the most serious part of his housing problem.
Posted by: Chris
These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last seven days. You can also view the most popular stories of the last month or even year, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.
- Ex-boy bander Jonathan Knight ready to come out?: QUICK LOOK: It looks like another former boy bander is about to come out of the closet and tell the world that he's gay. Evidently, Jonathan Knight is already open about his sexuality... (MORE)
- Gay sex sting at Ala. scenic park results in 24 arrests: QUICK LOOK: Police in Huntsville, Ala., charged 24 suspects as part of a week-long undercover sting at the scenic overlook atop Monte Sano Mountain. Police officials said the investigation... (MORE)
- Utah author gives $1 mil for Calif. gay marriage ban: QUICK LOOK: When Bruce Bastian of Utah stood up last month at a San Francisco dinner and wrote a $1 million check for the campaign against Proposition 8, he made it clearer than... (MORE)
- More and more, GLBT roles are going to GLBT actors: QUICK LOOK: You know times have changed when not only are more and more LGBT characters appearing in film and on television, but more and more of the people playing those characters... (MORE)
- Trend of Moroccan migrants gay-bashing hurts Amsterdam: QUICK LOOK: Anti-gay violence is more structural in Amsterdam than anywhere else in the world, according to Boris Dittrich of human rights organisation Human Rights Watch. "You... (MORE)
The week's top blog post/op-ed:
August 24, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
I've always wondered how the Secret Service handles the increased manpower needs during presidential primary years. Every four years presidential candidates of both parties require protection during the primaries.
During the three years of no presidential campaign, the Secret Service protects mainly the president and the vice president, as well as former presidents.
In election years they have to expand greatly the number of people they guard. I was reminded of this yesterday when the media reported that the Secret Service had been dispatched to Senator Joe Biden's house after he had been designated the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. I wondered about this in the middle of the primaries when there were at least 8 Democrats and at least 6 Republicans running, most of whom were getting protection.
So how does the Secret Service do it? Does it hire new people every four years, then fire them immediately after the election? (Cruel). Does it go to a temp agency? (Scary.) Does the agency forbid vacations during this time and make all agents work double and triple shifts to in order to cover everyone? (Scary.) Do they thin out the coverage for the president and vice president to spread the available agents to the new candidates? (Even scarier.) Or is there such an abundance of agents that during the three years between elections, loads of agents are just hanging around the White House playing checkers waiting for the primary season? (Wasteful.) Or does the agency have people that can float back and forth between the Secret Service and some other government agency depending on need? (Are the auxiliary agents really up to snuff?)
If anyone knows how the Secret Service handles the fluctuating manpower needs, please let me know. I'm losing sleep over this.
Posted by: Andoni
I guess any politician can mis-speak, misremember, or embellish. That is entirely human. I've already wondered here and here whether Senator John McCain's neurons are operating properly because of the high number of inadvertent errors he has made. The problem now is why is he making a large number of errors that cannot be described as inadvertent. These are purposeful misstatements that I believe demonstrate a problem with McCain's integrity and credibility.
Let's list these:
1. his falsehoods with respect to his first marriage and divorce
2. his lying with respect to the cone of silence
3. his invention (or plagiarism) of the cross in the dirt story
4. his twisted accusation of Obama's "ambition" to be president
5. his lie that John Lewis is someone he would consult with
Chris recently exposed how McCain has tarnished the sanctity of marriage. Here is the story from McCain's friends in more detail of exactly what happened. And this story from the LATimes (along with Chris') nails how McCain started lying about it.
When McCain appeared at the Saddleback Church with Pastor Rick Warren, he was supposed to be in a "cone of silence" the entire time Obama was answering the questions. McCain did not comply with this arrangement. When McCain appeared on stage he did not tell Warren that he was not in the cone the entire time, instead he allowed the lie to be perpetuated. He was complicit in the lie.
McCain's story of the guard in the Hanoi prison during Christmas of 1969 has been analyzed and there is strong evidence that this story was made up for his book and run for the presidency in 1999. It was never mentioned prior to 1999, including in a 12,000 word report on his captivity or in his prior writings about his Christmases in captivity. There is further suggestion that the story was borrowed from Solzhenitsyn. Andrew Sullivan does a good job of getting to the bottom of this here, here, and here.
Earlier this week, McCain ran an ad criticizing Obama saying it was ambition that made him want to be president, suggesting this was a bad thing and implying it didn't apply to himself, McCain. However, it was soon shown that Obama was not the only one with ambition, that McCain himself had admitted ambition when he ran for president in 2000.
Finally, at Saddleback McCain said that Congressman John Lewis is someone he admires and would consult with. When someone says something like this, one would assume that the two know each other, have a relationship, and speak occasionally if not regularly. McCain was clearly trying to have the audience believe that John Lewis is someone he talks to and consults with. However the next day, Lewis said that although he knows McCain, they are not buddies, do not speak and McCain has never consulted him. There may be another name for this. I call it a lie. At a minimum it was an outright attempt to deceive, and in my book, this is a lie.
Clearly one has to wonder where McCain's integrity and credibility are at this point.
Posted by: Andoni
For better or worse I get to interact with a lot of different types of people. The latest line I've heard from two different people in two different parts of the country is that they cannot vote for Senator Barack Obama because he has "Muslim blood" in him.
These same people used to claim that Obama was Muslim, but I guess Obama's campaign to convince people of his Christianity has worked. They now will acknowledge that Obama may be Christian, but they still won't vote him because he has Muslim blood in him. Obama's father was Muslim.
I guess bigotry remains bigotry. The reasons to attempt to rationalize it just change.
August 22, 2008
Posted by: Chris
These are tense times for us "Norteamericanos" in Brazil, as Americans are often referred to here. Brasileiros are huge sports fans -- imagine Philadelphia or Boston multiplied by a country of 200 million -- and intensely patriotic about their national teams. Forget "U!S!A!" chants. You haven't heard anything until you watch TV here and hear the pre-recorded, echoed shriek "Bra-ZIL! ZIL! ZIL!" after every decent play or performance.
Of course their passion for "futebol" (pronounced something like "footy-ball") is unmatched worldwide. So you can imagine how their blood was boiling when the men's soccer team was ousted in the Olympic semifinal by hated arch-rivals Argentina. The sarcastic headline in Globo said it all: "Now, the women's team is all that's left."
The U.S. women took care of that, defeating Brazil in the gold medal match in overtime, just as they had in the Athens Olympics, even though the Brazilian women had completely dominated the game.
Volleyball is Brazil's other great sports passion, with loyal fan support for professional leagues for both men and women. For obvious reasonsbBeach volleyball is also hugely popular here, which explains why two of the three men's teams on the medal stand in Beijing were Brazilian. But it was a pair of Americans looking down from the golden perch on the Brazilians in silver and bronze position.
There will be some nervous gringos in Brazil this next couple of days . . .
Posted by: Kevin
Liz Sidoti of AP has reported that Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX), the favorite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), has been subject to one of the few background checks by the Obama campaign and is a finalist for consideration for Obama's vice presidential running-mate.
Chet is not what gay Democrats would call "a friend". In fact, the Washington Blade called him "anti-gay."
(Photo by Waco Tribune Herald, Jerry Larson/AP)
Update: 6:15pm E.T.: Signs point to Evan Bayh.
Posted by: Andoni
Relax everybody, former Senator Sam Nunn will not be Senator Barack Obama's running mate. He is scheduled to be out of the country through Monday and Obama is scheduled to appear with his chosen running mate in Springfield, Illinois on Saturday. So, it's not going to be Nunn. Of course, if the Obama campaign was really intent for the press not to guess the VP's name, this would be the ultimate head fake.
Lesbians and gays became apoplectic when Nunn's name arose as a possible VP for Obama. As we remember he was instrumental in getting the punitive "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" through Congress. Additionally, he was anti-gay in most of his stances and even let a staffer go because he was gay.
In a post yesterday, I was hoping it would be former vice president Al Gore, but I would also be happy with Senator Joe Biden, especially after reading David Brooks' column today in the New York Times. Also, according to the Human Rights Campaign, Biden has a fairly supportive history on gay issues, although he is not a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act.
August 21, 2008
Posted by: Chris
After watching the excerpt below from a CNN report on John McCain's life, all I can say is it's about damn time.
I have written many times that I do not believe in general that opposition to gay rights makes a person's private sex life fair game on the basis that the issue relates to sex and morality.
Civil marriage is a public institution, however, and a basic human right. When a politician opposes allowing same-sex couples access to that basic human right, his own marital history is fair game -- especially when that politician justifies our exclusion as a defense of "the sanctity" of the institution.
When Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced the notorious federal Defense of Marriage Act, it was absolutely relevant for debate that he had been married three times. (Barr has since quit the GOP and is running as the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, and has renounced DOMA even though he remains personally opposed to gays marrying.)
The same holds true for John McCain, who opposes not just marriage but any form of legal recognition of gay relationships -- whether civil unions, domestic partnerships or even D.P. benefits from public entities. Now he's even backing away from his previous opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to prevent states from deciding the issue for themselves -- setting a very low bar for the full reversal of his position that is sure to come.
Pointing out McCain's hypocrisy on marriage doesn't require invading his privacy; it's all there in the public record or his own writings. Especially now that he is hyping his Vietnam POW history as proof of moral credentials to be president, the public should know how when he returned from captivity he began cheating on his first wife Carol McCain, the one who waited for his return over for those agonizing long years.
The CNN excerpt tells even more about how McCain has distorted the truth about that period. He has claimed he was long separated from Carol when he met and courted and became involved with Cindy Henley, the much younger, beautiful and wealthy woman who would become his second wife. In fact, his own divorce filings show he was still living with Carol for nine full months while carrying on his affair with Cindy.
McCain even applied in Arizona for a license to marry Cindy while he was still in fact married to Carol. This is the "sanctity" of marriage in Arizona that McCain so fears that gay couples will erode?
McCain fails utterly to explain his conduct or subsequent distortion of it when gently prodded by CNN's John King. "That was 30 years ago," McCain keeps saying. Yes, but so are those POW years he claims show us what stuff he is made of. He can't have it both ways. George Bush's problems with alcohol were just as dated, but he wasn't pointing to the same period of time as a primary credential to be president.
Unfortunately, CNN did not go on to connect the dots for viewers, but McCain's hypocrisy also lays bare the base political motivations underlying his view on marriage as a policy issue. When President Bush used and abused our basic human rights for his own political gain, the public could be fooled into believing his motives were more genuine. Not so John McCain.
(Hat tip: Jed Report)
Posted by: Andoni
Pundits are saying Senator Barack Obama's short list for vice presidential nominee consists of Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. I'm hoping that these names are a form of bobbing and weaving, and that when Obama announces it will be former vice president Al Gore. Gore would add gravitas and experience to the ticket and be somebody that most people know well and respect.
I pushed Gore for president last year, saying that he was elected in 2000 by the popular vote, and people would want to help make things right this time and restore him to the position he won but was denied by the Supreme Court. I've also pushed him for VP, but most pundits have removed Gore from the list once he announced he wasn't interested.
Why might Gore accept the vice presidency and what can Obama say to him to convince him? If I were Obama this is how I would get Gore on my ticket:
1. I would offer him carte blanche on energy policy and climate control. He would be the architect of the country's energy policy and climate control efforts that will carry us forward for a 100 years. This could establish him as a Teddy Roosevelt like figure. I would tell him that he would have much more influence in forming the US energy policy for the 21st century as veep than in the private work he is doing now.
2. I would remind him how the Republicans have ruined the country over the past 8 years. I would tell him that he can assure Democratic victory and I would appeal to his patriotism and sense of duty to help get the country back on track.
3. Finally, I would invoke how he was wronged in the 2000 election and that it was time to make a comeback and show the public what a great man he really is and what he can accomplish for the country in government.
So when all of you get those instant messages in the next 24 to 48 hours, if it's Gore, know that I told you so. If it's not, forget you ever read this.
Posted by: Chris
It may not be hypothetical whether the Obama campaign is as jittery as Camp McCain allegedly was about a donation from the owner of a gay sex website. Blogger Michael Petrelis, the undisputed gay king of tracking campaign contributions, has discovered that Larry Basile, the liberal Democrat half of the Manhunt power couple, donated $250 to Obama back in January.
That makes even more curious that Basile told the Boston Herald (discussed here) he "wouldn't be surprised" if Obama also rejected a donation from a gay sex website owner. Since we now know that Obama in fact received such a donation from Basile himself, that little quip looks a lot more like pre-emptive damage control -- because mayby that's exactly what happened with Basile's contribution.
Posted by: Chris
. . . Well there aren't three yet actually, but gay Colorado businessman Jared Polis was the surprise winner last week in a highly competitive Democratic primary and is the heavy favorite in November in his bid to be the third out gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Even better, he would be the first gay man to win a congressional election as a non-incumbent. Lesbian Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was the first to do it, way back in 1998.
Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and former reps Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) and Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) all came out after they were already in office.
Polis is due belated congratulations for pulling off the victory in a three-way contest with no incumbent for the congressional seat representing Boulder and some of the top ski resorts in Colorado. Polis, a former chair of the state board of education who made a fortune from the e-card site bluemountain.com, spent more than $5 million of his own money to beat former state Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald and conservationist Will Shafroth.
Fitz-Gerald had been as the favorite and her lengthy record of strong gay rights support earned her support against Polis from many local gays, notably Tim Gill, another wealthy entrepreneur whose Gill Foundation has done ground-breaking political work in Colorado and elsewhere.
Normally I would have jumped all over HRC for that decision, because it was very likely driven by fear of offending locals (i.e. donors) who backed Fitz-Gerald. It's not surprising that Polis had to beat a gay-friendly opponent; that's likely to be the case in almost all the liberal congressional districts where out gay candidates are going to have the best shot.
That's the primary reason -- along with homophobia, of course -- for the 10 very long years since Baldwin's landmark victory. Kudos to the Victory Fund for jumping into the Polis race when lots of pundits and analysts were saying it was a loser.
Still, I'm cutting HRC a break on this one -- close that gaping jaw, please -- because for one thing they often stay out of primaries with no incumbents. Much more importantly, I've had my own misgivings about Polis ever since he made clear he would have voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act introduced by Barney Frank and passed by Congress, on the grounds that it included sexual orientation but not gender identity as protected categories.
Without being drawn back into that bitter debate, it reinforeced why ideological purity has no place in a legislative body that inevitably horse trades, compromises and moves along incrementally. Like most activists and GLBT groups in the "trans or bust" crowd, Polis was maddeningly naive in his analysis, explaining it this way this way to a transgender writer for PageOneQ:
Q: So, among your endorsements is Congresswoman and ENDA co-sponsor Tammy Baldwin...
A: She was on the right side of [ENDA], you know. I was disappointed, along with many progressive members of our community, that we seemed to be cutting political deals and leaving part of our community behind.
Q: I felt it on a personal level, too, one of my best friends being a transwoman. We were being very pointedly pitted against each other politically, especially in the blogosphere.
A: I do think there was a good grassroots response from gays and lesbians nationally, to push back against our political leadership in Washington. I know that HRC and others got a lot of negative letters from gays and lesbians. I have a lot of transgender friends as well, and I think the best thing I saw was some protesters at one of the HRC dinners saying, "You can't spell 'Equality' without the 'T'."
An inclusive ENDA is all we should really be talking about. I don't think that we should talk about a piecemeal version that pits part of our community against one another.
Not only is Polis flat-wrong about Baldwin, who voted for the gay-only version of ENDA, he's also frighteningly simplistic. "You can't spell 'Equality' without the 'T'"? Seriously? Since you can spell "Equality" without a G, L or B, should we assume he'd be all for a trans-only version?
Fitz-Gerald said she would have voted for Barney's ENDA, and that was enough for me for the primary. But Polis' victory is still a very important one, so let's hope he gets a reality check, whether from his general election race against someone to the right of kum-ba-yah or from good-ole Beltway politics.
(Above: Photo of Jared Polis celebrating victory via the New York Times)
Posted by: Kevin
Perhaps the best campaign piece by The Onion this cycle. (My personal favorite is the caption to the photo.)
Posted by: Chris
In what perhaps (we can hope!) is the last chapter in the Manhunt-McCain drama (background here and here), it's been widely accepted as fact on the blogosphere that John McCain's presidential campaign returned the $2,300 contribution it received from Jonathan Crutchley, one of two co-founders of the gay hook-up site Manhunt.
Hardly surprising, if it's actually true, but the sourcing is far too thin to treat it as fact.
Every such claim I've seen in gay or mainstream sites link back to this article in the Boston Herald that relies on neither Crutchley or the McCain campaign but instead on Larry Basile, Manhunt's other co-founder and the CEO of Online Buddies, Inc., which owns the site:
McCain’s camp seemed just as eager to distance themselves from the brief alliance. McCain spokesman Jeff Grappone didn’t return multiple phone calls on the subject, and Crutchley has apparently been informed that his $2,300 will be returned.
“He said, ‘If John is too good for my money, I’ll give it to (presumptive Democratic nominee) Barack (Obama),’ ” Basile said yesterday.
Crutchley, who originally defended his donation in an online post, did not return a call for comment.
Considering longtime Democrat Basile's business and political bias here, it's a bit much to rely on him as the one and only hearsay source, especially since Basile uses the claim to swear that Crutchley has also had a total change of heart:
Crutchley has since written a “touching” letter to the employees at Manhunt, according to Basile, and is now committed to supporting Obama.
“Someone had a reality check,” Basile said.
Basile, who described himself as a “staunch Democrat,” said Crutchley has given the maximum amount to Obama.
Color me very skeptical, considering Crutchley's longtime record as a partisan Republican and remembering his original justification for backing McCain was based on national security issues. If in fact he's switching allegiance to Obama just because he's miffed that McCain returned his money, then Basile himself (unwittingly) concedes Crutchley is in for another "reality check":
[Basile] said he wouldn’t be surprised, considering the subject matter of the Web site, if Obama returns the $2,300 as well.
“Barack can’t endorse this kind of adult content. It’s sort of like a third rail,” Basile said. “I would imagine if it’s tough for one, it’s tough for the other.”
A new bit of info that surprises me much more than McCain's (alleged) rebuff is a nugget from Bay Window's site Edge-Boston that Crutchley and Basile were not just partners in creating Manhunt but are "life partners" as well.
So much for the mutual back-slapping we've seen among Crutchley's critics that his resignation from Manhunt has purified the sex site of pernicious moderate Republican influence. Since the Crutchley-Basile household remains the beneficiary of revenue from Manhunt through their combined ownership interest as well as Basile's ongoing role as chief executive officer, the GOP taint remains. Out damn'd spot, out I say!
If nothing else, news of the Crutchley-Basile relationship goes to show the futility of these ideological witch hunts, at least as measured by their effectiveness on effecting real change. That will, of course, be lost on the politically correct zealots whose real motivation is the opportunity to feel superior and to signal to gay Republicans their status as lepers within our "community." (As if they needed reminding.)
Along with the wasted activist energy, it's that message of exclusion -- which treats gay support for Republicans for non-gay reasons as equivalent or worse than anti-gay bigots -- that's the real problem with the witch hunt at Manhunt, yet another disappointing example of gay liberal intolerance.
When the issue is intolerance, simplistic appeals to the First Amendment are beside the point, which remains lost on some of those who commented in response by my last post on the topic. We wouldn't be having this debate if Crutchley's critics had merely been criticizing Crutchley for backing McCain, something I've done myself in posts on the Arizona senator's truly rotten gay rights record.
But of course they didn't. The gay liberal blog posts (and comments) on the subject are chock full of the usual smear of gay Republicans as "self-loathing Nazi Jews." What's worse, the very idea of the Manhunt boycott was to say loud and clear that gay Republicans have no place in businesses with gay customers -- and by extension in leadership roles in the community.
Then again, these (situational) ideological purists are too busy doing their Church Lady superiority dance to notice, much less care.
(Above: very clever graphic via The Gist)
August 20, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Two lesbian elected officials are defending the draft Democratic Party platform they helped write against complaints that it omits the G-word -- along with the L, B and T words. Lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who co-chaired the platform committee, whose 15 members also included Alabama state rep Patricia Todd, both both spoke to Ohio's Gay Peoples Chronicle:
Baldwin explained that the committee made a conscious choice to use more descriptive language that models the wording used in legislation.
“Most of the wordsmithing,” said Baldwin, “was done purposefully to make the clearest policy statements possible.”
“There was never any discussion to keep the word ‘gay’ out of the platform or any reluctance to say the word,” Todd said.
The 2004 platform does refer to “gay” and “lesbian.”
“The platform is a statement of aspiration,” Baldwin said, “not an implementation plan. It reflects the values of the party.”
Baldwin's explanation tracks my own reaction to the draft, since gay rights legislation bans discrimination based on "sexual orientation," which includes bias against heterosexuals as well.
Also, it turns out the most glaring "LGBT" omission, in a reference to gay families that is repeated verbatim from the 2004 without "gay," is apparently be remedied:
- 2004: We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families.
- 2008 draft: We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.
- 2008 revision: We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.
Considering the attention paid to the complaints and to precise wording, this supposed revision is a bit odd. For one thing, there's still no LGBT-ish there, though it's easy to understand why considering the political correctness that surrounds LGBT-onics. Changing "same-sex couples" to "gay couples" or "gay and lesbian couples" would still leave out "bisexual couples." That leaves only the clunky "gay, lesbian and bisexual couples," which of course would leave our trans sisters and brothers fuming.
What's more, using "same-sex couples," implies adult relationships are the extent of our families, with no acknowledgment of those of us who are parents. The 2004 platform, on the other hand, used over-inclusive language, since "gay and lesbian families" implies the kids are gay, too.
Why not this:
We support the full inclusion of all families, including those led by same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.
This more accurately describes gay couples as part of families, and recognizes at least impliedly that relationship recognition impacts not just them but their children as well.
Posted by: Chris
- More and more, GLBT roles are going to GLBT actors: QUICK LOOK: You know times have changed when not only are more and more LGBT characters appearing in film and on television, but more and more of the people playing those characters... (MORE)
- Irish singer angers gays in N.Z. with pink clothes quip: QUICK LOOK: Irish singer Brian McFadden has sparked outrage in New Zealand after warning heterosexual men not to wear the colour pink. The former Westlife star was guest-hosting... (MORE)
- Calif. court rules against docs refusing care for lesbian: QUICK LOOK: Doctors may not discriminate against gays in medical treatment, even if the procedures being sought conflict with physicians' religious beliefs, the California Supreme... (MORE)
- Lesbian Rachel Maddow gets her own MSNBC show: QUICK LOOK: Those who enjoy Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's "Countdown" know that when he goes on vacation, Rachel Maddow sits in for him. She's a tart, smart liberal, and she always... (MORE)
- Obama, McCain evenly splitting 'values voters' in polls: QUICK LOOK: Democrat Barack Obama maintains a small lead over Republican John McCain in most polls, but it's clearly a close race. At this point, it's unclear just how important... (MORE)
August 19, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
It may not make as big a splash as their decision on same sex marriage, but yesterday the California Supreme Court unanimously decided that an individual medical practitioner cannot refuse to treat a gay or lesbian person because of religious beliefs. In short they ruled that there is no religious exemption to civil rights laws.
The case revolved around two doctors who refused to perform an artificial insemination treatment for a lesbian whose other routes to pregnancy had failed.
"Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and the California Constitutions, exempt a medical clinic's physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act's prohibition against discrimination? Our answer is no."
So wrote Justice Joyce Kennard, in the 7 -0 decision.
This is huge. It basically puts lesbian and gay civil rights laws on par with prior civil rights laws based on race, religion, etc. In the early days of the Civil Rights Law of 1964 some people tried to wiggle around these laws claiming that their personal religious beliefs did not allow them to serve black people. Similarly they tried to say that their right to freedom of assembly allowed them to choose only white people to assemble with and exclude blacks. Those arguments worked as long as the organization was a bonafide private entity, such as a private club. This "private organization" argument was also the basis for the Boy Scout victory over James Dale, a gay Eagle Scout who was dismissed because he was gay. The Boy Scouts successfully proved that they were a private entity and one of their core beliefs and message was an anti-gay one.
Not so for medical clinics and doctors. Not so for restaurants and hotels and banks. Any business that is open to the public and is not set up to be an exclusive club cannot claim the the religious exemption or the free speech/assembly right. This principle was long ago established for blacks and now it is established for gays....at least in California.
On a similar front, pharmacists in some states are arguing that they have the religious right to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. In a just world --- using reason, logic and precedent, this argument would be thrown out immediately. However, in parts of the United States, these arguments are making headway. It will take years to determine whether religious law or civil law will prevail.
In my mind the answer is simple, but for some reason, in this country,it's going to be a battle.
August 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
An interesting comment from a reader about my earlier post on the controversial contribution to John McCain's presidential campaign by Jonathan
Crotchley Crutchley, the co-founder and chairman of the gay hook-up site Manhunt:
Let's see if I understand your point, Chris.
It's a terrible thing when Americans use their First Amendment rights to protest the actions of others with whom they disagree?
It's wrong for people to use their freedom of association and the power of their dollar in the American capitalistic system to reward businesses with whose actions they agree and punish those with which they find fault?
It's wrong for a privately held corporation to determine that the actions of a board member have brought economic harm and reputational damage to the company and to reduce said member's role?
The First Amendment arguments are in reality just straw men. Simply because people have the guaranteed freedoms of speech and association doesn't make every exercise of those freedoms a good thing.
Also, despite the Cheneyesque line-blurring by some critics on the blogs, there is no absolutely no accusation that Manhunt/Online Buddies, Inc. itself engaged in any politics whatsoever. This was Jonathan Crutchley using his own money (from whatever source) for his own personal reasons. Another straw man.
The important point the reader raises is whether the personal politics and monetary contributions of a business executive (or investor/owner) provide a good justification for customer boycotts and executive firings. For executives, I would say absolutely not, unless there is some evidence of effect on the policies/conduct of the business. I don't think we want right-wing groups going on witch hunts for gay and gay-friendly execs at top companies, do we?
For investor/owners, the issue is more complex and ultimately a judgment call. What percentage of ownership are we talking about? How much of each customer dollar is enriching the anti-gay owner and enabling his donations? Also, how specifically anti-gay are the politics and donations? Is he giving to groups/causes etc with a specific agenda that is anti-gay? Or is his support for the cause/group for other reasons or even despite anti-gay stands?
Crutchley is clearly not anti-gay, even if he doesn't prioritize gay rights like we would. If you support a Manhunt boycott because of Crotchley's connection to McCain, what about other businesses (gay or otherwise) with top execs (gay or otherwise) who are Republican -- or even Catholic! Lord knows the Catholic church has had a far more profound and pernicious impact on gay lives and in spreading HIV than John McCain and the GOP.
Even still, there's little question that the effectiveness of this kind of boycott almost always makes it a waste of activist energy. What's more, the (situational) ideological purity that motivates such boycotts is one big reason why political correctness so enrages many of us -- and even turns off moderates (gay and otherwise) to our own cause.
August 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
- Beijing Olympics underway with six out gay athletes: QUICK LOOK: At least six openly gay athletes are in Beijing striving for medals at the 2008 Olympics.The list of openly gay athletes includes Natasha Kai, a forward on the U.S. Women’s... (MORE)
- Nebraska dismisses two wrestlers for soft porn roles: QUICK LOOK: Two Nebraska wrestlers, including one who won an NCAA championship in 2007, have been dismissed from the team after posing naked for videos and photographs on an Internet... (MORE)
- Deep in Brazilian Amazon, members of tribe come out: QUICK LOOK: Deep in the Amazon jungle, in the Brazilian border with Peru and Colombia, a few young men from the country's most populous... (MORE)
- Reality star offers sexy peek at 'Another Gay Sequel': QUICK LOOK: Life once again imitated art during filming of Todd Stephens’ follow-up to the successful 2006 summer spoof Another Gay Movie, Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!, in... (MORE)
- British gay stars attack Scots' Roman Catholic bishop: QUICK LOOK: Sir Ian McKellen and Simon Callow, Britain’s most prominent gay film actors, have launched an outspoken attack on Bishop Joseph Devine, the second most senior figure... (MORE)
These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last seven days. You can also view the most popular stories of the last month or even year, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.
August 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I hope my gay Republican friends pay close heed to the very disturbing answer that John McCain gave tonight on marriage. Much of it was not new, including his generous willingness to allow gay Americans in relationships to enter into "legal arrangements" with each other -- at least our right to private contracts isn't at risk! But it is grossly disingenuous to say we should have "the same rights as other citizens" when he's just made clear that we can't marry -- a basic human right -- and in fact he opposes any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, whether it be civil unions, domestic partnerships or even D.P. benefits offered by public institutions like universities and hospitals.
That wasn't even the disturbing part. McCain also made much clearer than he has to date that if "any federal court" says that one state, like his home sweet home in Arizona, has to recognize gay marriages from other states, then he'll reverse his "courageous" opposition to a federal constitutional amendment banning all states from marrying same-sex couples.
It matters not to McCain, who claims to respect federalism and the role of the states to decide these questions, that the U.S. Constitution may well require each state to recognize and respect the decision other states have made on this question -- just as they do on almost every other similar decision. If some federal judge somewhere decides the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, probably because of the U.S. Constitution's "full faith and credit clause," then McCain is fully on board with George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, and other hard-right-wingers who would amend our nation's founding document to forever ban any state from deciding the issue for itself.
(Note: If this overturning DOMA is really McCain's trigger, then he ought to support a limited federal amendment that enshrines the portion of DOMA that provides one state should not have to recognize gay marriages from other states. His answer belies a political, and cynical, willingness to go much, much further.)
Perhaps even most disturbing was his list of current Supreme Court justices he believes should not have been nominated: Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer, appointed by President Clinton, and John Paul Stevens and David Souter, nominated by Republican Presidents Ford and Bush Sr. All four were eminently qualified and confirmed by wide Senate majorities. You don't get any clearer glimpse at the Supreme Court that a President McCain envisions.
The real irony of this clear, new statement from McCain on a federal marriage amendment is how it came only minutes after he listed Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), the black civil rights pioneer who fervently supports gay marriage, as one of the three "wise" men he would rely on as president. Then, only moments later, he offered as America's "greatest moral failure" our inability to defend the rights of those different from ourselves.
(Late-added note: Obama's answer was actually worse. In addition to his wife and 85-year-old grandmother -- really? they are the wisest people to turn to on matters of state? so much for arguing 71-year-old McCain is too old to trust! -- he offered up Sam Nunn, the former Georgia senator who is an expert on defense issues, as well as forcing the bigoted "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on a president of his own party. Is this a veep hint? Please, no!)
There's no way to square his respect for Lewis and civil rights with his complete disregard for the lives and hopes of gay Americans. His views on legal recognition of gay couples are to the right of the vast majority of Americans, and even President Bush himself -- who has spoken favorably about civil unions.
Rhetoric about civil rights is empty and hypocritical if in almost the same breath John McCain can assert such hardened views about lesbian and gay Americans.
An endorsement from Log Cabin really ought to be unthinkable now.
(Photo of John McCain and Pastor Rick Warren via Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Posted by: Chris
. . . Cauã Raymond on the novela (nighttime soap) "A Favorita" (see below)
Three guesses who won the staring contest between me and the b.f. over what to watch tonight. But I am at least catching John McCain's Q&A and will find Barack Obama's turn somewhere online.
I will say this, I absolutely count myself among those who object to such an important joint forum being held at a church and moderated by a minister, any minister, much less an evangelical like Rick Warren.
A couple of interesting side notes about "A Favorita (The Favorite)" and the role played by Raymond, who is a hugely popular beefcake actor here (for obvious reasons). The queeny character opposite him in the video snippet above is Iran Malfitano, although he's hardly recognizable in the role. Before this soap, he was hands down the Brazilian actor who most pushed my buttons.
Here's a very different sample of his work in "Donas de Casa Desperadas," reprising the "Desperate Housewives" role of the hunky gardener played by Jesse Metcalfe who seduces Gabrielle:
It's a little disappointing that the soap's producers felt Malfitano had to so queen it up to play a gay role, but since that's an exception to how previous gay roles have been handled on popular novelas, I'll chalk it up as about the character, not his sexual orientation.
Much more disappointing is the way that O Globo, the omnipotent media near-monopoly that broadcasts "A Favorita" has inserted itself into the storyline. Early on in the novela's run, Raymond's character was using Malfitano for a place to stay and a ritzier life. In the original storyline, however, Raymond realized he had real feelings for Malfitano and ended up having a real relationship and coming out.
But the network said that wouldn't do, and now Raymond's character has dumped Malfitano (who still pines) and goes on to bed a succession of beautiful women. What a unique story -- not.
But what can we expect from a network that not once but twice has demanded that gay male characters in novelas who were scripted to kiss in greatly anticipated finales share a big hug instead. It would be too much for the kids watching, O Globo reasoned, unlike the nightly portrayal of very steamy hetero sex scenes and graphic talk.
Posted by: Chris
The bubbling controversy over the $2,300 contribution to John McCain from a co-founder of the gay hookup site Manhunt.net offers a classic example of the way idelogical intolerance sucks the life out of meaningful gay political debate.
When word first got out that Jonathan Crutchley, one of the original investors behind Manhunt, had donated the maximum allowed by law to the Republican's presidential campaign, the response was altogether predictable.
The public interest was altogether understandable. Here was politics making for very interesting bedfellows. It could have been an opportunity for some real discussion about how and why some gay folk prioritize issues like national security -- cited by Crutchley in his own defense -- over "the gay agenda," as he put it somewhat dismissively.
That's not what happened, of course. The blogs howled with angry calls for horny gay boys everywhere to cancel their Manhunt accounts in protest. Can you imagine a less effective form of political expression than this laughable suggestion? Don't give money to Barack Obama or the Democratic Party or your favorite gay group, noooo. Effectiveness wasn't really the point here, clearly. The idea was to savor that "special" feeling of cultural and political superiority (see Carvey, Dana: Church Lady dance).
The reaction within Manhunt, Inc. (a.k.a. Online Buddies, Inc.) was also swift and tailor-made for the company's hometown of Cambridge, Mass. -- the place where political correctness was born and I saw flourish in the late 1980s. The Manhunt board of directors -- wouldn't ya love to know just who that includes and how they got there? -- reacted with "disbelief" at Crutchley's donation, even though his moderate GOP politics had been known for years and his McCain contribution public knowledge for weeks.
Larry Basile, the site's other co-founder and more active in current management, offered up his liberal credentials in alternative, swearing he had made (smallish) contributions to Democrats as well as to Obama. The board even went so far as to ask Crutchley to resign, which he did, because, "Politically, [the donation] was just off-base, with the whole feeling over here at Manhunt."
Does anyone else find it ironic that a website that offers tens of thousands of men a relatively anonymous way to meet up for sex would sack its chairman and co-founder over his own private political beliefs? Isn't Manhunt as much about the right to privacy as much as it is about same-sex marriage? This ain't gay eHarmony, after all. Doesn't that double standard at least rival Crutchley's alleged offense?
Crutchley himself saw the irony. "Welcome to the age of the internet, where everyone's private life becomes public," he noted in a comment he posted to an early article about the donation,
Another insidious aspect to the controversy is the angry indignation we often see from the left that anyone who calls himself a Republican might enjoy an active gay sex life, much less be affiliated with a business that facilitates such for other gay men. Why is that so?
There's no hint that Crutchley agrees with the social conservative wing of the Republican Party on gay rights or personal privacy; in fact he made clear that his support for McCain was based entirely on who'd be the better commander-in-chief. (Crutchley also makes the interesting point that being a "Masssachusetts Republican is about the same as being an Alabama Democrat.)
You may fault his judgment on that score, and disagree strongly with the way he prioritizes civil rights and other issues -- count me in on both points -- but neither makes him a hypocrite.
Anyone who reads this blog with regularity knows I am no fan of John McCain and believe the choice we face in November should be clear for anyone committed to gay civil rights. Still, I am much more troubled by the arrogant intolerance that says the Crutchleys of our community should be excluded from gay-oriented businesses, organizations, etc., than I am by the misplaced political priorities of a few gay Republicans.
(Photo of Larry Basile, left, and Jonathan Crutchley via Out magazine)
Posted by: Kevin
The Republicans will converge on Minneapolis barely a breath and a half after Barack Obama's stadium acceptance speech in Denver. But the event beginning on September 1 will probably -and sadly- be predictable. As with the Democrats, the Republican National Convention has evolved into an enormously irrelevant exercise beyond the likely debut of the vice-presidential pick, and the chance for John McCain to capture the attention of the American people (and actually hold it for more than a few minutes if he can manage to ditch his alarmingly wooden delivery from various primary victory nights). While McCain is not likely to physically bolt the convention hall for his one appearance before the delegates -- like Obama wisely will -- in his gut he probably will want to.
McCain is just as likely as Obama to be more hurt than helped by the confab of his party's activists - probably a lot more. In fact, despite waving signs with his name all over them, most of them loathe their nominee deep down for his middle-of-the-road views on many issues, and are thinking more of their desperate hopes to hang onto the White House than their real feelings. The GOP doesn't have superdelegates per se (although state party chairs and national committee members are guaranteed delegate status), but several states select delegates for the national convention in a similarly bizarre manner under state rules that were adopted to make sure that no matter who the nominee is, there would still be an overwhelming number of extreme-right conservatives in enough delegations to ensure that the party's platform will remain an enjoyable read in the original German.
And that's another thing. While the Democratic platform is a huge camouflage operation intended to hide the contempt that its party's base has for the rest of the country, the Republicans put all the hate and contempt and twisted ideas of their extremists right out on paper for the world to see - and for the hapless nominee to waste time trying to shake off like a piece of toilet paper glued to his shoe.
The Democrats might pay lip service to gay rights now and then (although they decided to give up on the "g" word this year) without really caring at all about the issue as a national party, but the Republican conventioneers have cared a lot, a LOT, about gay rights since it started popping up at conventions in the 1980s. Gay marriage, gays in the military, gay adoption, employment discrimination, partner benefits, even the rights of domestic partners in the District of Columbia, and gays in the Boy Scouts - you name it. Gay rights is always in the GOP platform, in that the document usually reflects the abiding hatred that the religious right and its convention soldiers hold for any kind of progress we have made or might make in legal or political terms, written in often lurid ways that depart from the majority thinking of the American people.
The evolution of the abortion issue is an interesting illustration of the horrendous shortcomings of the GOP Convention in ever reflecting the reality of American opinion, thanks to its delegate selection rules in most states. While the American people might be queasy about unfettered abortion, they long ago closed ranks against a constitutional amendment abolishing it. Yet, the Republican platform still trumpets an abortion plank out of the political dark ages, and if even a pro-choice Republican somehow win the nomination he or she'd have to stay away from that sacred plank or else. The same attitude has encrusted around all things gay, despite polls which put public support as very high for lifting the military ban, very high for employment non-discrimination laws, and even heading upward for gay marriage.
This has always put Republican advocates for gay rights (and movement to the center on abortion) in a tough position inside the party machine. In my years on staff at Log Cabin Republicans, we always looked at taking on the platform somehow and even on years when we were blessed with scores of gay rights supporters in the state delegations -- even openly gay delegates -- and even with some state leaders ready to go to bat for us in platform committee meetings, the math was clearly never going to be remotely with us. No matter what the vast majority of Republican primary voters even believed, the delegate selection rules were cooked long ago. Rudy Giuliani or William Weld could have won 100% of the vote in the Texas primary, for example, and the Texas delegation would still have been made up mostly of hateful activists aligned with the religious right movement. In 1996, Bob Dole gave up on his effort to adjust the platform on social issues, and just quipped to a reporter that he didn't read the platform and didn't intend to. I expect McCain will do the same, whether he says so or not.
I spoke with a number of Log Cabin activists in the past few weeks, and I saw a remarkable level of focus around the realities of the 2008 election campaign. It's not the hopeless 2004 election, but it's also not the idealistic 2000 campaign either, where Bush had a public meeting with gays and said he was "a better man" for it. One longtime member was very direct. He said the gay community is kidding itself if it thinks the gay vote will make a difference one way or the other:
"Look at the 2004 vote - with [Log Cabin] openly against Bush, and the gay Democrats in full attack with their vote-or-die scenarios, the vote was still about the same as in 2000. Bush still got 20 to 25 percent of the gay vote. And Kerry's gay vote didn't make a difference one way or the other. So this isn't about kidding ourselves that gays matter to either party. It's about whether gays are positioned to have an impact on the next administration whoever wins."
That jarred me. To me, this was a departure from the idealism we come to expect from political activists. At least, the way gay Democrats talk about the need for a virtual one-party regime as a matter of life and death, you'd expect some kind of idealistic thought to motivate the gay political leaders of today. But what I heard from a number of gay Republicans I talked to this month was consistent: Log Cabin's endorsement isn't about getting gay votes, or about promoting a set of gay rights legislation. The gay GOP vote will be there no matter what, and the legislative goals will be dictated by the Democrats (if they care to even talk about them). In 2008, it's a question of having a chance to impact a McCain Administration, or being on the outs (as it has been the last four years with the current one) at a time when the so-called leading groups, like the Human Rights Campaign, are in the GOP freezer in just about every corner of the nation and will stay there for years to come.
I remember that the hope, back in the formative 1990s, was that Log Cabin would be able to raise the bar every four years and slowly leverage public opinion and moderate voters to pressure Republican candidates to go further than the last one. As another gay Republican leader told me last week, gay marriage has landed on that vision like a bomb, both for bad and for good. It led to a permanent break between Log Cabin and the Bush Administration, and from that moment on things largely collapsed after some promising developments in the first two years. And in just the past four years, the bar on gay rights has been raised so high -- especially after the arrival of gay marriage in California -- that the incrementalist path and the various legislative vehicles for traveling down it (ENDA, the federal hate crimes law, etc.) must be totally reviewed and adapted for the new reality. I agree with that notion -- and I think it also can be seen on the somewhat panicked faces of many national Democrats looking at California and wondering what it will lead to.
One thing I'll give the Log Cabiners credit for -- they have a grip on reality. Their party's convention and much of its base activists form the center of opposition to gay progress, and yet they are still marching into that convention hall, have a history with McCain, they are going to declare a set of goals before the election, and they're going to make themselves accountable for them after it. They are going to try to collect political capital, even if it is pocket change, and they are going to spend it all.
Say what you want about gay Republicans, but despite the enormous difference in atmosphere in their own party, I don't see one single gay Democratic organization -- de facto or de jure -- doing the same for this election cycle. Perhaps the experience of promising a rainbow revolution with a Democratic Congress, only to see it pop like a balloon in practice the last two years, has jarred them about overpromising. But are things that bad behind the Wizard's curtain that they can't make any set of public goals at all? Have they no political capital at all to spend, even in 2008?
I don't want to believe that the gay Democrats are all hot air -- I know and admire many of their leading lights, and know many to be serious people. Why are they allergic to clear, public goals on gay issues and accountability for them? If Log Cabin - with all the limits and challenges they face - can be sanguine about their endorsement process and their role in the big picture, albeit small, why can't there be some outside group of gay Democrats (like HRC) who set forth a clear agenda that they intend to carry out in an Obama presidency?
After the hundreds of millions of gay dollars raised and spent over the last 20 odd years of this stuff, it would be a horrendously depressing conclusion if all it has bought us is a gay Democratic establishment that, behind the expensive glitter, exists only by the permission and good humor of its party's leaders, and a small gay Republican insurgency, battered as it is, which would be the only channel of information for a GOP administration that itself would be a minefield whether the Oval Office was inhabited by a friendly face or not.
[Photo from The Simpsons (Fox). Note: Sorry this is a day late, but we had an internet outage in our building last night. -K]
August 14, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I want to extend congratulations to my former colleagues over at the Washington Blade for a big prize won by the paper and reporter Joshua Lynsen. The National Newspaper Association, a "mainstream media" organization that includes publications large and small, awarded Lyons and the Blade first place in the Best Newspapers Contest among non-daily papers with a circulation of 15,000 or more, for "Best Feature Story."
The article in question, "A new kind of fight" published in March 2007, told the inspiring coming out story of gay Marine Eric Alva, now retired, who lost his leg as the first official casualty of the Iraq War:
It was a late autumn evening when Eric Alva, now a retired Marine staff sergeant and the first U.S. service member injured in the Iraq war, decided to come out as gay.
The decision, Alva said, came after his partner noted Alva lost his right leg while defending freedoms neither man could fully enjoy.
Alva said the words his partner spoke then in their San Antonio, Texas, home have stayed with him.
“Look at the rights that people are being denied,” Alva recalled his partner saying. “And look at the rights that you are fighting for. Look at the rights that you put your life on the line for, for this country. And yet you don’t get any of them.
It was a great introduction for a Marine whose service proved all sorts of hypocrisies about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as Josh reports how even after Alva's homosexuality became known, it was a non-issue for his unit. (The photo of Alva here, by the Blade's Henry Linser, accompanied the winning article.)
Again, congrats to Josh and to Kevin Naff, his editor, and the rest of the Blade staff.
August 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
This week has not been a good one for PlanetOut, the struggling giant of gay media. First came notice from the NASDAQ stock exchange that the company had failed for 30 consecutive days to maintain the minimum market value ($5 million) of publicly owned stock and as a result is facing "delisting" -- removal from the exchange, where it trades under the symbol "LGBT." PNO has 90 days to rectify the problem by meeting the $5 million mark for 10 consecutive days.
Planet Out's management responded by saying it would monitor the situation and if the picture doesn't look any rosier, the company will ask to be moved to NASDAQ's Capital Market for smaller publicly traded companies.
The downsizing of PlanetOut isn't just in stock value, of course. Just this afternoon, the company announced that it had completed the sale of its magazine, book publishing and soft-porn business, which includes LPI, Inc. (Advocate, Out and their websites, Out Traveler, Alyson Books) and Spec Pubs, Inc. (Men, Freshmen, Unzipped and the now defunct  magazine).
The new owner, Regent Entertainment (here!TV, Gay Wired) gets the marquis titles for a song: paying $6.5 million in exchange for not just LPI and Spec Pubs but also $6.5 million in advertising on Gay.com and Planet Out's other remaining properties. What a bargain -- considering Planet Out paid more than $31 million to acquire the same titles just three years ago!
At this point, all eyes are on Regent to see what changes they'll bring to the Advocate and Out, especially. Both publications have struggled alongside their gay and "mainstream" counterparts (Instinct, Genre, Time, Newsweek, People, Us) to stay relevant in the age of instant internet info gratification. From what I've seen, the quality of both pubs has improved considerably under the current editors, and the sale at least insures the fate of so much of national gay media isn't so intertwined. (Although Regent is itself another conglomerate).
The news isn't all gloomy for PNO. Financials released yesterday showed the company had stemmed the bleeding somewhat in losses, from a rate of around $800,000 per month for the last year or so to "just" $932,000 for the entire quarter ending June 30. With the high overhead print pubs out of the picture, a leaner meaner PlanetOut has a shot at turning the corner, or at least making itself more attractive for an acquisition.
Apparently some investors think so as well. After trading between $2.00 and $2.30 for several weeks, LGBT finished at $2.65 yesterday. It's a tiny fraction of early, heady days of $12 a share -- before a 1-to-10 reverse stock split to save the stock when it was trading below $1 per share. But it's something.
Posted by: Kevin
The Democratic National Convention will convene in Denver on August 25th to nominate Barack Obama as their presidential standard-bearer in the fall election. However, the concept of standard-bearer has morphed, in reality, to be the opposite. In truth, Obama will be speaking in Denver on August 28th in order to try to make the Democratic Party as much his own standard-bearer as he can for the fall race -- and whatever failing the party cannot overcome, he will simply fill in with his own campaign's enormous resources.
Indeed, the party conventions have evolved on different paths toward a very proximate destination: utter irrelevance, if not a net negative on their respective nominees. I'll deal with the GOP side in Friday's post, but for the Democrats it has been a sleek and steady evolution much like a snake changing its skin. The colors are rearranged, and the camouflage is more up-to-date, but the animal hasn't changed a whit. The national Democratic Party has been, and still is, an amalgam of disparate, self-obsessed interest groups who believe only in power and have no idea (nor care to learn) how to govern this country properly.
Barack Obama steps onto the stage on the 28th, and quite tellingly he will do it far from the convention hall -- at Invesco Field before 60,000 cheering fans. But until then, the show on stage will be classic Democratic Convention stuff. It starts with the party's platform, which as usual is a document which puts lipstick, a skirt, manicured nails and a lovely hairdo on the party's inherent vacuum of core beliefs, and the deep contempt that its hackdom has for anyone outside their political ghetto. True to form, this year the platform scrubbed any use of the words "gay" or "lesbian" (heaven forefend "trans-"anything), and the national voice of the gay Democratic hacks promptly pronounced it "the strongest platform on gay and transgender issues ever approved by a major U.S. political party." This after years of burning into political gospel that use of the "g" and "l" (and sometimes "t") words are the lowest bar you can set for acceptability. Not since Mitt Romney landed in Iowa has there been such a head-spinning political u-turn, but I digress.
The point is that the Democratic Convention seems to always be a giant masquerade show to hide the contempt its core activists feels towards anyone outside their narrow cantons of special interests, and to somehow con independents and moderate Republicans into thinking they believe anything really. It's always a myriad of acrobatics and frantic semaphore-waving from a party base that is hopelessly tone-deaf in connecting with the average American but still knows they have to try if they want to win (which is all they want).
So, the platform will mean nothing. The keynote speech will be great theater and maybe a hint at future leaders. The quota of gay delegates - whether it met the 'targets' or not - will be irrelevant. The only thing that will be telling is if someone goes off script and says what he/she really thinks in prime time and lets his/her contempt really rip. Otherwise, frankly, we will glean nothing about what Barack Obama will do as President -- on gay rights or anything else. (That is, unless he decides to give a speech that says something important rather than is delivered importantly.)
Beyond the Denver masquerade party, it must be noted that it's been Democrats who've been most of the real champions on gay rights wherever we've made progress. These individuals and local parties have been limited mostly to scattered municipalities and some states holding the largest cities-- mostly thanks to openly gay elected Democrats who truly understand and care about these issues, and represent concentrated gay constituencies. Occasionally, we've seen Barney Frank or Ted Kennedy have their moment to shine (sadly not often enough, and rarely with success under Democratic rule). Also, the state Democratic Party of California must get a major tip of the hat for its tremendous courage on gay issues. They really have delivered in ways no other Democrats in the nation can claim to have. One only wishes California's Democrats were so evolved on fiscal matters, but alas.
But the truth is that the national Democratic Party never cared all that much about gay rights, nor does it today. To them, it's a money-maker, a loyalty builder in urban areas, and useful so long as the Republicans are as hateful and loathsome on the issue as is humanly possible. This attitude will not cut mustard in 2008, however. The bar on gay issues has been raised so high in comparison to every preceding year, particularly with gay marriage breaking out in California, that both parties seem befuddled at how to keep pace. The national Democrats know that if they back specifically-gay families, they are getting behind gay marriage, no two-ways about it. That means real policy changes. So they got out the eraser.
And we need only to look at the fact that the Democratic Congress, led by a Speaker from San Francisco no less, has done jack-shit on gay rights since it came to power after a decade of exuberant promises of "fighting 'til hell freezes over, and then fighting on the ice" for gay Americans. It was bullshit then, and it's bullshit now. It's a party led by Chairman Howard Dean, who had no trouble apparently breaking the very employment protection laws which his party claims to be the champion of, in firing openly-gay Donald Hitchcock from his staff. And the real contempt he and many of his senior staff hold for the gay community outside their little hack-ghetto has been uncovered by subpoena. No surprise.
The Republicans are a whole other animal, of course (and I'll get to them on Friday). But this notion that the Democratic Party would care more for our issues if it had littered its platform with every rainbow letter in the alphabet is a joke. They never cared, and they won't start caring now, and what the party hacks think about this issue is really not the point anymore. The onus is on the gay Democratic leaders (self-appointed or otherwise) and Democratic-aligned organizations like the Human Rights Campaign to tell us exactly what they are going to push for in an Obama presidency (no cute versions of Nixon's secret plans and promises, to be revealed after the election), how they are going to hold Obama to their goals, and how they, Obama and a Democratic Congress will accomplish those goals together. That will take humility at admitting the limits they face, and it will mean being held accountable should they fall short.
I'm still waiting to hear, and I doubt such talk will surface meaningfully in Denver. Let's hope sometime before Election Day.
(NOTE: On Friday, The Republicans. Photo from The Simpsons (Fox))
Posted by: Andoni
The insurance card, that is...
There are many reasons to get married and love is just one of them. In earlier times, people married to combine families, consolidate property and gain more power.
Now people marry for a host of reasons, including, according to today's New York Times, to help someone get health insurance. Here are just some of the many reasons people marry these days:
3. pregnancy out of wedlock
4. desire to share your life with someone
5. it's time/you're too old
6. financial security
7. to form a family/have children
8. household support
9. help someone get health insurance
10. help someone get a green card
All of the above are legal except marrying to help someone get a green card.
In one of my previous posts, "A tale of 2 immigration systems," Rachel Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality commented that "Entering into a fraudulent marriage only for immigration purposes is illegal.....subjecting you to a five year prison sentence and $250,000 fine."
So here's my question for you lawyers and lawyer types out there. What if an American citizen marries a foreign national primarily to get companionship (the American is lonely) and in return the foreigner gets health insurance because they couldn't get any on their own.
Following the wedding, these two don't live together and don't have sex. However, they socialize often and the American is satisfied with the companionship which s/he is getting and heretofore did not have and the foreigner is satisfied with the good health insurance. Also assume they even draw up a contract on the obligation each party has to the other with respect to the companionship and health insurance. Now assume that somewhere along the way, because each party is happy that the contract is working, the American offers to sponsor the foreigner for a green card.
In this case the green card is simply because that the American doesn't want the foreigner leave or have to leave the country.
Question for all: Is the situation described above fraud or is it within the law, since the green card was not the sole purpose of this marriage?
August 12, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's been interesting to view the Olympics through the lens of my country of exile. Like back home, the broadcast network here (O Globo) is all-Brazil almost all the time -- even though the country's medal total thus far has been a few bronzes in judo and swimming. (That judo is fun to watch, I will admit!)
It's also been fun to watch the host country get the special treatment that only the international press knows how to dish out. I remember like it was yesterday how frustrating it was to live in Atlanta in the build-up to the '96 Games, which were absolutely incredible despite the (anti-gay, in part, as it turns out) park bombing. Every logistical error was magnified, while the 99.9% that functioned as well or better than expected was ignored.
China, of course, richly deserves much of the black eye it's getting in coverage, for its disregard for even basic human rights and its state control over everything down the smallest detail -- literally. Even the tiny girl (pictured above, right) who wowed an international viewing audience during the opening ceremonies was a fake -- lip syncing the voice of another little girl (pictured above, left).
But the real jaw-dropper was the back story:
"The reason was for the national interest," said Chen Qigang, the ceremony's musical director, in a state radio interview. "The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression. ... Lin Miaoke is excellent in those aspects."
The decision was made at the highest levels, Chen said.
"We had to do it," he said. "We'd been through several inspections. They're all very strict. When we rehearsed at the spot, there were several spectators from various divisions, especially leaders from the Politburo, who gave the opinion it must change."
As with much of state-control, this high-level decision ended up a complete mess, accomplishing the exact opposite of what was intended. If only China's dictators would catch a hint…
August 11, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Since my earlier comment on the John Edwards bimbo eruption was limited to how the media has been covering it, I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the bimbo himself -- that would be Edwards, not his blonde IED.
The revelation that the former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate had cheated on his cancer-stricken wife -- whether in remission or no -- was not particularly telling. But the fact that he lied about it, when his own past moralisms on the subject came back to haunt -- now that confirmed my impression of the man since he first appeared on the national political scene some five years ago.
He was, is and will be a fake -- and almost transparently so, at least for those of us who are fellow-travelers professionally -- not just as lawyers, but as litigators. We've all seen the type, especially representing plaintiffs for exorbitant contingency fees. They are masters at adopting the angst of their clients, making their David vs. Goliath cause his own.
Substitute voters for juries, and the cause of "two Americas" or "the poor" for that of the plaintiff, and ouila -- you have a John Edwards, the politician. I consistently underestimated his appeal because he was so familiar and so transparent to me, but then again quite a few very smart Democrats were blinded a bit by their own desperate desire for a win at the presidential level. A smooth-talking, Southern white politician in the Bill Clinton mold was just too much to resist.
While we don't know, at this point, whether Edwards' bimbo eruptions were as frequent as Bill's, it strains credulity to imagine he got busted on the one and only time in 30 years that he strayed. But as I said, it wasn't the straying itself that confirmed Edwards was a fake. It was the way he is trying to play us, even after he got caught.
I can't put it any better than Eve Fairbanks from TNR, who ticked off quite the chit-list:
- He used campaign donations to pay his mistress $114,000 for web videos that were hardly ever used.
- He lied repeatedly about the affair to the public.
- He showed zero concern for the Democratic Party by trying to sell himself as its commander while he knew he was secretly holding a live grenade.
- He made his closest political ally--Elizabeth--complicit in his lies and muddied her reputation.
- He--to use a very generous interpretation of events--showed zero curiosity about some very curious things intimately related to his life, namely, why his campaign finance chief paid his mistress $15,000 a month and why a top campaign aide fathered his own ex-mistress's child.
- He gave a bizarre, creepy, lawyerly response to the straightforward question of whether a National Enquirer photograph showed him holding his ex-mistress's baby.
- And he went on TV and tried to make his own personal mess into a teachable moment for America, launching into a treacly morality tale about how fame turned the head of a Small Town Boy and insisting that people would forgive him because he's "imperfect"--a sanctimonious, unapologetic word that implies that those who hoped for anything different from him were asking for the impossible, perfection.
Amen. And good riddance.
Posted by: Kevin
Only 18 days ago, Barack Obama told cheering throngs in Berlin that a resurgent America could be trusted by the free world to stand up for what was right again. In the city which America rallied its battered allies to save in the face of a determined and armed Russian blockade -- intent on starving the city into submission -- Obama said: "Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. ... Let us remember this history, and answer our destiny."
But the moment Obama faced a real moral test of the "change" he promises to bring to America's position in the world, he failed miserably - and dishonorably - as Russia once again wages war in Europe.
Over the weekend, what Richard Holbrook and Ronald Asmus (both high-level State Department officials in the Clinton Administration) rightly called "a watershed moment in the West's post-Cold War relations with Russia" erupted across the Republic of Georgia, as Russian infantry, special forces, naval ships and attack planes swarmed over its democratic neighbor and ally of the U.S. and the European Union. And in response, Obama could not have been weaker or less engaged than if he was a lame-duck president playing beach volleyball in Beijing.
Russia has been engaging in a deliberate policy of destabilizing not only its southern neighbor but other countries which left the Soviet Union and pursued active friendship with the West. While it doggedly jails or murders journalists and political opponents (at home and abroad), foments ultra-nationalist groups which beat, murder and intimidate "unfavored" groups (gays included) in its cities and accumulates more autocratic powers at the cost of individual freedom, the Russian regime has even tried to assassinate critical or unhelpful leaders, such as Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko.
As most Russia experts in Washington of both political parties agree, Russia wants the democratically elected government in power in Georgia overthrown, and its move against Georgia was inevitable -- and from the scope of its ferocity, even down to the cyber-attack on Georgia's official internet portals, apparently well-planned. As the world looks aghast at the events there (deliberate bombings of apartment blocks far from military targets, a blockade of Georgia's coastline, attacks on its oil export pipeline, an expansion of its invasion far beyond Russia's stated reasons in South Ossetia), they wonder what the President of the United States will do about it, and what the two men seeking to lead the United States in November believe it all means.
The man who went to Europe and the Middle East on an obvious campaign swing only a few weeks ago issued a press release as dawn broke over the invasion, put up his feet and went on with his vacation in Hawaii. As the bombing widened far beyond the borders of South Ossetia, and the Georgian president resorted to begging on CNN for American support, Obama and President Bush -- both ostensibly on vacation in the Pacific -- were not seen or heard from after Saturday. And as the international airport in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi came under attack, and the bombing widened long after Georgia had withdrawn its forces from Russian occupied areas and called for a truce, the Bush Administration sent envoys to the region in concert with the European Union, but the president himself was still hard to locate, and Obama was still busy at the luau.
To his credit, John McCain's response was so robust that the Financial Times of London said it "upstaged" the sitting president's own administration, not to mention the Democratic nominee. It was not only the words he chose, but the manner by which he communicated -- like a President should: strongly, in clear moral terms, in person (not just by fax), repeatedly (three separate statements, and counting), and in extreme detail.
Where was the passion we (thought we) saw in Barack Obama's primary campaign as the man who would right the wrong-from-the-beginning U.S. policy in Iraq? Where was the man so brazenly adopting the suit and posture of John F. Kennedy on the home stump and in the capitals of Europe? Where was the moral foundation in a man who dared to tell the whole world they could rejoice if he was elected leader of the free world, because he would answer the call of freedom's destiny?
In the end, we are only left to wonder and scratch our heads about this man we dared to hope for and believe in. (I confess, I did, too, a bit, last winter.) We now see a man who has reversed course on so many positions, and promised much more than a man of such light qualifications has ever promised (cosmically and dimensionally more than the thin-resuméd Governor of Texas did in 2000), who seems less than eager to deliver anything but a speech.
I've been to Georgia. I've walked the streets of Gori, whose apartment blocks were bombed. I've sat with average people in Tbilisi and listened to their dreams of a better life, and their love of the United States for its undying support against Russian bullying during and after the Cold War.
They still haven't forgotten that in 1978, the Moscow government tried to stifle Georgian identity by taking constitutional steps to destroy its native language, sending 20,000 Georgians into the streets in a brazen protest against Brezhnev-era Soviet power. (Moscow backed down.) And they are quick to remind visitors that only a few months before the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing - on April 9, 1989 - Soviet forces (ethnic Russian infantry, led by a Russian commander) gassed and shot at 4,000 Georgians protesting against Soviet rule in Tbilisi, killing 20 in the crowd and injuring hundreds. One unarmed teenaged girl was beaten to death by Russian soldiers as she tried to run - an event categorically denied by Russian media until a video of the attack was smuggled to the west and shown on television. So searing was the experience that the Republic of Georgia intentionally declared its independence on the anniversary of the Tbilisi attacks, in 1991.
And as Asmus and Holbrook pointed out, along with nearly everyone else in the western media this weekend, Russia's pathetic justifications for its brutal and illegal attack on Georgia are a page right out of Hitler's attack on Poland in 1939. After years of intensely provocative actions, including the issuance of passports to rebels in northern regions of unrest in Georgia, they now say they are moving to protect "their people" as the Tbilisi government tried to exert authority over its sovereign territory. This is yet another in a long line of Russian outrages, but one of extreme significance at this moment in history. As a state legislator, Barack Obama wasted no time taking a moral stand on Iraq. As the presidential nominee of his party, where is he as a horrifying and unjust war rages on the eastern edge of Europe?
The Georgian people -- and the Ukrainians, for that matter, not to mention the cowering dissidents in Russia itself -- remember how fragile freedom was only yesterday, and is becoming again, but when they look to us now they must be wondering if we do. They wonder if Barack Obama has even an inkling of it, or if George W. Bush is too tired and debilitated to care anymore.
So much for change we can believe in. And that "we" now includes the people of Europe.
Posted by: Andoni
"I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."
What the fuck? This is an email from Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist and pollster, planning ways to attack Senator Barack Obama during the Democratic primary. Talk of the politics of personal destruction, this is it and from people within his own party. (An article containing hundreds more internal emails from the Clinton campaign will be published by The Atlantic magazine tomorrow.)
What does Penn's quote mean? How do you measure thinking and values? The fact that Clinton and Obama had nearly identical positions on the issues and as well as nearly identical voting records tells me this is not really about thinking and values - at least objectively. Objectively there is very little difference between the two candidates. So what does Penn mean? Penn is using code claiming that Obama is different, not like us. As gay people we should understand this message perfectly well because we have repeatedly been accused of not having the same values as straight people. It's disgusting as well as untrue.
Saying Obama "is not at his center fundamentally American" is a clear attempt to paint Obama as un-American. What proof can they produce that Obama's thinking and values are different from Clinton's? None. The differences are that Obama had a foreign born parent and his skin color is black. Does this make his values and thinking different and un-American? I guess if you keep repeating that claim you will find some fertile ground in a sub-section of the electorate who will believe it.
If you're thinking, oh, but what about Reverend Wright.... let me respond that there is not one shred of evidence that Obama ever repeated, internalized or proposed any of Wright's outlandish ideas. So you cannot use Reverend Wright to say that Obama is not "fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."
I cannot tell you how contemptible I find Penn's actions. It's disgusting and reflects very poorly on Senator Clinton and her campaign. I believe public apologies are in order by both Clinton and Penn.
August 10, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The Democratic Party platform just approved yesterday and headed to the convention in Denver for final adoption represents some progress on nuts-and-bolts gay rights positions but is a rhetorical retreat of sorts -- at least that's been the initial reaction among some gay groups and the LGBT left blogosphere.
Pam Spaulding, for instance, labels the 56-page document "lite on the LGBT, hold the mayo" because she did a word search for "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" and came up empty. You don't get any more entrenched in the identity politics ghetto than measuring the platform by those metrics. GLAAD's Director of National News Cindi Creager was similarly unimpressed, calling on the media to further investigate this disturbing trend of supporting full equality without paying tribute to our movement's established religion of "LGBT-ism."
If anything, the platform is a good rhetorical fit with Barack Obama's support for traditional liberal support for minorities but with an approach that makes equality something that embraces everyone, not just those who belong to balkanized groups. So rather than fall into the trap of backing "workplace protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers," the draft platform attacks the issue from a more inclusive angle:
Democrats will fight to end discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and disability in every corner of our country, because that's the America we believe in.
Note how that plank not only extends the fight for equality beyond the workplace, but also lists categories that ultimately include everyone -- since non-discrimination laws protect heterosexuals as well, after all.
Other LGBT, er, sexual orientation/gender identity highlights:
- expresses "opposition" to the Defense of Marriage Act, but doesn't expressly call for repeal, a rhetorical feint that ought to be fixed in Denver, lest the signal be that full DOMA repeal -- a central Obama-Hillary point of difference during the primaries -- is not a near-term priority;
- expressly backs repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which represents progress over an '04 plank that only vaguely stated, "all patriotic Americans should be allowed to serve our country without discrimination, persecution and violence";
- backs "a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act," which presumably means trans-inclusive while stopping short of the "United ENDA" suicide call against gay-only ENDA if that's all that can done;
- backing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but without using the more recent moniker, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which of course highlights the most famous anti-gay hate crime in U.S. history.
The avoidance of LGBT-onics does not appear accidental, since language from the 2004 platform has pretty clearly been pink-washed. As ABC News' Jake Tapper notes, the platform four years ago proclaimed:
- We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families.
This time around:
- We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.
The effect is the same as mentioned on ENDA and non-discrimination. The commitment is the same, but the language tries to make equality a principle that applies to all families, not just those of the LGBT variety.
If this rhetoric were the product of a presidential campaign that had avoided using "the G word," it might give rise to concern. But in fact Barack Obama was far more likely to talk explicitly about gay Americans before a general audience than any other primary contender, including Hillary Clinton. In that context, the platform seems a bit of fresh air in the stale politics of LGBT-dom.
All that said, the platform was something of a disappointment on the most gay rights issue of the day -- marriage, of course. Except for opposing DOMA, there's no commitment to oppose either federal or state-level constitutional amendments that would ban gays from marrying, and the '04 language about "full inclusion" for "all families" falls considerably short of Obama's promise to back federal recognition of same-sex couples that is equal to that afforded heterosexual married couples.
Party platforms are rarely statements of political courage as much as laying out broad principles designed to satisfy core supporters while not alienating the political center. In that respect, the Obama platform is a success on our issues, even as it represents precious little concrete progress over four long years.
August 09, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The story of John Edwards' adulterous affair finally broke through the mainstream media barrier yesterday, after being almost completely ignored by every outlet except by the National Enquirer, which broke the story almost a year ago, and conservative media like Fox News and the National Review.
To hear the complaints from the right, the MSM refused coverage because Edwards is a Democrat, a ludicrous assertion when you consider the saturation coverage Bill Clinton received not just as president but as a candidate for the office. In fact, the only media actually motivated by Edwards' politics were the likes of Fox and National Review, who no doubt would have ignored the story if a Republican presidential candidate was the focus.
More directly on point, the MSM has almost completely ignored the juicy details concerning the way GOP nominee John McCain dumped his first wife, who underwent a debilitating car accident during his four years of captivity, when the lovely (and mega-wealthy) Cindy Henley came into the picture.
Slate was one of the few outlets not from the right to touch the Edwards story before yesterday, speculating that the reason for the kid glove treatment wasn't Edwards' partisan affiliation but his sexual orientation. Comparing Edwards' late-night shenanigans outside the Beverly Hilton a few weeks ago to Larry Craig's notorious foot-tapping in the Minneapolis airport stall, the differing treatment could mean only one thing:
So why hasn't the press commented on the [Edwards at the Hilton] story yet? Is it because … news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it? Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye? That's my sense.
I'm inclined to disagree, especially with the idea that the Enquirer was doing the job the MSM should have by staking out the Beverly Hilton at 3 a.m. For one thing, the MSM refused to cover the Larry Craig story when it was at the same, speculative stage. Even though Mike Rogers and other outing activists had publicly accused Craig of being a closeted hypocrite, all but Craig's hometown paper refused to touch the story.
It was the right call on both Craig and Edwards because tracking down rumors of hypocrisy concerning public figures should not reduce reporters to late-night stakeouts of hotel lobbies or restroom stalls. Even hypocritical public figures are entitled to some zone of privacy to live their lives. The official can certainly be asked about the rumors, but once denied there's no story absent public evidence to back it up.
In Craig's case, it was his arrest and guilty plea; in Edwards' it was his own admission. Keep in mind that Edwards spilled his guts not because of tabloid coverage, as he claimed, but because the MSM was closing in on the story, including payments apparently made by to Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, the putative father of her "love child," by the Edwards campaign finance chair.
So as satisfying as it might be to use the example of Edwards to bemoan the MSM's reluctance to do its job, it's actually an example (like Craig) of the system working pretty much the way it should.
Posted by: Chris
- Has the rise of Manhunt destroyed gay male culture?: QUICK LOOK: If you are a single gay man in search of a mate, and if you are at times prone to discouragement, you probably have friends who reassure you that someday you will find... (MORE)
- Gay New Yorker sentenced for 'seducing' Indian fishermen: QUICK LOOK: A 55-year-old American has been sentenced to five-year rigorous imprisonment for inducing several young fishermen into homosexuality in the Indian tourist town of Mahabalipuram in 1998. The magistrate... (MORE)
- Boycott threatened over S.D. site of law school meeting: QUICK LOOK: Organizations representing thousands of legal educators say they will boycott the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in January if it is held at a San... (MORE)
- Judge upholds language change for Calif. gay marriage ballot: QUICK LOOK: When the state's voters decide Proposition 8 this fall, it appears they will check "yes" or "no" next to a ballot title that reads: "Eliminates the Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." A Superior... (MORE)
- Draft Dem platform opposes DOMA, weak elsewhere: QUICK LOOK: A draft version of the 2008 Democratic Party platform, made available on August 7, puts the party on record in opposition to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, in support... (MORE)
These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.
August 08, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
Here's a political sign that just got rejected by the McCain campaign. As the Examiner explains, you can have "Jewish Americans for McCain" and "Business Leaders for McCain" but Gay Democrats is a no-no.
The official explanation by the McCain camp is that they will do names such as "John Doe for McCain" but not general terms such as Gay American or Gay Democrat. I don't know about you, but the explanation is bullshit because Jewish Americans is just as general as Gay Democrat.
Someone should try to order a sign that says, "A Proud Democrat for John McCain." I bet they will take that order because I believe it's the word gay that is the problem.
This also presents an interesting dilemma for the Log Cabin Republicans. They should consider what it means to have a party nominee who not only is on the wrong side of all the gay issues facing our community today, but also is so homophobic that his campaign doesn't want the G-word anywhere in sight.
To endorse or not to endorse. For me the answer is easy.
Posted by: Chris
For reasons not completely clear to me, Queerty yesterday posted a video montage -- a greatest hits, if you will -- of Howard Dean taking shots at the Washington Blade during his deposition back in March in the Donald Hitchcock discrimination suit.
In the nine-minute clip, the Democratic National Committee chieftain jokes about "upgrading" the Blade from "the New York Post of the gay press" to "the Fox News of the gay press." His low opinion stems from "hysterical" articles he said began appearing in the Blade in late 2005 -- stories he said were full of inaccuracies and wild accusations.
The only actual example cited by Dean was an opinion piece, not a news article, that was submitted to me when I was editor of the paper by Ramon Gardenhire, a former DNC staffer, who accused Dean of "lying" because he eliminated the gay political "desks" despite a promise not to do so made when he campaigned for the DNC leadership post.
Dean doesn't deny making the campaign promise; he simply claims not to recall. And yet somehow he considers it hysterical for those who do recall -- and have the questionnaire he filled out on the subject for the gay Dem caucus -- to call him out for breaking his word.
My favorite moment in the montage is the final segment, when Dean is asked to explain an accusation he made in a September 2006 interview with IN LA's Karen Ocamb that the Blade is run by "someone with an agenda" against the Democratic Party. Dean says he can't remember the person's name, but identifies the culprit as the paper's publisher, who he says is "a former Reagan person who hates Democrats."
The publisher of the Blade during those days was William Waybourn, former director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and GLAAD, who hates Ronald Reagan so much for his record on AIDS that he refuses to use the former president's name when referring to the D.C. airport that lies along the Potomac River.
That would leave your's truly as the former Reaganite in question. I was only 15 when Reagan was first elected, so it's safe to say I held no position of influence within his administration. But years later, I did work as volunteer lawyer on the staff of the Bush-Quayle campaign in 1992. As a result, I got a box-seat view of the bigotry center stage at the Republican convention in Houston that year, and it was a major step toward my decision during the Clinton impeachment circus to quit the GOP entirely.
Since then, I endorsed Al Gore for president in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, and anyone whose read this blog with any regularity knows I am greatly predisposed toward Barack Obama over John McCain this time around. Does that sound like someone who "hates Democrats"?
Earlier this year when Howard Dean's Blade bigotry reared its ugly head, I took the time to review every single article published by the Blade during his tenure as DNC chairman, looking for inaccuracies and bias. What I found were articles that quoted sources within the party criticizing Dean for a range of decisions -- internal and political -- as well as the official response of the party when they deigned to offer one.
The irony of Dean's smear of the Blade is that it is Dean himself, not the Blade or me or the gay press generally, that throws around hysterical charges while playing fast and loose with the facts. The Democratic Party is ill-served with that kind of thin-skinned and mean-spirited leadership.
Posted by: Chris
It has seemed like a lifetime that I've been on the road, living out of a suitcase and relying on the kindness of friends in Memphis, Atlanta, São Paulo and Washington, D.C. Finally yesterday I arrived back in Rio De Janeiro -- reunited with my other half and ready to resume my regular blogging schedule.
My two months back in the States were almost double the longest length of time I've had apart from my partner since we met almost four years ago. The distance seemed multiplied by illness and death in both our families during this same period and at times it felt like we would never be together again.
But here we are, back in Rio, and now life may resume what has passed for normal for us for two years now. I want to thank many friends for their support, with special appreciation for William, Cynthia, Steve, Jeff, Chris and Robert, as well as to my parents, for going above and beyond each in their own way. Last but not least, thanks so much to all of you who have taken the time to post comments or send me notes expressing your support and sympathy. It's meant the world to me!
Now back to the business of blogging, and thanks again to Andoni for doing such a wonderful job holding down the fort in my absence.
August 07, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
Last month I noted that witnessing the large number of gaffes Senator John McCain is making, it is time to consider the possibility that age may be taking its toll on his brain.
Today Andrew Sullivan raises the same question and cites a March, 2008 Annals of Internal Medicine article saying that 22% of people over the age of 71 have cognitive impairment, without dementia. The fact that these people don't have dementia makes it much more difficult for others to see the problem. We don't immediately realize that these people are impaired, that is not until they make that one big mistake that gets them into serious trouble. When they make that big mistake because of their impaired judgment and memory, people notice. But then it's usually too late.
Furthermore, as Andrew says, this cognitive impairment can also "affect decison-making in highly complex areas where answers require strong mental skills and swift assimilation of new facts."
Andrew believes McCain's age and the high probability of cognitive impairment makes it a legitimate issue to raise in this campaign, so long as it is not done rudely.
McCain keeps raising the question about Senator Obama, "Is he ready to lead?"
I think it is reasonable for us to ask of McCain, "Is his brain functioning properly?"
For Obama, it is nearly impossible for him to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is ready to lead. He can't definitively do that until he gets into office, when we will learn the answer. For McCain, to prove that his brain is ready, he can subject himself to a battery of psychological tests conducted by an independent medical department and release the results to the public.
I challenge Senator McCain to undergo these tests to prove that he is not one of the large percentage of people in his age group who has cognitive impairment. What's he got to lose? If he passes the test, he is in a much stronger position as a candidate. If he fails the test, I'm sure he wouldn't want to endanger the country by becoming president and subjecting it to the possible errors he is likely to make because of his mental impairment.
Oh wait, now I remember my Uncle Jim who even after testing proved he was impaired, still refused to stop driving. He insisted he was OK to drive, thought it was his birthright to drive.
That is the problem with brain impairments, the person himself cannot make the proper decision that it is time to hang it up. The judgment is too far gone. It is up to others to decide, and that's why it's important for McCain to get tested and give us the results......so we can decide if he is up to being president. Think of McCain as our uncle and we need data to help make a decision.
August 01, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
In June I reported on the promising field of solar energy and how with a major government push, we could be using the sun for most of our energy needs within 10 years.
Today’s New York Times brings even more good news on the topic. A major problem with wind and sun energy is that it can’t be produced 24/7. There are times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. The challenge is how to store the energy when it is generated into a usable form that can be used later, when there is no wind or it is dark.
A group of scientists at MIT have found the answer. They have described an easy way to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen, and use the hydrogen later in a fuel cell to produce the energy. It is similar to the photosynthesis that plants use to store energy. When the hydrogen is used later in the fuel cell, it recombines with the oxygen and produces water and energy.
One fascinating side aspect of this discovery is that the technique can use sea water. The result is that as a by-product, when the hydrogen and oxygen recombine in the fuel cell to create electricity, you also generate pure drinking water.
So in one swoop, scientists can address two major problems facing the world -- a steady supply of clean energy as well as a major new reliable source of drinking water.