In which I encounter a pair of drunks, one of whom tried to grab my crotch…
At Minami-senju Station in Tokyo, this guy was drunk beyond belief and reeked of booze. But he let me take is his picture.
When it became public that recently appointed Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich had donated to the controversial anti-gay rights Prop 8 initiative in California back in 2008, things – as we used to say back home – blowed up. Rarebit yanked an app from the Mozilla marketplace and in a highly visible move, dating site OK Cupid asked its users not to access the site with Mozilla’s Firefox browser.
Eich fought back, and we witnessed a couple of days of textbook crisis management as the company (and its under-fire CEO) worked to convince the world that a person’s official and personal beliefs can be compartmentalized – that is, you can be anti-equality in your private life but suitably inclusive at work. Continue reading
A few days ago I summed up the impact the late Fred Phelps exerted on American society, concluding that he was, ironically, one of the best things that ever happened to the LGBT community’s quest for social justice. A number of other observers agreed, including Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast and Peter Scheer at TruthDig, who thanked him for “his years of service to the gay rights movement.”
Fred Phelps, founder of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church, is dead.
Over the past several years Phelps distinguished himself as one of the most vile people in America, which is no small feat given the high profiles our society has accorded Hall of Fame hatemongers like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
As he has lingered on his deathbed in recent days, we’ve had a chance to ponder this moment and discuss what the proper response might be. My own pot shot – “may his funeral be well attended” – paled compared to some of the (justified, it must be admitted) rage against the man’s legacy. At the same time, we saw altogether more noble comments from people like Facebook’s First Citizen, George Takei, who reminded us that hate is conquered not by more hate, but by love. Continue reading
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia closed today, and if you set aside the homophobia and generally strong-armed approach to governance by the host, one Vladimir Putin, these games were remarkable in just about every way.
The images of the opening ceremonies have lingered with me for the past couple of weeks. If you watched, you know that the creative team built their narrative around the highwater marks in the nation’s glorious history, honoring their accomplishments in the arts, literature, science and technology. Given Russia’s considerable heritage, the little girl’s interaction with Cyrillic alphabet primer, associating a historical moment with each letter, couldn’t help being an impressive reminder to the world of the nation’s rich cultural legacy. Continue reading
By now you’ve probably heard that Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam has publicly announced that he’s gay. A projected third-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, this decision will (unless all 32 teams simply decide that they’re going to be officially homophobic and to hell with whoever doesn’t like it) make him the league’s first active out player.
The original plan when we began this project was to offer the amendments individually, invite discussion, then produce a final document. The course of the process, though, has made a couple things clear. First, there needs to be a period to discuss the entire document in context, and second, while the original “Bill of Rights” approach perhaps had a certain formatic elegance about it, the project is better served by a less formalized articulation of general principles.
As a result, what follows is a restructured draft that accounts for the discussions so far and that also adds some new elements that have arisen since the process launched.
We will compile a final statement of principles out of this discussion.
i) No political party representing a significant minority of the electorate – and here we suggest five percent as a workable baseline – will be denied direct representation in the legislature.
ii) All legislative bodies shall be comprised proportionally according to the populations represented and all elected officials should be selected by direct vote of the people.
i) In order to eliminate the corrupting, anti-democratic influence of corporate and special interest money on the electoral process, all elections shall be publicly financed. No individual will be allowed to contribute more than a token sum to an official, candidate or political party (perhaps the cap could be in line with the current $2,000 limit for contributions to presidential candidates).
ii) All corporate, commercial and other private or publicly held entities shall be forbidden from contributing directly to any official, candidate or political party.
iii) All citizens and collective entities are free to designate a portion of their annual tax contributions to a general election fund.
iv) No contributions to the electoral process shall be allowed by foreign interests, either individual or institutional.
v) Election funds shall be administered on a non-partisan basis and no candidate or party demonstrating a reasonable expectation of electoral viability shall be denied access to funding.
i) The government of the people shall be expressly secular. No individual, religious or quasi-religious entity or collective engage or seek to influence the course of legislation or policy in accordance with theological creed.
ii) No government edifice, document, collateral, communication, or other production, including currency, shall make reference to religious concepts, including “god.”
iii) No one shall, in any legal context, including legal processes or oaths of office, swear upon a sacred text.
iv) Oaths of office shall explicitly require officials to refrain from the use of religious language and dogma in the conduct of their duties.
v) No government funds shall be spent to compensate employees who exist to serve religious functions. This includes, but is not limited to, the office of Chaplain in various military bodies.
vi) No religious institution shall be eligible for tax exempt status.
No governmental entity shall conduct secret or covert proceedings absent ongoing oversight by a multi-partisan body of popularly elected officials.
No state or local government entity shall assert special privilege or exemption with respect to established rights granted by the Federal Constitution.
i) No government, corporation, commercial or private entity shall abridge an individual’s legitimate exercise of free speech. This includes all political, social and civic speech activities, including those criticizing the government, corporations and business entities and other collective organizations.
ii) The right of the people peaceably to assemble, especially for purposes of protest, and to petition for a redress of grievances will not be infringed.
iii) The health of the nation depends on a vital independent check against public and commercial power. As such, no government, corporation, commercial or private entity shall be allowed to abridge the rights of a free and unfettered press.
iv) Congress will make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
i) No governmental, corporation or commercial interest, or other private organization shall deny to any enfranchised citizen the rights or privileges accorded to others.
ii) The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
i) All individuals shall enjoy the right to privacy and freedom from systemic surveillance by governmental entities in the absence of a legally obtained warrant articulating probable cause against the individual.
ii) The right of the people to be secure in their persons, homes, papers, data, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
iii) All individuals shall enjoy the right to privacy and freedom from systemic surveillance and data gathering by corporate, commercial or other private or public entities unless they have specifically opted into such programs.
All citizens shall enjoy the right to shelter, nourishment, healthcare and educational opportunity.
No corporation, business interest or any other collective entity shall be accorded the rights and privileges attending citizenship, which are reserved expressly for individuals.
No corporate, commercial or other private or governmental entity shall be licensed, accredited or incorporated absent a binding commitment to serve the public interest.
i) In order to further the public’s interest in a free and independent legislature, elected officials shall not be allowed petition the body in which they served, either on their own behalf or on behalf of the interests of a third party, for a significant period of time after the conclusion of their terms.
ii) No person shall be allowed to assume a position charged with regulatory oversight of an industry in which they have worked in the past five years.
iii) No elected official shall be allowed to assume a position on any legislative committee charged with oversight or regulation of an industry in which they have worked or held financial interest for the past five years.
i) All workers shall have the right to organize for purposes of collective representation and bargaining.
ii) In any publicly held commercial interest where a significant percentage of the workforce is represented by a union, the workers shall be entitled to representation on the corporate board of directors.
i) All citizens will, upon attainment of their 18th birthdays, enroll in a two-year program of public service, which may be fulfilled with either civic programs or the armed forces.
ii) Enfranchisement will be earned upon completion of the public service commitment and a demonstration of a basic understanding of principles informing the political and policy issues facing the nation and the world.
i) The right of an individual who has completed a two-year military service commitment to keep and maintain firearms appropriate to the common defense should not be infringed. 
ii) The Federal government will establish guidelines by which enfranchised citizens may obtain firearms for reasonable purposes of sport and self-defense.
i) No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against him or herself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
ii) In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed five hundred dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
iii) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of professional, trained adjudicators sanctioned by the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; defendants shall have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in their favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for their defense.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
 This disposes of the Electoral College.
 An alternative might be to entrust the public court system with the decision. Make all documents automatically become public in N years (and make destruction a federal felony) but the government can petition a federal court to hold them as secret. Court uses a strict scrutiny standard to continue secrecy, advocates for release present arguments and can appeal a secrecy decision (no appeal on orders to release). (Submitted by Evan Robinson.)
 This does not prevent said entities from policing explicitly illegal behavior, such as theft of proprietary information or sexual harassment. (Suggested by Carole McNall.)
 This item overturns the Citizens United case.
 This item eliminates the narrow “interest of the shareholders” doctrine emerging originally from Dodge vs. Ford.
 It is suggested by multiple commenters that “a significant period of time after the conclusion of their terms” might best be changed to “forever.” This is a perspective with some merit. In truth, though, we’re discussing a body of people who possess expertise that can, in the right circumstances, be of benefit to the people. A term of five years, for instance, might serve to rid the system of revolving-door corruption without permanently eliminating the possibility that a highly qualified individual may be able to contribute to the public good.
 This practice is common in Europe and promotes an environment of collaboration, instead of confrontation, between management and labor.
 Weapons systems are constantly evolving and we are now perhaps within a generation of the point where lasers, thermal lances and other currently experimental man-portable devices might be viable. The term “firearms” in this document should not be construed as limited to the sorts of projectile weapons we’re familiar with, but should instead be taken in a broader context. (Suggested by Rho Holden.)
The New Constitution has been a long time in the making, and it would be the height of arrogance to suggest that I reached this point on my own. In truth, I’m an intensely social, extroverted and associative thinker, which means that if I have an interesting idea, it probably emerged from interactions with one or more other people. This is why I work so hard to surround myself my folks who are as smart as possible. If they’re brighter than me, as is often the case, that’s all the better because that means there’s more opportunity to learn.
Some of the people in the list below are known to readers of S&R and others aren’t. Some have played a very direct and active role in my political thinking in recent years, and others contributed less obviously in conversations, in grad school classes, in arguments and debates over beers, and so on. In fact, there are undoubtedly some on the list who will be surprised to see their names, but trust me, each and every one of them helped me arrive at the present intellectual moment. This doesn’t necessarily mean they all endorse the project or want their names attached to it, so if there are things that aggravate you, please direct those comments at me and me alone.
All that said, many thanks to:
Dr. Jim Booth
Dr. Will Bower
Dr. Robert Burr
Dr. Lynn Schofield Clark
Dr. Erika Doss
Dr. Andrea Frantz
Dr. Stuart Hoover
Dr. Douglas Kellner
Dr. John Lawrence
Dr. Polly McLean
Dr. Michael Pecaut
|Dr. Wendy Worrall Redal
Dr. Willard Rowland
Dr. Geoffrey Rubinstein
Dr. Greg Stene
Dr. Michael Tracey
Dr. Robert Trager
Dr. Petr Vassiliev
Dr. Frank Venturo
Dr. Denny Wilkins
Back in February I declared V-LGBT Day, saying that “the battle for marriage equality is over.” There had been a lot of significant pro-equity activity, including a huge number of corporations and influential organizations coming down publicly against the Defense of Marriage Act and several prominent GOP defections from the homophobia camp.
The last couple of days have seen two more dominoes fall – one big one and the other positively massive. First, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday became the third GOP senator to endorse marriage equality.
“I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government,” Murkowski wrote in an op-ed explaining her decision. “When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values. I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another.”
And this morning, an absolute bombshell dropped, as Exodus International, the world’s largest pray-away-the-gay organization, closed its doors with an apology from its director.
In a letter “to members of the LGBTQ community,” Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus International, a group that has long backed “change therapy” for gays and lesbians, issued an apology Wednesday, stating, “I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced.”
“Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry,” the organization said in a statement.]
The public statement comes in advance of a Thursday airing of the television broadcast “God & Gays” on Our America with Lisa Ling on OWN, in which Ling talks with Chambers about these issues.
In his apology, Chambers wrote, “I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”
Later, he added:
I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.
He even goes so far as to acknowledge his own “same-sex attractions.”
Chambers announces that he’s launching a new organization, and the language he employs is significant.
For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.” [emphasis added]
“Welcoming” is the term that specifically describes gay-affirming churches, and its use here signals one of the most earth-shaking reversals of course in the history of our modern culture wars. Read the entire statement here.
As I said in February, “flat-earthers in the more socially conservative parts of the country will fight on as long as anybody pays them any attention.” But make no mistake: what Chambers has done today is the moral equivalent of Robert E. Lee defecting to the Yankees.
This is heartening news for a lot of people, straight and gay. America gets so many things wrong so consistently that it’s easy to throw up your hands and despair. But while our elected leaders can be counted on for an outrage or two a week, the truth is that our nation is home to a lot of courageous, enlightened people who soldier on in service to their vision for a better, more humane society.
So congratulations, everyone. June 20, 2013 is a win in our ongoing battle for justice. Many thanks, especially, to those who have made marriage a priority, even when doing so wasn’t necessarily the expedient path (and here I’m thinking of people like my friend Mario Nicolais, GOP candidate for the Colorado state senate, who has made marriage equality a lynchpin of his campaign). Kudos to Lisa Ling, without whose compassionate campaign for justice we might not be celebrating today at all. We beat the hell out of what’s become of journalism here at S&R, and it’s a pleasure to be able to say something nice about a journalist moving the dial in the right direction.
Finally, to Alan Chambers: you’ve done immeasurable damage throughout your career, and none of us can or should forget that. But today you’ve done the right thing, and I applaud you. I wish you all the best as you set about working to promote social justice and equality and I encourage my fellow progressives to offer you all the support they can.
We’ll be watching with keen interest.
by Dan Ryan
It was a little like the scenario in that Kinks song “Lola,” but only in passing. I met her in a little place called Seoul Bar, which is in a rundown section of northeast Tokyo called Sanya. At first I thought her was a him, and she sounded like a man but…
The lipstick should have given me a clue, but it was confusing initially, even more so because his, sorry, her English was pretty rusty, and my Japanese was horrible. She took an interest in me because I was American. When she was still fully he, he used to work for Americans in the ‘60s. Or the ‘70s, but doing what I never completely figured out. But we managed fitfully to communicate, and after a few minutes I thought he was a pretty interesting woman.
She’d had the money at some unspecified point in the past to start the process of becoming her true self, to transition from male to female. Her family, which might have included a wife and kids, never understood nor approved of what she needed to be. They disowned her many years ago.
However, it was obvious she was accepted in Seoul Bar, but also treated a bit like an oddity. When another bar patron took a schoolboy jab at her breasts, it bothered me. It was playful, but far from respectful. But it was nearly 13:00, in a bar in a crummy part of town, and everyone was drinking. So maybe my standards were unrealistically high. Hell, she even wanted me to take a feel of her tits. She was proud of them. I declined.
She was also proud of her hands, justifiably I thought, but seemed frustrated by lingering facial hair. My guess is whatever hormones she used to take had worn off some time ago. She also said she still had the male parts she’d been born with.
I left the Seoul Bar when the karaoke was about to start and went out to the shōtengai to take more pictures. After about five minutes, I noticed my ladyfriend walking in the same direction I was. She had bar-snack crumbs on her face, and in the outdoor light I could really see how worn- and shabby-looking she was. Yet as she waved her hands around at my camera, her manicured nails were still noticeable, as were her few female bumps and curves. She looked more like a woman standing up outside than she had hunched next to me in a chair in the dark little bar we’d been in.
She and I walked together for a few minutes. She didn’t mind me taking pictures of her. In fact, she carried herself with a little bit of the vanity some women seem to naturally have, whether their looks entitle them to such vanity or not. But the fact that this woman, this shabby, incomplete woman, carried herself in this a way instantly earned a small measure of my respect. It took, for lack of a better term, balls.
We came to a stop when she spotted a man she knew, a friend I suppose, a guy I had photographed previously. He was pretty goddamned drunk. But she wanted to go talk to him.
Like I said, she was proud of her breasts and not shy about playing with them in public. I didn’t ask her to do this. I don’t know enough Japanese to get that far. But she posed for me a few times out there in the street, and this is where her hands always ended up. You’ve got to roll with these things in some parts of Tokyo street life.
Then she walked over to talk to her friend. It was a short conversation. The guy in the gutter made a slow lunge for my ladyfriend’s crotch. Her response, as I barely understood it, was to offer to show the man that he would have gotten a handful of male goodies if she had let his fingers reach their target. This was a little bit too much for me, the idea that this incomplete woman was prepared to whip out her male equipment in the street.
So I walked away. But you know, I never even got her name.
(Pictures taken on the shōtengai in Sanya, Tokyo in April, 2012)
Yesterday was a sort-of victory for LGBT youth: the Boy Scouts of America lifted the ban on LGBT scouts, after gathering over a million signatures to allow homosexual scouts to join. From the Huffington Post:
The Boy Scouts of America have reportedly voted 61-38 to allow gay Scouts.
According to multiple media sources, the scouting organization has chosen to eliminate sexual orientation as youth membership criterion. Under the new ruling, gay Scout leaders are still prohibited from serving.
I say it’s a “sort of” victory because I’m conflicted in my response to this new ruling. Obviously, this is huge progress for the group and great news for LGBT youth hoping to join the Boy Scouts – this outdated and discriminatory requirement is no longer a problem, truly a “better late than never” decision. Also a victory? The decision inspired the close minded, “morally straight” scouts and scout leaders in the On My Honor network to quit the Boy Scouts of America, and convene in Kentucky to consider “the creation of a new character development organization for boys.”
While these victories are hard-earned and extremely welcome, the Boy Scouts of America still aren’t allowing for LGBT den leaders, and do not allow for older LGBT scouts to be included in programs like Venture, a co-ed program for scouts who outgrow the traditional troops. This ruling is the Boy Scouts saying “It’s okay to be gay, unless you’re an adult.”
This sort of restriction bars young scouts from experiencing part of the real world, stops scouts from meeting people with different viewpoints and lifestyles of their own, and keeps scouts from learning that being LGBT is not a big deal. To me, it implies that being gay is okay until you’re 18 – an adult – as if being LGBT is something childish that scouts will outgrow.
Even more, by barring LGBT adults from participating in scouting, the Boy Scouts of America are allowing LGBT youth but giving them no LGBT role models to look up to. How wonderful would it be for a scout who is LGBT to have a successful and strong den leader who is just like them? To see that being LGBT is okay, and that they can be strong, independent and successful? And how great would it be for young straight boys to have an LGBT den leader to show them that being homosexual isn’t a bad thing, and that LGBT people are just like everyone else?
And how is it even an argument that LGBT leaders and scout members are such a detriment to the organization, such a harm to other straight members of the troop, when the Girl Scouts of America have long since proven this wrong?
When the Boy Scouts were excluding LGBT youth and leaders, the Girl Scouts were admitting everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or religion. From TIME Magazine:
In their statement of purpose called “What we stand for,” the Girl Scouts explicitly reject discrimination of any kind and consider sexual orientation, “a private matter for girls and their families to address.” Noting their affirmation of freedom of religion, a founding principle of American life, the Girl Scouts “do not attempt to dictate the form or style of a member’s worship” and urge “flexibility” in reciting the Girl Scout Promise. (They are encouraged to substitute the word “God” for something that’s more in line with their own spiritual practice.) It’s an arresting contrast to the Boy Scouts of America, who in addition to excluding gays also refuse to hire non-believers.
The religion factor in the Boy Scouts’ organization has a lot to do with its sponsorship: about 70% of sponsorship funding for the Boy Scouts of America comes from religiously affiliated groups (about half of those groups are Mormon), with the other 30% coming from corporations. The Girl Scouts are funded by corporate backers like Coca-Cola and MetLife.
Aside from religion, I believe the diversity and acceptance of the Girl Scouts of America has to do with its founding: the Girl Scouts of America were formed in 1912 to teach “girls – all girls” to be independent, to make their own decisions, to “help people at all times,” to dream big, to be as ambitious as the boys, and to forge a path for themselves in their professional and personal lives. The Girl Scouts were formed because young women were being excluded from the boys’ club – so to exclude girls would be hypocritical and counter to its purpose. Two great examples of this inclusion have been the integration of African American Girl Scouts as early as the 1950s and the recent inclusion of transgender Girl Scout Bobby Montoya.
While the Girl Scouts encouraged girls to think critically and to consider others’ ideas, the Boy Scouts encouraged boys to think as a team and subscribe to traditionally masculine “duties,” an idea growing more outdated as men and women in America grow into less traditional gender roles – a doctrine which makes it more difficult to fully integrate everyone, including LGBT scouts and non-religious scouts, and provide scouts a more accurate picture of the world outside the den.
I think that the inclusion of LGBT scouts in the Boy Scouts of America is a belated, but fantastic step forward. And I do believe that eventually, the Boy Scouts of America will have to include LGBT den leaders. But I think we need to stress to people that both of these additions are good things, that they are signs of a changing and more inclusive nation, and that they will show today’s young men that being gay is okay, and will grow more accepting leaders of tomorrow. Just like the Girl Scouts have been doing all this time.
How much credence should I place, beginning now, in whatever media reporter and critic Howard Kurtz says or writes? First came his ill-considered contretemps regarding NBA player Jason Collins’ announcement that he is gay. That led to this morning’s mea culpa on Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources” program on CNN, quizzed on his credibility by two other media critics.
Did Kurtz, in his phrase, “screw up”? Most assuredly. Did he fail to immediately amend and apologize? Yep. He admitted to both today under (somewhat predictable) questioning by Dylan Byers, media reporter for Politico, and David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR News.
His two (perhaps overly gentle) questioners noted that Kurtz had made other, serious errors in the past few years involving two members of Congress and a commentator at another network. Given that record, he was asked: “Why should we put stock in you as a media critic? Why should the audience of this show put its trust in you when so much of your recent work has been shown, at times, to be sloppy and even reckless?”
Given Kurtz’ decades-long body of work, which includes five books and, in his phrase, “millions of words,” so much might be an exaggeration. But given his profile — CNN’s media authority at “Reliable Sources” since 1998 — he faces a higher standard. And he said as much this morning. To be fair, he should be judged by that decades-long body of work, not on selected excerpts. But he’d better learn from this sensitivity fiasco. He’s becoming the Darryl Strawberry of media reporting in the past few years.
Should CNN fire Kurtz? No. He did nothing wrong on CNN’s dime and time. After all, CNN didn’t can Fareed Zakaria after his journalistic lapse (it’s called plagiarism). Why fire Howie? (It’s likely, however, this is Kurtz’s last contract with CNN. New honcho Jeff Zucker has been revamping, um, infotainment-ing, the network. Kurtz is a serious man doing a serious program about consequential matters. In the long run, he’s toast at ZNN … er, CNN.)
I’ve read and watched Kurtz for decades. I admire his skill. He’s first rate at what he does — reporting on the media. (He is, perhaps, not so skilled as a critic.) His face-the-music dance this morning — 15 minutes with no commercial breaks — required no small measure of guts. (Then again, CNN needed to do something to try to rehabilitate his reputation.)
Whether I continue to support him depends on whether he’s learned what he ought to from this insensitive episode: Speed is dangerous. He made errors of haste and carelessness (reminding me of some of my sophomores). He did not read the Collins piece in Sports Illustrated carefully. He made snap judgments about content and tone. He gave little time to careful consideration of what he wrote. Speed is dangerous.
So, Howie, here’s some advice.
Sometimes, under deadline pressure or when you’re doing something quick and short where it’s a little too hazy and decided when you should press a button.
Your problem, Howie, is that you have too many buttons to push. Rid yourself of a few. Get back to being the damn good reporter you used to be.
Earlier today my colleague Otherwise uncorked on sports broadcaster Tim Brando for his reaction to the Jason Collins story. If you somehow missed it, NBA journeyman and free agent Collins publicly acknowledged on Monday that he is gay, making him the first active player in a US major sport to do so.
Brando brought a good bit of heat down on himself with a series of tweets that many perceive as being, well, I’ll let you decide. The firestorm seems to have started when he retweeted this one (although it looks like it has since been deleted).
.@CallMeG_Unit Simple Being a a Christian White male over 50 that’s raised a family means nothing in today’s culture. The sad truth. Period.
4:55 PM – 29 Apr 2013
And away we go with the white, Christian family man privilege problem, because if anyone in America has been historically downtrodden, it’s middle-aged white guys who go to church. Especially rich, famous middle-aged white guys. This is what set Otherwise off.
This isn’t what intrigues me, though. Brando has expended some energy defending himself and dismissing those who’d cast him as a reactionary/homophobe, and in truth, I’ve never had any reason before this to regard him as some kind of social conservative asswaffle. Maybe he is, but if so I’ve missed it. So I’d like to take a few moments to examine some of the nuance in this little dustup.
Brando is now working to frame his remarks as being not about gay or coming out, but instead about the word “hero.”
I called Jason and his brothers games in the NCAA’s and was happy for him upon being drafted. He is good guy. Good for him. Hero? No sorry.
— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) April 29, 2013
Calling it a night folks. The Dictionary matters to me and “HERO”can’t be used loosely. That’s my only point. Twitter took over afterwards.
— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) April 29, 2013
Okay. Frankly, I’m sympathetic to the argument that our society has devalued the word “hero” by using it to apply to just about anyone who shows up for work regularly. I’ve been bitching about this myself for years.
Is Collins a hero? What do we mean by that word? Is he Sgt. York or Jonas Salk or Dave Sanders or the people who stormed the cockpit and crashed United Airlines Flight 93? Probably not, no. Had Brando truly meant his comments in this way, had he articulated them properly and stuck to the point, I wouldn’t be criticizing him at all. I’d be agreeing with him, and vehemently: words have meanings and we’re all better off when we use them the right way.
But that isn’t exactly what Brando did.
A lot of folks right now are comparing Collins to Jackie Robinson, the man who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Is this a seamless comparison? No, for a number of reasons, but there are certainly enough social, cultural and political parallels that we can undersand where it comes from.
Brando didn’t go in that direction. He went in this direction:
I’m hearing Collins is a HERO because he made history! Okas a Sports Commentator if I make a SEX tape is that history?The word matters ok
— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) April 29, 2013
So, when thinking about the relative significance of this event in the history of American sport, Brando arrives at “sex tape” before he does “Jackie Robinson.”
Earlier today, I tweeted this:
— Sam Smith (@docslammy) May 1, 2013
I’m not trying to accuse or be even a little bit snarky. I think this is fair and honest. I don’t expect to hear back from Brando, of course, but if I did I think there’s a useful conversation to be had. Right now, a lot of people are calling his values and integrity into question, and it’s because he himself has spoken in ways that invite criticism.
If Brando wants to insist on a strict usage of the word “hero,” then he has a national platform from which to articulate the point and properly contextualize his views. If he believes what Collins did is worthy and to some extent courageous, he can say that. If he believes in the fair and equitable treatment of all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation, he can say that, and he can do so to a daily audience of thousands, perhaps millions. If he has a problem with the word “hero,” he can tell us what word is more appropriate, and if he believes that real heroes are more like Michael Monsoor, he can tell whom he thinks is a more apt comparison.
Brando could have done these things, but he didn’t. He still can, but if he does, “sex tape” makes it a lot longer walk around than it would have been a couple days ago.
It’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will side with common human decency and allow homosexuals to marry. My colleague is correct that we have more important issues to deal with and that support for the right to marry is growing, or perhaps more precisely opposition to it is also dying. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is likely to trail popular opinion, and this Supreme Court seems less likely to rule based on the constitution and law than on personal opinion and religious dogma. Ms. Palombo is also correct that it shouldn’t even be an issue, but that’s not because of its relative importance on our to-do list.
My understanding is that We the People have freedom of religion in order to protect us from the establishment of a state religion likely to persecute citizens who don’t hold the same faith. Establishing marriage as between a man and a woman is effectively making laws based on religious belief, and the “defenders” of marriage invariably end up at a Christian basis for their argument that stems from a Christian understanding of marriage. (To be fair, Jews and Muslims generally agree with this but since they’re siblings that’s no surprise.) It doesn’t matter if every religion agrees with the concept of marriage. This is a clear issue of the separation of church and state. We’d be lucky if the Justices are strict enough constitutionalists to recognize it as such and rule appropriately. If they don’t, then it’s clear that there’s less regard than lip service for our founding document.
Marriage is simply a state issued contract. It essentially combines two people into one under the law to include such holy issues as finances, taxes, inheritance, and privileging spousal conversation in criminal trials. We get confused about what marriage really is because somewhere along the line we were stupid enough to invest churches with state legal power. Your pastor, priest, rabbi, or whatever doesn’t marry you for legal purposes so much as act as an official witness and file the paperwork. Pretty much anyone can do that. I can and have. I’ve never even been baptized much less become a judge or captain of a ship.
The solution to this issue is simple. Properly separate church and state. Remove state contract powers from the clutches of churches. Homosexuals and those of us who don’t give a rat’s ass about God’s approval will get married by the state and gain the rights and privileges that come from the contract. The religious among us can choose to be married in front of God and also through the state or forgo the state part depending on how they feel about rendering unto Caesar.
The benefit to Christians in this solution is that they can skip the state part and then cry about being persecuted. Nothing makes a Christian happier than being persecuted except maybe persecuting others.
Facebook is awash in red equal signs. The Supreme Court is surrounded by protestors and supporters. And polling numbers show a massive increase in support for marriage equality – a recent poll from Pew showed support from Catholics, Jews, and Protestants well over 50% in support of LGBT marriage.
Which begs the question: why are we still arguing about this?
The ranks of allies and supporters of LGBT marriage equality are growing quickly for a few reasons. First, opposition to marriage equality is “aging out” – as more young people, who grew up in a more LGBT friendly time, are coming of age and voting, their political heft is surpassing that of of older voters who are less comfortable with it. Second, some of the older generations are, to use President Obama’s phrase, “evolving” on the issue – they talked to their kids, they thought about who they knew, and they slowly became more and more comfortable with the idea of men marrying men and women marrying women.
This graph from Daily Kos’s article “Republicans struggle to explain generational divide on marriage equality” shows support in different generations pretty nicely. What I found hilarious was how the GOP is trying to avoid the question of LGBT equality. Lisa Stickan, the chairwoman of the Young Republican National Federation, told POLITICO:
Gay marriage “is not as politically potent because you have younger people in a completely different scenario than five years ago. It’s post-college, paying off student loans, the ability to buy a house. Everyone is talking about the new normal being staying with parents longer because of the difficulty in terms of being able to find employment. And I think that’s something young people are concerned with.”
She’s wrong and she’s right, really. She’s wrong when she says that LGBT marriage equality “is not as politically potent” as it was – support has only grown, and it would be foolish not to jump on that support.
She’s right in that we have better things to argue about. Why, as a nation, are we suddenly so concerned with who people are allowed to marry? This shouldn’t be a question. LGBT people should have the same marriage rights as everyone else, it makes no difference to the government or to other private citizens.
We have so many more important things facing our nation. Why are we not devoting all our energies to creating jobs? Why are we not focusing our attention on comprehensive immigration reform? Why are we arguing about marriage when we could be reforming education?
In other words: LGBT marriage equality isn’t going to hurt anyone, and we clearly don’t care too much who straight people marry (or divorce). So why are getting so worked up about this and ignoring the more pressing problems we could be fixing?
Gay marriage will finally get its day before the Supreme Court. The issues are legally and culturally complex and the outcome uncertain in the eyes of many observers. I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I think I know what might happen here.
I expect that the Court’s left-leaning justices will vote to strike down gay marriage bans (the Defense of Marriage Act, Prop 8, etc.) for obvious reasons: these measures represent an unwarranted denial of civil rights to large swaths of the population, which is anathema to the progressive mind.
I also expect these justices to be joined by Roberts and Alito, at the least. These men were marked out as servants of the nation’s corporate will when they were nominated and they have done little since taking the bench to change anyone’s mind. So, if I might be cynical for a moment, the question becomes “what outcome in this case best serves corporate America?”
I wrote back in February that the gay marriage war is all but over. A string of prominent Republicans have now endorsed marriage equality and a list of 278 employers, organizations and municipalities filed a friend of the court brief with the SCotUS opposing DOMA. That list of businesses includes some serious heavyweights, like:
It’s certain that not all American businesses think gay marriage is a good idea, but this list would seem to represent a pretty impressive cross-section of the corporate landscape. In other words, the consensus of the US business community is that marriage equality is, well, good for business. This means that corporate HR groups must have strong reason to believe that treating everyone the same benefits things like worker morale and productivity, factors which serve the bottom line.
Who the hell knows how the “strict constructionist” Scalia and the hateful, unreconstructed asshole Thomas will vote. In the end, I doubt it will matter. I’m betting on a 7-2 vote to strike down Prop 8 and DOMA.
Time will tell.
I support marriage equality for so many reasons: my father’s experience in an internment camp and the racial intolerance his family experienced during and after the war, the gay friends I have who are really not all that different from me, and also because of a story I read a few years back about a woman who was denied the right to visit her partner of 15 years when she was stuck in a hospital bed.
My belief is rooted in a childhood nurtured by a Christian message of love, compassion and acceptance. It’s grounded in the fact that I was adopted and know there are thousands of children institutionalized in various foster programs, in desperate need of permanent, safe and loving homes, but living in states that refuse to allow unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, to adopt because they consider them not fit to be parents.
In articulating all my feelings about marriage equality, I almost don’t know where to begin. And perhaps that’s part of the problem. Why do we have to explain ourselves when it comes to issues of fairness and equality? Why is common sense not enough?
Once you’ve finished reading, share this with your friends (especially if they haven’t quite figured this whole “equal rights” thing out yet)…
That list of companies signing the amicus curiae includes some very prominent names, too. For instance:
Some of those companies are predictable liberal hippie Silicon Valley outfits, of course, but a closer look will reveal many businesses with nary a progressive bone in their bodies (yes, corporations have bodies – they’re people, remember?).
In other words, the battle for marriage equality is over. Sure, there’s some mopping up to do, and the flat-earthers in the more socially conservative parts of the country will fight on as long as anybody pays them any attention. But make no mistake: today we’re celebrating V-LGBT Day.
This is wonderful news, obviously. What rights and privileges our country accords its citizens, they should be accorded equally. No nation that calls itself a democracy can deny to one segment of its citizenry that which is granted to others, especially when the denial of these rights is based on factors over which people have no control. Factors like race, gender and sexual orientation, for instance. Especially when those being discriminated against are hurting no one. Especially when their behavior actually strengthens the social and economic fabric.
The reason I’m so interested in these events, though, has less to do with the actual policy and more to do with an argument I have been waging for years. In short, while this is a political victory, it’s one that emerges whole-cloth from shifting cultural dynamics, not overt political activism.
I’m a culturalist. I grew up a creature of popular culture – television, movies, sports, genre lit, rock & roll – and compounded the problem by earning a doctorate from a heavily cultural studies-oriented PhD program at the University of Colorado. I write poetry, but I also write lyrics for musical artists like Paul Lewis and Fiction 8. I love art galleries, but I also watch pro wrestling (a cultural descendent of medieval passion cycles, when you get right down to it). I’m right at home watching subtitled Eastern European art flicks, but my favorite movies are Blade Runner, Animal House and Caddyshack. I have taught hard lit, but ask some of my former students about watching Tetsuo the Iron Man and certain Nine Inch Nails videos in my classes.
More to the point, while I’m an inherently political creature, I’m not politically active in the way so many of my colleagues, friends and acquaintances are. A point I have made, more times than I can count, is this: if you win the cultural war, the politics will take care of themselves. That’s what I care about, and it’s why I bang away at this damned keyboard instead of canvassing door to door.
Not many of my political friends seem to believe me, though. I have been on multiple politics lists, including one very, very high-level and very secret one (as in, you can’t say the name out loud). In these environments, I tried to foreground the importance of cultural issues at every turn, but I got used to the sound of crickets chirping. Nobody was hostile about it, they just ignored me.
So I left. I walked away shortly after a panel I had put together with some like minds on the various cultural battles being fought (and in need of fighting) was rejected for Netroots Nation. I think the world of applied political activism is important, make no mistake. But it’s one piece of the puzzle, not the whole puzzle. You can go door-to-door all you like, but if your opponent is winning the cultural battle, you’re going to have a tough time of it.
Consider the role music plays in American culture. Back in the ’60s, artists were vocal advocates for social and political progress. Give me Dylan and The Beatles and Woodstock and I’ll take my chances in whatever social conflict you like. Popular music was central to youth culture and it energized and empowered a generation. These bands got played on the radio, too. All the time. Our airwaves were dominated by hippie peace freaks.
Flash forward to the last decade. When three talented young women from Texas made the mistake of saying something unkind about our president, they learned an important lesson: shut up and sing. There’s no telling what Natalie Maines’s comment cost The Dixie Chicks, but they were more or less disappeared from the airwaves. It’s to their credit that they refused to back down, but what can we learn from comparing their case to that of Dylan, of John Lennon, of Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary and hordes of others from 30 years earlier? In the ’60s, you made a career off of dissent. Today, dissent ends your career.
Once upon a time, concerts were held to oppose the war. In the Bush years, Clear Channel Communications, a corporate radio monster with close ties to the administration, staged pro-war rallies. In the ’60s, popular culture exerted tremendous pressure on government to end an unjust war. In the 2000s, not so much.
Win the culture, the politics will take care of themselves.
Which brings me back to the gay marriage issue. In April of 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out in the famous “Puppy Episode.” This was a landmark moment – Ellen wasn’t the first famous gay person in entertainment, but previous stars (Liberace, Rock Hudson, Jim Nabors, etc.) had the good sense to keep quiet about it. Ellen went all Jackie Robinson, though, and suddenly Hollywood had hauled homosexuality out of the closet and into America’s living room, insisting that everyone pay attention.
Since DeGeneres made that brave stand, what has happened? Well, there was Will & Grace. And Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. And Queer as Folk. Kurt on Glee. Mark and Justin on Ugly Betty. Multiple characters on OLtL and As the World Turns. Jack on Dawson’s Creek. Omar on The Wire. John Cooper on Southland. Cam and Mitch, our gay parents of two on Modern Family. And how about that storyline on Necessary Roughness?
And on. And on. And on.
The thing to understand is that for 15 years now, the writers, directors, actors and producers responsible for our popular culture fare, those responsible for the TV we watch and the movies we attend, have been normalizing gays. Once upon a time, it was a big scary deal to even think about a gay character (or openly gay performer). After awhile, though, it was no big deal at all. It was common. It was expected. Just like a few decades ago when it was a big scary deal to put a black on the screen in anything other than an overtly subservient role.
It’s easy to demonize the unknown. Hatred feeds on ignorance, and when you refuse to depict something before the public eye, you enable ignorance. But when you choose to depict gays, or blacks, or the handicapped, or the autistic, or whatever, you humanize them. At first it’s controversial. A month or two later, you’re used to it and it’s not a big deal anymore.
And after 15 years or so, the Defense of Marriage Act no longer makes a lick of sense. Not to corporations, not to most regular citizens, not even to Republican lawmakers.
Congratulations to all the political activists, the lobbyists, the legislators, the bloggers, the not-for-profit advocates – you won. We all won.
But the next time you hear me say that if you win the culture, the politics will take care of themselves, remember V-LGBT Day. Understand that this victory owes more to Hollywood than to Washington, DC.
I … I … ummm. This is a joke, right?
Marriage should be limited to unions of a man and a woman because they alone can “produce unplanned and unintended offspring,” opponents of gay marriage have told the Supreme Court.
By contrast, when same-sex couples decide to have children, “substantial advance planning is required,” said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for House Republicans.
Apparently no, no it is not.
Used to be teh queers couldn’t be trusted because they’d hump anything they could catch. Now they have to be restricted because … they’re responsible.
2016 is going to be a banner year for Dem candidates if the GOP keeps this up….
“You idiot! Get back in there at once and sell, sell!”
As we set about the process of compiling and canonizing the 2012 election post-mortem, one thing we keep hearing over and over is how utterly stunned the Romney camp was at their loss. Republicans across the board apparently expected victory – the conservative punditry seemed certain of it – and now we’re hearing that Romney himself was “shellshocked” by the result.
Mitt Romney went into Election Night expecting a victory and was “shellshocked” when he finally realized he had lost, CBS News reported.
Despite early signs of a stronger-than-expected turnout for President Obama, it wasn’t until the crucial state of Ohio was called for the president that Romney began to face the likelihood of defeat.
Even then, he and his team had trouble processing the news, senior advisers told CBS News.
“We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory,” one adviser said. “I don’t think there was one person who saw this coming.”
Silver’s final 2008 presidential election forecast accurately predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia (missing only the prediction for Indiana). As his model predicted, the races in Missouri and North Carolina were particularly close. He also correctly predicted the winners of every U.S. Senate race.
It wasn’t just Silver. Almost all the polls showed Obama with at least a slight lead in the battleground states, and if we can believe CNN’s election night insiders, Mitt’s own tracking showed him five points adrift in Ohio as late as Sunday (which explains why he set up camp there when many expected him to focus his energies elsewhere).
In other words, all the data, all the nonpartisan analysis, all the evidence, made clear that Romney’s chances were slim. It’s understandable that he and his people would be disappointed, and mightily so. But surprised? How does that happen?
In a nutshell, the GOP blindsided themselves. The reason should be obvious to anyone who has paid any attention at all to American politics in recent years: an overabundance of blind faith. I don’t mean this in a religious sense (although the political and socio-scientific manifestations of the phenomenon issue from strong religious antecedents). Instead, I’m referring to the broad, swelling inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between belief and knowledge.
As noted, nearly all the polls showed Romney in trouble. Most broke out their results in ways that clearly suggested why he was in trouble. The rational response to such information is to take it onboard, adapt and adjust. But that’s not what the GOP did. Instead, they dismissed the data that didn’t align with their beliefs. They went so far as to “unskew” the polls because they were clearly biased in favor of Mr. Obama. How do we know they were biased? Because they favored Mr. Obama. UnskewedPolls.com performed some ideological/mathematical hijinks and produced “corrected” polls that demonstrated how Mr. Romney was actually leading. By a lot.
The resulting projected electoral map was positively Reaganesque.
You might argue that the rational response isn’t to adapt and adjust if there is actually reason to believe that all the polls are, in fact, skewed. This objection is fair, so long as your reasons for doing so are driven by factual concerns instead of ideological ones. I think it’s more than clear, by now, that GOP faith in a Romney win was driven by belief instead of knowledge isn’t it?
The upshot is what we saw Tuesday night and in the days following: shock, dismay, confusion. Romney and his people (here I’ll include the GOP’s media relations arm, FOX News) didn’t see the obvious coming and some were melting down as reality began to assert its ugly presence in ways that even Megyn Kelly couldn’t ignore. Sure, Karl Rove had an excuse for going all Randolph Duke on the set. He’d just spent $600M of rich folks’ money and had a pack of nabs to show for it, an outcome with dire implications for his future career prospects. Of course he was losing it – he was seeing his political life pass before his eyes as the Ohio totals ticked in. Again, though, this was a live, nationally televised case study in self-delusion: it isn’t true because sweet Jesus it just can’t be.
I keep using these terms “knowledge” and “belief.” I suspect that many people across the country might initially grapple with the difference (in fact, I know this to be the case). So let me define these terms, at least operationally, for the benefit of those who don’t understand the distinction.
In other words, with knowledge, you learn all you can in as rigorous and intellectually honest a fashion as possible, then you figure out what it means. With belief, the conclusions are given from the outset and data is selected and discarded according to whether or not it supports the point you’re trying to make.
Accepting facts that run counter to what we believe, and what we want to believe, and even what we desperately need to believe, can be hard. I understand the difficulty as well as anyone. I personally now believe pretty much the opposite of nearly every important thing I believed as a young man, and I have frequently noted how many times my beliefs changed because I was proven wrong by the very smart people with whom I insisted on surrounding myself. I’ve always been a fan of the famous John Maynard Keynes quote: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
As hard as it is to investigate contrary information and opinions, though, it’s imperative that we do so. With gusto. The Republican Party had all the evidence there before them throughout the entire campaign. There is precious little that we know now that we didn’t know a month ago. Their decision to pretend it was all skewed led to what? They lost the White House (in a race that was surely theirs for the taking). They lost ground in the Senate. Thanks to gerrymandering they still control the House, but their candidates nationwide received fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. Gay marriage initiatives passed in a couple of states. Gays and lesbians were elected to Congress.
All because the Republican Party privileged belief over knowledge.
Plenty of debate is already under way within the Republican Party as to what the results means and what might be done about it. Some conservative analysts are paying heed to the knowledge they have gained. Others, not so much.
And over at UnskewedPolls, well, see for yourself:
The GOP 2012 experience holds important lessons for us all as we move forward. The world in which we live, the nation in which we live, the neighborhoods and communities and cities in which we live are what they are, not what we wish them to be. For instance:
The things are not beliefs, they are facts supported by every scrap of credible evidence that we have. The existence of facts doesn’t automatically suggest what the best policies might look like, but the refusal to acknowledge them assures disaster.
All of us – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green and none of the above – would do well to learn from the GOP’s hard 2012 lesson.
Here is a perfect case of Rick Santorum doing an exemplary job of illustrating exactly what it is that drives me berserk about these crafty, manipulative, deceitful bags of shit cloaked in spurious piety.
“We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country,” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told the audience at the Omni Shoreham hotel. “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”