Thursday, August 28, 2008

You're damn well right we can.

So I've been meaning to write about all this gay shit for a long time, and it's just been difficult to sit down and crank it out. Not sure why, but I'm glad to have the challenge. Thanks for stopping by!

Several years ago, in another incarnation of this here blog, I posted an image of two elderly ladies who were the downfall of moral society and perhaps all of civilization. They were lesbians, you see. Lesbians, getting married. Not being happy with just an eternity of damnation, they were also intent on bringing us down with them.

I wrote that in jest, of course, because two old ladies exchanging wedding vows is somewhere between rainbows and teddy bears on the threat meter. And it was darling. They'd been partners almost their entire lives and finally realized the dream that nearly no lesbian couple in America had experienced before them: the exchange of wedding vows and the license of a state-sanctioned marriage.

And I now mention with a sadness and an incredible amount of respect that Del Martin passed away yesterday, at the age of 87. Her lawfully married parnter, Phyllis, had this to add:

"Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side," Lyon said in a statement issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "I am so lucky to have known her, loved her and been her partner in all things.

Fifty-five years -- may we all be so lucky. Rest in peace, and thanks for giving 'em hell.

And to turn the topic now, let's move from an activist ending her long slog to a new young fellow whose bestowed titles range from 'freshly-minted gay icon' to 'Olympic champion'. For the first time ever, an out 'n proud gay man won an Olympic gold medal -- not that you would have known that from watching the coverage. With this stunning and essentially perfect dive, Matt Mitcham made Outsports cry and also lash out at NBC for its coverage which neglected to mention that, oh by the way, Mitcham's partner is in the stands and the significance of a out homo winning gold. I wish the kid my best, because like it or not, he's now an international celebrity and a hero to many (just read the first link in this paragraph if you doubt me). It doesn't hurt that he's just adorable, either.

On the one hand, I think it's a compelling story -- absolutely the kind of cutaway material Olympics coverage is known for -- how he walked away from diving, piddled around and did some odd jobs; thanks to his rock and partner, found a renewed interest and desire to compete; won the Olympic gold. I mean, really, that's the kind of stupid storybook stuff they can't make up.

On the other hand, I also think it's totally true that in a reasonable, compassionate society, the headline "Gay person does X" wouldn't be worth mentioning for most values of X. So in an odd way, I kind of appreciated watching the competition and not really having that be the big deal (I totally knew he was gay once I saw him mug for the camera after a dive, but still). At this point in our society's evolution, there's probably room for a little of both.

I look at Rachel Maddow, who's getting her own show on MSNBC here in a couple weeks, and it's like, well yeah, she's a lesbian. But that's not what the hokey pokey is all about, y'know? It's her intellect and insight and wit that make her the compelling show host that she is. But we have to, on some level, laud or understand or appreciate the fact that she's the first out lesbian to be in that position, and yeah, you know, that's pretty damn cool.

I'm getting ready to watch Barack Obama accept the nomination for the presidency, and as much as I wish our country was at a post-race-divisional* level, we so very much are not. Exhibit one: Obama is the first black man to stand up be held up to accept a major party's nomination for the presidency. So let's acknowledge and appreciate the fact that he's the first black guy to be in that position, and yeah, you know, that's pretty damn cool.

So like I was saying, in a reasonable, compassionate society, you wouldn't expect to see the headline "Gay person does X" for most values of X. But we don't necessarily live in a reasonable, compassionate society just yet. I live in a state that's supposed to be full of fruits and nuts, and we still deal with shit like this.

You can't tell, but I just took a break to watch Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech. I'm so stunned by it I don't even care to comment, beyond this: In 2004, I said that in his speech, Barack Obama served notice he would be the first black President of the United States. Today, in his speech, Barack Obama just served notice he will be the next President of the United States. I'm contributing a modest amount to his campaign as a result of the not-exactly-what-I-wanted-to-hear but anything but platitudinal (all right, amazing) speech. I'm also contributing the same amount to the campaign to defeat Prop 8. I hope you'll consider doing the same within your means.

We may not have the reasonable, compassionate society I dream of, but we can get there, with the groundwork established by pioneers past like Washington, Lincoln, Anthony, Dr. King, and of course Del Martin. And more and more we will realize the benefits as a society, of unsuspecting, everyday, regular people who sometimes manage to do extraordinary things and obliterate a tacit barrier like Rosa Parks, Matt Mitcham, or (I guess even) Rachel Maddow. And as we look to extraordinary leaders of all shapes and sized, races and creeds, in an increasingly diverse array which represents the true American Way, I feel only more and more confident. We'll get there, and we'll start by defeating Prop. 8. We're going to have a woman or a black man as chief executive or first officer of this country. And we will reap the benefits from now into the future every time someone achieves a pinnacle that today we would say "the first whatever". By then, "whatever" won't even be in the headline and the whole of society can rejoice.


* - I now live in Alameda County, CA, and the societal integration here is just breathtaking. It does me better than eating Wheaties in the morning, seriously.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Marriage and Fucking: 'It's a union between man and woman'

Given that the blog has changed digs, it's worth pointing out this is my first time writing about marriage. I'm fascinated not by, e.g., personal connection to the issue, but because it's such an interesting point of public policy. Regardless of what you think about the wall of separation between Church and State, it's undeniable that the issue sits in Humpty-Dumptian fashion atop said wall.

Additionally, it's the first time since the Constitution was written that there's active discussion of how much, as a society, we want to add to that document to exclude a group of people from access to rights and benefits afforded by law to the general populace. It's interesting to watch policymakers and pundits try to square arguments in favor of anti-marriage amendments with the patriotic reverence for the words of our forefathers, in crafting a work that has heretofore only been read with increasing inclusion as to whose rights are protected, and why.

And as our top politicians work their way toward the ultimate goal of being elected President of the United States of America, I found it fascinating that the nation moved the political debate to a new location, holding it up on that wall of separation between Church and State (to fashion a gallows, one wonders?) last night, with all major news networks pausing to give the bully pulpit of the unbiased press over to an evangelical preacher, grilling the candidates inside his evangelical church.

The 'debate' about marriage has gotten so convoluted and has so screwed up the context of what is, to me, a pretty simple, straightforward policy issue, that it's just stunning to read what the candidates said in this transcript. Here's John McCain. Sitting in a church with a pastor. In front of a few thousand evangelical Christians, a base he sorely needs to pander to* in order to win the election. And so you figure, surely he'll let loose how marriage in the Church is a religious construct and the government has no business legislating such things, and so on and so forth, Amen. And what does he do?

MCCAIN: A union -- a union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. That's my definition of marriage.

He frames the argument in exactly such a way that God or a Covenant or religion or spirituality or eternal promises are completely omitted. According to John McCain, God has nothing to do with marriage. And if God has nothing to do with marriage, then there's no reason that the State shouldn't be saying "Hey, you know, we've realized that gay people are equal" and through whatever policy mechanism necessary, the State should be recognizing these as marriages if people want them to be marriages, so they can reap the benefits and legal rights and responsibilities as a married couple. If God isn't a part of what marriage is to you, then you don't really have a leg to stand on, from a policy perspective.

Or maybe even from a religious one. John McCain thinks marriage is 'a union between man and woman'.

No, 'a union between man and woman' is like John Edwards and That Filmmaker Lady screwing while his wife was home busy dying. That is 'a union between man and woman', John McCain. Not marriage.

And everyone applauded! Because He Was So Certain! Man and Woman! Man and Woman! And they loved it; ate his answer out of the palm of his hand like it was the Body of Christ in communion wafer form.

So what does Obama pull of of his flip flopping pansy ass liberal faggy hat?

"OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian -- for me -- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix. But --"

Sacred union. God's in the mix. How could anyone, from an evangelical perspective, not hear his answer and like it, um, a Father, Son and Holy Spirit more than what McCain said? It's just bizarre.

It's also a real accomplishment on the part of the people framing this debate, that they've gone from making the religious point -- which may in and of itself turn enough people off that policy initiatives could fail (think about it: How much of your neighbor's religion do you want in your government, even if you agree with it?) -- to making it a sanitary, general, hermetically sealed fact: "Marriage is a union between a man and a woman." Now, aside from the kids today who've grown up in teh gay, and a few people from freakshow areas like, well, here, how many people were actually raised with the understanding that marriage is anything but a union between a man and a woman? It's almost an a priori fact. Just like how black men don't marry white girls.

That twist, from making it a religious argument, to repackaging it in more widely-consumable form while still retaining the wink-and-nod to making sure religious organization doesn't lose a hook in the meaty flesh of public policy, has been the smartest change in the tactics since several anti-marriage initiatives failed in the last round of ballot referenda.


* - I was going to use a different phrase here, or use the snarky strikethrough, but then I figured, nah, what the hell? You don't take your Presidential campaign into a huge evangelical church if you're not going to pander. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

FCC Commissioner: Return of Fairness Doctrine Could Control Web Content

These free enterprise idiots don't evidently care to understand jack about what they're actually supposed to be doing: "FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell raised that as a possibility after talking with bloggers at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. McDowell spoke about a recent FCC vote to bar Comcast from engaging in certain Internet practices – expanding the federal agency’s oversight of Internet networks."

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell is an alarmist shit-for-brains who illustrates such ignorance of what his job is in that statement that he should be summarily dismissed. Like a proctologist doing business at a lemonade stand, McDowell doesn't understand the difference between an internet service provider (whose monopolies the FCC has deemed to be within its purview) and an internet content provider. Like me. And every other damned blogger out there. And the idiots at The FCC has not now nor has ever had any control over what we say or do.

This burning sack of crap rhetoric -- flames being fanned by Matt Drudge -- comes to a stop now.

The FCC ruled that Comcast doesn't have the right to interfere with the free flow of information selectively as they see fit. As an internet service provider. So in other words, if Comcast were to enforce some kind of fairness doctrine -- perhaps forcing people to visit the same number of liberal and conservative news sites -- the FCC would also come down on their asses. Hard.

The only reason the FCC can enforce a Fairness Doctrine on broadcast spectra is because those are public commons licensed to the owners of those stations *to operate in the public interest*. It actually says that in their license! Can you believe it?! And I know, you know, it's hard to believe that listening to Michael Savage tell parents of autistic kids that they're just making it up and that they should just be better parents -- it's hard to believe that's not in the public interest. But maybe it is. Who knows. That's not the point.

The point is that the airwaves on which bloviating broadcasters like Rush Limbaugh spew their cynical contempt for democracy belong to me and the hippies next door as much as to you or your pastor. Or even Rush Limbaugh. They're not there for megamillion-dollar media conglomerates to abuse. They're not there for Clear Channel to buy up all the stations in a market and fire everybody. They're there to be operated in the public interest. And it's pretty much impossible to say that constant Republican warhawk invective is in the public interest. So, hm. Maybe there's something to that after all....

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Isn't it going to be interesting to see where this whole presidential tire fiasco will go? Barack Obama says inflate your tires to reduce oil consumption; John McCain mocks him for this stance, then John McCain capitulates, saying that AAA and NASCAR both recognize proper tire inflation is an important component of maintaining the fuel economy of an automobile; then Barack Obama capitulates saying that raping the earth drilling for yet more oil is the answer to the US' energy consumption.

You have to admit, that's a helluva bipartisan compromise -- a major figure on the Democratic ticket and a major figure on the Republican ticket both admitting they were wrong and the other was right, on the same damn issue at the same damn time. Maybe Ahnuld's post-partisan politics is actually taking root.

What I really find interesting about that little policy rally is how inane the recanting of *both* claims are.

John McCain really does deserve all the flack he gets for this, and I hope there's no shortage of it. He chose to attack the most completely sensible, effortless, cost-free*, benefit-heavy suggestion anyone has ever made about fuel consumption and mocked it. He deserves to have this point raised time and time again "John McCain thinks there's nothing you should do to help the energy crunch. John McCain would just rather see the oil companies get all the profits they can. Not only is he in favor of public policy that supports ongoing record windfall profits for oil companies, he actively discouraged YOU from doing anything about it."

As a raging liberal, let me point out that my solutions to the energy crunch involve driving less, using less, massively funding public transit initiatives, and tying highway development (not maintenance) funding to be proportional with funding for mass transit development. To use a strict-parent metaphor, if you want dessert (more and wider highways for your car), then you better eat your broccoli (funding non-personal-automobile solutions so they become viable sooner rather than later, and so you grow tall and healthy).

But Barack Obama didn't suggest any of that hippie shit. He just pointed out a simple, empirical fact: Y'all check your air pressure today, and we can start saving as much oil daily as what the big-business corporate welfare whoring of the coast would do. And it can happen at no cost to you, and it can happen today, not decades from now. He didn't suggest that you take such a radical, liberal douchebag step as driving slower or not at all, taking the bus instead of driving to work, or offering to carpool with a coworker in the neighborhood. All he suggested was that people take advantage of an easy, free option with no impact to lifestyle at all and stop funding terrorist nations through their oil sales.

Jesus, what a screwball. Totally not ready to lead.

And then there's that whole bit about how he says we DO need to drill for oil in wildlife reserves. I would just like to know what the hell good he thinks that's going to do. Even if he's not all about supply-side economics, there cannot be any doubt that the current gas situation with $100+ fill-ups has put intense pressures on the market to allow us to avail ourselves of solutions that involve *using* less oil and involve getting off oil completely in many situations. "Fixing" this issue on the supply side removes some of these great new market incentives we have to not just get rid of our dependence on FOREIGN oil as McCain would have us do, but get rid of our dependence on oil entirely, in favor of better, cleaner, ideally renewable sources of energy.

I thought Barack Obama might want that, too, but given this latest round of talking to pundits and polls instead of real people, I'm not so sure.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

African American English in the We-O

The Oakland Tribune reports: "'Go on the porch and you risk ducking a bullet,' said Kayla Mendoza, 45. 'They don't care about no kids out playing down here. They want to kill a boy; they gone find a way to do it.'"

And I'd be a liar if I sat here and said I've long been fascinated by the socioeconomic implications of newspaper quotes reporting African-American English* (AAE) as it's actually spoken... But the fact that this is a story about the worst neighborhood in the We-O, which is not the nicest part of town to begin with, to put it nicely, really leads me to wonder what the policies of the Oakland Tribune are when it comes to AAE. Do they just transcribe word for word? Is a copy editor on hand who speaks AAE to check the accuracy of the quotes?

And maybe the most pressing issue of all -- do they quote anyone like that who's *not* black and probably not so well off (again, judging only by the neighborhood and nothing more). I have to wonder if this isn't an attempt to mark West Oakland and its residents as 'other' somehow, like they may not be of concern to -- or even a part of -- the city the rest of us live in.


* - I call it African American English, following Lisa Green, et al. Others have other names for it -- Ebonics (considered pejorative), Black English, Black English Vernacular, Black Vernacular English, African-American Vernacular English... All the same damn thing among those who write about it (even though there are surely regional / dialectal differences among them; there are even within the state of Indiana, so I'm sure it scopes regionally and nationally as well).