« February 2012 | Main | April 2012 »

100 posts from March 2012

March 30, 2012

Kate Clinton pays tribute to Adrienne Rich

Comedian and activist Kate Clinton pays tribute to feminist poet Adrienne Rich, who died on Tuesday at age 82.

March 29, 2012

The "true lie" that black men commit more crime than whites

Chauncey DeVega has an interesting post over at the We Are Respectable Negroes blog about the biases built into the statistics that are used to justify the persistent image of "scary black men" at the heart of the demonizing of black youth like Trayvon Martin:

The black people commit more crime canard is a fallacy of both process and outcomes. African Americans are subject to discrimination in the legal system at every level. As documented by The Sentencing Project, and detailed in such works as Race, Crime and the Law, and The New Jim Crow, African Americans are more likely to be stopped by police without cause, to be more aggressively questioned, receive longer and more severe charges for the same crimes as white defendants, and to have fewer resources to defend themselves in court.

As compared to white neighborhoods, black and brown communities are also subject to more severe surveillance and aggressive police tactics. Moreover, the disproportionate number of minorities in the criminal justice system can be largely explained by the War on Drugs. In total, if white communities were subject to the same type of aggressive police tactics as black and brown communities, the number of white people in prison would skyrocket.

The data is very telling here. While people of color are the prime targets of such policies as “stop and frisk” and racial profiling, it is in fact white people who are far more likely to be both drug users and to be in possession of narcotics at a given moment. This reality signals to a larger social phenomenon: black individuals who commit crimes are representative of their whole communities, crime is racialized, and there is no qualifier of individual intent. All black people are deemed suspicious and guilty because of the deeds of the very few.

Julian Bond: NOM documents "scary"; Brian Brown tap dances

Civil rights veteran Julian Bond talks with Anderson Cooper about the documents from National Organization for Marriage, recently unsealed by a Maine court, in which NOM leaders explicitly stated their strategy to divide the black and gay communities.

Meanwhile, NOM's Brian Brown tries to explain himself:

Let me be the first to say that the tone of the language in that document as quoted by the press is inapt. Here's something I know from the bottom of my soul: It would be enormously arrogant for anyone at NOM to believe that we can make or provoke African-American or Latino leaders do anything. The Black and Hispanic Democrats who stand up for marriage do so on principle—and get hit with a wave of vituperative attacks like nothing I have ever seen. We did not cause it, nor can we claim credit for these men and women's courage in standing up in defense of our most fundamental institution: marriage.

To Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign and Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry I would say: This is your movement. You are its leaders. Only you can hope to change the vicious attacks being made on Black and Hispanic Democrats (or white Republicans for that matter!) who don't agree with you on gay marriage.

Here again we see the radical right's inverted logic whereby they, whose entire program is marinated in hatred, are the true victims. But they're starting to sound desperate.

(Hat tip: Joe Jervis)

Matt Barber calls anti-violence measures a "Trojan Horse" against traditional values

Matt Barber of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel shares these pearls of unwisdom:

Unless any of our detractors, which I know they will, attempt to say that we are advocating violence against people who engage in these aberrant sexual behaviors, that is of course not the case, nobody I know favors of course violence, we all are opposed to violence against any individual for anything. But that’s not what’s happening here. What’s happening is they’re using this specter of some kind of notion of ‘mass violence’ committed against homosexuals, they do the same thing here in the United States, ‘mass discrimination,’ something where there is no evidence of course against people who are engaged in these behaviors. They use that as a Trojan Horse to force, to compel nations and individuals and groups and churches that embrace traditional values, relative to sexual behavior, to push them into the closet and say ‘no, no, you have to adopt a full affirmation of these perversions.’

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)

Do clothes make the man?


Stephen Colbert neatly skewers Geraldo Rivera for saying on March 23, "I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly not to let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as much as George Zimmerman was." Rivera has sort of apologized.

March 28, 2012

DCRA should enforce the law

Restroom_20signDC is among cities in protecting it's most vulnerable citizens.  Unfortunately getting the protections guaranteed by law enforced is more of a struggle.  One such vulnerable group is the transgender community.  And one way the are  put at risk on a daily basis is something as safe bathroom available when in public.  Everybody poops.  But transgender people frequently have to live in fear whenever they enter a public restroom.  They risk nasty stares or degrading comments at best;  at worst violent assault.

The DC Council should be commend on recognizing the problem and requiring all single use bathrooms in the city be marked gender neutral.  The task that remains is to see that the law is enforced.

One problem is that businesses are largely unaware of this requirement.  To date, the Department of Human Resources is the only body enforcing this law.  The DC Center ran the Bathroom Access Project which visited public establishments to inform them of the requuirement.  The also reported over 100 businesses that were not in comliance to the OHR.  But OHR doesn't have teams of inspectors to go into businesses and see that business are in compliance with the law.  The DC Center ran the Bathroom Access Project which visited public establishments to inform them of the requuirement.  The also reported over 100 businesses that were not in comliance to the OHR.  The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) should include  gender neutral sign compliance as part of their building inspections.  When a DCRA inspector leaves a business they can insure that it is obeying the law by posting compliant signs for use on a temporary basis.  In the interim between the next inspection the business can continue to use this sign or replace it with one that complies if they choose.  Businesses that fail to abide by the law after a warning should face fines.

In fact this issue has been discussed before with DCRA.  It's guidelines for inspectors are only updated once a year, and while in the past they have promised to include enforcement in them,  this has not been done.  DCRA will have its budget hearing April 18th.  Councilmember Yvette Alexander should get answers from Nicholas A. Majett what steps the department will take to see that this law is properly enforced.  Lives may depend on it.

Continue reading "DCRA should enforce the law" »

Robertson: Satan Behind Homosexuality, Abortion Rights

Right Wing Watch shares the latest video of right-wing wackos. I just wonder why the senile old twit, Pat Robertson, is still broadcasting. As to Kirk Cameron, boy does he set off my gaydar.

Marriage News Watch - March 26, 2012 #afer


March 27, 2012

The #NOM racial agenda exposed

Maine conducted an investigation into possible financial irregularities by the National Organization in their successful quest to have marriage equality repealed in the state.  Some of the documents they collected as part of the investigation have now been released.  This has led to quite a bit of press coverage with much of it focused on their strategy to exploit racial issues.  The say in

"Not a Civil Right" Project

The majority of African-American, like the majority of Americans, oppose gay marriage, but Democratic power bosses are increasingly inclined to privilege the concerns of gay rights groups over the values of African-Americans.  A stragegic goal of this project is to amplify the voice and the power of black Americans within the Democratic Party.  We aim to find, equip, energize and connect African-American spokespeople for marriage; tp deve;pp[ a media campaign around their objects to gay marriage as a civil right.  No politician wants to take up and push an issue the splits the base of the party.

The documents cites a $1.5 million budget for this effort.

African-Americans have faced and continue to face enormous discrimination, including in employment, housing, and public accomodation.  They were subjected to racial segregation in the military.  Slaves wer not allowed to marry and later the right to marry the person they loved was denied if that person was white. Some light-skinned African-Americans were about to pass as white but lived in fear of this being discovered.  Racists claimed that God was on their side and cited Biblical passages to justify their belief.  And all of this was due to a single characteristic, the color of ones skin.

Of course the situation for gay Americans is different.  They have faced discrimination in housing, employment, and public accomodation.  They have been denied the right to serve openly in the military.  They have been jailed, locked up in mental hospitals and subjected to chemical castration and actual castration.  Gay people are shot and assaulted on a regular basis and sometimes bombed  (though not typically in church; bombings are targeted at gay bars).  Some gay people can pass themselves off as heterosexual and avoid discrimination  And all of this was due to a single characteristic, sexual orientation.

Of course their are differences between the discrimination experienced by African-Americans and gay people.  Gay people never had to face the Ku Klux Klan or worry about lynch mobs.  On the other hand African-Americans have always had their churches and families to sustain them.  Gay people face a barrage of verbal abuse from their churches and are often disowned by their families.  Even today when the world is thought to be more accepting, 27% of gay teenagers who come out (or are outed) are rejected by their families.

Of course, the goal of the National Organization for Marriage has always been to support the Republican party.  Mariage equality has always been a wedge issue that Republican use to win elections.  The thing that is surprising is that African-Americans in Maryland are aligning themselves with people whose goal is to defeat the first African-American president.  Harry Jackson and Robert Broadus are both Republicans working to further their party's goals.  Harry Jackson's ravings that gay people are tools of demon's by extention says the Barack Obama is doing the devil's work.


If I Had a Son: the parental anguish at the heart of the #Trayvon Martin case


My column this week discusses the universal chord of parental anguish at the heart of the #Trayvon Martin case. Here's an excerpt:

If you think we live in a post-racial society, look at the flood of hateful comments found by blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs below a March 19 Fox News article on the Department of Justice investigation into the Feb. 26 killing of Trayvon Martin. The last comment Johnson quotes will suffice: "GOOD SHOT ZIMMY. lol."

The President of the United States took a different tack on March 23: "When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids…. If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

With these simple words, praised by Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic as "a stunning exercise in political minimalism," President Obama touched the chord of parental anxiety at the heart of the tragedy in which wannabe cop George Zimmerman, armed with a 9mm handgun, pursued and fatally shot the 17-year-old Martin, who was armed with a bag of Skittles, a can of iced tea, and a cell phone.

Coates described the Wild West logic of Florida's Stand Your Ground law on March 22: "The logic incentivizes an armed citizenry where the beneficiary of justice is simply the last man standing. Your side of the story is irrelevant if you are dead."

Read the whole thing here.

March 26, 2012

In praise of #Trayvon Martin's parents


In contrast to the demagoguery of MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell Monday evening (even resorting to the old gimmick of questioning an empty chair), the parents of murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin have acquitted themselves admirably in the month since their son's senseless murder.

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton have spoken clearly and passionately of the outrage that robbed them of their child on February 26. They have borne up through countless interviews and rallies, testifying to the good son they have lost and demanding answers and justice. Now they are having to respond to police efforts to smear Trayvon, which resemble former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's posthumous smears of Patrick Dorismond in 2000.

So I just wanted to pause to praise Trayvon's parents. Without such brave voices demanding justice and humanizing the story — so reminiscent of Mamie Till's bravery after the murder of her 14-year-old son Emmett in 1955 — the chances of focusing the nation's attention and obtaining justice would be greatly diminished. Bravo to them.

Lawrence O'Donnell's demagoguery cheapens #Trayvon discussion

I just watched Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC interrogating an empty chair and browbeating a reporter from The Orlando Sentinel regarding the police handling of the killing of Trayvon Martin. His main guest for the evening, George Zimmerman's attorney, had abruptly walked out of the Florida studio where he was about to be interviewed by remote hookup. O'Donnell had every right to slam the man for chickening out, but he repeated himself several times and then directed his questions to the empty chair where the attorney had been sitting. Then he interviewed the reporter, whom he kept interrupting when she tried to answer.

As you may have noticed, I am very much on the side of Trayvon's parents. But O'Donnell's demagoguery does not help. Granted, it's not as bad as the bounty announced by the New Black Panther Party for the capture of Zimmerman. But a little more discipline and dignity would be helpful.

HRC uncovers previously confidential NOM strategy docs

Kevin Nix at HRC reports:

Today HRC got a hold of internal NOM documents that shed light on the anti-LGBT movement’s overall strategy. These documents were just unsealed in Maine mid-afternoon. The docs are part of the ongoing investigation by the State of Maine into the campaign finance activities of NOM in that state. Much more to come but some high (low) lights from PDF page 13 of the “confidential” 2008-09 report to the NOM Board of Directors:

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”

Another passage:

"The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation."

They tried this wedge strategy here in D.C., of course. We anticipated it, however, and were ready for it. Their cynical efforts came to nothing.

Suspect arrested in IHOP shooting

(IHOP in Columbia Heights. Photo by JD Uy. Courtesy Metro Weekly.)

John Riley at Metro Weekly reports:

Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier held a press briefing Monday, March 26, to announce the arrest of a suspect in a recent shooting at an IHOP Restaurant in D.C's Columbia Heights neighborhood.

The incident, which occurred at around 6:30 a.m., Sunday, March 11, in the restaurant at 3100 14th St. NW, was one of several recent crimes or attempted crimes that appeared to target members of Washington's LGBT community. When police responded to the scene, they found one victim suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was transported to Washington MedStar Hospital and treated for injuries to the abdomen and liver.

Today Lanier told reporters that the MPD has arrested LaShawn Carson, 27, a woman living in the District, for the shooting. Carson has been charged with aggravated assault while armed.

Miss Emily Litella does Santorum


Just now, listening to a clip from Rick Santorum on the presidential campaign trail, I thought I heard him refer to "white scum from the Creator." What? Oh, no, it was "Rights come from the Creator." That's very different. Nevermind.

Herman Cain hasn't changed

Did you find this intellectually stimulating? Does this make you think we should let him run the country?

Harry Jackson Claims the Contraceptive Mandate is an Attack on the Black Community

Right Wing Watch reports:

After claiming that everyone from everyone from the IRS to gays and lesbians is a direct threat to African Americans, now Harry Jackson maintains that the Obama administration mandate for insurance plans to cover contraceptives is actually a means of anti-Black population control. Jackson links the requirement for employees to offer plans that include contraception to racist anti-Black actions in the past, but never explains how ensuring that insurance plans cover contraceptives is part of a “silent effort of the powerful to control black breeding,” arguing that “the black community does not need more birth control.”

Bishop Jackson is a veritable cornucopia of nuttiness. But followers of this blog already knew that.

Walt Whitman died on this day


The Washington Friends of Walt Whitman remind us: "Today is the day Walt Whitman died. Living in Camden, NJ at Mickle Street. He is buried at Harleigh Cemetery in a granite "burial house" of his own construction."

The group also shares this excerpt from "Song of Myself", which I myself have had occasion to use as a memorial service reading:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

New Black Panther extremists exploit Trayvon Martin case

The New Black Panther Party, which has been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is offering a bounty for the capture of Trayvon Martin's killer, Joe Zimmerman. Needless to say, it does not help the cause of justice for people to form or encourage the formation of vigilante groups, whether they are white or black. Naturally, the 'wingers are having a field day. Well, I've already submitted my column on the Martin case (which should go online in the next day or two), so it won't include this development. But I have a feeling this case will not end soon.

And lest you think I have gone easy on these guys, check out my scathing 2004 profile of New Black Panthers leader Malik Shabazz.

(Hat tip: Joe Jervis)

March 25, 2012

Bring Him Home (for #Trayvon)

The President's movingly simple line, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," reminded me of this song from Les Miserables:

He's like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone.
Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy
You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die
Let me die
Let him live
Bring him home.

Update: for a more operatic rendition (and it is very powerful), watch Colm Wilkinson.

March 23, 2012

Thank You, Starbucks

In the battle over meaningless gestures the gay community is scoring yet another victory.  Earlier in the week the National Organization for Marriage announced a boycott of Starbucks for their endorsement of marriage equality in Washington state the location of their corporate headquarter.  Newton told us long ago that every action must have and opposite and equal reaction.  It's the law.  Except this time seems to be an exception.  The reaction to the NOM threatened boycott is to send a thank you card to Starbucks.  The goal was to collect 40,000 signatures before sending the card.  Since they got over 60,000 in less than 24 hours they have raised it to 80,000.  This would be a 10 fold endorsement to the 6,800 sinatures they say have signed the NOM boycott.  This is of little consequence since NOM's goal is to collected the names and email addresses of people to raise money from, not to influence Starbucks.

If you don't have enough spam in your inbox go sign something.

Obama: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon"

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The President of the United States takes a question in the Rose Garden about the murder of Trayvon Martin.

The next Bing Bomb? #glaad #cap

Rick Santorum has faced his "Google Problem" for quite a while now.  Well, a Nebraska blogger has pointed out the danger that the Corporate Accountability Project prersents of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation presents to the people listed.  If many blogs post a link to the site it will begin rising on search engines.  In fact, there is evidence this is already happening.  The right wing blogs are already complaining about this service of GLAAD. To those who have forgotten who is on the list it is below.  Sadly, unlike Dan Savage I cannot command my miniions to get busy on this.

Matt Barber - David Barton - Gary Bauer - Brian Brown - Michael Brown - Brian Camenker - Alan Chambers - Chuck Colson - Candi Cushman - Jim Daly - Bill Donohue - Bob Emrich - Lou Engle - Joseph Farah - Bryan Fischer - Maggie Gallagher - Jim Garlow - Robert George - Ken Hutcherson - Harry Jackson - Peter LaBarbera - Scott Lively - Kevin McCullough - Albert Mohler - Jennifer Roback Morse - Penny Nance - Tony Perkins - Christopher Plante - Rick Scarborough - Peter Sprigg - Glenn Stanton - Mat Staver - Frank Turek - Bob Vander Plaats - Don Wildmon - Tim Wildmon

For those who are a little less computer literate this would be the HTML to embed:

<a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/matt-barber">Matt Barber</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/david-barton">David Barton</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/gary-bauer">Gary Bauer</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/brian-brown">Brian Brown</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/michael-brown">Michael Brown</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/brian-camenker">Brian Camenker</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/alan-chambers">Alan Chambers</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/chuck-colson">Chuck Colson</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/candi-cushman">Candi Cushman</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/jim-daly">Jim Daly</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/bill-donohue">Bill Donohue</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/bob-emrich">Bob Emrich</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/lou-engle">Lou Engle</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/joseph-farah">Joseph Farah</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/bryan-fischer">Bryan Fischer</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/maggie-gallagher">Maggie Gallagher</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/jim-garlow">Jim Garlow</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/robert-george">Robert George</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/ken-hutcherson">Ken Hutcherson</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/harry-jackson">Harry Jackson</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/peter-labarbera">Peter LaBarbera</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/scott-lively">Scott Lively</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/kevin-mccullough">Kevin McCullough</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/albert-mohler">Albert Mohler</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/jennifer-roback-morse">Jennifer Roback Morse</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/penny-nance">Penny Nance</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/tony-perkins">Tony Perkins</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/christopher-plante">Christopher Plante</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/rick-scarborough">Rick Scarborough</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/peter-sprigg">Peter Sprigg</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/glenn-stanton">Glenn Stanton</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/mat-staver">Mat Staver</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/frank-turek">Frank Turek</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/bob-vander-plaats">Bob Vander Plaats</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/don-wildmon">Don Wildmon</a> - <a href="http://www.glaad.org/cap/tim-wildmon">Tim Wildmon</a>

(via Towleroad)

March 23 - Prayer Vigil for Trayvon Martin & Family

Solidarity_with_trayvon_graphicThis just in from National Black United Front:

The National Black United Front will be holding a prayer vigil in support of Trayvon Martin & his family. We are asking Black people of all backgrounds to come and have an inter-faith memorial/prayer for the spirit of Trayvon Martin & his family.

If you can please bring a candle, a picture of Trayvon or a picture of one of our own ancestors.

Drummers are welcomed also.

Take the metro (Greenline) to the Anacostia stop

For more information please contact:

Update: The vigil will be held from 6:30pm until 7:30pm

March 24 - Justice for Trayvon rally - Freedom Plaza


A rally calling for justice for Florida murder victim Trayvon Martin will be held on Saturday, March 24 from 2-4 pm at Freedom Plaza (Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 13th and 14th Streets). E-mail dctrayvonrally@gmail.com for details.

FB Event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/253329181428100/

Sketchty Romney


Here's a little interactive fun demonstrating the problems Mitt Romney will need to overcome in the coming months. Hit the shake button.  What is odd is that everyone says how much they hate dishonest politicians.  But look at the trouble that comes from a moment of truth.

I Am: Trans People Speak

I Am: Trans People Speak is affiliated with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition  in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.   The project seeks...

to raise awareness about the diversity of transgender communities. It will lift the voices of transgender individuals, as well as their families, friends, and allies. Transgender people have a wide range of interests, experiences and backgrounds that are too often ignored because of their trans identity. Together we can make a positive change in the visibility and representation of transgender people by focusing on the full individual.

You can visit their site to see other videos offering the trangender experience, submit your own video, find a list of resources, or just to get an introduction to what it means to be transgender.


"I am Trayvon Martin!"

My friend Mark Thompson speaks at yesterday's massive rally in Sanford, Florida, and leads a chant: "I am Trayvon Martin!" Here is a portion of his remarks:

Not only are we Trayon Martin, but Trayvon Martin is Emmett Till. Both were visiting relatives. Both were missing for three days. We have seen this before. This is racism perpetrated by violence. And where you have racism perpetrated by violence, one of the results of that is that African American adults in general are infantilized, and black men are emasculated. In a system of racism and white supremacy that murders our children, we aren't considered adults. We aren't considered parents. We aren't considered men. But we stand today to reclaim our adulthood, our parenthood, our manhood. What good is it to elect the first African American president if we can't protect our own children? Now let's not be fooled. This has happened before. We elected the first Congressional Black Caucus during Reconstruction after the Civil War. And what happened? Voter suppression and violence. Now we have the first African American in the executive branch, and what do we have? Voter suppression and violence.

Of course Mark knows he has many white allies, myself included. But the virtual takeover of the Republican Party by its most extreme element, and the relentless denial of President Obama's very legitimacy — not just opposition to his policies (many of which after all have incorporated Republican ideas) — are an ugly reminder that racism and the protection of white privilege in this country are not dead.

Imagine being routinely treated as a suspected criminal, refused service by taxis, followed around in stores and stopped on the highway like a criminal, or having women cower and clutch their purses in elevators when you walk in, just because of the color of your skin. At least try to imagine it. I have heard these stories from my black friends for years. These things do not happen to me. If we were living in a "post-racial" America, there would not be such a vehement and vicious backlash against our first black President.

This year's election is an opportunity for us to prove that those forces are a distinct minority and that we are determined to defeat them — notwithstanding the aggressive GOP voter suppression effort, which includes voter ID laws thinly disguised as anti-fraud measures, aggressive poll-watching operations in which minority voters are arbitrarily challenged, and mailers giving minority voters false information about the election date and polling place. The forces of hate are determined and relentless. We cannot afford to be complacent or to blame the messengers because they sound more radical than we are comfortable with. This is not a year to close your ears to prophetic-style black preaching such as Mark employed at last evening's rally in Florida. This is not a year to stay in our comfort zones. This is a year to rebuild the civil rights coalition and extend it for a new generation.

June 27th - The NAMES Project at Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will include portions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt this year.  The Festival runs June 27 - July 1 and July 4 - 8. Open daily 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Evening events begin at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt is the first Festival program to focus exclusively on community craft and performance that were directly developed in response to crisis and grief. With The AIDS Memorial Quilt as the anchor and through craft demonstrations, dance and musical performances, interactive discussions, and other activities, this program will commemorate the innovative and resourceful ways through which communities have endeavored to educate people and to cope with one of the most complex epidemics in modern history.

At 1.3 million square feet and weighing over 54 tons it's the largest piece of community folk art in the world.  The display will incorporate craft demonstrations, dance and musical performances, interactive discussions, and other activities. This is not the first time the quilt has been in DC.

Joe Jervis reminds you to bring tissues.

"I don't know what this child could have done to be safe, except not be black"

The above line is by Donna Britt, referring to Trayvon Martin, from this interview on Thursday's edition of the PBS NewsHour.

There Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens

The fox-guarding-the-henhouse aspect of the murder of Trayvon Martin by a 9mm-packing wannabe cop posing as a neighborhood watchman brought to mind this old song that my dad used to sing to us at bedtime when my brothers and I were little kids. Nothing to see here, folks, move on.

I don't think so. To quote the chant led by my friend Mark Thompson last evening at the huge rally in Florida: I am Trayvon Martin!

March 22, 2012

Are straight people born that way?

The Atlantic is running an article called Are Straight People Born That Way?   While there has been a long argument over whether people are born gay or choose to be gay asks is there is any evidence that people are born straight?   This can be hard to prove since babies do not show arousal by sexual scenarios.  The question becomes do very young children show patterns that allow you to predict their eventual sexual orientation?  This seems rather obvious.  They go on to note:

Gendered behaviors are linked closely enough to sexual orientation cross-culturally that various cultures have developed third-gender categories that "normalize" a homosexually-oriented person. For instance, in Samoa, boys who are very feminine as young children are understood to be destined for attraction to males. They are relabeled "fa'afafine" -- meaning they will live "in the manner of a woman." Without changing their bodies, the fa'afafine are raised like girls and then live as women, and take straight men as their sex partners.

It is curious that they define the more masculine partner in a homosexual pair as "straight".  They go on to note this is called "homosexual transgenderism" and it is not always voluntary.  In Iran the alternative to being assigned this role is death.  And all cultures seem to put great pressure on people to appear straight.  It seems that at least some of the straight population were in fact born that way.  The final conclusion is that the evidence is inconculusive

In short, we don't really know where human sexual orientations come from yet. What we do know is that the evidence we have that sexual orientation includes an innate component doesn't seem to point to the existence of simple "gay genes" and "straight genes." The best scientific argument we have for the innateness of straightness is that evolution obviously would favor it. (Yup: The strongest empirical rationale religious conservatives could use for the idea that straight people are born that way would come from a branch of science they generally disregard.)

Romney, the Etch-a-Sketch candidate

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rachel Maddow uses the latest gaffe from the Romney campaign (already the subject of a post here) to lay into Mittens for his compulsive, serial, flagrant lying.

Rosie's classy exit

Rosie O'Donnell has nothing but good things to say about Oprah and the staff at Harpo as she discusses the cancellation of her talk show on OWN. Donald Trump couldn't show this much class if his life depended on it. Oh, but we should emulated Rosie and be nice. (Trouble is, I live just three blocks from Alice Roosevelt Longworth's old house, and I am more inclined to say, like her, "If you have nothing nice to say about anyone, come over here and sit by me.")

March 21, 2012

But you are not supposed to SAY it

Romney Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom stuck his foot in it with his comments about resetting the Etch-a-Sketch. It certainly didn't take the Democratic National Convention to make some mischief.

A bit of DC gay history

TheDaily.com has published The History Page: Unsinkable Love relating the story of Maj. Archibald Butt, a military adviser to President William Howard Taft and Francis Davis Millet an American painter, sculptor, and writer.  The two men lived together in Georgetown and died together on the Titanic.  While the relationship of the two men may have been gay-washed from the history books it remains memorialized in the Butt-Millet Fountain located in President's Park.


(via Towleroad)

NOM calls for Starbucks boycott

The National Organization for Marriage attended the Starbucks stockholders meeting today to question  their support for marriage equality.  This is what Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz had to say on the issue.

Any decision of this type or magnitude has be made with great thoughtfulness and I would assure you that a senior team at Starbucks discussed this. To be very candid with you, this was not something that was a difficult decision for us and we did share this with the board as well. [snip] We made that decision, in our view, through the lens of humanity and being the kind of company that embraces diversity.

There have been several recent anti-gay boycotts announced that quickly fizzled.  Anti-gay groups have little understanding of the market.  After JC Penney hired Ellen Degeneris as their spokesman the hate group affiliated One Million Moms called for a boycott.  Rather than hurting the company it is likely they gained the issue.  JC Penney is attempting to move upscale to increase their profits and one way to do so is to attract younger shoppers.  The OMM crowd has been shopping at Walmart for a long time.  The attention and cachet of the boycott has benefitted the company.  While Starbucks may lose a few customers from a NOM boycott, it will be offset by many new customers.  Support for LGBT equality is just good business.

(via JoeMyGod)

Okay, Newt, I'm sorry you're an unscrupulous, opportunistic, pseudo-intellectual, terminally self-centered jackass

Daily Beast reports:

Kicking off his speech at a reelection fundraiser in New York, [Robert] DeNiro quipped: “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?” Newt Gingrich was the first to jump on DeNiro’s back, saying his racial reference was “inexcusable” and waving a disapproving finger at Mr. Obama himself, demanding an apology from the president.

Seriously, Newt? You've called President Obama, in all apparent seriousness (in contrast to DeNiro's obvious joke), the most dangerous president in modern history; a proponent of radical Islamist policies; and a proponent of Kenyan anti-colonialist philosophies (as if anti-colonialism were a scandalous attitude in 21st century America), and Obama owes an apology to you? I don't think so.

March 20, 2012

Santorum's tide ebbs

As I write this, Rick Santorum is speaking from his Pennsylvania campaign headquarters in Gettysburg, which is appropriate enough even though that state's primary isn't until April 24, and it is the Illinois primary that he badly lost today. Santorum's entire campaign, with its lack of funding or organization, has been one long, futile Picket's Charge.

Santorum just roused his supporters with an attack on government in general, on climate science in particular, and a thinly veiled insult of President Obama's use of teleprompters — even as he lionized Ronald Reagan, who made extensive use of the technology. It occurs to me that all these silly insults about 44's alleged inability to speak without a prompter will badly backfire in a few months when he once again demonstrates his quick wit and mastery of many subjects during the presidential debates. A few years ago he accepted an invitation from the Republican House Caucus and beat them to a figurative pulp with neither a prompter nor advance knowledge of their questions.

Regarding Santorum, his red-meat "concession" speech (I may have missed the concession part, because I was relaxing in a lounge chair on my roof staring up at Castor and Pollux) served as a nice reminder of why we should all be grateful that he will not be President of the United States. Many friends have hoped that Santorum would become the GOP nominee, due to the general belief that he would be easier for Obama to defeat. I have hesitated to embrace that hope, because I remember Oscar Wilde's advice: "Be careful what you wish for; you may get it." Blessedly, though, it appears that we won't. Romney will be bad enough.

Stars & Stripes on #DADT repeal six months on