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January 08, 2015

Dinesh D'Souza's hypocrisy on Islamists

Dinesh D'Souza accuses liberals of coddling radical Islamists.

But he himself has actually made common cause with conservative Islamists, as I discussed in a book review in 2007:

His latest book’s provocation starts with the title: The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. But he goes beyond Jerry Falwell’s notorious blaming of feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU and People for the American Way. D’Souza actually makes common cause with “traditional Muslims,” who he claims hate America not for our presence in the Middle East but for our decadent culture. Minimizing the vast differences between Western traditions and Islamic and Middle Eastern ones, he calls for making America more tolerable to Islamic obscurantists whose tradition includes no Reformation, no Enlightenment, and no commitment to the personal freedom that has been the engine of the West’s economic success.

Charging the left with a “campaign of cultural imperialism,” D’Souza shows no grasp of free markets. If the success of capitalism and global communication has enabled many young Iranians, for example, to embrace American popular culture, that hardly constitutes a leftist conspiracy.

D’Souza equates licentiousness with leftism, which does not explain why so many otherwise liberal social movements had strong conservative elements: suffragists who were anti-abortion; communists who were homophobic; feminists who advocated censorship; and ministers in the civil rights movement who objected to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s association with Bayard Rustin, a leading organizer and strategist who was gay.

January 07, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the defense of blasphemy

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(Photo by Thibault Camus / The Associated Press)

NYT reports on today's attack in Paris by masked gunmen at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 and wounded 10. Condolences to the families of the victims.

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Some in the West say that people have no right to offend other people's religions. Some assert that Christians would never tolerate blasphemy against their own religion. Both assertions are wrong. Freedom of speech means nothing if not the right to offend.

Some of our most honored literature contains blasphemies. For example, Nobel winner Günter Grass in his greatest novel, The Tin Drum, has his lead character pray to Jesus (quoting from memory), "Athlete of Athletes ... world's champion hanger on the cross by regulation nails, who lasted the longest time and earned the highest possible number of points...." He describes seagulls descending on a horse's head that had been used to fish for eels on the Baltic Sea as "the Holy Ghost descending to feast the Pentacost."

Charlie-hebdo-cover-kiss

Grass has lived to a ripe old age. 26 years ago, he led a consortium of writers in guaranteeing publication of the German translation of The Satanic Verses (which btw I read and enjoyed in its English original, as I have several of Salman Rushdie's novels, one of which, The Moor's Last Sigh, has Hindu blasphemies). Whether it's serious lit or South Park, irreverence is essential to our freedoms and must be defended.

January 06, 2015

Council member Charles Allen introduces surrogacy reform bill

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen this morning introduced the "Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2015," which was co-introduced by all of his colleagues. As I said to several CMs on Monday in urging them to co-introduce:

[This bill] will legalize and regulate surrogacy parenting agreements. A coalition of advocates has been working on this with former Judiciary Chair Tommy Wells and his staff, principally Anne Phelps (who is now working for Charles), for the past two years. Given its complexity and the crush of other business before the committee, it did not get done last year.

This bill is a top legislative priority for GLAA. It represents the last big piece of family law in need of modernizing to bring it in line with the District’s policy of equality for all families.

GLAA’s statement on surrogacy from our 2014 policy brief is here:
http://www.glaa.org/archive/2014/buildingonvictory.htm#_Toc24

Jeb Bush stumbles on marriage, settles on the rule of law

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(Jeff and Todd Delmay marrying Monday in Miami. By Angel Valentin for The New York Times)

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush stirred memories of his brother George from 2004 as he strove both to pander to the anti-gay right and to strike a civil tone in discussing the arrival of marriage equality in Florida. Here he is on Sunday:

It ought be a local decision — I mean, a state decision. The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it's been overturned by the courts, I guess.

And here he is on Monday, revising and extending his remarks:

We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.

Sound familiar? Here is what I wrote in Salon in March 2004:

After calling for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage without once mentioning the dreaded words "gay" or "lesbian," President George W. Bush ended on a conciliatory note: "We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger. In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency." This reminds me of Dame Edna Everage, who, after saying something horribly cruel about her bridesmaid Madge Allsop, habitually adds, "I mean that in a nurturing and caring way."

I would love to have Jeb explain to me what religious liberty has to do with this. The anti-gay right throws that expression around all the time, but its only meaning here is their liberty to infringe on mine. How long will the Republican Party and its purported leaders cling to this degrading nonsense?

Marriage equality comes to Florida

Joy erupts in a Miami courtroom as Judge Sarah Zabel of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida lifts a stay and allows gay couples to marry. Congrats to all the happy couples and all who helped make this happen.

Star Maker

Hubble_image_of_Eagle_Nebula
(Photo: NASA, ESA/Hubble and Hubble Heritage Team, P. Scowen and J. Hester).

Here is one of the spectacular new images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula in the constellation Serpens, and are an area of star formation.

(Hat tip: Aram Vartian)

January 03, 2015

January 10 - Justice For Leelah Alcorn Rally & March

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On Saturday, January 10 at 2 pm, a rally and march will be held in D.C. for Ohio transgender youth Leelah Alcorn, who was recently driven to her death by intolerance and abuse. The rally will be held at Mt. Vernon Square/Washington DC Convention Center. The organizers write:

"My Death Needs To Mean Something"

Join us January 10th as we gather in honor of Leelah's wishes to stand up for the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people everywhere.

This event will consist of a few speakers followed by a march.

For more information on the circumstances surrounding the death of Leelah Alcorn, as well as to read her final message, please see the following (warning: suicide and transphobia trigger warnings apply): http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/12/transgender-teen-struck-and-killed-on-ohio-interstate-in-apparent-suicide/

If you or someone you know is transgender or gender non-conforming and feeling suicidal, please know that there is a suicide hotline dedicated to transgender people that you can call: http://www.translifeline.org/

January 02, 2015

Outsports person of the year: Michael Sam

Jim Buzinski at Outsports reports. Good call.

Public Servant of the Year: St. Louis Alderman Antonio French

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My choice for Public Servant of the Year is St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who came to my attention in August 2014 as I looked on Twitter for firsthand accounts of the street protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown. His Twitter handle (@AntonioFrench) kept coming up. Lauren Williams at Vox described French in action:

Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, has been a constant presence in Ferguson, Missouri, since Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. On Twitter and Vine, French has fearlessly documented the nightly protests. Friday night, after days of largely nonviolent demonstrations, a handful of what he calls "troublemakers" changed the tone and began looting several stores in the area. Read French's description of how he, local activist Anthony Shahid, and others tried to stop them, and why it was best for police to keep their distance and let the events play out....

In the photo below by Robert Cohen (@kodacohen) of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, French is helping to hold back some youths for their safety. French routinely put himself at risk to help others, and maintained a steady and reliable voice for justice. Kudos to him.

Antonio_French_at_demo

Karl Racine takes office as D.C.'s first elected AG

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Congratulations to the District's new attorney general, Karl Racine, who was sworn in this morning. The Office of the Attorney General can be found here.

Meet the new D.C. Council members - 2

New Councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6) and Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) on the dais during this morning's organizing meeting. Best wishes for success!

Meet the new D.C. Council members - 1

New At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman on the dais during this morning's organizing meeting. Best wishes for success!

The Bowser era begins

Congratulations and best of luck to the District's new mayor, Muriel Bowser, for a successful and productive term.

Mayor Bowser's inaugural remarks can be found here.

Mario Cuomo dies at 82

Three-time New York governor Mario Cuomo died yesterday at age 82, hours after his son Andrew was inaugurated to another term as governor. Adam Nagourney has a fine obit at NYT. Above is his 1984 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

May he rest in peace.

January 01, 2015

Putting It Together in 2015

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(Photo by See-ming Lee, United Nations Africa Renewal)

My look at the year ahead in LGBT activism is now up at Bay Windows. Here's an excerpt:

From a liberal perspective, 2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.

None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.

Read the whole thing here.

'Hispanic sounding name'

Dan Savage on Leelah Alcorn's parents

He doesn't mean that literally, of course. But their treatment of their transgender daughter was tantamount to throwing her in front of that tractor trailer. A child is not a parent's property, to be sculpted or abused at the parent's whim. We are talking about a human being with a mind and spirit and life and talents and dreams of her own. We have to protect our youth better than that.

December 31, 2014

Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga - The Lady is a Tramp

To help you get into a festive mood, here's a great duet between Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. I have always loved this song, and they have fun with it.

Favorite sports moment of 2014

In August, during a preseason game between the St. Louis Rams and the Cleveland Browns, rookie Michael Sam sacked Johnny Manziel twice in the 4th quarter. Cyd Zeigler of OutSports reported. Sam showed in this and other preseason games that he has the stuff to play pro football. As Zeigler wrote:

Sam is in unique territory, the only player in years in his position who was not with a team at this point in the season. He isn't on an NFL roster right now because he came out as gay and because NFL team front offices don't want him there. It's a disgusting commentary on the true state of the decision makers on NFL teams that none of them have signed Sam this late in the season.

In orbit, 16 New Year celebrations

From the International Space Station.

Fox News hashtag #OverIt2014 backfires

Brendan James at TPM reports on the merriment.

Happy New Year from Sydney

Our Lives Matter PSA

Yesha Callahan at The Root reports on this PSA about black boys being profiled by the police.

Strong beat

One of White House photographer Pete Souza's most charming photos of 2014, from March 4.

Polar vortex, if you must come, bring a snow bunting

My memories of 2014 include this tweet by Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker from last winter.

Leelah Alcorn: 'My death needs to mean something'


More ABC News Videos | ABC World News

Jo Barrow and Tom Namako at BuzzFeed report on this sad story that reminds us how much support our youth need. Below, the Trevor Project's Lifeline.

Favorited by David Mariner

Also, whether the new unpronounceable acronym is LGBTQIA. (Queer In Action?) We've been wrangling over what to call ourselves for decades. Aravosis weighs in at AMERICAblogGay.

2014 year in review: Athletes and Ambassadors

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My year-in-review is now up at the Washington Blade. Here is an excerpt:

Military and international. The transition to openly gay military service has gone so smoothly it has generated little news. The fight to end discrimination against transgender service members continues; two dozen have been discharged in the past two years. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity can proceed. In diplomatic news, Ted Osius III joined a growing list of openly gay envoys when he was sworn in as ambassador to Vietnam.

Health. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led 80 senators and House members in urging an end to the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men, calling for science to replace stereotypes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for wider use of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, despite strong opposition by Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. There have been no new HIV infections among more than 500 Kaiser Permanente customers using PrEP. New York and the District of Columbia adopted rules forbidding health insurers from denying medically necessary treatment to transgender people. D.C. joined California and New Jersey in passing legislation banning "ex-gay" conversion therapy for minors.

Media. Schadenfreude was rampant after Sean Eldridge failed in his bid to buy a congressional seat and husband Chris Hughes provoked a mass walkout at The New Republic by sacking top editors. Hughes was faulted for wrecking a century-old magazine in his effort to create a "vertically integrated digital media company," that is, a word salad. Former TNR writer Jamie Kirchick at The Daily Beast dubbed them "America's worst gay power couple," but their youthful hubris and confusion of wealth for wisdom transcend sexual orientation.

Read the whole thing here.

December 30, 2014

Klingenschmitt praises Fayetteville for voting 'against the Devil'

Right Wing Watch reports. He aggressively opposes non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, yet HE is the one being persecuted.

December 29, 2014

Marriage News Watch

Today's update on marriage equality by Matt Baume at AFER.

December 28, 2014

Jane Elliott, in your face on racism

Jane Elliott is interviewed on her approach to teaching about racism, and how white people are conditioned from before birth to believe in white superiority.

Someone this aggressive, who says she doesn't care what people think of her, is just the sort of in-your-face type that some people applaud who want to vent more than win people over. No. You are racist or not based on what you believe and say and do. If you don't know who I have worked with and what I have stood for, yet you "know" I am racist because of my appearance, then you don't know what you are talking about and you don't know the meaning of respect. Respect must be reciprocal in order to exist in any living sense. All must be prepared to listen and learn. This teacher evidently knows a lot about racial conditioning, yet she talks to a person of color as if she doesn't care what he thinks and has nothing to learn from him. What's wrong with this picture?

Some of us objected from an early age to being treated like sheep. We resisted the conditioning. If you say you want to fight racism but refuse to acknowledge that, it raises the question of whether you enjoy being brutally blunt more than changing minds.

The officer who did not turn his back

Kudos to the brave officer who resisted peer pressure and did not turn his back on Mayor de Blasio. He doubtless knows that having "the talk" with one's black son (see Springsteen, "41 Shots") is simply responsible parenting, not advocating violence against police.

December 27, 2014

Joe Califano whitesplains it all for you

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(Photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto/LBJ Library)

Joseph Califano, who served as President Johnson's top domestic affairs assistant, slams the new Selma movie in WaPo. He actually claims that "Selma was LBJ’s idea."

Lauren Victoria Burke responds at Crew of 42:

What? In an interesting column in the Washington Post, former LBJ aid Joe Califano claims that it was LBJ who came up with the Selma march. What in the world Califano is talking about is anyone’s guess. Below is the Selma episode of Eyes on the Prize.

December 25, 2014

Addams Family Christmas

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Thanks to Denise Van de Weigel for sharing this classic cartoon by Charles Addams for The New Yorker. Now it's time to head to the roof to greet the Christmas carolers.

Addams_Xmas_carolers

Eminem kills in The Interview

Rapper Eminem has a cameo in the action comedy The Interview in which he is interviewed by James Franco's character and comes out as gay. This is very funny, enhanced by his deadpan delivery as mayhem erupts in the studio. Seth Rogen and his assistant dancing in gleeful celebration of their scoop is a nice touch.

The Queen's Christmas speech focuses on reconciliation

I do not have a fixation on the British royal family as do some Americans I know. But I have to give Her Majesty credit for delivering a very fine speech this Christmas.

And the tiara goes to....

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(Photo by Pete Souza, The White House)

White House photographer Pete Souza writes on Instagram:

Still editing 2014 Year in Photos. I may include this one even though it's a posed photo. This is from the annual White House Science Fair. The kids from Girl Scout Troop 2612 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, convinced the President to wear a tiara with them for their group photo. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood proof bridge project.

Conservatives, of course, won't be able to resist jumping on this image to prove that the President is acting like a king. I suppose it will also be seized upon by conspiracy theorists like former comedian Dick Gregory who say (and I am not making this up) that the President is secretly homosexual. Mister Cool doesn't worry about that stuff. He just brushes it off and goes about his business.

A Christmas thought

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(Photo courtesy Voice of America)

A Christmas thought: many of my friends have beliefs that I do not share. Yet none of them has tried to coerce me into adopting or conforming to them. Indeed, some have worked to help protect us from their more belligerent and bullying co-religionists. As a Catholic who left the church 44 years ago, I like many others have been impressed and moved by the Christlike behavior of the first Jesuit Pope, though I remain skeptical that we share the same policy goals.

Which brings us back to our diversity of beliefs and mutual tolerance. We don't have to be the same to give each other credit and respect. And we don't have to get bossy to teach. Blessings to all who have enriched my life with their humor, passion, insights and perspectives, and who have taught by their example. The most awesome examples of courage, generosity, caring and resilience I saw this year were from persecuted LGBT Ugandans. You have given me more than you know. Here is to finding new and fruitful connections in the year ahead, and learning to our benefit that it is not always about us.

December 24, 2014

Nuestra Terra

National Geographic explains:

Using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center, filmmaker Fede Castro creates a captivating time-lapse video of Earth from space. In a little over four minutes, "Nuestra Tierra—Our Earth" takes us around the world, sighting major cities and even catching the breathtaking aurora borealis.

At the darkest time of year, it is good to see how magnificent our planet is despite all our efforts to wreck it. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all on the good Earth.

December 23, 2014

Marriage equality in 2014: F2M's graphic