I have known Marion Barry since the early 1980s, and he was always courteous to me, even twenty years ago on election day when he arrived at Precinct 15 and I was standing outside wearing a Carol Schwartz campaign shirt. Indeed, he came right for me, all smiles. That was always one of his more charming qualities.
After his death early Sunday at age 78, I received requests for comment from several journalists. I was under the weather all day and did not send them my thoughts until Monday morning. Since I missed the news cycle, here are my comments.
In many ways Marion Barry resembled Bill Clinton: smart, politically astute, charming, and with a phenomenal memory. He didn’t just remember people’s names, he remembered their pets and what ailed them. People who disliked him used to dismiss his talents, which was a big mistake. He was the smartest politician in hometown D.C.
In his early years as mayor, before his addictions got the better of him, he appointed more gay officials than any mayor in the country. I remember him announcing the birth of his son Christopher from the stage at Gay Pride. He was an ally of the LGBT community throughout his mayoral years.
I was greatly disappointed when he opposed marriage equality, and said “Shame on you” to him after he led a chant (3:30 on the clip) at an anti-gay rally in Freedom Plaza in the spring of 2009. He replied, “I supported you on everything else.” That did not mollify me, but it was noteworthy that he and the only other “no” vote on marriage, Ward 7 councilmember Yvette Alexander, touted their pro-gay credentials from the dais rather than launching into anti-gay screeds. They were voting with their constituents; but they still, implausible as it seemed, were eager not to be thought anti-gay. That was a tribute to how far the LGBT community had come.
People are calling this the end of an era, but the Barry era really ended 16 years ago when Anthony Williams was elected mayor. After that, Marion was still a force in Ward 8, but not citywide. In recent years he could barely walk, but his mind was still sharp. I was still pleasant with him despite the harm he did to the city, because it cost me nothing and he was still one of our 13 councilmembers. He was a charmer to the end (when he wasn’t trash talking), and enjoyed reminiscing about past battles when he was on our side. It was clear that he would be re-elected in Ward 8 as long as he lived; now the question is when his constituents, so devoted to him, will move on.
Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports. The right wing is losing it.
Leigh Davenport at HelloBeautiful writes:
Rewind back to 2007 when Bill Cosby had just commenced his nationwide tour of telling poor Black America to pull themselves up by their baggy jeans and get themselves together. Black America was unsettled by what seemed to be a never ending crusade waged by America’s favorite Jell-O pudding eating dad and fierce debates were launched on cable talk shows and around the web (yes, the internet was around back then) as many notable figures called Cosby out for being elitist and out of touch....
Now ... imagine heading down to Miami to attend the International Book Fair and take in a lecture from the always enchantingly “honest” writer, poet and scholar Nikki Giovanni and getting a completely unprompted rant on Bill Cosby and his antics.
President Obama gave one of his finest speeches last night in announcing his executive action on immigration. Here is my favorite passage:
Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.
My friend Walter Dellinger, who was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996, explains in Slate that the President is on solid legal ground:
The idea that the immigration plan just announced by President Obama is a lawless power grab is absurd. As the Justice Department legal analysis that was just released amply demonstrates, much of the advance criticism of the president’s action has been uninformed and unwarranted. The opinion is well-reasoned and at times even conservative. The president is not acting unilaterally, but pursuant to his statutory authority. Wide discretion over deportation priorities has long been conferred on the executive branch by Congress, and it is being exercised in this case consistent with policies such as family unification that have been endorsed by Congress.
Dellinger's whole piece bears reading. Thank you and bravo, Mr. President.
In honor of Trans Awareness Week and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, our friends at GLAAD have released this video.
Director Mike Nichols died on Wednesday at age 83. He was born in Germany and moved to the United States at age 7. He was a member of the comedy duo Nichols and May with Elaine May. In his long directing career, which encompassed stage, film, and television, he won about every award that could be won in his profession: Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Drama Desk, Golden Globe, Grammy, and Britain's BAFTA. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003, and an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Nichols seemed eternally young, always with another project. He was working on a production of "Master Class" with Meryl Streep for HBO when he died. Fortunately, much of his work remains available for viewing. I remember seeing "The Real Thing" in 1984 in Broadway, featuring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close. That he was adept in so many media put him in rare company. The partial lists of his work below convey his incredible range and output. At the bottom is a famous scene from "The Graduate" featuring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. He is survived by his wife Diane Sawyer and his children Max, Jenny, and Daisy. May he rest in peace.
On Broadway: Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971), Uncle Vanya (1973), Streamers (1976), Annie (1977), The Real Thing (1984), Hurlyburly (1984), The Seagull (2001), Spamalot (2005), Death of a Salesman (2012), and Betrayal (2013).
On film: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Graduate (1967), Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), Silkwood (1983), Heartburn (1986), Biloxi Blues (1988), Working Girl (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990), Regarding Henry (1991), The Birdcage (1996), Primary Colors (1998), Angels in America (2003), Closer (2004), and Charlie Wilson's War (2007).
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is being observed today around the world, as we can see in the photo above tweeted by Pepe Julian Onziema in Uganda. The observance in Washington, D.C. is at the Metropolitan Community Church at 474 Ridge St NW. Here's the description from the Facebook event page:
Doors Open at 6:00 PM - Program will start closer to 7:00 PM
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
According to The Transgender Day of Remembrance Website:
"The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn't perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who've died by anti-transgender violence."
Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports that Earl Fowlkes has been elected president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.
Earl received GLAA's Distinguished Service Award this past April. Here is his citation. Congrats to him and the other Stein officers for 2015.
My post-election column is now up at the Blade. If you're dreading the holidays and could use a booster shot of snark, this could be just the thing. Here's an excerpt:
With Republicans winning the Senate and Obamacare on the run, a new Era of Good Feeling is surely around the corner. Vote suppression, gerrymandering, and truckloads of secret cash are just another way of saying, "The people have spoken!" Someone please turn this into lyrics for a new Christmas carol.
The best hope for Democrats is Republican overreach. By that I do not mean your right-wing uncle getting gravy on his sweater as he reaches across the table at Thanksgiving. I mean unhinged recklessness driven by hubris and Obama hatred. Profits are up, unemployment and deficits are down -- get that Muslim socialist out of the White House before he ruins us!
Republicans are furious at the President's unrepentant attitude, despite their own intransigence after past losses. Elections must have consequences when Republicans win. Talk of government shutdowns and impeachment is rising. But President Obama has little to lose by picking fights (by which I mean being president, black, and doing anything). If you abuse someone no matter what he does, he might as well stand his ground. That is what our 44th president, at long last, appears to be doing.
13-year NBA veteran Jason Collins announces his retirement in a typically classy essay. The day after he came out, he was on ESPN with Shaq and Sir Charles, and they were talking to each other and kidding each other like the longtime colleagues they were. I couldn't stop smiling. We could not possibly have gotten a finer representative to make the breakthrough move that he did. Nothing but kudos and respect for you, Mr. Collins. A lot of other people need to step up, including people in the front offices of professional sports franchises; but your courage and grace made a difference. Thank you.
Chris Johnson at the Blade talks to Freedom to Marry's Marc Solomon.
An update from Matt Baume at AFER. (From Monday)
Janet Langhart Cohen was on Joe Madison's show on SiriusXM's Urban View 126 yesterday to talk about the planting of a tree on Capitol Hill commemorating Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 and whose murderers were let off by an all-white jury. We know Emmett's name, as we do not know the names of the thousands of others who met similar fates, because his mother Mamie had the courage to order an open casket and allow Jet Magazine to photograph her son's horrifically mutilated face. Her words, "I want them to see what they did to my son," are one of the most powerful statements ever made by an American.
Jet founder John Johnson's unhesitating decision to print the photo and story of Till's murder helped galvanize African Americans for the civil rights struggle; the Montgomery Bus Boycott began later the same year. Thanks to Mrs. Cohen for her efforts to get a living memorial for Till, and to Joe Madison for sharing the video. As Madison notes, the sycamore's location across from the Russell Senate Office Building is particularly apt, given Richard Russell's unreconstructed racism and ferocious opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reports the latest from the unhinged religious right. It would appear to be a simple case of projection by Mr. Swaggart.
The New Civil Rights Movement provides a long list of anti-gay obsessives who attended the Vatican conference on traditional marriage, and quotes this:
"We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis," the Pope told his very-willing audience. "This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable."
"We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment."
"Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact."
Temporary? I have remained committed to my foreign partner for 13 years despite many barriers to our happiness. The complementarity nonsense was refuted centuries before Christ by Plato. In pastoral terms, this conference with so many anti-gay fanatics is I think the first wrong step #Pontifex has made in his public ministry. As someone observed, he is talking about us when he should be talking with us.
The Independent also reports.
I have previously counseled caution. The Pope's pastoral instincts are admirable, but he has shown no sign of intending to change Catholic doctrine regarding gay people, women's vocations to the priesthood, or contraception.
Check out the blind privilege, arrogance, and partisan obtuseness in this op-ed. One brief quote cannot do it justice, so just have a look.
My comment to David Brooks: A bipartisan immigration bill from the Senate is on Boehner's desk, but he refuses to allow a vote. The GOP's wall-to-wall obstruction and willingness to harm the country in pursuit of power entirely escape your notice, but Obama's a failure? You are contemptible.
Luke Brinker at Salon gives Brooks a drubbing.
My column this week looks at the President and the Republicans. I will post here as soon as it goes online at the Blade.
Bill Cosby has entertained generations of Americans with his comedy. He is an educator and has created memorable children's programming. His creation "Little Bill" always says "Hello friend" because that's what Ennis, his murdered son, always said. Cosby is a great philanthropist. One does not want to believe that such a beloved and respected figure is a serial rapist. But 14 alleged victims, one of whom he settled with out of court, coupled with his silence, make it hard to credit his lawyer's dismissals. Sadness is all over this; but the seriousness of the accusations raises troubling questions about wealth and fame putting someone above the law. I sure could have done without this news.
Here are several relevant items:
Update: A thoughtful essay from Katie McDonough at Salon.
What Mr. Oliver said. BTW, I want to meet the young man in that iconic August photo from Ferguson and tell him how awesome he is. He became John Lewis, Hosea Williams, and six hundred marchers in Selma, right there on W. Florissant. Awesome courage. And thank goodness photojournalists were there, also risking their lives to bring us the story.
This year's Christmas ad by Sainsbury's, the British supermarket and convenience store chain founded in 1869, recreates the legendary Christmas Truce that occurred on the Western Front one hundred years ago during World War I. After the jump are videos about the making of the advert in partnership with the Royal British Legion, and the story behind it.
The video's moving reminder that humanity can emerge under the worst circumstances also reminds us of the pointlessness of war. It was rising anti-German sentiment during WWI, in 1917, that caused the British House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to become the House of Windsor, and Battenberg to become Mountbatten. The British, German, and Russian royals were cousins. The Tsarevitch Alexei, for example, famous hemophiliac son of Tsar Nicholas II, was the great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. If you didn't know better, you might think that as the world grows smaller, it would grow less violent.
At least at this point regarding the English and Germans, the prospect is not war but whether Britain will leave the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Prime Minister David Cameron that she would sooner see the UK leave the EU than limit the freedom of movement within EU, with which Britain has a problem. The Iron Lady's ghost hovers, saying "No, no, no."
From National Geographic, a compilation by filmmaker Fede Castro using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center.
Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch reports.
A federal panel voted Thursday in favor of partially lifting a 31-year ban against accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The current ban in the U.S. applies to any potential male blood donor who has had sex with another man since 1977, the start of the country’s AIDS epidemic. The FDA website states that these men are at an “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.” The Department of Health and Human Service’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and heard testimony on Thursday from critics of the lifetime ban, who say it is discriminatory and now unnecessary, since technological advances have made the risk infinitesimal in most cases.
The panel then voted 16-2 in support of allowing men who have had sex with other men to give blood after being abstinent for one year, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The FDA is not obliged to follow the panel’s advice but Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said “the meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations.”
Reuters reports some good news from Botswana:
A Botswana judge overturned a government ban on a gay rights lobbying group on Friday, a rare victory for African gay rights campaigners on a continent where homosexuality remains highly contentious.
Justice Terrence Rannoane ruled that the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) would be allowed to register and campaign for changes to anti-gay legislation but reiterated that it was still illegal to engage in homosexual acts.
"In a democratic society such as ours, freedom of expression, assembly and association are important values duly protected by our constitution," Rannoane said.