Thursday, April 30, 2009

Weekly Queer Index: 4/19/09-4/25/09

This week saw some important advances for us queers including two big leaps forward for the transgender community.


Angie Zapata was a 18 year old trans woman who had been living as a woman for at least two years. She had a loving and supportive family, often bringing home boyfriends to meet her mother and siblings. In the summer of 2008 Angie Zapata started corresponding with Allen Andrade, 32, over a social networking site. They met on July15th, spent several days together and then Andrade beat Angie to do with a fire extinguisher. He was arrested and claimed a classic "gay panic" defense, in this case a trans panic defense. But the evidence showed that his actions were not the result of some temporary insanity but came out of a deep hatred. Andrade told police that he had "killed it." In a phone call from jail to a girlfriend Andrade said, "all gay things must die...It’s not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head… or like I killed a law-abiding straight citizen."
It was statements like these that lead Andrade to be charged for first degree murder and hate crimes. On Wednesday April 22nd, Andrade was found guilty on all counts, it took the jury less than two hours to deliberate and the judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This the first successful conviction of defendant under a transgender hate crime statute. This is really a historic event, prosecuting murderers of transgender persons has been a notoriously difficult task. In 2002, two men were convicted of second degree murder for the death of another transgendered teen, Gwen Araujo, but were not found guilty of the "hate crime enhancements" that would have added years to their sentences. And in 1994, William Palmer was acquitted of murdering a transgender woman in Boston in what has to be one of the greatest miscarriages of justice this town has ever seen. Justice was done last week in Denver, and for that we should be hopeful. *Gay used here (as always) as an umbrella term encompassing everyone in the GLBT alphabet soup.

Speaking of transgender hate crime protections, the state of Washington just amended it's hate crimes statute by, "modifying the definition of "sexual orientation" for malicious harassment prosecution purposes" to include "gender expression or identity."

Washington is only the 12th state to enact trans-inclusive hate crime protections (even pinko Massachusetts hasn't secured that yet) and as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force noted Washington is only the 7th state to enact "a clearly trans-inclusive safe schools law."As if the tragic case of Angie Zapata wasn't strong enough evidence to show how important transgender protection laws are, Joe McDermott writing on the Washington State Democrats Blog observed:

According to a recent study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, reported acts of violence against LGBT people rose by 24 percent in 2007. Of the reported incidents, 16 percent were motivated by anti-transgender bias. Hate crimes against transgender men alone increased by 65 percent

And now moving onto the gay marriage front....


Last week's WQI celebrated Gov Paterson's decision to introduce a bill into the state legislature that would approve gay marriage in the state. Two recent polls of NY state residents show robust support for gay marriage. A Siena College Research Institute Poll shows a 53% to 39% approval, and a few weeks ago a Quinnipiac University poll found 41% approve of gay marriages, 33% of civil unions, and 19% for no recognition. However, the gay marriage bill is stalled in the Senate, where majority leader (and gay marriage supporter) Malcolm Smith has promised to table the bill until there are enough votes to ensure its passage (when that will be is unclear). Paterson for his part has agreed to follow the state senate's lead (or lack thereof).

So there you have it, unambiguous public support for an incredibly important civil rights issue which does not translate into effective legislative action. Queer New York activists better get a move on if they don't want to be upstaged by Iowa.


Another Quinnipiac poll out last week shows that New Jersey residents approve of gay marriage 49% to 43%. When civil unions are thrown in as a poll option gay marriage still polls best with 42% for marriage, 30% for unions, and 20% for no recognition respectively. Only 30% of those polled believed that gay marriage was a threat to "traditional marriage." The New Jersey legislature will vote on a gay marriage bill later this year.

Did I mention this poll was taken a week AFTER N.O.M. started airing their "Gathering Storm" ad in the state.

The tides are turning.


It all started Sunday April 19th, when Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was asked a question by "celebrity blogger" Perez Hilton during the Miss USA pageant.

“Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?”

Let's go to the tape:

Miss California lost the MISS USA Pageant but finished as a runner-up and blamed the results of the pageant on Perez.

THEN Perez Hilton made a video blog about the whole situation.

With that "dumb bitch" and the threat that he would have "smacked that tiara off her head" had she won, Perez perhaps undid all the goodwill his question had created. It's one thing to ask a contestant a contentious question, but when you pick on someone with a persecution complex or very low self-esteem (the general make-up of beauty pageant contestants and gay opposition) they fight back because they feel it validates their irrational feelings of persecution. Miss California basically said in her answer what Perez said he wanted to hear from her, she talked about personal rather than state choice, but the idea was the same. Of course Ms. Prejean sounded dumber than a barbie doll, but this is a beauty contest not Jeopardy. And it would have been totally fine for Perez Hilton to talk, post show, about how sickening it is to think of civil rights being put up to a vote. But just as it's rather sickening to turn civil rights into an electoral question, it's EQUALLY SICKENING TO TURN THE BATTLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS INTO A CAT FIGHT.

Let's elevate the discourse PLEASE, there's nothing saying we can't call haters dumb or bitches, but strategically speaking, picking on beauty pageant contestants is about as useful as the pageants themselves.

WQI Total

Good: 4
Mixed: 1
Bad: 0

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thoughts on The First 100 Days...

The first 100 days of any presidency is a comparatively arbitrary measurement of progress. You can try and compare one administration's first 100 days against another, and there is certainly criteria for basic success, but Presidential history is not a good constant against which to measure itself. Would Obama's first 100 days have been more successful if Mr. Specter had switched parties three months ago? Maybe. Would Obama have the political capital he has now if the economy wasn't in the shitter? Maybe. It's not what Obama has accomplished so much as the way Obama has tried to accomplish things that give us insight into what the next four years hold.

Three things can be said about Obama and his first 100 days.

1) He's not embarrassing the country at home or abroad. Even though the G20 isn't going along with his plans for worldwide stimulus, it's clear they like him and perhaps even respect him.

2) There's a firm belief that our President isn't prone to doing colossally stupid things. In other words, unlike his predecessor, we don't have to worry about our President getting a signal from God to bomb random countries. Or say, completely ignore a drowning city.

3) Obama is trying to build a broad coalition. While the GOP is quite literally shrinking to the point of temporary irrelevance, Obama has made a number of good faith efforts to reach out to his "loyal opposition." This may infuriate those on the left, like myself, who want the president to make few concessions and plow ahead with a progressive agenda, but in the end the Democratic party will be strengthened the more people it represents. The real trick will be making sure the Democratic party effectively serves all its constituencies.

A good public image, not making reckless choices, and trying to be bi-partisan, these have lead to historically high public opinion ratings. One could see these three accomplishments as baseline for a competent presidency. And one could make the argument that Obama is suffering from the "bigotry of lowered expectations." But this has nothing to do with Obama, and everything to do with Bush. The first 100 days has shown us we can breathe easier again (not easy, easier), and after eight years of holding my breath that's change I can believe in.

Now if only he would nationalize the banks....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter, no longer bi-partisan, now a flamming Dem!

The Washington Post is breaking the story. Arlen Specter the moderate Republican whom the Republicans love to hate (and try and unseat) is SWITCHING PARTY AFFILIATION, from now on he'll be a Democrat, with Al Franken expected to eventually get seated over Coleman in the still legally unresolved Minnesota Senate race the Democrats will have a FILIBUSTER PROOF 60-SEAT MAJORITY. Well a fillibuster proof majority on SOME issues, in a statement released today Specter made clear he wasn't giving Dems a carte blanche on their entire legislative agenda:
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
Specter announced he will run to keep his Senate seat in 2010 by taking part in the Democratic primaries.

Why the change? Specter, faces a Liebermanesque dilemma for 2010, with a candidate more palatable to the base of his affiliated party planning on challenging the long-seated incumbent. The main challenger right now, Pat Tommey, lost by just one point in the 2004 GOP primary against Specter, and the lastest polling data shows Specter trailing Tom mey by 21 points. If Tommey wins Specter would have to run as an Independant or Democrat anyway. This way Specter has a fighting chance at keeping his seat.

Of course underlying this pragmatic decision is the ideological tumult that is threatening to hobble the GOP for years to come. Last week I described two moderate republicans as part of the "centrist fringe" of their party. Specter's statement on his decision to change parties shows my hyperbole may not be as exagerrated as I though:
I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary...Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans...When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing...I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
Speaking of Lieberman, I bet the Dems are glad now that they didn't strip him of his committee appointments as recompense for his McCain support. It wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to see a powerless Lieberman abandoning the party that abandoned him to join the GOP in the name of a "loyal opposition."

Specter (first on the left) with Schumer (D-NY) and Leahy (D-VT), his new party colleagues.

Monday, April 27, 2009

RIP Bea Aurthur

There are now as many surviving Beatles as Golden Girls.


Three of the best Youtube clips floating around there to remember that Golden Girl of stage and screen.



Golden Girls Bloopers - Watch more funny videos here

Friday, April 24, 2009

Obama backtracking on promises for greater civil liberties?

Hours ago the AP announced some unsettling news: the Obama administration will be asking the Supreme Court to overturn a 1986 ruling that forbids police to question suspects in custody unless an attorney is present.

As the AP noted:

The administration's position assumes a level playing field, with equally savvy police and criminal suspects, lawyers on the other side of the case said. But the protection offered by the court in Stevens' 1986 opinion is especially important for vulnerable defendants, including the mentally and developmentally disabled, addicts, juveniles and the poor, the lawyers said.

This seems at EXTREME ODDS with several proposed reforms posted on the White House's webpage which acknowledges, "America is facing an incarceration and post-incarceration crisis in urban communities." Two solutions to this crisis are suggested on the Administration's Civil Right's Agenda webpage:

Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.

Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.

It seems more than a little disingenuous to call for an end to sentence disparities and then remove one of the greatest protections against coercion and false evidence currently in our legal arsenal. It's also extremely disconcerting to see the Obama administration putting more effort into post-incarceration interventions than into steps designed to avoid unnecessary incarceration in the first place. Does the prison industrial complex have the administration over a barrel or something?

Beyond the practical problems this reversal could present to Obama's stated goals of reduced incarceration rates, this move just seems patently unconstitutional, violating the right against self-incrimination and the right to legal representation .

Here's hoping the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, or that the Administration decides to reconsider its position.

Quote of the Day

"In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear -
(Laughter in courtroom)
Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. "

--Justice Stephen Breyer revealing his tortured past yesterday during oral arguments concerning a case where a 13 year old girl was strip searched after another student told school authorities the girl had ibuprofen in her underwear.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weekly Queer Index: 4/12/09-4/18/09

If the two weeks before last were seismic events for us gays, than last week was marked less by a continued shaking than by minor aftershocks.


The White House Easter Egg Roll is one of those supremely hokey and highly ritualized public performances that the White House has to pull out the stops for every year. As if electing someone President isn't enough, we demand to see footage of our Commander In Chief interacting with children in a competent way (the armchair shrink in me says it has something to do with us projecting onto our President a paternal role that casts the voters as the de facto children).

Anywho, traditionally tickets to the event are given out on a first-come-first-serve basis but this year special efforts were made to give blocks of tickets to GLBT organizations including: Human Rights Campaign, Family Equality Council and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This is actually a big step beause it means the White House is going out of its way to be inclusive towards the GLBT community (inclusive though not down right progressive).

Compare this year's event to the Roll in 2006, when 100 gay families obtained a block of tickets (by camping out all night in front of the White House) to show Bush that gays and lesbians exist in real life and don't have horns and the sign of the beast tattooed onto their foreheads. At the time the Weekly Standard lamented that gays planned to, "crash the event with a 'family visibility action' to spotlight their non-traditional families. " Bear in mind this was only three years ago.

This distinction between the acts of past and current administration is important in measuring the pace of progress. As Alisa Surkis, a gay mother who took part in the 2006 "crashing" and also attended this year's Roll wrote in the HuffPo:
I've heard people complain that the invitation extended to the gay and lesbian families by the Obama administration is just a symbolic gesture, but symbols are powerful. This one sends the message that at the very highest levels, our families are acknowledged and appreciated as part of the diversity of families that make this country great...Sure, I wish that the administration was spearheading the repeal of DOMA and DADT. I wish that President Obama was speaking out in favor of marriage equality. But I think it's a bit of a chicken and egg issue. Does society change in response to the signals sent by legislative changes, or do changes in people's attitudes push forward legislation? I think it's a little bit of chicken and a little bit of egg, and this Monday is a day to celebrate the egg (roll).
Amen sister.


This story isn't just notable for the potentially intentional actions of Amazon, but also for the massive shit storm of cyber outrage that the so-called "glitch" incited. To sum up the events: last weekend gay author Mark Probst posted a blog entry about the mysterious disappearance of sales-rankings for gay-themed books on Amazon was still selling the books in question, but because they weren't ranked they didn't show up prominently in search results. More damning was an email from Amazon to Probst explaining that the de-ranking was part of Amazon's policy of excluding "'adult' material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists."

As the outrage spread on twitter and the blogosphere it became clear that Amazon’s stated rationale didn’t hold water. The de-ranking covered a HUGE range of GLBT books from self-help: Outing Yourself: How to Come Out as Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends, and Coworkers and Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws to classics like Giovanni's Room, Heather Has Two Mommies, and Brokeback Mountain. Entertainment Weekly also noted that heterosexual erotica such as, "a raunchy memoir by porn star Ron Jeremy and Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds, which includes pictures of more than 600 naked women, are still being ranked."

By last Monday Amazon had re-established rankings for the excluded books and upgraded its excuse for the debacle from a "glitch" to a "ham-fisted cataloging error ." The exact nature of what caused the rankings to be stripped is still being debated, but the most salient feature of this whole episode is the fact that within days, perhaps even hours after the glitch occurred, us queers and our allies were mobilized and putting Amazon on the defensive. This is exactly the kind of rapid response that the queer community needs if it’s going to successfully fight for its civil rights in a number of future uphill battles. This may only have been a test, but we passed with flying colors.


Gays last week got a purely symbolic boost from what can only be described as the "centrist fringe" of the Republican party as both Steve Schmidt, McCain's former campaign strategist, and Meghan McCain, his daughter (and "blogger") both came out in support of gay marriage. Sure, it's always good to have more people on our side, but within the GOP these are the last people anyone is going to listen to. The McCain campaign isn't thought of very highly (think how the left feels about Kerry and his campaign), and when it comes to campaign strategy, Mr. Schidt's domain, the consensus has been negative across the aisle. Weeks before the presidential race was even decided in November, the NYTimes magazine ran a scathing article entitled "The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of the Candidate"showing just how inept the McCain campaign (and especially Steve Schmidt) was at selling a long serving senator, decorated war-hero, and the loving father of several children (including one adopted from Mother Teresa's orphanage no less) as a winning presidential candidate. The failure (and anger) towards McCain, Schmidt, and Co. in the eyes of the right is even greater when one considers that from their perspective McCain's opponent was a largely unknown, bi-racial, first-term senator whom a tenth of the electorate stupidly believe is a Muslim.

Schmidt, who has a gay sister, gave his endorsement for gay marriage at a Log Cabin Republican Convention last Friday. Even his verbal support for gay marriage came in the form of a backhanded compliment:
I know mine is a minority view among Republicans, and I don’t honestly expect our party will reverse in the very near term its opposition to same sex marriage. Nor do I yet see support for it from a strong majority of the general public. And, I do believe that such a highly charged political question such as this should be settled by the freely expressed will of the people, and not by the courts.
Apparently one can be for gay marriage and feed the right talking points at the same time. Glad to see Mr. Schmidt has overcome his messaging problems.

As for Meghan McCain, she's fast morphing into a savvy blogger more than any sort of political figure. Sensing a vacancy of young GOP contrarians, Ms. McCain has lambasted Ann Coulter as well as Karl Rove, and in a blog post on the Daily Beast last week confusingly declared herself a "pro-life, pro-gay-marriage Republican." Might I suggest the slogan: Government, out of our bedroom, into our exam rooms? She also gave a speech at the Log Cabin Republican's Convention that was curiously almost completely devoid of any mention of sexual orientation.

The biggest problem for queers with these endorsements is that the Republicans could siphon even more gay votes away from the Democrats. Last election more queers voted for McCain than voted for Bush in 2004, we were the only demographic to move more to the right. The Democrats talk a good game but outside of invites to the White House Easter Egg Roll, actual action on a federal level by the Dems for gay rights has been consistantly nill. If the GOP splits the gay vote it will be because they'll be able to talk the talk like the Dems, but neither party will be walking the walk, and that will benefit no one. Still nice to see the sane among the GOP are raising their voices.

Last week the Washington State Legislature approved a bill that would extend the benefits from an earlier civil unions law passed two years ago, to include all the rights currently enjoyed by heterosexual married couples in the state. All rights and benefits save marriage itself. Governor Chris Gregoire has promised to sign the bill into law. The bill was hotly debated but passed with a two-thirds majority. Despite being home to Seattle, the second gayest city in the country, Washington state has a Defense of Marriage Act that was passed in 1998. The state Supreme Court refused to overturn the DOMA three years ago citing the legislature's right to, "further the State's legitimate interests in procreation and the well-being of children." Pardon me while I gag.

On the one hand, civil unions seem like a great compromise, except that if you recall last week's WQI, Nate Silver made the astonishing prediction that support for anti-gay marriage amendments would become a minority opinion in all states by 2024. Washington State was among the states that Silver predicts already has an anti-gay marriage minority. So it's disheartening to see progress in the state manifest itself through what is essentially the final piece of a a civil rights installment plan that grants same-sex couples "everything but marriage." Will passing a civil unions law today kick the fight for full marriage down the road? Only time will tell.


New York, which has no civil unions or domestic partnership laws, could become the fifth state in the union to allow gay marriage.

Two years ago, then Gov Elliot Spitzer promised to introduce a bill to allow gay marriage in the state. Then Spitzer decided to spend more time with his family (ahem). His successor, Paterson, had a grand introduction onto the queer stage months after taking office by marching in the NYC gay pride parade, the first Governor in the state to do so.

The legislation is far from a sure thing though. According to Gothamist:
The State Assembly has previously passed a gay marriage bill in 2007, but it stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Though the Senate is now controlled by Democrats, the majority is fractured and Senate Majority leader Smith's spokesperson said last week, "Currently, there are not sufficient votes in the Senate to pass the marriage equality bill.
So, suppose you're the Governor of a state that invented the drive-thru wedding, the quickie divorce (once referred to as a "Reno Divorce"), has legalized prostitution, and who's primary tourist attraction is advertised as a haven for bad behavior. Now suppose your legislature sends you a bill that would set-up domestic partnerships in your state, a law you don't want to sign for some stupid reason. You can't argue that signing the bill would detract from the institution of marriage because eroding the sanctity of marriage is big business for your state. You can't argue that the bill would encourage deviant behavior because that too turns a profit in your state. But you have to give SOME reason for vetoing the bill so you merely say, "I just don't believe in it."

Way to go Governor! Las Vegas is feeling the financial crunch and you're turning down domestic partnerships when you should be pushing for gay marriages to prop up your economy. Don't let the door hit you on your way out of office.

This Week's Totals
BAD (and insane): 1

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea bagging round-up


So yesterday a bunch of conservative nutbags, inspired by the Boston Tea Party, decided it would be a great idea to sack the streets of America for some aggressive teabagging to protest unfair taxation. How a more progressive tax code which shrinks the burden on the middle class could be considered unfair was not explained. But these conservatives (and leftover Ron Paul rejects) were ready to blow; their right to teabag would not be licked. They descended on the streets, and it certainly looked like they were having a ball. Not even the presence of the snickering media could taint their united front.

Below is some coverage of the days' events. I'll just add that since I mailed my taxes early I enjoyed no tea-bagging yesterday.

FOX"News", one of the rightwing corporate entities who organized these "grassroot events" unsurprisingly went with the liberal-media-makes-sex-jokes-out-of-serious-protests angle (you know a protest is serious when the organizers use the term "teabagging" and are assisted by that bastion of sincerity and formality Glen Beck)

However it seems more than a little disingenuous for the right to be calling the left out on the blue-meaning of "teabagging" when the tea party organizers weren't doing anything to stop it's use. As Joe Garofoli at the SFGate reports:

I asked Michael Meckler, the national protest coordinator why they used the phrase and he just kind of shrugged. Said it was still a loose operation and that people could call it whatever they wanted as long as they participated. Maybe it was loud around us, but I don't think he understood the question.

And then there's the video footage. Let's start with Rachel Maddow and Ana Marie Cox barely holding it together

Now let's turn to this little gem from Anderson Cooper

Of course these demonstrations aren't all fun and games, the people they bring out are FREAKIN SCARY. The protesters are making no sense at all! It's as if the right-wing went into ZOMBIE ATTACK MODE after Obama won. I mean we weren't exactly lucid on the left after Bush won, but we had legitimate issues we were fighting against (the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, torture, Gitmo, cronyism, etc etc etc). Just watch these two CNN clips below (courtesy of Americablog) and appreciate how non-sensical and circular the current opposition's arguments actually are.

And then there are the pictures, a number of them using children as props:



Charelston, WVA:

I'm sorry but I have to say it, it's just WRONG to expose young children to teabagging.

And please, libertarian/conservative/freeper/dittoheads, if you're going to be the loyal opposition for at least the next four years PLEASE actually oppose some REAL POLICY, not generalized populist outrage mixed with sour grapes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Sad news coming out of Boston as the forces of art and the forces of Boston's jack-ass PD/conservative Sox-obsessed culture do battle; their focal point? Shepard Fairey. Fairey, the artist behind the Andre the Giant Obey images, the Obey clothing line, and the Obama Hope poster is enjoying his first retrospective at Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art. I saw it, it rocked, check it out.

Fairey is also very hot.

Fairey was arrested feet from the Institute of Contemproary Art on years-old vandalism charges as he made his way to his exhibit's opening night party in February. He was taken away and booked. This caused major annoyance among the ICA attendees who were waiting for Fairey to DJ an opening night party, tickets to which cost mucho dinero. At first Fairey's arrest seemed to have some silver linings: Fairey got his high-art cred and street cred affirmed on the same day! And as the Boston Phoenix suggested back in February, the orginal arrest might have been nothing more than political gamesmanship; payback for the mayor's recent strong-arm tactics with the police union during budget cuts, coupled with the Mayor posing for a photo-op with Boston's most infamous tagger.

Unfortunately things took a darker turn yesterday as 7 criminal complaints were dropped and the remaining 10 were upgraded from misdemeanors to felonies. This means that Fairey is now potentially facing a maximum penalty of 30 YEARS IN PRISON! Had the charges remained misdemeanors at most he would have paid $1000 in fines plus restitution.

In addition to the Boston charges, Fairey faces 12 seperate criminal complaints in Roxbury

Are we sensing a certain degree of double-standards here? Is Fairey getting the felony counts because he's so well known? What message does this send to Boston area artists?

I stand by my orginal solution: Obama should pardon Fairey. That Hope poster wasn't just iconic in its aesthetics, it perfectly packaged the candidate as patriotic, bold, new, and (yes) hip. Obama owes Fairey. And this is rapidly turning into a ridiculous cluster-fuck that's an embarrassment for Boston. And seriously, do we really need to add to our clogged prison systems' woes by sentencing a street artist to prison for 30 years?????

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Weekly Queer Index: You guys just don't understand, you've all ready loast addition.

The cavalcade of homosexual progress continues unabated after another week of stellar news. Not only have the last week's events in Vermont and Iowa indeed proved good for the gays, but new events are rekindling an excitement and momentum in the community that seemed lost following the passage of Prop 8. Let's review this week's news items:


As was noted in last week's WQI, Iowa's Supreme Court ruled the state could not forbid same-sex couples to marry; a move that when coupled with Iowa's arguous system for approving constitutional ammendments, all but gaurenteed a permanent win for gays in the state. All but gaurenteed as long as the Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal stayed true to his word and blocked attempts to introduce legislation that would ammend the state constitution. Well Gronstall did more than just deliver on his promise, in rejecting a colleague's attempts to introduce a bill to ammend the constitution, Gronstal made a quietly impassioned speech for gay marriage (you MUST watch the video of it). Among the choice quotes from his speech:

One of my daughters was in the workplace...and there were a whole bunch of conservative older men, and those guys were talking about gay marriage. They were talking about discussions going on across the country. And my daughter Kate, after listening to it for about 20 minutes, said to them, "you guys don't understand, you've already lost. My generation doesn't care." I think I learned something from my daughter the other day.

With that observation Gronstal ensured gay marriage's safety in Iowa until at least 2014, by which time it's doubtful Iowans will vote to overturn the court ruling.

The generational divide on the issue of gay marriage became something more than a talking point (or blog leitmotif) this week following news of our next item.


Nate Silver and his blog is the closest thing we in America have to Nostrodamus. While many pollsters make grand claims on scant evidence, Silver's methodology is based on a careful readings of statistics and is startlingly accurate. His statistical models sucessfully predicted the outcome of every settled senate race in the 08 elections, the breakdown of the 08 presidential popular vote (within tenths of a precentage point), and the unlikely resurgance of the Tampa Devilrays last season.
He' also really cute.

In a post this week examining the likelihood of Iowa banning gay marriage, Silver made an astonishing claim: a marked downward trend of support to ban gay marriage of roughly two points a year.

Silver created a suprisingly accurate model of state-by-state rejection of marriage protectionism through regression analysis of three variables:

1. The year in which the amendment [to ban gay marriage] was voted upon [by a state];
2. The percentage of adults in 2008 Gallup tracking surveys who said that religion was an important part of their daily lives;
3. The percentage of white evangelicals in the state.

According to his predictions the last state to have enough of an electoral opposition to gay marriage would be Mississippi, which would itself be demographically pro-gay marriage by 2024.

If this seems oddly rosy even Silver himself acknowledges the many problems his model faces (public backlash around increasing gay rights for one). Also not having enough votes to block gay marriage doesn't necessarily mean there are enough votes to pass it.

In a follow-up post from last Thursday,
Silver reiterated that the crux of his arguement is about generational differences:

Support for gay marriage, however, is strongly generational. In a CBS news poll conducted last month, 64 percent of voters aged 18-45 supported either gay marriage or civil unions, but only 45 percent of voters aged 65 and up did. Civil unions have already achieved the support of an outright majority of Americans, and as those older voters are replaced by younger ones, the smart money is that gay marriage will reach majority status too at some point in the 2010's.

After a week like this though it does seem possible that gay marriage could be legal everywhere in the next twenty years. The next item perfectly captures the bredth of the momentum.


The fact that the Vermont legislature passed this law, and that it passed it with a super-majority (two-thirds) of its elected officials truly makes this a watershed event: the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through legislation. The override vote was a squeaker, passing by a single vote, but again this was a super-majority of the legislature. In the past, conservatives arguing against gay marriage (in CA, MA, and CT) used court actions as a large part of their argument. They contended that this reversal of past norms was being ordered by court fiat, and that only voters and legislators should have the right to make this kind of policy decision. Vermont did just what the conservatives demanded; any petition in the future to ban gay marriage will have to be opposed to gay marriage on it's own terms and not use "activist judges" as an excuse.

Also, this is only the 7th overide of a Govenor's veto in the state's history.


This bit of news is a bit of a sticky wicket. First off it's worth noting that the DC Council did not vote to start performing gay marriages, but only to start recognizing gay marriages performed in other states. Also this was a preliminary vote, a final vote is needed next month before this can become law. Perhaps one of the reasons the council chose not to vote on performing gay marriage directly is that the US Congress has to approve all decisions made by the DC Council. If the council had voted to approve gay marriage, the nation's legislative branch would essentially have to weigh in on the issue. And no one wants this congress weighing in on gay marriage just yet. Approving recognition of gay marriages performed in other states is an easier pill for the congress to swallow. It's also a usefull canary in the coalmine of this issue. But even if the congress decides to turn the DC Council vote into political red meat it might not play well, as Nate Silver also pointed out this week:

Considering that (i) there is some opportunity cost involved to the Republicans in attempting to attack on the gay marriage issue (ii) the issue is the almost literal embodiment of the Rovian politics that the public appeared to have rejected in 2006 and 2008, and that (iii) liberals, following the passage of Proposition 8, may for the first time be at least as energized on the issue as are conservatives, it is less than obvious that a debate over gay marriage is the way back to the promised land for the GOP.


I'm not a big Idol watcher, it's just too much advertising for me (the whole show is essentially a giant focus group for a new product owned by Simon Cowell) but it is a cultural phenomena, and so respect must be paid. This season's favorite Adam Lambert has (apparently) cultivated an ambiguously gay persona (or perhaps is merely in the closet and everyone can tell.) Photos were leaked a couple week ago on line of Lambert making out with other guys, while he was in drag no less:

See, what happens at Burning Man doesn't necessarily stay at Burning Man.

This prompted Bill O'Reilly to devote a whole segment to his show on how this wil harm his chances on the show (his two guests totally disagreed).

Of course O'Reilly is part of the generation that doesn't understand its all ready lost, my generation doesn't care.
And as if to prove the young don't give a hoot about sexuality, Lambert performed a viruoso cover of Tears For Fear's "Mad World" to a standing ovation from Mr. Cowel. Of course sexually ambiguous singers are nothing new, and the first winner of "Pop Idol" the original British version of American Id0l was an openly gay man. What's important here is the distinct generational reaction to the cultural event: O'Reilly raised eye brows and the younger generation merely plucked their eyebrows to look more like Lambert.


Last week was not a good week to be a gay marriage opponent. Not only were they delivered judicial AND legislative defeats, but two of their big initiatives intended to revamp their campaigns backfired. First the
National Organization for Marriage released an incredibly hokey and melodramatic anti-gay marriage ad only to have the audition tape for the commercial (filled with awkward stumbling "actors" trying to read the lines believably) leaked by the Human Rights Campaign. It's hard to convince people that real people are being hurt by gay marriage when audtioners for the commercial could barely buy it. The indominable Rachel Maddow tackled the fracas on her show with the usual wit and wisdom (she starts talking about the commercial at 2:28)

Then THE SAME anti-gay marriage organization released a new campaign named "2 Million for Traditional Marriage" or "2M4M" in an attempt to be all 21st Century and text saavy. Had the National Organization for Marriage actually been savvy at all (or had anyone from my generation in their organization) they would have realized their abbreviation is also the abreviation men use when they're cruising online for sex with other men.
This should quiet any fears that those in the gay right's movement had about a formidable, well-organized opposition, a fear that was talked about ad naseum after Prop 8. To be fair, all liberals believe the opposition is unbeatable when they loose. Remember when everyone thought Karl Rove was an invicible evil genius after he somehow managed to defeat the UNSTOPPABLE JOHN KERRY?
Let's just admit it, conservatives and their cultural warriors are just as inept as progressives. It's an even playing field and after the past two weeks we're still winning.


A city councilman in the polish city of Ponznan raged against the elephant his city had bough for the zoo because he refuses to mate with other female elephants. According to the Reuters story the councilman, Michal Grzes said, "
We didn't pay 37 million zlotys ($11 million) for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there." The same article gets a reaction from the city zoo-keeper who assures the reporter than because the elephant is four years shy of reaching sexual maturity it's impossible to say the elephant has a preference for one sex over another.

I'm part Polish so let me be the first to say that we don't need the country of Copernicus and Chopin being sullied by idiots who keep adding fodder to (admittedly hilarious) Polish jokes.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reasons why Barack Obama is a better Jew than I...

It's the second day of passover, do you know where your Matzos is?

Certainly not me. I've always described myself as Jew-ish: I may not pray to Yaweh, but I do worship Mel Brooks.

Passover in particular has always been a stretch for me to celebrate as a holiday. Of course I'm glad the Jews got out of bondage several millennia ago, but as a secular humanist and armchair critic it's hard for me to connect with a story that involves so many miracles and deux ex machina moments.

However Obama knows it's passover, and he's trying to make the high holy days hip again.
This is only one reason why Obama is a better Jew than I.

One of the things that makes tonight different than all other nights, is the fact that the president will hold a "first Seder." But Don't be expecting some goyim blunder by Obama to end up in the news tomorrow, this is not Obama's first Seder. Apparently last year in Pennsylvania during the primaries, Obama campaign staffers were unable to get home for Passover and held an impromptu Seder using room service from the Harrisburg Sheraton (who knew the H-burg Sheraton had manischewitz in their wine cellar?). Obama took part in the Sheraton Seder which ended with the traditional refrain of the meal, "Next Year In Jerusalem," punctuated by an impromptu "Next Year in the White House." Things have come full circle.

Leading this historic occasion will be a 24 year old campaign baggage handler named Eric Lesser. No pressure, kid. According to the AP the "The White House says the Seder meal will be traditional, including matzo, bitter herbs, a roasted egg and greens in the family dining room in the executive mansion." I noticed gefilte fish and horseradish are not on the menu.

This the first time a sitting President has attended a Seder in the White House. Seders were held in the White House during the Clinton administration but Bill never attended. And as for Bush, well, does everyone remember the White House Hanukkah card from last year:

Obama has attended Seders on two consecutive Passovers. I have not attended one in at least seven this is one of the reasons Barack Obama is a better Jew than I.

Of course Obama celebrating Passover isn't the only reason Barack Obama is a better Jew than I am.

Barack Obama is a better Jew than I because Obama's visited Israel, (and I haven't). Until I find a gay kibbutz I don't anticipate this state of affairs changing in the near future.

Barack Obama is a better Jew than I because he's related to a Rabbi (I'm not).
What's that, you say? Obama's related to a Rabbi? Indeed he is (by marriage). The New York Times Magazine last week profiled Capers Funnye, "the chief rabbi of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, one of the largest black synagogues in America. " Funnye (pictured below) and Michelle Obama are first cousins once removed, "his mother, Verdelle, was the sister of Fraser Robinson Jr. — Michelle Obama’s grandfather."

Now you may be wondering--as I was-- where the hell was this Rabbi Funnye when all those "Obama's an anti-semite" talking points were circulating during the campaign. Well behold the answer :

At the start of the 2008 presidential primary season, Funnye contributed a few hundred dollars to the Obama campaign but didn’t publicly endorse Obama, and he avoided mentioning the family connection. “I was afraid it might do him harm in the Orthodox community,” he told me. “I believe they were the ones putting out stories about Barack being a secret Muslim and so on. They could have made me out to be a friend of Farrakhan’s or a cult leader or who knows what.
Oh and Funnye, "is considerably to the left of Obama on Middle East policy," though I'm sure that had nothing to do with his reticence to campaign openly for his first cousin once removed by marriage.
Finally Barack Obama is a better Jew than I because he has a Talmudic disposition: passionate about arguing the law, taking on immersive studies of a subject, eliciting an atmosphere of debate with colleagues, exercising incredible discipline, venerating the lives and culture of his parents. I, by contrast, have a far different disposition, a neurotic one. Hmmm maybe I'm not such a bad Jew after all....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More eloquence from Iowa

via savage at slog

What is it about Iowa that its leaders are able to so succinctly, calmly, and eloquently address the issue of gay marriage? Above is a clip of Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal blocking a bill that would have gotten the ball rolling on an amendment to ban gay marriage. This means that gay marriage is safe in Iowa until 2014. But most impressive of all is the substance of Gronstal's impassioned response (it's so earnest and so devoid a bombast one can hardly call it a speech).

Quote of the Day

"What underlines so many of Obama's decisions is an attachment to the institutions that hold up American society, a desire to make them function better rather than to remake them altogether."

--George Packer in this week's New Yorker

Anyone who has wondered why Obama is bailing out the big banks rather than nationalizing them, or why Obama is creating a government run health care option rather than pursuing free universal health care, has noticed the President's seemingly unshakable faith in large institutions. The big question is what are the consequences to such a philosophy when major institutions of American society need to be remade rather than reorganized? It's one thing for Obama to temper and compromise audacious plans to meet pragmatic needs, it's another thing altogether for Obama to aim for pragmatic success in the short-term in order to avoid messy but much needed major renovations down the road.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009



First civil unions
Now gay marriage.
Next comes Gov Douglas in a baby carriage.

It passed by one vote.

Vermont is now the first state in the country to pass gay marriage legislation, all other states that allow (or allowed) gay marriage do so as a result of court rulings.

This is only the 7th legislative override of a gubernatorial veto in all of Vermont's history and the first in 20 years!

AND as if that wasn't enough of a lavender laurel for one day:

So what happens in Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Iowa doesn't necessarily stay there.

Now if you'll excuse me, time for a little reveling:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quote of the day

"We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."

--Iowa Supreme Court, ruling a state law which defines marriage between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

Has the legal case for gay marriage ever been phrased so eloquently?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Weekly Queer Index

Last week's news was rife with homosexuality. Even if you believes that the mainstream media is a bunch of commie homo-coddling abortionists, last week's parade of big gay news stories made it feel like Pride Week arrived early! But are all these events positive? Let's measure shall we...

The state that gave us our first New York-born Jewish Democratic-Socialist Senator is looking to also grab the title of the first state to pass gay marriage into law without a court's say so. Massachusetts and Connecticut have gay marriage (and California did until prop 8) but all had court rulings as their impetus for change. Of course Vermont was the first state to even consider anything close to marriage for gay couples when it passed its civil unions legislation in 2000. It's a sign of how fast gay marriage is gaining traction in our national discourse, that only nine years later, what was once considered landmark legislation is looking more like a stop-gap measure toward full equality rather than a great leap for real social justice

As for the chances of gay marriage passing in Vermont, it looks like a legislative override of a Gubernatorial veto will be a squeaker of a vote (though here's a solid argument that the override is within one vote of passing), Gov. Douglas's assertion that the gay marriage debate is "diverting attention from our most pressing issues" and that his veto was "an easy decision to make from the get-go" will surely help galvanize those who want full marriage equality. In fact it already has, according this AP report:

Douglas spokeswoman Dennise Casey said before Douglas' announcement [that he would veto a bill legalizing gay marriage], the letters and e-mails on gay marriage were running about 70 percent against the bill to legalize it... Since the announcement, supporters of same-sex marriage have been outnumbering opponents, with 60 percent of the letters and e-mails received speaking in favor it and 40 percent against.

The Iowa State Supreme Court joining Supreme Courts in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut in ruling gays cannot be denied the right to marry is: SOOOO GOOD FOR THE GAYS

Iowa is about to get a whole lot hipper. Pushing aside it's hick heartland neighbors, Iowa will be hanging out with the cool kids from the Northeastern elite states. Within a month same sex couples will be able to marry and it'll be a long time before anyone can do anything about it. To reverse the court's decision, opponent of gay marriage will need to get a constitutional amendment approved that would redefine marriage as between a man and a woman. However Iowa's law requires any amendment to the constitution to pass in two consecutive general assemblies of the legislature (of two years duration each) PLUS a simple majority vote on a statewide ballot. The AP reported yesterday that:

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat, said state lawmakers were unlikely to consider gay marriage legislation in this legislative session, which is expected to end within weeks. Gronstal also said he's "not inclined" to propose a constitutional amendment during next year's session. Without a vote by the Legislature this year or next, the soonest gay marriage could be repealed would be 2014.

In five years time it's extremely doubtful that a state with a history of being on the vanguard of social change will vote for an amendment banning gay marriage. Moreover the populations of self-considered liberal states such as New York and California may feel that if a heartland mid-western state can offer gay marriage why can't they, and push for action on the issue.

Don't ask Don't Tell "being kicked down the road" by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama is:

The Sunday before last, Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed that plans to overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell are pretty much off the table. "...The president and I feel like we've got a lot on our plates right now and let's push that one down the road a little bit." Adding, "that dialogue, though, has really not progressed very far at this point in the administration."

This news is all the more shocking coming on the heels of several very promising developments that seemed to indicate real momentum in overturning DADT. Several months ago Obama spokesperson Robert Gibbs expressed unambiguous support on the president's behalf for overturning the ban. Then in March, the White House released a statement saying the president had begun to meet with advisers to determine how to lift DADT, a statement that while vague was a direct response to Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-California) introducing a bill into congress that would lift the ban. Also adding to the feeling that DADT's demise was imminent was the formation three weeks ago of Knights Out, a GLBT alumni association for West Point grads. Adding insult to injury, Gates made his comments on Fox News Sunday. Apparently our Defense Secretary doesn't have the cojones to make such an announcement on say Rachel Maddow's show.

The release of the trailer for Sasha Baron Cohen's new movie following gay Euro fashionista Bruno through a Borat-esque trip across America is: BAD FOR THE GAYS.

First of all, let's recognize that the "real" people Bruno interacts with in this movie get their worst fears and prejudices of homosexuality confirmed. And then let's recognize that not everyone seeing this movie is going to be in on the joke, and that this audience segment will not be disposed to look favorably on the gays after watching this prancing, shallow, dildo waving creature that Cohen is enacting. Also, I fail to see how Bruno's character shows the homophobia inherent in our society. A gay character who acts like an asshole to unsuspecting people until these get pissed off and react really just shows how people in a society react to an asshole. In many ways this is just another version of "Jackass," except "Jackass" is gayer (and hotter) then "Bruno" could ever hope to be.

That said I can't wait to see "Bruno".

WQI Score
BAD: 2

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Is Barack Obama a show tune queen?

During the campaign I was impressed by Obama's top 10 song list that he gave to Blender; included were "Give Me Shelter" "Sinnerman" and "Think". McCain by contrast listed TWO Abba songs in his top 10. So it's extremely interesting to me that Obama gifted her royal highness with the treasure of so many other queens, an ipod full of show tunes!

This news raises several very important questions: Did Obama create this playlist himself? If so, how long has he been a fan of the great American musical songbook? If not, who was making these important decisions for him behind closed doors (hopefully not Geitner)? Does Obama include "Seasons of Love" because he genuinely finds "Rent" still relevant or is he merely including it as part of a representative sample of the genre? Finally I must ask the question that is on everyones' mind: Is Obama a closet homosexual the same way he's a closet Muslim, closet non-citizen, and closet socialist?

Songs on Queen Elizabeth's iPod include:
"If I Loved You," Jan Clayton, "Carousel"
"You'll Never Walk Alone," Jan Clayton, "Carousel"
"There's No Business Like Show Business," Ethel Merman, "Annie Get Your Gun"
"Once in Love with Amy (Where's Charley?)," Ray Bolger
"Some Enchanted Evening," "South Pacific"
"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," Carol Channing, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"
"Getting to Know You," Gertrude Lawrence, "The King and I"
"Shall We Dance?" Gertrude Lawrence, "The King and I"
"I Could Have Danced All Night," Julie Andrews, "My Fair Lady"
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," Rex Harrison, "My Fair Lady"
"The Party's Over (Bells Are Ringing)," Judy Holliday
"Maria," "West Side Story"
"Tonight," "West Side Story"
"Seventy Six Trombones," "The Music Man"
"Everything's Coming up Roses," Ethel Merman, "Gypsy"
"The Sound of Music"
"Try to Remember," Jerry Orbach, "The Fantasticks"
"Camelot," Richard Burton
"If Ever I Would Leave You," Robert Goulet, "Camelot"
"Hello, Dolly!" Carol Channing
"If I Were a Rich Man," Zero Mostel, "Fiddler on the Roof"
"People," Barbra Streisand, "Funny Girl"
"On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)," John Cullum
"The Impossible Dream," Richard Kiley, "Man of La Mancha"
"Mame," Charles Braswell
"Cabaret," Liza Minnelli
"Aquarius, Ronald Dyson, "Hair'
"Send in the Clowns," Judy Collins, "A Little Night Music"
"All That Jazz," Chita Rivera, "Chicago"
"One," "A Chorus Line"
"Tomorrow," Andrea McArdle, "Annie"
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina," Patti LuPone, "Evita"
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," Jennifer Holliday, "Dreamgirls"
"Memory," Elaine Paige, "Cats"
"The Best of Times," George Hearn, "La Cage Aux Folles"
"I Dreamed a Dream," Aretha Franklin, "Les Mis Derables"
"The Music of the Night," Michael Crawford, "The Phantom of the Opera"
"As If We Never Said Goodbye," Elaine Paige, "Sunset Blvd."
"Seasons of Love," "Rent"

(List via NY Daily News)
Barack Obama is NOT a show tune queen. No actual homosexuals were used or harmed during the creation of the Queen's present. Apparently the Ipod's library is comprised of a double disk set known as "Ultimate Broadway."