Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Boys In The Bond

Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig will be performing in a Broadway show together. IT IS NOT I REPEAT NOT A MUSICAL!
From UK's "The Mirror"

Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman are set to co-star in a Broadway play this autumn.
The New York Post reports that the Hollywood heart throbs will appear in "A Steady Rain," a two character play about Chicago policemen "whose lifelong friendship is put to the test when they become involved in a domestic dispute in a poor neighbourhood".

Hugh, who is currently starring in X-Men film Wolverine, is no stranger to Broadway, having won a prestigious Tony award for his role in the musical The Boy From Oz. But Daniel will be making his Broadway debut.

The play will be produced by Barbara Broccoli, who is also a producer on the James Bond films.

I find it very very interesting that these two are appearing in a "straight play" where they will play cops. Presumably lots of Mametesque dialogue, macho posturing, etc etc. and not in a musical. It seems that these two beefcakes are more "metro" than recent action stars (Jackman as Peter Allen and Tony host, Craig as the first 007 to be as thoroughly objectified as his female costars as well as the first Bond to really show emotions like grief) and yet they don't seem to want to wade into a musical, an artform that seems to have taken its place alongside drag as irrecoverably gay. Maybe there's a simpler reason, maybe Craig can't sing or dance, but I wish these two could appear next season on the Great White Way and not have to hedge their appearance in American theater behind the macho character of cops.

Then again how macho can a show called "A Steady Rain" be? It sounds like a Tova Feldshuh vehicle about a dissolving marriage between a Jew and Gentile during Hitler's rise to power.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Log Cabin Obstructionist

Gay marriage could have been legal TODAY in New Hampshire if it wasn't, in part, for a gay Republican in the New Hampshire Congress.

A week ago Governor Lynch of NH made it very clear that he would sign a marriage equality bill as long as religious groups were exempted from performing same-sex marriages. In Lynch's own words:
This morning, I met with House and Senate leaders, and the sponsors of this legislation, and gave them language that will provide additional protections to religious institutions.

This new language will provide the strongest and clearest protections for religious institutions and associations, and for the individuals working with such institutions.
It will make clear that they cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles.

If the legislature passes this language, I will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. If the legislature doesn’t pass these provisions, I will veto it.

Simple enough right?

Today the state Senate agreed and added the proposed language into the bill voting on party lines. The House however said "no." By two votes no less. Why did the Democrat-controlled House vote against the bill? Reuters has some answers:

State Representative Steve Vaillancourt, a gay Republican from Manchester, was a leading voice against the amendment securing religious liberties, saying that the House should not be "bullied" by the governor.

Vaillancourt said an earlier bill that did not provide protections to clerics or religious groups was the one that should have been passed, adding that the amended bill would allow discrimination to be written into state law.

Ok let's unpack this shall we?

1) It's not bullying for the Governor to ask for a change in a proposed bill that could otherwise cause him huge amounts of political grief. When he ran for office Lynch said he opposed gay marriage. Now he's finally doing what's right but asking for a little political coverage at the same time. Why begrudge him that?

2) The proposed gay marriage bill, even without the wording proposed by the Governor, would not compel religious institutions to perform same-sex unions, so really why fight this?

3) It's called separation of church and state! The Establishment Clause was designed not only to ensure secularity in public life, but to also ensure the government wouldn't encroach on religious liberty.

Hopefully the NH Senate and House will be able to hammer out a workable compromise in committee.

The incredible shrinking party...

A new Gallup poll shows that the only demographic that has not jumped ship from the Republican party to some degree are (drumroll please) regular churchgoers (and unsurprisingly self-described conservatives)! This helps explain why a) the GOP isn't trying to moderate its stable of culture war issues and b) why the GOP is so intent on running moderates on social issues, like Arlen Specter, out of the party. Of course a block vote of churchgoers isn't going to win elections by itself in the near future, and this disadvantage may only get worse as one recent study showed that self-identified atheists and agnostics are a growing demographic in all 50 states. From the NYtimes:

Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.

Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.

What's worse, this slide of Republican support started under Dubya's reign, "Gallup pollsters said the GOP slide began long before President Obama's election last November; Gallup first detected a loss of Republican support in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers and the ongoing war in Iraq."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NPR: Narcotic Public Radio

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to hear a chipper middle-aged NPR correspondent reporting from an 11 hour marathon Peyote ceremony high atop a mountain on the Navajo Reservation here's your chance.

The report is the first in a five-part series exploring mystical experiences and neurology. This first installment was really fantastic, apparently research on psychedlic drugs is getting a major comeback!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thanks but no thanks...

Next time Mormons knock on your door just be glad you're not in Myanmar:

Nobel Winner Suu Kyi charded in Myanmar after American Mormon's Visit.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged Wednesday with breaching the conditions of her house arrest order, quashing hopes she may be released when her current period of detention expires in two weeks. The 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has been detained for 13 of the past 20 years, may face as many as five more years in prison if found guilty...

The charge relates to a U.S. citizen who allegedly swam across a lake to visit Suu Kyi last week, violating a ban on her meeting anyone without permission. The man, 53-year-old John Yettaw, was charged Wednesday with breaching a security law, Nyan Win said...

According to, Yettaw was "described by one member of Aung San Suu Kyi's staff as 'a nutty fellow' [and] a Mormon who reportedly told Burmese exiles in Thailand he was writing a 'faith-based' book on heroism."

Mormons, they truly are everywhere.

In other unsolicited Mormon news, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints confirmed Tuesday [May 5th] afternoon that someone improperly, posthumously baptized the late mother of President Obama into the Mormon faith."

Posthumous baptism of non-Mormons into the LDS Church is not an uncommon practice.

Um...about that economic case against gay marriage...

A day after Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele suggested that Republicans appeal to voters' pocket books when it comes to opposing gay marriage two new studies have shown that gay marriage has been a robust boon to the Massachusetts economy in the five years since its legalization. The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that gay marriage has generated $111 million in revenues for the Bay State and, in a separate study, that "young, highly educated people in same-sex relationships were 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts after 2004 than before gay marriage became legal."

So hateful prick chairman Steele, I agree, let's gage the merits of civil rights based on their economic value, and based on empirical evidence it would appear that gay marriage makes the cut. Hell don't take my word for it, just listen to study co-author M.V. Lee Badgett who believes, "allowing gay couples to marry has helped businesses in tough economic times."

Then again anyone with half a brain cell could figure out that states granting formerly oppressed couples the right to partake in a ritual that is as much consumer spending orgy as it is a life-long vow of commitment would increase revenues. But again don't take my word for it, take Tina Fey's (from 2004 no less, sorry no video available):
Tina Fey: The Massachusetts court decision to allow gay marriages this week may prove to be a divisive issue in the upcoming presidential election. President Bush is likely torn because he has to protect what he sees is a sacred institution, and yet he knows gay marriage would boost the economy. ‘Cause you know those gay guys would go all out. We’re talking about designer wedding cakes, twenty-thousand-dollar sleeveless tuxedos, giant naked-man ice sculptures that pee Mojitos, they’d hire Patti LaBelle as the band, give out African parrots as party favors, it would be redonkulous. So remember, whatever your political beliefs, a vote to allow gay marriage is a vote for a fabulous economy!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Michael Steele, from hilarious diversion to hateful prick

It's all fun and games until somebody loses their civil rights.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has done it again, and his most recent statement puts to shame his past often hilarious pronouncements that he would bring the Republican brand to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings,” that Rush Limbaugh is more than a mere "entertainer," and (to listeners of his radio show) that he would "empathize right on your behind." Yesterday Steele told Republicans they should OPPOSE GAY MARRIAGE ON ECONOMIC GROUNDS, from the AP:
Republicans can reach a broader base by recasting gay marriage as an issue that could dent pocketbooks as small businesses spend more on health care and other benefits, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said Saturday.

Steele said that was just an example of how the party can retool its message to appeal to young voters and minorities without sacrificing core conservative principles...'

'Now all of a sudden I've got someone who wasn't a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for,' Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. 'So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.'

This is just sickening, it's far more offensive than this week's earlier fracas when Arkansas state rep and 2010 GOP senate candidate Kim Henderson referred to Senator Chuck Schumer as "that Jew." Steele is arguing that civil equality and social justice should be halted because, you know, they cost money. What's worse he's suggesting that this shallowest of all possible reasons for opposing gay marriage now be how republicans define the issue.

Not to draw too obvious (or perhaps overly broad) parallels but imagine Dixiecrats campaigning in the Jim Crow South arguing that we can't financially afford a racially integrated society; imagine states in the 19th century, arguing women shouldn't have the right to own property because the economic ramifications would be too great; hell the South argued that the union would go bankrupt if slave labor was abolished. This is the esteemed company Steele's logic for banning same-sex marriage is keeping.

That I, a Gay American, am not worthy of the financial protection that marriage confers is even more hateful than the standard "the bible says it's a sin" argument against same-sex marriage. The sin argument comes down to a difference in religious beliefs, Michael Steele by contrast just came out and said queers aren't worth a dime. What a prick!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jew Can't Be Serious

Now let's examine the strange behaviour of Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania), Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Ted Kaufman (D-Delaware), and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado). All of them Jewish, like me, but who voted today against the interests of American consumers and helped enshrine some of the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes in the process.

Let me explain:

Ever since the 4th Century AD when the Christian church said that clergy could not partake in transactions that charged interest (and the century after when the Church banned all Christians from charging interest), Jews have been tied to the idea of loaning money at high premiums. Jews were not constrained by the New Testament's perceived admonition against money lending for profit, and as a result were utilized by Christian (and similarly interest-prohibited Islamic) kingdoms to raise the capital for their empires that they themselves couldn't. In the Middle Ages in Europe, Jews were prohibited from engaging in manual labor, this was intended to press Jews into the finance industry so that Gentiles could take out loans (charging interest was prohibited, paying it allowed). And even then the Jews didn't exactly get a fair shake (from the online Jewish Encyclopedia):

Christian rulers gradually saw the advantage of having a class of men like the Jews who could supply capital for their use without being liable to excommunication, and the money trade of western Europe by this means fell into the hands of the Jews. They were freed from all competition,and could therefore charge very high interest, and, indeed, were obliged to do so owing to the insecure tenure of their property. In almost every instance where large amounts were acquired by Jews through usurious transactions the property thus acquired fell either during their life or upon their death into the hands of the king.
Gentiles' views of Jews have as a result of this history often in the past fallen pray to stereotypes of the money-obsessed Jew, charging unfair rates, and controlling the banking industry. This has been a bedrock of classical anti-Semitism in everything from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," to Nazi propaganda, to KKK hatred, to drunken Mel Gibson rants. Charging exorbitant interest rates on loans was given the term "usury" in the 14th century, and Jews were routinely referred to as "usurers" such as in Ogden's well-known poem/parable The Hangman: "The third he took — we had all heard tell — was a usurer and infidel, And: "What," said the Hangman, "have you to do with the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?"" Even now, several dictionaries list Shylock, the Merchant of Venice himself, as a synonym for a usurer.
Today the word "usury" persists most commonly in "usury laws," state regulations which prevent the charging of exorbitant interest rates by businesses based in their state. The word usury's current usage is typically devoid of any direct association with Jews, but the association between Jews and interest rates, and more broadly between Jews and money, remains stubbornly intact.

Which brings me back to the four Jewish senators at the top of the post: Specter, Lieberman, Kaufman, and Bennet. Yesterday the Senate voted on H.R.627 "Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009" a bill that would have specifically established a "national consumer credit usury rate." Currently there is no national consumer credit usury rate, instead each state has the aforementioned power to determine a maximum rate of interest that companies operating within state lines may charge consumers. Credit card companies are now freely operating in states like Delaware with NO usury laws, which has resulted in everyone I know being up to their eyeballs in credit card debt.

Specter, Lieberman, Kaufman and Bennet all voted AGAINST the bill that would have helped put an end to usury in the consumer credit market. The other ten Jewish Senators voted for the measure.

So way to knock down those Jews-are-usurer stereotypes guys, and way to look out for the proverbial little guy during our great recession. The bill failed in the Senate 33-60, but the Shylock stereotype lives on.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gaugin is big in Japan

(Click the image for the full painting)

There's a GREAT article in the Boston Globe today about the Gauguin masterwork "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" which is visiting the MFA's sister museum in Japan and causing all sorts of awe-struck wonder:
One woman in the throng of admirers stood in front of the painting and cried. Another had just driven 2 1/2 hours from Osaka to be among the first to get close to it. "I felt goose bumps in my skin," she said after she did. A third, in halting English, struggled to explain the significance of the work, a dark and ambitious meditation on the meaning of human existence. "The picture purifies us," she said exuberantly. "It gives us power and energy."
The Globe story delves deeper into this quasi-religious fervor over the painting noting:

Though the enormous painting is set in Tahiti and has never been seen before in Asia, the Japanese embraced it with a kind of fanaticism usually reserved for their baseball players. Gauguin's work is much loved in Japan, where it has a special resonance, with its subtle references to Buddhism, its embrace of the natural world, and the deep Zen-like riddle of its title...To enhance the visual experience, the Nagoya museum created an unusual viewing setup: Visitors ascend a few steps to stand on a raised platform, as though approaching a venerated shrine
Two thoughts:
1) When was the last time a painting visiting the MFA in Boston caused this kind of jubilation? Even Hopper's "Nighthawks" which took a trip to the MFA two years ago wasn't set up over a raised platform!
2) It's stories like this one that make me glad the Globe is still around: revealing, thoughtful, international but with a Boston focus.

It's the National Day of Prayer, do you know where the Religious Right is?

Answer: Unlike the last eight years, not in the White House.

The holiday which has roiled those of us who believe in a little thing called the Establishment Clause has been celebrated since it was signed into law by Truman at the outset of the Cold War in 1952.

It's one thing to have a non-denominational day of prayer, it's quite another to host an official gathering of far right Christian leaders every year at the White House as Bush did for all his eight years in office. The National Day of Prayer Task Force, the group whose members were the guests of honor during the Bush administration, is an arm of the bat-shit crazy Focus on the Family and is unnervingly militant in its stated goals:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force's mission is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.

Can't imagine why Obama might not want to be associated with that! The Obama administration has sought a middle ground, signing a proclamation noting the National Day of Prayer, arguing against a lawsuit that challenges the day's legality, but not holding an official White House function. Even the Presidential proclamation has been toned down from the Bush era. As the conservative Dan Gilgoff observes in the US News and World Report's God and Country blog:

Whereas Bush's last proclamation focused on the one being prayed to, Obama's focuses on the people doing the praying...Whereas Bush employed overtly Judeo-Christian language when invoking God in last year's proclamation, Obama's goes out of his way to emphasize religious pluralism, even acknowledging nonbelievers...

Needless to say, the Focus on the Family people are none to pleased about this (then again are these people ever happy?), but are keeping their rage in check. Yesterday they released a statement that was politely chiding in tone, "We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama Administration. At this time in our country's history, we would hope our President would recognize more fully the importance of prayer."

This is the second perceived snub this week for the Religious Right. On Tuesday the Family Research Council released a statement excoriating the Jeb Bush, Ginchrich, and Romney lead National Council for a New America (the latest re-branding effort of the Republican party) as not religious enough:

The group's priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas.
I wonder if the FRC knows that their beloved Sarah Palin is also part of this Pizza-eating heathen cabal.

In any event I know what the Religious Right will be praying for on this National Day of Prayer, relevance.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Nationwide, Joe Sullivan is one of only two thirteen-year-old children who received life-without-parole sentences for crimes in which the victims did not die...Both of these sentences were imposed in Florida, making Florida the only state to have sentenced a thirteen-year-old to die in prison for a non-homicide."

--Bryan A. Stevenson in a legal brief challenging the sentence of Joe Sullivan, a case now before the US Supreme Court. Stevenson's quote also reminds us that Florida may soon overtake Texas and California as the state with the most ass-backwards criminal justice system.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide....

It is just getting harder and harder for members of Bush's "Torture Team" to hide from the tough questions:

Days after telling students at Stanford University that waterboarding was legal "by definition if it was authorized by the president," former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was pressed again on the subject yesterday by a fourth-grader at a Washington [Jewish Primary Day] School...Misha Lerner, a student from Bethesda, asked: What did Rice think about the things President Obama's administration was saying about the methods the Bush administration had used to get information from detainees?

Even more impressive, apparently the question was TONED DOWN!

Misha's mother, Inna Lerner, said the question her son had initially come up with was even tougher: "If you would work for Obama's administration, would you push for torture?...They wanted him to soften it and take out the word 'torture.' But the essence of it was the same."

The Boston Globe should hire this Misha Lerner, I'd get a subscription if I knew he was on staff!


Apparently religious groups are altering their worship practices to avoid inadvertently spreading swine flu.

Among the steps being taken by some churches:

Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin, Texas, where 26 cases of swine flu infection have been confirmed, has asked priests not to offer Communion wine at Mass "until more is known about the virus.""It seems that having the public drink from the chalice is an unnecessary risk," Aymond wrote in a public letter on Wednesday (April 29).

Now, I'm not a medical doctor, and I'm not a theologian (heck I'm not even a Christian) but shouldn't swine flu be no match for the blood of Christ?

At least that's what the movies would have me believe.

More evidence Giuliani is a jerk (as if more were needed)...


From the NY POST :
The couple [Koeppel and Hsiao] famously let the ex-mayor crash at their luxury $2.37 million three-bedroom Manhattan apartment while he was going through a nasty divorce with Donna Hanover in 2001. Later, Giuliani married the "other woman," Judith Nathan. " Rudy and Judith were both invited with a beautiful written invitation by mail," said Koeppel. "His secretary called Thursday and said he was not able to come to the wedding and wished us all the best."
Seriously? Gulliani declined through HIS SECRETARY?

You know what? It gets WORSE...

According to Queerty the wedding wasn't some grand fete where one could easily ignore the absence of an important friend of the family, THE NUPTIALS WERE A 10 GUEST AFFAIR.

A follow-up in the POST reveals that Koeppel and Hsiao anticipated Giuliani acting like a douche:

"We're still friends,"...Koeppel said, "I danced at his wedding with [his wife] Judith [Nathan], and it would have been nice if he'd danced at mine." Hsiao said the ex-mayor's snub "did not spoil the day -- we actually didn't expect him to come." Koeppel said, "I understand why he's doing what he's doing. If he decides to run for governor . . . he's a Republican, and he's taking a Republican stand" on same-sex marriage.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The idea of living a multifarious identity is something that has always occurred to me to be absolutely the norm...You could say that everyone, at any one time, is a mother, a lover, a daughter, a sister, a neighbor, a colleague, an antagonist…I’m no more exotic than anybody else.”

Um, I beg to differ...

The exquisite Tilda Swinton interviewed by Amanda Fortini of The Daily Beast.