Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Facebook of the Day

From DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is one of my facebook pals:

"Nothing could be sadder than going to a service for a man you respected, who died in the Metro collision, than going to the service of Gen. David Wherley and his wife, Ann, at the Armory where he worked and lavished love on D.C., especially our kids. Their cremated remain in one modest wooden vessle. Enough of sadness. Off to Martha's Vineyard for a few days."

Well, I'm glad she could overcome her grief.

Irony Alert

Signs posted on major highways into DC:

"July 4th Events Downtown. Avoid Delays. Take Metro."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Search and Rescue

We were hiking in the Shenandoah National Park yesterday when our dog, Dixie, spotted something and gave chase. She did not come back.

We looked and waited and re-walked the trail and no signs of her. We're going back today. The trail we were on started at the cabin we were renting so there is at least a chance that she would find her way back there.

But if we don't find her, she is wearing a tag with our name and phone number.

Anyway, that's why posting has been light.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mayor Fenty's Conservation Corps Makes Its Own Work

Leaving the house this morning to walk my dog in my Columbia Heights neighborhood I find this door-hanger flyer lying on my front steps, near the sidewalk. In case you can't read this, it says:

"The Mayor's Conservation Corps -- We're here to help clean and green your neighborhood! "

Apparently their first act of conservation was to conserve the energy it would have taken to walk all the way up to my door to actually hang the flyer. Clearly they set a good example for the Pizza Mart guy who, impressed with their energy saving maneuver, saved his own energy and placed his flyer thoughtfully on top of Conservation one.

And it wasn't that my stairs are overly steep. I found the Conservation Corps "We're here to green your neighborhood" flyer on the sidewalk, in a neighbor's fenced-in yard, on other front stair steps and the street gutter. I guess when they said they would "green" the neighborhood what they meant was littering it with green flyers.
















Hopefully their second act will be to walk back through the neighborhood and pick them up.

And while we're on the subject of conservation -- perhaps the cash-strapped District could have conserved a few dollars and not printed the green litter brochures in the first place. There are abundant community blogs and listserves they could have spread the word to at no cost and without the trashy residue.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Obamas

David Link sees two Obamas: One who bodly addresses the thorny problems of the Middle East and one who shirks from (surely less) thorny gay issues.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In the Tank

The newest addition to my aquarium, a purple firefish. He (or she) was immediately shoved around (literally) by the Damselfish. I'm nervous about he (or she) making it...but she (or he) did show interest in food this morning (though didn't eat). I'm hoping he (or..) oh hell, it eats tonight. If so I think it'll make it. If not...

Remember, this is a relaxing hobby.

UPDATE: Fish ate a nice portion of mysis shrimp this morning.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gays on the Back Burner

Accepting, for the moment, that Obama is sincere in his pro-gay positions, it's clear the Administration has given absolutely no thought or had no discussions about fulfilling campaign promises to gays. They've been caught with their pants down by this uproar and have bungled just about every aspect.

We've been put on the back burner (which led to DOJs throwing us under the bus and backing over us a few times).

And why not? Where else do we have to go? No one is under any illusions that we would be better off with McCain in the White House (with the possible exception of the deranged GOPride folks). Hey, we've got a financial crisis and two wars and health care to fix -- the gays can wait. They're not going anywhere.

And if this were October, 2012, and all that transpired this past week happened then, and it was Romney and Obama on the ballot, where would our dollars and votes go? Would we sit it out?

Sometimes to be gay in America feels a bit like being a man without a country.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obama Throws the Gays a Bone, Part II

Taking a break from writing fiction, Alan Scott writes me:

"Gay rights are a bitter pill for most people to swallow, so we have to take baby steps to turn negative public opinion to our side. I know that we are pinning a lot of hopes on Obama but sweeping changes aren't going to happen overnight. Baby steps, although frustratingly slow, are how we have to gain our freedoms. :)"

There is some doubt that this was even a step, or if it was, it was a step in place. John Arovosis claims Federal agencies already had the ability to offer these benefits. And the claim that Obama couldn't offer health benefits because of DOMA is at the least debatable because DOMA defines marriage -- not domestic partnership. And the benefits offered in the presidential memo go to domestic partners, not same sex spouses.

It may make some political sense to cheer Obama for this "step." I admit it was striking to see Frank Kameny at the President's shoulder in the Oval Office.

But my fear is that this was a cynical ploy on the part of the White House to smooth over relations with the gay community. In fact, that's what the New York Times reported:

"But administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended to help contain the growing furor among gay rights groups..."

There is the growing sense that Obama's actions are the exact opposite of his words. He claims to be a "Fierce Advocate" for gay rights, but as the Washington Post notes today:

"Obama's memorandum, designed to be both incremental and pragmatic, typifies the cautious way he has approached gay issues since taking office five months ago."

Obama claims to find DOMA "abhorrent" yet allows his DOJ to advance some of the most abhorrent notions about gay people possible to defend it. Much has been made of the brief's comparison to incest, but to me the most offensive is the claim that if gay people want to marry, they can -- they just have to marry someone of the opposite sex! See, no inequality! To me, that denies our existence and our humanity -- it stands contrary to the fact that gay people require someone of the same sex to meet their physical and emotional human needs, just as straight people require someone of the opposite sex for fulfillment. It's a view that is rooted in pre-nineteenth century scholarship about homosexuality.

Finally, you say that "sweeping changes aren't going to happen overnight." But in a sense, they are -- the recent successes for same sex marriage at the state level augur for some type of sea change. But let's leave the more vexing question of marriage aside for a moment.

As Sean Bugg has been hammering home, 70 percent of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly in America's armed forces. Obama claims he will remove DADT but has taken no steps in that direction, despite the fact that a vast majority of Americans would support him on it. Even the pragmatic "incremental steps" mentioned early are absent here -- the Pentagon says there has been no talks about changing the policy and apparently there hasn't even been staff level discussions about it between the White House and Senate leadership. Apparently Obama and Sen. Harry Reid are staring at each other from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue pointing at each other saying "you do it!"

"Fierce Advocate." Hrmph.

I'm glad every day that John McCain is not in the White House. But until I see action indicating otherwise, President Fierce Advocate is a dud on gay rights.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama Throws the Gays a Bone

Obama is extending Federal benefits to partners of federal employees.

The gays were just thrown a bone.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful. Yes, it's progress. It's a step. But it's a baby step. Obama just had the Feds do what many large corporations did in the 1990s.

It doesn't make up for the incendiary language of the DOJ brief; it doesn't end the sweeping inequality that gays live under because of DADT and DOMA. If the gays are impatient it's because we were promised "change" and taking incremental baby steps as a means to placate our demands for full equality is also something that harkens back to the 1990s. Been there, done that, Mr. Fierce Advocate. It's not change. It's more of the same.

Understand this -- our relationships are trashed by federal law and demonized by the current DOJ. In fact, that brief denies the core of who we are -- a people who's emotional and physical needs are best met by a partner of the same sex. Obama's DOJ denies that by arguing that if we want equal marriage rights all we have to do is marry someone of the opposite sex. Mr. Obama -- the Federal government recognizes your humanity and need to marry the person of your choice. Why are we denied the same? The law makes us unequal Americans and you have done nothing to change that and this latest move does not change that.

America has higher ideals than this, Mr. President. But we lag behind many other nations who recognize their gay citizens' humanity and recognize their equal right to marry and serve in the military. I would have more rights in the Queen's England than I do now in Thomas Jefferson's America.

We can do better than this. You can do better than this.

I am glad that the community is in an uproar. As Americans, we will not put up with being treated as second-class citizens.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pride Festival

I had a great day signing up people for DC For Marriage yesterday. Along the way I ran into many good friends from DCDD, GMCW, Metro Weekly and others. It felt like a family reunion.

After I signed up more than 150 folks in support of DC marriage equality (Yes, we will email you. You will need to take action. This will not happen without you). I scarfed down some festival "food." I asked for a kebob and somehow ended up with a faux-chicken gyro. I was in too good a mood to quibble. Just nibble.
I was happy because so many people seem energized politically. Pride can serve a purpose other than going to a party by enabling our organizations to reach people -- and organize.

HRC Wakes Up

A well done letter from HRC taking Obama to task for the anti-gay DOJ court brief.

Just remember, Joe -- accept action, not words.

(Michael, where are you...I've been expecting you to pop up here and say "told ya so!")

Obama Owes an Apology -- of Action

David Link walks through what likely may have "allowed" the offensive Obama DOJ anti-gay legal brief to be written and filed. I agree with his call-to-action:

The ball is now in the President’s court. He owes us an apology – and not one of words, but one of action. Signing a hate crimes bill won’t do it. Nor will an additional imprecation to Congress to do something about DOMA. It is he who was elected President with the explicit promise that gay equality would be on his agenda. What Presidents do is lead, and after this anything less than the kind of leadership he shows on other issues will be confirmation of a betrayal of those like me who voted for him in good faith.

Iran (continued)

Statement by the Iranian Queer Railroad (Canadian-based group that helps gay Iranians escape persecution in Iran):

Three days after upholding an election that saw tens of millions of Iranian citizens participate in an unprecedented display of hope for "change" in the social, economical, cultural and political aspects of the society, the cities of Iran have become scenes of violent crackdown against people by police and intelligence forces. A large number of people, political activists and journalists have been detained; cellular phone services have been disconnected, access to the Internet has been made virtually impossible, and almost all of the newspapers and publications reflecting reformist or other critical perspectives have been shut down.

Despite the overwhelming participation of the supporters of the two candidates running against Ahmadinejad in this election, and the widespread proliferation of the slogans of "Hope, Reform, and Change", the ministry of state, only hours after the voting deadline, announced Ahmadinejad as the outright winner amid a wave of shock and disbelief; an announcement that was very quickly acknowledged and officially supported by the supreme leader of Iran.

What the supporters of the two reformist candidates and the opposition against Ahmadinejad are correctly calling "wizardry" and "coup d'├ętat" against the will and choice of the people, is a virtual martial law in the streets and universities aimed at a severe crackdown and bloody suppression of the protesting voices.

Overwhelming evidence supports the case that there has been an unprecedented rigging of the results of the tenth presidential elections, evidence that is not only supported by the voters and the representatives of the people at voting stations, but is also acknowledged by the staff of the ministry of state and an established group of well-known clergy.

"Majmaae Rohanyoone Mobarez", which has the former reformist president Mohammad Khatami as a member, has declared the elections "rigged" and called for cancellation or recount of the ballots.

Opposing the true will of the people and their struggle for reform and change, by resorting to organized governmental fraud and the bloody crackdown of the masses, is a clear cut demonstration of severe violation of human rights in a large county where millions of citizens have resorted to their most basic legal right, to arrive at freedom, justice, civic rights, and a friendly relationship with the rest of the world in accordance with international laws and human rights codes.

"Multiple Voices for Change", representing a number of Canadian-Iranian citizens, condemns the harsh crackdown on the Iranian people by the Ahmadinejad government, and calls for human rights organizations and the government of Canada to support the movement of the Iranian people in the name of getting their vote and rightful president back. Crackdown on the Iranian citizens, going against humanity and human rights, and governmental fraud, will not remain contained within the boarders of Iran.

We ask those whose voices echo with us all around the world, regardless of their particular positions in relation to the election, not to leave the Iranian people alone in this uneven fight. Please contact your governments and ask them to support Iranian people and DO NOT indorse the Iran election result.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ari's Plea

The WaPo reports on the Iranian elections this morning as a done deal -- but following the story online shows the situation to be much more dynamic. I'm reposting my Iranian friend Ari's request for help and vigilance:

To all non-Iranian friends: please help spread the news of the outrage and disgust of the Iranian people with the election results. The western media is very conservative at the moment regarding this blatantly fraudulent election. This is some sort coup d'etat....This is not the will of the Iranian puplic; they are mostly in shock or despair, and the braver ones are being mercilessly beaten on the streets.

By "conservative" I think he means with a smal; "c," not in the liberal vs. conservative political sense.

And here's what happened overnight, from a HuffPo reader via Andrew Sullivan:

"My next door neighbor is an Iranian immigrant who came here in 1977. He just received a SAT phone call from his brother in Tehran who reports that the rooftops of nighttime Tehran are filled with people shouting 'Allah O Akbar' in protest of the government and election results. The last time he remembers this happening is in 1979 during the Revolution. Says the sound of tens of thousands on the rooftops is deafening right now."


And because cell phones and access to Facebook and Youtube have been shut down by the Iranian Government, this "Allah O Akbar" protest was organized by Twitter. Seriously.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Random Thoughts on the Pride Parade

I marched with the Marriage for DC contingent in D.C.'s Pride Parade this evening. Devoted Scott's Take readers and personal friends may be surprised to hear that, given my experience two years ago.

Well, the marriage issue has got me wanting to take to the streets again. So, here are some random thoughts about the parade:

  • It didn't rain. I have yet to march in a gay pride parade with rain. So if you wanna march dry, better make sure I'm there.
  • Wow, some spectators were really drunk.
  • There seemed to be more people than ever.
  • DCDD Drum line lookin great!
  • The DC Cowboys may look Brokeback Mountain, but they seem to be increasingly clubbish in their repertoire. Still hot, though.
  • The Food and Friends float, and the drag queen in the grocery bag costume, were my favorite.
  • Lots of bride drag. I'm not sure that really helps. Oh well, not everything has to be taken seriously. I'm learning.
  • The DC for Marriage contingent was well received. A group in front of the Crew Club was exceptionally enthusiastic. Hmmm.
  • I liked the chant, "When I say 'dee-cee' you say 'marriage.' 'Dee-cee:' 'Marriage!' 'Dee-cee!" Marriage!" It was easy on the throat and since they didn't give us water that became really important for loud chanting, especially by 17th street.
  • Why do they have announcers at reviewing stands? Every group has people carrying a big banner with their name printed boldly on it. I think it takes away from what the people on the street are doing. I felt that way as head of a marching band; I felt that way as a dry-throated chanter.
  • If every person who took one of our cards signs our petition and gets five of their friends to do the same...wow! Pride matters politically this year more than ever, and in the next several years to come. Rather, it matters if we use the annual gathering to really come together and organize. Which means giving us your email address, people!

Iran

My friend Ari is Iranian and he has sent out an urgent plea, which I'm passing on to you:

To all non-Iranian friends: please help spread the news of the outrage and disgust of the Iranian people with the election results. The western media is very conservative at the moment regarding this blatantly fraudulent election. This is some sort coup d'etat....This is not the will of the Iranian puplic; they are mostly in shock or despair, and the braver ones are being mercilessly beaten on the streets.

The Daily Dish has a good coverage of historic events in Iran.

Pride

I'm going. If for no other reason than to find the Democrats' booth and ask them, "WTF?"

A Gay Soldier's Husband

Via Jimbo.

What it's like to be a "legal stranger" to the most important person in your life.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama Admin Defends DOMA

And in pretty vile ways to boot.

Forget the call for a March on Washington in October. How about a March on the White House this weekend? It's Pride weekend here in Washington, so lets take all those thousands of queers who will be here up to Layfette Square at 1600 Penn. on Sunday.

Federal Security Clearance Interview

Yesterday I was interviewed by an Office of Personnel Management investigator who is looking into the background of a friend of mine for her security clearance as an appointee in the Obama Admin.

Here's part of the interview:

Q: What types of social events did you and she attend together?

A: We used to go down to the Hookah bar and hang out after our al Qaeda sleeper cell meetings.

Those Federal agents have no sense of humor.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Re-Asking the Same Sex Marriage Question

Polling guru Nate Silver points out that Americans are more likely to be okay with marriage equality if asked the right question. Via Gay Politics:


When gay marriage is polled, it is almost always framed as a positive right, as in: “should the government permit Adam and Steve to get married?"

But there is a different way to frame the question that is no less fair, and flips the issue on its head. Namely: “should the government be allowed to prohibit Adam and Steve from getting married?“. This is closer to the logic embodied by the court decisions in Iowa, California, Massachusetts, and other states. Those courts didn’t create gay marriage; they argued, rather, that it was already protected by their respective state constitutions.

Quote of the Day

At the end of the WashPo story about the Holocaust Museum gunman, this from one of Van Brunn's fellow travelers on the shooting at the museum:

"The responsible white separatist community condemns this," he said. "It makes us look bad."

Umm, no. At least, it's not the first thing that makes you look bad.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Scenes from the Aquarium

This is one of my coolest saltwater aquarium residents, a green serpent starfish. He hides in the rocks until feeding time. When that happens he can move with surprising speed toward the food. I have almost got him taking pieces of cooked shrimp from my hand.

The blur to the left is a Damsel fish. Damsels are known for their hardiness -- and their aggressiveness. This particular Damsel I have named "Hitler" for he is the meanest of the Damsels. And a killer -- he killed one of the other Damsels in the first week. His method is to "hit" a fish over and over, biting. Which is why "Hitler" is such an apt name (as opposed, say, to "Osama"). He is working on killing another fish, whom I've named "Lazarus." Because I've given him up for dead several times after Hitler's relentless attacks. But he keeps coming back.

The most peaceful fish in my tank is a Yellow Tang, whom I've named "Wanda." If you can see the short spikes of white by her tail they are in fact spikes, which she used to keep Hitler at bay when she was introduced to the tank. Now he doesn't bother her and she minds her own business, grazing on the algae. Unfortunately for me (but not for her) there's a banquet of algae for her to feast on.

The Right to Bare Arms...and Everything Else

Nudists lobby Congress. It should be an easy sell, since so many members can't seem to keep their pants on.

Swoopy Bird Gets Humans

We have one of these birds in our neighborhood. We call it the "swoopy bird."

No humans were harmed in the making of this video.

Here's Where I Stand

From the Musical Camp, which I have not seen. But it's a great song. Happy Pride.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Supreme Court Thows Out DADT Challenge

Apparently, granting a request of the Obama Administration, which argued: "don't ask, don't tell" is "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion."

Hmm.

Must be part of the plan.

Friday, June 05, 2009

HRC, Obama and the Gays

I think John Aravosis has a compelling interpretation of the HRC/Obama "agenda setting" flap, particularly this:

"Many of us have been worried that the Obama administration might be trying to Sista Souljah the gays (i.e., distance themselves from the gays to show just how independent, how "new Democrat," they really are). The irony is that the embattled lead gay groups, in order to survive in an increasingly angry post-Prop-8, and increasingly expectant post-MA-NH-VT-IA-ME-CT, world, may end up having to Sista Souljah Obama in order to regain credibility in the eyes of their own members. And if that happens, I can't name a single Democrat (or Republican for that matter) in recent memory who's been on the receiving end of our ire and walked away unscathed."

As President Obama has to be careful not to be too far in front of public opinion. But he also must not get trampled in its wake.

Ironic

David Carradine was in Bangkok filming a movie -- titled "Stretch."

Did HRC Throw Gay Service Members Under the Bus?

Sean Bugg provides info and links to the breaking news that HRC made a "deal" with the White House to put off repealing DADT in favor of ENDA and Hate Crimes legislation.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama Apologizing to Terrorists

I don't have to watch Rush or get Newt's Tweets to know that's the meme launched by the wingnuts over Obama's speech in Egypt and his comment that after 9/11 America lost sight of its values.

Truth is, we did. George Bush & Company (and this includes Congress) put "safety" as the sole touchstone to justify their actions. And when your only value is "safety" and you give in to your fear you can justify any action, no matter how draconian. As I've written about before, I believe we must pursue life (i.e., "safety") and liberty, a Jeffersonian construct.

Obama's saying it didn't reveal a secret shame. The whole world has seen the Abu Grahib photos and Gitmo is no state secret.

And to those who say it's a weakness to admit we were wrong I ask, is that what you teach your children? To pretend you're right, refusing to admit error while everyone you know is aware of your mistake?

We know what that looks like. We just had eight years of it.

This is, indeed, change.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Air France Flight 447: Turbulence CAN Bring Down a Jet

The crash of the Air France flight caught my attention, not only because of the tragedy itself, but because I'm a nervous flier and I tell myself that jets just don't drop out of the sky.

More specifically, whenever I'm flying and we encounter "rough air" (my second favorite flying euphemism, with "water landing" being the first) I tell myself (repeatedly and urgently) that turbulence can't bring down a jet plane. Why, they fly planes into hurricanes!

Turns out, yes turbulence CAN bring one down. Here's what a commercial pilot blogging at Flight Level 390 has to say:

"A thunderstorm is a violent and scary entity. It has the power, and I mean real power, to easily rip the wings from an A330, or any other make or model of aircraft. No problem whatsoever."

Oh great.

On a recent flight to Louisville we encountered "rough air." And the woman sitting on the window grabbed the arm of the man in the center seat. Apologetically, she said "I'm a nervous flier and my husband isn't here. Do you mind?" He didn't, of course. And a few bumps later I started eyeing his arm closest to me.

"Turbulence can't bring down airplanes" I told myself, and quelled my desire to grab the man's arm.

Now I don't think I could be that calm.

So how do I buy airline tickets for seats next to hot, tolerant men?

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Washington Post and the Wone Murder Case

The Washington Post is running a feature story on the Robert Wone murder case on it's online entity, Washingtonpost.com.

Robert Wone was murdered at the home of friends after working late one night. Wone was straight -- his friends were gay and in a three-way relationship. And one of them heavily in S&M.

Since there is nothing new so far in the Post's story about the case, and, in fact, none of the key parties in the case would even grant the paper a fresh interview, one can only draw the conclusion that the Post is using the sorid details of the crime to drive traffic to its Web site.

And then there is the way the reporter links "gay families" to three-ways and S&M. Here's an excerpt, read all the way to the end. The final sentence in this segment stopped me cold for its implicit suggestion about our families:

(the three men who lived in the house where Wone was killed are Victor Zabrosky, Dylan Ward and Joseph Price)

"To give jurors in the obstruction-of-justice trial a fuller picture of the housemates, the U.S. attorney's office said, it will seek to introduce evidence of their intimate connections. In addition to Price's spousal union with Zaborsky, authorities said in court filings, Price and Ward were involved in a "dominant-submissive sexual relationship," which prosecutors said is relevant to the case in light of what they think happened to Wone.

Ward kept a wide array of esoteric sexual implements in his Swann Street bedroom, many of them designed to inflict pain, according to a police affidavit. Investigators said Price used the name "culuket" on the Web and posted a member profile on the fetish-oriented site Alt.com, listing "electrotorture" among his "activities enjoyed." Culuket's posting listed a dozen other favored sex practices, described in explicit terms, and sought a third man to join a sadomasochistic relationship with "me and my dom."

Later, in a police interrogation, Zaborsky would refer to his and Price's emotional commitment to each other, saying Ward did not "share an equal part" in that relationship. But he added, "We're trying to develop it in that way."

A respected law partner. A successful marketing manager. A direct-mail fundraiser studying for a massage license.

A gay family. "