Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Have a Quick Question Regarding the Military's DADT Study

Will gays, bisexuals and lesbians currently serving in the military be afforded an opportunity to participate in this study that the Department of Defense is conducting, without suffering the consequences of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"

I mean that would seem like a rather incomplete study, if they were excluded completely like I think will be the case. If Obama did an executive order suspending the firings until the study is complete, and guaranteeing immunity to gays, lesbians or bisexuals who participated, then perhaps a more fully fleshed out report could emerge. The report then would include examples of military units currently dealing with quasi-open compatriots, and how that affects say showering or general unit cohesion. To do it differently would be akin to focusing on what white people think, exclusively, about integration issues, and basing conclusions solely from that perspective.

Thoughts on the Tragedy in the Gulf

I don't consider myself an environmentalist. I think that recycling is a great idea, and am sad that my community only nominally supports it. I believe that we can use resources like the wind, the water, and the sun in dynamic and innovative ways (we are the United States after all). And I am a firm believer in historic preservation as an environmentally necessary method of limiting our imprint on the planet.

I've definitely been indifferent to environmental issues surrounding oil. However, after more than a month of watching oil flow steadily into the Gulf of Mexico, and realizing that our government is essentially without viable options to stop it, I am more convinced now than I have ever been that the United States needs get off of the teat of oil. We are too reliant on resources that we don't know how to stop in case of disaster, and we are too dependent on corporations, that care nothing for anything beyond their bottom lines, to resolve problems that they cannot or will not resolve.

The historian in me was jumping for joy to see Rachel Maddow remind her viewers of the oil spill that I'd certainly forgotten about back in 1979. Maddow showed that virtually NOTHING, in terms of how to respond to an oil spill, has changed.

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In this next clip, Maddow shows that she has a viewer in Congress who was willing to ask testifying oil interests about what she saw on "The Rachel Maddow Show." The response was...well, just watch:

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I am almost at a loss for words, almost.

What we are seeing is nothing more than the full fruition of the Reagan Revolution. This is what we get when we shun regulation, deem government as evil (until there is a clusterfuck, right Gov. Jindal?), and put into important positions within government people who are more interested in making sure that their corporate buddies are covered, than being concerned about the well being of the American people.

And what the fuck is "un-American" about trying to hold bad businesses accountable for their failings? It seems to me that we have replaced God with the corporation. Normally, I would try to balance this a bit by saying something to the effect that I am not against capitalism. But you know what, I am totally against what our capitalist system has become. It is not an economic structure of the rising tide lifting all boats. It feels more like the swells of "The Perfect Storm," and that is not an environment that will allow us to remain number one in the world.

The saddest part about all of this is that nothing I've written will help to stop the flow of oil pouring out of that pipeline, bring back to the living the individuals who died on that rig, or stave off millions of gallons of oil washing ashore on the various beaches of the Gulf coast. But I can sat that the ability to have cheap gasoline is simply not worth all of this. I don't give a shit if I am called naive for saying it, but that seems to be what it boils down to. Our society is like a crack whore for oil, and we ain't trying to do no rehab.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vanessa L. Williams Love

The only point I have to this post is to show my love of Ms. Vanessa L. Williams, a true American talent and beauty (and I still remember the night she was crowned Miss America 1984).

"He's Got the Look"


"The Right Stuff"

"The Way That You Love"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

English, Accent Free?

I was reading this article (April 30, 2010) from The Wall Street Journal regarding an effort to remove teachers who have "heavy accents" from English classrooms. It's an interesting read. Over at Think Progress, it was noted that Tom Horne, who put this removal project in motion, used as an example the pronunciation of the word "comma" with a Spanish accent to explain a problematic use of the English language on FNC. A teacher who pronounced "comma" as "COH-ma" would need to be removed from an English class. Now this sounds like a position that one could argue. You want those being taught English to learn it properly, including pronunciation. Fine. Yet, Horne tried to make it clear that Arizona would not be searching for teachers with heavy accents. No, they would be looking for teachers who use faulty grammar. So, why would Horne use, as his example, the demonstration of a heavy accent, as opposed to say improper grammar? Which is it?

Now according to the WSJ article, Arizona recruited a large number of teachers from various countries in Latin America for a bi-lingual education program. Subsequently, as the WSJ article noted, Arizona instituted that an English only instruction in the classroom, and a number of the recruited teachers had to switch from teaching in their native language, Spanish, to English. Now with all of that, why not just come clean and say that this is a way to remove many of these teachers? And why not own up to the fact that Arizona really is focused more on how teachers sound speaking the English language, than if those teachers are actually using proper English grammar?

Think of it this way. I would venture to guess that a student in Arizona might have some difficulty understanding (at first) a teacher with a really strong New England accent, or even a teacher with a really strong Southern accent. Both of those teachers could be trained perfectly in English grammar, but I am guessing that they would not be up for review for possible dismissal. What about a teacher of English from one of the European countries (not including Spain, and perhaps Portugal)? If his/her grammar is stellar, but the accent is strong, would he/she be reviewed?

Someone needs to ask Horne these questions, because I think that this program, as with the Arizona immigration law, and with the banning of ethnic studies courses, has more to do with ethnicity than Horne is willing to admit publicly.

One Step Closer to Repealing DADT

In some instances, news is better than no news. With respect to the U.S. government's ban on gays serving openly in the military, the news that emerged late yesterday was better. It appears that the Congressional Democrats leading the charge on repealing DADT have worked out a deal with gay rights organizations and the White House.

Here is the text of the compromise that I found at both Americablog and Pam's House Blend.

I was surprised to see that there was no specific language banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. I was also surprised to read that there was no specific time table for completing the step necessary to remove DADT from the book, as there is for the additional "study" that has been commissioned. Does this mean that once all of the conditions are met, and the law is repeal, that Obama will then issue an Executive Order mirroring what Truman did in 1948? Again, it's that lack of clear language saying that discrimination based on sexual orientation that is missing, and makes me a little uncomfortable. Meanwhile, as this study is being conducted, I hope that we are looking at the militaries of our allies to see how allowing gays to serve openly has worked over the years.

I am really glad to see movement on this. And I think that the concurrent, though not always coordinated, actions of the various gay rights groups helped to move this forward.

UPDATE (05.26.10): I just finished reading this excellent analysis of the whole DADT compromise from The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld. She mentions one thing that I did not think of, and that was that the compromise says nothing about what happens to the gays currently in the military. It seems that all things remain unchanged. And she adds weight to my wondering about a post repeal Executive Order, which would give Obama better press. What I do find very disturbing, however, is the clear disinterest on the part of the Executive Branch on this subject. Obama really was just talking the talk, and there is no way around that. It confirms for me the notion that gay issues in this administration are seen as politically dangerous. The tea party people might have a better shot at getting the real attention of this White House, if they came with the holy grail of "bipartisanship"(though it's more likely that the tea party set would adopt the tenets of the Black Panther Party before they would consider offering anything resembling help for this President).

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Enjoy the Blogs Over at "The Atlantic"

Check out these posts from Ta-Nehisi Coates, Marc Ambinder, and Andrew Sullivan. I have found that I am to the point of going to "The Atlantic's" website almost daily. Not only are the various writers (including writers with whom I do not agree on political issues) excellent, but the people who leave comments are among some of the most interesting and well informed I've seen online. If you have not had an opportunity to do so, please go to the site, or start with the writers' links I've highlighted, and read away. It's well worth the time.

I Bet Palin's Comment Was a Surprise to Dick Cheney and the Oil Industry

I have to thank Sarah Palin for providing me with a good laugh today. Palin has thrown out, rather willy-nilly, that Obama slow actions on the BP oil spill may be due to his "oil ties." Oil ties? Really? I wonder what Dick Cheney would have to say about that.

I'll just let the record tell the tale on this one. Los Angeles Times. Wall Street Journal.

I am sure that this strange statement from Palin will now become gospel to her followers, regardless of the empirical data showing the contrary (and the truth). It's incredible to witness in real time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Would Love to Do Drinks with Rand Paul

I think I really would enjoy being at a bar, with the Tanqueray gimlets coming continually, and having a good ole political discussion with Rand Paul. I am sure that I would learn a great deal, if he were really open, about his libertarian philosophy, and I would be happy countering his points when I heard weak or suspect (to me) positions. It would be a fun and fascinating time, and I live for opportunities like that. But I also know, based on what I have heard him say of late on a variety of issues, that I would not want Paul representing me in either house of Congress.

From his ruminations about the "problems" regarding the ability of private business owners to discriminate against customers as the owners see fit (here is a comment from a philosophical ally willing to go there), to his latest declaration that Obama was "un-American" for trying to go hard on British Petroleum (BP) for its culpability in the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (which was BP's fault), Rand Paul strikes me as an individual who is not willing to allow the realities or facts to dissuade him from upholding his ideological perspective. That simply won't do.

If Paul intends to become a good politician, he will have to learn the lesson of ideology versus reality (even Sen. Jon Kyl gave the man a verbal oops upside his head). In the mean time, I suppose we will be seeing less of Paul, as he learns how to temper that ideological purity in the face of national media types and their pesky questions.

Maybe I will get lucky and have an opportunity to have that bar discussion with Paul at one of the Hill watering holes on the Senate side once Kentucky sends Paul to Washington (The Monocle maybe, though I would rather get him to The Pug on H Street, NE).

UPDATE (5.24.2010): I just wanted folks to check out this really informative post over at Jack and Jill Politics regarding Rand and Ron Paul. I found some good points raised that I would be happy to ask about during those drinks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Border Idea?

I have a simple question for all of those who say that we need to secure the border: Would you be willing to pay a special tax (perhaps an increased gas tax, and a real increase like $2 or $3) that will go expressly and exclusively toward securing both of our land borders (I am tired of the lack of attention to the Canadian border), as well as our shores?

I ask this not to be funny, but only to see if those who feel so burdened by taxation can identify something for which they would be willing to pay extra.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Really, Richard Blumenthal?

Talk about handing the election over to your competition. Okay, politicians lie, but come on now.

My Thoughts on Financial Reform, and What I Think We Won't Get (Like Real Reform and Real Leadership)

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a veteran of Wall Street, and we were talking about the need for reform. We stressed that those reforms will need to reflect the realities of the complex global economic systems and instruments that are with us now. I firmly believe that we have the intellectual capabilities within our country to resolve these issues; I just don't think that we have really tried. Unfortunately, we are stuck in a bizarre echo chamber that has deemed regulation and oversight as universally bad things, while simultaneously being led to believe that Wall Street had our (regular people) best interests, as opposed to their best interests, at heart. Check out Michael Lind's essay over at Salon for an interesting and quick recitation of our uniquely American versions of capitalism.

I started thinking more about the issue of Wall Street reform as I was reading the Vanity Fair article on the old Pecora Commission following the rise of FDR to the presidency. By the time I finished the article, I was convinced that we, Americans, are currently stuck with people who are either unwilling or unable to reign in the outright thievery that we've seen since the rise of Reagan. And I fully admit my culpability in this, because I was concerned about the progress of my 401(K) and hoped to make money on the market, just like millions of us. But, we are lacking in leadership from all sides here. This is one of the few areas where some liberals and some conservatives agree conceptually, and real leadership would be able to see that in this regard, siding with the American public is the right thing to do altogether (like with DADT).

We need another Pecora Commission, with similar teeth to it (a request made a bit ago). We need political leadership strong enough to withstand the clear push against reform from Wall Street. I am not so sure that the "Angelides Commission" will live up to its predecessor, if only because our government seems even more in bed with Wall Street than it seemed in the '30s. Only time will tell.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On GLBT Parents and Catholic Schools

I guess I'm late. I am just hearing about this situation where the son of a lesbian couple is having his admission into a Catholic school rescinded, because his parents are lesbians. I think that the church is well within its rights to do exactly what it did, and I hope that the ladies don't try to force the church to accept their son.

I think that the hypocrisy of the church's position should be highlighted regularly. Apparently, there are children attending that school who have divorced parents. Why have they not been asked to leave the school? I would think that breaking the sacrament of marriage would be high on the "no-no" list. But, I guess not.

I also think that someone in Massachusetts needs to see exactly how much public money finds its way into that school, and then demand that the school return every penny. If there is public funding going to the school in some way, then the school needs to return that public money and treat all who apply equally, regardless of the status of the parents. But, if there is no public money involved, then I would be the first to say that the church has every right to determine the individuals with whom it wants to associate.

One Humble Opinion Regarding Arizona Banning Ethnic Studies Classes

I have a friend who once told me that he had no interest in visiting an African American historic site, because he did not feel like hearing about how white people oppressed black people. When I heard that Arizona (so soon again, really?) has decided that its elementary and secondary students should not be allowed courses in ethnic studies (African American, Native American, Hispanic American), and that one of the reasons was to deter students from developing a resentment toward a race or class of people (read white folks), I immediately thought about my friend and other white folks who seem uncomfortable when confronted with aspects of American history.

First, there is absolutely no way to provide an honest historical narrative of this country without engaging really tough issues, issues that may enrage some and shame others. No history is pretty. No history is made up of nothing but good feeling stories and anecdotes.

I think that some people think that minorities relish in making white people feel bad for the nasty parts of our shared history. Guess what? Some do. But, there are also a number of white people who want nothing more than to pretend that American history was nothing more than Pilgrims (minus Native Americans, except for Thanksgiving), Founding Fathers (minus the slave holding ones), the Civil War (minus the whole slavery thing), the settling of the Western frontier (minus Native Americans, unless those Native Americans made for American heroes, like Gen. Custer, or the discrimination against Asian workers), WWII and the post-war boom (minus the entrenched segregation and racial discrimination, and racial attitudes of the same era), and the rise of conservatism (as a reaction to what happened during the middle of the 20th century). And that is indeed a triumphant story, but it is not our complete American history.

For all of those people who don't want to deal with "negative" aspects of history, how do you think someone like me felt when I found out my relationship to American slavery and American slaves? I would imagine it would be as similar to the discomfort one may feel when one discovers his/her relationship to American slavery and American slaveholders. It isn't a pleasant story. Slavery was the American "birth defect," as Secretary Condoleeza Rice put it, and we cannot discuss the full scope of our history, as Americans, by pretending it didn't exist, or by pretending its long history didn't have lingering impacts.

It's the same with just about any other racial or ethnic group, from Hispanic, to Irish, to Chinese, to Japanese, to German Americans. There are ugly chapters in our history. One of the things that has made this country great has been it ability, and even it's willingness (to a degree), to discuss these ugly chapters alongside our triumphant chapters. Arizona is doing its students a disservice by taking this tack

I am sure that the author of this legislation has never bothered to sit in on a few (meaning more than one lesson) ethnic studies courses. My guess is that he assumed, as he seems to have done in his various interviews, that these classes were designed and only open to students of that specific background that matches the course. I mean the English literature I studied in AP English back in high school was essentially an ethnic studies class (except that it was called universal), and I didn't leave with resentment toward the Irish. I studied WWII, and I did not harbor any ill will toward German Americans. I didn't look skeptically at Russians after doing a seminar in Cold War Culture, nor did I become resentful of the Japanese during the course of my East Asian survey class in undergrad. I even managed to remain calm at my very very white and male undergraduate school during my time studying African American literature (and I was the only black person in the class). I wonder if any of my white classmates ended up resentful toward me by the end of the final?

I am saying all of this simply to say that what Arizona has done, in thinking it was somehow combating something, is to make it that much more difficult for Arizona students to get an enriched and nuanced (if they wanted it) understanding of American history. I think that even some of the most conservative of historians would agree (I think) that ugly episodes in history cannot be avoided, but it is better to have an understanding of them, than to pretend that they didn't exist, and all to protect (primarily) the sensibilities of white people. Well, that is what I said, essentially, to my aforementioned friend, when he was concerned about his own sensibility as a white man engaging a black historic site.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Movement for Ending DADT (from Some Military Bloggers Now)

The discussion around "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) is getting more fascinating by the day, and it is clear to me that Obama, as well as some among the top brass, are well behind the curve on this from a number of sides. I've posted before that the overwhelming majority of Americans support gays serving openly, and this sentiment goes across political and philosophical lines. People within the military have expressed nonchalant attitudes regarding gays serving. There are gay veterans, including some with horror stories and others with tales of friendship and brother/sisterhood. And all reasonable people acknowledge that gays have been in the military since there was a military.

Again, the Obama administration, and some folks at DOD are behind the curve here. Military bloggers apparently have jumped into the fray by issuing a statement calling for a swift repeal of DADT. The issue will also come up with Elena Kagan's SCOTUS nomination, since she originally supported curtailing military access at Harvard Law, because of the discriminatory practices of the military.

Personally, I would be interested to see if the Congress goes ahead and puts a repeal of DADT into the next Defense Authorization bill, thus killing DADT the way it was born. Would Obama veto it?

Only in the Twisted World of Bay Buchanan...

...can someone with overall academic and work credentials like Justice Sonia Sotomayor and SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan be seen as not representative of the "best and the brightest." I suppose it doesn't help that in Buchanan's mind Obama represents the worst of what affirmative action has wrought. Perhaps, for Buchanan, we need to go back to the good old days prior to the appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor, or better yet Thurgood Marshall, when the real "best and brightest" were considered for appointments to the Court.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Appreciating Music from Some of My Sistas of the UK

I've been taking a bit of a break from listening to pop music, preferring mostly "old school" hip hop, and my beloved "adolescent music" from the '80s. But, I have to say that some of the black and multi-racial ladies of the UK are slowly drawing me back in. Corrine Bailey Rae, Estelle, VV Brown, and Rox (Sade is always there in the mix) have been putting out some really interesting and fun music. They remind me of the days back when I was all about Sade, Loose Ends and Soul II Soul.



On the Passing of Lena Horne

I was just about to go to bed Sunday night/Monday morning when I saw the report that Lena Horne had passed away, and then my heart sunk. I fell in love with Lena Horne when I was a kid. She was the "Glinda the Good Witch" in "The Wiz," and she was a guest on "The Muppet Show." I remember watching the old black musicals, including "Stormy Weather" and "Cabin in the Sky," with my family. My late grandfather was a big fan, as were many of his college classmates and fellow soldiers, and for an obvious reason: Lena Horne was stunningly beautiful.

I think that it is wonderful that President and Mrs. Obama released a statement regarding Horne's passing (H/T to Rod 2.0). Indeed, she deserved that level of recognition. And, when I think of it, we've now lost two titans of the Jim Crow/Civil Rights era (Dr. Dorothy Height). I love that Horne was unapologetic in her Civil Rights efforts, she really was a "steel magnolia," and I am sure that it took a toll on her over time.

I really did come to enjoy some of her later recordings, especially "We'll Be Together Again" and "Being Myself." Horne's rendition of "Autumn in New York" can make you want to pack your bags today. And when I think of "We'll Be Together Again," I hope that Ms. Horne is kicking up with her beloved Billy Strayhorn, one of her closest friends, who also happened to be gay. I also loved to watch Horne perform. That flash of the eyes that she would give could just melt your heart, and bring you in even more.

I am not doing this as well as I would like, or as well as Horne deserves. I will just say that I was in near tears as the retrospectives played on Monday. I also have to say that Rachel Maddow has now moved into a special category in my mind and heart for the tribute that she gave to Lena Horne last night. It was an incredibly pleasant surprise, and a very moving tribute.

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Here are some video clips of the lovely, and incomparable Lena Horne. So many can stand to learn from the example she set.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

George Rekers: Schadenfreude Indeed

When I heard about this whole thing with Family Research Council co-founder George Rekers hiring a dude from, I have to admit that I was not really surprised (and the hits just keep on coming). This type of news holds little shock at this point, because it seems to happen way too often. And because so many men, like Rekers, have been so utterly hateful in their determination to harm the GLBT community, I have no sympathy whatsoever. Schadenfreude is indeed the appropriate term to express my feelings for people like this. So, instead of getting all philosophical about this sitch, I think I will let two of my favorite people on television address the issue.

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The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alpha Dog of the Week - George Rekers
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Friday, May 7, 2010

You Know When a Reporter from Fox News Stands Up for the Obama administration...

...then whatever it was the administration did must have been "Helen Keller could see it" true. In this case, it's this weak GOP effort to make the oil spill into Obama's "Katrina." Check out this link, and then look at this Fox News clip.

Politically, I understand the urge for the GOP to try to go there. The Bush administration's response to New Orleans was totally shameful (and for those who will be itching to say it, yes, the overall government response was a total mess). But, the GOP needs to be smarter about this. Actually, I might be asking too much there.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nashville Flooding

I am a big supporter of preserving our American musical legacy, particularly the historic sites related to that history, so I was obviously curious about what has happened in Nashville. The images look truly tragic, and I hope that those historic sites related to country music and gospel music either made it through, or can be restored to their full glory. Both country and gospel are quintessential American music forms, and I am sure that preservation organizations from the National Trust to local Tennessee organizations will be working to help in anyway that they can.

"Riverdale High School's" New Gay Student, and I Am Glad He's Finally There

When I was a kid, I was all about "Archie," "Veronica," "Betty," "Jughead," "Reggie," and "Riverdale High." I think that many of my ideas about what high school was going to be like were formulated as I read one "Archie" comic after another. I loved that most grocery stores where I grew up had the comic books strategically located in the checkout lines. I even ordered (with my parents' permission) copies through the mail. With all of that in mind, one can imagine my reaction to hearing about the new gay character Kevin Keller.

I remember wondering so vividly how a gay kid like me would fit in at "Riverdale High." And even with the decidedly odd Christian turn that the comic's storylines took when I was a kid, I still had that question (ridiculed is the likely answer). I identified with "Jughead" in my lack of interest in girls. I was probably like "Dilton Doiley," since I was in the smart set at school, and I definitely identified with "Chuck Clayton," because we were both black. In an ideal "Riverdale" world, I would have been a combination of those three characters in a darker "Moose" body.

It will be interesting to see what the folks at Archie Comics do with "Kevin." Will he get a boyfriend? Will there be some misunderstanding about "Jughead's" lack of interest in the ladies? If Kevin does get a love interest, I think it would be cool to let him be black or latino or asian (actually, it would be cool to have "Chuck Clayton" come out as well, and go for "Kevin").

I am glad that Archie Comics decided to go in this direction. It's going to be cool for the young gay kids coming up, who look to "Archie" and his crew for an understanding of how adolescence and high school might be, to see a gay character in that mix. Yet, as excited as I am about the move, I am more than confident that there are people who will now bar their children from ever learning about the fun and crazy world of "Riverdale." That will be a real shame, because I learned many good lessons (even from some of the Christian issues) about being a decent person, something that millions of us need reinforced on a daily basis.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sic Semper Foolishness

When I heard that the Virginia AG decided to modify the seal of the Commonwealth, I quietly hoped that Virtus herself would come down from the heavens and give him a good what for over this nonsensical hullabaloo. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if Cuccinelli found some of the artwork of da Vinci or Michaelangelo offensive to his clearly delicate sensibilities.

And this is what my home state felt was needed in the office of the Attorney General. It says so much.