Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The GOP vs. a Climate Scientist

You can pretty much guess the outcome of this contest:

So, this last guy says he won't believe what climate scientists have to say about climate science because they are professional climate scientists. Can anyone explain to me why that makes sense? And who exactly does he think he can trust on these issues, the oil companies financing his campaigns?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Governor Brewer's Plight

With both houses of Arizona’s legislature having passed SB1062 which would allow the state’s business owners to deny service to patron based on religious beliefs - which many believe would target the LGBT community - the question now becomes what will governor Jan Brewer do: sign or veto? There are of course people who are urging her to sign the bill in support of religious liberty. But there are many who are urging her to veto the bill.

Some of the people and groups in opposition to the bill, which has been dubbed the “Turn Away the Gays” bill, are not very surprising. Many LGBT groups have denounced the bill. George Takei specifically is suggesting a boycott of the entire state should the governor sign the bill. The mayor of the state’s largest city - Phoenix - is also against it. As happens with many state bills that support discrimination, many businesses and business groups have also come out against this measure. According to Outsports, with the 2015 Super Bowl located in Arizona, not to mention the state being home to a football team (the Cardinals), even the NFL has weighed in:
Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.
The idea has even been mentioned by the Governor Jack Markell (D-DE)  that should the bill become law, the Super Bowl should be moved. This is not without precedent, though such a decision would not be made until the end of March if at all. Other businesses have also cautioned the governor against signing the bill into law. These businesses include Apple Inc., which, according to Think Progress, is slated to start construction on a facility in the state that will provide approximately 700 permanent jobs plus hundreds of construction jobs. Studies have shown that discriminatory policies are bad for business, which explains why so many businesses and chambers of commerce either denounce such measures, have anti-discrimination policies of their own, or both.

Some of the calls for a veto are coming from some…less than expected sources. Both of Arizona’s U.S. senators - Jeff Flake and John McCain, both fellow Republicans, and neither of whom have been friends of the LGBT community - have made public statements against the bill.

Tuesday night, former GOP banner-bearer and presidential candidate Mitt Romney called for a veto. Hours later, former Republican Speaker of the U.S House of Representatives Newt Gingrich did said via Twitter that in Governor Brewer‘s position, he would veto the bill. Even three state legislators who voted for the bill have now reversed course, including one of the bill’s cosponsors, Bob Worsley. Two of Worsley’s fellow Senate Republicans - Steve Pierce and Majority Whip Adam Driggs - issued a statement made available to Huffington Post that asked Governor Brewer to veto the bill. 

After all of this backlash and bad press, legislators who voted for and still support the bill are avoiding the press like the plague. 

During the day on Tuesday, reports swirled that Brewer was likely to veto the bill. These claims were, hours later, denied by the governor’s office (Brewer was not even in the state at the time). Brewer has been a bit of a wild card, very unpredictable. She issued a statement saying she would do what is right for Arizona with this bill. What is right is very subjective, and even with so many forces arrayed against this bill - from both left and right - what she will do is anyone’s guess.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Michael Sam Does Matter

As everyone and their grandmother is aware by now, an NFL Draft prospect - Michael Sam, formerly of Mizzou - has come out as gay and could become the first athlete in a major American league to be openly gay. While the majority of the response has been positive and supportive, there has been some negativity because…some people just can not help themselves with the usual arguments which are sometimes masked as concerns.

There were responses regarding the locker room culture and, more specifically, the showering dynamic. Jonathan Vilma of the New Orleans Saints went on record in an interview saying that he was afraid of being looked at if a teammate was gay. Here are the facts. 1) Somewhere in a football player’s career, whether grade school, college, or professionally, they were on a team with at least one gay man (open or not)…and they showered with him. Everyone survived the experience. 2) Straight guys look, even though they probably won’t admit it. 3) These guys worrying about being looked at are assuming that this guy finds them attractive, which is really arrogant. Seriously, the people who are afraid of being looked at need to grow up and calm down. It is human nature to observe one’s surroundings and there is no inherently sinister motive behind that.

There were the responses that Michael’s revelation has caused his draft stock to drop, including former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards. In fact, within hours of the story breaking, many people went from saying he’d go in round three or four to round five, six, or lower. The reason they gave was that franchises believe this would be a substantial media distraction. First of all, Michael came out three and a half months before the draft. Second, it will be even longer than that before the next season even starts. The league, the team, the media, and the public have plenty of time to absorb this story before the beginning of the regular season. Cyd Ziegler of Outsports had the best response to the particular fear of a team being distracted. Any organization that can’t handle whatever media coverage they may get and would crumble merely by having an openly gay teammate is already a weak team, and their season is already doomed.

There were the responses which were just plain hateful. A wrestler from Kent State tweeted about being annoyed over ESPN devoting so much airtime to “that fag.” After others on Twitter called the wrestler on his homophobia, he hurled more anti-gay slurs at them too. I don’t think I need to say much about that…Kent State however said plenty by suspending him indefinitely. All I will say is that people like this wrestler are saying more about themselves than they are saying about anyone else, and they are doing so in a very bad way.

And lastly, there were the people asking why this matters, or what is the big deal, or why it is important for this man to announce his sexual orientation. To some people it isn’t a big deal, and that’s perfectly fine, even admirable, that they get that Michael being gay has no bearing on his ability to produce results on the field. These people need to understand that just because it us unimportant to them personally doesn’t mean this event has no importance. They need to look at the big picture. It is important because this is a barrier that has never before been crossed here in the States. It is important because there are people out there who believe that gay men have no place in sports like football and this is an incredible opportunity to change hearts and minds. It is important because somewhere out there is a kid who believes that them being gay means they’ll never be able to reach their Super Bowl dreams because the “weakness of gay men” has been drilled into their mind.

And that is what this is really all about. What we are seeing Michael Sam deal with now is primarily happening because he is the first. By Michael blazing the trail today, he makes it that much easier for those who come after, and we will be that much closer to a day when a professional athlete coming out is not a news-making event.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Olympic-Sized Problems

Every Olympics has its problems. Vancouver had a fear of insufficient snow. Salt Lake City had financial issues, and many in the last several cycles faced the threat of terrorism. However, it is looking as though the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia have those problems and many, many more.

Since 2013, Russia has faced international criticism over a controversial law banning so-called “gay propaganda.” This law has been seen by the global community as a violation of human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of association. While the stories about human rights violations have been circling for several months, there are other problems that have recently come to light as athletes and members of the press have begun to arrive in Sochi.

There is Sochi’s systematic killing of stray dogs:

There are massively over budget projects and unpaid workers:

Seriously? A slope that costs $200,000,000?

There are hotels that, according to reporters, are falling apart (skip to 2:17):

It seems that people from outside of Russia are not even showing up. According to an article from the Associated Press:
Fears about terrorism and the hassle of reaching Sochi from points abroad may be keeping some foreigners away - and undermining Vladimir Putin's plans to transform Sochi into a magnet for international tourism. 
A train traveling between Olympic sites and downtown Sochi cheerily announces to visitors in English: "We wish you a pleasant journey!" But on a recent ride, its seats were half empty. And a sweep through four train cars found ... not a single foreign fan.
Usually when a nation/city hosts the Olympics, it is their time to shine and show the world what they are capable of. Unfortunately for Russia, these games are putting a spotlight on their corruption, human rights violations, and overall inability to host the Games. There are already stories of peaceful protesters being arrested. Many people are boycotting the Games. The leaders of several nations are refusing to attend, including the leaders of France, Germany, and the United States. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has denounced some of Russia’s controversial policies. Whether or not Russia can rally to salvage the Games remains to be seen. One thing is clear: the International Olympic Committee needs to apply stricter scrutiny in choosing host cities in the future.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Stephen Colbert Interviews Pussy Riot

How the Fringe Vindicated MSNBC

Several months ago, a Cheerios advertisement aired which featured a white mother, a black father, and their biracial daughter. To many, such a thing seems rather mundane, and rightly so. To others however, this ad was an abomination. Certain parts of society voiced outrage that seemed straight out of the 1960s.

Cut to last week when it was made known that another such ad was soon to strike the airwaves. MSNBC tweeted that the right-wing would probably rise in outrage yet again (paraphrasing). Apparently, the Republican Party took exception to this. In fact, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, threatened to boycott the news outlet (meaning that he and the organization’s surrogates would not appear there) until the station’s president, Phil Griffin, apologized formally. Griffin did apologize and the tweet was deleted, though this is the internet we are talking about so nothing is ever truly deleted.

During the Super Bowl a few days later, the Cheerios ad which had been teased aired featuring the same biracial family as the first ad. That wound up not being the ad which garnered the most attention, both negative and positive, as another ad eclipsed it significantly. Coca-Cola had a commercial featuring “America the Beautiful” sung in English…as well as other languages mixed into the song’s verses. The response was…predictable.

Some people saw the ad for what it was: a recognition that America is a nation that draws its strength from its diversity. The usual suspects, on the other hand, were up in arms in protest. Many voiced their anger that America’s national anthem was being sung in languages other than English, even though “America the Beautiful” is not America’s national anthem. Even the angry responses that were not quite as ignorant as that proved that some people have no regard for the fact that much of the good of this nation is because part of the American dream is that people can come here from wherever and have a better lot in life if they are willing to put in the effort, which many immigrants have proven they are willing to do. Much of the greatness that America stands for is due in no small part to its heterogeneity, without which, for good or ill, our history as a nation and a people would be diminished.

In the end, the aforementioned tweet from MSNBC proved to be correct, which is truly unfortunate. It is a sad day when racial backlash can be so accurately predicted so far in advance. Racists and xenophobes have yet again shown that America, as beautiful as it is, still has very far to go.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another Official Leaves the GOP

Former Nevada Lieutenant Gov. Sue Wagner told the Reno Gazette-Journal that she has left the Republican Party because she thinks hardline conservatives have pushed the party too far to the right.

According to the paper's Tuesday report, Wagner -- who has also served as a state senator, assemblywoman, and gaming commissioner -- is now registered as a nonpartisan voter rather than as a Democrat.

"It’s grown so conservative and tea-party orientated and I just can't buy into that," Wagner said. "I've left the Republican Party and it's left me, at the same time."

Her action comes despite a long-time family connection to the party.

A Gallup poll released earlier this month found that the proportion of Americans who identify as Republicans has fallen to 25 percent, down from a high of 34 percent in 2004.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Indiana Marriage Equality Ban May Be Derailed

The full Indiana House in a bipartisan vote just effectively killed an anti-gay marriage bill — at least for now. 

The House voted 52-43 to approve an amendment to HJR3, a bill that would ask voters in November if they want to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Because changing a constitution is a sacred act, two separate but consecutive Indiana legislatures have to vote to make the change, and they have to vote for and pass the exact same bill.

Tonight’s passage of the amendment would, naturally, alter the bill, and therefore they have not approved the same bill twice.

For today, at least, the people of Indiana have been spared being marked as anti-gay...

And with each passing year, there are fewer homophobes to support this kind of measure and the chances of it passing decrease.

Marriage News Watch: January 27, 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why Net Neutrality Matters

OK Lawmakers Consider Banning ALL Marriages

From News9

...The idea stems from a bill filed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). Turner says it's an attempt to keep same-sex marriage illegal in Oklahoma while satisfying the U.S. Constitution. Critics are calling it a political stunt while supporters say it's what Oklahomans want.

"[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all," Turner said.

Other conservative lawmakers feel the same way, according to Turner.

"Would it be realistic for the State of Oklahoma to say, ‘We're not going to do marriage period,'" asked News 9's Michael Konopasek.

"That would definitely be a realistic opportunity, and it's something that would be part of the discussion," Turner answered...

So Oklahoma Republicans are so homophobic that they are willing to throw straight people under the bus as well. As the larger Republican Party/conservative movement are trying to seem (at least on the outside) to be more inclusive, this will only hurt the GOP brand by exposing it for what it is: a safe haven of bigotry and antiquated ideas.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Former Gov. McDonnell (R-VA) & Wife Indicted

From the Washington Post

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government.
The two were charged with 14 felony counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obtaining property under color of their official office and conspiring to the do the same.

They were also charged with making false statements to a federal credit union.

McDonnell was also charged with making a false statement to another financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the investigation.

Charges mean the couple could face a maximum of decades in prison, though would likely serve far less if convicted...

Don't blame me, I voted for the other guy.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Travel Alert to Russia Issued Ahead of Sochi Olympic Games

With the upcoming Olympics in February, many eyes have been turned towards Russia at large, and Sochi - which is hosting the Games - more specifically. Now, they have drawn the gaze of the U.S. Department of State. Among the issues of concern are terrorist threats and hostage-taking (some bombings have already occurred), less than stellar health care should someone fall ill there while attending the Games, public demonstrations, lodging and so on.

One of the more prominent reasons for the travel advisory is one that has acquired extensive media coverage over the past several months: Russia ban on so-called pro LGBT "propaganda." One section of the travel advisory spells out Russia's threat to the LGBT community and its allies, foreign and domestic:
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER (LGBT) ISSUES: In June 2013, Russia’s State Duma passed a law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. The U.S. government understands that this law applies to both Russian citizens and foreigners in Russia. Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100). Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 14 days in jail, and deportation. The law makes it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public, but lacks concrete legal definitions for key terms. Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes “LGBT propaganda,” and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as “LGBT propaganda.” LGBT travelers should review the State Department’s LGBT Travel Information page.
The travel alert can be read in full at the State Department's website HERE

Jon Stewart Embarrasses Bill O'Reilly...AGAIN!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Media & Outing Members of Congress

From the Facebook page of journalist Itay Hod:

people always say, no one has the right to out anyone. that coming out is a private matter. i disagree. as you can imagine, not a very popular opinion. but bear with me.

here's a hypothetical: what if you know a certain GOP congressman, let's just say from Illinois, is gay... and you know this because one of your friends, a journalist for a reputable network, told you in no uncertain terms that he caught that GOP congressman and his male roommate in the shower... together. now they could have been good friends just trying to conserve water. but there's more. what if this congressman has also been caught by tmz cameras trolling gay bars. now what if you know that this very same guy, the darling of the gop, has also voted against repeal of don’t ask don’t tell, opposed the repeal of doma, is against gay marriage; and for the federal marriage amendment, which would add language to the us constitution banning gay marriage and would likely strike down every gay rights law and ordinance in the country?

Are we still not allowed to out him?

let me ask another question... doesn't the media have an OBLIGATION to expose his hypocrisy? if he had done something so hypocritical and he wasn't gay, wouldn't we demand journalists do their job? but they can't... because we won't let them. you're not allowed to out ANYONE, we tell them.

we've created a situation where even though news organizations know this guy is gay, they can't report it because he hasn't said so on twitter.

if we keep saying that being gay is genetic; ergo, it's no different than having blue eyes or blonde hair... than why are not allowed to mention it? why do we need anyone's consent to talk about their sexuality? are we not allowed to say someone has blue eyes until they post a fb message telling us they are in fact blue?

we've been so effective at convincing everyone that outing people is a crime against humanity, that we've made it impossible for any network or news organization to talk about this "hypothetical" gay republican congressman and his hypocritical vote against gay rights. they won't touch it for fear of retribution from GLAAD or HRC. (in fact when my friend's network interviewed said hypothetical republican, he talked about wanting to find a nice woman to marry... and the network aired it... knowing it was a lie...

so, forgive me if I don't subscribe to the notion that you're not allowed to out anyone... in fact in some cases, i'd celebrate it. but I'm crazy that way. Herndon Graddick

by the way... not sure why... but had a sudden urge to share this.

"This" is a link to an Americablog page that, among other things, shows some of the "gayest" images from the Instagram page of Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL). The Instagram page has since been made private (though the images are still on Americablog, hurray for screencaps). Schock has been more or less dogged by rumours of his sexual orientation despite - or perhaps in part because of - his very anti-gay legislative record. He has been given a 0% score by the Human Rights Campaign.

I have said time and again that I am against people (and more so public figures) being outed...unless you are outing their hypocrisy. In that case, have at it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Hunger Strike Against Marriage Equality

Trestin Meacham, a 35-year-old Utah man, is allegedly refusing to eat anything until the state nullifies its recent decision to allow same-sex couples to get married.

At the time the above video was released, Meacham had reportedly gone 12 days without food -- surviving only on water and an occasional vitamin -- and has lost 25 pounds.

“I cannot stand by and do nothing while this evil takes root in my home," the 35-year-old reportedly wrote on his blog. "Some things in life are worth sacrificing one’s health and even life if necessary. I am but a man, and do not have the money and power to make any noticeable influence in our corrupt system. Nevertheless, I can do something that people in power cannot ignore."

Meacham claims he will fast until Utah decides to nullify the court's decision -- nullification being a theory that the states have authority in all matters, not the federal government. It is a theory that has reportedly been used previously in an attempt to prevent integration in the public school system in the 1950s.

Marriage News Watch: December 30, 2013

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welfare-Drug Testing Program Ruled Unconstitutional

From the New York Times

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down as unconstitutional a Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug testing, setting the stage for a legal battle that could affect similar efforts nationwide.

Judge Mary S. Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando held that the testing requirement, the signature legislation of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who campaigned on the issue, violated the protection against unreasonable searches.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” she wrote. The ruling made permanent an earlier, temporary ban by the judge.
Tuesday’s decision stemmed from a 2011 suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute on behalf of a Central Florida resident, Luis W. Lebron, a Navy veteran and full-time student who had filed for public assistance. Mr. Lebron, who provided care for his disabled mother and was raising a young child as a single father, argued that it was unfair to require drug testing when no suspicion of drug abuse existed.

Given that these bills cost far more money than they save (which is allegedly the reasoning for these bills according to their supporters), I'm not seeing how this is in any way conservative fiscally.