Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! I think Cobalt compounds are blue

I picked a “smaller” New Years Eve venue in Washington DC, Cobalt, on 17th St. The dance floor did not build up until about 11:30, and pretty soon the bar broadcast Anderson Cooper on CNN with its coverage of Times Square. I have a feeling that the choice of Anderson Cooper for the broadcast was very good for CNN’s ratings in bars. But this is his regular 360 time slot, right? They had a geography quiz: what is the one country completely contained within another country? Lesoto. They also showed the New Orleans celebration (also, Dallas, San Antonio, and Manhattan, KS). By the way, Bill Clinton (at Times Square) appeared shortly before the ball fell.

We had one extra second of December this year, since the atomic clock in London was adjusted by one second.

The streets in DC were not as crowded as usual, after a day of violent winds, thundersnow squalls, and power outages. It was about 22 degrees outside. The customers were a bit overdressed, not so used to cold in a southern city. Nobody “got it.” In Minneapolis, the boys would go to the Saloon in T-shirts even when it was 3 degrees outside.

Cobalt (with competition from Town DC) has renovated the dance floor, and taken out the platform, but left in the fire pole. I think it needs the central stage, and the couches. Also, some windows have been replaced by mirrors. That’s good for narcissism (for Dorian Gray, perhaps) but you can’t tell if it’s snowing outside. You could before.

I found out that men from poor Muslim countries in Africa attend gay bars. (Actually, the press has reported covert, hidden gay establishments to be common in large Muslim cities, probably paying off the authorities.)

Another observation. I had noticed this in Minneapolis, but it’s true in DC too. It seems that a significantly larger portion of men in gay discos are “very tall” (over 6 feet 4 inches) than in the male population at large. (It’s not true only in “Viking” Minnesota.) With all the theories about genetics and homosexuality, I’ve wondered if there could be some kind of accidental concordance.

This entry will get a 2008 date, because Blogger goes by California time. Almost a day behind Sydney, Australia.

Remember that breathtaking moment in London as January 1, 2000 started, after the tolling of Big Ben. It looked like a great openings scene for a thriller film (maybe mine). I seem to remember that on New Year’s Eve, 1999, ABC played a theme from Amy Beach’s only symphony to celebrate the occasion. That time, I was on Y2K duty, watching a computer cycle, although the company served refreshments, “with”.

Some time in January 2009, Anderson Cooper would tell Kelly Ripa on ABC that he worked on New Years Eve because he is a "social recluse."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Today" show predicts controversy over gay adoption; FL gay adoption ban struck down

This morning, Sunday, Dec. 28, NBC Today (Peter Alexander reporting) did a story on gay adoptions. It presented a lesbian couple with adopted children, and maintained that the United States has about 129,000 children in foster care and only about 65,000 find adoptive homes.

The report predicted that gay parenting and adoptions will become the next battle in the cultural wars after gay marriage. A right-wing pastor was presented, maintaining that children do best in homes with married mothers and fathers of opposite biological gender.

The report says that Florida, Mississippi and Utah ban gay adoptions, but that recently there was a ruling making the Florida law unconstitutional. The Huffington Post has a story dated Nov. 25, 2008 on the ruling made by Cindy Lederman, here. She used equal protection arguments, and counter the state’s claim about a “a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children.” The case involved Martin Gill and his partner who had cared for foster children that they now can adopt. But the state of Florida will appeal the ruling. The New York Times has a similar story by Yolanne Almanzar, also on that date, here. Rosie O'Donnell has fought the Florida gay adoption ban publicly.

Six other states, including Texas and Virginia, have entertained gay adoption bans that have died in committee.

Arkansas dropped it unmarried foster parent ban, targeting gay parents, in October 2008, "365" story here. But, according to an article by Julie Bolcer in the Jan. 13, 2009 The Advocate (p 34), voters in Arkansas approved Proposition 1, which bars unmarried cohabiting couples (gay or straight) from adopting children or caring for foster children (see this link).

The link to the Today story was not yet available on MSNBC.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Gay establishments: police matters are rare compared to straight bars; tragic incident covered on MSNBC show

Christmas night, MSNBC, at 10 PM EST, broadcast a rerun of a rather unpleasant “Crime and Punishment” series, courtroom drama in the style of “Law and Order”, about what seemed like an apparent shooting and killing in a gay bar in San Diego around 2000.

I will not name the bar here (I think I visited it in 1979), but the drama referred to male partners, and the defendant was a middle aged man with AIDS. In the non-fiction story, he brought a 45 caliber revolver, concealed, into the bar, picked a fight with someone who had a tendency to insult people, tried to shoot the person, grazes, and killed a young, obviously attractive man standing some distance away. The prosecution and defense attorneys were both young women. Eventually, he was convicted of 2nd Degree murder and sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. He died of AIDS in prison in 2003.

Violence in gay establishments from patrons themselves is extremely rare. I was saw a physical fight (over jealousy?) in bar in London (in Soho) in 1982 and the bobbies came, but no damage was done. Over many decades, however, there have been some attacks from a hostile outside world, such as with arson in New Orleans in 1973, the worst case that I ever heard of (when I was “coming out” a second time this was almost the first incident that I heard of). There is a comic horror film on Logo about such incidents (not exactly funny) called “Dead Serious” (on my movies blog).

In Washington DC and adjoining Prince Georges County, MD. a number of “straight” establishments have been closed (with liquor licenses revoked) because of street violence near their establishments. That’s a bit of surprise coming from supposedly politically “liberal” local governments. I don’t think that any establishment should be punished for behavior on public streets near the establishment unless committed by intoxicated patrons leaving the bar. (Bartenders are supposed to be trained not to serve liquor to intoxicated persons.)

In a few cases around the country (including at least once in Washington DC in the 1990s), discos have had both “straight” and “gay” parties on different nights, and have had incidents only at the “straight” parties.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Louisiana must issue birth certificate for New York gay couple adopting child

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has announced a legal victory in a custody case. Oren Adar and Mickey Smith had adopted a child in New York State. The child had been born in Louisiana, which would not issue a birth certificate to unmarried parents. On Dec. 23 Judge Jay Zainey, using the Full Faith and Credit Clause, ordered Louisiana to issue the certificate, naming both dads on the document. The Lambda link (for Adar v. Smith) is here.

A blog called Mombian has another account ("Major win for same-sex adoptive parents" of the case here.

Lambda also says that it helped a woman in Ohio get shared custody after her female partner tried to bar her from seeing the child.

The Washington Times has an interesting account, dated Dec. 28, here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The pampering of marriage: "logic" demands equality for gays, social interdependence and "community" confound equality

Mathematical logic, when applied ruthlessly to personal and social issues, can lead us into despair, they say. Or perhaps into unavoidable moral sinks. Even Al Gore pointed this out in his book "The Assault on Reason." It seems that way today as I ponder the equality questions underneath the gay marriage debate even more.

Think what happens when two adults (Okay, usually one man and one woman) get married. They commit themselves not only to fidelity but to retaining a lifelong intimate interest in one another “in sickness and in health” and “until death do us part”. We don’t need to be too explicit about the random calamities than can befall one or both partners of a couple over a lifetime. And, yet, intimacy is to remain.

We can talk about the creative experience of a relationship like this, and there was a lot of talk, as at the Ninth Street Center over the years, about enjoying a permanent relationship for its own sake. But most adults have a feeling that making such a commitment or promise would never be “logical” or “rational” unless rewarded by society. That’s where the social supports and approbation, even pampering (as in those notorious soap operas), of marriage figures in. And it is a matter of “ruthless” logic that some of this support is “paid for” or “subsidized” by those who do not make such commitments. It’s also logical to say eventual divorce of a marriage is even more “unfair” to single people who were “forced” into making such as “subsidy.”

It’s not hard to see that this is one major reason that LGBT people want the right to marry adults of their own choosing with equal access to the “subsidy” of the unmarried. Again, that’s logical.

The critical concept in following the “logic” is lifelong “unconditional” openness to intimacy, not just fidelity. It’s logical that people expect something in return for this, not always, but often, from the outside world. It’s “logical” that one could say everyone (adult) has an opportunity for an arrangement like this with a consenting adult member of the opposite sex – until you get to immutability. Then it’s equally logical to say that everyone has a right to such an arrangement with a consenting adult marital partner regardless of biological gender (but respective of psychological polarity). What about the “birthright” of a child to opposite-gendered married parents? Maybe the right adults of adult significant others as a stable couple (with some social perks) trumps over the automatic assumption of opposite genders. All matters of “logic.”

Then you get into things that just don’t fit so nicely into “logical” paradigms for social justice and equality. The “fact” is, permanent intimate relationships are important not only to raise children but, as is becoming increasingly important because of demographics, take care of the elderly and disabled.

What confounds all of this even more is that human beings vary widely in their own personal need for socialization. (That’s sometimes true of animals, as anyone who has been around pets – particularly cats -- knows.) That’s more than just the truism that there is a big gap between initial “romance” and lifelong interest in intimacy with one person (in either a gay or straight relationship). The initial attraction can keep things going for a long time, until or unless something goes wrong, sometimes beyond one’s control. Then, the partners in almost any relationship consider the delicate matter of balancing the need to be their own independent people with their need for one another. For some people, the need for independence is stronger than in others. Some people do better in life when they are alone a lot, and some people need the social pampering. This may be as much a matter of basic biological wiring as sexual orientation is. It’s obvious that composers or authors, who often work alone, are usually brain-wired differently from sales people, who need the social leads. When a society undergoes economic stress or external challenges, or radical demographic change, people who value their “sovereignty” are finding that others (with more social needs) make demands on them that would have been unthinkable before, and basic moral perspective changes.

Again, think about the “logic”. It sometimes seems as if the social subsidy of marriage seems like a kind of legal and socially approved “prostitution” – it’s a reward and preferential status for those who practice sexual intercourse in societally approved circumstances. Such persons are given the occasional prerogative to make demands on those who don’t practice this. But it’s really not the sexual acts that are generating the preference, or even sexuality itself. It is the openness to making a lifelong emotional commitment (and active promise of intimacy) that “rational self-interest” alone often seems “illogical” for the individual but necessary for society as a whole. And, for reasons of biological wiring, it’s more “illogical” for some than for others, and some persons may feel put upon as a result, by the na├»ve social demands of others. (Look up “schizoid personality” on Wikipedia and follow some links.)

We value independence and self-starting in our culture, as modern virtues. But we’re also finding that interdependence is necessary, too. It seems that all these moral values do have their flip sides. Lately, "they" have been calling this as the necessary imbalance of "living in a community."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Recalling a dark day from 1953: Ike's XO regarding all federal civilians

On a night that NBC Dateline interviewed Rick Warren about his views on gay marriage (and the gay community’s affront to Barack Obama’s choice of him for the inauguration), I found, on a site called “Salem Press”, a reproduction from a series called “Great Events in History: LGBT Events” the story “President Eisenhower Prohibits Lesbian and Gay Federal Workers.” The story concerns Executive Order 10450, dated April 27, 1953, which formalized a policy that had been common during the Truman administration. The link is here.

The story is quite chilling now, and it points out that it also affected contractors working with the federal government. The article says “The New York Times reported the next day that, "The new [personnel security] program will require a new investigation of many thousands of employees previously investigated, as well as many more thousands who have had no security check." Apparently the investigatory procedures even in civilian service could amount to outright witch-hunts, later better known in the military. The reasoning was quite circular.

The Civil Service would reverse this practice around 1975, but it would take until the early 1990s for the situation to improve significantly with security clearances, which President Clinton would formalize in 1995. I worked for the Navy Department as a civilian from 1971-1982 (20 months) but left voluntarily when I could not get a Top Secret security clearance.

I hate to say it, but I remember the “I like Ike” buttons even if I was ten years old at the time.

Also, in the 1967 CBS show by Mike Wallace, "The Homosexuals," Secretary of State Dean Rusk, speaking about the State Department (LBJ Administration) said bluntly "When we find homosexuals in our department, we discharge them."

In those days, there really was no difference between Democratic and Republican administrations.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama mulls appointing gay man to civilian post as Secretary of the Navy

Jessica Bennett and Daniel Stone have a Newsweek story to the effect that Barack Obama is considering appointing an openly gay man, Bill White, to the post of Secretary of the Navy. Since this is a civilian post, it would not, according to the story, contradict the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy which is supposed to apply only to uniformed service members. It would call political attention to the policy and suggest the idea of a political conflict of interest for the incumbent.

When the debate over gays in the military developed in 1993, I was working for an insurance company that focused on selling life insurance to military officers. When I was well underway with a book that included a lot of material on gays in the military (“Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back”) I applied for an took a transfer to a company in Minneapolis that had acquired the company. I actually discussed the situation with the company (and previously with attorneys involved in the ban) as to what I perceived as a potential conflict of interest and ethical issue.

The link for the Newsweek story ("Gay Man for Navy Secretary?") is here.

Personally, I feel that if Barack Obama makes this appointment, his argument in Congress for lifting "don't ask don't tell" later (with the Meehan bill or a derivative of it) would, however ironic this sounds, be weakened.

Back in 1989, Pete Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs when Dick Cheney was named Secretary of Defense. In 1991, while he was a Pentagon spokesman during the Persian Gulf war, Williams was “outed” by Michelangelo Signorile A source for this is an article in NationMaster Encyclopedia, here. Back around 1992, Dick Cheney himself had told the media (asking "why") that the military ban was an "old chestnut" but that he supported the policy nevertheless (he had to).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lisa Miller has a cover story on the Dec 15, 2008 Newsweek, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage"

Lisa Miller, with Sarah Ball and Anne Underwood, has a cover story on the Dec. 15, 2008 Newsweek, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” The story appears on p 28, “Our Mutual Joy: Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side,” link here.

Miller points out that the Bible, as far as making an explicit case, says next to nothing about the constitutional definitions (“one man to one woman”) proposed in various state referendums including California’s Proposition 8. She does talk about the tortuous dichotomy of the church and state issue. She also points out some historical anomalies – the disappearance of the “man and wife” phrase, and of the concept of “obedience.”

The big hangup still has to do with objection to homosexuality itself, particularly among men, where she admits that a few Biblical passages could be taken as per se condemnations, but probably don’t have to be. (What if we took all of Leviticus literally?) What’s the pragmatic reason? She seems to think it is largely an ick factor. But perhaps I would add, from my own experience, a reaction that some men resent what they see as my “copping out” from communal notions of gender-associated family responsibility, as if I then had a vested interest in showing other men that they can “fail”, too. (Randy Shilts discussed this idea in his “Conduct Unbecoming” book on gays in the military in 1993.) In fact, hyper-individualism fits well with modern notions of gay rights, the notion that every adult is perfectly sovereign and accountable for his or her own actions; in a real world, a lot more skills at familial interdependence are needed from everybody.

Miller finally makes a case for gay marriage in Biblical terms, one that is rooted in the notion of immutability and typing. She does compare denying the sacrament of marriage based on sexuality as comparable to denying it on the basis of race.

By all means, read the article. It helps in these economic times if some people really buy the print editions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fareed Zakaria questions Colin Powell on "don't ask don't tell"

Today (Sunday, Dec. 14) Fareed Zakaria on CNN GPS interviewed Colin Powell, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gays in the military in 1993. Very quickly, Fareed asked Powell if he supported lifting “don’t ask don’t tell” now.

Powell answered that the social climate has changed since 1993, and that it was indeed time to revisit the law. He insisted that military leaders be consulted first, however. He said that the military is still very “different.” Zakaria asked if the example of other militaries, like Britain and Israel, matters, and Powell said that their experience is relevant – it “counts” – but it’s not necessarily decisive.

Powell did elaborate on the special circumstances of military life. “Your commander can decide whether you live,” he said. “You don’t get to choose where you live.” No one mentioned how important the military is as a source of employment, especially for minorities or for those raised with economic disadvantage. It's also a source for paying college tuition (leading to the recoupment issue).

We’ve heard that before (Sam Nunn and Charles Moskos back in 1993). It’s true about the military. It’s even true that the military imposes restrictions on its members that would not be acceptable in civilian life. But there is a spillover into civilian life.

There are ways that “forced intimacy” can occur in many other areas, like law enforcement, fire departments (especially), various other potential national service areas, and even teaching (as with handicapped or severely disabled students). And, particularly with the latter, there have been attempts to ban gays before, as in California in 1978 (the Briggs Initiative, covered in the recent film “Milk”). I pointed this out on my website when working as a substitute teacher, and the fallout when schools discovered it became a factor in my having to stop.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gay Equality, Childlessness, and Single People: related, though not identical, issues

Yesterday I took another look at my “instance” on an older book, by Elinor Burkett, “The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless,” published back in 2000 by the Free Press. I had reviewed in on my books blog in March 2006.

I notice a startling passage on p 113, written by an upper-class married woman (Michelle Gaboury) and feminist. It goes like this:

“Children are an investment in the future…There are a lot of risks for people who have kids. Having a family is outrageously expensive. Maybe the childless take the brunt in some ways, but this isn’t about justice. It’s about living in a community.”

Burkett goes on to discuss the paradox of a newer economic consciousness within feminism: that women give up other economic alternatives to have families. But so do men.

A couple pages later, Burkett mentions an economist at Florida A&M who wants to implement a “personal sovereignty tax” (my term) on adults (particularly the childless, I think) to divert some income back to their parents as payback for raising them, or perhaps a lead in to filial responsibility for parents in old age. (28 states have filial responsibility laws, also called poor laws, which so far have been rarely enforced, but that’s likely to change given today’s demographics.) Other measures with similar ultimate effects would be to greatly increase tax credits for dependents, especially minor children.

By and large, although this has changed somewhat in recent years (even with surrogate parenting) gay men in particular have remained childless (although some were married with kids and then divorces). The equality argument, often made to sound like a matter of ideology purity, sometimes gives way to practical considerations about retaining democracy and freedom, especially when it is challenged by external instabilities (like now).

Then there exists that other ideological buttress for gay rights, immutability, or non-choice. Intellectually, as I’ve said, this is unsatisfying for comparative reasons. With gay men, there are several factors that occur in various combinations. One is (sometimes) a disinclination to compete well in the “manly” skills that would enable one to provide preferentially for women and children. A more common factor is a dislike of the gratuitous emotional pampering (at least that it is perceived as coddling) that underlies the social supports of the traditional family (and marriage), and the perceived loss of self and of “personal sovereignty”. A third, more positive factor, is a desire for a “creative” relationship with another adult outside of the realm of social supports (the “polarities” theory).

Along those lines, Gaboury’s idea of “living in a community” sounds scary but it rings true (even coming from an apparent political liberal). The gay person sees this as a warrant to give the parents heading a nuclear family authority to create responsibilities for their kids even into adulthood in order to fit them into a “community” that will protect everyone when individualism “fails” because of external challenges.

And we come back to “gay marriage”. While all the usual arguments (for it) are valid from a social justice point of view, regarding gay couples and their dependents (when they do have them), the practical problem is more fundamental: people who do not marry and/or have their own children (preferably both together) are often called upon to sacrifice for the sake of those who do, and remain silent about it (particularly in the workplace, where the matter is a terrible issue for some employers). The practical solution for many single people is to do well enough in life so that it isn’t a problem to take care of others even when the “burdens” weren’t create by one’s own choices. But that certainly isn’t equality, although it may fit into “living in a community.” We could return to a time when children really become “assets”.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Million Gay March": maybe a big DC event in 2009?

There is a Southern California group called the “Million Gay March” planning demonstrations, and there seems to be talk of a March on Washington in 2009. Is this in planning now?

I remember well the 1993 March, when President Clinton had proposed lifting the ban, and the crowded Washington Metro Saturday night, as well as the Washington Times overhead of the Mall the next Monday morning. I also recall the HRC rock concert at RFK stadium for the 2000 march.

The phrase does recall Louis Farrakhn’s “Million Man March” on a cold sunny Monday in October 1995 (and the Beltway signs warning “Million Man event tomorrow).

Jessie McKinley has a long article on p A22 of the Dec. 10 New York Times “Marriage Ban inspires new wave of gay rights activists”, link here.

There was also a "Day without a Gay" day today ("boycott") to demonstrate the economic clout of the gay community (the disposable income myth).

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ninth Circuit says that Lawrence v Texas could affect how "don't ask don't tell" is enforced; full court lets ruling stand

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in May 2008 that the Lawrence v. Texas case decided in 2003 means that the military must meet a new standard in applying the “don’t ask don’t tell” law in gay discharges. The court had ruled that the service must show that in a specific case a discharge is necessary to promote unit cohesion. That would mean that it is no longer possible to discharge a soldier just on presumption alone. Or, put this way, the “rebuttable presumption” possibility would have to allow serious rebuttal. In many units, obviously, the military would not be able to show that the discharge was necessary, and, particularly, critical personnel like intelligence linguists would not get discharged.

On December 4, 2008, the full court refused to hear the entire order. The Bush administration could appeal to the Supreme Court but the Obama administration could withdraw the appeal.

The case involves a female Air Force officer in Washington State discharged because of a lesbian relationship with a civilian. The court ruling may mean that her suit for reinstatement can be held, or that the Air Force will have to prove she is unsuitable in an administrative procedure under court supervision and held to a higher standard of evidence.

The San Francisco Chronicle article is Bob Egelko, ‘Court's ruling stands on 'don't ask' doubts”, Dec. 5, 2008, link here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day: Some somber editorials and stats

Today is World AIDS day (Dec. 1), but The Washington Post offers a somewhat bizarre op-ed on p A17 by Sanford E. Kuvin, chair of the Kuvin Center for Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem, and medical consultant for Kimberly Bergalis, the “first patient to have gotten AIDS from her dentist,” an event that seems like an outlier and that has remained very rare.

The op-ed is called “Our country is failing the AIDS Test,” with link here. Kuvin recommends routine testing for everyone, regardless of consent. He makes a strange comparison to avian influenza, and then half-apologetically notes that avian influenza is casually transmitted (and is not under reliable control in the developing world and badly needs to be answered by a vaccine). He claims that Fidel Castro and Cuba knew about AIDS in the late 1960s because of soldiers returning from Angola. (The Cuban refugees provided a housing and sponsorship need in the gay communities in Dallas and Houston in 1980, before AIDS was well known; I recall that effort well.)

However, the Minnesota AIDS Project today reported in an email that there had been 325 new cases in Minnesota in 2007, and writes “the Centers for Disease Control dramatically increased its annual estimate of new HIV infections in the U.S. from 40,000 to 56,300—more than 40 percent higher than the original estimate.” I got to know the Project well in my six years in Minneapolis in 1997-2003, which includes the “Pride Alive” organization. Pride Alive sponsors activities and talk groups, and in 2000 began offering optional age-segregated talk groups.