Monday, June 30, 2014

Rounding out my post-DADT work, I visit US Merchant Marine Academy briefly

As a post exercise following the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and as part of my own intention to visit all the service academies at some point in my life, I made a quick bus trip to the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, on the Long Island North Shore, a few miles bus ride from the LIRR station at Great Neck, NY, itself a town made famous by the movie “North by Northwest”.

The grounds appear smaller and more modest than those of other academies.  Students are automatically part of the US Naval Reserve, and must maintain their Naval commissions after graduation, and be employed in occupations related to the Merchant Marine, which can include military service.  Midshipmen participated in the response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and some reserve members have fought in Iraq and Kuwait (see the Wikipedia article here ).

The USMMA has a lower profile, but in the soap opera "Days of our Lives", one character was written out of the story by his joining the Merchant Marine/ 
I have taken the standard Naval Academy Tour twice (in the 1980s and 1990s), visited the USMA at West Point in 1994 and then 2011, visited the Coast Guard Academy (outside perimeter only) in 2011, and Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in 1973, and the Merchant Marine Academy today.

I had a conversation at the bus stop with an older woman who remembered the days of the Vietnam era draft.  I mentioned the student deferments of the past, and said that some might have seen going to Canada as making a sacrifice.  She said, don’t tell a wounded veteran that.  Readers of my books know that I made a lot of the issue of the draft-deferment issue in my own response to “don’t ask don’t tell”, and that Charles Moskos advocated returning to the draft and ending DADT in the fall of 2001, after 9/11.  
I see I have an earlier posting about the USMMA on Aug. 15, 2012, when I was in the NYC area but did not have time to actually visit the place.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

NYC Pride March seems to be "the greatest of all time"

The Gay Pride Parade in New York City was probably the longest I’ve ever watched even part of.  It was to step off at noon at 36th St and Fifth Avenue.  I tried “The Avenue” but went down to the Village.  Cops would not let people watch on the narrowest Village streets,  At 4:30 PM, the floats were still coming at 14th and 5th Avenue.  There was a float for Gay Palestinians, a float protesting infant male circumcision as non-consensual, and both Google and Yahoo! had huge floats.  There was a Gay Nerds group, and a New York Life float.   I wonder how I would feel about marching in a parade for an employer.  That wasn’t on the table in my days.
Weather was clear and dry, with an unusual East ocean breeze.  At one point, the lady whose voice represents the lovergal character for AMC Amazing (Theaters) appeared.

My first march was the “Christopher Street Liberation Day” in 1973.  I marched with the Ninth Street Center, and sometimes GANNJ,   In 1978, I followed the March by playing for Boots and Saddle in a softball game on Leroy Street.  In the bottom of the third, I came up with the bases loaded and two outs.  I looped a single to left, driving in two runs.  Six more runs scored that inning, and “we” won, 13-4.

In fact, the Yankees played on Sunday night, hosting the Boston Red Sox  and losing 8-5.  That was partly for ESPN TV, but also to avoid a conflict with a huge Pride event.  In Chicago, the Cubs played a double header with the Washington Nationals and lost the doubleheader to the Nats Saturday, because Chicago Pride was held today near Wrigley Field

In fact, I had a $300 set behind homeplate last night at Yankee Stadium, so this was a good time for NYC Pride, and for Amtrak.  I sat by a young man who was rabid for the Yankees, but became intrigued as I followed the Nats and the Cubs on my smart phone (even through a rain delay, with the phone showing the severe thunderstorms in Chicago, while East Coast weather was perfect).

I took a break from the Parade and played some speed chess at the Marshall Chess Club.  I lost three out of four to a master but won one game nicely with White against a Kings Indian, following Larry Kramer’s book (July 2012, Books blog). 

Julius’s, on 10th Street, was so crowded you couldn’t get in.  People seemed to be going into the Monster.  In Hells Kitchen, the Therapy had a nice dance party (full early), and the people here seemed to be more “festive” than in DC.   

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Methodist minister reinstated after marrying his son in gay ceremony; Utah and Indiana make news with court rulings striking down bans

A Methodist minister, Frank Schaefer, in Lebanon PA, has been reinstated by a nine-member church appeals board, after being expelled for performing his son’s same-sex wedding, with NPR story by Scott Neuman here, and cnn here. But this story may seem eclipsed by a federal appeals court’s striking down Utah’s (Mormon) voter approved gay marriage ban (New York Times story), immediately stayed, and also a federal judge in Indianapolis striking down Indiana’s gay marriage ban (ABC story here). Remember the song "Indiana Wants Me"? 

The text of the ruling from the Tenth Circuit is here.    The Court said that idea that recognizing gay marriage would undermine traditional marriage was totally "illogical".
The gay marriage rulings at the state level are pouring down now, like a cold front clearing the air.  Maybe the appeals keep the front “stationary”.  It’s impossible to keep up with them.

My own personal experience is that two Presbyterian churches close to me here in north Arlington are more liberal on this issue (quite liberal) than the Methodist church. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

How paid family leave, as an issue, intersects with gay marriage and gay parents

The president is tweeting about family leave today, and CNN has an important op-ed, “Is paid family leave bad for business?” by Sharon Lerner, here. Of course, there’s another side of the debate that doesn’t get mentioned often:  other workers pick up the slack, and usually don’t get paid for it.  I sometimes did nightcall for those with more family responsibility than I have, essentially working their contingency hours for free (including a whole weekend for free in October 1993 when another worker had a baby).  But I did get larger raises than I would have gotten. 

Lambda Legal has often talked about the problem of LGBT (and single) employees "working for a discount", which can turn upside down; when there are budget cuts, people with fewer family responsibilities who work for less can lowball the "competition" and keep their jobs. 

It should be obvious that this will connect to the debates on gay marriage and particularly gay parents. It also connects to an aspect we don’t talk about much: public policy needs to encourage people to take “risks” to provide for others.   In Europe, paid family leave doesn't seem to be a big deal.  Another angle is that single people may be more likely to wind up with the "burdens" of eldercare for their parents. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Secretary of State Kerry says LGBT rights are human rights; Ugandan officials excluded; GOP Texas governor Perry chokes on immutability argument

US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that LGBT Rights are human rights, and vice versa, as in a Washington Blade story this weekend by Michael K. Lavers, here.  Kerry has been supportive of rights of partners in conjunction with immigration issues, and coincidentally OPM has announced that federal health insurance plans will no longer have a “transgender exclusion.”
Further, the Blade is reporting that the Obama administration is refusing some Ugandan officials the right to enter the US because if the recent anti-gay laws.  That doesn’t seem to apply to Nigeria, however, because Nigeria is facing terrorism from Boko Haram and the kidnapping of women.  Lesson: when you attack one group of people (LGBT) usually other bad things start to happen.  Look at Putin’s behavior with respect to the Ukraine.  Look at Russia’s role in cybercrime.  Look at terrorism in Kenya, next door to Uganda.
Kerry, however, just a few years ago, at least back in 2004 (with the election run against Bush) used to say “civil unions” rather than outright gay marriage.  Kerry has had to remain a politician of the times.
Texas Governor Richard Perry has attracted media attention, unfavorable, for his comparison of homosexuality to alcoholism (mixed in with the immutability argument), as in this story in SFGate here .  Of course, on one level his analogy or mixed metaphor is literally correct, but then he doesn’t say why he objects to other people’s homosexuality.  Political experts don’t think he can get very far for the 2016 GOP nomination. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Should gay legal groups attack businesses in social media?

The Washington Blade has a curious story about the way Lambda Legal has apparently blasted a Washington DC bistro in Adams Morgan after a waiter there apparently wrote an anti-gay slur on a bill.  There’s a story by Bill Browning, “Why is Lambda Legal cyberbullying a small business?”, link here

Lambda Legal is on my own donation list, and I recently got a promotional mailing from them to become a preferred donor.  I do receive “pimping” mails from many groups;  I got a similar one from the Southern Poverty Law Center this week.  It’s difficult, in my situation right now, to “play favorites” with any one group (the way I did with SLDN, when “gays in the military” had become such a personal issue).  But I’ll say more about that soon on other blogs.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Obama to sign XO protecting federal contractors; a visit to the site of the Loving case of 1967 (relevant to marriage rights today in VA?)

Just as I was leaving for a day trip Monday, HRC tweeted and texted that President Obama will sign an executive order protecting employees of federal contractors (the so-called “beltway bandits”) from sexual orientation discrimination.  The HRC story link us here

The purpose of the day trip was to view the site where the interracial Loving couple had lived when they were arrested in 1958 after having married in Washington DC and moved back to Virginia.  This became Loving v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court overturned state miscegenation laws in 1967, using arguments about fundamental rights and equal protection that are at least tangentially relevant to the gay marriage case and appeal in Virginia now.
I drove down a one-lane road, county 625 (in Caroline County), along the border of Fort A. P. Hill, past isolated homes where people obviously want to be left alone (and probably defend their Second Amendment rights).  The Loving’s lived near the intersection of 625 and 630, in an unincorporated town called Center Point.  Ten miles to the east is Bowling Green, the hometown for Fort Hill.
There is a church, and a couple of older buildings.  One of these kept throwing a “ghost” in the picture – and I’m sure I stood out of the car and did not take it through a rolled up window.  The lavender color from the Nikon shot is appealing.  The only natural explanation I can see is the Sun to the west.  Two different cameras gave the poltergeist effect.

The home of the Lovings was probably to the west of the cemetery.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Baltimore Pride: Day 2 is quiet

The second day of Baltimore Pride offered the same exhibits on Mount Royal as the first, but the crowd seemed smaller.

I tried both free T-dances around 5 PM (at the Hippo and at the Grand Central Station) and both dance floors were empty!  Maybe the filled up later Sunday evening.

But I did have a nice chat in the Grand Central with a male couple that had traveled to Japan and had enjoyed a 20-hour layover in Dubai.  They got to ride to the top of the 2400-foot Burj, and visited the artificial palm islands.  The place looked like another planet.  It was actually rather confining, even with all the opulence.  The culture was secular, but there were no gay bars as such;  but hotel bars were "known".   Even in moderate Turkey, bars are very hidden.

By the way, the club name "Grand Central Station" isn't quite the same as the name of the club "Central Station" in Moscow, the largest club that was forced to close by vigilantism after Russia passed its anti-gay propaganda law.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Baltimore Pride tries a new format

Baltimore Pride changed its format and lcoation this year.

The parade was moved up to 1 PM in the afternoon.  The Block Party was moved to Mt. Royal, nearby, with the concert state at the old B&O station building. The booths for the Sunday festival were also set up for Saturday.

The Block Party ran from 2-8 PM, with the club dances to follow.  So the Saturday activities were a bit like a day-night doubleheader in baseball.

The crowd seemed a bit smaller than usual, partly because of the earlier start time.

Bars including the Lodge (Hagerstown) and The Club (Martinsburg, W Va) had floats.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Texas GOP tries to back reparative therapy, still

Anderson Cooper, in his AC360 “Keeping them Honest” segment, challenged Texas state representative Bryan Hughes over the inclusion in the Texas Republican Party’s platform a provision to forbid the state from banning reparative therapy, as California and New Jersey have done.

Hughes claims it’s about “choice”. (That sounds familiar, doesn’t it.)  But is that for adults, or for parents concerned they might not get grandchildren?

Cooper (link here) asked Hughes about earlier past statements that homosexuality “tears at the fabric of society”.  Hughes seemed to evade the question, other than mention Christian teachings.   But in the past he must have meant, that (he believes) homosexuals “distract” others (and themselves) from the particular kind of prolonged intimacy that family life (and child rearing) requires.
Back in 1983, in the early days of the AIDS crisis, a legislator from Amarillo (Bill Ceverha) proposed a very draconian anti-gay law which would have barred gays from most occupations, but it did not get out of legislative committee – although it took heavy lobbying of the Dallas Gay Alliance (in the days of Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo) to kill it. 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Capital Pride Street Festival has several booths from intelligence, law enforcement agencies

Capital Pride Festival on Freedom Plaza today featured booths from several security government agencies: The CIA (which had been there last year, in 2013), the FBI, and the DIA.  I didn't see the NSA.

The CIA passed out literature explaining its scholarship program. In practice, most of the the positions are more likely to lead to analytic work, or technology deployment, as opposed to conventional spying overseas. One of the larger pamphlets was titled "Can a college student derail terrorism"?  Yes, that sounds like the logline for a movie.
The CIA also has a pamphlet that answers the general questions "Does the CIA hire gay, lesbian and bisexual persons", where it mentions Executive Orders 11478 and 13097, from the Clinton years, and also answers "If I'm not 'out' to my family and friends, does this make me a security risk?" and the answer startts out by saying, not being out will not necessarily preclude you from holding a security clearance.

The Intelligence Community Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Allies (IC LGBTA) Affinity Group included a pamphlet, "Best Practices for the Managers and Colleagues of Transgender Employees."

Also, the Barker Foundation had an unmanned booth,on Older Child Domestic Adoption. The group, in Bethesda, MD, has a "Project Wait No Longer; 'Permanency for Foster Youth'".  But the qualification process is very long and expensive.

There was also a booth announcing a future LGBT museum. 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Capital Pride, while big, starts on time and has few surprises

Capital Pride 2014 featured a nearly three hour parade, following the same route as previous years, starting right on time at 4:30 PM. 

Along P St, from 17th to 14th, crowds filled in; yet eateries along the way were able to offer some seats. 

As I approached the start of the march at Dupont Circle, I found chess games going on as usual on the north side of the park.  I watched a game that seemed to have started as an Alapin Sicilian.  As I watched, White’s attack was an optical illusion, and Black was forcing the trade down to a favorable endgame.  I then turned attention to the parade.

With the parade ending early, the JR’s block party started a little early.  I noticed that very few people smoked in this outdoor area, in great contrast to how things were in the 1970s. By 8:45 PM, before dark, the Cobalt, a few blocks up 17th, was filling up. I did not have to pay a cover at either place.  Dancing upstairs at the Cobalt started early, before 9 PM.  It got festive and intimate quickly. That’s the nice thing about Pride, the dancing always starts early.
Note the float for "The Lodge", a dance floor on South Mountain about Hagerstown, MD.

The general appearance of the people is a rather clean-cut.  For example, I didn't see many tattoos in the crowd, although there was a body-art booth along the route. 

Also, at the south entrance to Dupont Circle Saturday afternoon, just where the Parade started,, DC Brass Band was playing.  (I had mentioned it on Dec 21, 2012 on my Drama Blog.)

Weather as perfect, low 80s and low humidity.