Saturday, February 28, 2015

New DC Eagle is open; the first visit seems like a "field trip"

I did get to the new DC Eagle early Friday evening.  The new bar opened recently, and somewhat quietly after a “soft” Sunday debut in January with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.  The Facebook site is here.  Both sites seem to appear to need updating as to map and directions  to 3701 Benning Road NE (below), so right now the visitor needs to use Google Maps.  
It seemed that only the main (second) level is open now.  It is quite roomy, and food (hot dogs, nachos, and the like) was available. It isn’t clear when the dance floor and other facilities will be done;  it sounds like Spring, at least after Easter.   The amount of work required for renovation, the cost and the regulatory construction approvals slow things down.

The best way for many people to go seems to be Metro, to the Minnesota Avenue station on the Orange Line.  This station is above ground, which makes a cold wait to return in winter.  The neighborhood used to have a “bad reputation” in the local media, quite frankly.  But next to the Metro station (and large bus facility) there is a new apartment building (where there used to be open space, according to Google maps), and across Minnesota Ave. is a charter school.  The scuttlebutt is that real estate values in the area have risen rapidly, and that more condo and retail development is going to happen quickly, with "gentrification" (like another U Street).  It is a short walk (maybe two baseball fields) to Benning Road.  You walk to the right of “Rainbow Dresses” (no connection to “Rainbow Foods” which I remember so well from my years in Minneapolis) and down a service road, behind the wire fence, and around, to get to the entrance.  Yes, it would be nice to see more lighting and cameras.
There is a parking lot “over the fence” which patrons are not allowed to use.  The Blade had reported objections from the nearby strip mall shopping center that uses the lot, but it was largely empty.  It would sound reasonable that a way to use the lot at night legally should be negotiable, although it would cost the business more.  I was told that the best options for driving were to use the ample Metro garage next to the Metro Stop, which works only if you have a Smart card.  That means it would work easily only for DC  area residents.  People who visit the DC area recently should hold onto their Smart cards (they cost $5 new), which is like saying that people who visit New York frequently (as I do) should hold on to their MTA cards (which I often forget).  It’s like a frequent flier tip.  They said you can part OK on the street at night.  I wouldn’t like to do that, but I’ve done it in other cities. 
In fact, it’s useful to summarize parking while on the road.  In some places (Detroit, and downtown Nashville), some bars have relatively inexpensive valet parking (as do some “straight” clubs in downtown DC).  Some places, like West Hollywood, ban all street parking by visitors but have provided a garage.  In both Dallas and Minneapolis, where I have lived, street parking has been pretty easy and safe in practice (although now Dallas has a paid lot near its main Caven bar complex on Cedar Springs).

It’s only fair to add this “avise”: If you drive, wait at least one hour per drink you’ve had before taking the wheel.  That’s my rule of thumb.  It takes me about 90 minutes after the last sip for my own alcohol level (from just one beer) to get to undetectable (zero).  And don’t use your cell phone while you drive, until you can stop and pull over.  

By the way, the train ride because elevated past the crumbling RFK stadium, and the Anacostia was totally frozen over. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Same-sex couples may be able to have their own biological children in the future, according to Cell Press study

Liz Neporent, of Good Morning America, reports that same-sex couples may one day be able to have their own biological children, eliminating an existential argument against gay marriage and even homosexuality itself, story here.   It would sound more probable for female couples than male.

I couldn’t find the article on the Cell Press Journal yet, but it should appear soon.  And then, will it be behind an expensive paywall for scientific journals (the Aaron Swartz issue)? 
Surrogacy happens a lot now, as reported on CNN some time back, and in the series “The New Normal” (Sept. 12, 2012).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Russian anti-gay law contributes to hundreds of asylum requests per year in US

The Washington Blade has a story by Michael J. Lavers about a Russian lesbian who move to Baltimore from Moscow in October, link here. The story did not give last names, and did not say how the couple was supported or how any efforts for political asylum might be progressing.
The story suggested that the Obama administration could freeze the US assets of Russian officials under the Magnitsky Act, for human rights violations as well as aggression in the Ukraine.  The woman in the story was born near the Ukraine border.
Radio Free Europe reports that applications for political asylum from Russia jumped 15% in 2014, with 969 seekers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2014, story here
It is hard to see how the people are funded or housed once they are here.  Nobody discusses that, and policymakers won’t mention it.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Gay marriage debate creates new norms for "conformity"

Here’s an interesting perspective on free speech surrounding gay marriage and other issues from a high school senior in southern Minnesota, more or less around the Northfield area (St. Olaf’s and Carlton colleges), link here.   The essay, by guest columnist Jenna Cox in “SouthernMinn” is “Non conformity become conformed”. 
Note how the changing popularity of a new view of civil rights makes speaking out against it make the speaker, formerly in the majority, be perceived as a formerly privileged millstone. 
Of course, the same trend has occurred with others issues, including race. 
There is a tendency for people to demand that others “belong” and have “real life” responsibilities for others (and have to act on these responsibilities, right or wrong) before they are to be heard.  
I found this post on a Facebook posting by Philip Chandler, who runs the blog “Gay Equality and the Law” here.  
Picture: near Rosemount, MN, where I once spoke at the Dakota Unitarian Fellowship. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Challenging the immutability argument (or at least over-dependence on it) again

I recall having dinner at a restaurant in Dallas in early 1984 with a fellow chess player, having drawn him in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, when I told him I was gay, after he challenged me.  Then he retorted that I must have chosen it.  But he wasn’t “prejudiced”.
The Washington Post today has an op-ed by Brooklyn (Park Slope) writer Sally Kohn, “I’m gay, and I want my kid to be gay, too”, link here. The speaker challenges the hegemony of immutability, the “born that way” argument, or at least relying on it, even now as the Supreme Court considers one of its most critical cases ever (at least since 2003).
I can remember, back at the Ninth Street Center, back in the 1970s, that it was sometimes said, in the Paul Rosenfels Community, as it has since come to be called, that it one could rightfully choose to be gay.
I’ve never been very comfortable with depending on it.  It sounds too much like race, joining up with a group to claim victimhood.  Also, there are (other) “behavior inclinations” (there’s no nice way to say it) that do indeed have directly negative consequences, like a proclivity toward drug and alcohol dependence, where there is pretty clearly some genetic influence, but that doesn’t change the pressure to treat it.  So we won’t to see that applied to sexual orientation.  We don’t want to see a prenatal genetic test for sexual orientation (“Twilight of the Golds”).  At least I don’t.  Conservatives reach their own wall on that one.
For all those years where what we wanted was privacy and to be left alone, we did depend on the victimless crime argument.  HIV gave social conservatives some ammunition for a while in the 1980s (until their medical speculations were debunked), but what I always wondered was, back at the time of my William and May expulsion and NIH “hospitalization”, why did you make my private life your business? 
It’s true that I’m an only child, so there is lineage death, and that’s one thing. But the main concern seemed to be not so much my direct “conduct” but what the effect on others would be if my propensities (the military debate of 1993, again) were viewed as morally legitimate (in any religion).  While the drive for intercourse might be inborn in most men, the capability “stay with it” – one partner – and raise kids for decade, given the cost and risks, and distractions as partners get older and face random calamities (or maybe sacrifices, like from war or hostility) could be jeopardized if other (“people like me”) were allowed to “get out of things.”  That is very much the idea I grew up with.
Metro Weekly reports that Erik Erickson, conservative blogger for “Red State News” and Fox, compared gay activists to ISIS, in this story. No debate on fundamental postulates allowed.  Immutability became the equivalent of the “Axiom of Choice” in mathematics, and that is ironic.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Arkansas voids local ENDA-like laws; Pentagn points gay chief of staff; Oregon has bisexual governor

Arkansas has passed a bill to rescind all local laws protecting LGBT persons from discrimination, unless the state later passes such a law.  Josh Israel has a story in ThinkProgress here.  It wasn’t immediately clear if the scope of the law is limited just to LGBT issues.  The governor, Asa Hutchinson (R) was expected to sign it.  But in 2014 Jan Brewer (R) had vetoed a similar law in Arizona.  Wal-Mart, headquartered in the state, does protect its own employees.
The Washington Blade is reporting the name of a gay man, Eric Fanning, as civilian Pentagon Chief of Staff, story by Michael Lavers here. Fanning had been Air Force undersecretary.  I had long wondered, during the days of DADT, about indirect effects on civilians, which were an issue for me (remember that it took until 1995 for Clinton to protect civilians with high level security clearances). 
And Kate Brown, bisexual, is the nation’s first “openly” gay governor, Oregon (story in LA Times here).  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Army will go slow on discharging transgender soldiers; also, a grammar and spelling lesson

The Army will take the lead among the services and require more procedure before discharging a transgender soldier for that reason.  US Today reported this development  in a story by Tom Vanden Brook February 16, 2015, here. At least one senior civilian official in the Department of the Army must approve the discharge.  The other services have not yet announced similar measures.
But technically, a medical ineligibility ban on transgender soldiers in the US military continues.

Vox has an article by German Lopez, explaining why the correct adjective is (grammatically) “transgender” and not “transgendered”.  I’ve often misspelled this.  Making it a participle makes it sound like “blacked” or “colored”.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Some people still mistreat kids of same-sex parents

Here’s a case where a mother won’t let her daughter go to a friend’s house because the friend has two moms. The Washington Post story by Steven Petrow is called “Civilities”   And here we go, judging the kids by what we think of their parents.  No wonder some kids take this as a license for bullying. 
I suppose the parent is wondering what the child will think of her own family given knowledge that there are same-sex parents around  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Blade often discusses DC housing costs for LGBT-trans youth, but are there libertarian solutions?

Lateefah Williams has a major story about the need for housing for LGBT and trans youth in the Washington Blade Feb. 13, here  The focus is on Washington DC and the high rental and housing costs due to real estate values and gentrification, which has driven “poor people” out of the areas around U-Street, and Nationals Park (and probably a new soccer stadium soon), and now will do so in Northeast as new condos go up.
This is not racial;  it is simply about the power of those with money over those without, to play real life "Monopoly" where "winner takes all". 
The Blade has recently run stories and op-eds about rapidly escalating housing costs in Washington DC, which affect all residents, gay or not.   A one bedroom in the new Drake apartments, cutes as it looks, costs over $3000 a month, and helps pay for the new organ at the First Baptist Church on the same property (which I attend and have supported).  If the building had a few more floors, rents would be a little less.
But I’ve tweeted today that easing height restrictions in the District could help reduce rents and make it easier to offer affordable housing.  In Washington, the height restrictions artificially limit supply and might fit into some developers’ plans, as a somewhat subsidized crony capitalism from blue-state government.  Lifting height restrictions is a “libertarian” solution, as is allowing more pop-ups.
Of course, one can get into why rents in Manhattan are so much, where there is a different dynamic (extreme convenience for some people, for one thing, and foreign investors), and Donald Trump knows how to play the “air rights” game.  Of course, libertarians blame rent control in NYC more for making housing costs higher in the long run, for desirable buildings.  
The question of lower-income LGBT youth sidesteps an issue that is not discussed openly very much – asylees (from places like Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, the Middle East).  Will they need housing to stay here?

In 1980, when living in Dallas, I “took in” someone in an “emergency”, indirectly as a result of attention given to the Cuban Refugee Crisis, now largely forgotten history.  How it turned out was mixed.  Some people do better in life than others simply because they are more capable.  That’s as true in our community (for both young and older) as anywhere else.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Virginia tables bill protecting state employees, gender-neutral language; hospitals look at transgender patient policies

Incredibly, a subcommittee in the Virginia House of Delegates tabled a bill that would have protected LGBT state and local government employees from discrimination, according to a Washington Blade story by Michael Lavers, link here. It also tabled a bill to make Virginia’s marriage laws gender neutral. 
This is all a little surprising, that a bill regarding state employees would be controversial.  Bob McDonnell had refused to support it while saying he didn’t discriminate, and we know what happened to the former GOP governor and his wife.  

Also, NBC Washington is reporting on how hospitals are considering room assignments for transgender patients.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Slovakia tries to stop gay people from raising children

The Cato Institute is reporting on a mean vote over gay rights in Slovakia, in an article by Dalibor Rohac, link here.  Rohac as a longer story on the referendum here.  It seems as though there is already a DOMA-like constitutional amendment, but the “Alliance for Family”, sounding a bit like the US “Family Research Council” or “Focus on the Family” wants to pass more pro-active legislation to prevent gay people or parents from adopting or having custody of children. This would be a referendum that is not seen as too likely to pass.  
The group is not going as far as Russia in the speech area.  Still, look at the circularity:  gay people won’t be responsible for families because society won’t let them, so it can blame them for taking away income and resources from families.   It brings back sexual orientation (for men) as a false proxy for the ability to make family commitments, the way it was seen here until the late 1960, before it slowly changed. 
My own background on the paternal side is Czechoslovakia, but (American) Baptist rather than Catholic.   

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Sweet Home Alabama" in chaos, as some counties don't allow even straight marriage now; Clarence Thomas hints at a "win" in June

Sweet Home Alabama is in a fracas as a state official told counties to ignore a federal court ruling.  Some counties, around the larger cities (especially Birmingham and Huntsville) are recognizing gay marriages, but a few counties have refused to process any marriages at all, gay or straight, in protest. The latest Washington Post story from the AP is here

In the meantime, Clarence Thomas, in a minor dissent on a refusal of the Supreme Court to intervene right now until the decision in June, hinted that the Court is likely to recognize a fundamental right to marriage or equal protection, in any case, a win.  

Alabama state Chief Justice Roy Moore faces off with Chris Cuomo, link here. Think Progress has an account here. Moore brought up Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguon!  Moore seems to be claiming "states rights".  We've heard this before.   Will he obey the Supreme Court in June?
Nan Hunter from Georgetown University warns about too much optimism now, in this Washington Blade story by Chris Johnson.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Singapore blogger convicted of "contempt of court" in criticizing city-state's sodomy law; similar case now in Malaysia

In a bizarre case, Singapore blogger Alex Au has been found guilty of “contempt of court” for a blog posting in which he argued that the chief judge was not impartial in dealing with the Singapore sodomy law, 377A, news story by Vijalan in the Singapore “Straits Times”, link here.  There is no pun in the publication title. 
The articles had been published in the “Yawning Bread”, which right now is a Wordpress blog but normally has its own site, dedicate to LGBT issues in Singapore. 
Singapore has concerns about its low birth rate (here  in "Marginal Revolution") despite pronatalist policies.  These had come up in the film “Ilo Ilo” reviewed here on the Movies blog July 22, 2014.  
Update:  February 12

Malaysia is also in the act (Singapore is not part of Malaysia legally).  A cartoonist is being tried for sodomy. It's a confusing case.  New York Times story by Thomas Fuller here.
Update: February 20

A Malaysian appeals court has overruled an acquittal, not possible in the US, and the sodomy conviction holds here.  

Sunday, February 08, 2015

CA archbishop mums school employees on personal social media statements on LGBT issues; Texas private Lutheran school demands progay YouTube video from student come down

An Archbishop in San Francisco has imposed a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy on all employees (whether Catholic or not) at the high school in his archdiocese, banning social media posts that express opinions in contradiction to the Church, including gay “propaganda”, so to speak.  Sounds like Vladimir Putin.  The link to the story by Jack Jenkins is here.   This sounds like the old workplace “conflict of interest” problem in the 1990s, about public speech when working for a “partisan” or “fraternal” employer (that is, religious, or otherwise not impartial about cultural values).  I simply stayed away from such places, even calls from them about jobs after I “retired”.
Aviva Shen also reports that a private Lutheran school in Houston, Texas was threatened with expulsion if he would not take down a personal YouTube video in which he outed himself, link here.
The Texas Observer also has a detailed story about the incident here . The school is affiliates with the Missouri Synod, the more conservative branch of Lutheranism, which believes that people with homosexual inclinations must accept a God-given call for their own personalized sacrifice.   When I lived in Minneapolis, I found most Lutheran congregations rather liberal in practice. 

The video, by Austin Wallis, "Be the Change",  seems to be available as of right now and follows here, embedded. 


Although libertarianism says private schools and churches can impose their beliefs on members as they like, these beliefs seem to be increasingly intrusive, unreasonable, unscientific, and hard to defend.  Religion is losing control. 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Zoey Tor reports on transgendered Bruce Jenner, a male track hero from the 1970s

CNN today presented Zoey Tor, one of the first openly transgendered newscasters (story in New York Post), and also a helicopter pilot for CBS.  Apparently “he” had broadcast a lot of the “low speed” chase in Los Angeles of O.J. Simpson in June 1994 the day he was finally arrested. 
Tor discussed Bruce Jenner, who seems to have angered the trangendered community with her announcement on television of her sex-change, TMZ link here.  Wikipedia does not yet mention the change.  Jenner was pretty much a male role model as an Olympic track athlete in the early 1970s, especially in 1972.  

Update later today:

Bruce Jenner was involved in a serious automobile accident. USA Today reports here.  Jenner was uninjured, but one person was killed in the pileup in Malibu, CA.

In another story, about horrific bullying of an "agendered" teen, Aplus reports how the Oakland CA school system handled it.  

Friday, February 06, 2015

"Days of our Lives" episode steps on the blood donation ban for MSM

On “Days of our Lives”, the NBC soap, a couple new cards have been played.  The character Paul, of Asian descent, is a former major league baseball pitcher who has come out as gay, with the help of Will Horton’s articles.   Paul no longer pitches because of a shoulder injury.
The love triangle between Will, Sonny and Paul isn’t really important on an “issues” column, except that it might expand the stability of gay marriage among younger men. 
More important is the mugging of Sonny and stabbing in a robbery.  Sonny’s life is saved in surgery only when Paul gives matching O- blood, and more than one pint.
That would violate the ban on blood donations from MSM, which may soon be lifted partially in the US.  In the circumstances in the soap opera, the hospital can’t get enough blood to save Sonny without Paul’s two-pint donation.  That certain raises even more questions:  is blood donation a civic responsibility?  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Oregon bakery ruled to have discriminated against lesbian couple illegally, RFRA logic backfires on business

An agency of the state government of Oregon, the Bureau of Labor and Industries, has ruled that a ("Christian") bakery in Oregon violated a state anti-discrimination ordinance when it refused to sell a wedding cake to a female couple, according to this story in ThinkProgress by Zack Ford, link here.  The business (Sweet Cakes by Melissa)  will have to pay administrative damages of as much as $150,000 to the couple (Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, now Bowman-Cryer), amount to be determined later.

The business had even moved out of its storefront into home to strengthen its own legal theory (shown here on administrative "court" paper, here ).
The legal analysis is interesting. First, in the law, the distinction between “conduct” and personhood ( perhaps understood as a propensity or desire for conduct, wording well-known from the military gay ban debate of years past) is very minimal in the law, based on Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.  More subtle is the way the reasoning of the “Hobby Lobby” case applies.  The article points out that the Hobby Lobby case (Books blog, Jan. 2, 2015), the legal outcome depended on the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) as a federal law, but not on similar laws in some states. 
The analysis also denies that merely selling a commercial product already announced as available is “compelled speech”. 
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of high country in eastern Oregon (BLM, public domain) here.   I visited the area in 1978.

Monday, February 02, 2015

ExxonMobil finally agrees to inclusive LGBT anti-discrimination policy

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade reports that Exxon-Mobil has finally adopted a “LGBT-inclusive non discrimination policy” in the story here.  The announcement was seen as a bit underwhelming.

When I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, oil companies were major employers, particularly Mobil and Arco, and I actually interviewed ARCO in the spring of 1983.  As I recall, Mobil lost some protections when it merged with Exxon.

But I held Exxon in my own portfolio from 1977 until relatively recently. 
Picture: model of mountaintop removal from a train show near Baltimore.