“Bouncing Off the Walls”
Welcome to my WebLog. (I won’t call it a “b--g”;
I don’t like the word.) Way too much information about my
life, my thoughts, my fears, and my ever-evolving politics. For
those of you who care (or for those who just accidentally found this page
due to a web search).
5:45 pm / Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Click here for part 14.
One of the surprising side-effects of the push for same-sex civil marriage that I’ve found is a revision of the words I have to (or am willing to) use about same-sex relationships.
As I wrote in “Letterhack V: Spousal Equivalent” on January 21 (and expanded here), there has long been a list of terms that people would apply to their same-sex relationships: roommate, boyfriend or girlfriend, lover, partner, life partner, longterm companion, fuck buddy, daddy, boy, master, slave, sugar daddy, mate, soulmate, chew toy,…
In particular, we would often use “husband” or “wife” to describe a partner. Sometimes this was quite serious, with couples who had lived together in a “marriage-like” relationship for several years, possibly including a commitment ceremony and an exchange of rings. Often, though, this was used as (ironic?) shorthand for a gay or lesbian person’s “boyfriend / girlfriend / lover / partner / whatever he or she is”. Except for those who had had actually religious ceremonies, the use of the term was not accurate (and even when accurate, was not “legal”).
Now, though, we have people who hold actual marriage licenses from various jurisdictions, making the use of “husband” or “wife” fully accurate and, to varying degrees in varying places (and hopefully soon less varying and in more places), legal as well.
This makes the use of the terms in non-accurate scenarios distasteful to me. I am not married, so Rusty is not my “husband”. I’m not sure what term I should use – we’ve been dating each other exclusively for almost eleven months, using the “L” word (no relation to the TV show) for much of that, and living together for three, including my acting as a step-parent for his teenage daughter – but we’re not married, and we haven’t really discussed getting married beyond that we aren’t ready to do so yet.
If we are going to value the actions of same-sex couples who have taken the marriage leap, treating them like the pioneers they are, then I think we have to consciously avoid ironic and joking casual uses of the terms in order to avoid lessening those other relationships.
(Of course, intentional ironic and joking uses are another matter.)
Click here for part 16.
5:45 pm / Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Click here for part 13.
The software company I work for was one of the early adopters of domestic partner benefits for its employees, back in 1994 or so. (Although it probably brought them in because of acquiring a smaller company which already had them at the time, rather than generating them independently.)
However, the world has moved on, and while the benefits are still available, the means of securing them is rather dated in today’s world.
Our domestic partners policy is fairly standard for what was being instituted by high tech companies in the early 1990s. The usual line of thought was that, for couples who were not married (that is, either same sex or opposite sex, as there could be reasons for the latter to need to secure some benefits for their partners without being married; a few companies explicitly limited their benefits only to opposite-sex couples), there had to be a solid indication of a dedicated, intimate relationship. After all, they didn’t want to be giving any random twosome the benefits, since the intent was to provide some of the benefits of marriage for those who couldn’t (for whatever reason) get married.
As such, couples were required to apply for the benefits and fulfill a raft of requirements, including living together, sharing expenses jointly, and doing so for a full 12 months prior to getting the benefits, and waiting a similar 12-month period before listing a new domestic partner in the even of dissolving the first partnership. While a bit unwieldy, this did seem to prove a dedication; no one would be moving in with their buddy who worked for a high-tech company and getting benefits the next week.
(On some level, this was AIDS-phobia related. AIDS drugs were God-awful expensive at the time, and one of the underlying fears was that someone would take on a dying buddy – not a lower/partner, but just a friend – who had no health care and would build up big heath care costs to be defrayed by the company, and possibly, that they might do this repeatedly with multiple people. And you know, much though we’d like to pretend otherwise, there are certainly people who would have used the system in just this way if they could have.)
Of course, these same hurdles were (and are) not present for opposite-sex married couples. They don’t have to “apply” for the benefits; they just have to announce that they now have a husband or wife, and the coverage is automatic. They don’t have a one-year waiting period; they can be married on Sunday and be covered on Monday, then divorce on Tuesday and remarry on Wednesday, getting immediate coverage for the new spouse. They don’t even have to live together or even see one another again after the marriage. (And they can marry someone simply to secure health benefits for them.) (Not that any of this does happen regularly, but it certainly could.)
The gay and lesbian employees never made too much of a fuss about this, since (a) we were getting some benefits rather than none and (b) since we couldn’t get married, our relationships didn’t have to be treated like a marriage. Second-class citizenship was better than no citizenship at all.
Today, the world has moved on. Employees of our company can register their domestic partnerships with King County (Seattle, where we have a major office), the state of California (where we have a major office in San Jose), and other state and local governments around the country. They can get a Civil Union in Vermont. They can get a legal marriage in British Columbia and Ontario (where we have a major office), or the Netherlands (where we have an office) and other European countries. They will, come May 17, presumably be able to get legally married in Massachusetts (where we have an office), and they are getting married (with as yet questionable legality) in San Francisco and Portland and New Mexico and New York.
Members of our gay and lesbian employees group are working with representatives of our Human Resources organization (and we started doing so last November, before any of the 2004 hullabaloo started) to get our company’s policy changed. We want the company to treat our employees who have taken the step of formalizing their relationships (registered domestic partnership, civil unions, or marriages not currently recognized throughout the United States) to not have to go through extra hurdles in getting their benefits from the company. No need to apply for the benefits, just state the partner’s name. No need for a waiting period if the partnership has been legal registered by a government authority. (Note that most couples who take that registration step will have achieved the 12-month period, or at least will be close to it. Very few will try to scam the system, and the policy can be crafted to weed out and punish those individuals without creating hurdles for the honest employees.)
We have a certain amount of hope that we will succeed in this endeavor, although the standard behavior of the company tends to be “aggressively neutral,” not wanting to either lead or trail the pack in controversial arenas. We’ve already had a couple meetings with HR where they were quite willing to listen to our desires. We’ve identified several couples within the company who have registered partnerships, civil unions, or marriages in either Canada or San Francisco. And now both San Jose and Seattle (where the company’s two largest offices are located) are moving to recognize such same-sex civil marriages for their city employees and general residents, which will give extra leverage to get the company to do likewise.
In summary: don’t forget about the benefits, rights, and responsibilities that you may currently have. Make sure that they stay up to date with society.
Click here for part 15.
3:26 pm / Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Want to really torture someone who is from the end of the Baby Boomer generation through Generation X? (Roughly age 30-45.)
Ask them to say the letters of the alphabet… without singing it. Without using any of the standard Sesame Street phrasing. No slurring together of “LMNOP”, no grouping of “QRS” and “TUV”.
Not cruel enough? Make them recite (but not sing, a là School House Rock) the Preamble of the United States Constitution. No parsing it as “We the people / In order to form a more perfect union / Establish justice / Ensure domestic tranquility / ….”
Have them do a dramatic reading of the theme songs of The Brady Bunch or Gilligan’s Island.
It’s amazing how ingrained these bits of pop culture are in our psyches. I can almost manage these stunts, but I inevitably get tripped up by the meter around the word “and” (“Do ordain… and establish” or “the Professor and… Mary Ann”).
10:56 am / Monday, March 8, 2004
Click here for part 12.
On the radio this morning, talking to same-sex civil marriage supporters, talk jock Rusty Humphries claimed he was trying to take emotion out of the question and was just trying to ask questions that the people he was talking to could not answer. (Of course, what he was really trying to do was to force them to answer questions based on emotion, at which point he could either goad them into raving or just hang up on them.)
The tables got turned at one point, though.
He was using the tack about marriage being for raising kids. The person on the phone commented that gay and lesbian couples could raise kids as well. Rusty declared that this was different, because those weren’t their kids, that they weren’t from a mixture of the two parents’ DNA. The caller then pushed to the divorce matter: what about those kids who come from a family where the natural parents are married, and then the couple gets divorced, and then remarries, such that the people raising the kids aren’t both of the natural parents? This is treated as perfectly acceptable in our society. How is it then horribly different when the people raising the kids are the same sex, with perhaps only one being the natural parent?
No response from the right winger, just a quick change to a new question. Couldn’t answer the question without emotion, I guess. Point, our side.
Click here for part 14.
1:08 pm / Friday, March 5, 2004
Three weeks ago tomorrow, I got my septum pierced. (That’s a ring through the cartilage at the bottom of the nose. Think Ferdinand the Bull.)
Why did I do it? Well, with winning the Seattle Leather Daddy contest in November, I got a certificate for a free piercing from Troy at Apocalypse. I’ve already got a pierced ear and a Prince Albert (head of the dick, going through the urethra and out the bottom), and I’ve previously had (and removed) a nipple ring and a tongue stud. So it is was septum, labret (below the lip), guiche (between the dick and the asshole), or a bar at the base of the dick where it meets the scrotum. (Or I suppose I could have got something bizarre like a uvula piercing.) I’ve always thought septum piercings looked cool – and with a small retainer in place of a ring, they can be tucked up into the nose, nearly invisible – so that’s what I went for.
(Not that I had to use the certificate, of course, but I wouldn’t want to spurn the generous donation Apocalypse made to our club.)
At the time, I had the choice between a split ring (with a gap at the bottom and two balls), a captive bead (where a ball sits caught between ends of the ring, or a retainer. I chose the split ring because it can be rotated up into the nose to hide it for a while (such as if I have to visit my mother). I could have gone with the retainer, but I figured that if I find the piercing just a little irritating (and I have at times), I might be tempted to remove the retainer and just ditch the piercing, which I’m unlikely to do with the full ring. I wanted to make sure I stick with it.
After eight weeks, it should be healed enough to change the jewelry. At that point, I’ll probably go to a retainer for daily wear, saving the ring – or getting more dramatic spikes and such – for weekends and special events.
The set of reactions I’ve had since then have been unusual. In general, people do their best to just ignore it. I haven’t noticed many cases of people looking at the ring rather than the rest of my face. A few co-workers have asked some specific questions about it – like “What did you do to your nose?” (“Nothing,” I replied. “The piercer did that.” <grin>) – but no vocal negative reactions. Of course, this is Seattle, which was one of the places the trend of facial piercings came from. That, and people generally just try to be polite.
(And of course, there’s the typical “Did that hurt?” question. In gay circles, I answer that quite matter-of-factly: “A little. Just enough that my dick started getting hard when he shoved the needle through.”)
But the last weekend of February, I went to Texas for LUEY.
Walking through the airports in Dallas and Houston (but not in the hotel I was at, which was hosting the mostly-black attendees of a Narcotics Anonymous convention [I note the race just because it was the situation there, not because I draw a connection between blacks and drugs; heck, maybe it means blacks are more apt to try to recover from such addiction than whites]), I kept getting cruised. Or so it seemed, but when I would try to make eye contact and cruise back, I kept getting deep scowls, of the “That guy is gay, isn’t he? I don’t like queers” sort.
It wasn’t until coming through Dallas on the way back that it hit me that the guys weren’t scowling, precisely, but were instead staring at the nose ring. The scowl was more one of confusion than dislike: “What the hell does that guy have hanging from his nose?” Hard to say if I was being cruised as well, or not.
Or maybe the look was “Who let Ferdinand the Bull loose in here?”
12:37 pm / Friday, March 5, 2004
Click here for part 11.
Why is same-sex civil marriage so important? Why this, why now?
Because it’s the “brass ring.”
(History Lesson: Old-time carousels would have a contraption where people sitting on the outside ring of horses could reach out and try to snag a ring. Most were iron [or whatever], but a few were brass. Grab a brass ring and you got to ride again for free. The last time I was in Santa Cruz, the carousel at the Beach Boardwalk there had such a “ring grabber,” and you were then supposed to toss the ring at a target. I think you got a free ride if you hit the target, or something like that.)
In this case, the civil marriage is (rightly) seen as the thing that will wipe away all other questions about same-sex civil rights. How can you rationalize disallowing adoption to a legitimately married couple? How can a health plan not cover a person’s legal spouse? How can the military kick out someone who is in a legally-recognized same-sex relationship unless their actual actions are contrary to military discipline?
Given this big right, lots of other things come automatically, and the things that don’t become way harder to defend the restrictions on.
Click here for part 13.
5:22 pm / Thursday, March 4, 2004
What is the one patent number that you have probably encountered – or at least read — the most?
It’s something that is in front of you almost every time you use the product. And it’s something you probably read every time you see it, because you have nothing better to do at the time.
It usually involves the text “Reduces the risk of disease transmission through paper towel waste” (or something like that). And “120 V 60 Hz”.
That’s right. Hot air hand dryers, found in every public restroom in the country. You’re standing there, facing the wall, knowing that the thing will shut off when your hands are only about 85% dry (which leaves you wondering whether running it another 10 seconds wouldn’t be cheaper than making you press the button again and running it for another full 60 seconds every single time). With nothing else to do, you read the metal plate on the dryer, which has the exact same text you’ve read on a hundred other dryers a hundred other times. Including the patent number.
Eventually, you start to memorize that shit.
Patent no. 2553846. Other patents pending. (Haven’t the damn things been processed by now? It’s been years!)
Shoot me now.
(There’s an additional patent number listed on about 1/8 of the dryers. That one, I’m happy to say, I don’t have memorized. And about 1/4 of the dryers – all from one manufacturer – don’t list the numbers at all.)
11:47 am / Thursday, March 4, 2004
Click here for part 10.
It can be fun listening to conservative talk radio with their coverage of the same-sex civil marriage hoo-hah (or “sodomite matrimony,” if you prefer; that was the term used in late February when Les Kinsolving filled in for Rusty Humphries on his national radio show) that’s been going on the past three weeks. In and among the more standard “reasons” (excuses) why we can’t allow same-sex civil marriages – morality, tradition, kids, etc. – there are a few which are just way out there. As best as I can figure, these people have thought about the question just enough to realize that reasons based squarely on religious grounds won’t fly when it comes to the courts, so they flail around for something, anything else to use as a club in place of the Bible.
And what they find is “benefits”. One of the leading arguments for why same-sex civil marriage is needed is that along with marriage comes a whole slew of government and business supplied benefits. Not just rights like hospital visitation and adoption, but things like joint filing of tax returns. Many (but not all) of these can be acquired by filing assorted powers of attorney, wills, and other documents, and by working for gay-supportive companies, but only at a cost of thousands of dollars and the possibility of having to fight for them when needed, problems that married couples simply don’t face.
Favorite Excuse #1: Gay couples want to ensure health benefits for their spouses, and since gays and lesbians are known health risks, this will be expensive.
Sidestepping the underlying jab that all gay men are presumed to be HIV+, have you ever looked into the costs of having a child? Not just birthing it, but all the health costs throughout the kid’s life? Woo whee! We could save a bundle on health expenses by not subsidizing population expansion.
Favorite Excuse #2: Married gay couples will be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits if one of them should die, and that would cause an added drain on our already strapped Social Security program.
If this is such a concern, then maybe we should just put a stake in the ground now and disallow than benefit for all future marriages. Only ones performed before this date will be eligible.
Favorite Excuse #3: From an April 21st letter to the editor in the Seattle Times, authored by Scott Wall: “Those who are seeking to legalize same-sex marriage are not taking into account all the ramifications. For example, if a citizen marries a non-citizen, the non-citizen then becomes naturalized. Do we want all sorts of men marrying and pretending to marry other men in order to sidestep the naturalization process?”
Click here for part 12.
5:27 pm / Wednesday, March 3, 2004
You watched Sesame Street. You know the tune.
Z Y X W V U T…
S R Q P ONMLK…
J I H…
G F E…
Now you know your Z Y X
(I put that together about a year ago, one Friday night while driving to the local bar. Took me maybe 5 minutes.)
5:22 pm / Wednesday, March 3, 2004
Click here for part 9.
The situations in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle are quite different, despite the political similarities between the cities.
In San Francisco, we have a city with probably the most significant gay population in the country, and a politically active one, to boot. During election season, San Francisco candidates come to the leather bar beer bust on Sunday afternoon to address their constituents! We also have a case where the city’s mayor and the the county executive are one and the same, so the mayor could make the order. Newsom is aware that the various DOMA laws are probably unconstitutional, but that the courts won’t hear challenges to them unless the laws are having an impact; that is, until there are same-sex marriages done locally or by other states, the laws don’t do anything but sit and menace. By pushing gay marriages forward – and in the sort of extreme volume only San Francisco can generate – he forces the question. In the end, as he has said, this may severely damage his political career. But he will have eternally made himself a hero for some portions of the populace, and if he succeeds, he’ll have also made his political career.
With Portland, there is no state DOMA law to interfere, and clear prohibitions against discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Further, the state’s marriage laws specify age requirements for males and females engaging in marriage, but do not specify one and only one of each. This has left the door open for the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses, with only the incentive of San Francisco and Massachusetts needed to kick things off. (Indeed, the ball started rolling in Oregon before San Francisco started issuing licenses.) Oregon thus ends up in the same class as Massachusetts, and the actions will probably result in both a trip to the state Supreme Court and an attempt to amend the state Constitution, but with the added kick that this is right now just a single county issuing the licenses, but also the most populous county, which could set off a string of lawsuits against other counties in the state if they don’t follow Multnomah County’s lead. (Oregon is also peculiar in that its population density is such that Multnomah and Lane counties – Portland and Eugene – rule the roost. Anti-gay initiatives in that state failed when every county except those two voted for them. Amending the state Constitution is apt to be equally as difficult.)
In Seattle, we have a nicely liberal populace – heck, Kucinich scored delegates here. But we also have a DOMA law. Seattle’s mayor, Greg Nickels, has already passed the marriage buck to the county, and county executive Ron Sims has proven unwilling to take the Newsom route. This isn’t because Sims isn’t friendly to the gay community, but because he’s very aware of the potential damage to his political career. See, Sims is running for governor this year, and Washington’s population, while weighted toward the west side of the Cascades, isn’t as imbalanced as Oregon’s: he has to be aware of the more conservative Eastern Washington and what advocating for same-sex civil marriage could do to his support from that part of the state. (I can’t blame him, frankly. He’ll be of more value to our community as governor for the next four years than if he pushes on this issue and loses because of it. I’d like to get supportive wording from him in the process, though.)
Oregon has one more interesting side angle to it: they have a state income tax. The IRS has apparently declared that they will not recognize same-sex civil marriages for purposes of couples filing jointly, presumably under the federal DOMA law. If Oregon accepts such marriages and state income tax filings, there is then a basis to issue a court challenge to the federal DOMA law.
Since writing this, I’ve been told that the IRS says they will recognize based on what each state does.
Click here for part 11.
11:25 am / Monday, March 1, 2004
Blasphemy ahead. You’ve been warned.
I have zero interest in seeing the new film, The Passion of the Christ. Seen one crucifixion, seen them all. (Can we just rent Monty Python’s The Life of Brian again?) We needed another moving Easter film like we need another novel about growing up gay in the South.
Then again, maybe I will go see it. I hear the whipping scene is hot. Total wanking material.
5:43 pm / Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Click here for part 5.
There has been all sorts of talk about whether Kerry (or possibly Edwards, and formerly Dean) is “electable”, and about the importance of getting Bush out of office. But I think these comments forget something.
Getting Bush out of office is not the goal here.
Or rather, it’s only part of the goal. Bush isn’t a monolith, a king, a micro-manager. He isn’t behind all the decisions and all the politicking. His administration is.
In other words, if we get rid of Bush, we also get rid of Karl Rove. We get rid of Donald Rumsfeld. We get rid of John Ashcroft. We get rid of Dick Cheney. (We also get rid of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Christine Todd-Whitman, and other lesser darknesses. It’s less clear that there’s any vast benefit there, but I’m happy to throw out those bath toys when we drain the dirty bathwater.)
So remember when it comes to voting: you aren’t just voting for the lesser of two individual evils, you are voting to oust an entire corrupt and distasteful suite of evils.
Click here for part 7.
12:35 pm / Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Click here for part 8.
The CNN story on Bush’s formal call for an anti-same sex civil marriage amendment to the United States Constitution is here.
If that doesn’t hammer a stake through the heart of the “Compassionate Conservative” vampire, nothing will.
As with everything Bush does this year, the act is politically motivated, of course. Constitutional amendments don’t get passed overnight. They take months. This ensures that a divisive, middle America-squicking issue is in front of the voters all year long, but the actual voting fallout of it won’t occur until after this November.
This is designed, as much as anything, to force Kerry (and possibly Edwards) to take up a contrary stance. This may well backfire on Bush and company. Initially, it has a polarizing effect and may push some people into the Conservative camp. But it is well established that the more gay people someone knows, the less severe their reactions toward gays tend to be, and by extension, the more someone knows about a subject, the better they can make a choice. And thus, the more this issue is out in the public eye, the more people will be forced to confront their internal biases. People who are already heavily against it will stay that way, but others are vastly more likely to shift their opinions to be in favor of same-sex civil marriages as they learn and think more about the issue.
So to quote our fine President: “Bring it on.”
Click here for part 10.
10:28 am / Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Click here for part 7.
One of the classic and recurring arguments for limiting marriage to only a man and a woman is that marriage is expressly for the raising of children. And thus because one male and one female parent (the original parents, we should specify) are the ideal, marriage must be limited to such a pair in order to give children the best chance possible.
I’m fine with that.
(Indeed, I would say that the best of all parenting option is the child’s original father and mother, assuming they love the child and work for the child’s best interests and all those other things that are part of the “ideal” but may not happen in all cases. And in those myriad cases where it doesn’t happen in the “ideal” way, parenting by a single parent, or by one original and one step-parent, or by a same-sex couple where one is an original parent, or even by some random couple from an overseas country who genuinely wants the child may be quite an excellent parenting situation. But I digress…)
As I said, I’m fine with focusing marriage on the child-rearing matter. So long as it is applied fully and fairly across the board. So here’s a (modest) proposal:
The institution of marriage shall be limited to one man and one woman, expressly for the purpose of raising children.
Any marriage which is childless for two years shall automatically be dissolved, with the separation of joint assets defined per each state’s legislature.
“Childless” shall mean the absence of a child in the household between conception and the age of majority. The child’s permanent residence must that of the couple more than half of each year.
Marriage with the intention or expectation of remaining childless shall constitute fraud.
In other word, by getting “married”, the couple commits to the duty of raising children. Couples must present proof of pregnancy or the presence of a child in the home more than half the time within two years of their ceremony to remain married. Couples who do not currently have children under the age of majority in the home have two years to again become pregnant or otherwise acquire a child. (Acquiring a child may include step-parenting, adoption, being a foster parent, or raising grandchildren whom your children cannot raise themselves, and possibly other methods.)
Among other things, this means infertile couples may not be married (or at least may not stay married), couples may not marry with the intention of remaining childless, and after the kids turn 21, the marriage duties are concluded and the marriage must be dissolved. Nobody gets a “pass” because they are physically incapable of having kids (including due to injury, illness, or age), and no one gets a free ride because they raised kids in the past; if you aren’t doing it now, you don’t get the benefits.
I’m sure that proposal would go over real well.
Click here for part 9.
1:24 pm / Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Click here for part 4.
What dismays me the most about the shift from Dean to Kerry (or possibly Edwards) as the heir apparent for the Democratic nomination – and by extension, the general paring down of candidates, although that was inevitable – is that I’m not sure I can get worked up over Kerry (or possibly Edwards).
Dean, I had a feeling for. Or at least via the media, I had a feeling I was supposed to have a feeling for him. I inferred a personality, a stance on a variety of issues, and thus someone whom I could actually care about.
With Kerry (or possibly Edwards), I have no such feeling, or feeling of the need to have a feeling. It’s no longer “Is this the best guy? Do I agree with what he says? Does he fire me up?” Instead, it has become “Okay, this is the Democrat guy (or possibly Edwards). Guess he’s the one I’ll vote for. Sure hope he can beat Bush.”
In other words, “Yeah, whatever.” I know I’ll vote, and I know I won’t vote for Bush. So now I just yawn until March 2, when we’ll know if it’s actually going to be Kerry (or possibly Edwards will pull enough states to prolong things). And then I’ll stretch and scratch myself and twiddle my thumbs until July (or whenever the official Candidate Crowning Ceremony occurs). And then I’ll nap until late October.
So far as I’m concerned, the only thing left to do is count the votes. Although I’m sure there will be ample local and state politics to perk the interest before then.
Click here for part 6.
11:56 am / Friday, February 13, 2004
Click here for part 1.
Now we’re going great guns with hearings about the baring of Ms. Jackson’s nipple piercing during the Super Bowl.
An interesting opinion piece on it appears at the International Herald Tribune site.
I can only see two possible outcomes of this:
On the surface, sounds like a great idea. Of course, “appropriate personnel” is just a euphemism for “censors”. While we might have few qualms about a few seconds of blurred screen being presented to cover up a “wardrobe malfunction,” what else is going to be blurred, blacked out, or silenced? Will stations with a conservative agenda push the “quiet” button when tough questions get asked of a sitting Republican politician? Will cable companies in the Bible Belt black out CNN stories on gay marriage in Massachusetts? Will liberal stations blur… well, I find it hard to think of them doing that, but for the sake of argument, would they blur things that liberals find objectionable?
I haven’t watched old Warner Brothers cartoons in years, but the last time I did, I was shocked by the violence. Or rather, by the lack of violence, and how that lack of violence had been instituted. Apparently the prints of the cartoons would get sent from station to station over the years, and on occasion, some station would take it upon themselves to save their young viewers from the evil violence and would “edit” (censor) the cartoon. That print would then be sent on in its damaged form to the next station, who might also edit it, and so on.
I saw one of the two “Duck Season! Wabbit Season!” cartoons (I think that’s the title; if it isn’t and you’ve ever seen it, you know the one just from the phrase) (yes, two: one takes place in autumn and one in winter; same schtick, though). It had been “edited” so that the image froze just before each time Daffy got blasted with Elmer’s shotgun, and then the picture started again with the after effects on Daffy’s bill – but the sound continued unstopped. So you got images of Elmer leveling the shotgun, then a static image accompanied by the sound of a gun being fired, and then Daffy’s bill full of holes. Now that’s “dethpicable.”
Another trash job was on “Hare Trimmed”, where Bugs is trying to protect Granny from Yosemite Sam’s intent to marry her for her inheritance. The chop job on this was so bad: a few seconds before any “violence”, they would just cut to the next scene. But not just to the next scene but into the next scene. So you would have Yosemite Sam going through a door where he’s supposed to fall through a hole in the floor and off a cliff (or some such), cutting immediately to Sam chasing Granny down a hallway, in the middle of the dialogue. Very surreal, and impossible to follow.
So is this what we can expect to happen with a “delayed live feed” rule in place: a Half-Time Show where the on-site operators freezes the image but lets the sound play through, a network which blurs the frozen image, a cable company which chops the offensive sounds, and then a V-Chip on your local set which blanks out the entire screen?
3:37 pm / Friday, February 6, 2004
Click here for part 6.
But in the past, when the country was struggling with whether or not to allow people of different races to marry each other, for example, there wasn’t a question of calling it something other that marriage.
The way Colin Powell said it is that it’s like the decision President Truman made [to desegregate the military] and the decision that he was asked to make [to allow gay people to serve openly]. He said that there is something fundamentally different with sexual orientation. I’m not sure that’s correct. I’ll start with the legal rights. Let’s let convention take its course as it works through.
So, is Powell correct? Is there something fundamentally different between the “blacks in the military” and the “gays in the military” questions? After some thought, I’m willing to say that yes, there is.
(What I recall Powell saying, several years ago, was that he saw no comparison whatsoever between the two issues. Not just different but completely different. At the time, I thought this was the typical “the Civil Rights struggle is a black thing, the rest of you go away” response, not unlike how the Holocaust has come to about Jews and only about Jews. Today, I think that it is more that only someone “inside” the gay side of things has the ability to see through the “gay window”, and thus we see the underlying similarities strongly while those “outside” focus on the surface comparisons, or on what their own “windows” focus on; this encompasses my earlier opinion, but broadens it.)
The difference is external vs. internal. For black soldiers, you could clearly point to some soldiers and say “They may serve” and to others and say “They may not.” You could thus also target the concerns about troop morale and soldiers working together and such, mostly with a “Just get over it” response. Underlying the concern with gays in the military is that you (generally) can’t point out the gay soldiers from a distance; you have to get to know them first, and thus your first impressions may get twisted later.
Which isn’t to say that a “fundamental difference” is a good enough reason to bar the soldiers serving together, or the gay ones from serving at all. After all, you can’t (generally) tell at first glance that someone is Jewish, or left-handed, or any number of other traits which might only surface later. It’s really the “squick factor” that is the problem, magnified by the fact that it may not be apparent early on.
So now back to the comparison of mixed-race marriages to same-sex ones. Is there a similar “fundamental difference” there? There isn’t along the external vs. internal/visual axis mentioned above: there is nothing “hidden” on the same-sex front. If anything, it is more obvious than on the mixed-race side of the coin, where some state laws identified someone as “colored” with mere fractions of non-white heritage and even less melanin than Michael Jackson.
A fundamental difference has to be fundamental: it has to be blatantly obvious to everyone who looks at the matter. There is certainly such a difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, but that isn’t where this question lies. Why interracial marriages are so obviously different from same-sex ones as to warrant different treatments remains unclear.
(And note that General Clark agreed. If he’s not sure there’s a [valuable] fundamental difference between the black soldier question and the gay solider one, then he’s certain to be doubtful on the marriage issue. And that’s a good thing.)
Click here for part 8.
11:15 am / Wednesday, February 4, 2004
Click here for part 5.
Today’s Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that “civil unions” won’t fulfill their same-sex marriage requirement from last November isn’t particularly surprising. They said “marriage” and that’s what they meant.
I was encouraged by seeing this comment in the ruling, though:
Because the proposed law by its express terms forbids same-sex couples entry into civil marriage, it continues to relegate same-sex couples to a different status. […] The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.
I anticipate seeing increasing support for “civil unions” across the country (being used as a stop-gap), with an eventual Supreme Court case on “separate but equal” grounds which will do away with the term in favor of simple “marriage”. First we need to get a hodgepodge of “civil union” statutes among the various states, followed by lawsuits and legislation forcing them to unify in meaning and value. It will take years to get to and through that stage, but it is refreshing to see “separate is not equal” coming up so early in the discussion, and from the judicial side of things.
Click here for part 7.
11:05 am / Wednesday, February 4, 2004
Click here for part 3.
I don’t see any real surprises out of the seven primaries and caucuses (cauci?) on February 3.
I don’t have anything against Kerry. I’m sure he’ll be a fine candidate, if that’s how things settle out. On the other hand, I’m not fired up about him in the least; I don’t see anything to say he has any particular chance to beat Bush.
Click here for part 5.
12:41 pm / Tuesday, February 3, 2004
I don’t know who won the Super Bowl this year. Heck, I don’t even know who played in it. But I sure do know that Janet Jackson has her nipple pierced.
I’m not offended by the accidental baring of nipple of Ms. Jackson (since I’m nasty). Per the CNN story, the intent was to rip away the bustier and leave the bra intact. I’ve been a dance performer before, and I know that costumes don’t always behave as intended in the clinch. (And although not actually performing at the time, I’ve had a pair of leather pants rip down the fly, through the crotch, and across the ass in the middle of a dance move, leaving my naughty bits hanging out for anyone to look at if they wanted.)
Assuming it was an accident, of course. The one buzz in the back of my head is the statement from Justin Timberlake on the subject: “I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable.” Note the avoidance of a real apology (I’m sorry that you were offended, not that I caused offense); compare to Dr. Laura’s “apology” for offending gays and lesbians a few years back. And the final word of his statement is “regrettable” – this is something which can be regretted, not which I do regret. These sorts of press statements usually have their wording very closely analyzed, so no word or phrase in them is accidental.
Talk radio – conservative and liberal alike – is going great guns on this, wanting to know “Are you offended?” Damn right I’m offended. I’m offended by the implication that I should be offended!
Click here for part 2.
12:19 pm / Wednesday, January 27, 2004
Click here for part 2.
Some thoughts based on the New Hampshire results:
And some predictions:
Click here for part 4.
12:28 pm / Tuesday, January 27, 2004
10:29 am / Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Click here for part 1.
Last night – Monday the 26th – at 10:00 pm, the news came on the radio that Wesley Clark was in the lead in New Hampshire!
Mind you, the New Hampshire primary doesn’t start until Tuesday the 27th.
This was 10:00 pm on the West Coast, so it was 1:00 am in New Hampshire. Apparently some podunk little town out there hustles everyone out of bed at midnight on primary day every four years and gets them to vote, just so they can say they were first. Must be the only way the town’s name ever gets into the news. Sad, really.
So yes, Wesley Clark was in the lead, and not just barely but with a whopping 50% of the vote! Wow! Practically a mandate! Kerry and Edwards were tied with about 19% each, and Dean and Lieberman had 6% each.
How many votes total? 16.
Can we get some real news one of these days? Please.
Click here for part 3.
10:29 am / Tuesday, January 27, 2004
I was on the radio today, at about 9:20 am.
Rusty Humphries’ local show on the large local right-wing station, KVI (in the slot vacated by Rush Limbaugh trip to rehab), was focusing on Tuesday, January 27th’s big story. No, not the New Hampshire primary. What would they care about that for? Bush is pretty much a shoe-in to win the Republican side there, don’t you think?
It was today’s other big story: the myDoom virus. There was no particular political angle to the show today (unless you believe that liberals/progressives are more apt to use Macs than conservatives are).
Nothing too exciting beyond that. I told him that I get virus e-mails all the time, probably a couple dozen from myDoom in the last day alone. But I never worry about them for two reasons: I use a Macintosh, while most viruses are written for Windows, and I don’t use Microsoft Outlook, which most viruses take advantage of. I noted that I don’t use a Mac just because of virus issues.
Rusty wanted to know if I thought viruses like this were targeted at Microsoft and Bill Gates, but I affirmed that was unlikely. When Windows has 95% or so of the computers out there, it is simply the biggest target. (I didn’t mention that Macs are probably somewhat less vulnerable in general.)
He also expressed that he had had troubles in the past simply using a Mac. I said that Mac and Windows are really pretty much the same – maybe 90% or so – but whichever one someone learns to use first is the one they will tend to prefer.
This was the first time I had been on a radio talk show. I called on my cell phone (and once I got through, promptly plugged in the headset I have for it, so I could drive safely, thanks very much!) and they put me on after about 5 minutes. While I was waiting, I could hear the radio show through the phone. Once they put me on (I was second person on after I called), though, all the background radio noise was gone, giving me no feedback to indicate that I was still connected, not even any breathing from the host. I had to just start talking and go until I got to a point where Rusty would respond. Very odd sensation.
[Weblog title reference: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles was the first video to be shown on M-TV, back in 1980.]
2:53 pm / Monday, January 26, 2004
Click here for part 4.
Continuing the previous entry, but taking a different angle. Consider again the idea that same-sex marriage does not actually extend marriage, making it accessible to more people and thus “larger”, but that instead it creates a separate institution. (Something certainly not equal, though, in the eyes of same-sex marriage foes, and probably not even equivalent.)
That is, same-sex marriage creates an alternative. An option.
Options are the last thing that same-sex marriage opponents want there to be. There is only one God-approved form of coupling. Homosexuality bad. Pre-marital sex bad. Adultery bad. Polygamy bad. They have a monopoly and by God (ahem), they want to keep it.
(What is the value of a monopoly? In the real world, it all seemingly boils down to money – and there’s probably a facet of that here – but the real purpose of a monopoly is power. In the marriage arena, due to the religious sacrament angle, that’s spiritual power, but power nonetheless.)
(Comparison of resistance to the “option” of other forms of marriage to the resistance to the “choice” of abortion is left as an exercise for the reader)
Where lies the real threat? My partner, who was raised in semi-rural Kentucky (no jokes, please), gave me some insight into this. With my own upbringing in small town Washington, as a preacher’s kid, I could see the point.
Things can be vastly different when you live in an urban setting, with great access to variety in everything (food, technology, new, religion, etc.) than when you live in the country. Consider more rural locations: small schools where everyone knows everyone in the class, where there may be only a handful of churches in town (all Christian and several likely Fundamentalist), where there are fewer bars than churches. (Check out the song “My Town” from country duo Montgomery Gentry, currently on the charts.)
In a scenario such as this, the idea of alternate lifestyles of any sort is frowned upon. You go to school, you go to church, you grow up, you go to church, maybe you go to college (if you’re a good student; perhaps 10% of my graduating class went right on to college), you get married, you go to church, you have kids, you take the kids to church, and the cycle continues. There are no options conceived of, and there certainly are none offered. This is why many gay men and lesbians come out in their 30s and later, having to divorce an opposite-sex spouse and deal with kids: they only had one option to choose from in the beginning. It’s not that they thought they were straight, it’s that they had never been taught to conceive that there were other options for their lives.
So when people who aren’t opponents of same-sex marriage laughingly say “What are they afraid of? That suddenly men will leave their wives and get married to other guys?”, that is exactly what they are afraid of. That, given government-approved options, people will opt out of the cycle, even in small-town America. That existing married couples will “wake up and smell the coffee,” realize that their existing marriages are shams, divorce, and pursue same-sex relationships. And more, that people will opt out of “traditional” marriage ahead of time, before they get sucked in, with the result that the cycle breaks early. And thus not only is the monopoly of marriage imperiled, but the future population of church attendance is all at risk, with the spiritual and temporal power that accompanies that.
(Oh, and the money, too.)
So in a very real way, same-sex marriage opponents do believe that their limited version of marriage is “threatened” by other options. If other options are available, there may genuinely end up being fewer people who pursue “traditional” marriage, with all the changes which would result from that.
Click here for part 6.
1:59 pm / Monday, January 26, 2004
Click here for part 3.
One of the points that same-sex marriage foes have is that such marriages “threaten” traditional marriage, without any explanation of the term. In this era of high divorce rates, serial marriages, and celebrity stunts like Britney Spears’ recent 55-hour marriage, it’s hard to picture just what they mean.
(Do they drop that term in as a little distraction bomb, never intending there to be an answer? Or is the meaning so self-evident to them that the need to explain it never occurs to them, much like we might say “click on the link” without saying what “click” and “link” are?)
Advocate columnist Richard Goldstein points to what may be at the core of this “threat” in his February 3 column, “Civil unions: the radical choice”. Here is the pertinent sentence:
Such [civil union] statutes point to a future in which couples will have many options, from “covenant marriage,” in which both parties sign a contract pledging not to divorce, to a number of less binding choices.
That is, same-sex marriage (and civil unions) “threaten” the idea that there is one and only one possible answer for becoming a couple: marriage (of the “traditional”, heterosexual bent). Same sex marriage is thus, to them, not an expansion of existing marriage but an alternative, a way of selecting something that isn’t “regular” marriage.
There’s a concept I learned years ago to explain the opposition to gay rights: “civil rights” can be seen as a bucket which holds a limited amount of stuff, and thus the “creation” of new “rights” for one group causes a reduction in the amount of rights everyone else has. (This is silly and without any factual or statistical basis, of course.) Extending this to the marriage question, then, you see that the addition of alternate marriage equivalents results in the belief that the amount of marriage in the bucket left for everyone else is made less, and thus traditional marriage is “threatened”.
Click here for part 5.
1:31 pm / Monday, January 26, 2004
Based on the print ads (like the one above, although this image comes from the show’s web site), “L” is for “lipstick”. Not a butch dyke to be seen.
5:06 pm / Thursday, January 22, 2004
Quoted from the January 22 issue of The Stranger:
I run across Minchew, who is wearing a jacket and tie. “It’s the triumph of the bullshit media,” is the first thing out of his mouth. “It’s fucking bullshit.” Minchew is referring to negative coverage Dean encountered in the last few weeks. As he was sailing toward the nomination, the media became increasingly critical, pumping out a series of “gotcha” stories, from Dean’s support for a wife-beating security chief to Newsweek and Time’s recent cover stories about Dean’s temperament.
I agree. On Monday evening (when I had been on a plane most of the day), when my mother told me about the Dean upset, it’s the first thing I thought.
For the past few months, Dean has been pretty much the only candidate getting any significant coverage from the media. (And this includes the right-wing media: they have nothing good to say about any of the Democratic candidates, but 95% of their negativity has been aimed at Dean, marking him clearly as the one they fear the most.) How imbalanced has that coverage been? Well, I would certainly be able to identify Kerry and Dean and Lieberman in pictures; I might be able to pick Gephardt and Kucinich out of a police line-up; I can only identify Braun, Sharpton, and Clark after seeing pictures in the last week (Clark on the cover of The Advocate); but I couldn’t begin to tell you what Edwards looks like. (I’m pretty sure he’s a white guy with no facial hair.)
For the past couple weeks, it’s like “Tally ho!” and the hounds are after Dean the Fox, ready to tear him to bits. They are aided by a couple negative things Dean had thrown to them, but the appearance is totally that of a need to shop the legs out from under the one they’ve been carrying thus far. The media realized that he was the front-runner because of them.
In Iowa itself, and elsewhere, I doubt that the negative stories really had much effect on the people already dedicated to Dean, or to the other candidates. What I see is probably 50,00 caucus-goes who had made up their minds a month ago, and 75,000 who paid as little attention to what was going on as possible until the week before they had to vote. At that point, they looked around, saw massive negativity about Dean, and a little positive coverage of Kerry and Edwards, and they made their decision based on the headlines and little else. (Much though we would like it to be otherwise, I think that’s exactly how half or more of the country votes: negligible forethought, and then vote for who their party or newspaper suggests, or even just the name they recognize the easiest.)
What happened to Gephardt, who won a previous caucus in Iowa, I don’t know.
We’ll see what happens in New Hampshire, and then for Super Tuesday. Will the Media Hounds keep chasing Dean? Or will they catch the scent of Kerry as the new quarry, letting Dean catch his breath?
Click here for part 2.
4:27 pm / Wednesday, January 21, 2004
(Mis)adventures in eating food. These might be funny if they happened to someone else.
4:14 pm / Wednesday, January 21, 2004
My latest letter to the editor leads off the January 22, 2004 issue of The Stranger, titled in their Letters column as “TOM’S CHEW TOY”:
I found the multiple references to City Councilman Tom Rasmussen’s “boyfriend” in the most recent issue curious.
Obviously, he and his company seem to have had an effect on Rasmussen’s campaign beyond that of other candidates’ spouses, and may warrant calling out for that. And in this era of societal changes regarding gay and lesbian relationships, noting that a gay man is in a relationship is probably a good thing. [Next sentence edited out of published letter: (But might it may have a counter-effect? Any gay man whose partner isn’t mentioned may get inadvertently tagged as a stereotypical bar-hopping, promiscuous slutboy simply because he isn’t in a relationship “worthy” of mention.)]
I’m most curious, though, about the choice of term: “boyfriend”. It tends to carry with it a notion of “short term” (months rather than years) and youth vs. adult, and perhaps a “they don’t live together” impermanence. Is “boyfriend” the term the couple uses for themselves? [Edited out: (In which case it is unquestionably the best on to use!)] Or is it part of The Stranger’s editorial style guide when referring to same-sex couples, preferred to terms like husband, [Edited out: fiancé (which would be a man pledged to marry at some future point, even if it’s not possible [not legal] at the current time),] partner, life partner, longterm companion, fuck buddy, sugar daddy, chew toy,… the list goes on.
[Edited out: (Oh well, “boyfriend” is certainly better than the dreaded “roommate”.)]
And the response:
ERICA C. BARNETT RESPONDS: The issue of what to call a gay partner can be a confusing one. As Rasmussen himself notes, “boy-friend” is often interpreted as “boyfriend du jour,” whereas “‘partner’ tends to convey permanency.” Nonetheless, Rasmussen says he uses the terms “boyfriend” and “partner” interchangeably when referring to his significant other (and presumably, chew toy), Clayton Lewis, whom he’s been with for 12 years.
Hopefully needless to say, I’m thrilled by any reasonable term being used, and my letter was aimed more to poke fun than to criticize. And I voted for Rasmussen, too.
12:34 pm / Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Click here for part 2.
For those who missed it, the entire State of the Union speech is transcripted here.
And here’s the “gay marriage” portion:
A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as a union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states.
Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage. (Applause.)
The outcome of this debate is important -- and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God’s sight. (Applause.)
Items of note:
Click here for part 4.