aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Garrison on Ralph
Garrison Keillor on Ralph Reed in Salon:
If a preacher secretly accepts a bucket of money from a saloonkeeper to organize a temperance rally at a rival saloon and maybe send in a gang of church ladies to chop up the bar with their little hatchets, this would strike you and me as sleazy, but others are willing to make allowances, and so Ralph Reed’s political career is still alive and breathing in Georgia. He has bathed himself in tomato juice and hopes to smile his way through the storm.
The facts are fairly simple. Mr. Reed left the Christian Coalition in 1997 as it was sinking, and he was paid by Jack Abramoff to organize opposition to a gambling bill in the Texas Legislature, which would have opened the door to competition for Mr. Abramoff’s client casinos in Louisiana. So Reed got the good Christians of Texas ("We have over 50 pastors mobilized, with a total membership in those churches of over 40,000—that includes Second Baptist, which has 12,000 members,” he reported breathlessly) to bombard the Legislature with phone calls and letters denouncing gambling, for which Mr. Reed was paid millions of dollars in gambling money, by way of Abramoff’s bagman, Grover Norquist.
Reed also helped defeat a state lottery and video poker in Alabama, in behalf of casinos in Mississippi. In Alabama, he told Abramoff, he had “over 3,000 pastors and 90,000 religious conservative households.” He enlisted these Baptists in a fight against one saloon while he was on the payroll of another.
Imagine if Ralph Nader had solicited money from Ford and Chrysler when he went after General Motors’ Corvair. Or the Southern Baptists raising money from Sony and Universal to condemn movies by MGM.
Who killed the electric car?
It was among the fastest, most efficient production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert?
If, like me, you live in an area where neither of these films will be playing anytime soon, you can get your green fix online from Treehugger TV.
LATER: Lest I gave the impression that we’re not green around here, I’m guessing Hybrid car sales are as strong here as anywhere. And I spent part of the 4th of July weekend in a “green home” way out in rural GA.
The owner told tales of her good ol’ boy contractor’s reaction to solar tubes skylights and the solar panels in the yard that track the sun. Then she proudly showed that her electric meter was goin backward on that sunny 100 degree day.
Ranking a right?
I don’t think so. The Register:
Google has defended its right to rank web pages in any manner it likes in a groundbreaking court case over its search engine results.
The search giant is being sued in California by a parenting website which claims it lost most of its traffic when its ranking dropped to zero. The site, Kinderstart.com, claims that it was downgraded because it is a competitor to Google. A motion by Google to dismiss the case was heard in California last Friday, where Kinderstart argued that it competed with Google because it also offers a search facility on its site.
Kinderstart claims that its traffic dropped by 70% when its page ranking was set to zero. The site claims that “websites and other users in the public, seeking connections through the search engine, are allegedly restricted in speech, ideas exchange and commerce,” because of Google’s actions, according to a statement from the company’s lawyers, Global Law Group.
Google argued in court that its rankings were opinions and therefore protected by the US constitution’s first amendment, which protects freedom of speech.
I’m not real fond of the notion of ranking as a matter of free speech. On either side. The First Amendment has been pulled and stretched in so many ways that it hardly functions any more as a protection of any individual speech right.
New York gay marriage polls
In an article yesterday saying that the court decision could come today the NYTimes has this:
Even if the court rules that gay and lesbian New Yorkers do not have a state constitutional right to marry their partners, advocates said the litigation - and the attention it has attracted - have moved public opinion closer to their position on the issue.
Polls show a slight rise in the percentage of New Yorkers who favor allowing gay marriage - to just over half - in the last three years, while the percentage opposing it has decreased sharply to just over one-third, advocates said.
The plaintiffs have received friend-of-the-court briefs supporting their position from such establishment groups as the New York City Bar Association, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, dozens of New York law professors (including Mr. Gilles), the American Psychological Association, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and a number of religious organizations including Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Unitarian and Reform Jewish groups.
I’m one of those advocates who believes the more it’s discussed the more public opinion will move in favor of gay marriage.
UPDATE: Now they say it’s either tomorrow or August 23. August 23???
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Bernard Baran granted new trial
I was not aware of the case of Bernard Baran, “arrested and convicted during the national wave of hysteria related to allegations of child molestation at day care centers and nursery schools in the 1980s.” He’s been granted a new trial:
In a stunning reversal after more than 20 years of imprisonment, the conviction and life sentence of Bernard Baran, an openly gay man, on charges of molesting five children at a day care enter where he worked in 1984 were set aside on June 13 by Berkshire County, Massachusetts, Superior Court Judge Francis R. Fecteau.
After his conviction on three counts of child rape and five counts of indecent assault and battery on a child in January 1985, Baran was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences on the rape counts and additional concurrent sentences of eight to ten years for the indecent assault and battery counts, meaning that he would most likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
There was no direct evidence that he committed any of these crimes, but the Massachusetts Court of Appeals upheld his sentence and the Supreme Judicial Court refused to review the case.
It took years for supporters of Baran to locate new attorneys, John Swomley and Harvey Silverglate of Boston, to work on a motion for a new trial, which was delayed until key evidence surfaced recently.
In a 79-page opinion that exposes the kangaroo court that convicted Baran as a perfect storm of defense attorney incompetence, prosecutorial ethical failures, and judicial ineptitude, Fecteau determined that Baran’s fundamental rights to a fair trial had been fatally undermined. Baran was ordered released on condition that the Berkshire County district attorney decides not to retry him.
However, District Attorney David Capeless immediately announced he would appeal Fecteau’s ruling, and would retry Baran if he lost the appeal, even though the case is more than two decades old, original witnesses are unavailable or have recanted their testimony, and the June 13 opinion indicates rather clearly that the investigation of Baran was most likely sparked by homophobia rather than any real evidence.
At a hearing a few days after announcing his opinion, Fecteau set bail at $500,000, requiring Baran to come up with $50,000 in cash. Fecteau ruled that if Baran were released, he would be subject to electronic monitoring and a restriction on being alone with anyone under age 16. Baran’s supporters raised the necessary cash in a few days, but the question whether he would be released also hinges on reversing a determination that he is a “dangerous sexual offender,” a designation he had sought in prison in order to be transferred to a segregated facility and escape the unmerciful abuse and attacks he suffered from other prisoners and guards during his first years of confinement.
For more visit FreeBaran.org, “What I do know now is that his trial was grossly unfair for many reasons.” --A Baran Juror
For more on the national wave of hysteria we’re experiencing today, see Sexual Fascism in Progressive America: Scapegoats and Shunning. By “PARIAH”
If, like me, you missed the fireworks in New York tonight (the ones here in the mall parking lot are just not the same) click here to make your own.
Hillary & Joe
This is so smart on so many levels:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a longtime supporter of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, said Tuesday she will not back the Connecticut Democrat’s bid for re-election if he loses their party’s primary.
“I’ve known Joe Lieberman for more than thirty years. I have been pleased to support him in his campaign for re-election, and hope that he is our party’s nominee,” the former first lady said in a statement issued by aides.
“But I want to be clear that I will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats in their primary,” the New York Democrat added. “I believe in the Democratic Party, and I believe we must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters.”
The warrior queen is appealing to the netroots all the while taking the responsible, democratic - both big “D,” and little “d” - approach.
Yes, good for her.
O’Hare beats Hartsfield
Part of why I moved here was that the Atlanta airport is 90 minutes away. I may live in the middle of nowhere but I can fly anywhere without a hop skip and a jump! With a volume drop of 5% this year (Delta troubles?) we’re now number 2:
CHICAGO, July 3 (Reuters) - Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was on track to reclaim the title of “world’s busiest airport” in 2006, outpacing the flight volume at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, government data showed on Monday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said that in the first six months of this year O’Hare saw a total of 477,001 flights in the first six months of 2006, compared with 472,431 flights at Hartsfield.
Hartsfield has seen more planes arrive and depart than O’Hare since 2004. Based on the total number of flights, Hartsfield was the busiest airport in the world in 2005.
Monday, July 03, 2006
When will we reach the tipping point?
It’s coming. In Illinois:
An early review shows gay marriage opponents don’t have enough valid signatures to get a measure on the November ballot, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still make it, a state Board of Elections spokesman said Monday.
And from my family home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:
A proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution to ban same-sex marriage, block civil unions and possibly curtail domestic partner benefits has died in committee...The issue now considered dead in the fall as well, but conservative lawmakers and religious groups supporting the amendment say they will have the proposed amendment reintroduced in 2007.
And my adopted home, New York, New York:
[M]any LGBT New Yorkers kept a watchful eye on their computers and TVs last week as the community held its collective breath for a final decision on the right to marry from the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. The decision didn’t come, but is still likely to be handed down this week on July 5 or 6.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
We’ll be right back. As soon as the server cools off.
We were Digged and in the New York Times on the same day and blew through 12 Gigabytes of bandwidth and 700,000+ hits in 12 hours. I’ll be back, but I have to give my server a rest so the other. folks on it don’t kill me. See you soon, and sorry for being too damn famous for my own good
AOL Netflix & Buy&Hold
I’ve been trying for months to cancel my Buy&Hold account. They keep charging me. Maybe what I’ll do is record my call and post it to YouTube.
Randall Stross in the Times today tells the tale of Vincent Ferrari posting his AOL cancellation call to his blog. AOL fired the guy but continues the prcatice that got out of hand:
Mr. Graham, the AOL spokesman, did not apologize about the company’s deliberate decision to deny customers the option to cancel with a click of a button online. The customers’ calls to cancel provide the company with an opportunity to lead customers to services or features they had not known about, enabling them, Mr. Graham said, to “find their Eureka moment” or to accept a tempting offer of a lower price.
Fifty percent of calls that begin with the intention to cancel end up with the member deciding to stay. If members decide to proceed with the cancellation, then the phone conversation can be treated as an exit interview, helping the company learn about what it should improve. Mr. Graham said that to do anything other than this would not be “good practice.”
IF I were asked to think of an online company that provides exemplary customer service to its subscribers, Netflix, the DVD rental company, would come to mind well before AOL. When I took a look to see whether Netflix offered a way for a customer to cancel membership swiftly while online, I discovered that it provides a procedure - a click on a link, a click on a checkmark box, and one more click to complete - that would take no more than two seconds. No exit interviews, no last-ditch offers while I’m held captive on the phone.
Seeing how Netflix would be so protective of my time were I to leave makes me all the more unlikely to do so.
Why Nobody’s Watching
NYTimes on a a sitcom left for dead 18 months ago brought back to life by YouTube:
At the moment the most talked-about situation comedy in the United States isn’t on television at all. It’s on your computer, though, and you can find it on http://www.youtube.com, where thousands of videos of all levels of quality are posted every day.
A comedy called - with intended irony, but not in the way that it has worked out - “Nobody’s Watching” has been available on YouTube for about two weeks. As of yesterday it had been downloaded more than 300,000 times by a growing legion of fans.
Most remarkable of all, the talk that the show has generated has already caught the ears of executives at several networks, some of whom are wondering if maybe this is a virus they might enjoy getting infected with.
From the man who brought us Scrubs. Here, how Hollywood thinks:
[F]or a few years after “Scrubs” made its debut on NBC in 2001, all Mr. Lawrence heard from network executives was that the show would never be a hit because it was a single-camera filmed comedy. Only multi-camera taped comedies worked, he was told.
In the last two years Mr. Lawrence said, he has gotten into arguments with network program chiefs who have told him, “The multi-camera comedy genre is dead.”
Both stances struck Mr. Lawrence as ridiculous. “The challenge,” he said in a telephone interview, “was to reinvent the genre.”
That was the goal of “Nobody’s Watching,” which Mr. Lawrence conceived with two writing partners, Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman, who had both worked on the Fox animated comedy “Family Guy.”
Their thought was that most traditional sitcoms had begun failing not because of form but because of quality: they were all bad.
Czech Gay Unions law takes effect today
I spent May in the Czech Republic. Most of the people I met were proud of their gay union law and noted they were the first country in the region to pass such a law. They also said that it was a hard time coming:
First three homosexual couples have officially entered the registered partnership relation today when the relevant law has come into force in the Czech Republic.
Two gay couples had their “weddings” in Kladno, central Bohemia, and in Ostrava, north Moravia, and a couple of lesbian women had their registered partnership ceremony in Ostrava as well.
The ever first wedding of same-sex people in the Czech Republic was that of Josef and Karel in Ostrava this morning. [...]
Their ceremony reminded of a standard wedding with decorated cars, dozens of guests, flowers and cameras.
The law offers only limited rights:
Same-sex couples cannot adopt children, are not eligible to widow’s or widower’s pension, do not have joint property and are not subject to joint taxation.
Oprah for president?
Michael Moore’s been saying for a while that the Democrats need a star. “[W]hen the Democrats run stars: Bill Clinton, the rock star; John Kennedy, the movie star, they win. And when they run wonks, they lose.”
I’m reminded of Michael because today Peter Osnos, in the Anniston Alabama Star no less, suggests:
Let’s...put forward a Democratic candidate for president who is already a television star, a movie-maker, a best-selling author, a philanthropist and, oh yes, a billionaire business woman: Oprah Winfrey.
By today’s standards, Oprah has it all. She has more direct influence than any other public figure in American life. Who else could have made huge best sellers out of Faulkner, Dostoevsky and Elie Wiesel on the Holocaust?
She genuinely cares about racial issues, poverty and social justice. She has skillfully navigated the shark-infested waters of Hollywood, Broadway and business boardrooms. She is a chief executive who runs her enterprises without, as far as we can tell, the consultants, lobbyists and financial handlers who dominate the lives of our career politicians. She is African-American and a woman, and has struggled with her weight, qualities that make her empathetic with a majority of Americans.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
We can’t name ‘em but we can post ‘em
Starting today, governments can post the Ten Commandments as part of a courthouse or justice center display of nine historic documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Mayflower Compact and an image of Lady Justice. [...]
Lawmakers took a stand on the Ten Commandments after the American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued the Barrow County Commission over a courthouse display in Winder. The ACLU argued that the display’s placement on a wall plaque in a public building violated the separation of church and state. The county had to pay $150,000, plus $1 to the ACLU.
Ah, the commandments were big in Georgia then. For $4.50 you could get a Ten Commandments sign for your lawn from Ten Commandments America and they were as common here as the “Say no to Bush” banners were in Manhattan. (Mine hung here from the carport.)
They still dot the landscape though now we know that at least one of our lawmakers can’t name them. Six would be easier to remember; he claims he named seven. I don’t want to be the one to break it to him that there are actually 20:
We’ve been duped! We’ve been fed a bogus Ten Commandments! On his new tablets, Moses writes down “the terms of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” The chapter lists these commandments, and they have nothing to do with the familiar “Thou Shalt Nots” in Chapter 20. These new Ten Commandments-which unlike the earlier laws are actually called the “Ten Commandments"-include only two of the Chapter 20 commandments (Keep Sabbath; no false idols). The other eight commandments are such things as: observing Passover (No. 3), bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the Tabernacle (No. 9), never appearing before God empty-handed (No. 5), not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk (No. 10). These are technical or procedural commandments, the Judean equivalent of not wearing white shoes after Labor Day. They are much, much less gripping than the 10 “Thou Shalt Nots"-which is probably why these “Ten Commandments” were shunted aside and replaced with the much catchier Chapter 20 laws.
Craigslist is a community news site
Cory Bergman at Lost Remote says:
Craigslist is not merely a classifieds site, but a community news site. After all, it has local events, a thriving discussion forum and even a local news category. Most of my friends use Craigslist primarily for entertainment and finding things to do and secondarily for the classifieds. In fact, in the Seattle market, Craigslist ranks well above every local news site, according to Comscore stats. It’s the ultimate citizen journalism site, and it beats traditional news sites in popularity in many cities—an important realization for local media to broaden the definition of news as we know it.
I whole-heartedly agree. I’m pleased to note that just the other day I included Craigslist in the list of examples proving that We the People want to make our people.