aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Muhammad on Wikipedia criticized
An article about the Prophet Muhammad in the English-language Wikipedia has become the subject of an online protest in the last few weeks because of its representations of Muhammad, taken from medieval manuscripts.
In addition to numerous e-mail messages sent to Wikipedia.org, an online petition cites a prohibition in Islam on images of people. [...]
A Frequently Asked Questions page explains the site’s polite but firm refusal to remove the images: “Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with the goal of representing all topics from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group.”
The notes left on the petition site come from all over the world. “It’s totally unacceptable to print the Prophet’s picture,” Saadia Bukhari from Pakistan wrote in a message. “It shows insensitivity towards Muslim feelings and should be removed immediately.”
The site considered but rejected a compromise that would allow visitors to choose whether to view the page with images.
Paul M. Cobb, who teaches Islamic history at Notre Dame, said, “Islamic teaching has traditionally discouraged representation of humans, particularly Muhammad, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent.” He added, “Some of the most beautiful images in Islamic art are manuscript images of Muhammad.”
The idea of imposing a ban on all depictions of people, particularly Muhammad, dates to the 20th century, he said. With the Wikipedia entry, he added, “what you are dealing with is not medieval illustrations, you are dealing with modern media and getting a modern response.”
The entry is here.
Undergrad research: think twice before installing Facebook apps
More Facebook privacy concerns. The Chronicle:
Undergraduate researchers at the University of Virginia say that Facebook’s application platform, which allows anyone to create plug-ins that can be placed on personal pages of the popular social-networking service, sends far more personal information than is necessary to the plug-ins’ developers.
That means that an identity thief could develop an application to grab personal information using Facebook, says the study’s leader, Adrienne P. Felt, a senior majoring in computer science. [...]
To install an application to their profile, users must check a box that says: “Allow this application to know who I am and access my information.” The site further warns: “If you are not willing to grant access to your information, do not add this application.”
But Ms. Felt argues that many Facebook applications do not even need access to most of a user’s personal data to perform their functions (an application that lets users search a college library’s catalog, for instance, does not need to know a user’s birthday or who their friends are), and she is urging Facebook and other social-networking sites to fine-tune their settings to better guard user privacy.
In her study, Ms. Felt examined the 150 most popular third-party Facebook plug-ins to see whether they made use of private information on the users’ accounts.
“We found that 8.7 percent didn’t need any information; 82 percent used public data (name, network, list of friends); and only 9.3 percent needed private information (e.g., birthday),” Ms. Felt wrote on a Web site about the research.
In the aggregate it sure seems to me, Facebook protests not withstanding ("Obviously, privacy and security are a huge priority for Facebook,” indeed), they’re just plain sloppy about privacy and it’s not the priority it should be.
Congrats to the Virginia undergrads for a job well done.
Lapdogs of the corporate press
The Big Mo’
I find it ironic that I will be voting Hillary here, where Obama is expected to win handily; while most every friend I have in New York will be voting Obama, where Hillary is expected to win handily.
Obama’s got momentum that just won’t stop. I’ve said repeatedly that I think he will be our candidate. Yesterday Kos cautioned:
If [Hillary] can’t put this thing away tomorrow, and it’s hard to see how she could absent an unlikely rout, her fundraising will continue to suffer vis-a-vis Obama, and that would prove deadly in a protracted campaign. Her best ally at this point is the ridiculous expectations Obama supporters have for tomorrow. Clinton is going to win the day. The key is to limit her margin of victory and keep it close enough for Obama to catch up later in the month and into March and April. But if Obama supporters build themselves up to the point they actually think they can win tomorrow (by citing bogus polls by Zogby, for example, and cherry picking the best of the other polls), then anything but a victory will be a demoralizing letdown.
This isn’t about lowering expectations. It’s about the reality of the situation. Obama has been slowly building up, and has had to overcome huge advantages enjoyed by the Clintons. It’s about the calendar (see below [link]), and how it plays to Obama’s strengths later in the month. There’s no need to bet everything on tomorrow. It’s all about how well he loses. The narrower the loss, the bigger his actual victory.
Not that my cautions will have much of an effect. Irrational exuberance is running rampant, just like before New Hampshire. You’d think people would learn their lessonsâ€¦
Hillary Clinton: A Message To LGBT Americans
In a post on OurChart.com she says, I want to be your president:
My father was a conservative Republican, who held very traditional views for much of his life. Yet in his last years, it was a gay couple who lived next door who provided much of the compassion and comfort he and my mother needed as he grew ill. And it was that same neighbor who held his hand as he died. If my father can move, America can move.
To each and every LGBT American, I say this. You have done so much to help this country understand your lives by simply being open and honest about who you are and living your lives with dignity. Thank you for your courage. It is time that we recognize your hard work. I know that this country is ready for changes in the law that reflect the evolution in our hearts.
America deserves a President who appeals to the best in each of us, not the worst; a President who values and respects all Americans and treats all Americans equally no matter who they are or who they love. I want to be that President. I want to be your President.
She’s got my vote.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Cory Booker: The Color of Politics
From last week’s New Yorker (it arrives late down here and, unfortunately, this piece is not online) a really fine profile of Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, The Color of Politics; A mayor of the post-racial generation:
Booker’s ability to ease into different cultures was put to perhaps its most difficult test when he decided, in 1995, to go to Newark. He subsequently moved into a notorious housing project known as Brick Towers, and lived there until 2006, when the building was condemnedâ€¦ “It was weird,” he said. “I didn’t grow up in Newark, but the time I felt most at home was at Brick Towers.” Booker lived on the sixteenth floor of the building, whose heaters and elevators worked only occasionally. The place was down the street from a crack house. One day, while he was walking with his father, a teen-age shooting victim stumbled into their path and died in Booker’s arms. Brick Towers was Booker’s passage to Newark. “I just felt so at home there,” he told me. “I felt like I was part of something, finally.”
Brick Towers became Booker’s political base in Newark. His residence there, and his legal work on behalf of the project’s fifteen hundred residents, gave him a credential (the Yale law degree meant little in Newark), and it was the president of the tenants association, Virginia Jones, one of Booker’s “professors,” who urged him to run for office. Outside Brick Towers, however, Booker encountered something, in each of his three campaigns, that he had never before really experienced: raw racial prejudice. The Newark grapevine had it that the light-skinned Booker was actually white, an agent of malign outside forces, maybe even the Ku Klux Klan. “He went to Stanford, and he’s Jewish,” Sharpe James declared matter-of-factly on the “Today” show in 2002.
The question of who is and isn’t authentically black touched a nerve in the community. “I think that is one of our deepest prejudices-not recognizing the diversity that is in the black community,” [Cory’s mother] Carolyn Booker says. “You can take it back to slavery, where there was such a divide between the field slave versus the yard slave versus the house slave, in terms of their relationship with the white plantation owner and planter. Which then gets you into the whole color thing-what shade you are. They thought I was white. â€˜He has a white mother,’ they’d say. Some columnists still write that he’s from a racially mixed family. I find it almost comical, because surely, at some point back in my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s generation, that was true. But as we go down the line, from my grandmother, who was married to a black person, to my mother and father, who are both black, to Cary and me, who are both black-I don’t know how you get there. But, obviously, the skin color, the eyes, the straight hair, says, Well, you physically don’t look like I look, so, therefore, your experience couldn’t possibly be like my experiences.”
Booker’s a big Obama backer [LATER: it’s reciprocal: “Newark Mayor Cory Booker was pretty much anointed as the next Obama by none other than Obama, who called Booker â€˜a shining star, a rising star-not just in New Jersey but in the nation.’"]; he’s no doubt helped move Hillary Clinton down to under 50% in four different New Jersey polls.
Like Obama, Booker’s presidential potential has been noted by the political pros and the media almost from the start. Booker was approached about running for the senate in 2002. Casting his lot with Newark, he declinedâ€”and went on to lose his mayoral bid. (The story of that race is told in the documentary film Street Fight.)
He ran again and in 2006 won by a record margin:
“It’s this weird moment,” Booker told me a couple of months later. “I’m elected to the highest job of my life, something I’ve been aspiring to for years, and you’d think I’d feel this great sense of independence and power. But it’s not so. It’s the time of my life when I actually feel- maybe not weaker, but more dependent upon others than ever before. And that my success is completely dependent upon how other people are doing.”
The article is not online. But they do have his talk with David Remnick from last year’s 2007 New Yorker Conference, “2012: Stories from the Near Future,” in which he discusses “post-racial politics.”
Goodbye to the double standard
When I was talking racism recently to a white male friend, he responded, “but sexism is everywhere.”
He’s backing Obama. I’m backing Hillary. And now I see how much sexism is here.
“Goodbye To All That” was my (in)famous 1970 essay breaking free from a politics of accommodation especially affecting women (for an online version, see the Fair Use blog).
During my decades in civil-rights, anti-war, and contemporary women’s movements, I’ve avoided writing another specific “Goodbye . . .”. But not since the suffrage struggle have two communities--the joint conscience-keepers of this country--been so set in competition, as the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) and Barack Obama (BO) unfurls. So.
Goodbye to the double standard . . .
--Hillary is too ballsy but too womanly, a Snow Maiden who’s emotional, and so much a politician as to be unfit for politics.
--She’s “ambitious” but he shows “fire in the belly.” (Ever had labor pains? )
--When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor.
--Young political Kennedys--Kathleen, Kerry, and Bobby Jr.--all endorsed Hillary. Sen. Ted, age 76, endorsed Obama. If the situation were reversed, pundits would snort “See? Ted and establishment types back her, but the forward-looking generation backs him.” (Personally, I’m unimpressed with Caroline’s longing for the Return of the Fathers. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans have short memories. Me, I still recall Marilyn Monroe’s suicide, and a dead girl named Mary Jo Kopechne in Chappaquiddick.)
Goodbye to the toxic viciousness . . .
Carl Bernstein’s disgust at Hillary’s “thick ankles.” Nixon-trickster Roger Stone’s new Hillary-hating 527 group, “Citizens United Not Timid” (check the capital letters). John McCain answering “How do we beat the bitch?” with “Excellent question!” Would he have dared reply similarly to “How do we beat the black bastard?” For shame.
Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs. If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged--and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame.
Goodbye to the most intimately violent T-shirts in election history, including one with the murderous slogan “If Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!” Shame.
Goodbye to Comedy Central’s “Southpark” featuring a storyline in which terrorists secrete a bomb in HRC’s vagina. I refuse to wrench my brain down into the gutter far enough to find a race-based comparison. For shame.
Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny. This is not “Clinton hating,” not “Hillary hating.” This is sociopathic woman-hating. If it were about Jews, we would recognize it instantly as anti-Semitic propaganda; if about race, as KKK poison. Hell, PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals. Where is our sense of outrage--as citizens, voters, Americans? [READ ON]
THE NEXT DAY - Emily Bazelon’s reporting that an email version of the Morgan piece is being forwarded with an added note from Chelsea Clinton:
“...please forward this to all the men you know too--voting in the election tomorrow, voting next week, already voted. I don’t agree with all the points Robin Morgan makes but I do believe her thesis is important for us all to confront--I confess that I didn’t entirely get â€˜it’ until not only guy stood up and shouted â€˜iron my shirts’ but the media reacted with amusement, not outrage...”
Says Bazelon, “it’s more than I think I’ve ever heard straight from Chelsea. If this is her writing, she seems pretty astute.”
I expect she is. Very astute. If Hillary loses I’ll be watching to see if Chelsea picks up the torch.
The women behind the man
I’ve not yet had the luxury of a quiet reading, but the March Vanity Fair has a timely profile, Raising Obama:
Is he tough enough? That’s the question being asked of Barack Obama. To those who have known the candidate since boyhood, it’s not just those “dreams from my father” that make Obama a contender, but also his mother’s daring, his grandmother’s grit, and his own relentless drive.
Ann Durham, Obama’s mother, died of ovarian cancer in 1995 at the age of 52:
It was his mother’s presence-and not infrequent absence-that most colored his early years. She cried easily and remained an impossible romantic. (She would pull her children from bed to look at a particularly beautiful moonrise.) But she also possessed enormous drive and determination. In Indonesia, she would wake Barack up before dawn for English lessons from a correspondence course. Alice Dewey told me that Dunham “divorced happily” from Soetoro-who died in 1987 of complications from a liver ailment-in part because “he gradually became more and more like a Westerner and she became more and more like a Javanese.” Obama told me he could only laugh at the false press accounts that portray Soetoro as some kind of radical Muslim who had sent him to an Islamic school. “I mean, you know, his big thing was Johnny Walker Black, Andy Williams records,” Obama said. “I still remember â€˜Moon River.’ He’d be playing it, sipping, and playing tennis at the country club. That was his whole thing. I think their expectations diverged fairly rapidly.”
“She was sort of unflinchingly and unwaveringly empathetic, you know,” her daughter, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is nine years younger than Barack, told me over coffee one afternoon in Honolulu. “She had an ability to see herself in so many different kinds of people, and that is something she was very strict about with us-that absence of judgment, of acrimony. She was always very good at finding a language that the other person would understand, regardless of where they were from, or their socio-economic background. And I think that’s something that’s been given to us, a major gift that’s bestowed on us.”
The water to Ann Dunham’s fire was her mother, Madelyn, who at 85 still lives in the same high-rise in Honolulu where she helped raise Barack; she is ailing, and declines interview requests. “Barack is interesting,” Maya said, “because he has our mother’s romantic tendencies, but he has our grandmother’s pragmatic tendencies.”
I’m still standing by my prediction that Barack’s going to be our candidate, even as I will be voting Hillary tomorrow.
RELATED: I get that Obama’s a Mac and Hillary a PC (online too). Macs are well-engineered, dazzling machines-but the analogy has a downside. They’re pricey, Apple has succumbed to hollywood drm, the Mac sheen is largely sustained through masterful marketing, and their owners tend towards proud zealotry.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Abortion, race and the roots of the Religious Right
Randall Balmer, “an evangelical Christian whose understanding of the teachings of Jesus point him toward the left,” is a visiting professor at Yale University Divinity School and Dartmouth College and editor-at-large for Christianity Today. He’s also an Episcopal priest who has a new book out, God in the White House.
In an interview with Terry Gross last week on Fresh Air, he had a number of interesting things to say. For example, “if Lincoln were running for president today, chances are he would be dismissed, at least by a large section of the voters, as being insufficiently religious.”
Then there’s this on what might reasonably have been asked of George Bush as follow-up to his claim that Jesus was his favorite philosopher:
`Gee, Governor Bush, your favorite philosopher says that we should turn the other cheek, that his followers should love thine enemies. How is that going to affect your foreign policy in the event of, say, a foreign attack on the United States? Or, `Governor Bush, your favorite philosopher expressed concern for the tiniest sparrow. Will that sentiment find any resonance in your environmental policies?’
Alas, the liberal media didn’t think of that.
But the part of the interview I found most interesting was about the emergence of the Religious Right:
[W]hat I try to expose in the book and I think I document copiously is that the religious right did not--did not--coalesce as a political movement in direct response to the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973â€¦ In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention, which is hardly a bastion of liberalism, had passed a resolution calling for the legalization of abortion, and this was a resolution that was reaffirmed in 1974, again in 1976. It was not the abortion issue. What galvanized evangelicals as a political block, as a political movement, was instead the actions of the Internal Revenue Service to go after the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, because of its racially discriminatory policies, and that Carter was unfairly blamed for this by the architects of the religious right, and they used that against him and mobilized to defeat him four years later in 1980. [...]
Bob Jones University did not allow African-Americans to be enrolled at the school until 1991 and did not allow unmarried African-Americans as students until 1995. The lower court ruling that really became the catalyst for the rise of the religious right was a ruling called Green v. Connelly, issued in 1971, by the district court of the District of Columbia; and it upheld the Internal Revenue Service in its ruling that any organization that engages in racial segregation or discrimination is not, by definition, a charitable organization and as such has no claim to tax-exempt status. And as the IRS began applying that ruling and enforcing it in various places, including Bob Jones University, that is what galvanized evangelical leaders into a political movement that we know today as the religious right.
According to one of the architects of the religious right, who told me this directly, after they had organized on the issue of Bob Jones University and more broadly the issue of government interference in these schools, as they understood it, there was a conference call among these various evangelical leaders and the political consultants who were trying to organize them into a political movement, and several people mentioned several issues. Finally the voice on the end of one of the lines said, `How about abortion?’ And that’s how abortion was cobbled into the agenda of the religious right, late in the 1970s in preparation for the 1980 presidential election.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
You may recall that we have my nephew, TJ, living with us. Our house is small by American standards (1,450 square feet) but now Doug wants to put a tiny house out in the backyard for TJâ€¦
Friday, February 01, 2008
Barack’s gay Hollywood money machine
I’m still hearing that Hillary’s in Hollywood’s pocket, even as Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg long ago abandoned her, the Huffington Post continues its rah-rah gaga Beatlemania oozing over Obama and from the entertainment page of the LATimes we learn that Hollywood is ready to give Barack the part:
Memo to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: We think you’re aces. Really. And we love your husband. But we’re running off with Sen. Barack Obama. Hope you understand. It’s all about being part of history. We’ll do lunch after the inauguration.
Now this week in an LA Weekly story on Obama’s gay gold mine-"Their names are Bernard and Gifford"-we find that at a Human Rights Campaign mixer that invited celebrities to pitch their favorite candidates, no star showed up to back Hillary Clinton.
Jeremy Bernard and Rufus Gifford pooh-pooh that event as “an insulting and embarrassing reminder of the old guard, or Old Gay, approach to politics”
This is more their style:
Jeremy Bernard [left in photo]...was sitting shoulder to shoulder with U.S. Senator Barack Obama in the back of a black SUV, speeding through West Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard, talking about the fine points of gay and lesbian federal legislation. An hour later, the Democratic presidential candidate was hitting every detail they had discussed in the car, but this time on network television. For Bernard, it was mind-blowing. The key fund-raiser for the Obama campaign was seeing his issues dramatically migrate from a personal chat to the national stage.
Bernard, too, was once a Clinton backer. This time around he and his lover and business partner, Gifford, are hired guns for the Obama campaign. (Hillary Clinton’s campaign offered them a job too, and for more money.) They promise to make the most of it:
Once the checks are rolling in, Bernard and Gifford then have the full attention of a congressional or presidential candidate, giving them the chance, behind the scenes, to promote their own political issues. It’s a level of access gays once only dreamed of, but they are living it.
“Being gay makes you inherently political,” says Gifford, comfortable with using his proximity to power to influence the candidate. “You see what’s right and what’s wrong, and you need to do something about it.”
Bernard and Gifford have very little, if anything, in common with the Old Gay approach typified by the Human Rights Campaign’s need for straight actresses to peddle an agenda. They are the new guard, or New Gays, who are more politically savvy. The New Gays cultivate, work with and fund gay political candidates. They withhold their talents and money from straight politicians who don’t follow through on their promises, while supporting those with what they view as a progay track record.
And they never seek the straight world’s approval for their own gay existence. The New Gays understand their power in today’s political system, and they use it. And in this winter’s slog of primaries, they just might use it to propel a candidate toward the White House.
You know, I have lots of complaints about money in politics. But money is power and we got it, so I guess let’s flaunt it. Of course with that I’m just not seeing a whole world of difference between the way Hillary and Barack are playing the game.