Archive | February, 2011

The Bully Beck Batters Benevolent Bubbie

28 Feb

I like to beat up old ladies and the poor.

So how much of a sociopath do you have to be when you start threatening and beating up 78 year old Jewish women?  Really? For those of you that hold up Beck as some type of hero, I’m scared of you! His reputation as a bully continues to hold true. Can we please focus on facts here–I grow weary of those people that have chimed in on the blog with just “this is how I feel.”  Beck has repeatedly incited violence for those that disagree with his “poor, hetero, white boy perspective.”

In 1966, Frances Fox Piven and her late husband wrote an article for The Nation outlining a plan to help the poor of New York and other big cities to get on welfare.  While writing the article they realized that not all the poor who were eligible to receive welfare actually did. Like any good social reformer (FDR), Piven and her husband started to advocate for the poor and disenfranchised.

For about the last three months, Beck has been hammering away at Piven and her husband. He has dug up the 45-year-old article, and says he sees a vast conspiracy to overthrow the American financial system. He says, their article intends to “overwhelm the system and bring about the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with impossible demands and bring on economic collapse.”  He has been well educated by Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.

Unfortunately, our Frances Piven has since received hundreds of death threats from conservative blogs. Things like, “‘May cancer overtake you soon!'” Piven says. She ended up asking the FBI and state police for help.

Am I the only one that finds Beck and Faux News absolutely culpable and despicable? Click here to see the full article.

 

Celebrating Black History Month: February 28

28 Feb

Honoring Daisy Bates and The Little Rock Nine

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Daisy Bates and The Little Rock Nine. Bates played a key role during the Little Rock Nine crisis in 1957.  The infamous Governor Orval Faubus prevented the integration of Little Rock Central High School.  Talk about being on the wrong side of history, Faubus–sorry McCain but you are in the same boat!  President Eisenhower had to sent in the National Guard to escort the nine students into Central High School, enforcing the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Bates’ mother was murdered while resisting three local white men who were attempting to rape her. Daisy married L.C. Bates in 1942 and they started their own newspaper, Arkansas State Press, which was known as a voice for the Civil Rights Movement. Daisy Bates was elected president of the Arkansas Conference of NAACP branches. She and her husband consistently published violations against the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Daisy Bates was the one that advised the nine students to enroll at Little Rock Central High. Brava to Daisy Bates and I feel I need to also acknowledge the courage and bravery of each of the Little Rock Nine: Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Beals.

Oscar’s Gay History: A Mixed Bag

27 Feb

How will LGBT themes fare this year?

As we gear up for the 83rd annual Academy Awards, let’s take a look back at Oscar’s history. Hollywood is reputed to be a progressive beacon and a promoter of gay rights and issues. While there is some merit to that claim, when it comes time for the big awards, the closet door often slams shut.

Certainly a movie or a performance does not deserve an Oscar just because it is gay-themed, nor to actors deserve awards just because they are out. It is interesting, however, to note the number of surprises and upsets over the past eighty years that have resulted in a gay theme or actor being snubbed.

Researching this topic is a bit tricky, since many people are not out during their whole careers or live as “open secrets” within Hollywood society. Several lists of gay and lesbian winners include Jodie Foster, who won both of her awards before her very vague coming out and Kevin Spacey, who has actively denied being gay. George Cukor was known as the principle host of gay Hollywood society but was not known to be gay to most people when he won his directing award.

Sir John Gielgud probably counts as the earliest (mostly) out performer to be nominated (1963 for Beckett) and to win (1981 for Arthur), both Supporting Actor nods. He was involved in a minor gay solicitation scandal in Great Britain in 1953 and, while circumspect about his personal life, never lied about himself nor hid his partners. Another early winner was John Schlesinger, who won as Best Director in 1969 for Midnight Cowboy.

Over the past twenty years, as being out has become somewhat easier, certainly more out contributors to movies have been nominated and have won awards.

  • Sir Elton John and Melissa Etheridge have both won best song or soundtrack awards
  • Dustin Lance Black, Bill Condon, and Alan Ball have all won screenwriting awards
  • Scott Rudin won as the producer of Best Picture No Country for Old Men

Most of the well-known gay-themed awards, however, have gone to straight actors who were played gay. Some are richly deserved, like Hilary Swank’s powerful turn in Boys Don’t Cry or Sean Penn’s brilliant performance as Harvey Milk. Others are interesting and worth watching: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote and William Hurt’s performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman spring to mind. Then there are others, like Tom Hanks’ tepid performance in Philadelphia which had a very strong “wasn’t he brave” feel to it.

A number of gay-themed movies and performances have been upset. Certainly we can argue the specific merits of the winner and loser, but these stand out as odd moments of possible voting homophobia in Oscarland.

  • The champ in this category is Brokeback Mountain. Clearly a stronger film than the messy, let’s feel good about diversity Crash, it lost Best Picture in a shocking result. Neither of the starring actors won either (although Heath Ledger lost to Hoffman’s performance as Truman Capote.)
  • Another case of Oscar robbery was Transamerica. Felicity Huffman turned in the performance of a lifetime and lost to the fine but unremarkable Reese Witherspoon. Dolly Parton’s wonderful theme song Travelin’ Thru also lost best song.
  • One of the rare nominations of a gay actor playing a gay role was Ian McKellen’s brilliant turn as James Whale in Gods and Monsters, which lost to Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful. (I seem to be the only person who found Benigni irritating and the movie cloying, so I may be alone in feeling this was an upset.)
  • Colin Firth’s brilliant performance in A Single Man lost to Jeff Bridges. Firth should make up for that loss this year with his equally strong performance in The King’s Speech.
  • One other performance that failed to even earn a nomination was Terence Stamp’s amazing role as Bernadette in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

This year’s best LGBT hopeful is the strong film The Kids Are All Right. Up for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor, the film should bring home at least one award. Annette Bening deservedly won a Golden Globe already for her performance.

The Academy Awards have a very mixed history in terms of LGBT content. Let’s hope that the gradual increase in acceptance and the greater number of out performers will create a steadier stream of nominees and winners in the years to come.

** POST OSCARS UPDATE: That was underwhleming! Other than Tim Gunn on the red carpet and James Franco in Marilyn drag, that was the least gay Adademy Awards I can remember in years. Kids got shut out – very sad.

Help LGBT Community in Uganda Now…

27 Feb

Help the LGBT Community in Uganda Now

For those of you that follow my blog you will remember my excoriation of certain politicians that export homophobia to Uganda. I now pass along a message from my friend, the Rev. Harry Knox. Please read and take action. We must stand with solidarity around the world to push out homophobia and welcome in love and compassion. Here is Rev. Harry’s message:

HOUSTON CLERGY AND HUMAN RIGHTS LEADERS SEND VIDEO POSTCARD TO
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE URGING A MEETING WITH U.S. RELIGIOUS LEADERS
TO DISCUSS PROTECTIONS FOR THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL,
AND TRANSGENDER CITIZENS OF UGANDA

Houston, TX, Thursday, February 24, 2011 – Following the brutal murder of Ugandan human rights activist David Kato, Houston clergy and human rights leaders sent a video postcard today to the U.S. Department of State urging a meeting with U.S. religious leaders to discuss the rise of deadly homophobia in Uganda. Recipients of the video included: Cheryl D. Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff, Counselor of the Department and Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary; Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, Office of the Secretary; Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Under Secretary for Democracy and GlobalAffairs.

At the time of his murder, Kato was the head of Sexual Minorities in Uganda, the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) political advocacy organization. There are also others in Uganda, including faith leaders who are supportive of LGBT Ugandans, who have had death threats made against their lives. Some religious leaders in the United States are funding and mentoring the rise of homophobia and anti-LGBT violence among Ugandans and its political leaders. The government of the United States has a responsibility to ensure that there are protections for LGBT Ugandans.

“We ask that Secretary Clinton and President Obama continue their support of the safety of our LGBT sisters and brothers by convening a meeting of religious leaders in the United States to discuss how we can work with you to provide a clear message of inclusion, not violence against LGBT Ugandans,” said Rev. Harry Knox, Senior Pastor of Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church in Houston, and former member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The video postcard may be viewed at http://www.facebook.com/l/136ce-uD_x4aZVKqqnJhwuJhS7g/www.ResurrectionMCC.org/Uganda

Women’s History: February 27

27 Feb

The Legendary Elizabeth Taylor

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Taylor. The legendary Taylor, known for her blockbuster films and series of successful marriages, is also known for her activism within the LGBT community. Taylor was one of the first celebrities to step up to the plate during the AIDS crisis, which Ronald Reagan ignored. Taylor helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research, as well as starting her own AIDS Foundation. By 1999, Taylor raised over $50 million dollars for AIDS research.

My two favorite movies of Ms. Taylor are: Suddenly Last Summer and of course, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Happy Birthday, Ms. Taylor.

Happy Birthday, Lotte Lehmann. Lehmann was a famous German soprano that discovered the Trapp Family Singers while in Salzburg. The Sound of Music is based on the Trapp Family Singers.

Happy Birthday, Marian Anderson. Click here to see full story on our Marian.

Happy Birthday, Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Click here to see full story on our Charlayne.

    Celebrating Black History Month: February 27

    27 Feb

    Pioneer for African-Americans and Women

    Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Shirley Chisholm. In 1972, Chisholm became the first black woman to run for President of the United States. Given the permanent blemish on American History that was Nixon and Watergate, how sad that our Chisholm did not win. Chisholm represented New York’s 12 Congressional District for seven terms. Chisholm was a first generation American, with her father being from Guiana and her mother being from Barbados.  One can only imagine how the current Tea Party would be treating our Shirley Chisholm.  During her big for the Presidency in 1972, she survived 12 assassination attempts. Enjoy this video of Chisholm during her run for President. Chisholm also worked on a bill to give workers the right to a minimum wage–not sure our Scott Walker would have liked that! For more information on Shirley Chisholm, click here.

    Government Shutdown Reality Check

    26 Feb

    Rage ≠ Responsible Government

    As most Americans know by now, the budget debate deadlock in Washington could easily lead to a shutdown of the Federal government. If a budget (or continuing resolution) is not passed before Friday, March 4, the shutdown will occur. President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House John Boehner have all said that they want to keep this from happening. If it does, however, the responsibility will land squarely on the partisan grandstanding of the House.

    Sen. Reid and the President have both made it very clear that they will not be blackmailed by the Tea Party minority in the House. The recent budget passed under Boehner’s leadership includes a lot of red meat for the Teabaggist base and not a lot of substantive cuts that indicate a real desire to reform government or reduce deficits (or create jobs, for that matter). The partisan attacks on abortion rights, women’s rights, public broadcasting, and health care reform make very little budgetary difference and create a poison pill that will stop the proposal cold in the Senate. Rather than negotiating in good faith, the House seems bent on creating a train wreck of petulance.

    So what would really happen if there is no budget compromise and the Federal government shuts down? Let’s look at some facts:

    • Federal workers would not be paid during the shutdown. They would receive retroactive pay (with no interest) once government is running again. Contractors (all the jobs shoved off the Federal payroll by Reaganite “smartsizing”) get nothing. Members of Congress get full pay and benefits with no delays because their pay is authorized by the Constitution. As so often happens, the more you make, the less you lose.
    • The wars will go on. Funding for active military efforts is exempted. Processing of military benefits claims, however, will freeze. You can fight, but you’d better not leave service or get injured.
    • Federal parks, museums, and other cultural centers will close, depriving all Americans of access to their cultural history and natural beauty.
    • Processing of passport and visa applications and renewals will halt. This will have a major impact not just on vacations that families have already paid for, but will affect business as well.
    • Social Security payments will be made, but new applications and any support functions will be halted.
    • Aid and grant payments to states will be halted, creating even deeper holes in already crippled state budgets.
    • Toxic waste cleanup at over 600 Federally-designated sites will be halted.

    Of course, the ripple effect of a shutdown is even more complicated. Everyone knows what it’s like to get back to work after a few days off. It takes time to get caught up. When the whole business of government has to recover at the same time, it could be weeks before things are running smoothly again, even if the shutdown is relatively brief.

    And what about those Tea Party priorities? Since the Federal money has already been disbursed, Planned Parenthood will not shut down if the government does, nor will Public Broadcasting. Instead, millions of decent, hard-working civil servants will be furloughed, reducing household spending and injuring American businesses, while House Republicans draw their pay and enjoy their Federal healthcare, abdicating their responsibility to govern. The shutdown is such bad government, in fact that even Michele Bachmann (R – Can’t Find It On A Map) has said it’s a bad idea. You know your leadership strategy is lousy when it crosses the Bachmann line.

    How'd that last shutdown work out, Newt?

    The last major shutdown was something of a standoff between then President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich. At the end of the day, the Republican congress that forced the standoff came out very badly indeed. Gingrich’s infamous petulance cost him credibility and resulted in national ridicule.

    If this House chooses to paralyze the country again, choosing misguided principle over hard facts, the blame falls squarely on Boehner and his Tea Party cohorts. The President and the Senate must not make their tax cuts mistake again and should continue to stand firm on a responsible budget. Compromise with fiscal terrorists? I prefer not to.

    (Some research for this story done with thanks to The Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, CNN, and The Huffington Post. I was initially inspired by the lighthearted but hard-hitting Feb. 25 Tom the Dancing Bug strip.)

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