Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventures in "Fag Enabling"

I am running on fumes so this might not be very coherent. Jeannine and I just got back from the first same-sex marriage to be officiated in California since our state's Supreme Court had the courage to do what all but one of our politicians failed to do and gave the right to marriage to all of this state's citizens. My original plan was to stand outside the San Francisco City Hall with other supporters, to run against the professional hatemongers of the Westboro Baptist Church, who invaded our state to peddle their bigotry. Instead, we ended up inside City Hall, smack-dab in the middle of the cake-cutting ceremony for that historic marriage.

Jeannine and I met up in front of the City Hall around 3:30pm, when the only ones there were a few (and I mean very few) anti-gay protestors carrying signs and a bunch of SFPD and County Sheriff personnel. A Westboro van full of placards - which I dubbed the Hatemobile - was running a circuit around the park in front of City Hall, followed by a similar van but this one run by pro-Islam protestors ordering people to convert to Muslims. Irrational hatred makes for strange bedfellows.

The scene was pretty dead, so we went ahead into City Hall, so I could at least figure out where I'd be going tomorrow when I start my volunteer work. Once inside, we noticed a bunch of cameras on a second-story balcony overlooking the main hall, and we tentatively made our way over to see what was what. That's where we found ourselves right outside the Mayor's office, with a white wedding cake surrounded by more television and photo cameras than I've ever seen. Obviously this was going to be where Mayor Newsom would meeting the press and the lovely couple would be cutting their cake after Newsom officiated the marriage in his office.

At first, I really wanted to get out of there. The hallway was filled with about 70% press, 25% friends of the couple, and 5% lookie-loos like us. I felt like I was intruding on what should be a private affair, even if the hallway was filled with so much press. But, as long as we kept ourselves edged back on the periphery of the crowd, I felt we were not imposing. So we positioned ourselves against the wall, where pillars (and people) blocked any view of the cake ceremony.

By about a half-hour before the ceremony, the place got ridiculously packed, and security had to clear a path for the guests to get out once the ceremony ended. Jeannine got tangled up sitting on one of the hallway benches, and she nearly fell onto Tom Ammiano when she tried to get untangled. There was much clapping as the lucky couple and Newsom came out to cut the cake, give some speeches, and take a few questions from the media.

Now, up until today, I've hated Newsom. He's not really delivered on straightening out San Francisco's corrupt and inefficient way of government, but that would take a miracle worker so I can't really blame him for that. What turned me off to Slick Gavin was the unsubstantiated smear he made on Obama the day of the California primary, followed by the craven way he handled the Olympic torch run debacle. But in that hall, seeing the faces of all those people who waited so long and fought so hard for this day, the joy in the eyes of the invited, I suddenly realized that I had been wrong. What Newsom did in 2004 may have simply been a political maneuver that benefited him in progressive San Francisco, but it could just have easily gone the other way and destroyed his career beyond local politics. The Democratic Party elite were almost calling for his head in 2004, and few thought he then had any chance of progressing on to gubernatorial or even presidential politics. It was an act of bravery, the kind of thing we should expect from our politicians, to stand as a statesman for what is right and not simply what is popular.

So in that hallway amid all that excitement, I got a little caught up in things. After Newsom ended his speech and the applause was going, I yelled out "GAVIN FOR GOVERNOR!". That went over well, there were a few laughs, but then someone replied "Why not President?" and I, like a complete retard, yelled out "PRESIDENT!" And that got some shooshes. It was a yell too far.

We stayed through the ceremony, clapping and hooting frequently, and then made our way outside. We already knew there'd be a much larger crowd, as we heard them yelling, even from the other side of the building, when 5:01pm struck and same-sex marriage became legal in California; but we had no idea of the size:

The crowd stretched out into the park across the street of City Hall. As we came out, there was a Westboro nut screaming about how God hates this and God hates that, so I yelled at him to stop telling God what to do. One of the Westboro signs stated "Fag Enablers Doom Nation", but I didn't get the chance to get a decent picture of myself with it. We hung out for awhile and enjoyed the chaos, but once it became obvious that no other local luminaries would be coming out, the crowd dispersed and we came home.

I cannot describe how giddy I am, as I was literally a witness to history. When I was a kid, I remember reading about the Civil Rights Movement, and counted myself lucky to be of a generation of Americans who would not need to bear the kind of stains that previous Americans did for allowing the institutionalized mistreatment of racial minorities. Everyone was equal under the law now, I naively thought, but it wouldn't be till I got older that I realized that this didn't apply to homosexual citizens in my country. My generation will have to bear the stain of that, but after days like today, my hope grows that the next generation of Americans will be able to state the following words without some bigoted qualification:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Starting tonight, all Californians will be free to pursue their happiness through the covenant of marriage. That I was there to witness this freedom born was both a privilege and a joy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Would Totally Pay To See This...

Number 11 of 20 Superhero Movies We Hope They Never Make, courtesy of Cracked. Number 2 is also frighteningly dead-on accurate.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

June is for weddings...

... and I'll be playing my part. I just confirmed that I'll be manning a welcome desk at San Francisco City Hall from 12:30 to 5pm this coming Tuesday, helping to shepherd couples of all gender as they arrive to get married. In fact, I ended up volunteering to run that shift for the whole period, from Tuesday to Friday the 27th. Utterly excited.

Monday, June 9, 2008

God is Algae, or Theology According to Bad Rap Artists Turned Underwear Models

Behold, the reason I have not, and undoubtably will not, watch an M. Night Shyamalanadingdong movie in the theater since The Sixth Sense: The Happening is all about how God is real and science is dumb...
But asked what specific religious faith inspired The Happening, Shyamalan went super vague. He said he drew on "the Native American culture and relationship with nature, the relationship with the sky, the earth, the rock the bear." He also claimed that cast he Mark Wahlberg because of his strong faith in Jesus. But Wahlberg's religious faith ended up causing a ton of reshoots. Whenever Shyamalan would ask Wahlberg what he was thinking about, and Wahlberg replied, "Jesus," Shyamalan would make him reshoot the scene in question. (Until he was no longer thinking about Jesus?)
Self-sodomizing Jeebus on a pogo stick, will the stupid never end. There have been many very well-thought out and deeply-researched arguments why logically, reason leads to religious faith. I may not buy any of them, mainly because none of them fully complete that bridge on logic alone, but I can at least admire those philosophers who refused to submit to some ill-thought out, touchy-feely bullshit to prove that, as Shyamalanadingdong would claim "There are limits to rational thought." I can even respect those who still hold to their irrational, unreasoned emotional feeling in religious faith, as long as they don't try to sugar-coat it as anything more substantial or valid than that. But to spew this kind of nonsense that neurotoxin-releasing algae somehow lead to evidence of God and thus proves a limit to reason is absurd. There are no known limits to rational thought itself, there are simply limits to currently available human reason. That we tool-using hairless monkeys may not have (yet) developed far enough to fully comprehend all the wonders of our universe does not mean that there is some anthropomorphized bearded thunderer up in the heavens that we can understand in our imaginations with all the answers to our questions.

And to use Albert Einstein to buttress this kid of shit, because he saw "the hand of God", is just insulting:
It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal good and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. - Einstein
Personally, I blame Spielberg. His Capra-esque approach, where deep social issues are drowned in a thick syrup of feel-good agnosticism rather than faced with any kind of honest intellectual bravery, was mimicked by most of the new Hollywood intelligentsia, and no one drunk so deep of this attitude as Shyamalanadingdon. Honestly, I would have no problem with this kind of semi-Christian anti-science agnostic attitude if it weren't just so prevalent now in recent genre fiction. Lost, Battlestar Galactica (maybe), The X-Files, anything not created by Joss Whedon, and countless movies (The Lord of the Rings and Prince Caspian most eggregiously) are all prime examples of this kind of anti-reason subtext. Although to be fair, it's not like there isn't a long track record of anti-faith science fiction where religion is public enemy number one.

Anyways, watching Marky-Mark look confused into a camera for two hours was never my idea of good time to begin with, but this kind of crap is enough to make me write off The Happening even as a Netflix rental. I'm betting it's going to do a moderately-well opening weekend followed by disastrous 50%+ drops leading to more questions as to Shlamalanadingdong's box office viability; but, once he comes out with his adaptation of Avatar the Last Airbender, enough of the anime freaks are going to buy tickets and refuel his place as Spielberg's heir in Hollywood. Bah.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The battle is joined...

My front yard, as of today.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Case For Hillary as Veep

Let me be clear: I despise the Clintons. I can excuse the race-baiting strategy of Hillary's '08 campaign as part of a legitimate effort to win at all costs, and while I find her incompetent - from the health-care and fundraising debacles during Bill's administration to the blindly overconfident manner in which ran her campaign (whose pig-headed "stay-the-course" strategy brings uncomfortable comparisons with our current President's leadership style) - my distaste for the Clintons focuses almost entirely on Bill. I don't hate Bill Clinton because of the right-wing mudslinging on his sexual mores or his own sleazy relationship with the truth, but because of what he failed to do while in office: this was a President with the cowardice to ignore genocide in Bosnia, to actively attempt to hide even worse genocide in Rwanda, who forced our military to engage in lies with "don't ask-don't tell" rather than have the bravery to end that bigotry outright, and then institutionalized that bigotry with the Defense of Marriage Act, who back-stabbed the industrial middle class with NAFTA, and worst of all, became the leading example of the DLC philosophy (pro-corporate, anti-progressive) that betrayed everything the Democratic Party has stood for since FDR brought us a New Deal. While Clinton-lovers deify him for leading the party out of the wilderness of losers like Dukakis, Mondale, and Carter, Clinton the DINO did much more to harm the party in the past few decades than anything else, damage that can only now be healed by the truly progressive values and populist strategy of Barack Obama.

That said, I think there is a very strong case for Obama to take Hillary as his running mate. It has nothing to do with what I think Hillary adds to an Obama Administration, nor what she could do to bring her supporters in-line with Obama's presidential bid. The current polls as they stand show that Obama can beat McCain, narrowly but at a time when the Clinton backlash is at its strongest. Those numbers can only get better for Obama as he nears the convention, so I don't find a lot of legitimacy in the idea that Obama somehow needs Hillary to win this. However, Hillary can do a great deal of damage to torpedo Obama's chances in November, and indeed, considering her age and better chance to win in 2012 than in 2016, it may be in her interests to see Obama lose. That is the most compelling reason for Obama to make her his nominee: Hillary as Veep would mean that if Obama loses so does Hillary, in such an open and irrevocable manner that even Hillary (and Bill) would understand that she can't safely torpedo Obama without sinking her own chances to win at a later date. Keeping her within the campaign would also mean keeping an eye on her and Bill, so that they can be kept on message. It follows the basic philosophy of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer.

My only concern is how much this might alienate some Obama supporters, particularly among Independents and Republicans. The charge that Hillary will dilute Obama's "change" message by allying him with such Washington old guard as the Clintons has little weight when we look at the alternatives: with the exceptions of Kathleen Sebelius, Janet Napolitano, and Claire McCaskill, every other potential Obama Veep is an old white male whose going to dilute the "change" image just as much (if not more) than Hillary. As for those three, Napolitano is probably a lesbian (I dearly wish my bigoted country were ready for that, but I'm afraid they aren't... yet), McCaskill would be fantastic but she's a serving Senator in a seat the Democrats can't yet afford to lose, and Sebelius would be nearly 68 when she runs for her own presidential seat in 2016 following a successful two-term Obama administration. Honestly, I would still be very happy with Sebelius, but I don't think her advantages outweigh the opportunity to keep the Clintons in the fold and unable to make as much mischief.

And there is still this: if Obama takes Hillary as his veep and wins the Presidency, she is most likely to want to spearhead the administration's universal health care proposal. Hillary's current plan has zero chance of getting through even a Democratic-controlled Congress, and all evidence points to her inability to create bipartisan compromise. So I believe that if Obama gave her enough rope to hang herself with this, she'd do so, her health-care proposal would go up in flames, laying the groundwork for Obama to step in and get his more reasonable plan passed. This would also give Obama the excuse to ask her to step aside in 2012, allowing him to almost bloodlessly replace Clinton with a second Veep during his second term, perhaps Sebelius or (my hope) someone from his same generation that could maintain the youthful vigor and progressive values he is bringing back into the party.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Inauguration Day: January 20, 2009

I just put down the reservation on the hotel for a trip to see Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America on January 20th of next year. Yeah, I'm that confident, and watching the speeches tonight makes me only more so. By the most accurate polls, Obama is narrowly beating McCain by slightly less than ten electoral votes and has been doing so consistently for weeks now. This is when his support among Clinton Democrats has been at its nadir, and as it begins to sink in that Obama is the undisputed nominee and that McCain only offers to ensure all the policies that Hillary Clinton has worked against, those numbers can only get better. Obama may suffer some wear-&-tear in the debates and there may be some hiccups if he poorly chooses his Vice-Presidential nominee, but after seeing this guy weather the Clinton machine, Revered Wright, and Bittergate only to come out stronger, I have faith in the man.

Only problem is, that because so many hotels around Dulles Airport are already booked up, we had to settle for a place all the way out in Prince Frederick, Maryland. That'll mean a couple of hours of driving from the airport to the hotel, and then nearly an hour of driving back into Washington, D.C. Still, the die is cast and Jeannine and I are set: we're going to watch history made as what I believe may be the best president this country has seen since FDR begins his own first Hundred Days in office.

Elmer Fudd Gets His DolchstoƟ

An interesting article out of something called S.W.A.T. Magazine today shows that gun owners are not very enthused about the Bush Administration's legal defense on the Washington D.C. gun ban. It seems they would've much preferred they use D.C. vs Heller to set precedent that would overturn most if not all legal restrictions on gun ownership, but when the opportunity came, the Republicans punted:
So much for the old saw that Republican leaders, if only they could, would get rid of all those unconstitutional federal gun laws, but we just need to be patient until they are in a position to do so. Now that they had their chance, they did the exact opposite. You need to dispense with the notion that your rights are somehow safe just because the men in power have an "R" after their names.
What makes this interesting is how this plays out over all the other wedge issues Republicans have been running on to remain politically viable with an increasingly progressive American electorate: abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, even illegal immigration, all lead to same result: Republicans win using them as wedge issues, but immediately face defeat once they are in a national position of power to actually change them at the federal level. They are left damned if they do (pissing off the moderate swing voters that put them into office for which ever part of the wedge issue pie - usually economic reform - they voted them in on) or damned if they don't (pissing off their extremist base that demand action once action is possible). And that lack of action will eventually erode even that extremist base: I know anti-abortion Christian conservatives and libertarian laissez-faire capitalists that are voting Obama this election not because they expect him to cede to their values, but because, as long as the other guy is never going to do anything, might as well set these particular issues aside to vote on those that will get attention (Iraq, health care, basic mental competence, etc).

The solution for the Republicans is to stop giving lip-service to their libertarian roots, squash all calls for activism on these wedge issues (both for and against) at the federal level, and drop it to the state and local level as part of their "state rights" propaganda. This would mean ignoring the wedge issues where they are unlikely to gain play (i.e. urban areas) and driving regional legislation in those areas where the electorate are still willing to get behind them (i.e. rural Bittersville). Of course, this is only putting a finger in the leaking dike (that sounds so dirty), as even the most gun-loving, gay-hating, life-pro'ing region full o' bitter is being opened to progressive values due to netroots and the growing penetration of popular culture through new media channels. The Republican Party will have to change or die, and while I once thought (and feared) that McCain would be leading that change, his McBush third-term campaign makes it obvious that they have chosen to die, albeit in such an incompetent manner that they'll maintain just enough weak allegiance to these wedge issues to piss off their base while also alienating moderates.

As for this particular issue, I'm modestly for gun rights without being a gun owner myself (my finances can only support so many hobbies, and I'll always want to drop more dough on fantasy miniatures than on a new reloading press). I don't believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but I've done enough research to know that gun restrictions do little to alleviate violent crime (and paper over the true underlying causes, poverty - which legislation can help solve - and culture - which society must take responsibility for itself). Whether or not Elmer can have a bayonet lug on his shotgun will do nothing to end inner-city gang violence or domestic abuse that leads to murder-suicide. Unlike gay rights and reproductive privacy, gun legislation does not involve basic civil rights and should entirely be a "states rights" matter, as anyone that's spent time in either knows that that gun laws that make sense in an urban center have little relevance to a rural community. That's why gun owners need to start working hard at the local rather than federal level, electing regional candidates who support their values, and phase out the massive lobbying efforts of the NRA, who are facing obsolence as the netroots-style fundraising of the Obama campaign becomes the norm.

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 17th

This is the email I just sent the San Francisco Office of the County Clerk:


I would like volunteer my help to the Office of the County Clerk on Tuesday, June 17th. I am assuming that this day will be very busy for your office as it will be the first day same-sex marriages will be allowed in the state, and would very much like to support your office in this task. If necessary, I would be happy to carry out the One-Day Deputization to assist in officiating the actual marriages; but, if not, I would be more than willing to assist in any other tasks on that day, for the entirety of the day.

I could not find any information on your website that directly addressed this matter. Considering the high number of marriages and the need for volunteers during the previous event when same-sex marriages were available, it might be useful to have some mention of your need (or non-need) of volunteers on June 17.

Thank you for time and I look forward to your response.

I don't really expect a response, as I'm betting they've received a ton of these kinds of emails. Still, I do plan to at least be there on Tuesday morning, dressed in my Sunday best, carrying about $100 worth of flowers to hand out to all the happy grooms and the blushing brides (and vice-versa). It is to my eternal regret that I wasn't there the first time San Francisco offered this most basic of civil rights to all of its inhabitants, and I won't let history pass me by yet again.