Monday, July 31, 2006

Lance Bass is Gay. Film at 11.

So, finally, one of the members of the 90's boy-bands that ruled pop music (*NSYNC and their bitter, and better, rivals Backstreet Boys) has come out of the closet!No, it's not Justin "Sexy Back" Timberlake or Kevin "I'm Outta Here" Richardson. It's Lance Bass!

The reaction to the news has been one of bemusement (or downright bewilderment) in the gay community. First off, the boy has been dating Amazing Race Season 4 co-winner Reichen Lehmkuhl for quite a while. The surprise was not that Lance came out, but that he came out now, while *NSYNC is "on hiatus." Of course, People magazine immediately put him on the cover of the magazine. 'Nuff said!

Black Tennis Report for JULY

James Blake won the RCA Championships and cemented his status as the #1 ranked American male player by defeating former World #1 Andy Roddick 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(7-5). It was a very close match, with Roddick having over 5 break points in the final set, but was unable to win any of these crucial points, due to Blake's clutch serving and determination. Roddick also served quite well, approaching the speed and accuracy of his 2003 heyday, when he was the #1 player in the world.

American Shenay Perry scored a stunning upset over #5 seed Daniela Hantuchova at the Bank of the West Classic by defeating the Czech player 6-2, 0-6, 6-3. Unfortunately, Perry lost in a 3rd set tiebreaker the next round to American Jill Craybas 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (2).

Serena Williams returned to the game in excellent form at the Tier III Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinatti, losing to the eventual champion Vera Zvonareva in straight sets 6-2, 6-3. Serena and Venus then pulled out of the Tier 1 Acura Classic but are both still entered in their hometown's JP Morgan Chase Open, which MadProfessah will be attending next week in Compton, CA. In order to be eligible for US Open Series bonus prize money in New York, both Williams sisters need to play either the Rogers Cup in Montreal or Pilot Pen in New Haven, CT.

Jamea Jackson and Mashona Washington were members of the United States Federation Cup team that lost in Belgium to the home team anchored by Kim Clijsters.

Next month, a report on the US Open Series and a US Open preview!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Maryland Highest Court Agrees To Decide Marriage Equality

The day after the Washington State Supreme Court punted on the question of whether bans on same sex marriage are unconstitutional, the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to hear oral arguments in December in the case Deane v. Conaway. In addition, New Jersey's highest court has a marriage case Lewis v. Harris currently pending and of course there are numerous ways (judicially, legislatively or popularly) marriage equality can be achieved in California.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

REVIEW: Guy Gavriel Kay's "Tigana"

My friend Rod introduced me to the work of Guy Gavriel Kay, who he called his favourite author. The book he lent (gave?) me was Tigana. I am more of a hard sci-fi fan than a fantasy guy, although like Rod I appreciate both forms of "speculative fiction." However it's my opinion that compelling books are compelling books, regardless of the genre. For example, I rattled off the names of four or five of my favourite speculative fiction authors that Rod had not tried: Peter F. Hamilton (Night's Dawn trilogy), Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials trilogy), Dan Simmons (Ilium, Olympos, Hyperion, etc) and John Varley (Red Thunder, Red Lightning). He had already read Christopher Paolini's Eragon and Eldest, the latter which I was currently reading at the time and was very familar with the oeuvre of Raymond Feist. Two of these authors are considered juvenile fiction (Pullman and Paolini) and three are more fantasy than hard-core sci-fi (Pullman, Paolini and Feist). Simmons is pretty hard to classify, actually but I'd say he's closer to sci-fi than fantasy in general but Ilium is replete with Greek gods and goddesses and the Trojam War of Homer's Iliad being re-enacted on Mars. In the future. After there only a million humans left on Earth who have forgotten how to read and are completely dependent upon dangerous looking robotic servants for all their survival needs and whose lives mysteriously end after exactly 100 years.

Anyway, on to Tigana! The novel has a beautifully crafted setting: The Palm, which is a land of multiple provinces in a state of intense political tension finely balanced between two powerful magicians and dictators. The reader's point of view is provided by Devin d'Asoli, a teenaged singer who discovers some shocking information about himself and who finds himself swept up in the most important historical events of his time. The significance of the title of the novel is the name of a country whose name and history has been stripped from the hearts and minds of The Palm. Only people who were born in Tigana can say or hear the word; everyone else has been bewitched by the evil wizard named Brandin. The Palm is also a land rich with religious and cultural traditions which Guy Gavriel Kay weaves into his telling of a compelling, suspenseful story.


Friday, July 28, 2006

REVIEW: Orange Hill Beach Inn (Nassau, Bahamas)

I stayed at the Orange Hill Beach Inn for one night in June and was pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere of the place. The room was very clean, and pretty big, although this made it difficult for the one air conditioner unit to really keep the place very cool. (Check out the picture of my room on the left.) The highlights of the place is the EXCELLENT food. I had dinner and breakfast there. Dinner was very reasonable (about 16-20 dollar entrees) with things like curried beef with cucumber raita, roasted stuffed chicken, etc. Breakfast was a buffet style, but amazingly the scrambled eggs were kept swarm and supple in a steam table.
The management is very easy going and pleasant. When I was leaving the owner of the place gave me a free ride ti the airport because she said she was picking up an arriving friend about 30 minutes later (the airport is between 5-10 minutes away).
The only downside to staying there is that it is somewhat far from the center of "town." It takes about 30 minutes to get to downtown Nassau on the bus, which runs pretty intermittently and on "island time." But downtown Nassau is a cruise-ship plagued tourist-packed nightmare of cheap tchotchkes and overpriced, supercooled boutiques.


Reaction To WA State Marriage Ruling: A Dream Deferred

In a decision the New York Times called "angrily divided" and the Los Angeles Times described as a "major setback" the Washington State Supreme Court ultimately ruled 5-4 that their state's Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional and declared that there was no "fundamental right to same-sex marriage." As Professor William Rubinstein of the UCLA Law School's Williams Institute noted, "[T]he court is almost evenly and very bitterly divided." There was a plurality opinion joined by three judges, which the two most conservative judges joined in the judgment but wrote their own concurrent opinion which directly contradicted some of the statements made in the controlling opinion! But 3 votes plus 2 votes is 5 votes and that's how marriage equality opponents reached majority support on the Washington State Supreme Court.

It's really quite nauseating how similar the language of the majority opinion in Anderson is to the now-discredited majority opinion in Bowers vs Hardwick. The Anderson opinion frames the question at hand of whether there is a "fundamental right to same-sex marriage" when really the question is whether everyone has the right to marry the person of their choice, regardless of their sex. This is identical to the rhetorical shift made by Justice Byron White as he sneered there was no "right to homosexual sodomy" when really the question at hand was whether there was a right for an adult to have consensual sex with the person of their choice, regardless of their sex.

Both decisions were very closely decided (Justice Powell later revealed--to a closed gay law clerk!-- that he had initially intended to vote to strike down Georgia's sodomy law but declined to do so because he claimed that since he didn't know anyone gay, it really wasn't a very important case) and had (and will have) dramatic impact on the rights of gays and lesbians. It took seventeen years before the error in judgment was overturned by 2003's Lawrence vs Texas. How long will we have to wait to get past the shadow of Hernandez vs Robles (New York marriage case) and Anderson vs Sims?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

REVIEW: Robert Charles Wilson's "Spin"

The book Spin by Robert Charles Wilson has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction novel of the year along with Accelerando by Charles Stross, Old Man's War by John Scalzi, Learning the World by Ken MacLeod and A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin. I picked up Spin a few months ago because of commenters' recommendations at Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly blog.

The book has an intriguing premise: one night when the protagonists, (brother and sister twin siblings and their best friend) are 12 and 13 the stars (and the Moon) disappear from the night sky. It turns out that Earth is surrounded by some kind of shroud, called "The Spin" which is affecting the flow of time drastically inside the Spin. Approximately 300 billion years (the amount of time left before Earth's Sun goes nova) will occur outside the Spin within the next 30-plus years of elapsed time on the planet. This one central idea animates the novel, but at its core is the relationship between the three main characters: Tyler Dupree, Diane Lawton and Jason Lawton. Of course, this turns out to be a (straight) love triangle between the three. In addition, however there are numerous other interesting themes and questions: how does society deal with certain impending doom? If you could extend your lifespan through a very painful process which also has a chance of expanding and drastically modifying your consciousness, would you? What do you think is the likely nature of extraterrestrial intelligences? All these ideas are included and weaved throughout Wilson's Spin to thrilling effect.


WA: Bitterly Split Decision AGAINST Marriage Equality

I'm still digesting the over 100 pages of dissenting and concurring opinions, but the result is that a 5-4 majority opinion has ruled that Washington State's discriminatory marriage law IS constitutional.

I'll have more analysis later in the day...

WA: marriage equality ruling expected Wed!

The long awaited state Supreme Court ruling in the Washington state marriage equality case Andersen v. Kings County will likely be announced tomorrow. Parties in the case have been notified by the court to expect a decision in the case to be released tomorrow, Wednesday July 26. Oral arguments in the case were heard on March 8, 2005. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

LA TIMES (Thoughtlessly) Supports Routine HIV Testing For Everyone

*sigh* The Los Angeles Times continues its unfortunately ill-informed opining on AIDS/HIV policy with an op-ed in the Sunday July 23rd edition entitled "Making HIV Tests Routine." The unsigned editorial claims "[s]creening for the virus in annual physicals may be the best way to fight AIDS." In its entirety the Times piece says:

EVEN WITH ALL THAT IS KNOWN about HIV, there are still 40,000 new infections a year in the United States. One of the main reasons is that a quarter of those infected today don't know it; research shows those people are behind half of all new transmissions. Hoping to change that, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to recommend in the next few weeks that everyone between 13 and 64 should be routinely tested for HIV, just as healthy people get regular checks of their blood pressure and cholesterol.

Though the recommendation is voluntary, doctors usually heed such federal health guidelines when suggesting preventive screenings for their patients, and insurance companies usually pay for the ensuing tests. The goal is to make HIV testing part of the typical annual physical. Since testing is now so easy — it takes as little as 20 minutes — this is doable, cheap and could do more to stem new transmissions than almost any other available option.

[...] (edited for copyright purposes)

Where to begin? First, let's stipulate that I agree that the more people who get tested for HIV is a laudable goal. This is not simply because the number of people who are aware of their HIV status will increase, but also the number of people who will get exposed to HIV prevention counselling and eventually that should reduce that stubborn rate of 40 000 new infections every year.

My main problem with the call for routine and universal HIV testing is that I am skeptical about the planning and preparation that is being done by the appropriate government, health and public policy officials for the multitudes of HIV+ individuals that will be unearthed as a result of this signifucant policy shift. Here are four questions planners should have satisfactory answers to before MadProfessah could endorse routine HIV testing for "everyone between 13 and 64."

  1. Who is going to pay for the treatment of all these newly diagnosed HIV+ patients? The latest literature suggests that HIV+ individuals should start highly aggresive anti-retroviral therapy (i.e. HAART, or "the drug cocktail") immediately. The federal and state governments have not made any firm commitment to subsidize the cost of these extremely expensive medications for all people who need them and also have not done a vigorous job of negotiating wholesale price discounts on these life-saving drugs.
  2. When are the HIV anti-discrimination and confidentiality protection statutes in California and other states going to be updated to handle the ramifications of a surge in the numbers of the known HIV+ population in the state and nation? The fact that it is illegal under federal law to discriminate on the basis of AIDS (or HIV status) is a judicial interpretation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), based mainly on a landmark United States Supreme Court case. In Bragdon v. Abbott an HIV+ patient sued and won a discrimination lawsuit filed against a refusal by a dentist to treat her due to her HIV+ status. However, Justice Kennedy's majority opinion's analysis depends on an interpretation that people living with HIV/AIDS must have "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual" in order to be covered under the anti-discrimination protections of the ADA. It's really not clear how applicable Kennedy's analysis is when there are HIV+ athletes participating in gruelling sporting events like Gay Games 2006.

    My feelings about the nature of the HIV confidentiality statutes in California are well-known. I am appalled that the state Legislature and Governor went along with "AIDS, Inc." to enact mandatory HIV names reporting without insuring appropriate strengthening of the relevant confidentiality (and anti-discrimination) statutes.

    The law needs to be updated in both these areas before I could endorse a call for universal and routine HIV testing.
  3. You're HIV+, now what? There should be a well-thought out state-run program of how to deal with these newly diagnosed HIV+ individuals who will be coming from "non-traditional" (read: non gay white male) populations. There are medication issues (getting access to them, maintaining adherence, dealing with side effects), disclosure issues (who should they/do they tell, who gets automatically notified--besides the state of California and the federal government), lifestyle issues (mental health counselling, group identification/self-segregation, etc) among others which I probably can't even conceive of. I've served on the Board of Directors of an AIDS organization for four years and it's my experience which tells me that the existing AIDS service organizations are simply not ready to handle the sheer volume which would result from the universal and routine HIV testing the Times and the CDC is recommending. For example, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women who get regular pre-natal care should get an HIV test early in the pregnancy (this is because new drugs have reduced the rate of mother-child HIV transmission dramatically) but there are no particular plans in place (that I am aware of) to deal with the increase in HIV+ mothers with HIV- newborn children. Now think how the U.S. healthcare system will deal with the numbers of HIV patients which will be discovered if everyone between the age of 13 and 64 gets routinely tested?
  4. Why hasn't the Ryan Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act been reauthorized almost 9 months after it expired? As the above questions and commentary has hopefully highlighted, AIDS/HIV policy is a complicated topic. Another example of this is the current status of the Ryan White CARE Act, the single most important piece of federal legislation dealing with HIV/AIDS policy in this country. The law expired on September 30, 2005.The negotiations to reauthorize (not fully fund or increase appropriations commednsurate with demonstrated need) have been internecine. My point here is to highlight the politically fraught nature of the discussion and thus perhaps suggest the editorialists at the Times (and the bureaucrats at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) might be more careful before endorsing potentially life-changing public health policy for millions of Americans, which statistics indicate are likely to disproportionately Black and Brown.

Answer those questions, then get back to me!

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Money Race (Democrats vs Republicans)

The second quarter financial reports of the relevant federal campaign committees have been released.

Committee   Cash on hand
NRSC $19.9 million
DSCC $37.7 million
NRCC $26.4 million
DCCC $32 million
RNC $44,681,057
DNC $10,849,337
REPUBLICANS $91.1 million
DEMOCRATS $80.6 million

These are incredible numbers for Democrats. Usually Republicans have at least a 2 to 1
financial advantage going into federal elections. MadProfessah hopes the trend continues until November 2006 and beyond as Democrats take control of at least one chamber of Congress.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

REVIEW: Philip Pullman's HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy

I think a capsule review of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy of books would be the following analogy: His Dark Materials is to the Harry Potter series as the Lord of the Rings is to Star Wars series. In other words, HDM are critically successful, artistic, mature, dark and almost overwhelmingly complex and sophisticated, like LOTR. Star Wars and Harry Potter are fantastically commercially successful but more lightly regarded by critics and sometimes derided as "pulp."

The trilogy consists of the books The Golden Compass (soon to be a major motion picture to be released in 2007!), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. The main character is Lyra Belacqua, a 11-year old orpan who lives in Jordan College, in a world similar to ours except that all human beings possess daemons, which are individual attached adjunct personalities in the form of animals. Pre-adult humans have daemons which can take any animal form, adult humans have daemons which have fixed form. In Lyra's world, theology, science and magic are conflated and combined in intriguing and significant ways. The first book basically takes place in Lyra's world, the second in our modern world, and the third book in both worlds, among several others.

I received the books as a gift for my birthday (thank you wishlist!) and even though I was away at a conference the following week I brought them with me and finished the third book just as my plane landed at LAX.

I don't want to discuss too much about the plot, but to suffice it to say that it involves a prophecy involving Lyra benig either the destruction or the saviour of the world(s). The writing is decidedly more sophisticated than J.K. Rowling's although the pacing and plotting is not as proficient as the creator of Hogwarts School of Magic.

GRADE: A (The Golden Compass)
GRADE: A- (The Subtle Knife)
GRADE: B (The Amber Spyglass)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

REVIEW: Santa Monica Border Grill

After shopping at the Santa Monica store of west elm, the hip interior furnishing outlet of Williams-Sonoma, the spouse and I decided to check out the Border Grill since it was a mere two doors away on the same side of 4th street (near Broadway). Although I immediately run to change the channel when their radio show comes on KCRW on Saturday mornings (NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me..." on KPCC is a weekly guilty pleasure), I had heard that Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are outstanding cooks so I wanted to check whether their spot lived up to the hype. Did it ever!

Although the drinks are almost twice as expensive as they should be ($3.5o for a Jamaica Ginger Tea? Ouch. $8 for a michelada? Yipes. $12 for a marguarita?! Good grief.) the food is incredibly delicious. We split the Border Classics bocadito ($14.50) which consisted of two sweet corn tamales, two plantain empanadas, and two chicken panuchos. The panuchos were the star of this plate, they consist of "black bean stuffed tortillas, roasted chicken, pickled onion, and guacamole." they were beautiful to look at (yellow tortilla, light brown roasted chicken, bright green guacamole and bright red pickled onion) and absolutely mouth-wateringly scrumptious to eat: moist, tender with a bright flash of competing flavors and textures. The plantain empanadas sound better on the menu than the actual result; they are a bit mushy and sweet and little more than a biteful, but also quite rich at the time. The sweet corn tamales are also mushy but quite yummy.

We also split an entree. The cochinita pibil ($12.50): "achiote marinated pork slow roasted in banana leaf with grilled onions, orange, and cinnamon served with white rice, black beans, and roasted plantains." Yes, it tastes as good (or better!) than it sounds. The official description does not do justice to the succulent nature of the pork; it also neglects to mention that there is a dash of guacamole added. Also, the sauce of the pibil is very piquant, although it is almost dominated by lime or lemon. Very tasty. We joined the "clean plate club"!

The portions are not large and the food is not cheap but it is absolutely worth it. The decor is "interesting." It is very colorful, with large drawn figures over bold orange painted walls and striking yellowish cube-shaped lamps hanging from a blue ceiling. The service was efficient, although we had to ask for the price of a non-alcoholic drink. Overall, an excellent dining experience, I look forward to exploring more Border Girls cooking, either at Border Grill again or possibly Ciudad in downtown LA.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Papi chulo in new Oliver Stone movie

30-year old actor Michael Peña (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) will be appearing in what will probably be his most high-profile film yet, Olive Stone's World Trade Center (to be released August 9), co-starring Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage. I first noticed Peña on NBC's ER but he was one of the best things about last year's Best Picture Oscar winner Crash. I must confess I didn't notice him in 2004 Best Picture Million Dollar Baby but you may remember him from the one-sheet image for the movie as the distraught Latino father of the little girl who gets shot by the crazed Iranian shopkeeper. ¡Que Rico!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why Marriage Matters

Terrance has highlighted a post at Dailykos called "this is what domestic partnership gets you." which details the situation that resulted when gay (health and marriage) activist Eric Rofes died suddenly while vacationing in Provincetown, MA while his domestic partner of 16 years Crispin Hollings was in California and what Crispin had to go through trying to manage funeral arrangements and comply with his partner's final wishes.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Serena Backs Up Her Trash Talk With Results

On Tuesday in Cincinatti, OH 7-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams easily beat 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina 6-2, 6-2 in her first match on the WTA Tour in over 6 months! This is quite an impressive result after such an extended time off (she hadn't played a match since January). In addition, she served a 127-mph serve during the match, which would have tied her sister Venus Williams 8-year-old tour record if Brenda Shultz-McCarthy hadn't served a 130-mph serve on saturday while losing a qualifying match for the Tier III Western & Southern Financial Open Serena is playing in! 35-year old Shultz-Mcarthy will now re-gain the fastest women's serve record she had lost from an 18-year old Venus in 1998.

I previously noted Serena's trash talk before her return to the tour last week but it looks like she is backing it up. Although she is current ranked 139, she will clearly be back in the Top 10 by the end of the year. The US Open Series just got a lotmore interesting!

July 19: Protest Iran's Anti-Gay Executions Today!!

Here is the call to action which protesters in over 20 25 cities (sadly, Los Angeles is not one of them) are endorsing in today's activities:

  1. End all executions in Iran, especially the execution of minors. (Photo above in the poster for San Francisco's protest illustrates, the teens Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, killed in Mashad, Iran on July 19, 2005)
  2. Stop the arrest, torture and imprisonment of Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and repeal the Iranian penal code’s criminalization of same-sex relationships.
  3. Halt the deportation to Iran of LGBT asylum seekers and other victims of Tehran’s persecution.
  4. Support Iranians struggling for democracy, social justice and human rights.
  5. Oppose foreign military intervention in Iran; regime change must come from within – by and for the Iranian people themselves.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Russia and France (and Australia?) To End Ban on Gay Blood Donors

One reason I am so interested in considering LGBT rights from an international or worldwide perspective is that the United States continues to fall behind the rest of the world when it comes to rights for queers. Of course readers of this blog will know that four countries currently allow same-sex couples to get married: The Netherlands, Canada, Spain and South Africa.

Now, despite edtorials from Los Angeles Times calling for an end to the practice, the Federal Drug Administration refuses to reconsider easing restrictions on allowing any man who has had sex with a man since 1978 from donating blood (even though all blood donated is tested for HIV-1) comes word from PageOneQ that both Russia and France are ending their bans on gays being blood donors.

UPDATE: Southern Voice has picked up this story and claims that Australia is thinking of lifting its ban on gay blood donors also. Interestingly, SOVO published their article AFTER MadProfessah's original post of July 16th 9:55pm, their article is timedated July 17 5:01 pm.
Probably just another coincidence.

The Alleged Confluence Between Black and Republican Voters (in a Maryland Context)

I have been following the Maryland Senate Race very closely since last year. It is very likely that it will feature two African American men (Democrat former Congressman Kweisi Mfume versus Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele) winning major oarty nominations to become the next U.S. Senator from Maryland. On July 2, the Washington Post ran an article entitled "Maryland Senate Race May Hinge On Ethnicity" which Equality Maryland has reprinted at their website. First Mfume needs to beat Congressman Ben Cardin in a Democratic primary in September. The latest results show that he is currently in the lead:
For the first time in Maryland history, both major parties have the potential to nominate an African American, and the poll suggests that the hopes of all of the major candidates will depend on their ability to cross racial boundaries for support.
As they stand, the racial divisions are stark: In the primary, Mfume, who is black, gets 72 percent of his support from black voters, the poll shows. Cardin, who is white, gets 82 percent of his backing from white voters.

Then there is Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who has brought national attention to the Senate campaign because he is one of a handful of African American Republicans whom the national party is counting on to establish credibility among black voters.

Both Democrats hold leads over Steele in potential general election matchups, although Mfume's is narrow, the poll shows. And again, skin color appears to exert a significant tug.

For instance, if Cardin wins the Democratic primary, the poll shows that nearly a quarter of all black voters would back Steele. If Mfume wins the primary, black voters would stay with the Democratic Party, but Steele would see a nine-point jump in his support from white voters.
The unstated point here is that Black voters are more likely to allow racial affiliation to trump partisan affiliation since 25% of Black voters say they would vote for the Black Republican candidate, while only 9% of White voters would cross party lines to vote for the same candidate. However, there are numerous other explanations for this. If there are two Black candidates then what incentive is there for White voters to vote for the Democrat over the Republican? The true comparison is to determine what happens if a White Republican were to win the nomination, do the reporters think that candidate's support would not go up by more than 25%?

I would argue that white voters are acting in a more racially aligned way since Cardin is getting 82% of his support from voters of his race while Mfume is getting only 72% of his support from people of his race. It seems clear that the message to Democratic primary voters that in heavily Democratic, 33% Black Maryland they should choose Mfume. The polls results, show that with 32% undecided, Mfume leads Cardin 31 to 25. However, the really interesting results in the poll that caught my eye are buried in the final graf:
There is one issue on which the views of black voters and conservative Republicans coincide: same-sex marriage.

Nearly two-thirds of African Americans in the state oppose both same-sex marriage and civil unions for gay couples, the poll shows. By contrast, 57 percent of white voters favored civil unions. On the question of same-sex marriage, 44 percent of white voters favored it, while 53 percent were opposed.

Bositis said he did not expect Steele to make too much of the issue, though, because by doing so "he would risk associating himself with the same conservatives that he has to distance himself from."

The risk of Steele being tied too closely to Bush is considerable: Seventy-nine percent of black voters in the poll said they would be less likely to support a candidate who had Bush's backing.

Hans Kaiser, a pollster with the national Republican firm Moore Information, said that number is "obviously not a plus" for Steele. But he said Steele has been wise to try to steer the campaign to issues that play better with his potential supporters.

"If the campaign is only about George Bush supporting a candidate, that number would be alarming," Kaiser said. "But there are a whole lot of other things being discussed in the campaign."
These numbers point out how much work the National Black Justice Coalition has cut out for it to impact public opinion in the Black community in favor of marriage equality. In addition, it also completely refutes the ridiculous project Republican National Committee chairman (and ambiguously heterosexual) Ken Mehlman and other operatives have been promoting to "increase Black participation and registration with the Republican Party."

Since I started this post last week there have been some interesting developments. Just today, the New York Times has a "Political Memo" written by Adam Nagourney entitled "G.O.P.'s Bid For Blacks Falters" which covers in more specific detail exactly how plainly Mehlman's strategy of attempting to convince black voters to support the Republican agenda has failed.

On another front, today the White House has announced that after five years of declining invitations from the nation's most revered civil rights organizations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), President Bush has agreed to address their annual convention this week. Hmmmmm. Coincidence?

I'm baaaack!

We're baaaack!
Dog, spouse and myself made it back from the wilds of Indianola, IA. The temperatures in Des Moines, Chicago and Los Angeles were not above 85 degrees when we went through those cities.

We returned to a plant graveyard, the extreme heat in the South Pasadena/downtown Los Angeles area has been deadly for our green friends.

Catching up with email, will blog more later...

Trapped in the Heartland due to Heatwave

Save me Martha (and the Vandellas)! As temperatures soar into the triple digits here in the "Heartland" I am having difficulty getting back to civilization because I'm travelling with a dog. The airlines won't fly from or through an airport where the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (or below 40). I am starting in DSM (Des Moines, IA). I couldn't get out today--hopefully I'l be able to get out via ORD (Chicago O'Hare) tomorrow. The only other cities American seems to fly directly to are are MSP (Minneapolis-ST. Paul which has a pet travel embargo from July 15-19) and St. Louis, MO.
Wish me luck!!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Angelides Leads Arnold in Latest Poll

Rasmussen Reports has the latest poll numbers in the 2006 California Governor's race and it is good news for Democrat Phil Angelides (and other supporters of marriage equality in California): he leads 46% to 44% (+/- 4.5 percentage points, 500 respondents, conducted on July 5, 2006) even though Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger has a net positive job approval rating of +2 (51%-49%) with a strong 26% strongly disapproving of the Governor's job performance.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Worldwide JULY 19 Protests Set for 1-Year Anniversary of Iranian Gay Teen Executions

Doug Ireland, OutRage and International Day Against Homophobia are publicizing protests on Wednesday July 19th 2006 to commemorate the horrific executions of two Iranian gay teenagers Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni exactly one year ago, because of their homosexuality. As Doug reports:

At least 18 cities in the U.S., Europe, and Canada have already begun to organize events for July 19, the International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran. The original call to action for July 19 was initiated jointly by the militant British gay rights group OutRage and the Paris-based International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) for world-wide demonstrations on July 19, the first anniversary of the public hanging in Iran of two gay teens, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni. Photos of the execution of the two boys, who were hanged in the public square of the city of Mashad last year (photo above left), created international outrage when they were widely circulated on the Internet, and focused the world’s attention on Iran’s ongoing, lethal reign of terror targeting Iranian gays.

Protests have already been scheduled for the anniversary of the teens’ execution in a number of large European cities, including London, Moscow, Frankfurt, Berlin, Marseille, Amsterdam, Vienna, Dublin, Stockholm, and Brussels. ever, the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission which had both endorsed the call for world-wide demonstrations and had announced it ws taking the lead to organize a New York City demonstration in front of the Iranian Mission to the U.N., has withdrawn from the demonstration. The New York demonstration was also endorsed by Gay City News, New York City's largest gay weekly newspaper. Local gay groups and ad hoc committees have already scheduled U.S. events in San Francisco, San Diego, , Washington, D.C., Fort Lauderdale, and Provincetown for July 19. And there will be commemorative meetings in Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.(A list of all those demonstrations and events in the U.S. and around the world, with contacts, is at the bottom of this post).

The call for global demonstrations has also been endorsed by the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO), the largest Iranian gay group, which has secretariats in several European countries and Canada. “We enthusiastically support the call for demonstrations on July 19, and we are very grateful to our brothers and sisters for organizing these demonstrations for our beleaguered Iranian gay people,” Arsham Parsi (left) , human rights secretary of the PGLO, told Gay City News from his base in Toronto, where he and local gay organizations are organizing a demonstration..

The PGLO has also asked all its members in Iran to display lighted candles in their windows on July 19 in memory of the two hanged Iranian lads -- "That's about all we can ask our members in Iran to do safely without bringing down persecution on their heads from the regime's police and the homo-hating paramilitary basiji thugs who work for the ayatollahs," Parsi said.

Doug has also been reporting about the way that U.S.-based LGBT civil rights organizations have not been engaged with this story. This is summarized in an article by Rob Anderson in The New Republic entitled "How America's Gay Rights Establishment Is Failing Gay Iranians."

Angela Haynes and Serena Williams: Ghetto Fabulous

This is a picture of Angela Haynes in her "Angela Kournikova" persona at a World Team Tennis Anna Kournikova Look-Alike Contest in Cincinatti, OH last week.

Also from Cincinatti comes this quote from Serena Williams, who returns to the WTA Tour with a ranking of 140 (her sister Venus is now down to 23) at the July 17-23 Tier III Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open:
"I hope to get a lot of satisfaction out of my game. I hope to go out and blow the joint up. My goals — I've never said them out loud. I just expect to do what I do best, and I think I play tennis best."
Oh my!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Off To 'The Heartland'

I'll be in Indianola, Iowa for the next week starting today. Light, if non existent blogging will result. I'll be reading Robert Moses' Radical Equations and Steven J. Brams & Alan Taylor's The Win-Win Solution: Guaranteeing Fair Shares to Everybody. I'll post reviews when I return.


My favorite gay mystery writer John Morgan Wilson is back with a seventh Benjamin Justice novel, Rhapsody in Blood. Benjamin Justice is a 40-something, HIV+ white gay man missing one eye who lives in West Hollywood and is a disgraced former Los Angeles Times reporter who was forced to return a Pulitzer Prize after it was revealed he faked his award-winning article. Somehow he finds himself in situations where people harboring secrets frequently meet violent deaths (and he is often in mortal danger, too--when we first met Justice he was HIV- and intact). His sidekick is Alexandra Stevenson, a statuesque African American trust fund baby in her early 30s who also happens to be a star Times reporter. Other characters in the Justice series are Maurice and Fred, a 70-something gay couple who have been together for over 50 years and who rent out the room over their garage to Justice in the heart of Boystown.

The first six books in the series have also used Los Angeles (and usually West Hollywood) as a character. One of the most enjoyable features was reading Wilson's descriptions of locales around the city complete with historical nuggets of places that I can (and often do) drive by whenever I want. Initially the books in the series had the cute affectation of always including Justice in the title: Simple Justice, Revision of Justice, Justice at Risk, The Limits of Justice. Then the series took a harrowingly dark turn during the last one and continued in that vein in Blind Eye with some relief coming in Moth and Flame.

The latest installment is Rhapsody in Blood, which is not set in Los Angeles but is a classic Hollywood murder mystery. Justice and Stevenson go up to a small mountain town a few hours away from L.A. now called Haunted Springs. Fifty years ago gorgeous movie star Rebecca Fox was found murdered in one of the family-run hotel's rooms on March 15th while shooting a movie in Eternal Springs. She had recently had sex with someone and the hotel owner's teenage son claimed he had seen a black man coming out of the room. The man Ed Jones was immediately arrested by the local sherrif (who happened to be related to the hotel owner) and lynched later that same night--no murder weapon was ever found in the hotel room. Twenty-five years ago Rebecca Fox's daughter Brandy Fox checked into the same hotel room on the 25th anniversary of her mother's murder and was found dead in her room with her throat cut and the knife in her hand. The death was ruled a suicide. The name of the town was changed to Haunted Springs and the mythology of the two Hollywood deaths and the creepy hotel grew, particularly after the publication of a best-selling true crime book about the ill-fated town. Now Hollywood is filming a movie based on the Rebecca and Brandy Fox deaths at the hotel. Templeton is writing a story about the filming of the movie, which stars one of the current top female box-office stars, a very attractive up and coming male starlet and a popular rapper.

What makes the Justice novels so interesting is that even though they are firmly ensconced in the murder mystery genre the author has no qualms about including social commentary on any number of urgent comtemporary topics. In Rhapsody in Blue there are threads about race (from the DL or "down low" phenomenon, to a dissection of the psychological motivations behind the panic caused by Black male/White female couplings, lynching, among other topics), sexuality (outing, the coming out process, childhood precociousness, age-based anxieties), music (hip hop/rap, the music business, the title is a pun on Rhapsody in Blue which is a key theme throughout the book), history (who controls what the nature of 'truth' is, how the past influences the present and the future, basic historical facts about lynching in the United States), fame (it's fragility and allure, the Hollywood public relations apparatus, the extremes to which people will go to get it, gossip, etc) all weaved together in a well-crafted mosaic which provides a backdrop for a satisfying, insightful and fun read.

I can't wait for the next one!


Sunday, July 09, 2006

WIMBLEDON 2006: Final Results

World #1's and Wimbledon #1 seeds Roger Federer and Amelie Mauresmo won their Wimbledon finals this weekend. Mauresmo defeated Belgian tennis dwarf Justine Henin-Hardenne 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 while Federer beat Spanish lefty phenom Rafael Nadal 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3.

Mauresmo, 27, is openly lesbian and has had a long history of questions about mental toughness. By hanging tough to beat Maria Sharapova in three sets in the semifinal I believe that the final was actually an easier match for the Frenchwoman to win. With the victory, Mauresmo is the undisputed #1 player in the World, having won 2 of the 3 major tournaments of the year to date.

Federer, 24, has now won 8 major tournaments, and 4 consecutive Wimbledon titles, joining the company of the all-time greats Pete Sampras (7 total, most ever) and Bjorn Borg (5 consecutive). By defeating the World #2 who had previously denied him the career slam, Federer cements his position at #1 similar to Mauresmo.

On to New York!

Arnold Leads Angelides in Latest Poll

The Los Angeles Times reports that Governor Schwarzenegger now has a net positive job approval rating of +7 (48% approve, 41% disapprove) and leads his Democratic opponent 44% to 37% in the latest poll.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

LA TIMES Editorializes in Favor of HIV Liability Rule Change

The Los Angeles Times editorial page on Friday commented on the controversial California Supreme Court decision issued Monday expanding the number of people liable for civil penalties under the state's HIV transmission statute.

With this decision, California's civil statute on this issue now makes more sense than its criminal code. Unlike most other states, transmitting a disease in California is a crime only if someone knowingly passes along the virus "with the specific intent" of infecting a partner. That's so hard to prove that the law has reportedly brought only two convictions.

The California Supreme Court made the right decision in expanding the definition of liability in civil court for those who put others at unnecessary risk of contracting HIV. Hopefully, this will entice the state to update its outdated criminal penalties as well.
I find it hard to understand why the editorial page of the Times thinks it knows better than the Legislature and the state's HIV/AIDS advocates what the legal standard should be for California's HIV transmission statutes, both civil and criminal. Just last year there was a bill in the California Legislature by Republican State Senator Jeff Denham (SB 235) which would have removed the "specific intent" standard from the criminal statute but it failed to get out of committee. The California Supreme Court's decision basically made anyone who engages in unsafe sexual practices liable for civil damages regardless of whether they know their own HIV status or not. The question that comes to my mind is about the unbalanced nature of this liability, which the Times seems to support also. In any sexual act there are two (at least! ) people involved. If unsafe sex is happening in that context, why aren't both parties equally responsible for what happened?

Obviously, prior to sex both parties should be cognizant of their own HIV status and request information about the HIV status of the other partner. By putting the onus of responsibility only upon one party (the one of them who has engaged in risky sexual practices within the last six months of their most recent negative HIV test result) as the Court and the Times want to do, seems unfair to me. Even in my scenario where both partners are as forthcoming as possible there will always be "asymmetric information" (as economists like to say) and the optimal way to level this disadvantage is to choose the most pessimistic scenario: assume all sexual partners are HIV+. Clearly in that case safe sex is the only option which makes sense.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn't acknowledge reality: people who are engaging in sex can intellectually say "treat everyone as if they are HIV+" but they know that in reality obviously everyone is not. (Although, in many urban settings CDC statistics show as many as 46% of Black gay and bisexual men over the age of may be. In that case, depending on your sample size and preferences/predilections it could be very true that everyone you are having sex with actually is HIV+, and probably doesn't know it.) This is the dilemma faced by safe sex and HIV prevention advocates. It seems to me by declaring that there is more liability for all people who practice unsafe sex will decrease the resolve of people to practice safe sex, and instead use some kind of state sanction as a fallback excuse for why they can "play raw just this once." Thus the Times editorial, the Denham bill and the Supreme Court decision seem to me to make things more difficult not less for HIV prevention advocates.

WIMBLEDON 2006: Men's Final Prediction

The 2006 Gentlemen's Final has been set:

Roger Federer SUI (1) vs. Rafael Nadal ESP (2). Astonishingly, it is the same matchup as last month's Fremch Open final, which was won by Nadal in 4 sets. Nadal is one of the few players on the ATP Tour who has more wins than losses over Federer, in fact he has beaten the World #1 four times in 2006! Federer has actually only beaten Nadal once, and in that match he was two sets to love down but came back to win. However, they have never played on grass. Federer has won 47 consecutive matches on grass. The only person to beat Federer in the last 12 months is Nadal. Now, Nadal is the only person standing between Federer and a fourth consecutive Wimbledon Men's singles title, which has only been achieved by Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras. If Nadal wins, he becomes the first male player since Borg to win the French and Wimbledon in the same year, one of the most difficult feats in tennis (Borg did it 3 years in a row!)

It is a battle of historic proportions!

WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Federer (in 4 sets, possibly 5).

Friday, July 07, 2006

WIMBLEDON 2006: Women's Final Prediction

My semifinal predictions were correct one out of two. I picked Henin in 3 and Sharapova in 3. I'm very happy that I was wrong about that. Here is my preview and prediction of the 2006 Wimbledon Ladies Final:

Amélie Mauresmo FRA (1) vs. Justine Henin-Hardenne BEL (3). Mauresmo is in her first Wimbledon final and only 3rd Grand Slam final of her career to date. However, Henin-Hardenne is in her 3rd Grand Slam final of the year and has not lost a set winning in Paris in May and hasn't dropped a set in London. Henin-Hardenne has been in 7 finals and won 5 of them (4 of them against Kim Clijsters!) Head-to-head Henin-Hardenne leads 5-4 but the two have never played on grass. They actually have exchanged victories (they haven't lost consecutive matches to each other), and their last meeting was a beatdown by Henin-Hardenne on clay so I think that it is Mauresmo's turn to win. Lucky for her this may occur on the world's most prestigious tennis court, Wimbledon's Centre Court.

Of course, one of the very interesting storylines on Saturday will be the fact that this match is a repeat of the 2006 Australian Open. There, Mauresmo outlasted Clijsters (who retired in the third set) in the semifinals and Henin-Hardenne won a very close match against Sharapova which may have gone the other way if electronic line calling technology were in use. Then in the final, Mauresmo was leading 6-1, 2-0 when Henin-Hardenne inexplicably retired, defaulting the title to the Frenchwoman. Henin-Hardenne's toughness both mental and physical are near legendary (she required intravenous fluids after winning a three set late night thriller at the 2003 US Open over Jennifer Capriati but then came back hours later and defeated Clijsters in straight sets.

In the first set against Sharapova, Mauresmo had one unforced error, a double fault. She rather easily won that set 6-3. She was up 3-1 in the second set before "the yips" set in and she allowed Sharapova to lead 4-3 and eventually win the set 6-3. In the third set Mauresmo rushed off to a 4-0 lead and although she was broken she was always able to break back to win the set and match 6-2. If she plays similarly against Henin-Hardenne on Saturday Amélie Mauresmo will win her first Wimbledon title, becoming the first openly lesbian Wimbledon champ since Martina Navratilova in 1990 (unless Jana Novotna in 1998 counts!)
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Mauresmo (in 3 sets).
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Mauresmo.

WIMBLEDON 2006: Men's Semifinals Predictions

I don't usually blog about men's tennis, but what the heck!

Roger Federer SUI (1) vs. Jonas Bjorkman SWE. Bjorkman has done very well to get to his second Grand Slam semifinal (1997 US Open) at the ripe old age of 34. He is one of the best doubles players in the world and has been for years. However, Federer will not be denied his 4th straight Wimbledon final.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Federer (in 3 sets).

Rafael Nadal ESP (2) vs. Marcos Baghdatis CYP (18). Amazingly, Nadal has played his last three of his five matches against fellow left-handers (Bogdanovich, Labadze and Nieminen) in this Wimbledon. However, he will face his toughest test (apologies to Mr. Graf) against the rapidly improving Cypriot, who has already been in a Grand Slam final this year. I do think that Nadal will figure out some way to win this match, but it should be a nailbiter.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Nadal (in 5 sets).
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Baghdatis.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Unfortunate Marriage Defeats in NY and GA

Well Rod 2.0 and The New York Times were correct: the New York Court of Appeals ruled on same-sex marriage yesterday. In a 4-2 decision, the Court declared the discriminatory marriage laws of the state constitutional, but urged the Legislature to take up the issue. Keith Boykin, an attorney and Harvard Law School graduate was particularly disappointed with the decision:

Judge George Bundy Smith, regarded as the most liberal member of the court and the only African American judge on the court, signed onto an opinion that rejected comparisons between same-sex marriage bans and interracial marriage bans. As a black gay man who has spent years fighting against homophobia in the black community, that was the most disappointing aspect of the decision, that a liberal black judge just doesn't get it.
The two dissenters were Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Carmen Ciparick. Victoria Graffeo concurred with the plurality opinion upholding the state marriage laws but signaled that she thought the Legislature should change them.

To add insult to injury, in an unsurprising move, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously re-instated a same-sex marriage ban imposed by voter-passed consitutional amendment in the November 2004 election.

REVIEW: The Devil Wears Prada

All About Meryl. That's All.
I saw the The Devil Wears Prada on Saturday at the Arclight Theaters with my friends John and Marvin. The movie stars the amazing Meryl Streep, Brokeback Mountain's surprising Anne Hathaway, a convincingly fey Stanley Tucci, the very hot Daniel Sunjata and Entourage's attractive Adrian Grenier.

As expected, Streep pilfers the movie as Miranda Priestley, the powerful editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine named "Runway" right under Anne's waspy nose! Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, a recent college graduate who turned down Stanford Law School to move to New York City to be a writer. She is a fashion challenged ingenue who lives in a dumpy apartment with her adorable apprentice chef boyfriend played by Grenier.

Streep is absolutely riveting to look at for every minute she's on screen, but also delivers a nuanced performance, so that even though she is the obnoxious Devil of the title, the audience identifies and empathizes with her and her characters travails. Hathaway does a very good job of convincingly, subtly metamorphizing from fashion illiterate to fashionista.

The film is based on a best-selling novel called The Devil Wears Prada which I never read which itself was a very lightly veiled expose' based on the author's internship at Vogue magazine and experiences with that fashion magazine's powerful editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

As Keith Boykin says in his overwhelmingly positive review, Miranda Priestley's catchphrase "That's all" is destined to be the phrase of the moment for all the children and queens to be reading each other this summer!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New York Marriage Ruling Expected Soon

The New York Times and Rod 2.0 are both predicting that the New York Court of Appeals will issue its final ruling on marriage equality today. MadProfessah has been following this issue for a long time, and this particular lawsuit also. I'll believe the decision comes down today when it is actually issues, after all activists in Washington State have been waiting for a final ruling by their state's highest court for over a year. Interestingly, a Pataki appointee to the Court has recused himself, so it will be considered by a 6-member court. This increases the probability of a favorable result, because the person who recused himself (the Times article shockingly doesn't name that justice but does name two other members) was most likely a negative vote.

Hopefully, we'll know soon.

REVIEW: Superman Returns

Not As Big As Expected
Openly gay director Bryan Singer's Superman Returns opened this weekend and I saw it at the Mann Chinese Theater at Hollywood & Highland with a friend. The movie stars the excessively pulchritudinous Brandon Routh in the title role, the ambiguously heterosexual Kevin Spacey as Superman's nemesis Lex Luthor and Kate Bosworth as Superman's main squeeze Lois Lane.

Sadly, the director seems to have shot the movie without a coherent script. Happily, this didn't really spoil my enjoyment of the movie. Singer apparently channels his intense lust for Routh into making the object of his desire breathtakingly beautiful in every shot. The special effects and production values are absolutely top knotch, and the supporting players (X-Men: The Last Stand's Cyclops James Marsden, Parker Posey, Kal Penn) are excellent, except for the doofus playing Jimmy Olson.

After the blogosphere-hyped stories about movie executives' worries about Superman's bulge being digitally altered by Warner Bros. I am happy/sad to report that they were "much ado about nothing." As you can see from the publicity still attached to this post, there are lots of things about Superman Returns which are not as big as expected.


WIMBLEDON 2006: Ladies' Semifinals Predictions

My quarterfinal predictions were correct 4 out of 4 times. The only slight blip was that I thought Dementieva would win a set against Sharapova and she didn't. Here are my predictions with the actual semifinal schedule now set:

Amélie Mauresmo FRA (1) vs. Maria Sharapova RUS (4). Mauresmo is in her fourth Wimbledon semifinal in 5 years. Sharapova is in her 3rd consecutive. Most of those times she lost to a Williams sister (as did everyone else!) although last year she lost to Davenport in a semmifinal she should have won. Sharapova played excellent tennis in her quarterfinal against Dementieva, serving impeccably. I suspect this match will be another thriller and probably the better match of the Ladies' Semifinals. Mauresmo has not done well in close, tight matches before, as her collapse against Vaidisova at the French attests. However, she has an opportunity here to show that she is indeed the #1 player in the World and that winning her first major title has strengthened her mental fortitude.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Sharapova (in 3 sets).
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Mauresmo.

Kim Clijsters BEL (2) vs. Justine Henin-Hardenne BEL (3). I think that the win will go to the mentally tougher player in both of these important matches. In that case, the victor would have to be the diminutive Belgian who would again deny her larger compatriot from tasting Grand Slam success. I'm not sure that I believe, like Brad Gilbert does, that losing to JHH in major tournaments is contributing to Clijsters' decision to retire from the game at the end of 2007 at the relatively spry age of 24 (8 June 1983). It's definitely possible. I do think that Kim's a fighter and will really be looking for revenge for her two most recent losses. They have never played at Wimbledon before. If Henin-Hardenne wins that will be three consecutive Grand Slam finals for the year for her, which hasn't been done since Venus and Serena (both!) did it in 2003. If Clijsters wins she will have competed for every major title (Henin-Hardenne has already reached this milestone, she lost theWimbledon final to Venus in 3-sets in 2001.)
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Henin-Hardenne (in 3 sets).
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Clijsters.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

California Supreme Court Modifies HIV Liability Rule

Yesterday, the day before the Independence Day holiday, in a contentious decision the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that a married individual who engages in risky sexual behavior may be forced to reveal details of his/her sexual history and be held liable for their spouses' HIV infection even if they were unaware of their HIV status at the time. Previously in March I had blogged about the "sad case" of John B. vs. Superior Court (pdf), which really involves a discovery dispute in an HIV liability lawsuit between two married individuals, named in the lawsuit as John B. and Bridget B. The court overuled the appellate court ruling by limiting the extent of the discovery questions about sexual history to a six-month window before John's August 2000 negative HIV antibody test, citing CDC data and current medical knowledge about the etiology of HIV infection that someone who is infected with HIV will develop detectable antibodies within six months.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Marvin Baxter (joined by Chief Justice Ronald George, Justice Ming Chin and 2005 Schwarzenegger appointee Justice Carol Corrigan) recognizes that this is a sensitive decision and attemps to limit the damage:
Accordingly, our conclusion that a claim of negligent transmission of HIV lies
against those who know or at least have reason to know of the disease must be
understood in the context of the allegations in this case, which involves a couple
who were engaged and subsequently married; a defendant who falsely represented
himself as monogamous and disease-free and insisted the couple stop using
condoms; and a plaintiff who agreed to stop using condoms in reliance on those
false representations. We need not consider the existence or scope of a duty for
persons whose relationship does not extend beyond the sexual encounter itself,
whose relationship does not contemplate sexual exclusivity, who have not
represented themselves as disease-free, or who have not insisted on having sex
without condoms.
In other words, "the facts of this case were very unusual, we aren't declaring a universal rule here." Compare this paragraph to the bland New York Times headline "People Who Pass On AIDS Virus May be Sued" (well, duh!) The Times does do a reasonable job of summarizing the details of the case:
Bridget B. and John B., as they are known in court papers, started dating in 1998 and married in July 2000. Bridget said that John told her he was healthy and monogamous and that he urged her to have unprotected sex with him. In October 2000, though, she tested positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, as did he.

Bridget later learned, her lawsuit says, that John had had sex with men before and during their marriage. She seeks compensation for what she says was John's infliction of emotional distress and fraud.
There were three separate dissenting opinions, by Justices Katherine Werdegar, Justice Joyce Kennard and Schwarzenegger appointee Justice Carlos Moreno. Moreno's dissent was particularly informed, incisive and (somewhat) inflammatory:

As I shall explain, the distinction between HIV and other sexually
transmitted diseases is crucial when discussing the wisdom of creating a cause of
action for negligent transmission based on constructive knowledge. Contrary to
the majority’s analysis, creation of such a tort for HIV is not a simple extension of
existing California law, nor has any other state created such a cause of action.2
It must be clearly understood, therefore, that in creating this cause of action the
majority ventures into largely uncharted waters.


Accordingly, the question before this court is whether creation of a cause of
action for negligent transmission of HIV — and not some other sexually
transmitted disease — based on a constructive knowledge standard will serve the
relevant policy considerations associated with the fight against the AIDS
epidemic. I believe the answer is no.

To begin with, the majority fails even to recognize the relevant policy
considerations associated with the AIDS epidemic because the majority assumes
that AIDS is the same as other sexually transmitted diseases and the same analytic
framework can be applied to the negligent transmission of HIV as is applied to
other sexually transmitted diseases. This is inaccurate.


The convergence of these three factors: the potential deadliness of HIV
infection, the possibility that a person may be unknowingly infected with HIV for
years and the opprobrium to which those who are infected have been subjected,
distinguishes HIV/AIDS from all other sexually transmitted diseases. Thus the
battle to contain the transmission of HIV raises complex questions of public and
public health policy not present with respect to other sexually transmitted diseases.

The majority’s rejection of an actual knowledge standard as a predicate for
imposing liability for transmitting HIV also flies in the face of the Legislature’s
adoption of an actual knowledge standard in statutes that penalize the transmission
of the virus. Health and Safety Code section 120291 makes it a felony, punishable
by up to eight years in state prison, for a person to “expose[] another to . . . [HIV]
by engaging in unprotected sexual activity when the infected person knows at the
time of the unprotected sex that he or she is infected with HIV, has not disclosed
his or her HIV-positive status, and acts with the specific intent to infect another
person with HIV.” (Health & Saf. Code, § 120291, subd. (a), italics added.)


Finally, I am concerned that the creation of this new tort is also inconsistent
with the Legislature’s policy of guarding against the conflation of transmission of
HIV with sexual orientation in a way that stigmatizes one of the populations most
vulnerable to infection.


For these reasons, I dissent from the majority’s creation of a cause of action
for negligent transmission of HIV based on a constructive knowledge standard. I
would find that civil liability for transmission of the virus must be predicated upon
actual knowledge of infection. This result would be consistent with the
Legislature’s painstaking formulation of a comprehensive policy to combat the
AIDS epidemic.

By contrast, the majority’s result is inconsistent with legislative policy.
The majority allows a person who tests HIV positive to bring an action against all
former sexual partners and attempt to ascertain not only whether they had actual
knowledge they were HIV positive when they engaged in sexual relations but also
whether they had any “reason to know” they were HIV positive.(Footnote: The majority’s suggestion that its holding applies only to “a couple whowere engaged and subsequently married” (maj. opn., ante, at p. 18) is no reallimitation given that the duty analysis that precedes this statement makes nodistinction between married couples and everyone else.) This cause of action potentially licenses invasions into the sexual privacy of all sexually active
Californians and may even invite abuse of the judicial process. One can easily
foresee a spate of “shakedown” or vengeance lawsuits brought by plaintiffs whose
motivation is not so much to discover how they contracted HIV as to force
lucrative settlements or embarrass a former sexual partner by exposing that
person’s sexual history in the guise of obtaining relevant discovery. Even without
this potential for abuse, the threat to the confidentiality of HIV test results and to
sexual privacy, the apparent absence of any scientific grounding for a constructive
knowledge standard, and the potential for stigmatization of individuals based on
their sexual orientation are powerful arguments against this novel theory of
liability for the negligent transmission of HIV. I understand that the majority is
guided by the commendable goal of preventing transmission of HIV and AIDS,
but creating this new tort is not the way to go about it. Instead, with this decision
the majority has opened a Pandora’s box. For these reasons, I respectfully but
emphatically dissent.

Wow! All I can say, Justice Moreno, is that you had me at "I dissent."

Arkansas Supreme Court Unanimously Rules In Favor of Gay Rights

Wow! As Pam Spaulding has been covering, this week the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down it's state legislature's attempt to ban on gay and lesbian couples as foster parents, rejecting "any correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual."

Of course, the state's lame duck governor (Mick Huckabee, who is running for President) is asking for a state constitutional amendment to enshrine discrimination in Arkansas. You'd think that politicians in the South would think twice about taking extreme stands on civil rights legislation!

Monday, July 03, 2006

WIMBLEDON 2006: Ladies Quarterfinals Set

My original quarterfinal predictions were 5 out of 8 correct due to Venus Williams losing in the 3rd round, amazing French qualifier Severine Bremond continuing her unlikely run and the Chinese player Na Li outlasting big hitting Czech youngster Nicole Vaidisova. Here are my predictions with the actual quarterfinal schedule now set:

Amélie Mauresmo FRA (1) vs. Venus Williams USA (11) Anastasia Myskina RUS (9). Myskina is playing excellent tennis, but Mauresmo has made 3 semi-finals at Wimbledon and is it is her destiny to win this title. Myskina took Henin-Hardenne to a 3rd set tiebreak at Eastbourne in the grass court warm up tournament but lost. I suspect this match will be another thriller and probably the best match of the Ladies' Quarterfinals. The good news for Myskina is that there's no final set tie break at Wimbledon. But the Frenchwoman's destiny will not be denied.
PREDICTION: Mauresmo in 3 sets.

Maria Sharapova RUS (4) vs. Elena Dementieva RUS (7) . When the Russians play each other there is always extra tension (and often not very good tennis). Sharapova's game is well-suited to the grass. Although Dementieva's serve has improved, her two great strengths: mental toughness/fighting spirit and powerful ground strokes are matched, if not surpassed by Sharapova. PREDICTION: Sharapova in 3 sets.

Ai Sugiyama JPN (18) Severine Bremond FRA (QUALIFIER) vs. Justine Henin-Hardenne BEL (3). Brad Gilbert of ESPN has predicted Henin-Hardenne will win this title without dropping a set. She is playing excellently, but perhaps if anyone can stop the "Belgian Express" it is an unknown French qualifier playing with absolutely nothing to lose. PREDICTION: Henin-Hardenne in 2 sets.

Kim Clijsters BEL (2) vs. Nicole Vaidisova CZE (10) Na Li CHN (27). Na Li becomes the first Chinese player to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Vaidisova would have given Clijsters a run for her money, but I believe Kim will be very eager to get to a semifinal against Justine to get revenge for her loss to her countrywoman at the semifinals of the French and Eastbourne. The "Belgian sisters" are now tied 11-11 head to head. Na Li does not have enough game to prevent an all Belgian semifinal. PREDICTION: Clijsters in 2 sets.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Black Tennis Report for July

Black Tennis Report July 2006

Shenay Perry is the only American player, male or female, to make the fourth round of Wimbledon 2006! She plays Elena Dementieva on Monday for her first Grand Slam quarterfinal berth. If Shenay continues her attacking, serve-and-volley game she has a decent chance against the Russian 7th seed.

Defending champion Venus Williams was knocked out of the tournament by dangerous Serbian Jelena Jankovic. Serena Williams did not enter the French or Wimbledon but is slated to return to the tour in August for the US Open Series.

James Blake extended his career streak to nine consecutive 5-set match losses by losing to Max Mirnyi 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 in the third round.

French phenom who made it to the fourth round of his country's Grand Slam with a thrilling 5-set win over James Blake 6-2, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-4 last month, lost in the first round of Wimbledon.

Jamea Jackson and Mashona Washington lost a close second round Wimbledon matches to Daniela Hantuchova and Dinara Safina, respectively.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ron Oden Concedes Primary Defeat By 89-Votes

Ouch! Openly gay mayor of Palm Springs Ron Oden was defeated by Steve Clute for the Democratic nomination for the 80th District State Assembly seat held by Republican Bonnie Garcia by a shockingly close total of 89 votes out of over 13,000 cast this week.


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