Friday, May 30, 2008

Eye Candy: Ramirez Allender

Please enjoy Mad Professah favorite hottie Ramirez Allender, a model from Brazil, while I am in San Diego attending a tennis camp this weekend.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NY To Recognize All Legal Gay Marriages

New York Governor David Paterson announced an order which he issued May 14th that would cause the state of New York to recognize all gay marriages which were legal in the jurisdiction in which they were entered (such as Canada and Massachusetts and after June 17th, California).

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”

The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.

In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as “a strong step toward marriage equality.” And people on both sides of the issue said it moved the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state.
It should be interesting to see how many other blue states follow New York's lead. I'm looking at you, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maryland and New Jersey!

"Lost" Soars While BSG Sinks

The fourth season of Lost ends tonight with a two-hour finale which will cap off an excellent (slightly shortened by the writers' strike) season. Battlestar Galactica has been completing it's fourth and final season at the same time, not as successfully.

Mad Professah used to call BSG the best show on television (except for The Wire, of course!) but The Wire did exceedingly well in its fifth and final season. BSG has been disappointing, seeming to turn inwards and involve plots that revolve around the arcane mythology of the show instead of emotional connections between the characters. This is partly because the villains (The machine Cylons) have been given almost equal time in this season as the writers try to end the series by answering deep questions about the nature of evil.

However, Lost is using its fourth season to remain focussed on what has made the show a cultural touchstone for four years so far: great acting, emotionally nuanced characters and talented writing spooling a mind-bending story that takes years to fully unveil.

I'm looking forward to tonight (9pm on ABC)!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LA and SF Strongly Support Marriage Equality

The San Francisco Chronicle has even more interesting tidbits on the Field Poll which, for the first time, showed a majority of Californians (or even more importantly, registered voters!) support marriage equality 51% to 42%.

The heavily Democratic urban areas strongly support same-sex marriage; 55 percent of Los Angeles County and an overwhelming 68 percent of the Bay Area are in favor. By contrast, only 38 percent of the Central Valley and 41 percent of Southern California outside of Los Angeles are in favor.

Same-sex marriage also digs a chasm between California's heavily populated coast and its inland areas; 55 percent of coastal voters back same-sex marriage compared with 40 percent in support inland.

The issue divides along liberal-conservative lines; 85 percent of strong liberals are in favor, and 85 percent of strong conservatives are opposed.

Protestants, who make up a third of the state's voters, oppose same-sex marriage 34 percent to 57 percent, while Catholics are split almost equally, 45 percent in favor to 48 percent opposed. Those with no religious preference back same-sex marriage 81 percent to 12 percent.

America will be watching the fall campaign over same-sex marriage, which will have national implications, said Kors of Equality California.

"It's going to be an intense and enormous undertaking, but we're confident we'll win," he said. "But we also know that the other side is out there working just as hard and feeling just as confident."

The poll is based on a telephone survey of 1,052 registered voters taken May 17-26. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points
Note the California Supreme Court ruling was announced on May 15, 2008 so the poll was conducted immediately after it was being publicized. Winning 55% in Los Angeles County is not good enough. Equality for All needs to get that up to 60% in order to win statewide.

It will be interesting to see what the polling will look like once the discriminatory constitutional amendment qualifies for the ballot sometime soon.

However, it will also be interesting to see what happens to the poll numbers when literally thousands of same-sex couples flock to California to get married starting June 14 June 17.

Field Poll Shows Majority Supports Marriage Equality!

Kos himself at Daily Kos posts the good news that "California Supports Gay Marriage" by publicizing the last results from what he has called the most respected polling outfit in California, the Field Poll.

Field Poll (PDF). 5/17-26. Registered voters. MoE 3.2%

Do you approve or disapprove of California allowing homosexuals to marry members of their own sex and have regular marriage laws apply to them? (Same question asked every survey throughout the years)
Approve Disapprove
5/2008 51 42
2006 44 50
2004 44 50
2003 42 50
1997 38 56
1985 30 62
1977 28 59

But, wait, there's more good news!
Even more exciting than this result showing a bare majority of the country's largest state (38 million people!) supporting marriage equality is the answer when the question about whether Californians would like to overturn the California Supreme Court's recent decision legalizing gay marriage at the ballot box if they had the chance to vote on the matter in November.

"Do you favor or oppose changing the California State Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus barring marriage between gay and lesbian couples?"
Favor 40
Oppose 54

"There may be a vote on this issue in the November election.
Would you favor or oppose having the state constitution prohibit same-sex marriage, by defining marriage as only between a man and a woman?

Favor 43

Oppose 51

These are incredible numbers (which contradict polls published by the Los Angeles Times just a few days ago) for the supporters of fairness and equality, because discriminatory ballot measures usually lose support as election day approaches and since it is starting with only 43% support, that is a great sign for our side, Equality for All.

L.A.TIMES endorses Parks for County Supervisor

The Los Angeles Times editorial page endorsed Bernard Parks for Los Angeles County Supervisor on Tuesday.

The Times included the editorial on the same day it carried a story ("Black political leaders face a new era in Los Angeles") where it allowed Parks and his main opponent Mark Ridley-Thomas to sling insults at each other.

Leaning back in a swivel chair at his headquarters on Jefferson Boulevard, Ridley-Thomas issued a scathing assessment of Parks, describing him as vindictive and contemptuous of critics.

"It's amazing how anybody can alienate so many groups," Ridley-Thomas said, noting that law enforcement unions have sided unanimously with him over Parks.

He also accused Parks of trying to exploit sympathy over his ouster as police chief. He said the eruption of the Rampart corruption scandal when Parks was chief exposed his failure to fight police misconduct. And every morning, he said, Parks wakes up and asks himself, "What can I go and do to mess with Bill Bratton today?"
Parks said he never could have made it to the top LAPD job if he did not work well with others. He described the department's system for civilian complaints against officers as a showcase achievement of his reform efforts. He recalled that Ridley-Thomas wrote lavish praise of his tenure as police chief in 2002, saying in a newspaper article that Parks' "work ethic is unmatched and his competence unparalleled."

Parks criticized Ridley-Thomas' record on the City Council, saying he had left too many streets unpaved and failed to stop the spread of fast-food restaurants in the district.

Mad Professah has endorsed Mark Ridley-Thomas. If neither candidate gets 50% of the vote next Tuesday, there will be a runoff between the two top vote-getters in November.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Mad Professah saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the Edwards Renaissance 14 in Alhambra on Memorial Day.

The movie is the fourth episode in a series that started with Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

It's hard to decide how to review these "tent pole" summer blockbusters: dispassionately as films or simply as entertainment vehicles. However, it seems to me that if the film is "good" then it should be able to cause the viewer to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the film on multiple levels.

As my reviews for Iron Man (B+) and Prince Caspian (B-) illustrate, different summer blockbusters have different levels of success in this area of depicting implausibility.

The new Indiana Jones film falls somewhere between these two films in this regard. It does not start well, by having Indiana Jones survive being proximal to a nuclear blast as well as vastly over-estimating the power of magnetic fields.

However, as with most films that are not plot-driven, casting is exceedingly important in the success of Indiana Jones 4. Harrison Ford reprises his role well, although the standout performances are by Cate Blanchett as the villain and Shia LaBeouf as the sidekick.
The direction is exceedingly slick and the plot is preposterous, but overall the film ends up being a relatively pleasant diversion.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Magic Endorses Parks For Supervisor

Earvin 'Magic' Johnson endorsed City Councilman Bernard Parks in his race for Los Angeles County Supervisor in the June 3rd Democratic primary against State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story

Parks, who has been endorsed by business interests, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the L.A. Business Federation, is in a tight race against state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) to replace retiring 2nd District Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke. Ridley-Thomas, a former assemblyman and city councilman, is backed by the powerful public employees unions, which have raised more than $2 million on his behalf.

The endorsement of Johnson, revered as a basketball legend, has been important in past campaigns. The former NBA star has become a successful entrepreneur, building a veritable franchise empire of Starbucks coffee shops, Washington Mutual banks and Loews movie houses.


The district stretches from Culver City and Mar Vista to Watts and Compton, Lynwood and Carson. Johnson said he will appear on radio spots urging voters to elect Parks.

It looks like the establishment Black community has picked Parks over Ridley-Thomas, with Rep. Maxine Waters and former Speaker Herb Wesson endorsing him.

However, Rep. Diane Watson along with many others has endorsed Ridley-Thomas, including Mad Professah.

In Memoriam: (Black and Gay) Major Alan Rogers

TerranceDC has a great post over at Pam's House Blend about Major Alan Rogers, a Black gay soldier who was killed in Iraq on January 27, 2008 at the age of 40. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for sacrificing his life to save two of his fellow soldiers and his funeral occurred in March right before the the 5-year Iraq War milestone.

Somehow I had originally missed the earlier controversy over how the sexual orientation of Rogers was reported (or not reported) in the mainstream media. The Washington Post ombudman wrote an article on March 30 discussing her paper's coverage of the Rogers story.

For The Post, Rogers's death raised an unanswerable question: Would he have wanted to be identified as gay? Friends also struggled with that question but decided to tell The Post that he was because, they said, he wanted the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule repealed. Yet a cousin and a close friend felt that his sexual orientation was not important; his immediate family members are deceased.

The Post story would have made any soldier proud. It quoted his commanding officer: "As God would have it . . . he shielded two men who probably would have been killed if Alan had not been there." Rogers was "an exceptional, brilliant person -- just well-spoken and instantly could relate to anyone."


Shay Hill, his beneficiary and University of Florida roommate, said that he and Rogers were "like brothers" and that he knew Rogers was gay. "He worked to change the system from within. You don't out yourself to make a point. Just because he's gay should have no more relevance than I'm straight. It's not fair to make a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be."

Other friends felt differently. James A. "Tony" Smith of Alexandria, an Air Force veteran, knew Rogers through AVER. He said that Rogers "was very open about being gay. It was a major part of his life. It does a disservice to his memory" not to mention it.

Rogers abided by "don't ask, don't tell" only because "he wanted to stay a soldier," Smith said. "He was first and foremost a soldier, and he loved serving his country." Rogers's ties to the veterans group were "widely and publicly known." Austin Rooke, Rogers's friend and a former Army captain, said, "He was among the most open active-duty military people I've ever met. I can't imagine him not wanting people to know."


The Post was right to be cautious, but there was enough evidence -- particularly of Rogers's feelings about "don't ask, don't tell" -- to warrant quoting his friends and adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.

If someone who was obviously this out that this many people knew about his sexual orientation (hello, 40 years old in the military and "unmarried and childless"!) dies in a newsworthy fashion what will it take to get the media to report fairly about the sexual orientation of someone who where the issue was not so clear cut.

Anyway, today on Memorial Day, I want to take a few minutes to remember Alan G. Rogers, a Black, gay American war hero.

MOVIE REVIEW: Prince Caspian

Saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian on Friday at the Americana at Brand in Glendale on Friday.

Of course I had read the Narnia books as a kid although I must confess I had forgotten the details of most of them and unlike the Lord of the Rings or Dune novels I felt no compulsion to re-read the books before seeing the film adaptations.

In the case of Prince Caspian this is probably ill-advised because during the movie this revieweer constantly had the curious (and discomfiting) feeling of "Why don't I recognize this story if these books are so famous?" which is exactly the opposite of what I felt during watching any of the Lord of the Rings films or even the first Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which was quite enjoyable.

Although they both Narnia films were rated PG (and NOT PG-13 like the Lord of the Rings movies were) in Prince Caspian the restrictions of more juvenile rating were overwhelmingly evident.

As many of the other (not very positive) reviews of Prince Caspian have made clear, it is essentially a war movie. The war is between the invading Telmarines against the Narnians, who the Telmarines believe are basically extinct due to the 1300-year-long occupation. The problem is that wars often involve violence and killing and are not exactly family-friendly affairs. So how does director Andrew Adamson (Shrek, Shrek 2, Narnia #1) deal with this dilemma? He produces a war film with almost no violence, danger, death or blood. In so doing, he instantly makes any combat scenes completely devoid of verisimilitude or suspense. Do we really think our young child heroes will get injured? Well, no, because no one seems to get injured very badly in this film. For an adult viewer, this is a laughably fatal flaw.

How does Ben Barnes do in his first major starring role? Well, he looks serviceably attractive (princely, if you must), but unfortunately he is saddled with a Telmarine accent, which sounds like an unnatural blend of Greek or Italian.

The child actors playing the Pevensies children return and this time around are given far less to do than in the first film--there is almost no character development, instead there is a pissing match between the oldest boy (Peter, played with butch blond petulance by William Moseley) and the aforementioned Caspian.

The overall impression is one of an over-long, bland sequel with little appeal to adults or people who have not (re)read the Narnia books recently.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Parks Leads Ridley-Thomas In Money Race

The Los Angeles Times reports that Bernard Parks is leading rival Mark Ridley-Thomas in cash on hand although the State Senator actually raised more money in the latest reporting period.

Ridley-Thomas outraised Parks $316,000 to $279,000 for the reporting period March 18 to May 17. However, Parks has now raised a total of $647,000 compared to Ridley-Thomas' $526,000. And the City Councilman has over $223,000 in cash on hand compared to his opponent's $66,000.

Mad Professah has endorsed Mark Ridley-Thomas for Los Angeles County Supervisor.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

FRENCH OPEN 2008: Women's Top 10 Seeds Preview

[1] Maria Sharapova RUS (1). Maria Sharapova became the top ranked player in the world by virtue of the shocking (some would say suspicious) retirement of defending French Open champion Justine Henin on May 14th. However, Sharapova is unlikely to complete her career Grand Slam with the 2008 Roland Garros title. In her half of the draw she could face Dinara Safina in the 4th round, followed by Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova in consecutive rounds. This is a gauntlet of Russians she is unlikely to survive despite winning the first Grand Slam title of 2008.
Prediction: 4th Round.

[2] Ana Ivanovic SRB (2). Last year's French Open finalist was also in the 2008 Australian Open final, and on both occasions she was overwhelmed by the circumstances and failed to show her all-court powerful game, anchored by her deadly forehand and superior defensive skills. Unfortunately for her, she is in Serena Williams quarter of the draw in 2008. Serena won her first title on clay since her 2002 Roland Garros title, which I see as an indicator of Serena's intentions to go further in the 2008 draw than her 2007 quarterfinal loss against Henin. regardless of who her opponent is.
Prediction: Quarter-finalist.

[3] Jelena Jankovic SRB (3). Justine Henin had won the French Open in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007. With Henin's retirement, the person who the tennis world has focussed on to win the Roland Garros title is the older of the "Serbian sisters," Jelena Jankovic. She is in Venus Williams quarter of the draw, but I don't expect that to prevent Jankovic from advancing to the semi-final, although I do expect a fantastic match.
Prediction: Atleast Semi-finalist.

[4] Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS (4). Kuznetsova made it to the final in 2006 and will most likely be facing Maria Sharapova after the top seed has been battered by extensive combat with other fellow Russians. The matches between fellow Russians are often difficult-to-watch affairs. A case in point is the 2007 US Open semifinal between Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze, which is likely to be reprised in the 2008 Roland Garros quarterfinals, with the result of Kuznetsova prevailing being the same.
Prediction: Semifinalist or Finalist.

[5] Serena Williams USA (5). Serena withdrew from the German Open semi-final in Berlin with an injury two weeks ago but if she is at 100% in Paris she will clearly be a threat to be one of the final four players in the tournament, and a good bet to win the whole thing. With the absence of Henin, the result will be completely up to Serena.
Prediction. Semi-finalist or Champion.

[6] Anna Chakvetadze RUS (6). Although I am a fan of the diminutive Russian, she has not been the same player in 2008 after her horrific experience with a home invasion robbery during the 2007 off-season. I do expect she will begin her return to form with a quarterfinal berth (and loss) to fellow Russian Kuznetsova. How she acquits herself there will be key to the rest of her year.
Prediction: Quarter-finalist.

[7] Elena Dementieva RUS (7). The beautiful Russian with the ugly serve and the powerful groundstrokes won the Dubai tournament over Kuznetsova earlier this year and has returned to the Top 10 after a disappointing few years. Dementieva has made it to the French Open final before (2004) and can beat any of her fellow Russians, if she's playing well.
Prediction: Atleast Quarter-finalist.

[8] Venus Williams USA (8). After taking a mysterious hiatus from tennis due to an undisclosed illness the 6-time Grand Slam champion returned to competitive play to lose a hard-fought quarter-final in Berlin against Jankovic. It is likely there will be a reprise of that matchup at the 2008 Roland Garros quarter-finals. It is possible but unlikely the result will be different.Prediction: Quarter-finalist or earlier.

[9] Marion Bartoli FRA (9). The surprise finalist at the 2007 Wimbledon championships has managed to maintain her spot in the Top 10 for the last year but has not managed to get close to winning a tour title. It's possible (but unlikely) that Bartoli will get a chance for revenge against Venus Williams in the 4th round, this time on the red clay of Frenchwoman's national championships. The result will be the same.
Prediction: 4th Round or earlier.

[10] Patty Schnyder SUI (11). The tenth ranked player in the world is Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia but she withdrew from the tournament due to injury. The wily left-handed Swiss Patty Schnyder was moved up from World #11 to be the tenth seed at Roland Garros. She is in Serena's quarter of the draw, with a lively likely 4th round showdown (against a player which has beaten her on clay twice before) which will be a good measure of how far Serena's determination will take her this year.
Prediction. 4th Round.

Friday, May 23, 2008

LA TIMES Poll Shows 'Slim' Opposition To Gay Marriage

The Los Angeles Times published the results of polling of public opinion on last week's marriage equality ruling by the California Supreme Court and a proposed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment.

The salient results are:

Do you approve or disapprove of the California Supreme Court's
decision last week to allow same sex marriage in California?

Strongly approve: 29%
Somewhat approve: 12%
Somewhat disapprove: 10%
Strongly disapprove: 42%

On the constitutional amendment...
For: 54%
Against: 35%
Don't Know: 10%

On the Court's decision...
Support: 41%
Oppose: 52%

Another interesting aspect of the poll is that Democrats (55% to 39%) and Independents (51% to 40%) support marriage equality while Republicans strongly oppose it (though no number was given). The margin of error with registered voters is +/- 4 points and +/- 3 points overall.

Anand Wins 5th Chess Oscar

On May 8, 2008, World Chess champion Viswanathan Anand of India won his fifth chess Oscar as the Best Player in the World for his 2007 chess performances. Anand also won chess's highest honor in 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004.

Anand is currently the reigning World Champion and the highest rated player in the world, at 2803.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

ACTION: Urge Governor To Support CA Marriage Ruling

Governor Arnold SCHWARZENEGGER is receiving large numbers of phone calls from the supporters of "Limits on Marriage" (the pending constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in California) about his comment to a group of Log Cabin Republicans that he wouldn't support a constitutional amendment.

We don't want him to go back on his word. He must hear from us, too. To vote in support of the CA Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality/LGBT marriage:

Call 1-916-445-2841
Press 1, 5, 1, 1

After you've done this send it on to all supporters you know.
It couldn't be easier to vote... please take 15 seconds right now to do it!

LA TIMES article on homophobia at HBCU

The Los Angeles Times has an article on homophobia at the historically Black College of Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Here's a salient excerpt:

"Morehouse is like this enclave where Stonewall never happened," Brewer said, referring to the 1969 New York protest that galvanized the gay rights movement. "It just doesn't exist in this realm of reality."

Brewer, 22, didn't come to Morehouse with the intent of changing it. But he found that he had no choice. He had arrived here from Oklahoma City pretty comfortable with himself: outspoken, proudly smart and, at 5 foot 9 and 300 pounds, hard to miss.

Early on, he decided he wouldn't water down his gay identity.

And that, historically, has been a problematic strategy at Morehouse. The 141-year-old college has played a key role in defining black manhood in America. But with a past steeped in religion, tradition and machismo, it has struggled to determine how homosexuality fits within that definition.

The private school was founded shortly after the Civil War with the help of Baptists sympathetic to the plight of illiterate freedmen. Over the years, it became famous for turning out the vaunted "Morehouse man" -- a paragon of virtue and strength in a society that once institutionalized the destruction of the black nuclear family.

Traditionally, its students have been expected to follow a well-worn path: They were to choose ambitious wives, preferably from Spelman College next door, a historically black school for women. They were to become captains of industry, leaders of men, saviors of a race.

But now, more than ever, students like Brewer are forcing the school to confront a vexing question: Can the Morehouse man be gay?

The CA Marriage Ruling Was A Huge Defeat (And Victory)

One week ago, the California Supreme Court released its landmark decision In Re Marriage Cases, ruling 4-3 that 2000's proposition 22 as well as the current California marriage statute were unconstitutional (Section 308.5 and Section 300 of the California Family Code, respectively).

There has been some excellent analysis of the decision by Professor Arthur Leonard as well as other academics. At the Los Angeles Times website there's an interesting "Dust up" going on between Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal and Alliance Defense Fund's Glen Lavy.

Although I salute the Court for its serious (172 pages) and generally well-written decision, I believe that as one of the few bloggers who have actually read the entire decision I have a duty to publicize and explain what I see are the problematic aspects of the decision.
1) The court (unanimously!) failed to recognize the salience of traditional marriage laws as discriminating on the basis of gender--this was the rationale of the Hawai'i Supreme Court court used in the 1993(!) Baehr decision. This reasoning has failed to garner more than 2 votes on any high court considering the matter since then (New York, New Jersey, Washington, Maryland, Massachusetts). Not even the most liberal member of the California Supreme Court, Justice Joyce Kennard signed onto the gender discrimination theory. I, together with many other academic queer legal theorists, subscribe to the Law-Koppelman theory that sexual orientation discrimination is (almost) always gender discrimination. The Court did not even treat this argument seriously and dismissed it in a cursorily written section.

2) Justice Carol Corrigan (single, unmarried woman living with another woman for years appointed by Schwarzenegger in 2006) filed her own dissent to the majority opinion, thus failing to sign on to the decision's most important finding, that sexual orientation is a suspect classification requiring strict scrutiny. This makes this landmark finding, that all laws in California which discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation will only withstand judicial review if the Government has a compelling interest AND the statutes are narrowly tailored to meet this interest dependent on one solitary vote for its judicial effect. In practice almost no laws pass this strict scrutiny test. This test is what the California Court used to overturn Proposition 22 (passed by 61% of voters!) as well as strike 1977's marriage law from the books.

3) The court (unanimously, again!) agreed with the Governor that Proposition 22 enjoined the State Legislature from ever enacting a statutory gay marriage bill without a confirmatory vote by the People of California. In California this means that Assemblymember Mark Leno's Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act would not have become law even if the Governor had not vetoed it twice. In other states that have passed DOMAs, i.e. initiative statutes, (and not Super-DOMAs, i.e. initiative constitutional amendments) the effect is the same--in order to enact marriage equality in those states (if those state courts follow the CA high court's reasoning) there would have to be another vote of the people in favor of marriage equality (or a US Supreme Court ruling--which do YOU think will happen first?) in order to eventually enact marriage equality.
The marriage ruling was also an incredible and emotionally satisfying victory for LGBT people as well, I do not want to minimize its important and impact, but I do want to point out the ways the decision could have been even stronger.

Obama Starts VP Search, DNC Consolidation

According to the Huffington Post, Barack Obama has quietly begun a search for a running mate and a take-over of the Democratic National Committee, having selected staff to manage both processes. The person chosen to replace work with current Democratic Party head Howard Dean is Paul Tewes, the main architect of Obama's Iowa caucuses win and the person vetting the vice president search process is Jim Johnson. Johnson helmed the veep search for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984.
Obama's campaign refused to talk about who was being considered, but possible options are Clinton; governors such as Arizona's Janet Napolitano, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Tim Kaine of Virginia; foreign policy experts like former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd or Delaware Sen. Joe Biden; or other senators such as Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Virginia's Jim Webb.

He could look outside the party to people such as war critic and Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel or independent New York mayor Mike Bloomberg. Or he could look to one of his early prominent supporters such as former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota or try to bring on a Clinton supporter like Indiana's Evan Bayh.
Mad Professah is surprised that Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is not on this list, as well as Ed Rendell Pennsylvania Governor (and former DNC chair). However, they both were early and import Hillary Clinton supporters and used their machines to power their candidate to pyrrhic victories in these two large states. Do people really think Bill Richardson would say "Thanks, but no, thanks, I'd rather be Secretary of State"?

I actually like the Kaine, Richardson and Napolitano suggestions. (In that order.) I think Obama should pick a governor, or someone who will definitely bring a state with them.

With that in mind, Mad Professah is endorsing the notion of a joint ticket: Obama-Clinton. Others, like Chris Bowers at has started to come around to this idea, and numerous Hillary partisans, with the most prominent being The Big Dog himself, have been pushing the idea hard.

We've already had 8 years of embarassing media about the Vice President, why not 8 more?

Openly Gay Mayor of Portland, Oregon Elected

Little noticed by the mainstream media in the hullabaloo around the presidential primary election in Oregon yesterday was the election of Sam Adams, a 44-year-old openly gay man, as the next mayor of Portland, OR.
Adams avoided a November run-off by winning 58% of the vote in a crowded 11-person field.

By winning his election yesterday, when he is sworn in Sam Adams will become the first openly gay mayor of a Top 40 American city.

(hat/tip Joe.My.God and Pam's House Blend)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama Raises $31m, Clinton Raises $22m, McCain $19m

The April Federal Election Commision financial reports are in (they are due at 11:59pm on the 20th day of each month).

Barack Obama had a bad fundraising month (for him). He only raised $31m, for the first time spending more in the month of April than he brought in, but still ended the month with April 30th with $47 million in the bank.

In a continued expansion of Obama's fundraising network, his campaign reported nearly 1.5 million donors since he started raising money for his presidential race. With such extraordinary numbers behind him, Obama appears to have access to a continuing flow of money, though his April total was his smallest haul this year. Overall, he has raised close to $265 million in his White House bid.


But Clinton reported only about $8 million cash on hand for the primary. (She has $22 million set aside for the general election that she can't use.) She also reported $19.5 million in debts, including $10 million she has lent her campaign. Even without the loan, Clinton was in negative cash position. The loan amount also did not include an extra $1.4 million she put into her campaign in May.
Clinton has raised a totalof $200 million since her presidential campaign began but currently finds herself behind in number of states won, number of pledged delegates, number of superdelegates and is $20 million in debt.

And her supporters are suprised that people are asking why she hasn't quit yet?

Obama Wins Oregon, Clinton Wins Kentucky

Barack Obama won the Oregon primary 58%-42% while Hillary Clinton won the Kentucky primary 65%-35%.
In addition, Obama clinched the majority of pledged delegates (1627) and currently has a lead in superdelegates and is a mere 70 63 delegates away from clinching the Democratic presidential nomination.
Hillary Clinton said she would continue campaigning through the next (last) primaries, in Puerto Rico (June 1) and Montana and North Dakota (June 3).


The Other Half and Mad Professah saw Iron Man opening weekend and were pleasantly surprised not to be overly disappointed.

Although it is definitely a Big Action Summer Movie, it is (mostly) redeemed by the performance of Robert Downey, Jr. Also in the cast are Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow, Oscar nominees Jeff Bridges and Terence Howard. The director is Jon Favreau, who also directed Elf.

The story is an interesting genesis tale, i.e. the movie is about how billionaire indistrialist Tony Stark becomes Iron Man.

The action scenes are well-executed and the special effects are stunning.

However, there are some serious drawbacks with the film. One of them is the sheer disregard for basic physics which taints the film. This might seem like an unusual complaint to make about a fantastical super-hero summer movie but the film does go out of its way to try impart a sense of verisimilitude quite frequently so when physically impossible sequences occur it is somewhat jarring and disappointing.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things Younger Than John McCain

There's a great new blog called Things Younger Than John McCain which has a fascinating list of things which have come into existence during John McCain's lifetime. John McCain was born on August 29, 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone (i.e. not in the United States of America).

Some highlights of things that are younger than John McCain:

The Golden Gate Bridge
The Grapes Of Wrath
Mount Rushmore

What a fun list!

SD-3: Leno Likely To Win Migden's State Senate Seat

Mark Leno got some good news from a recent SurveyUSA poll commissioned by KPIX-TV: he is very likely to win the June 3rd Democratic primary election for the State Senate 3rd District.

Frank Russo at California Progress Report has some more details and analysis of the poll internals.
Overall, this survey of 1000 voters out of which 516 were determined to have already voted or to be likely voters, has a margin of error of 3.2% as to the favorable/unfavorable ratings and 4.4% as to who voters would vote for. The poll is fresh—from last Tuesday May 13 to Wednesday May 14. It was released Thursday [May 15].

Leno has by far the best favorability rating—34% to 16% overall and a whopping 48% to 10% favorable rating amongst those who the survey determined had already voted and a 44% to 11% favorability advantage with those who are likely voters.

Nation has a 23% to 15% favorability rating and this is 35% to 24% with those already voted and 23% to 15% with those who are deemed likely to vote.

Migden has a 34% to 17% unfavorable rating and her negatives with those who have already vote[e]d—38% to 25%--and likely voters—33% to 20% parallel this.

Nation has a narrow lead amongst conservatives 41% to 37% over Leno, get[s] beaten by Leno 37% to 30% by moderate voters, and is trounced by liberal voters (the bulk of the Democratic primary vote in this district) with 47% to 17% voting for Leno. Migden badly trails Leno in all of these categories. Leno even wins the women’s vote 35% to 25% in this survey.
This is a big change from a poll back in March which Mad Professah blogged about that showed Leno and Nation basicaly tied for the lead and Migden trailing badly.

The Leno-Migden primary race is one of the hottest and most interesting electoral battles of the June 3rd election.

Obama's Huge Oregon Rally

The estimates have been between 70,000 and 75,000 people attended this rally in Portland, Oregon on Sunday night. The New York Times notes that big rallies do not necessarily correspond to big electoral victories in states, although Obama is expected to win Oregon's primary while Clinton will win Kentucky's primary today.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Endorses Obama

John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama for president Wednesday.

CA Supreme Court To Announce (Favorable?) Marriage Decision Thursday

Joe.My.God has a post up with a link to a bulletin that the California Supreme Court made available this morning, announcing that a written ruling in the "same-sex marriage case" In Re Marriage Cases will be made available at 10am on Thursday. Here's the bulletin in its entirety:

The Supreme Court has indicated that the filing of a written opinion in the following
case(s) is forthcoming. At the filing time designated below, the filed opinion(s) will be accessible at the judicial branch web site ( and copies will be made available at the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office.

[Generally, the description set out with regard to each case is reproduced from the original news release issued when review in the matter was granted, and is provided for the convenience of the public and the press. The description does not necessarily reflect the view of the court, or define the specific issues that will be addressed by the court.]

S147999 (A110449, A110450, A110451, A110463, A110651, A110652
San Francisco County JCCP – 4365)
Argued in San Francisco 3-04-08
This case includes the following issue: Does California’s statutory ban on marriage
between two persons of the same sex violate the California Constitution by denying equal protection of the laws on the basis of sexual orientation or sex, by infringing on the fundamental right to marry, or by denying the right to privacy and freedom of expression?

Opinion(s) in the above case(s) will be filed on:
Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.

The Los Angeles Times has also published the story on its website. It should be noted that heterosexual supremacists claim to have filed 1.1 million signatures with the Secretary of State attempting to qualify an Initiative Constitutional Amendment on the ballot, which if approved by voters on November 4th would ban sam-sex marriage in California and repeal any favorable decision released by the court tomorrow. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, while vetoing twice bills that would legalize same-sex marriage in California, has already announced his opposition to any ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.

Although previous rumors were that the ruling would be negative, the latest rumors in activist circles expect a positive ruling in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Of course all this is happening as Mad Professah is going on vacation to Puerto Vallarta Thursday thru Monday!

Clinton Wins West Virginia; Democrats Win MS-01

Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by more than 2-to-1 in West Virginia's Democratic presidential primary yesterday.

But more significantly, the Democrats won a special election for a congressional seat in Mississippi which Bush had won by 62% of the vote ii 2004. Last night, Democrat Travis Childers won MS-01 easily 54-46. This is the third special election in a row, following IL-14 and LA-06, which were both deeply Republican district (IL-14 was held by the former Speaker of the House Denis Hastert!) but have now switched to the Democrats.

From now until November there will be 235 Democrats and 199 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hopefully by January there will be even fewer!

World #1 Tennis Player Announces Immediate Retirement

Justine Henin shocked the tennis world today by announcing her immediate retirement from tennis, less than two weeks before the start of the French Open which she has won the last three year in a row. Henin, a 26-year-old French-speaking Belgian won a record 10 tournaments and over $5 million in 2007. She is currently ranked #1 in the World and has held that spot almost continuously (except for a 7 week streak last year by Maria Sharapova) since November 13, 2006.

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim discussed his reaction to the announcement:
Q: What do you make of today's announcement?

: It is, at once, stunning and not all that surprising. Any time the top-ranked player -- who's 25 years old and the three-time defending champion of the next Grand Slam -- abruptly retires, it's obviously a bombshell announcement. At the same time, Henin has really struggled this year. She's shown very little resemblance to the player who dominated the second half of 2007. She's never been motivated by the trappings of celebrity. I think in her mind, if she's not winning or playing to her expectations, there's little incentive to continue on.

Q: What's happened to her this year?

: You know, something just seems to have gone out of her. For as much as people rave, rightfully so, about her one-handed slingshot backhand or her well-rounded game, I always thought her biggest asset was her guts. She was just such a courageous player. Yet this year, she wasn't just losing but she was playing with a noticeable absence of fire and confidence. Most recently I saw her get blown off the court by Serena Williams in Key Biscayne. The score was 6-2, 6-0 and it wasn't that close. In the postmatch interview, Henin owned up to a lack of courage. I thought this was a stunning admission from her. Particularly given the opponent.

Interestingly, Henin retires almost exactly a year after her compatriot and fellow former #1 Kim Clijsters retired at age 23. Clijsters has subsequently gotten married and given birth to a baby. In the last year legendary players Martina Hingis and Monica Seles have also announced their retirements, while Lindsay Davenport has returned from semi-retirement following a year long hiatus from the WTA Tour to have a child.

In 2008, in addition to losing to Serena, Henin has lost to Sharapova, Francesco Schiavone and last week what turned out to be her last professional match was a loss to Dinara Safina at the Qatar German Open.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Karen Bass Sworn In As California Assembly Speaker

Karen Bass is being sworn in today as Speaker of the California Assembly, the first Black woman to head a legislative body in the United States.

The New York Times article on her elevation was entitled "Black Woman in Powerful Job in California":

Ms. Bass begins with a track record with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who has called her a terrific leader and with whom she worked on the foster care system.

“He’s a Republican, and I’m a Democrat,” Ms. Bass said in a telephone interview from Sacramento, where she lives half the week. “I would describe it as a positive relationship.”

Leading the Assembly “is not a job I’ve always dreamed of,” said Ms. Bass, who before being elected from the 47th Assembly District in 2005 ran the Community Coalition in South Los Angeles. “I have been a lifelong community activist and frankly did not dream of being in public office.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sources Confirm $20 Million Clinton Campaign Debt

The buzz around the political blogs this Monday is the confirmation of the rumored size of the Hillary Clinton campaign debt at the "eye-popping" figure of twenty million dollars.

As blogger DHinMI points out at DailyKos:

This creates serious problems for Clinton. At a time when her only appeal left is to superdelegates, she's just shown that she's managed to lose the pledged delegate contest AND mismanaged her campaign. If she can't at least balance the books of her campaign while getting beaten by Obama, why would superdelegates view her as the more viable candidate for November?

Furthermore, to use gambling terminology, Clinton had doubled down...which is often a sign that the person has a gambling problem. It usually makes it harder for the gambler to walk away, because then they're gambling to get back their losses. For over a month Clinton's debt has been seen as a possible impediment to getting her out of the race. There have been rumors that the exit strategy could include offers from Obama of helping her retire her debt. As I explained Saturday:

No money donated to Obama, in the past or in the future, will end up with Hillary Clinton's campaign.

It is illegal for a campaign to accept more than $2,000 from another candidate's campaign fund for a primary. Any discussions about Obama helping out Clinton might lead to Obama appealing to some of his donors to contribute to Clinton after she drops out to help her with her debt, but it will not involve taking money donated to him and giving it to Hillary Clinton.

EYE CANDY: Wendell Lissimore

Hot damn.

Safina and Djokovic Win Titles

Dinara Safina beat Elena Dementieva 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to win the Qatar German Open (her first Tier 1 title). She beat three Top 10 players on her way to the title.

Novak Djokovic won his second Masters Series title of the year by coming back to beat Swiss #2 Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 at the Rome clay tournament. He won two of his matches when his opponents retired and faced only one Top 10 player. Wawrinka jumped from #24 to #10 in the world on the basis of his play in Rome this week, marking the first time Switzerland has had two Top 10 players simultaneously.

Parvati Wins Survivor 16

Despite my previous prediction that Amanda should win Survivor, unfortunately the jury did not agree. Unlike previous seasons, the final Tribal Council involved a vote of the final 2, instead of the final 3. If the vote had occurred between the final 3 of Amanda, Cirie and Parvati, Amanda would probably have won.

In the final vote Erik, James and Ozzie all voted for Amanda while Eliza, Natalie, Alexis, Cirie amd Jason all inexplicably voted for Parvati. The votes I do not understand are Jason's and Eliza's. All though it is true that Parvati was more out front with manipulating the game, or better yet being known publicly as manipulating the game, really Cirie was the person who was mastermind (or at least co-mastermind) of all the moves to eliminate players from the game. Eliza hated Parvati and still voted for her to win $1 million. I understand Cirie not voting for Amanda, because she was hurt that Amanda chose Parvati over her to go to the Final 2. Natalie and Alexis were in an alliance with Parvati so their votes were never in question. Why Jason voted for Parvati is curious. I don't understand why he wouldn't respect Amanda winning the last two immunity challenges, while the only immunity challenge Parvati won was the one where she manipulated him to give up immunity in exchange for a promise by everyone else not to vote for him at Tribal Council in addition to getting a share of their food.

Amanda now holds the record for spending the most days ever on Survivor (78) but alas she still has not won. Part of that is due to her wretched performances before the jury; she has now had two opportunities and really didn't acquit herself very well either time. Still, Amanda was more deserving of the title of "Sole Survivor" than Parvati Shallow.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

(Best and) Dumbest Survivor Ever!

I got around to watching this week's episode of Survivor: Micronesia (Fans versus Favorites) last night and was stunned to see that Erik, the only guy remaining was somehow talked into giving up immunity from elimination by the four girls remaining, who them proceeded to all vote to knock him out of the game! This happened while hottie James (from Survivor: China) looked on and declared "Now, I'm no longer the 'Dumbest Survivor Ever'!"
Mad Professah agrees with Entertainment Weekly who declares that this season of the show has been the best one since the first season (which I didn't watch). Last season there was another openly gay winner (undeserving, I thought) and this season since the Final Four consists of all women, there will be a female winner.
The Final Four are: Parvati, Cirie, Natalie and Amanda. I would be fine with anyone winning the million bucks except for Natalie on Sunday night. I thought Amanda should have won Survivor: China but it's clear that Cirie has been in control of this game from the beginning (despite never even being close to winning a single challenge). Parvati used her (exceedingly over-rated) feminine wiles to attach herself to strong players (Ozzie and James and Amanda) to coast through the game and thinks that she has been in control of the game the entire time.
I predict that Amanda will win the final immunity challenge, and if she is smart she will eliminate Cirie from the game.
Mad Professah's prediction's

Friday, May 09, 2008

Red Death: Federer, Henin, Serena Lose On Clay

Yup, it's the red clay season in tennis. Roger Federer lost today to Radek Stepanek 7-6(4) 7-6(7) at the Roma ATP Master Series tournament, a few days after Rafael Nadal suffered a shock loss on clay. It was Federer's sixth loss of the year; in 2007 he lost nine matches.

Dinara Safina defeated World #1 Justine Henin and Serena Williams in consecutive matcheson consecutive days at the German Open. Henin had made the finals of this tournament 6 years in a row (winning 3 times) and Serena was on a sixteen match winning streak. Safina beat Serena 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) and Henin 5-7 6-3 6-1.

Eye Candy: Keep Your Eye On The Ball!

This is from a poster by United Kingdom rugby stars where the proceeds go to fight male cancers. (hat/tip TowleRoad)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Study Says Mother-to-Child HIV Transmision Likely Eradicable

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reports has a report on a heartening study on Mother-to-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV which concludes the problem can be dramatically reduced and probably entirely eradicated. The study, entitled "Low rates of mother-to-child transmission of HIV following effective pregnancy interventions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 2000-2006" appears in the May 11, 2008 issue of the academic journal AIDS.

For the study, Claire Townsend, research fellow at the University College London Institute of Child Health, and colleagues analyzed 5,151 pregnancies among HIV-positive women in the United Kingdom and Ireland between 2000 and 2006. The study found that the rate of MTCT decreased to 1.2% from 20% in the mid-1990s.

According to the researchers, the primary reason for the decline was the increase in prenatal HIV testing following the implementation of routine screening policies in the countries, BBC News reports. Routine screening increased diagnosis rates before delivery from about 70% in 2000 to about 95% in 2005, data showed (BBC News, 5/6). Routine screening policies were introduced in Ireland in 1999 and between 2000 and 2003 in the United Kingdom, the PA/ reports.

Expanded access to antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women also was a factor, researchers said. The HIV transmission rate for women taking antiretroviral therapy for a minimum of two weeks prior to delivery was 0.8%, according to the study (PA/, 5/6). The rate was found regardless of the type of antiretrovirals the women received or whether they had vaginal births or cesarean sections, the study found.

Finally, some good news onthe HIV/AIDS research arena.

Mariah's Marriage To Nick Cannon Confirmed

People magazine has exclusive photos of Mariah Carey's rumored marriage to Nick Cannon.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nadal Loses To Ferrero in Rome

3-time French Open champion and one of the greatest clay court players of all time Rafael Nadal had a rare loss on clay to 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5 6-1 at the ATP Masters Tournament in Rome. World #2 Nadal has lost only twice in 105 matches on clay (his previous loss in clay before today was to World #1 Roger Federer at the 2007 Hamburg ATP Masters final). The 2008 Hamburg ATP Masters tournament starts on Monday and the 2008 French open starts on Sunday May 25th. Craig Hickman's blog has pictures of Nadal's blistered feet which could have contributed to his loss; however Ferrero was also playing hurt--last week he withdrew from the Barcelona Open (that Nadal won for the 4th consecutive year) with a groin injury.

Clinton Out Of "Math, Money and Momentum"

Today the news came out that Hillary Clinton loaned her struggling campaign another $6.4 million in April (despite the fact she has not been paid back for the $5 million she loaned the campaign back in February!) Still, with an average annual income of over $15 million per year, the Clintons can afford to continue their quixotic quest probably until August's Democratic Convention in August.

As the Political Editor of the Huffington Post puts, it, Clinton is now out of "math, money and momentum."

Clinton Barely Wins IN; Obama Wins NC Big

As expected, Hillary Clinton won the Indiana primary 50.7%- 49.3% (by a mere 18,000 votes out of more than a million cast) and Barack Obama won the North Carolina primary 56.2%-41.5% (by over 232,000 votes, which is a larger margin than Clinton won the larger state of Pennsylvania two weeks ago).

Clinton vowed to campaign on despite most political pundits declaring the race over.

It will be Obama versus McCain in November. Veepstakes, anyone?

The Next LGBT Legislative Caucus of California

Although there have been reports that the California LGBT Legislative Caucus is in danger of extinction the truth is that in January 2009 it is very likely that it will be as large as ever.
The only current member who is not termed out are State Senators Christine Kehoe and Carole Migden. However, Migden is facing a primary fight which she is very likely to lose.
January 2007                       January 2009
Mark Leno (AD-13) Tom Ammiano (AD-13)
John Laird (AD-27) John Perez (AD-46)
Chris Cabaldon (AD-8)
State Senate
Christine Kehoe (SD-39) Christine Kehoe (SD-39)
Carole Migden (SD-3) Mark Leno (SD-3)
Sheila Kuehl (SD-23)

In addition, there's the possibility that Laurette Healey may win her primary to replace
Assemblymember Lloyd Levine in the 40th Assembly District and it's possible that Greg Pettis will win his primary in the 80th district (but it's unlikely he will win the general election in this Republican-leaning district).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

First Openly Gay Speaker of California Assembly?

Mad Professah attended an event supporting the bid of John Perez to become the first openly-gay man elected to the State Legislature from Southern California on Sunday. Perez is Mayor Antonio Viallaraigosa's cousin and the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic primary for the 46th Assembly District on Tuesday June 3rd. The winner of the primary will be leected in November, thanks to legislative partisan gerrymandering.

At the event much was made that Perez has the background and connections to be in the leadership if the Assembly as a freshman, and some were touting him as a future Speaker of the Assembly (after current Speaker Karen Bass, is termed out in 2010 of course).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Obama up in NC, Clinton up in IN

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue their fight for the Democratic nomination to Indiana and North Carolina tomorrow. The latest polls have Obama up by an average of 6.5 points in North Carolina and Clinton up by an average of 4.6 points in Indiana.

Over the weekend the big news was that Obama won the Guam caucuses by a mere 7 (count 'em, folks!) votes out of nearly 4500 cast, and will thus pick up 2 superdelegates (they split Guam's 4 eleected delegates evenly).

Today, Obama picked up 3 more super-delegates.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Obama Ad on Clinton "gas tax gimmick"

Mariah Carey Rumored To Have Married Nick Cannon

There are rumors all over the Internet that Mariah Carey has apparently married Nick Cannon (a guy she has been seeing for approximately one month) in a private ceremony in the Bahamas over the weekend. The 39-year-old pop princess has a new video called "Bye Bye" from her latest album E=MC2 which stars the 27-year-old singer/rapper.

Friday, May 02, 2008

DVD REVIEW: The Kingdom

The movie The Kingdom was my second requested Netflix DVD, after Eastern Promises (see Mad Professah's review). The film stars Oscar winners Jamie Lee Foxx (Best Actor, "Ray"), Chris Cooper (Best Supporting Actor, "Adaptation") and Jennifer Garner and was directed by Peter Berg (the creator of the television show Friday Night Lights).

Although widely considered a box-office failure with a mere $47 million in domestic receipts, the did grab a fair amount of attention due to its subject matter: a terrorist attack on an American compound in the kingdom of Saudia Arabia leads to an American team of FBI forensic investigators being sent in to try to solve the crime.

The film takes a hard, close look at life in Saudi Arabia and tries to catch some of the nuances and contradictions of the Muslim-Western kulturkampf (culture war).

The acting is quite good, with Jennifer Garner easily holding her own among her two celebrated co-stars. The action is really well-directed and pulse-poundingly suspenseful. The main defect of the movie is its baldfaced descent into schmaltz (repeatedly). Also, some viewers may find its neutral political posture annoying.

As a piece of filmed entertainment, The Kingdom is effective and should definitely be rented, especially if you (like me) missed it in the theater the first time.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

John McCain Was Not Born In The United States

I am surprised that the media has not highlighted this fact: Republican Presidential candidate John McCain was not born in the United States. (No, he wasn't born before the United States was created!) He was born August 29, 1936 on the Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring that McCain is eligible to be President of the United States, despite the fact the United States Constitution (Article II, Section 1) says "No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States."

Hmmmm. Well at least Barack Obama was born in this country (Hawaii, on August 4, 1961) as was Hillary Clinton (in Illinois October 26, 1947).

Head of CDC's HIV/AIDS Prevention Resigns

Dr. Robert Janssen, the head of the CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention has resigned.

The following excerpts of his resdignatuion message to his division ave become public:

" The division lies at the intersection of sex and drugs in a country
that doesn't have a clue how to deal with them. So you have become
comfortable walking around with a target on your back. You all should be
very proud of the work you do under the conditions you do it."

"I am sorry to report that over the last 5 years, we have had less and
less money available for new projects each year. We have had to cut some
ongoing projects. We can't do everything even if everything is a high
priority. At this point, we only do high priority work and when we cut,
we cut the lowest of the high priorities."

"Challenge assumptions. New opportunities are likely to be coming with a
new administration. Be ready! I want you to think carefully about needle
exchange. While it might seem right to overturn the ban on the use of
federal dollars, the ban has forced local jurisdictions to put their
dollars into HIV prevention. If the ban is lifted, I am concerned that
the local dollars will dry up. Then, which federal dollars will be
shifted to replace the loss of those local dollars?"

"One of the things I have learned over my many years at CDC is that
Leadership matters. And CDC has not always been blessed with great
leadership. Great leadership is imperceptible. You don't even know that
it is there. But bad leadership is always evident. You trip all over it.
Things don't work, nothing gets done or what gets done is ineffective.
Expect excellent leadership; demand it."

"I want to finish up by saying that I am concerned that the scale of
what you are doing is inadequate to make the impact on the epidemic that
you must make. It is a huge challenge to guide programs to hit an 80%
target when they are only funded at 20%. While the testing
recommendations and the community mobilization among African Americans
can help reduce stigma, HIV prevention programs and addressing issues
such as housing, poverty, substance abuse, racism, homophobia, and child
abuse will take much, much more. In 2002, in my CPLS address, I pointed
out that AIDS advocates had shifted their focus from the United States
to Africa and they succeeded in garnering real money for Africa. With
the new PEPFAR reauthorization being considered this month at $30 to $50
billion, I am concerned that America has forgotten her own. Here at
home, resources do not meet the need."

Obama Maintains Lead in Poll

The latest NBC/WSJ poll has Barack Obama ahead of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton 46% to 43% and indicates that President Bush is more of a negative drag on John McCain's popularity than Reverend Jeremiah Wright is on Obama's.

In the survey, 43 percent of registered voters say they have major concerns that McCain is too closely aligned with the current administration.


36 percent have major concerns that Clinton seems to change her position on some issues (like driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which her husband signed but which she now opposes)
34 percent say they’re bothered by Obama’s “bitter” remarks
32 percent have a major problem with the Illinois senator’s past associations with Wright and the 1960s radical William Ayers
27 percent have serious concerns that Bill Clinton would have too much influence on U.S. policy decisions if his wife is elected


Indeed, even though Democrats have an 18-point advantage over Republicans in a generic presidential ballot test (51-33 percent), this latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey shows Obama besting McCain by only three points (46-43 percent) and Clinton topping the Arizona senator by only one (45-44 percent).


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