Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oscar Grant Killer Mehserle Testifies In His Own Defense

The murder trial of Johannes Mehserle, the white BART police officer who shot Oscar Grant to death in the back while the black man was laying on his stomach, continued last week with Mehserle testifying in his own defense.

Sobbing as he testified, a former Bay Area transit officer for the first time offered his account of how he shot and killed a 22-year-old passenger, saying he mistakenly pulled out his handgun instead of an electronic stun gun and fired a single shot before realizing his mistake.

Johannes Mehserle, 28, testified that he was having trouble handcuffing Oscar Grant III and only intended to use the stun gun to make the man comply with his orders.

"I didn't think I had my gun," he testified. "I remember the pop. It wasn't very loud, it wasn't like a gunshot, and I remember wondering what went wrong with the Taser.

"I remember looking to my right side and seeing my gun in my right hand," he said of his .40-caliber pistol. "I didn't know what to think. I just thought it shouldn't have been there."

Mehserle said he looked down at Grant, who was lying on the floor of the Bay Area Rapid Transit station platform. "Mr. Grant said, 'You shot me,' " Mehserle testified.

One member of the audience was not impressed by Mehserle's tears. Timothy Killings, 24, shouted "You should save those [...] tears, dude" and Grant family members applauded.

The jury does not have a single African-American on it, despite Los Angeles County being 10% Black and the person killed was African-American. The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles County due to concerns about pre-trial publicity influencing the Northern California jury pool.

Arrived in London!

I'm in London now... still recovering from jet lag...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WIMBLEDON 2010: Men's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2010.

(By the time you read this I will be in the air from LAX to London Heathrow on my way to Wimbledon. Depending on the vagaries (and expenses) of internet access, I may or may not have semifinals predictions for the men's and women's draws tomorrow.)

Roger Federer SUI (1) vs. Tomas Berdych CZE (12). The 6-time champion had started off his quest for a record 7th title weakly but in his last two matches his game has looked strong. Berdych is a very talented, huge serving, huge hitting 6'5" Czech player who has already beaten Federer once this year (even though he needed 5 match points to do it). He is a very similar player to Robin Soderling who beat Federer at this same stage of the tournament at the French Open a month ago, although possibly Berdych is not as good a mover as Soderling (which he demonstrated by beating Berdych in Paris). Before beating Federer earlier this year in Miami, Berdych had lost 8 straight times to Federer, including once at the 2006 Wimbledon. The Mighty Fed will find a way to win. PREDICTION: Federer in 4 sets.

Andy Roddick USA (5) Yen-Hsun Lu TPE vs. Novak Djokovic SRB (3). This is Novak Djokovic's dream draw and Andy Roddick's nightmare. Roddick lost to the unseeded player from Taipei despite losing his serve only once, a repeat of what happened in his loss last year in the thrilling final against Federer. This time, however, Roddick was much less aggressive at attacking his opponent's serve and mentally was only able to hold his serve until the 16th game of the 5th set, not the thirtieth game like last year, nowhere near the amazing 138th game that Nicolas Mahut was able to do in his jaw-dropping performance against John Isner. Some wags were flogging Lleyton Hewitt's chances of penetrating deep into the draw, since the Aussie had finally ended his 16-match drought against Federer last week by winning the grass court title in Halle. I was not one of them. Djokovic is the #3 best player in the world, and made sure that Hewitt knew it. By the end of this match, Lu will know it as well. PREDICTION: Djokovic in 3 sets.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (10) vs. Andy Murray GBR (4). This match should be the highlight of the 2010 Men's Quarterfinals. Tsonga and Murray have only played three times, with Murray leading 2-1. That one loss came at the 2008 Australian Open, where Tsonga made his breakthrough to his first major final, eventually losing to Djokovic. There's no question that Tsonga has the weapons to beat Murray. This match should come down to the intangibles, which for Murray at Wimbledon are always difficult to evaluate. Does the fact that the British crowd will be overwhelmingly in his favor help him over the hump to victory, or will their outsize expectations smother his chances? I think it is no coincidence that the two places that Murray has reached major finals (Melbourne 2010 and New York 2008) were in cities where he does not carry the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Last year, he was curiously flat against Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon semifinals. I had picked him to win that match last year but this time I think if the match gets "complicated" it will be the Frenchman who will come out on top. Murray is the only player in the draw not to drop a set and it's possible (but unlikely) that this will happen again. PREDICTION: Murray in 3 sets or Tsonga in 4 or 5 sets.

Robin Soderling SWE(6) vs. Rafael Nadal ESP (2). This is a repeat of the 2010 Men's Final at Roland Garros where Nadal did not lose a set for the entire tournament. There's no question in my mind that the Spaniard is the greatest clay court player of all time. But this match-up is on grass, and of course, these two have a troubled history at Wimbledon. In 2007 the two played a much-delayed 5-set match over 5 days where Soderling made a fool of himself by mocking Nadal's quirks. He has since apologized. Up until his previous round's 5-set match against David Ferrer, Soderling had not dropped a single set in this tournament, the only top player (besides Murray) to have done so. Another problem for Nadal is that he has been troubled this tournament by two youthful, big servers in Robin Haase of the Netherlands and Philipp Petzschner of Germany. Soderling can not only serve regularly in the 130 mph range but he can back it up with power on both wings. But then again, if Ferrer gave Soderling that much trouble and his game is really a weak imitation of Nadal's then surely Nadal will give Soderling trouble as well. Out of the Top 4, I think Soderling (and Tsonga if he can stay healthy) are the most likely to break through to a major title in the near term. Here is where Sodelring will need to show if he can get through Nadal (and later, possibly Federer) to do it. I think he has a fairly decent chance of succeeding. PREDICTION: Soderling in 3 or 4 sets, Nadal in 5 sets.

WIMBLEDON 2010: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2010.

Serena Williams USA (1) vs Na Li CHN (9). The only year this century that there has not been a Williams sister in the Wimbledon final was 2006 (Mauresmo beat Henin) and that fluke will not be repeated in 2010. Li Na is one of my favorite players (my dog is named after her!) and is an excellent grass-court tennis player. She won the warm-up tournament in Birmingham this year (defeating Maria Sharapova) and is the first Chinese player in the world's top 10. These two players met in the Australian Open semifinals this year, after Li had beaten Venus Williams in the quarterfinals and Serena beat Li in a very tight match (in two tiebreak sets) despite not playing her best tennis and experiencing movement difficulties. Serena looks 100% at Wimbledon right now and is serving like a woman on a mission. She has yet to drop a set in this year's tournament and is unlikely to do so on her way to the final. PREDICTION: Serena in 2 sets.

Caroline Wozniacki DEN (3) Petra Kvitova CZE vs. Kaia Kanepi EST. This is the "anonymous" quarterfinal which will probably not get any television coverage. However, it should be a barn burner. Kvitova has ended her last two matches by bagelling her opponents, World #3 Caroline Wozniacki and former Top 10 Victoria Azarenka. The only person she has lost a set to is last year's semifinalist Zheng Jie. Kaia Kanepi is no joke either, and has long been regarded as a player to watch. Both players simply crush the ball on both wings. However, they are both in uncharted territory playing in their first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a chance to reach a major semifinal for the first time (where they are likely to face defending champion Serena Williams). I believe Kvitova is ready to reach that level. PREDICTION: Kvitova in 3 sets.

Kim Clijsters BEL (8) vs. Vera Zvonareva RUS (21) Jelena Jankovic SRB (4). Many, many commentators were salivating over the 4th round clash between the "Belgian sisters"--their first meeting in a major since they both un-retired. Before that sabbatical, Clijsters had a very unremarkable 2-5 record against Henin and only had won one major (and did not face her nemesis) t her rival's seven. Since their return Clijsters has won another major and has beaten Justine all three times they met. It appears as if the 18-month gap of parenthood and maturity have done wonders for Clijsters' mental toughness. Mental toughness are NOT two words one associates with Vera Zvonareva. She was in the process of demolishing World #4 Jelena Jankovic when the Serbian fell on the court and retired from their 4th round match soon after. Zvonareva has great weapons, but as Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina have repeatedly demonstrated, the most important weapon in a player's arsenal is not one that can be developed in the gym or the practice court. PREDICTION: Clijsters in 2 sets.

Venus Williams USA (2) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova BUL Marion Bartoli FRA (11). Mademoiselle Marion Bartoli did not hold up her half of the bargain to have this quarterfinal be a repeat of the 2007 Women's final by losing in two tight sets to Pironkova. Venus was relatively lucky herself to slip past hard-hitting Aussie Jarmila Groth in two very close sets. Pironkova and Venus have played before, most notably at the 2006 Australian Open where the Bulgarian bounced the American out of the tournament in the 2nd round, winning 9-7 in the third set. I'd be shocked if Venus allows Pironkova to win 9 games in the entire match this time. PREDICTION: Venus in 2 sets.

Monday, June 28, 2010

SCOTUS Rules Against Christian Legal Society

In the second most important case of the 2009-2010 Supreme Court term for LGBT people (last Thursday's Doe v. Reed 8-1 ruling that ballot proposition signers have no implicit right to anonymity was probably the most important) the court has ruled 5-4 in favor of the University of California Hastings Law School and against the Christian Legal Society to preserve the principle that a public university's discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and religion can compel any student group that wants official recognition and funding to abide by that nondiscrimination policy.

The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote:

The Supreme Court's decision, by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, found that the law school's policy was "a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access" that did not raise First Amendment issues in the way the Christian Legal Society argued.

The opinion explicitly rejects the argument of the Christian Legal Society that a public university has no business limiting its ability to be recognized and to apply its own rules to membership. "CLS’s analytical error lies in focusing on the benefits it must forgo while ignoring the interests of those it seeks to fence out: Exclusion, after all, has two sides," the decision says. "Hastings, caught in the crossfire between a group’s desire to exclude and students’ demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no groupto discriminate in membership."

A dissent, by Justice Samuel Alito, blasted the decision, saying that it set principle of "no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning."

Many public colleges and universities have anti-bias policies similar to those of Hastings, so a ruling for the Christian Legal Society would have forced changes at many institutions. The issue has been particularly intense at public law schools (where the Christian Legal Society has sought recognition) and at undergraduate institutions with Greek systems (when Christian fraternities have sought recognition). Some public colleges and universities – faced with legal threats by supporters of the Christian Legal Society – have changed their policies to exempt religious groups, and those institutions could conceivably now reconsider.

This case has been closely watched by law professor friends of mine like Nan Hunter of Georgetown Law School and Art Leonard of New York Law School.

Human Rights Campaign issued a statement:
“Today, the Court upheld an important principle for all Americans, that government should not be forced to subsidize discrimination,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “UC Hastings and schools like it all over the country have worked hard to create welcoming spaces for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Today’s decision bolsters those efforts, while recognizing that Christian Legal Society, and groups like it, are free exclude whomever they want – without the financial support of their fellow students or taxpayers.”
Amazingly, Justice Ginsburg, who wrote the majority opinion (joined by Stevens, Kennedy, Sotomayor and Breyer), read parts of her opinion before the Court aloud, the day after her husband of 56 years(!) died. Thank you Justice Ginsburg for your service to our country. May you enjoy serving on a supreme court (for at least one year) that is one-third female!

UPDATED 06/28/2010 11:38AM PDT
MadProfessah friend and openly gay USC Law Professor David Cruz weighs in with his thoughts on CLS v. Martinez, and Lambda Legal releases a statement:

"We're extremely pleased the Court has found that discrimination is discrimination, however you try to package it," said Jon Davidson, Legal Director of Lambda Legal. "CLS was attempting to draw a distinction between status and conduct. But when an organization has a membership requirement that one must believe conduct central to one's identity is immoral, that's the same thing as excluding people for who they are. It's wrong of CLS to expect students to fund a group that wouldn't have them as a member. The Court wisely rejected CLS's attempt to obtain what the Court recognized as 'preferential, not equal treatment' under the school's rules applicable to all other recognized clubs."

Registration as a student organization at Hastings gives groups the right to use Hastings' name and logo, access to a university email address, limited use of facilities, and modest university funds for travel and other expenses. CLS sued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, arguing that, by not allowing it to become a supported student group, Hastings had violated CLS's rights of free speech, association and religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution. The group maintained it did not bar membership to gays, but rather to those who engaged in homosexual conduct. The District Court rejected these claims and found in Hastings' favor, as did the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year.

The Task Force's Rea Carey said:
“The Supreme Court ruled correctly in rejecting the challenge from the Christian Legal Society, which sought school funding and recognition despite being in clear violation of the college’s nondiscrimination policy. The court rightly found that the First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by Hastings’ decision. It simply said the college did not have to fund a group that violated the school policy requiring all recognized student groups to be open to every student. Schools all across the country are working to create welcoming environments for all students. This ruling supports that important effort. No school group or organization should be given public money to discriminate against other students.”

Iceland Lesbian PM Marries Her Partner

You may recall that Iceland made history last year by electing an openly lesbian prime minister and made an even bigger bang by enacting a gay marriage bill unanimously a few weeks ago.

Yesterday, these two stories combined when PM Johanna Sigurdadottir married her partner Jonina Leosdottir, the first day gay marriage became legal in the country she leads.

Sigurdardottir, in her late 60s, formally married writer Jonina Leosdottir after the couple submitted a demand for their civil union to be transformed into a marriage, the RUV broadcaster said.

Iceland's parliament on June 12 unanimously adopted legislation allowing gay marriage, in a law that came into effect on Sunday.

Homosexual couples could previously enter into a civil partnership and benefit from the same rights as heterosexual couples, but this had not been considered a formal marriage.

Sigurdardottir, born in 1942, took power in February 2009. She has lived with Ledsdottir, who is in her 50s, for several years and the couple entered a civil union in 2002.

Congratulations to the newly-weds! Hat/tip to TowleRoad.

Eye Candy: Jakub Stefano (reprise)

Hat/tip to Wicked Gay Blog for these (and more) smoking hot shots of "cute white boy" Jakub Stefano, who has been an Eye Candy feature before in March 2009. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

WIMBLEDON 2010: Serena and Venus Into 4th Round

Venus Williams and Serena Williams are both into the fourth round of the Ladies' Singles and in the quarterfinals of the Ladies' Doubles at Wimbledon. Serena will play Maria Sharapova in the round of 16, a reprise of the 2004 Women's final won by the 17-year-old Russian 6-1 6-4. Venus faces Australian Jarmila Groth and has a reasonably clear path until the semifinal, where she will likely face the winner of the Kim Clijsters/Justine Henin 4th round match (or possibly Jelena Jankovic). Once Serena gets past Sharapova, she has an easier path to her 3rd consecutive women's final, where, for the 9th time in 11 years, a Williams sister will win the title again.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Carlsen Reaches 2nd Highest Chess Rating Ever At 2830

Magnus Carlsen, the World's #1 returned to tournament action after a three month lay-off during which Viswanathan Anand defended his World Chess Championship and crushed the competition at the King's Tournament in Romania by winning 5 and drawing 5 games for a ridonculous 2918 performance rating. The result will extend Carlsen's already top-ranked rating to 2830.

That is the second highest rating in history. Only former World Champion (and Carlsen mentor) Garry Kasparov has ever been ranked higher, at 2851 (back in 1999). Carlsen is only 19 and still improving. Some commentators believe his actual rating may end up exceeding 2900.

Saturday Politics: Ballot Measures Preview

There are often numerous ballot initiatives on California statewide election ballots and this November will be no exception. So far there are expected to be ten ballot measures that voters will consider:

WATER BOND -- Authorizes $11.14 billion in bonds for state water projects, including storage, conservation, groundwater protection, and recycling.

MARIJUANA -- Allows people 21 or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use, subject to regulation and taxation. Prohibits use in public or when minors are present. Prohibits providing marijuana to anyone under 21.

CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING -- Transfers redistricting authority for congressional districts from the state legislature to the Citizens Redistricting Commission that was established by Proposition 11 (2008).

LOCAL GOVERNMENT -- Prohibits state from shifting, taking, borrowing, or restricting use of revenues dedicated to local government services, community redevelopment projects, and transportation projects and services. Prohibits the state from delaying distribution of tax revenues for these purposes.

SURCHARGE FOR PARKS -- Establishes $18 annual state vehicle license surcharge to be used solely to operate, maintain, and repair the state park system, and protect wildlife and natural resources. Grants free admission to all state parks to vehicles paying the surcharge. Exempts commercial vehicles, trailers, and trailer coaches.

SUSPENSION OF GREENHOUSE GAS REDUCTION LAW -- Suspends the state's greenhouse gas reduction law until California's unemployment rate has been 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. Suspends requirements for increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel, as well as mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries.

CORPORATE TAXES -- Repeals recent legislation which lowered corporate taxes by allowing businesses to shift operating losses to prior tax years; expanding the time in which losses can be shifted; allowing businesses to share tax credits with affiliated corporations; and allowing multi-state companies to use a sales-based income calculation rather than one based on property, payroll, and sales.

2/3 VOTE FOR LEVIES AND CHARGES -- Increases to two-thirds, from a simple majority, the vote required for the legislature to adopt state levies and charges, with limited exceptions. Requires two-thirds vote of the public for local levies and charges, with limited exceptions.

MAJORITY VOTE FOR STATE BUDGET -- Lowers the legislative vote required for adopting a state budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.

REPEAL OF REDISTRICTING COMMISSION -- Eliminates the Citizens Redistricting Commission that was established by Proposition 11 (2008), and returns the job of drawing state legislative and board of equalization districts to the Legislature

Friday, June 25, 2010

Celebrity Friday: Jason Momoa

Jason Momoa, who played Ronon on Stargate: Atlantis has been cast as the lead in the new version of Conan The Barbarian. He will also appear in the new HBO miniseries version of Game of Thrones, the first of George R.R. Martin's classic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Hat/tip to Wonder Man.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SCOTUS Rules 8-1 To Support R-71 Names Disclosure

The Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 in the case of Doe v. Reed that heterosexual supremacist petition signers in Washington who placed Referendum 71 (which would have repealed a comprehensive domestic partnership statute) on the ballot have no implicit First Amendment expectation of privacy, affirming last year's excellent 9th Circuit appellate decision.

Washington Families Standing Together, the organization that managed the campaign to defend the domestic partnership law by approving Referendum 71 issued a statement:

The Court has made clear today that public disclosure requirements are an important means of making sure measures are not put on the ballot by fraudulent means or mistake.

“Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures. Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot. In light of the foregoing, we reject plaintiffs’ argument and conclude that public disclosure of referendum petitions in general is substantially related to the important interest of preserving the integrity of the electoral process.”

This 8- 1 ruling by the highest court in the land is a significant defeat for those who have sought to enshrine discrimination into law at the ballot box. Nowhere is the integrity and transparency of elections more important than where the ballot box is being used in an attempt to take away fundamental rights. Nowhere is it more important for the public to know that attempts to affect the lives of their fellow citizens by promoting ballot measures are free from fraud and error. Perhaps no other group has witnessed its rights put up for public vote more than LGBT Americans. Social conservatives have used ballot measures in state after state, over more than 30 years, to keep LGBT Americans from being able to adopt children, to marry and even to be protected from discrimination in housing and employment.

This is the third loss for these groups in our state over the past year as they tried to repeal legislation ensuring that all families are treated equally under Washington State law. First the State PDC said no when these same groups tried to hide their donors. Then voters approved Referendum 71, retaining the law, by more than 53%. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the proponents’ attempt to undermine disclosure laws.

With regard to the assertion by the anti-gay groups that they would be harmed if petition signatures were subject to public disclosure, as Justice Stevens said in his concurring opinion,

“Any burden on speech that petitioners posit is speculative as well as indirect. For an as-applied challenge to a law such as the PRA to succeed, there would have to be a significant threat of harassment directed at those who sign the petition that cannot be mitigated by law enforcement measures.”

The Supreme Court has in the past allowed narrow exemptions to public disclosure where there’s a clear minority party that has suffered both official and societal retaliation by the majority and where there is strong evidence that such disclosure presents a serious threat. With regard to Referendum 71, however, the groups making this claim were not the minority, but to the contrary, were the ones trying to diminish the rights of the minority. They will be hard pressed to convince a judge the record here is otherwise.

In an amicus brief provided to the Supreme Court in Doe v. Reed, a group of political scientists reported that not only was the assertion of alleged harassment unsubstantiated in Washington State, but the plaintiffs did not present a single verified threat to any signer of a ballot measure petition in any state in any election. As their brief said, “More than a million names of signers of petitions for referenda and initiatives opposing gay marriage have been posted on the Internet, yet there is no evidence that any of these signers has faced any threat of retaliation or harassment by reason of that disclosure.”

WAFST applauds today’s decision and thanks all those who filed briefs and supported our collective efforts as we fought over the last year to protect the rights of all Washingtonians.

Congratulations to Washington State, this is a big loss for the heterosexual supremacist haters like National Organization for Marriage.

WIMBLEDON 2010: Isner-Mahut Ends 70-68

On his 5th match point, on the third day of play, after 11 hours and 5 minutes, John Isner hit a backhand down-the-line winner to pass NicolasMahut to end the longest and greatest tennis match ever at the score 6-4 3-6 6-7(7) 7-6(8) 70-68.


Finally saw Iron Man 2 with the Other Half on a lazy Memorial Day after tennis from the French Open was done for the day.

The sequel has now grossed nearly 300 million dollars since its release on Friday May 7th. At it has a rating of 74% (which is significantly lower than the original which is rated at 93%).

The film stars Robert Downey, Jr, Gwyneth paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke and Scarlet Johanssen.

Unfortunately, as with most summer blockbusters, the challenge of repeating a success is too much for many films and the sequel is less enjoyable than the original.

The plot literally makes no sense whatsoever, and multiple sequences seem to have been included merely to provide the opportunity for huge explosions.

Downey is fine and replays his narcissistic version of billionaire Tony Stark a bit too convincingly. Oscar-winner Paltrow is merely annoying as Downey's sidekick and purported love interest. The appearance of Don Cheadle to play the character originated by Terrence Howard in Iron Man is just offensive. It leaves the impression the director and producer felt that one black actor is indistinguishable from another.

The best part of Iron Man 2 is Mickey Rourke, who plays an excellent, creepy villain in Ivan Stanko. There is a deliberate effort to connect to the Iron Man character to upcoming Marvel Studios films featuring Captain America and The Avengers which will be arriving in future summers.

The movie has some mildly entertaining sequences but overall it's really a movie you can wait to see on cable.

Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes.
MPAA Rating
: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.
Director: Jon Favreau.



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WIMBLEDON 2010: Isner-Mahut Halted At 59-59

Nicolas Mahut and John Isner will resume playing a Wimbledon Men's Singles 1st Round match on Thursday which has now been suspended twice for darkness after TEN HOURS of play! The match was suspended at 59-59 in the fifth set on Wednesday after the two played for 7 hours and 6 minutes--the longest set of all time and longer than the previous longest match in Grand Slam history. Isner-Mahut is shattering all previous records in a ridiculous number of categories: the number of games played, points played, duration, aces by a player, aces by both players combined, just to name a few.

On Tuesday, the two played for 2 hours and 54 minutes, won the first set 6-4, then lost the second 6-3, then lost the third 7-6(9-7) and won the fourth 7-6(10--8). And this is only his second match ever at Wimbledon. He lost in the first round last year. Isner has had four match points, all on Mahut's serve, the very last coming in the 117th game of the 5th set.

Incredible! Tie-break, anyone?

WIMBLEDON 2010: Both Williams Into 2nd Round

Venus Williams and Serena Williams are into the second round of both singles and doubles. Venus is into the 3rd round, after taking out Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova 6-0 6-4. Serena takes on former Top 10 player Anna Chakvetadze in her 3rd round match tomorrow.

WATCH: Obama Remarks at LGBT Reception

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy 61st Birthday Meryl Streep!

Hat/tip to I Should Be Laughing for reminding me that national treasure Meryl Streep turns 61 today!

White House LGBT Pride Reception Today

For the second year in a row, the White House is hosting a reception for the LGBT community in honor of Pride month. The reception is happening today at 4pm. Interestingly, while the invitation list has not yet been released it is widely believed that this year it does not include any of the leaders of the national LGBT organizations (like HRC, NGLTF, PFLAG, NBJC or SLDN), but focuses on "heads of state equality groups, members of the LGBT community with compelling stories and a contingent of LGBT youth."

Just in time for this year's pride celebration the Obama administration announces a policy change which results in an incremental increase in rights for LGBT people.

From The New York Times:

The policy will be set forth in a ruling to be issued Wednesday by the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, the officials said.

Under a 1993 law, people who work for a company with 50 or more employees are generally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or for a spouse, son or daughter with “a serious health condition.”

The new ruling indicates that an employee in a same-sex relationship can qualify for leave to care for the child of his or her partner, even if the worker has not legally adopted the child.

The ruling, in a formal opinion letter, tackles a question not explicitly addressed in the 1993 law. It is one of many actions taken by the Obama administration to respond to the concerns of gay men and lesbians within the constraints of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.

In April, Mr. Obama announced plans to grant hospital visiting rights to same-sex partners, and the Justice Department concluded that the Violence Against Women Act protects same-sex partners.

Last year, I knew Los Angeles residents Jeff Kim and Curtis Chin attended the reception. This year the only one I know who has been invited is Faith Cheltenham, a well-known local African-American bi activist.

Lambda Legal Threatens HI Gov Over HB 444 Veto

Lambda Legal and the ACLU have warned Republican Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii not to veto HB444, the civil unions bill currently sitting on her desk which she placed on a "potential veto list" on Monday.
Lambda Legal and ACLU to Governor: Do Not Veto HB444

(Honolulu, June 21, 2010) - Today, in a notification letter to the
Legislature, Governor Linda Lingle included HB 444 in a list of bills she
may veto. This notification has prompted a renewed call from civil unions
supporters for her to allow the bill to become law.

"This notification states only that the Governor wants additional time to
make her decision on civil unions. The time has never been better for
everyone who supports fairness to contact the Governor and renew our voice
for civil unions in Hawaii," said Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel for
Lambda Legal, speaking for both groups. "The governor has said she is
considering civil unions with an open mind, and we have seen her make an
effort to hear both sides. A wide array of business, religious and
community leaders have voiced their support for civil unions – explaining
how civil unions will benefit Hawaii's economy and strengthen our families
as has already happened in eight other states. We trust that she will
listen to this ever-growing chorus of support and will act on behalf of the
State in the best interest of all Hawaii by signing HB 444 into law."

Hawaii's constitution was amended in 1998 to allow the Legislature to
restrict marriage to heterosexual couples, which it has done. Same-sex
couples therefore cannot pursue full equality by seeking marriage through
the courts. Although civil unions are a lesser status than marriage, they
will provide a full range of state law protections and duties to gay and
lesbian couples, such as access to family court to dissolve the legal
status in an orderly way, clear duties to pay child support and alimony as
spouses must, and other vital protections. Bills to offer civil unions
have been under steady consideration in the Hawaii Legislature each year
since 2001.

Potential veto lists like the one issued today are part of the standard
legislative process. This list formally notifies the Legislature that
potential vetoes exist. In turn, the Legislature can consider reconvening
to exercise its right to override any veto(es). Governor Lingle has until
July 6 to accept or veto each of the bills on today's list, including HB

As Rod 2.0 notes, the bill passed the State Senate by a veto-proof majority but only passed the State House (months after it was presumed dead) by a 31-20 vote.

Monday, June 21, 2010

WIMBLEDON 2010: Federer Survives 1st Round Scare

Defending champion Roger Federer survived a scare in the first round of Wimbledon by losing his first two sets (ever!) to Alejandro Falla but came back to win 5-7 4-6 6-4 7-6(1) 6-0.

Eye Candy: Rodrigo Guilherme (reprise)

I have shown you the beautiful face and body of Rodrigo Guilherme, a Brazilian model, before. Here now are some even hotter pictures of this amazing 24-year-old. Enjoy!

WATCH: Trailer for "Stonewall Uprising"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Obama Statement on Juneteenth

President Barack Obama issued a statement on the occasion of Juneteenth:
On this day in 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, those who found themselves still enslaved in Galveston, Texas had their hopes realized and their prayers answered. Contrary to what others had told them, the rumors they had heard were indeed true. The Civil War had ended, and they were now free.
General Gordon Granger issued the call with "General Order No. 3" saying "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. " June 19, or Juneteenth, is now observed in 31 states. Nearly a century and a half later, the descendants of slaves and slave owners can commemorate the day together and celebrate the rights and freedoms we all share in this great nation that we all love.
This moment also serves as a time for reflection and appreciation, and an opportunity for many people to trace their family’s lineage. African Americans helped to build our nation brick by brick and have contributed to her growth in every way, even when rights and liberties were denied to them. In light of the historic unanimous vote in the United States Senate this week supporting the call for an apology for slavery and segregation, the occasion carries even more significance.
Jordan/Rustin Coalition is holding its 2nd Annual Juneteenth Awards and LGBT Pride Celebration tomorrow. Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass and In The Meantime Men's Group Executive Dorector Jeffrey King are being honored.
Hat/tip to Karen Ocamb and TransGriot

Oscar Grant Trial Starts In Los Angeles

MadProfessah has been following the case of Oscar Grant closely since it became public in January 1, 2009. On that day a 27-year-old Bay Area Rapid Transit cop named Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old father of two in the back while Grant was face down on the ground being arrested by Mehserle. The shooting was captured by multiple cell-phone videos and the horrific incident became an internet sensation. Because of pre-trial publicity, the murder trial of Mehserle was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles County and began last week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Toy Story 3 (3D)

The latest installment of Pixar's Toy Story 3 was released on Friday June 18th and MadProfessah and the Other Half saw it on opening day at our usual favorite theaters (Regal Cinemas 14 in Alhambra).

Pixar is of course the studio that has an (almost) unbroken record of perfection, having brought us such instant classics like The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Up and Wall-E.

The original Toy Story should probably also be on this list of classics, but this threequel is actually probably a better movie than the original (it's definitely better than Toy Story 2).

Interestingly, although Pixar had originally stated that they would only make original films (and not do sequels) they have now done two sequels to Toy Story and the Los Angeles Times reported recently that due to pressure by Pixar's new owners (Walt Disney Company) three of the next four releases will be sequels: Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and Monsters, Inc. 2. Bizarrely, it seems to me that they are making sequels of their least successful films, NOT their most successful. My only explanation is that they are trying to correct mistakes they made the first time. One of my favorite films of all time is The Incredibles and I think a sequel would be a blockbuster, even for Pixar whose less successful films generally have worldwide grosses in the half-billion dollar range. Their most commercially successful film is Finding Nemo which I know is a favorite of many other people (and is also a great film).

Toy Story 3 is really a very good film, one of Pixar's best, which is saying a lot. It currently has ridonculous 99% fresh rating on It is not in the stratosphere of Finding Nemo and The Incredibles but it is about as good as Up (2009) and better than both Wall-E (2008) and Ratatouille (2007).

What makes Toy Story 3 so good is that it has a brilliant, suspenseful script which makes complete sense and is consistent with a cartoon universe where toys can talk and move on their own volition and they are animated by being played with by owners who love and care for them.
The same can not be said for recent summer blockbusters like Iron Man 2 which has a script that at times makes no sense whatsoever. Toy Story 3 is always interesting and always very, very clever. It is also often very, very funny. The director does an excellent job of making apparently cuddly toys seem ominous and threatening.

And of course the ending has a scene which will even make someone as cold-hearted as Dick Cheney cry. Kids will come out of the movie smiling and parents will come out smiling through tears. A very memorable cinematic experience.

A word about 3-D. I saw the film in 3-D but I think it would have been just as effective in 2-D, so if you want to save 3 or 4 bucks, I'd recommend doing that, but definitely see this film!

Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. MPAA Rating: G for general audiences.

Plot: A+.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: A.

Overall Grade: A+/A (4.167/4.0).

WIMBLEDON 2010: Williams Top Seeds in Singles (& Doubles)

Defending champion and World #1 Serena Williams and her sister Venus Williams (5-time Wimbledon champ) are seeded #1 and #2 in singles (and #1 in doubles) at this year's Wimbledon championships.

1. Serena Williams (United States)

2. Venus Williams (United States)

3. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

4. Jelena Jankovic (Serbia)

5. Francesca Schiavone (Italy)

6. Samantha Stosur (Australia)

7. Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

8. Kim Clijsters (Belgium)

9. Li Na (China)

10. Flavia Pennetta (Italy)

11. Marion Bartoli (France)

12. Nadia Petrova (Russia)

13. Shahar Peer (Israel)

14. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)

15. Yanina Wickmayer (Belgium)

16. Maria Sharapova (Russia)

17. Justine Henin (Belgium)

18. Aravane Rezai (France)

19. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia)

20. Dinara Safina (Russia)

21. Vera Zvonareva (Russia)

22. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (Spain)

23. Zheng Jie (China)

24. Daniela Hantuchova (Slovakia)

25. Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic)

26. Alisa Kleybanova (Russia)

27. Maria Kirilenko (Russia)

28. Alona Bondarenko (Ukraine)

29. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia)

30. Yaroslava Shvedova (Kazakhstan)

31. Alexandra Dulgheru (Romania)

32. Sara Errani (Italy)

Celebrity Friday: Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2010 NBA Championships last night by beating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game 7. The Lakers came back from a 13-point deficit at the half and only in towards the end of the fourth quarter did they get a lead of more than 2 points.

It is Kobe's 5th championship with the Lakers, at age 31 is one less than the 6 championships the great Michael Jordan earned with the Chicago Bulls. Kobe also made it clear that he now has one more than his erstwhile teammate Shaquille O'Neal.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WIMBLEDON 2010: Federer Seeded #1

The seedings for 2010 Wimbledon are out. In a small surprise the All-England Lawn Tennis Club chose World #2 Roger Federer as the #1 seed over World #1 Rafael Nadal. Of course, Federer is the defending champion and has won the tournament 6 times (and 16 majors overall), while Nadal has only won it once.

1. Roger Federer (Switzerland)
2. Rafael Nadal (Spain)
3. Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
4. Andy Murray (Britain)
5. Andy Roddick (U.S.)
6. Robin Soderling (Sweden) 7. Nikolay Davydenko (Russia)
9. David Ferrer (Spain)
10. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France)
11. Marin Cilic (Croatia)
12. Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic)
13. Mikhail Youzhny (Russia)
15. Lleyton Hewitt (Australia)
16. Jurgen Melzer (Austria)
17. Ivan Ljubicic (Croatia)
18. Sam Querrey (U.S.)
19. Nicolas Almagro (Spain)
20. Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland)
21. Gael Monfils (France)
22. Radek Stepanek (Czech Republic)
23. Feliciano Lopez (Spain)
24. John Isner (U.S.)
25. Ivo Karlovic (Croatia)
26. Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus)
27. Thomaz Bellucci (Brazil)
28. Gilles Simon (France)
29. Ernests Gulbis (Latvia)
30. Albert Montanes (Spain)
31. Philipp Kohlschreiber (Germany)
32. Tommy Robredo (Spain)


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