Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympiad XXX Day 4: Nole(2),Masha(3),Venus Win

Day 4 of the tennis competition at the XXXth Olympiad in London was historic, with the longest match in Olympic tennis history occurring between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic.

Additionally, #2seed Novak Djokovic dismissed 3-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick in straight sets 6-1 6-2. Venus Williams continued her excellent play by beating Aleksandr Wozniack in straight sets.

Other noted players to win today include Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki.
Also winning were David Ferrer(4), Andy Murray(3) and Lleyton Hewitt.

In other news,Venus and Serena Williams defeated the German team of Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki 7-5 6-2. They will face the #2 seeded team from Italy Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.

Surprisingly, Serena has decided NOT to compete in the mixed doubles competition, instead deferring to the doubles specialists on the American team, Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber, the #1 women's doubles team in the world, who will play with the men's doubles team, Mike and Bob Bryan. Huber will play with the lefty Bob Bryan, while Raymond will play with Mike.

Serena had said she could not decide whether to play with John Isner or Andy Roddick, but in the end decided that competing in the women's singles and the women's doubles was more than enough.

Bush-Appointed Federal Judge Strikes Down DOMA

This is getting almost comical. On Tuesday, yet another federal judge ruled the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. This time it was in the case of a federal lawsuit filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) representing a number of same-sex couples married in Connecticut who are suing the federal government for denying them access to federal benefits provided to other married couples under the discriminatory provision of Section 3 of DOMA.

The name of the case is Pedersen v Office of Personnel Management and the name of the federal judge is Vanessa L. Bryant, an appointee to the district court for Connecticut by President George W. Bush in 2007.

Ruthann Robinson, a well-regarded constitutional law professor, provides this analysis of Bryant's voluminous (over 100 pages) and thoughtfully reasoned opinion:
Judge Bryant's opinion is especially worth reading on the "political powerlessness" prong in light of arguments regarding President Obama's opinions on sexual orientation.  Having considered all four factors, the judge found that " homosexuals display all the traditional indicia of suspectness and therefore statutory classifications based on sexual orientation are entitled to a heightened form of judicial scrutiny."  She then quickly defaulted to another rationale:  "However, the Court need not apply a form of heightened scrutiny in the instant case to conclude that DOMA violates the promise of the equal protection as it is clear that DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster under even the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny." 
Thus, Judge Bryant applied rational basis scrutiny requiring a "legitimate interest" that is reasonably served by the statute.  The legislative history of DOMA advanced four interests for the statute: "(1) defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage; (2) defending traditional notions of morality; (3) protecting state sovereignty and democratic self-governance; and (4) preserving scarce governmental resources."  In litigation, BLAG asserted five: 1)  To employ caution in the face of a proposed redefinition of the centuries-old definition of marriage; 2)  To protect the public fisc; 3)  To maintain consistency and uniformity with regard to eligibility for federal benefits;  4)  To avoid creating a social understanding of bearing, begetting, and rearing children separate from marriage; and 5)  To recognize an institution designed to ensure that children have parents of both sexes.  One by one, Judge Bryant considered the interests and their rational relationship to the statute, concluded that not one of them was sufficient.
Chris Geidner has the full text of today's ruling. It will be up to the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the United States House of Representatives, represented by superlawyer Paul Clement to decide when or whether they want to appeal the ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, or perhaps bypass the federal appellate level and appeal to the Supreme Court. There are already 9th U.S. Appellate Circuit and 1st U.S. Appellate Circuit DOMA cases pending before the nation's highest court, plus several other cases at the district court level.

At this point it is only a matter of when, not whether, DOMA will cease to be legally enforceable.

Olympiad XXX: Tsonga Outlasts Raonic 6-3 3-6 25-23!

Calls for a tie-break or some other means of ending a deciding set apart from a service break at the All-England Lawn Tennis club should receive a fever pitch after today's 2nd round clash between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and Milos Raonic of Canada became the longest Olympic tennis match in history.

Tsonga outlasted Raonic 6-3 3-6 25-23 in a match took just under 4 hours, and ended on a dramatic match point in which the Frenchman ended on the ground. The first two sets took just under 1 hour, with the third set lasting for exactly 180 minutes (3 hours).

The issue of marathon early round matches at Wimbledon has become a prominent one following the ridiculous spectacle of John  Isner and Nicolas Mahut playing for nearly 11 hours over 3 days at Wimbledon in 2010, inthe longest tennis match of all time. Just this year on Day 6 of the tournament, Sam Querrey and Marin Cilic played the third longest match in Wimbledon history as well, with Cilic coming out victorious 17-15 in the deciding 5th set in 5 hours, 31 minutes. Each of the previous "winners" of these marathon matches (Isner, Cilic) have gone on to promptly lose their next  match.

It should also  be noted that each of these recent marathon matches has tended to feature large (well over 6'4") men with gigantic, powerful serves, which make service breaks unlikely to occur. If a tie-breaker of some kind was implemented after either 12 or 24 games were played in the deciding set, I think this would be reasonable. The status quo is simply indefensible. It is more likely that marathon matches will continue to occur as the players get larger and possess more powerful serves. Something must be done sooner rather than later.

Tsonga will face the winner of the match between Feliciano Lopez of Spain and Juan Monaco of Argentina in the 3rd round.

Democratic Platform To Include Marriage Equality

The Washington Blade is reporting that it has confirmation from multiple sources from the committee drafting the platform for the 2012 Democratic National Convention will include support for marriage equality. Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank went on the record to say that the committee voted unanimously to support equal marriage rights for all couples:

Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank after a national hearing over the weekend in Minneapolis, in which several witnesses testified in favor of such language.
“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” Frank said. “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”
Frank emphasized that support for marriage equality is a position that has been established for the Democratic Party, from the president, who endorsed marriage equality in May, to House Democratic lawmakers who voted to reject an amendment reaffirming the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this month.
If this is confirmed it would mean that technically all Democrats running for election anywhere in the country are also represent marriage equality. It should be noted that this is a position supported by a majority of Americans, according to multiple polls. Of course, individual Democrats can claim that the Democratic platform does not represent their personal views. Primarily, of course, the platform represents the public policy positions of the person at the very top of the ticket, President Obama. Mitt Romney reaffirmed that his position in opposition to equal marriage right, with a spokesperson reiterating that the GOP presidential candidate "supports traditional marriage."
The exact language of the LGBT equality plank has not been released but it also said to include opposition to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Tom Tomorrow's Take On Gun Laws

Hat/tip to Daily Kos

Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympiad XXX Day 3: Venus, Serena, Raja, Vika Win

Venus Williams won her first round match over 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani of Italy, while her sister Serena won her second round match over Urszula Radwanska of Poland. #1 seed Victoria Azarenka  17-time major champion Roger Federer won his 2nd round match over Julien Benneteau of France. Americans Varvara Lepchenko, John Isner and Andy Roddick also won. The latter win sets up a 2nd round clash with World #2 Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia will face American John Isner in the 3rd round. Interesting second round match-ups include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France against Milos Raonic of Canada, Djokovic versus Roddick and Richard Gasquet against Marcos Baghdatis.

On the women's side, Venus will play Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada next while Serena will face Vera Zvonareva. Kim Clijsters will face Ana Ivanovic in the 3rd round while Caroline Wozniacki(8) will face Daniela Hantuchova.

Other players of note still in the hunt for medals are Petra Kvitova(6) and Maria Sharapova(3).

New York Marriage Equality: $259M Impact on NYC

$259 million dollars would buy a lot of wedding cake! Last week a report was issued by New York City's marketing and tourism bureau estimating the impact of the first year of marriage equality in New York State at $259 million. After New York State enacted marriage equality last summer, New York City ran a "NYC I Do" campaign to encourage same-sex couples to marry in the city and just one year later it appears to have paid off handsomely for the nation's largest city.

Time magazine reports:
Over 8,000 marriage licenses were registered to gay couples in the last year, meaning more than 10% of the 75,000 wedding licenses issued in the city were for same-sex marriages. Beyond basic government money, the new law brought in over 200,000 tourists to celebrate the marriages. That meant 235,000 hotel rooms booked at an average rate of $275, the mayor’s statement said. And we have no idea if that includes all the fabulous wedding gifts people bought.
I love this quote from New York City Council President Christine Quinn (who married her female partner on May 19, 2012 and is the heir apparent of Mayor Mike Bloomberg to become the next Mayor of New York City):
“What you can’t quantify is just the joy that has happened in New York City,” Quinn told reporters. “What better thing could government do than pass laws that make people equal, repeal laws that say some of us are unequal, and give families the opportunity to have that once-in-a-lifetime moment when a father can walk his daughter down the aisle.”

Eye Candy: Xandy from MundoMais (reprise)

Xandy from MundoMais first appeared as Eye Candy on June 18, 2012. He is from Sao Paulo, Brazil and is one of the many models from that country who have appeared on this blog. I am pretty confident he will not be the last!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympiad XXX Day 2: Radwanska(2) Upset

Clive Brunskill/Getty
Agnieska Radwanska, the #2 seed and 2012 Wimbledon Ladies singles finalist, was the first major upset of the London Olympic singles competition, losing to Julia Goerges of Germany 7-5 6-7(5) 6-4.

Maria Sharapova, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray all advanced to the second round in a day of play limited by rain. In fact, Venus Williams first round match with 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani was postponed.

100 Days Until Election Day!

There are exactly 100 days until Tuesday November 6, which is election day in the United States. Voters will decide whether (President) Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be President of the United State on January 20, 2013.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympiad XXX Day 1: Most Seeds Get Through

Serena Williams, Roger Federer, John Isner, Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters all won their first round matches in the singles competition of the London Olympics at Wimbledon today. Serena beat Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-1 while World #1 Roger Federer took 3 sets to defeat Alejandro Falla after failing to convert a match point in the second set. Isner and Roddick won their singles match but then lost their doubles match to a veteran Brazilian doubles team. The Bryan Twins defeated another Brazilian doubles team of Tomaz Belluci and Andre Sa in 3 sets.

Other winners on the first day of competition included Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, Juan Martin del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic and Ana Ivanovic. 

Li Na was upset by Daniela Hantuchova and Sam Stosur was upset by Carla Suarez Navarro. Tomas Berdych lost in the biggest upset on the men's side to Steve Darcis.

MAINE: Wording Of Marriage Equality initiative Set

The final wording for the question of the ballot initiative that Maine voters will see in November which would enact marriage equality has been set. The initial language proposed by the Secretary of State Charlie Summers (a Republican who opposes marriage equality and who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe) was "Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?The preferred language of Mainers United for Marriage was "Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?After public comment on the original language was largely negative, a new wording was released by Summers recently:

Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

Although this language does not have any reference to the fact that the initiative text also includes specific religious protections, Mainers United for Marriage is not opposing it.

I would prefer that the word "civil" was included before marriage, but I think the focus on marriage licenses is helpful to the cause of marriage equality, because that is really the crux of the matter; it's about whether the government bureaucracy will stop discriminating on which couples it issues marriage licenses to.

Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress

FL Lt. Gov. Apologizes For Anti-Lesbian Remarks

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll (R) caused a firestorm last week when her response to charges that a staffer had found her boss in a compromising position with another woman was to basically say that she could not be a lesbian because she doesn't look like one (sic) thus impugning all lesbians as well as reinforcing homophobic tropes abut sexual orientation.

Happily, Lt. Gov. Carroll recognized the foolishness of her remarks and actually sent an apologetic letter to a prominent Black lesbian in Florida, Nadine Smith, who also happens to be the Executive Director of Florida's LGBT political advocacy group Equality Florida.

Target's New Gay-Inclusive Ad For Its Gift Registry

There's a lot of discussion going on about the new front in the ongoing kulturkampf (culture war) on marriage equality that has erupted in the corporate sector. More and more companies are being more explicit about whether they are in favor or in opposition to equality, shedding what has typically been considered the default position of "neutrality" on controversial social issues.

One of the more interesting salvos is the above ad by Target for its popular wedding registry.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Amazon Founder Donates $2.5M To Approve R74

Matthew Staver/Bloomberg News
The corporate and LGBT worlds are buzzing today about an astonishing pledge made by the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, billionaire Jeff Bezos (and his wife Mackenzieto donate $2.5 million in support of preserving marriage equality in Washington state (where Amazon is headquartered). The money will go to Washington United for Marriage's campaign to approve Referendum 74 on the November 6, 2012 ballot, and basically doubles the total amount of money WU4M has raised to date.

The organization responded with a press release:
SEATTLE—July 27, 2012—Washington United for Marriage (WUM), the statewide coalition working to defend the state’s law protecting civil marriage for same-sex couples, today announced an historic, $2.5 million gift from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos.  It is believed to be the largest individual gift in the country to secure or protect the freedom to marry.  With the Bezos’ gift, WUM has now raised over $5 million towards its broad, statewide campaign to approve Referendum 74 in November.

“I am thrilled by Jeff and MacKenzie’s staggeringly generous donation,” said Jennifer Cast, who serves as WUM’s volunteer finance co-chair and spent over seven years in various senior positions at Amazon.com. “Their support of our efforts to approve R74 comes at an important time and will have great impact.  I am deeply grateful to both of them as this donation is going to help us make history.”

“The extraordinary contribution from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos will make an enormous difference for our campaign to defend Washington’s marriage law,” said WUM’s campaign manager, Zach Silk. “While it provides an amazing base for the work ahead, we hope it spurs others to invest because we’re a long way from November and we face opponents with deep pockets who are committed to spending millions to defeat us.”
It will be interesting to see if this news about the massive amounts of money raised by marriage equality advocates will quiet the nerves of local LGBT activists who are nervous about the recent polling numbers out of Washington on marriage equality.

Celebrity Friday: Lesbian Genius Chemist Carolyn Bertozzi

Carolyn Bertozzi is the T.Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California at Berkeley. She is also openly lesbian, one of the rare openly LGBT scientists. She is also something of a superstar in her chosen field, as a quick perusal of her biography makes clear:
She completed her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Harvard University in 1988 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1993. After completing postdoctoral work at UCSF in the field of cellular immunology, she joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1996.

Prof. Bertozzi's research interests span the disciplines of chemistry and biology with an emphasis on studies of cell surface glycosylation pertinent to disease states. Her lab focuses on profiling changes in cell surface glycosylation associated with cancer, inflammation and bacterial infection, and exploiting this information for development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. In addition, her group develops nanoscience-based technologies for probing cell function and methods for protein engineering.

Prof. Bertozzi has been recognized with many honors and awards for both her research and teaching accomplishments. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Some awards of note include the Lemelson-MIT award for inventors, Whistler Award, Ernst Schering Prize, MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award, and Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award of the Protein Society. Her efforts in undergraduate education have earned her the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award and the Donald Sterling Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
I had the good fortune of having lunch with Prof. Bertozzi during a visit to the National Science Foundation last month, and attended her Invited Distinguished Lecture at the agency. Her talk was incredible, very funny and demonstrated her ability to communicate the nature of her very complicated work to a broad audience.

I think it is important to recognize people like Prof. Bertozzi as examples of people who should be more famous, thus she is my pick for today's Celebrity Friday.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scotland Plans To Enact Marriage Equality By 2015

The Government of Scotland has announced that it intends to enact marriage equality legislation in the near future. After a careful analysis of the issues, the government concluded that the public policy change was the correct course of action.

The Scottish government conducted a "consultation" whereby they ask the public to provide them feedback and input on the proposed policy.

The BBC summarizes the consultation results:

  • The Scottish government held a public consultation into the issue of same-sex marriage.
  • It had the biggest response of any Scottish government consultation.
  • There were 77,508 responses in total, with 14,779 from outside Scotland.
  • Some 64% of those who responded [including postcard and petition responses] said they were against same-sex marriage.
  • Excluding postcard and petition responses to the consultation from within Scotland the outcome shows 65% were in favour and 35% against.
The reason for the extended timeline that would result in a law going into effect on January 1, 2015 is that is roughly the time which similar legislation in England and Wales would go into effect, according to the United Kingdom government headed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
In Scotland (and  the rest of the UK, i.e. England, Wales and Northern Ireland) same-sex couples currently have the option to enter in civil registered partnerships, which are what we would call civil unions (or comprehensive domestic partnerships) which provide "all the legal rights and responsibilities" of marriage except for the word. Civil partnerships do not generally have a religious component like marriages do and this has been a key sticking point.

The Scottish government is resolving this last question in favor of allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in churches, but the religious organization can opt out, and can not be forced to conduct a marriage ceremony against its will.
The Scottish government said;
  • it would work with UK ministers to amend equality laws to protect celebrants from legal or disciplinary action if they refuse to take part or speak out against same-sex ceremonies.
  • a bill would be brought forward to the Scottish Parliament later this year to bring in the change.
Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: "We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships - we believe that this is the right thing to do. 
She went on: "The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws. 
"However, our view is that to give certainty on protection for individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body that does agree to conduct same-sex marriages, an amendment will be required to the UK Equality Act."
The heterosexual supremacists know they have lost this battle, so now it is turning into a war of attrition of delay and dismay.

BOOK REVIEW: Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell

I first heard of Tobias Buckell's Arctic Rising from a rave review on NPR earlier this spring. One of the most interesting features of the book (to me) is that its author was born in the same small country that I am from, the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. But even that curious fact would not be enough to get me to read the book if its subject was not interesting.

In this case, the subject is an interesting combination of near-future science fiction and "eco-thriller." The setting is an un-named time in the near future where global warming climate change has had a profound impact on the geopolitical power structure of the world. Much of the Arctic Sea is open water and this has produced brand new shipping lanes, which have allowed Greenland and Canada to become powerful countries in this new era. Additionally, countries like Nigeria, Brazil, India and China have become superpowers in this new world where island nations have disappeared and the Caribbean's tourist economy has collapsed due to the extremely violent nature of hurricanes.

In this setting, Buckell places a thrilling story of intrigue involving his main character Anika Duncan, who is an airship pilot for the United Nations Polar Guard in the Arctic circle whose life unravels when she comes across a ship with a mysteriously radioactive cargo whose crew takes extreme measures to prevent her from finding out what it is. From that point on the story proceeds at breakneck pace, with people repeatedly trying to kill and/or capture Anika. Acquaintances, colleagues and friends who try to help Anika often face dire consequences.

Arctic Rising is exciting, sort of like a James Bond thriller except that the main protagonists are a multiracial, lesbian and her male Caribbean-born, dredlock-wearing independent spy named Prudence Jones.

One immediate draw back of the novel is that the action is provided in very short, bite-sized chapters, presumably the proper length that an action scene in the filmed adaptation would cover. Also, the writing and characterization is almost laughably weak, similar to what you would expect in a John Grisham, Brad Melzer or Dan Brown novel. Obviously, millions and millions of people buy and enjoy those kind of novels, and they have been adapted into television and films because they capture the audience's attention.

I appreciate Buckell's ambition of trying to occupy that "non-stop action thriller" space with a book that at least is set in a world impacted by climate change and who has deliberately injected issues of race, gender and sexual orientation through his characters. But an important artistic achievement, Arctic Rising is not.

However, it is a lot of fun and at least a diversion which can keep one occupied and content while it lasts. Which is not long.

Title: Arctic Rising.
Author: Tobias S. Buckell.
Length: 304 pages.
Publisher: Tor Books.
Published: February 28, 2012.

OVERALL GRADE: B+ (3.33/4.0).


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

GRAPHIC: Difference between D and R Tax Plans

Source: Talking Points Memo

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: U.S. Godlessness at 19%

A study of religious affiliation of Americans from Pew Center for the People and the Press indicates rapid growth in the category of "None" to 19% of all respondents.

USA Today reports about the results:

Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, theorizes why None has become the "default category." He says, "Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before."
Kosmin's surveys were the first to brand the Nones in 1990 when they were 6% of U.S. adults. By 2008 survey, Nones were up to 15%. By 2010, another survey, the bi-annual General Social Survey, bumped the number to 18%.
The 19% count is based on aggregated surveys of 19,377 people conducted by the Pew Research Center throughout 2011.
The article notes that religious sects like Catholics, Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans all show either a decrease in affiliation or no change during the same period of growth in the Nones category. It also explains that the main way the category of non-religious grows is through switching of 10% of people who grow up in religious households but become unaffiliated.

The Freedom From Religious Foundation applauded the survey results:

“With nonbelievers at about 20% of the population, there is no longer any excuse for leaving us out of the equation. Public officials cannot continue to assume ‘all Americans’ believe in a deity, or continue to offend 20% of the population by imposing prayer at governmental meetings or government-hosted events. These surveys now show that ‘In God We Trust’ is a provenly inaccurate motto. Nonbelievers should not be treated as political pariahs,” [FFRF Co-Director Annie Laurie] Gaylor said. 
“ ‘Nones’ in fact were at the time of the last ARIS survey, the second-largest ‘denomination’ in the nation,” Barker said, “following Catholics at 25% and tied with Baptists at 15%. According to the new PEW study, nonbelievers now outrank Baptists.”

I wonder what it will take to get agnostics, atheists and other non-believers the respect their numbers deserve.

Hat/tip to Friendly Atheist

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GRAPHIC: Comparing Boy Scouts To Other Youth Orgs

Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress

Only 14 Olympic Athletes Are Officially Out As LGBT

Seimone Augustus is the only out lesbian on the USA Women's basketball team
and one of only 14 openly gay or lesbian athletes at the 2012 Olympics

According to Pink News, there are only 14 openly LGBT athletes at the London Olympics who are officially out and willing to be named by the media:

The athletes known to be gay or lesbian are: Matthew Mitcham (Australia, diving); Edward Gal (Netherlands, equestrian); Lisa Raymond (U.S., doubles tennis); Judith Arndt(Germany, cycling); Seimone Augustus (U.S., basketball); Imke Duplitzer (Germany, fencing); Megan Rapinoe (U.S. soccer); Marilyn Agliotti (Netherlands, field hockey); Maartje Paumen (Netherlands, field hockey); Natalie Cook (Australia, beach volleyball); Alexandra Lacrabère (France, handball); Jessica Landström (Sweden, soccer); and Carole Péon (France, triathlon) and Jessica Harrison (France, triathlon).

There are 12,602 athletes competing in the Games. If just 1% of them were LGBT, that would be 126 athletes. Buzzfeed has a photo essay featuring all 14 out athletes.

It's crazy that Lisa Raymond is the only out LGBT tennis player. Hello, Samantha Stosur, Francesca "Frankie" Schiavone, and Feliciano Lopez?

One would think as more members of the Millennial generation are competing thetaboos about being an out athlete would start to diminish, but one has to remember that issues of national representation and commerce potentially play a role in this decision as well.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sally Ride, 1st U.S. (Lesbian) Woman In Space, Dies

Sally Ride was a role model for millions of women for her pioneering
 role in literally going where no woman had gone before
Sally Ride, one of the United States' most famous female scientists for becoming the first American woman to go into space (twice), died on Monday after a long fight with pancreatic cancer.

Of interest to the LGBT community is this quote from Ride's official obituary:
In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country. 
Ride was married to another astronaut, Stephen Hawley from 1982 to 1987. Ride considered Tam O'Shaughnessy her life partner for over 27 years, and O'Shaughnessy serves as the CEO of the company Ride founded, SallyRideScience.com.

It will be interesting to see how many of the press reports that cover the death of Sally Ride as an icon for American woman will also include information about Ride being an icon for the LGBT community.

WA: New Poll Worries Marriage Equality Supporters

A new poll of Washington's Referendum 74 on marriage equality is making local activists nervous because the results show a narrow lead for the good guys: 50% Approve, 43% Reject, 7% "Not Sure." With the experience of losing a marriage referendum in Maine in November 2009 despite public polls showing a small but persistent leads for supporters for marriage equality, activists now realize that unless stated support for marriage is around 55% or well above 50% including the margin of error means that these results out of Washington have marriage equality supporters gnashing their teeth:
This is not good. Going into an election with less than 55 percent support is considered a dicey gamble. But the poll released this week shows gay marriagedoesn't even have a majority of support, which means that opponents need only keep the 7 percent of undecided voters afraid and peel off a fraction of support to defeat the measure in November. And while other polls have shown it doing slightly better—ranging from 47 percent to 54 percent—all of them showlosing would be easy. After all, in Maine in 2009, marriage equality was narrowly leading in the polls before being defeated by a six-point margin on election day.
The margin of error in the SurveyUSA is ±4 points. It's still a long ways to election day, but this is a good wake-up call for activists who thought that defending Washington's marriage law would be relatively easy. The heterosexual supremacists who want to enforce their discriminatory view that same-sex couples should be denied access to civil marriage licenses will not go down with a fight.

PLEASE support Washington United for Marriage by donating here, I did!

Eye Candy: Sebastian Roy

Sebastian Roy is a 27-year-old model who was brought to my attention by ManifestMojo. His ModelMayhem page lists him a 5'10" and 172 pounds. He lives in  London and his pictures can also be found under the name "Sebastian Amoah." David Dust also has featured pictures  of Sebastian on his blog.

He is most definitely Eye Candy material and I hope to present him many more times on this blog!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Roddick Wins Atlanta; 23rd ATP Tour Title

Andy Roddick won his 32nd ATP tour title by defeating Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 1-6 7-6(2) 6-2. Roddick has won 11 of his 12 matches, and 2 of the last 3 tournaments he has played in, winning the Queen's Club title on grass the week before Wimbledon and now the Atlanta Open. These results may bode well for his next tournament, which is the London Olympics. There he will be playing doubles with John Isner, who he defeated in a very tough semifinal in Atlanta on Saturday night 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4.

Muller is the most accomplished player from his country and was playing in his 3rd career final (Roddick was playing in his 52nd) and although he led 6-1 he served very well (ended the match with more aces than Roddick) until things got tight in the second when Muller double faulted multiple times and his forehand went off and never returned before the match concluded with two breaks of his serve.

WATCH: Obama Welcomes 19th World AIDS Conf

This week, the 19th International AIDS Conference comes to the U.S. for the first time since 1990- thanks to bipartisan action by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and the Congress to lift the ban on people living with HIV entering the United States. Thirty thousand participants are expected to attend the world's largest HIV/AIDS conference.
The Obama Administration is taking action to turn the tide on HIV/AIDS by strengthening the scientific investments that have revolutionized prevention and care for people living with HIV. Under President Obama’s leadership, the Administration has increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels. We have launched the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States to prevent and treat HIV in America. Globally, the Obama Administration has committed to treating 6 million people by the end of 2013 and is increasing the impact and sustainability of our investments. Take a minute to watch President Obama's welcome video for conference attendees.
Welcome to DC!

STUDY: Racial Animus Fuels Voter ID Laws

One of the big stories of 2012 as the United States approaches the presidential election on November 6 has been what progressives like to call "the war on voting." It's pretty much an article of faith among most people who are not Republicans that our Democracy is strengthened if more people vote. However, in many states with a Republican majority in the legislature and a Republican governor (like Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida) due to the low-turnout 2010 elections, Republicans have passed "voter identification" (sometimes called "vote protection" laws by Republicans or "voter suppression" laws by Democrats) which appear to have the effect of reducing the number of people who will be allowed to cast a legal vote.

Voter ID Laws Have Disparate Impact On Racial Minorities
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has analyzed the impact of these voter identification laws on various racial groups, poor people and young people and the results are striking:
The 11 percent of eligible voters who lack the required photo ID must travel to a designated government office to obtain one. Yet many citizens will have trouble making this trip. In the 10 states with restrictive voter ID laws:
  • Nearly 500,000 eligible voters do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. Many of them live in rural areas with dwindling public transportation options.
  • More than 10 million eligible voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week.
  • 1.2 million eligible black voters and 500,000 eligible Hispanic voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. People of color are more likely to be disenfranchised by these laws since they are less likely to have photo ID than the general population.
  • Many ID-issuing offices maintain limited business hours. For example, the office in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. But only four months in 2012 — February, May, August, and October — have five Wednesdays. In other states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas — many part-time ID-issuing offices are in the rural regions with the highest concentrations of people of color and people in poverty.
More than 1 million eligible voters in these states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. These voters may be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. By comparison, the notorious poll tax — outlawed during the civil rights era — cost $10.64 in current dollars.
A poll tax by any other name is still a poll tax (and is therefore just as unconstitutional)!

Joan McCarter at DailyKos points out that the suppressive effect on the voting rights of these constituencies, all of whom tend to vote more prevalently for Democrats than Republicans, is precisely what the people who passed the laws intended.

Voter ID Laws Are Fueled By Racial Animus
One interesting question is what is fueling the drive for voter identification laws now and another academic study has analyzed that question and come to a conclusion (that is unsurprising to some) that it involves racism.

The University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication recently conducted a national survey of American voters to discover what kind of voters support voter identification laws and demonstrated that support for the measures is highly correlated with racial resentment, regardless of party affiliation.

In fact, while most Republicans and conservatives strongly support voter identification laws regardless of their level of racial resentment, it is Democrats and liberals who have more racial resentment that are more likely to support voter identification laws.
The survey reveals strong partisan and ideological divisions on racial resentment [see Figure]. Republicans and conservatives have the highest “racial resentment” scores, and Democrats and liberals have the lowest; Independents and moderates are in the middle. In addition, Democrats and liberals are least supportive of voter ID laws, whereas Republicans and conservatives are most supportive. The link between “racial resentment” and support for such laws persists even after controlling for the effects of partisanship, ideology, and a range of demographic variables.
Read the last sentence again. Regardless of partisanship (Republican or Democrat) or ideology (conservative or liberal) or other demographics, people who support voter identification laws are correlated with people who harbor racial resentment. There's also the matter-of-fact reporting that Republicans and conservatives have the highest levels of racial resentment; it is not just partisanship which animates the Right's energetic efforts to replace the first black Democratic president.

Hopefully, federal courts who are considering challenges to these voter identification laws in places like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania (which "just happen" to be the swing states where the outcome of the 2012 presidential election may be decided) will also consider the unconstitutional disparate racial impact of these laws as well as the evidence that that they are fueled by unconstitutional racial animus.

Our nation's democratic tradition is one of the wonders of the modern world, but it is vulnerable to partisan manipulation, especially in a close election, because all one has to do is produce a disturbance or perturbation which either (more likely) suppresses voter turnout of your opposition or enhances voter turnout of your supporters on Election Day to swing an election in your favor. Once Election Day is over, it's over and the results will stand, even if those results were tainted by partisan trickery. And once a group is able to achieve a result that does not reflect what the majority of voters actually intended (some would argue that this already has happened!) it is basically the end of our nation's democratic tradition.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

REPORT: AIDS is Devastating U.S. Black Gay Men

A new report from the Black AIDS Institute titled "Back of the Line: The State of AIDS among Black Gay Men in America 2012" documents the devastating impact that AIDS has had, and continues to have, on Black gay men in the United States.

From the Executive Summary:
Accounting for one in 500 people living in the U.S., Black MSM make up nearly one in four new HIV infections and one in six Americans living with HIV. Black MSM represent 9% of all MSM in the U.S., but account for 38% of new infections among MSM. In New York City, Black MSM are 325 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than heterosexual Black males. Nationally, HIV prevalence among Black MSM is roughly double the prevalence among white MSM. Although AIDS is a nationwide crisis for Black MSM, evidence indicates that the problem is especially severe in the South, where new cases are rising most rapidly. 
HIV represents a lifetime challenge for Black MSM. Among young men ages 13-24, Black MSM are 14 times more likely to test HIV-positive than white MSM. One in four Black MSM are already infected with HIV by the time they reach age 25. By age 40, 60% of Black MSM are living with HIV.
What's nice about the report that in addition to documenting the problem, it also provides suggestions for addressing the issue, calling for a series of recommendations:
  1. Demonstrate leadership in the fight against AIDS for Black MSM
  2. Achieve saturation HIV testing among Black MSM
  3. Maximize the preventive and therapeutic benefits of antiretroviral therapy
  4. Dramatically reduce STDs among Black MSM
  5. Introduce pre-exposure prophylaxis
  6. Effectively target Black MSM with high-impact prevention
  7. Build sustainable community capacity
  8. Develop new prevention tools for Black MSM
  9. Implement a national plan to reduce the vulnerability of Black MSM
The report summarizes these recommendations into three priority steps that should be taken immediately:
Develop a national plan to end AIDS among Black MSM. As one of its highest priorities, Health and Human Services should immediately spearhead an inclusive process—involving relevant federal agencies (e.g., CDC, HRSA, CMS, Office of Minority Health, SAMHSA), Black MSM, Black and LGBT leaders, the philanthropic and private sectors, and state and local health departments—to develop a clear, results-driven national plan to end the epidemic among Black MSM

Exert genuine, sustained leadership in the fight against AIDS among Black MSM. Diverse non-governmental actors must recognize both that AIDS remains a severe and worsening crisis among Black MSM and that government alone cannot turn the tide against AIDS

Combat homophobia and other social challenges faced by Black MSM. Governmental and non-governmental actors must join together with Black MSM to address the root causes of Black MSM’s vulnerability to HIV and the factors that diminish health care access.
The 19th International AIDS Conference begins in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. Although President Obama will not be attending the event in person, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will. Let's hope she has something to say which addresses these issues. Additionally, the Obama Administration just recently announced that it is releasing $80 million in federal funds which will effectively eradicate all waiting lists on state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP), allowing access to life-saving anti-retroviral medication to everyone in the United States who needs it.

Things are looking up...

Hat/tip to Rod 2.0

Saturday Politics: CA Ballot Propositions Preview

These are the qualified ballot measures California voters will be considering on November 6, 2012, thanks to Calitics:

Proposition 30              Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. The Governor's Tax Measure would bring in billions of dollars for education and public services.
Proposition 31              State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. Restricts the budgeting process to a "pay as you go" formula through an unnecessarily strict and inflexible process
Proposition 32              Prohibits Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Prohibitions on Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute. Right-wing attempt to go after labor, yet again. We've said no twice already, we need to say NO, NO, NO!
Proposition 33              Changes Law to Allow Auto Insurance Companies to Set Prices Based on a Driver's History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute. Mercury Insurance measure to change loyalty discounts.
Proposition 34              Death Penalty Repeal. Initiative Statute Repeals death penalty.
Proposition 35              Human Trafficking. Penalties. Sex Offender Registration. Initiative Statute. Former AG candidate Chris Kelly helped to get this on the ballot, it would further strengthen laws against sex offenders.
Proposition 36              Three Strikes Law. Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders. Initiative Statute. Reforms wasteful 3 strikes sentencing measure.
Proposition 37              Genetically Engineered Foods. Mandatory Labeling. Initiative Statute. Would require labeling of GMOs.
Proposition 38              Tax for Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute. Munger tax initiative dedicated to public education. Flat income tax boost.
Proposition 39              Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute. Changes a tax provision of a budget from a few years back. Would use revenue to fund clean energy projects.
Proposition 40              Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum. GOP temper tantrum gone awry. Could invalidate the State Senate Maps.

The above comments on the propositions were made by Brian Leubitz. Generally, I agree with Brian's views on the propositions, and will probably be voting YES on 30, 34, 35, 36, 37 and NO on 31, 32, 33, 38 and 39.

What about you?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nadal Withdraws From 2012 London Olympics!

Rafael Nadal won the gold medal in the men's singles
competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
The tennis world is still in shock today after 2008 Beijing Olympic Men's Singles champion Rafael Nadal announced that he was withdrawing from the men's singles competition at the 2012 London Olympics to be held on grass at the famed All-England Lawn Tennis Club (the site of the Wimbledon Championships).

Sports Illustrated reports:

The third-ranked Nadal said Thursday he wasn't in condition to compete at the Olympic tennis tournament - which also will be held at Wimbledon. 
"This is one of the saddest moments of my career," Nadal said in a statement. "I have to think about my companions, I can't be selfish and I have to think of what's best for Spanish sport, especially tennis and Spanish players, and give fellow sportsmen with better preparation the chance to compete. 
"I tried to hurry my preparations and training to the very last minute, but it was not to be." 
The 26-year-old Spaniard has won two Wimbledon titles and claimed gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 
"You can imagine how difficult it was to take this decision," he said. 
Nadal had been the last of the four singles finalists from 2008 in the London Olympics. Men's silver medal winner Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who Nadal beat in straight sets in Beijing, and women's finalists Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina of Russia, will also be missing from the London Games.

World #2 Novak Djokovic claimed Bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and World #1 Roger Federer won the Men's Doubles gold medal with Stanslas Wawrinka but has stated one of his main goals is to complete "the Career Golden Slam" by winning a gold medal in singles. Federer won his 7th Wimbledon title two weeks ago and must be considered the favorite to repeat that win his first Olympic Men's Singles gold medal since the tournament will be played on the same surface at the same venue starting on July 28th.

Nadal will be replaced by the pulchritudinous Feliciano Lopez, World #30, on the Spanish Olympic Men's tennis team.

OPM: Federal Same-Sex DP Benefits Extend To Kids

Good news from the Obama Administration today! The Office of Personnel Management, basically the Human Resources Office for the entire nearly 2 million strong federal workforce, announced a federal regulation change today which would extend the popular aspect of the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as ObamaCare) that allows children under 26 years old to be added to their parents' health plans to include federal employees in same-sex domestic partnerships.

The proposed rule isn’t expected to have a significant economic impact because it only adds additional groups to the list of groups eligible for coverage under the federal health care system. 
As part of the proposed rule change, federal health program regulations would be amended so that if a federal employee doesn’t establish that insuring their partner’s child qualifies for favorable tax treatment under applicable tax laws, the employee can be taxed on the fair market value of the coverage. As part of the process for seeking comments, OPM is specifically seeking input on how the fair market value might be calculated for different plans, including, for example, a high deductible health plan with a health reimbursement arrangement. 
The proposed rule change means the children of same-sex partners of federal employees would have access to benefits unavailable to the same-sex partners themselves. The Obama administration has said it cannot extend major benefits — health and pension benefits — to the same-sex partners of federal employees because of the Defense of Marriage Act. Legislation that would extend those benefits, called the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, was reported out of the Senate committee of jurisdiction in May, but hasn’t yet come to a floor vote.

This is excellent news! Congratulations to the Family Equality Council who had been working on this change for nearly a year to getting it announced and presumably enacted soon.


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