Monday, May 31, 2010

FRENCH OPEN 2010: Men's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2010.

Roger Federer SUI (1) vs. Robin Soderling SWE (5). This quarterfinal is a repeat of last year's final, which Federer won relatively easily in straight sets. Although Soderling has not beaten Federer in an official ATP Tour match in 12 tries, he did beat the World #1 at an exhibition earlier this year in Abu Dhabi and having beaten Rafael Nadal in what some people call the greatest upset ever, the tall, powerful Swede knows he has the game to end Federer's jawdropping streak of 23 consecutive major semifinals. In fact, this match is very important to Federer, not only due to the semifinals streak, but also because he needs to win it in order to be certain that he will break Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks at #1 before Wimbledon. Federer has yet to drop a set in Paris this year, but I am sure that he will take the challenge posed by Soderling seriously, even though the 6'4", 195-pound ballcrusher has only ever won two tie-break sets against him. After all, it is very possible to never lose your serve and still lose the match! Some say that Federer is losing his edge now that he is a husband, father and broken the major singles title record. I disagree, even though the fact that Federer has already lost 6 matches this year (to Nadal, Tomas Berdych, Ernests Gulbis, Marcos Baghdatis, Albert Montanes, and Nikolay Davydenko). Regardless, I think that there is an inexorable march towards another Nadal-Federer final. PREDICTION: Federer in 4 sets.

Tomas Berdych CZE (15) vs. Mikhail Youzhny RUS (11). Berdych has been playing really well this year, and made a huge mental breakthrough by finally ending his losing streak against Roger Federer earlier this year in Miami. He has been demolishing his way through the draw, not dropping a set despite playing good clay court players like John Isner and Andy Murray. Youzhny got lucky in the previous round since an injured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to retire after losing the first set. Although head-to-head Youzhny leads Berdych 6-4 in career ATP matches, I believe the in-form Czech will take out the (un)lucky Russian. PREDICTION: Berdych in 4 sets.

Jurgen Melzer AUT (22) Teimuraz Gabashvili RUS vs. Novak Djokovic SRB (3). Gabashvili blew Andy Roddick off the court in the 3rd round in straight sets, blasting forehands into the corners of the court and defly handing the American's deflated serve easily. However, he was unable to repeat this performance on the clay against the wily lefty veteran Melzer, who like Samantha Stosur on the women's side, had previously experienced success and fame on the doubles court and used that to build confidence on the singles court. Melzer was one of the few Top 30 players never to reach the fourth round of a major, and now he finds himself in a quarter playing Djokovic. The World #3 has had mental lapses in the second set in three of the four matches he has played at Roland Garros this year. If that happens again, perhaps Melzer can find a way to win the resulting best-of-3 match. All the pressure will be on the higher ranked player to reach a 3rd semifinal against Nadal, who took out the Serb in that round in 2007 and 2008. Roland Garros 2010 is looking like a replay of those years, with another Nadal-Federer final. PREDICTION:Djokovic in 4 sets.

Nicolas Almagro ESP (19) Fernando Verdasco ESP (7)vs.Rafael Nadal ESP (2). The Verdasco and Nadal played one of the best matches of the year (probably of the decade) in the semifinals of the 2009 Australian Open, a five-hour, thrilling slugfest that both competitors were ennobled simply by their participation, although of course there was only one winner (Nadal). Almagro dashed hopes for a reprise of that thrilling Melbourne showdown by taking out Verdasco in four sets. Although Almagro has never beaten Nadal on any surface in 6 attempts, he did start off the match very strong when they played the Madrid Masters semifinal. It is beyond belief that Almagro could maintain that level of play over 5 sets in Paris when he could not do it for 2 sets in Madrid. PREDICTION: Nadal in 3 sets.

FRENCH OPEN 2010: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at Roland Garros this year.

Serena Williams USA (1) vs. Samantha Stosur AUS (7) Justine Henin BEL (22). For the second year in a row, the winner of the tournament will be decided in the quarterfinal in which Serena Williams competes. Last year, Serena lost a nervy, tension-filled (frankly, ugly) quarterfinal match to eventual champion, Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. This year instead of playing the 4-time Roland Garros champion Henin (who had a 24-match winning streak since Tathiana Garbin beat the 2003 defending champion in the second round at this tournament in 2004) Serena will face last year's semifinalist Samantha Stosur. The Serena-Justine showdown had been the most anticipated match on either side of the draw, even in a section of the draw called the "quarter of death" by Brad Gilbert. However, thanks to the hard-hitting, brilliant-serving Sam Stosur, that storyline is now dismissed from the tournament. Serena and Sam have only played four times (all on hard courts) with Stosur winning once, in Stanford last year. Serena is a woman on a mission, and will not be denied her chance to reach another Roland Garros final. PREDICTION: Serena in 3 sets.

Yaroslava Shvedova KAZ vs. Jelena Jankovic SRB (4). Surely Jelena Jankovic is too strong a defensive player to go through her entire career without winning a major? She made it to the 2008 U.S. Open final (losing to Serena in two close sets) but I believe that it is clay where her particular skills should be rewarded the most. Following that first major final Jankovic fell into a major downward spiral (although not as precipitous a decline as her Serbian countrywoman Ana Ivanovic, who although she possesses the 2008 French Open title still does not own a reliable second (or first) serve.) Jankovic has played well on clay this year, having beaten both Williams sisters on her way to the Rome final (which she lost). She should seize on the good fortune of not being in the "quarter of death" and sneak into her second major final. PREDICTION: Jankovic in 2 sets.

Francesca Schiavone ITA (17) vs. Caroline Wozniacki DEN (3). Wozniacki can regain the World #2 ranking by getting to the final, although I suspect her current Italian opponent and future Russian opponent will do their best to help maintain Venus Williams' hold on that position. This is the veteran Schiavone's 4th career quarterfinal, her second in Paris since reaching that lofty height in her debut at the tournament in 2001. The young Dane had never been past the 4th round of a major despite being on the tour for 3 years until her major breakthrough in New York (over Svetlana Kuznetsova in one of the very best matches of 2009) last year, where she lost the final to Kim Clijsters. In these clashes between wily veteran and talented youngster it is often the older player who comes out the loser because they more viscerally understand the significance (and rarity) of the moment and I expect this case to be no different. Youth will be served, again. PREDICTION:Wozniacki in 2 sets.

Elena Dementieva RUS (5) vs. Nadia Petrova RUS (19) Venus Williams USA (2). Oh, Venus! After getting past her 3rd Round Roland Garros jinx easily she meekly went out to the hard-hitting, mentally fragile Petrova on a cold wet day in straight sets, losing to someone she had never lost to on any surface. Sigh. Soon to turn 30 years-old, and for once blessed with a draw that had all the deadliest players in the other half for once, Venus couldn't keep it together long enough to make another deep run at the clay major, despite having amassed a very good record on clay this year. Petrova has always done well in Paris, first breaking through here at age 17 into the semifinals in 2003. Her opponent, Elena Dementieva, has quietly snuck through the draw, losing only one set in a tiebreak to Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada, with almost no one discussing her chances despite being a finalist here in 2004 and having played the best women's match on tour last year. Matches between the Russians are very often hideous, very tight affairs with one player losing worse than the other instead of one player winning decisively. That's what I expect to see in this match. Head-to-head there's not much between these two, they are tied 7-7 in career matches, 2-2 in clay court matches and 1-1 in grand slam matches. Petrova has won exactly 2 major quarterfinal matches before, here in Paris, while the 6-month-older Dementieva has won 8 major quarterfinals, although only one in Paris. PREDICTION: Dementieva in 3 sets.

Eye Candy: Anthony Gallo (reprise)

Hat/tip to Hoodsworld for these shots of one of my favorite Eye Candy models ever: Anthony Gallo. The mixed-race (Black and Italian) model has been featured here before, but definitely deserves to join the short list of beautiful men who have been repeat features.

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

WATCH: Trailer for "8: The Mormon Proposition"

Hat/tip to WonderMan

FRENCH OPEN 2010: Venus Stunned By Petrova

Nadia Petrova took out World #2 Venus Williams 6-4 6-3 in the fourth round of the French Open today. World #1 Serena Williams recovered from experiencing dizziness against 18-year-old Anastasia Pavyluchenkova to win in 3-sets 6-1 1-6 6-2 to make the 4th round.

In other results, Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin played a taut, high-quality match in which ended at 1-set all on Saturday and then resumed on Sunday. The third set started with Sharapova leading 2-0 and 40-0 on Henin's serve, but the diminutive Belgian managed to hold serve there and break Sharapova twice for a 4-2 lead. Sharapova struck back and had a point to even the match at 4-all when Henin again managed to win three points in a row to break for 5-3and served out the match easily to win 6-2 3-6 6-3.

If Serena and Justine get through their next match (against Shahar Peer and Samantha Stosur) they will meet in the most anticipated quarterfinal of the tournament (in either draw). The other quarterfinal will feature the winner of Jelena Jankovic and Daniela Hantuchova.

The other half of the quartfinalists are set: Elena Dementieva versus Petrova, Caroline Wozniacki versus Francesco Schiavone. One of these four will make it to the 2010 Roland Garros women's final. Who will it be?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Malawi Gay Couple Pardoned By President

Good news from Malawi! The President of the country has pardoned the same-sex couple who had been convicted and sentenced to fourteen years hard labor for committing "gross indecency and unnatural acts."

The story from The Guardian

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were tried and found guilty of sodomy and indecency earlier this month in a move that sparked international condemnation.

But after talking with Ban today, Malawi's president, Bingu wa Mutharika, announced the pair would be freed.

"These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws," he said after the meeting, at the southern African country's State House. "However, as the head of state, I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.

"I have done this on humanitarian grounds, but this does not mean that I support this."

He added: "We don't condone marriages of this nature. It's unheard of in Malawi and it's illegal."

Ban praised the decision, but said: "It is unfortunate that laws criminalise people based on sexuality. Laws that criminalise sexuality should be repealed."

The White House Press Secrtary released a statement on the action:
"The White House is pleased to learn of President Bingu wa Mutharika's pardon of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. These individuals were not criminals and their struggle is not unique. We must all recommit ourselves to ending the persecution and criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. We hope that President Mutharika's pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country's history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe."
Hat/tip to Rod 2.0.

Friday, May 28, 2010

President Obama Proclaims June LGBT Pride Month

President Barack Obama issued his second annual Presidential Proclamation of June as LGBT Pride Month today:

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 28, 2010
- - - - - - -
As Americans, it is our birthright that all people are created equal and deserve the same rights, privileges, and opportunities. Since our earliest days of independence, our Nation has striven to fulfill that promise. An important chapter in our great, unfinished story is the movement for fairness and equality on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. This month, as we recognize the immeasurable contributions of LGBT Americans, we renew our commitment to the struggle for equal rights for LGBT Americans and to ending prejudice and injustice wherever it exists.

LGBT Americans have enriched and strengthened the fabric of our national life. From business leaders and professors to athletes and first responders, LGBT individuals have achieved success and prominence in every discipline. They are our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, and our friends and neighbors. Across my Administration, openly LGBT employees are serving at every level. Thanks to those who came before us -- the brave men and women who marched, stood up to injustice, and brought change through acts of compassion or defiance -- we have made enormous progress and continue to strive for a more perfect union.

My Administration has advanced our journey by signing into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which strengthens Federal protections against crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation. We renewed the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides life-saving medical services and support to Americans living with HIV/AIDS, and finally eliminated the HIV entry ban. I also signed a Presidential Memorandum directing hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds to give LGBT patients the compassion and security they deserve in their time of need, including the ability to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions.

In other areas, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a series of proposals to ensure core housing programs are open to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. HUD also announced the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has created a National Resource Center for LGBT Elders.

Much work remains to fulfill our Nation's promise of equal justice under law for LGBT Americans. That is why we must give committed gay couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. We must protect the rights of LGBT families by securing their adoption rights, ending employment discrimination against LGBT Americans, and ensuring Federal employees receive equal benefits. We must create safer schools so all our children may learn in a supportive environment. I am also committed to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so patriotic LGBT Americans can serve openly in our military, and I am working with the Congress and our military leadership to accomplish that goal.

As we honor the LGBT Americans who have given so much to our Nation, let us remember that if one of us is unable to realize full equality, we all fall short of our founding principles. Our Nation draws its strength from our diversity, with each of us contributing to the greater whole. By affirming these rights and values, each American benefits from the further advancement of liberty and justice for all.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2010 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-eighth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


# # #
Happy Pride, everyone!

House Passes DADT Repeal Amendment 234-194

Following the 16-12 vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the United States House of Representatives voted to give power to the executive branch to determine whether the anti-gay Don't Ask Don't Tell policy will be repealed.

The President issued a statement supporting the legislative action:
I have long advocated that we repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, and I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight. Key to successful repeal will be the ongoing Defense Department review, and as such I am grateful that the amendments offered by Representative Patrick Murphy and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Carl Levin that passed today will ensure that the Department of Defense can complete that comprehensive review that will allow our military and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process. Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief. This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.
There are many people who are not happy with this compromise action, and Pam Spaulding does a good job of summarizing the various camps:
1) The don't-know-enoughs: They only get information in drips and drabs, so they have no idea of the details of the votes or the compromise. They believe it's repealed, the discharges stop ASAP; some are open to receiving more info to clarify their view. Others find a boatload of information just too taxing to deal with right now...Glee is on the DVR. Next topic...

2) The "it's all a lie" crowd: The compromise is a complete sham and betrayal of those serving in silence. Anything coming out of the press releases lauding the vote is skimming over the ugly truth. The MSM is making it all worse, and there's anger about how easily the progressives are fooled and don't dig deep to see the injustice that will continue. You can't trust the orgs, the admin, the Pentagon or Congress. A vein might explode.

3) The "rose-colored glasses" peeps: This is the start of something good, DADT repeal was rescued from a certain death; the Obama admin and the Pentagon will do right by those in the closet in the military in short order (as in before 2010 ends). They don't like to hear criticism about the process, the LGBT groups, the Admin, or Congress. Criticism is not useful; it's all about calling your representatives on the Hill alone as the best course of action. There is no back-channel political activity or political infighting to consider that affects the process.

4) The cross-fingered pragmatists: The people who thought this was going to be totally FUBAR, but realized that in the late stages of the game, this was the best option we had and it's really not a good one at all for those directly affected by DADT. They believe that the system worked, albeit imperfectly, and that all parties -- the LGBT groups, the activists, Congress and the WH did what they thought was right to get it done.

5) The "system is broken" people: These folks are convinced that this whole process was screwed, and if ENDA is to have any chance of success, the whole LGBT establishment needs to take a hard look at what did and didn't work in this process. The messy end result didn't have to be that way, and it's clear that the Beltway process of achieving results is too laden in personal politics that supplant the larger goal of civil equality. These folks, however, don't exactly have a plan on how to fix it.

6) The everyone else-is-a-black-and-white-thinker crowd: These folks are the shoot-first, think-later people who believe they alone are capable of nuanced thinking and are filled with political sophistication. Other people are incapable of this of course, and are stuck in one mode of thinking without consideration of shades of gray in an issue. The everyone else-is-a-black-and-white-thinker person already knows what you might have to say about an issue, even to the point of ignoring actual statements that don't fit their perceived mode. So this results in endless threads/tweets of irrelevant discussion.
I think I would fall in somewhere between Groups #3 and #4: the "rose-colored glasses peeps" and the "cross-fingered pragmatist" crowd. I do think this is the best that could have been achieved with the lily-livered Democrats we have in the Senate. I strongly dispute Pam's suggestion that the process should not be criticized; it's clear that there's a lot of backchannel activity going on (between the LGBT orgs and the Obama administration) that a lot of us do not know about. However, I am a pragmatist, and I would rather see some progress than none. Any day that the national legislature has to go on record in either voting pro-gay or anti-gay and the pro-gay forces win the day, that's a good day for us, in the long run.

Which group do YOU fall into?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

DADT Repeal Passes Senate Committee 16-12

The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted 16-12 to attach the Lieberman-Levin Amendment MadProfessah discussed earlier to the National Defense Authorization Act today.

The roll call vote was:

Carl Levin (D-Michigan)
Robert C. Byrd (D-West Virginia)
Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Connecticut)
Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island)
Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii)
Bill Nelson (D-Florida)
Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska)
Evan Bayh (D-Indiana)
Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)
Mark Udall (D-Colorado)
Kay R. Hagan (D-North Carolina)
Mark Begich (Alaska)
Roland W. Burris (Illinois)
Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico)
Edward E. Kaufman (Delaware)
Susan M. Collins (R-Maine)


Jim Webb (D-Virginia)
John McCain (R-Arizona)
James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)
Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)
Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia)
Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)
John Thune (R-South Dakota)
Roger F. Wicker (R-Mississippi)
George S. LeMieux (R-Florida)
Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts)
Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)
The amendment only needed 15 votes (out of 28) to pass. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a similar amendment offered by Patrick Murphy (D-PA) either tonight or Friday.

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Who Played With Fire

The sequel to Stieg Larsson's amazing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is The Girl Who Played with Fire.

As I mentioned in my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the book was nearly impossible to put down. It's sequel is even more addictive. The third book in what is now being called the Millenium series was released on Tuesday May 25th and is called The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

The first book really doesn't treat Lisbeth Salander as the main character, even though she is clearly the title character. The second book is clearly all about Lisbeth Salander. The book begins with her, the plot centers around her back story and the book ends with her.

There is another mystery in Fire, of course; this time it's a brutal double murder of a couple that occurs the same night (probably in the same hour) as the torture-murder of someone who had abused Lisbeth.

The reader's loyalties are severely tested--could the hyper-intelligent, violent, socially unaware, sexually ambiguous, titular Girl also be a murderer? Mikael Blomkvist, the true main character from Tattoo, returns and is basically the only one who believes in Lisbeth's innocence after she becomes Sweden's #1 Most Wanted criminal, blasted on the front page of every media outlet in the country.

Another interesting feature of Fire is that it includes the internal details of the police investigation to solve the double murder as well as an inside view on the manhunt to track down Lisbeth.

The resolution of the mysteries are skillfully done and by the end of the book we find out a lot more about Lisbeth, especially her family background. But to get there the reader is taken on a nail-bitingly suspenseful ride which is well worth the price of admission: cracking open the book.

Stieg Larsson.
Title: The Girl Who Played with Fire.
Paperback: 656 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition.
Date Published: March 23, 2009.



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

National Support For Marriage Equality At 44%

Gallup has released a new poll which shows that opposition to marriage equality has fallen slightly, but is still a majority position in the United States, nationally.
These results are based on Gallup's Values and Beliefs Poll, which has tracked attitudes toward legal same-sex marriage annually since 2004. When Gallup first asked about the legality of gay marriage in a 1996 poll, 68% of Americans were opposed and 27% in favor.

Since that time, support has increased among the major political and ideological subgroups, though more among those on the left of the political spectrum than among those on the right. Currently, a majority of Democrats favor legal gay marriage, as do a majority of moderates and liberals, with liberals the most supportive of these groups, at 70%.


Over time, Americans have become more accepting of legal same-sex marriage, and a growing number of subgroups now show majority support for it. However, religious and conservative segments of the U.S. population remain largely opposed -- even though their support for gay marriage has also increased in recent years. Because religious and conservative groups are larger than nonreligious and left-leaning groups in the United States, overall, more Americans remain opposed to, rather than in favor of, same-sex marriage.
The rate of increase in support for marriage equality from 1996 to 2010 has not been uniform among sub-groups, of course. Moderate voters have had the largest increase in support (24 points, to 56%), with conservatives having the smallest (11 points, to 25%).

The poll was conducted May 3-6,2010 off 1,029 adults 18 years or older using random-digit dialing. It has a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Thoughts on LOST Finale

The Simpsons and Lost: Two great tastes that taste great together! There are a lot of thoughts going to be posted on the finale of Lost in the next few hours, days and weeks. In fact, there are a lot of reactions out there on the web already, mostly positive, but not all.

It was clearly, an excellent episode of television, cinematic in its scope, production and ambition and largely worked on these levels. But, Lost has always been a show that works on miltiple levels, a palimpsest of sort. One of the most obvious different levels of analysis of the text that is Lost is from the perspective of a character-driven narrative versus a plot-driven narrative. All meaningful entertainment has to have both, of course.

I would argue that the finale of Lost was more geared towards satisfying the viewers interested in character than plot (not that there's anything wrong with that!)

However, as a finale to a complex, popular and critically acclaimed television series it was not as satisfying as HBO's Six Feet Under's conclusion, but this is not surprising since the two shows were very different. But even if one tries to compare the finale of Lost to the seminal final episodes of other television series like SyFy's Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, HBO's The Wire, J.J. Abrams' own Alias I would say that Lost's outshone all of them with the possible exception of The Wire.

So, while there was a lot more about the episode that I like than disliked, here are the main issues I had with the finale:
  1. Two words: Dharma Initiative. There was no explanation about how the Dharma Initiative was founded, and what it's goals were. The producers did explain the creation of the stations all over the island during the series but there was never revealed a "grand unified theory" explaining what Dharma was all about and what they were trying to do with the Island.
  2. Walt. In Season 2 and 3, a lot of the plot revolved around The Others and their obsession with kids and the mystery of why women who got pregnant on the island would die. This issue was never resolved in the series.
  3. The egyptian statue of Taweret. There never was an explanation of why the oldest parts of the island have hieroglyphics everywhere and why they made a 200-foot statue of the Egyptian fertility god. I am glad they explained how the four-toed statue got there, but it is very disappointing that was all we got.
There are more questions, but these are the main ones that come to mind right now.

Another thought I had is that people are saying that the last image of Lost was that of Jack's eye closing (as he dies) which is a nice symmetry to the very first image of Lost which is of Jack's eye opening, but really the last image was of wreckage on the beach. If that is the wreckage of Oceanic 815, what time period does it belong to? 2007, three years after the crash and just seconds after Jack dies, or is it years in the future, or is it showing us that everyone died and there were no survivors (that was my initial thought but I have rejected that possibility becomes it nullifies all the action of the entire series as basically being a figment of Jack's imagination).

What do you think?

UPDATE 07:17pm 05/25/2010:
Apparently the images of wreckage shown during the credits were not part of Damon Lindelof and Darlton Cuse's script for the show and were added by ABC television executives worried about a harsh transition to the news. (hat/tip LA TIMES ShowTracker)

DADT Repeal Language Revealed; Support at 78%

An update on the legislative compromise reached yesterday between the Obama administration and LGBT groups. The language of the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which would authorize the repeal of"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" but delay implementation until next year has been revealed.

CNN is reporting that nearly 8 out of 10 Americans support repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell and allowing openly gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in the military.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that 78 percent of the public supports allowing openly gay people to serve in the military, with one in five opposed.

"Support is widespread, even among Republicans. Nearly six in ten Republicans favor allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "There is a gender gap, with 85 percent of women and 71 percent of men favoring the change, but support remains high among both groups."
Hopefully this poll will give wavering members of the U.S. Senate Armed Forces the political cover they feel the need to vote to end this discriminatory policy. However, there are members of the LGBT community who are disappointed.

Richard Socarides, a former adviser on LGBT issues to President Clinton, released a statement, saying:
"I know we are all thrilled tonight that there may be a break in the logjam over DADT legislation. And it is always important to keep focused on the art of the possible. This has been a long fight and it is not over.
"I am concerned, however, that the bill released tonight is being mis-characterized. I was expecting to see a bill providing for repeal of DADT now with delayed implementation. As far as I can tell, the proposed legislation instead makes repeal conditional on a future discretionary certification which may or may not occur.
"It may be the best we can get, and if so, I say let's grab it. But it is not repeal with delayed implementation. It's conditional future repeal."
I agree. I think that any compromise should include a moratorium on kicking out and processing discharges until the Department of Defense report comes back on December 1, 2010.

Monday, May 24, 2010

White House, DOD, LGBT Groups Endorse DADT Repeal Method

There is breaking news out of Washington that the White House and Defense Department have agreed to endorse an amendment to be added to this year's 2010 National Defense Authorization Act which would pass Congress this year and make progress towards repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Pennsylvania U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy which endorses his legislative strategy of attaching repeal language to the Defense Department authorization bill this week.

Here's the letter:
0524 Rep Murphy
The vote on legislative language would occur this year, but it's effect would be delayed beyond the December 1, 2010 release date of the Pentagon's report on the implications of letting openly gay and lesbian soldiers serve in the U.S. armed forces. Then, pending certification by The Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chief of Staff that repeal would not negatively impact the military's ability to conduct it's primary mission, DADT repeal could proceed in 2011.

There are multiple press releases from LGBT organizations endorsing the demolition of the legislative roadblock to repeal.

Human Rights Campaign:
WASHINGTON – The ban on open military service by lesbian and gay Americans is on a path to repeal this week with the White House, Pentagon leaders and Congress outlining a process that includes votes in the House and Senate as early as Thursday. Legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be considered as amendments to the National Defense Authorization bill – the same vehicle by which the law was enacted 17 years ago. The Obama administration endorsed the approach today in a letter to Congressional leaders from Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

"We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Today’s announcement paves the path to fulfill the President’s call to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year and puts us one step closer to removing this stain from the laws of our nation."

The proposal would allow Congress to vote to repeal the current DADT law now with implementation to follow upon completion of the Pentagon Working Group study due December 1, 2010. The President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs would need to certify that implementation policies and regulations are prepared and that they are consistent with standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention. The plan therefore addresses concerns expressed by the Pentagon that the implementation study process be respected.

“Without a repeal vote by Congress this year, the Pentagon’s hands are tied and the armed forces will be forced to continue adhering to the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” said Solmonese. “A solution has emerged: Congress needs to vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ now.”

The leadership of Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Penn. along with the White House, has been critical to setting the stage for these votes.
Servicemembers United:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, commended the announcement today that the administration will now support an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law this year. The proposed amendment would include a delayed implementation provision that would not allow repeal to take effect until the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group completed its nine-month implementation management study and until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified that the military is ready to implement repeal smoothly.

"This announcement from the White House today is long awaited, much needed, and immensely helpful as we enter a critical phase of the battle to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law," said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "We have been making the case to White House staff for more than a year now that delayed implementation is realistic, politically viable, and the only way to get the defense community on board with repeal, and we are glad to see the community and now the administration and defense leadership finally rally around this option."

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, passed in 1993 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, has resulted in the abrupt firing of more than 14,000 men and women because of their sexual orientation, and has led tens of thousands more to voluntarily terminate their careers because of the burden of serving under this outdated law. There are an estimated 66,000 gays, lesbians, and bisexuals currently serving in the U.S. military and an estimated 1 million gay, lesbian, and bisexual veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

For more information about Servicemembers United, please visit For the latest information on discharge numbers, polling, statistics, studies, and other archival and reference information related to the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' issue, please visit
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN):

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.

“If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months. This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.

“We would not have reached this moment without the leadership and commitment of our allies on the Hill – Senators Joe Lieberman and Carl Levin, and Congressman Patrick Murphy; they all worked tirelessly to get us this far.

“For the upcoming votes in the House and Senate to succeed, it is critical that all proponents for full repeal weigh in now. The blogosphere and activists have been admirably pressing for full repeal this year and we are grateful for their help. Everyone in support of repeal needs to continue contacting their Members of Congress and ask for the vote.”
Looks encouraging so far. To me this process looks reasonable since it allows President Obama to say that he is following commitments that he has made to both constituencies here (military brass and DADT repeal activists).

I'm sure there are other LGBT activists who will not be happy that openly gay and lesbian servicemembers will not necessarily be able to start serving this year. I do think that a moratorium on kicking out openly LGB soldiers as well as a deletion of the military principle that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service" should be included in the language that Congress votes on, but as of right now, actual legislative language has not been released, but the vote in the U.S. Senate Armed Service Committed is Thursday May 27th.

Eye Candy: Manolo Gonzalez

Manolo Gonzalez is an underwear model for Timoteo, as well as a photographic model. And now he's today example of Eye Candy. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lost Series Finale Tonight

Today is the final episode of Lost. Starting at 7pm there is a 2-hour summary of the first 6 seasons (skewed towards the final season) and then there's a 2-1/2 hour final episode, simply titled "The End" starting at 9pm.

FRENCH OPEN 2010: Men and Women Singles Draw

The 2010 French Open singles draws are out. Play starts today, Sunday May 23rd. There are several first round matches to worry about (Roddick vs Nieminen, Venus versus Schnyder).

Most observers predict another Federer versus Nadal men's final. The women's side is wide open, but somehow I doubt that a Williams will be there. More specific predictions later.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Politics: CA-GOV, CA-SEN, AD-43, AD-47

It's Saturday, so it's time to talk politics again. This week's edition will discuss tightening polls in California's governor and senator races, homophobic developments in the 43rd Assembly District race, and an endorsement in the 47th District.
CA-GOV. Recent polling from PPIC has shown that Meg Whitman's once HUGE lead over Steve Poizner has diminished to single digits, 38 to 29, in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Research 2000 also shows Whitman with a lead, 46 to 36. Jerry Brown now has a lead over either of the Republican hopefuls, leading Whitman 42 to 37 and Poizner 45 to 32. The two Republicans have now spent a combined $82 million in their primary battle (billionaire Whitman $68m, Poizner $24m). The primary election is Tuesday June 8th, although voting by mail has been possible for the last two weeks.

CA-SEN. Incumbent senator Barbara Boxer has finally received some good polling news. Her job approval rating reached 50% (according to PPIC) and she leads all three potential Republican challengers: Carly Fiorina (48-39), Chuck Devore (50-39) and Tom Campbell (46-40).

AD-43. From Burbank Blogger comes a disturbing story about homophobia and ethnicity by Mike Gatto's Republican opponent Sunder Ramani. In the race to replace Paul Krekorian in the 43rd Assembly District with a significant Armenian population, apparently people employed by Ramani have been calling Armenian households and telling them (in Armenian) not to vote for Gatto because he supports "homosexual legislation." Burbank Blogger even has proof this is going on because one of the phone calls has been taped and the audio posted to YouTube (with English translation). The race for the 43rd has become increasingly bizarre, with a freak misprint in vote-by-mail ballots making the complicated election (there's both a special election run-off and a general primary election on the same ballot) even moreso. MadProfessah has endorsed Gatto and hopes that Ramani is punished for stooping to under-the-radar appeals to ethnic homophobia.

AD-47. The race to replace soon-to-be-Congressmember Karen Bass is starting to get more attention in the LGBT community. Reggie Jones-Sawyer won the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club last month, but Holly Mitchell has more cash on hand ($150k to $80k) and the official California Democratic Party nomination. Both are strong supports of full LGBT equality.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Celebrity Friday: Sandra Diaz-Twine

Sandra Diaz-Twine, 34, made history on Sunday night by becoming the first person to win a second $1 million dollar check by repeating as a winner of CBS's reality television show Survivor. It is the only reality show that I watch (still!) and I was glad to see Sandra win over rvials Parvati Shallow and the odious Russell Hantz.

This was one of the best Survivor seasons ever, with former players returning, most notably the excessively pulchritudinous (i.e. hella phyne!) James Clement and "Survivor superman" Colby Donaldson who got to the final 5, but shockingly disappointed in the physical challenges.

The next season will be all new players again, so I will check out the first episode to see if there are any hotties, but really the game gets going when individual immunity (final 10-12 weeks) so that's probably when I'll check in. I do find it interesting that the game has had an almost even number of male and female winners. I think that shows that being able to "outwit, outplay, outlast" is not the domain of one gender.

Eye Candy: Stephan Allen (a.k.a Pikasso)

Another find of David Dust is Stephan Allen, (who also goes by the name of "Pikasso") a 26-year-old model from Phoenix, Arizona. He has taken some eye-popping shots with photographer Carlos Arias, some of which are featured above.


I guess today is my birthday after all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

FDA Schedules Hearing On Gay Blood Donor Ban

There comes news about the possibility that the lifetime ban on men who have had sex with men since 1977 from donating blood may soon be reconsidered.

From the (recently resurrected Washington Blade):

A notice published Thursday states the Department of Health & Human Services has scheduled a meeting next month of the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety & Availability to discuss the issue. The committee is charged with providing recommendations to HHS on blood supply and blood products.

The meeting, which is open to the public, is set to take place at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville, Md. Discussion is scheduled over the course of two days — from June 10 to June 11. The meetings on both days are set for 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.

FDA instituted the blood donor ban in 1983 in response to the AIDS crisis. The policy prohibits any man who’s had sex with another man since 1977 — even once — from donating blood. At the time, the policy was deemed necessary because gay and bisexual have a higher rate of HIV/AIDS infection.

LGBT rights supporters have been seeking to overturn the ban on the grounds that it unfairly targets gay and bisexual men and that testing procedures for HIV/AIDS have improved significantly since 1983.

According to the Federal Register notice, the committee will consider “the most important factors (e.g. societal, scientific, and economic) to consider in making a policy change” as well as whether current scientific information is sufficient to support ending the policy and what studies and safety measures are needed before a change takes place.

MadProfessah has been following the story of the "gay blood ban" for quite awhile, and these latest steps are the most movements since 2007's review of the policy which left the ban intact.

Not all LGBT rights supporters are in favor of a complete lifting of the ban, as evidenced by a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times.

The simple fact is that it is a "blood libel" to claim that any man who has had sex with a man since 1977 is completely ineligible from donating blood.

White House Condemns Malawi Homosexuality Conviction

The White House has released a statement condemning the recent conviction of a gay male couple in Malawi for "gross indecency and unnatural acts" and their sentence to 14 years of hard labor.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 20, 2010

Statement by the Press Secretary on Court Ruling in Malawi

The United States strongly condemns the conviction and harsh sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi. The criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity is unconscionable, and this case mars the human rights record of Malawi. We urge Malawi and all countries to stop using sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for arrest, detention, or execution.


The couple, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested and jailed (without bail) after having a public ceremony acknowledging their relationship last year.

In sentencing them to the maximum punishment of 14 years of hard labor, the judge said:
"I sentence you to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour each," magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa told the two men in a courtroom in the commercial capital Blantyre.

"I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example," the judge added.

"Malawi is not ready to see its sons getting married to its sons."
There are 37 countries in Africa in which homosexuality is criminalized.

Promo for 'LOST' Series Finale on Sun May 23

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Logan Utah Adopts LGBT Rights Ordinance!

The city of Logan, Utah (where Utah State University is located) became the second city in the Mormon-dominated, religiously conservative state to enact an ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and housing on Tuesday night.

According to the Salt lake Tribune:

In one motion, the Logan City Council on Tuesday night mandated that employers and landlords cannot discriminate against gays, lesbians or transgendered people in the city limits.

Modeled after anti-discrimination laws recently adopted in Salt Lake City, Logan's housing and employment ordinances passed with four votes and one abstention, by Councilman Dean Quayle. A crowd, which filled the City Council Chambers halls and an overflow room, was mostly subdued throughout a one-hour public hearing. Following the tally though, the crowd erupted in applause and rewarded the council with a standing ovation.

In the days leading up to Tuesday's meeting, Council Chairman Jay Monson said he received more than 250 calls and e-mails "for" and only 10 "against" the ordinances, all from Logan residents and business owners.


"The [LDS] church supports nondiscrimination ordinances, period. Certainly, I was told that this applies to Logan as much as any other place in the world," Monson said Tuesday before calling for the vote. "They do and I do and I agree that this is not the answer for everything ... But it is a step in the right direction and it is long overdue in my thinking

However, as I have blogged about before, there are plenty of examples of ignorance in this monochromatic state about the nature of civil rights:

Logan resident James Gibson, a business owner and landlord, disagreed saying the City Council is overstepping its bounds.

"I don't feel that it is the place of the government to step in and say who I can and can't hire," Gibson said, adding that, if anything, it should be a state matter. "If anybody feels like they've been discriminated against on behalf of any landlord or business owner, that becomes a civil matter. "

Joshua Frazier added, "The problem is a lack of compassion, not a lack of laws. You cannot legislate compassion and attempting to do so only creates resentment."

Frazier said the ordinances are unconstitutional because employment and property rentals feature a private contract.

"It's wrong for governments to interfere with contracts between individuals," Frazier said. "I see this as the government forcing moral decisions on private individuals. I do not want the government determining and defining what is moral and what is not."

Of course, he is saying that as a white, Mormon man who is currently protected under federal, state and local ordinances which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender and religion.
How would he feel if it were legal to say "No Mormons Need Apply!" in his rental property or place of employment?

It's simply stunning to me how some people can not see past their own privilege.

The Top 30 List of Obama's LGBT Achievements

As LGBT pride season approaches and legislative votes on important parts of the LGBT equality agenda (DADT, DPBO, ENDA) seems stuck in molasses, former DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias has compiled a list of the top 30 achievements of the Obama administration of interest and benefit to the LGBT community.

Here is the list:

  1. Reversed an inexcusable US position by signing the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
  2. Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees
  3. Endorsed the Baldwin-Lieberman bill, The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, to provide full partnership benefits to federal employees
  4. Signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act
  5. Lifted the HIV Entry Ban effective January 2010
  6. Released the first Presidential PRIDE proclamation since 2000
  7. Hosted the first LGBT Pride Month Celebration in White House history
  8. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King
  9. Appointed the first transgender DNC member in history
  10. Issued diplomatic passports, and provided other benefits, to the partners of same-sex foreign service employees
  11. Committed to ensuring that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity
  12. Conceived a National Resource Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders -- the nation's first ever -- funded by a three-year HHS grant to SAGE
  13. Testified in favor of ENDA, the first time any official of any administration has testified in the Senate on ENDA
  14. Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded existing United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability -- the first positive federal LGBT legislation in the nation's history
  15. Supported lower taxes for same-sex couples who receive health benefits from employers
  16. Hired and appointed a record number of qualified LGBT Americans, including more than 10 Senate-confirmed appointments
  17. Sworn in Ambassador David Huebner
  18. Changed the culture of government everywhere from – among others – HUD and HHS to the Export-Import Bank, the State Department, and the Department of Education
  19. Appointed Sonia Sotomayor, instead of a conservative who would have tilted the Court even further to the right and virtually doomed our rights for a generation. To wit (quoting McCain): "I've said a thousand times on this campaign trail, I've said as often as I can, that I want to find clones of Alito and Roberts. I worked as hard as anybody to get them confirmed. I look you in the eye and tell you I've said a thousand times that I wanted Alito and Roberts. I have told anybody who will listen. I flat-out tell you I will have people as close to Roberts and Alito [as possible]"
  20. Named open transgender appointees (the first President ever to do so)
  21. Banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the Federal government (the nation's largest employer)
  22. Emphasized LGBT inclusion in everything from the President’s historic NAACP address (“The pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights.”) . . . to the first paragraph of his Family Day proclamation (“Whether children are raised by two parents, a single parent, grandparents, a same-sex couple, or a guardian, families encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things”) and his Mothers Day proclamation ("Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by two parents, a single mother, two mothers, a step-mom, a grandmother, or a guardian. Mother's Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate these extraordinary caretakers") . . . to creating the chance for an adorable 10-year-old at the White House Easter Egg roll to tell ABC World News how cool it is to have two mommies . . . to including the chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce along with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of Goldman Sachs in the small audience for the President’s economic address at the New York Stock Exchange . . . to welcoming four gay couples to its first State Dinner
  23. Recommitted, in a televised address, to passing ENDA . . . repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell . . . repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act
  24. Spoken out against discrimination at the National Prayer Breakfast ("We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are -- whether it's here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.")
  25. Dispatched the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to call on the Senate to repeal Don't Ask / Don't Tell, in the meantime dialing back on discharges
  26. Launched a website to gather public comment on first-ever federal LGBT housing discrimination study
  27. Appointed long-time equality champion Chai Feldblum one of the four Commissioners of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  28. Eliminated the discriminatory Census Bureau policy that kept our relationships from being counted, encouraging couples who consider themselves married to file that way, even if their state of residence does not yet permit legal marriage
  29. Produced U.S. Census Bureau PSAs featuring gay, lesbian, and transgender spokespersons.
  30. Instructed HHS to require any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds (virtually all hospitals) to allow LGBT visitation rights.
What do you think? The haters over at are most definitely not impressed. (Color me surprised. Not!)


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