Saturday, July 31, 2010


Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger won the 2008 Man Booker Prize, the most prestigious individual book prize in English (only writers from Commonwealth countries are eligible).

I got the book for Christmas in 2008 and finally read it over my summer vacation in August 2009.

The White Tiger is a book about contemporary Indian life, told in a very readable, darkly comic style by a prose magician.

It is one of the few Booker prizewinners that can easily be read in an afternoon. (Or even read at all. I still have a copy of Salman Rushdie's Midnight Children, barely begun, no my bookshelf.) Having been to India myself in the last 5 years I am always curious to see depictions of the country in film and novels. This was one of (not the most important) things which made Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire (read my review here) so enjoyable to me. I'm not saying if it wasn't set in India the movie would not have been interesting to me; I'm saying that the added India element enriches the work in my eyes, thanks to my interest in the subject.

Anyway, Aviga's work is written in the form of a series of letters to the Premier of China (The White Tiger of the book's title) and follows the adventures of Balram Halwai, a perfectly ordinary Indian man from a typical Indian village who happens to be the narrator of the book--and a murderer.

Adiga has harsh social commentary on almost every aspect of Indian society, from elections to malls to religion (so many gods, so little time!) which has made the book somewhat controversial in some circles, presumably even more so now that it has been awarded the Booker.

In the end, though, there's something not quite satisfying about The White Tiger. After you finish it, you feel like you are ready to read another book, about half an hour later.

Title: The White Tiger
Author: Aravind Aviga
Publisher: Free Press
Date: October 14, 2008.
Length: 352 pages.



Congress Passes Act Reducing Cocaine Disparity

Finally! The disparity between criminal sentences for possession of two different forms of the same illegal substance has long been a bitter pill for progressives like myself to swallow. Happily, this week, Congress passed legislation t reduce the disparity in sentences for powder versus crack cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. As I put it before, they made the war on drugs 82% less racist.

From The New York Times:

Under the current law, adopted in 1986 after a surge in crack cocaine smoking and drug-related killings, someone convicted in federal court of possession of five grams of crack must be sentenced to at least five years in prison, and possession of 10 grams requires a 10-year minimum sentence. With powder cocaine, the threshold amounts for those mandatory sentences are 100 times as high.

In the bill passed Wednesday, the amount of crack that would invoke a five-year minimum sentence is raised to 28 grams, said to be roughly the amount a dealer might carry, and for a 10-year sentence, 280 grams.

While crack use has declined since the 1980s, arrests remain common, and some 80 percent of those convicted on crack charges in recent years have been black. A growing number of criminologists have concluded that the sentencing disparity is unjustified and has subjected tens of thousands of blacks to lengthy prison terms while offering more lenient punishment to users and sellers of powder cocaine, who are more often white.

Of course, many people are unhappy with the compromise legislation that has passed, since the new law is still racially discriminatory, as James Rucker of the online activist group Color of Change argues in The Root:

The Senate's compromise is still racially discriminatory and morally wrong, and we have yet to hear anyone explain why a disparity is necessary. It's time for those of us who care about this issue to force Sen. Sessions and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.,--the architects of the compromise--to offer an explanation that actually holds water. If Jeff Sessions really wants to argue that 18:1 is better for our country, we should create a media stir that requires him to defend that position in public. And if the explanation doesn't pass muster, if it doesn't appear to be in line with our communities' interests, we have to say so.

We understand that compromise is sometimes necessary, and we agree with our allies that some level of sentencing relief is better than none. But we can't afford to fold before the final hand has been played, and we shouldn't be negotiating from a position of weakness. That's how we ended up with an 18:1 compromise in the first place versus 10:1 or a 5:1. Real change--on ending this sentencing disparity and on other policy issues important to our communities--depends on our willingness to shine a light on backroom deals and apply grassroots energy to hold our elected officials accountable. That's the way democracy is supposed to work, and our responsibility to raise our voices in protest is not something we should ever compromise.

My position is that one can both argue for a 1:1 bill and still celebrate the progress inherent in the reduction of the previous draconian sentencing disparity. Compromise does not have to be a dirty word, as long as everyone involved realizes this is just one stage, not the end, of a long struggle for change.

WATCH: Fighter Jet Crash Caught On Tape

Friday, July 30, 2010

Federer Hires Sampras' Last Coach Paul Annacone

Roger Federer, current World #3 (now 110 points behind World #2 Novak Djokovic), has hired Paul Annacone to be his new coach, indicating that he is interested in maximizing his effectiveness in the twilight of his record-breaking career. The 15-time major champion has lost in the quarterfinals of the last two Grand Slam tournaments, and those were the two Grand Slams that he won last year. Instead, his arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal, now World #1, won them instead.

Greg Couch at Tennis Fanhouse commented on the move, saying:
Federer is about to turn 29, and while I think his game and his style are starting to look obsolete, I don't agree with some critics who think he has lost something because of his age. A little passion, a little edge, a little speed.

No. He still has everything he had before. But the game is changing, players are trying to figure out how to catch him, and he's just standing there, not fighting back. He has thought his elegant and perfect strokes will still be good enough, no matter that the era is changing around him.

But now, maybe this is Federer's way of saying that he's not ready to fade away.


Annacone is a good choice. Sampras used to rave about how well he scouted opponents, figured out what was necessary. That means gameplans, not excuses. Federer seemed to think that all that's necessary is for him to just be him.


Federer is going to have to attack back. And I think he's going to have to commit to the new technology, probably even change his outdated racket. He's using almost exactly the same one Sampras used a couple eras ago.

Federer won't allow Annacone, who's 47, to re-tool entirely. We'll see how far they go. But just agreeing to listen to Annacone, even if just for a test period, is a real start.

It's pretty exciting really: Mr. Perfect wants to get better.
I agree that for Federer fas for myself this is a good sign that the GOAT recognizes that he needs to make a change, especially if he wants to extend his major singles titles lead, or catch the all-time weeks at #1 lead, where he is exactly one week behind Pete Sampras.

Celebrity Friday: David Blackwell (1919-2010)

David Blackwell, the most prominent Black mathematician of his generation, has died at the age of 91. MadProfessah blogged about Blackwell last year on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

From his The New York Times obituary:

David Harold Blackwell was born on April 24, 1919, in Centralia, Ill. Early on, he showed a talent for mathematics, but he entered the University of Illinois with the modest ambition of becoming an elementary school teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1938 and, adjusting his sights, went on to earn a master’s degree in 1939 and a doctorate in 1941, when he was only 22.

After being awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship, established by the clothing magnate Julius Rosenwald to aid black scholars, he attended the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton but left after a year when, because of his race, he was not issued the customary invitation to become an honorary faculty member. At Berkeley, where the statisticianJerzy Neyman wanted to hire him in the mathematics department, racial objections also blocked his appointment.


His “Basic Statistics” (1969) was one of the first textbooks on Bayesian statistics, which assess the uncertainty of future outcomes by incorporating new evidence as it arises, rather than relying on historical data. He also wrote numerous papers on multistage decision-making.

“He had this great talent for making things appear simple,” Peter Bickel, a statistics professor at Berkeley, told the university’s Web site. “He liked elegance and simplicity. That is the ultimate best thing in mathematics, if you have an insight that something seemingly complicated is really simple, but simple after the fact.”

Mr. Blackwell was hired by Berkeley in 1954 and became a full professor in the statistics department when it split off from the mathematics department in 1955. He was chairman of the department from 1957 to 1961 and assistant dean of the College of Letters and Science from 1964 to 1968. He retired in 1988.

As I noted before, Blackwell was the first Black person elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, which happened way back in 1965. I have attended the biennial Blackwell-Tapia conference in the past (2006 and 2008), which highlights the contributions of Black and Latino research mathematicians.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

CA-GOV: Race Gets Hotter

The race to be elected the next Governor of California gets hotter and hotter. Jerry Brown leads Meg Whitman, barely, in most recent polls.

VIDEO REVIEW: Laputa (City in the Sky)

Finally saw Hayao Miyazaki's classic film Laputa, which is generally called Castle in the Sky in this country, on DVD (Thank you, Netflix!) recently.

This is an absolutely lovely film that if you ever have an opportunity to see on the big screen you should run (do not walk!) to the movie theater to do so.

Miyazaki is the director of Princess Mononoke and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away as well as 2009's Ponyo (see MadProfessah's review).

Castle in the Sky is a delightful film, much more readily accessible to a broad audience than the trippy Princess Mononoke and the lyrical (but decidedly strange) Spirited Away.

As usual, the protagonists are children, this time two orphans, one of whom literally falls from the sky (and survives due to a magical pendant) named Sheeta and the other, Pazu, who has a curious obsession with trying to find the mythical floating city of Laputa, the Castle in the Sky.

The cast also includes another one of Miyazaki's famous archetypes: the old crone or witch, This time her name is Dola, and she leads a band of pirates. It was Dola who chased Sheeta out of an airship, causing her to jump into midair in the beginning of the film--she covets Sheeta's magical pendant.

Eventually, after many more adventures, Pazu and Sheeta do find Laputa, and the fabled Castle in the Sky has some secrets in store which are resolved in an uplifting fashion which is a fitting end to this entertaining movie.

Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated G.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

FOOD REVIEW: Juicy's Restaurant (Los Angeles, CA)

Juicy's brown stew chicken and beef short ribs.

Readers of this blog will be aware of my longtime quest for the best Caribbean food in Los Angeles (for background, see here and here). During my quest a friend of mine took me to Juicy's Natural Restaurant near Washington and Arlington just North of the 10 freeway. I hadn't even heard of the place, so I was happy to try it out. Next door they have a West Indian grocery store for products that you may be missing from the islands.

Unfortunately, I was not very impressed with the food at Juicy's. One of my favorite aspects of West Indian food is the peas and rice, and Juicy's was simply overcooked to the point of being bland. The brown stew chicken should be intriguingly spicy (piquant, not picante) but theirs was not really distinctive in any way. See my review of Joan & Sisters for some good brown-stew chicken and rice and peas. Although that place does not qualify as a West Indian restaurant; they are a Belizean restaurant and an excellent one at that.

I'm actually not sure if Juicy's roti or not (one criteria for my quest for an excellent Caribbean/West Indian restaurant is that it should sell roti; another criteria would be having the drink sorrel on the menu).

If you are really craving some good Caribbean food I would recommend heading out to Leimert Park to check out Ackee Bamboo or stopping by the Beverly Center and experiencing Kassava.

Name: Juicy's Restaurant
Location: 3426 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018.
Contact: (none).



Federal Judge Stops Bad Parts of AZ Immigration Law

Good news from Arizona for once! The federal judge who was was considering seven lawsuits filed against Arizona's controversial, draconian immigration law has enjoined several key provisions from going into effect tomorrow.

The overall law will still take effect Thursday, but without the provisions that angered opponents — including sections that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.

The judge also put on hold parts of the law that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times, and made it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places. In addition, the judge blocked officers from making warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants.

"Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully-present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked," U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled.

There are still many provisions of SB 1070 that will go into effect that will make life harder for immigrants in that state, however, so protests against the law will continue.
MadProfessah will continue his boycott of the state until the legal status of the law is resolved.

Iranian Gay Immigration Activist Risks Deportation And Execution

Meet Mohammed Abdollahi, a 24-year-old gay man of Iranian descent who is also an undocumented immigrant who has been advocating for quick passage of the DREAM act (which would legalize the status of undocumented young people who either enlist in the military or attend college), and now faces deportation to Iran, where openly gay men are often executed.

Now, that is what I call putting your life on the line for a cause.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

POLL: 29% to 22% Think Prop 8 Was Bad For State

There's a new poll out from the Public Religion Research Institute that confirms that a majority of Californians support marriage equality right now. Additionally, the poll of 3,351 adults (including 350 African Americans and 200 Latino Protestants) asked about the 2008 ballot initiative Proposition 8. A stunning 45% of respondents said that it had no impact on the sate, while 29% said the measure's passage was bad for the state while 22% said it was good for the state.

Some other key findings of the report:

One-in-four Californians report that their views on rights for gay and lesbian people has become more supportive over the last five years, compared to only 8% who say they have become more opposed. Among religious groups, ethnic minority groups showed slightly more overall movement than white religious groups. Among black Protestants, twice as many report becoming more supportive as report becoming more opposed (27% vs. 13%); among Latino Catholics, that ratio is 3-to-1 (31% more supportive vs. 9% more opposed) over this period.

If another vote similar to Proposition 8 were held tomorrow, a majority (51%) say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 45% who say they would vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal.

There are major religious groups on both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage in California. Solid majorities of Latino Catholics and white mainline Protestants say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, while solid majorities of white evangelical Protestants, Latino Protestants, and African American Protestants say they would vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Palm Springs Responds To Out Cry Over Anti-Gay Actions

Palm Springs Police Chief David Dominguez (pictured above) has begun to respond to the growing outcry over the anti-gay actions of police officers during a "public gay sex" sting operation. He has announced that Palm Springs police will no longer use decoys to entice gay men to violate the public nudity and lewd conduct laws. These are just some of the changes the Palm Springs Police Department will engage in, which also include:

Putting more officers in marked police vehicles.

Working with business owners and hotel operators to warn visitors about the consequences of illegal public conduct.

Ensuring the Warm Sands neighborhood is well lit and possibly installing lighting triggered by motion sensors.

The Palm Springs City Council, which includes the Mayor Steve Pougnet,, who is running for the 45th District congressional seat currently held by Mary Bono Mack, issued the following new policy on police coduct:

The Palm Springs City Council has unanimously endorsed the Police Department's new proactive enforcement policy to control lewd conduct.

This policy restricts the use of decoy undercover operations.

“Palm Springs has always embraced diversity and tolerance and wants the LGBT community and all visitors to continue to feel safe and welcome in our City at all times,” the council stated.

“In addition to the new enforcement policy, our police department has instituted comprehensive LGBT sensitivity training. The police department continues to meet with residents and hoteliers to receive neighborhood input and to refine the implementation of the new policy,” the council added.

These steps serve as a reminder to citizens and all visitors that Palm Springs is a safe and welcoming city and unique vacation destination for everyone.
It will be interesting to see whether these actions will be enough to satisfy the many people disgusted by the police actions in this instance. If you are interested in contacting Chief Dominguz, he can be reached at

Eye Candy: Cross Thompson (reprise)

Cross Thompson is one of the hottest fitness models around, as many people know. He's been featured on this blog before but he seems to be getting hotter and hotter!

MadProfessah Meets Markos of DailyKos

One of the amazing aspects of Netroots Nation is that you never know who you'll run into. Right before Senate MajorityLeader Harry Reid spoke on Saturday, I ran into founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and he took this picture with me. Netroots Nation started off as the annual get together YearlyKos, a gathering of like-minded people who used the site to share idea and form an online progressive community. is one of the biggest blogs on the Internet, getting hundreds of thousands of hits per day, nearly 4 million hits per week. Markos is now a best-selling author and frequent television commentator but he is still very down-to-earth and it was an honor to meet him.

Pretty cool, eh?

Thanks again to Mike Rogers and the Citizen Journalist/ Blogger Initiative for the financial support to attend the conference for the second year in a row. Next year it is in Minneapolis!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Governator Nominates API Woman To Head CA Sup Ct

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has nominated 50-year-old Tani Cantil-Sakauye to replace California Chief Justice Ron George who announced he was retiring recently. Cantil-Sakauye's nomination would mean that the state's highest court would now have a female majority: Carol Corrigan, Kathryn Werdegar, Joyce Kennard and Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

"I have had the distinct pleasure of being a municipal court judge, a superior court judge and an appellate court justice," she said. "As a jurist, woman and a Filipina, I am extremely grateful for the trust Gov. Schwarzenegger has placed in me. I hope to show young people what they can achieve if they follow their dreams and reach for their full potential."
Cantil-Sakauye is a Republican of Filipino descent and has served as a Court of Appeals judge since 2005. She's married to a Police Lieutenant and has two daughters.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Celebrity Friday (Extra): Pamela Karlan

MadProfessah and Law Professah Pam Karlan

Today after the excellent panel at Netroots Nation 2010 in Las Vegas entitled "Liberal Perspectives on the Kagan Supreme Court Nomination" which featured Dahlia Lithwick, Nan Aron, Keith Kamisugi, Joan McCarter and Pamela Karlan. MadProfessah took a picture with one of my idols, Stanford Law Professor (and former Dean) Pamela Karlan, who has been on progressives' wet dream short list for the United States Supreme Court.

Karlan explicitly mentioned the Goodwin Liu nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (which we have been following here at this blog), and said that progressives should pay careful attention as to whether the UC Berkeley Law Professor gets approved by the Senate. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he is putting a hold on all appellate-level federal judicial nominees before the mid-term election, so things do not look good. To support the nomination of a principled progressive to the 9th circuit, click here and here.

Take a look at the picture. Notice anything? Yes, we co-ordinated our colors. It's not pink, it's fuchsia! I think she wears the pearls better than I do, yes?

Celebrity Friday: Dan Choi

Dan Choi has been officially discharged from the U.S. Army. He has become a leading voice and face for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

He is in Vegas here for the Netroots Nation conference, in fact I just saw him about an hour ago in the halls of the Rio.

The Rio Las Vegas


MadProfessah and The Other Half saw the latest film from Christopher Nolan, the director of Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and now Inception. Memento is one of my favorite films of all time, and Nolan is one of my favorite film directors. I have seen and enjoyed all of his films to date.

We saw Inception at the new(ish) Arclight Cinemas in Pasadena on opening day, Friday July 16th. We generally avoided most of the reviews, which were mostly (but not overwhelmingly) positive. The current rating for the film is 86%.

Inception is a fiendishly complicated story that revolves around the premise that there exists technology which allows multiple individuals to share and participate in each others' dreams. Usually this procedure is used to steal secrets from an individual's subconscious by accessing it in their dreams. The concept of "inception" in this context is the notion that one can insert an idea into the dreaming individual, in such a way that they believe that the idea is actually self-generated.

Leonardo Dicaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Dileep Rao and Tom Hardy all play members of a team led by DiCaprio's Dom Cobb who is being hired by Ken Watanabe's character to place an idea in Cillian Murphy's character's head. Got it? The basic idea of the film is not that complicated, but the successful execution of "inception" requires Murphy's character to be taken into a dream within a dream within a dream. As one reviewer mentioned, this device allows director Nolan to have not one but three ticking clock scenarios for the audience to watch and, in my opinion, raises the level of suspense to a fever-pitch.

The story is further complicated by Cobb's subconscious, which features his ex-wife Mal Cobb, played magnificently by Oscar winner Marion Cotillard. She is infiltrating his dreamscape and doing her best to foil his plans. Other important supporting characters are played by Pete Postlethwaite (Murphy's near-death father), a near unrecognizable Tom Berenger (Murphy's right-hand man) and 2-time Oscar winner Michael Caine as Cobb's father-in-law and mentor.

Nolan gets immense respect from me for writing and directing such an ambitious piece of film-making that can be also be successfully marketed as summer blockbuster popcorn entertainment.

Running Time: 2 hours, 28 minutes. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout.

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

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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Netroots Nation 2010 Las Vegas: #lgbtnn10

MadProfessah is attending Netroots Nation 2010 in Las Vegas this week July 20th-24th thanks to financial support from Mike Rogers' Blogger Initiative. The Twitter hashtag for LGBT coverage at Netroots Nation is #lgbtnn10.

Yesterday I attended the LGBT confab for Netroots Nation attendees where some of the people there were Dan Choi, Fred Karger, Barbara McCullough-Jones, Gloria Nieto, and Phil Attey. There were also presentations from organizational representatives like Fred Sainz (Human Rights Campaign Foundation), Jason Perez Howe (Lambda Legal), Steve Hildebrand (Faith in America), Michael Crawford (Freedom To Marry) Heather Cronk (GetEqual). Since I'm on the board of Immigration Equality, I represented that organization at the caucus.

Strangely, the Task Force had no representative.

Later on there were interesting discussions between the attendees on "ENDA" and "Immigration Reform" in one session and "Marriage Equality" and "HIV/AIDS" in the second session.

Thursday, after an eventful night (which I may blog about later involving a trip to a local Urgent Care Clinic!), I attended the three sessions:"Marriage Equality: Building a Movement Online," "Immigration Reform's Strange Bedfellows," and "How to Plan for Your Website Redesign"

Montana Same-sex Couples Sue State For Recognition

The Montana ACLU sued the state today on behalf of seven same-sex couples to obtain state recognition of their families under the law.

Beause there is a constitutional amendment in Montana barring marriage for same-sex couples, the couples in the lawsuit are seeking the protection of state-recognized domestic partnerships, similar to those in place in several other states.

"Mary Anne and I are part of a family unit, bonded by love and mutual respect and a desire to share in a close relationship that benefits not only us, as partners, but our wider family and the entire community," said Jan Donaldson, a Helena nurse, of her 27-year relationship with her partner, pediatric neurologist Mary Anne Guggenheim. "We depend on one another, in all aspects of our life together. We want to be able to do that with grace and dignity and to feel secure that our relationship will be respected. We want our relationship to be recognized for what it clearly is – a loving commitment of responsibility worthy of security and protection by the state."

Montana law automatically grants married opposite-sex couples safeguards upon which they can depend in times of need. But, under Montana law, it is possible for same-sex couples to be barred from visiting their partners in the hospital and to be left out of conversations about emergency medical care. Montana inheritance laws refuse to recognize same-sex couples, and can leave surviving partners with nothing if their partners die without valid wills. Today's lawsuit seeks a mechanism such as the domestic partnership laws adopted by several other states to provide similar protections for committed same-sex couples.

"It's unfair for same-sex couples who have made commitments and formed families to be treated by the state like legal strangers," said Betsy Griffing, Legal Director for the ACLU of Montana. "Lesbian, gay and bisexual Montanans are valuable and productive members of society who should be treated fairly if their partner is in the hospital or dies without a will."

Hat/tip to TowleRoad

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Vegas at Netroots Nation

At the pre-conference LGBT caucus organized by Mike Rogers of

Sent from my iPhone 3G!

BOOK REVIEW: Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake

At a local used bookstore in Glendale I finally got my hands on a copy of Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake, one of the rare works of speculative fiction to have won the Nebula, Hugo and Locust award. I often read these books and Dreamsnake is one of the few books that is double Hugo-Nebula winner that I have not read yet. The others are Lois McMaster Bujold's Paladin of Souls and Arthur C. Clarke's Fountains of Paradise.

Most double winners are classic books, that deserve to be re-read over and over again. Connie Willis Doomsday Book, Frank Herbert's Dune, David Brin's Startide Rising and Issac Asimov's The Gods Themselves fall into that category. Interestingly, recently I tried to re-read Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed and I could not get through it. A few years ago I finally read Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama and was surprised at how painful it was to get through it.

So, I really did not have high expectations for Dreamsnake. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Dreamsnake is about a Healer named Snake who uses snakes to heal people. The book mentions repeatedly that she uses the rare dreamsnake to help people who have serious (potentially fatal) illnesses, by either curing them or easing their transition to death. What's curious is that during the course of the book, Snake heals several people without a dreamsnake, and in one case even loses a patient despite not having one of the alien serpents at hand.

One of the key features of Dreamsnake is its depiction of a very different society. It is primarily agrarian, with almost no technology and very curious cultural practices (like not wanting to tell acquaintances your "true name" and a completely different view of contraception). One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the completely laissez-faire approach to sexuality. Most adult relationships are in partnerships of three, usually two women and one man or two men and one woman.

A drawback of the book is the somewhat stilted nature of the prose. The sentences are very short and not very lyrical in nature. I'm not sure if this is because the book is over thirty years old, but I suspect that much be a factor. Another weakness of the book is the central character Snake. As depicted, she is not a very likable person and was very hard for this reader to identify with. She is moody, cranky, unattractive and uncertain. She is also brave and dedicated to helping others, almost to a fault.

The story resolves itself in the end in a somewhat unsurprising manner, with Snake finding love and companionship and a solution to dealing with the lack of dreamsnakes on her world. Overall, I'm glad that I finally read the book but I would not classify it as a classic of the form like most Hugo-Nebula winners.

Title: Dreamsnake.
Author: Vonda McIntyre.
Length: 319 pages.
Publisher: Dell.
Date: June 1979.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Field Poll Confirms Majority Support for Marriage Equality

New polling from the Field Poll confirms that a majority of Californians support marriage equality, 51% to 42%.

Palm Springs Police Caught Trying To "Bag A F*g"

In many areas of the country, there has long been an antagonistic relationship between law enforcement and the gay community; in fact resistance to a police action in New York City in 1969 is widely regarded as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. This antagonism has typically not been present in Palm Springs, California, but apparently that is changing. Palm Springs is now considered to be the "gayest city" per capita in California, with an estimated 30 to 40 percent of its population openly gay and lesbian. It has had multiple openly gay Mayors and current has a majority city councilmembers who are gay pr lesbian.

But recently there have been increased tensions between the police and the gay community thanks to a sting operation which resulted in the arrest of more than 2 dozen gay men for "indecent exposure" and "lewd conduct."

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Sunday:

Last summer, Palm Springs police used undercover officers to arrest 24 men in a gay neighborhood for allegedly trying to engage the officers in sex. While few in the gay community defend anyone having public sex - whether gay or straight - the anger is over the unusual charges in the case: The men are charged under Section 290(c) of the California Penal Code, making those who are convicted register as sex offenders for life, their names added to a police database.

That charge is essentially a life sentence, defense lawyers say, and has never been used against straight couples arrested for similar activity in Palm Springs.

Adding fuel to the community anger is surveillance tape shot inside a patrol car during the sting. One officer can be heard using an anti-gay slur, while another officer laughs.

The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times broke this story more than two months ago:

All 24 men were charged with violations of Penal Code sections 314 and 647(a).

According to the defense, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office will only accept a guilty plea from the defendants, and even then, only to a 314 violation with its sex offender designation.

Herein lies a huge issue that is being alleged in court documents. More on that in a moment.

What is the difference between the 314 and 647(a) misdemeanors?

Penal Code section 314 - California's "indecent exposure" law - has remained virtually unchanged since its enactment in 1872, despite the fact that community moral standards have changed drastically in the 138 years that have passed since that enactment.

This law prohibits publicly "exposing" a person’s naked body or genitals with lewd intent. Typically, a conviction of "simple" misdemeanor indecent exposure under this code brings a sentence of up to six months in a county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000 and a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender, pursuant to Penal Code 290.

Section 647(a) defines "lewd conduct" as the touching or displaying of the genitals, buttocks or female breasts with the intent of achieving sexual arousal or gratification. These acts are deemed illegal under this code when done in a lewd or lascivious manner in a public place - where a third party may be offended by its viewing. Unless there are overriding circumstances, a 647(a) conviction typically does not come with a sex offender designation.

The sex offender designation, however, can cause dire consequences for a lifetime. Those convicted have trouble keeping or finding jobs and homes, and those with green cards are usually deported.

Major allegations are being raised

The Riverside County Public Defender’s Office thinks something smells fishy about this undercover sting. As a result, court documents show that the defense is making some serious allegations:

 The Palm Springs Police Department (PSPD) exclusively targeted gay men in undercover sex stings.

 Heterosexual couples get a free pass on public sex in Palm Springs and throughout Riverside County.

 A backroom deal was struck with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office to force those arrested in the sting operations to plead to a harsher charge, requiring lifetime registration as a sex offender.

These contentions are being raised in a Riverside County discrimination motion going before a Superior Court judge in Indio on June 14.

On May 4, Deputy Public Defender Roger Tansey, who is the attorney for the defendants, and Public Defender Gary Windom, filed numerous documents related to this case.

Tansey told SDGLN in an exclusive interview that he believes this case is about “homophobia” and that the Palm Springs police are out to “get the gay guys.”

I believe this is known as "bag a f*g" in the police world, and is absolutely unacceptable. SDGLN has even more evidence showing the discriminatory nature of the proceedings:

SDGLN has obtained a copy of the court document from Thomas Hughes, who was a Deputy District Attorney for Riverside County from 2007 to 2009 and who was assigned to the Indio branch. The document – which the DA is trying to get excluded from the trial -- provides an insider glimpse into how Palm Springs initiated its 2009 undercover sting operation.

Hughes describes a 2008 sting operation conducted by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which provides police services to the city of Rancho Mirage. As with the Palm Springs operation, the Rancho Mirage sting was directed at men who have public sex with men, not at heterosexual couples.

Hughes said the county prosecutors settled a majority of the 2008 cases for violations of Penal Code sections 647(a) or 415. Those are much less serious misdemeanor charges than Penal Code 314, which requires lifetime registration as a sex offender.

In his document, Hughes states that he was informed that the Palm Springs Police Department (PSPD) wanted to ensure ahead of the sting operation that their cases would only settle for violations of the more serious Penal Code 314.

“I have been informed and thereon believe that during spring or summer of 2009, a meeting was therefore set up between the PSPD and the District Attorney’s Office,” Hughes states in the document.

“The DA’s Office was represented by Trisha Fransdahl, a Supervising Deputy District Attorney, who met with members of the PSPD. This meeting occurred before the sting operation took place and before anyone was arrested. At that meeting, it was agreed that all of those arrested would be charged with violations of Penal Code sections 314 and 647(a). It was also agreed that Defendants would only be allowed to plead to the 314 count. Based on my experience at the District Attorney’s Office, such a meeting, before anyone is even arrested, is unusual.”

Hughes also states that the DA’s Office decided that the Palm Springs sting cases would not be subject to negotiations or plea deals.

Bolstering the discrimination claim is this statement by Hughes: “I was also in my office when I personally heard Linda Dunn, head of the Eastern Division of the District Attorney’s Office and the supervisor of Ms. Frandahl, make homophobic remarks. This occurred when I overheard Lee Roberts, one of the District Attorneys on the Palm Springs cases, express a desire to Ms. Dunn to visit the scene of the sting.

“Several times I heard Ms. Dunn make disparaging remarks about ‘those people’ as she laughingly expressed concern for Mr. Roberts’s safety if he were to visit Palm Springs. Ms. Dunn did not want Mr. Roberts to go, stating that, ‘I don’t want you around ‘those’ people, we don’t know what they’re capable of doing. If you go, be safe.'”

Unbelievable! In 2009, the Riverside District Attorney and the Palm Springs Police Department thinks they can get away with this? In a city that is 40% gay?

Monday, July 19, 2010

IGLHRC Gets UN Consultative Status!

After a long fight, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a US-based non-profit organization on which I served two terms as a board member from 1996-2002, has been granted official status at the United Nations.

From the press release:

Today's decision is an affirmation that the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have a place at the United Nations as part of a vital civil society community," said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC Executive Director. "The clear message here is that these voices should not be silenced and that human rights cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."

The resolution passed with 23 in favor, 13 against, and 13 abstentions and 5 absences.

This victory is particularly significant, coming as it does after a prolonged 3-year application process in the sub-committee that makes initial recommendations on status. Despite full compliance with all procedures IGLHRC faced deferrals, homophobic questioning, and procedural roadblocks in the ECOSOC NGO Committee.

Today's decision overturned a "no-action" vote in the NGO-committee that threatened to establish a dangerous precedent and the possibility of organizations deemed controversial being continuously denied the opportunity to have their application put to a vote even after undergoing the required review.

The vote also signals a recognition of the important role of a diverse and active civil society at the UN. In support of progress on IGLHRC's application, a group of over 200 NGOs from 59 countries endorsed a letter to all UN Member States, demanding fair and non-discriminatory treatment and supporting IGLHRC's goal of amplifying LGBT voices in the international arena.

UPDATE MONDAY 07/19/2010 16:38
The President of the United States has issued a statement in response to the historic step of a United States LGBT organization being recognized by the United Nations:


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release July 19, 2010

Statement by the President on UN Accreditation of the ILGHRC

I welcome this important step forward for human rights, as the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC) will take its rightful seat at the table of the United Nations. The UN was founded on the premise that only through mutual respect, diversity, and dialogue can the international community effectively pursue justice and equality. Today, with the more full inclusion of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission, the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed.


Eye Candy: Nick Ayler

Today's Eye Candy model is Nick Ayler, who is a 23-year-old model from North Tonawanda, New York. Hat/tip to the Wicked Gay Blog.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Serena Declared Greatest Of All Time By S.I.

Jon Wertheim stepped in it with a Sports Illustrated cover story declaring "She's the best ever" and annointing Serena Williams as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) in Women's Tennis. Just last year, Roger Federer had been widely declared the GOAT in Men's Tennis after winning the French Open but has since fallen to a paltry #3 in the World rankings.

Wertheim's statement was controversial primarily because Serena is not even in the Top 5 of women with most Grand Slam singles titles.

He responds:
Wait—how can that be? Doesn't Williams still trail five players—Margaret Smith Court (24), Steffi Graf (22), Helen Wills Moody (19), Chris Evert (18) and Martina Navratilova (18)—in major singles titles, the usual benchmark for excellence? Yes, but Williams plays in a far more competitive and demanding era. (Plus, none of the others had to play her sister in a Grand Slam final.) She has also won 12 major women's doubles titles, two major mixed doubles titles and two Olympic women's doubles gold medals. She has earned Grand Slam titles on all surfaces. She has been winning them since she was 17.
The Busted Racquet blog took on Wertheim's claim and came up with following list:
10. Justine HeninSeven Grand Slams, 43 titles, 82% win percentage
9. Evonne Goolagong — Seven Grand Slams, 68 titles, 81% win
8. Venus Williams — Seven Grand Slams, 43 titles, 80.5% win
7. Monica Seles — Nine Grand Slams, 53 titles, 83% win
6. Billie Jean King — 12 Grand Slams, 84 titles, 82.2% win
5. Serena Williams — 13 Grand Slams, 37 titles, 80% win
4. Margaret Court — 24 Grand Slams, 92 titles, 91% win (unofficial)
3. Chris Evert — 18 Grand Slams, 157 titles, 90% win
2. Steffi Graf — 22 Grand Slams, 107 titles, 88.7% win
1. Martina Navratilova — 18 Grand Slams, 167 titles, 86.8% win
I must say that I agree with this list, especially the Top 5. For me, Martina Navratilova will always be the best player ever, and I'm happy to see her namesake, Martina Hingis denied the Top 10.


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