Wednesday, October 31, 2012

DIRTY TRICK: Anti-Gay, Anti-Obama SMS Spam

Things that make you go hmmmm! 6 days before the presidential election the dirty tricks are already beginning, with apparently thousands of people are starting to receive spam SMS text messages with anti-Obama, anti-gay messages. The texts say things like "Obama supports same-sex relationships. Voting for him will destroy the sanctity of marriage" and "Obama supports transgender marriage in America. Obamas values are just wrong." (This second text message is really just amusing and bizarre--bad punctuation and completely clueless. "transgender marriage"? What the heck is that?)

The largest LGBT political organization in the country, Human Rights Campaign, has filed an official complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The anonymous texts, which may be a violation of federal law, have prompted HRC to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. 
"It's unsurprising that our opponents are employing such underhanded tactics and trying to attack equality from behind shrouds of secrecy," said HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz in a statement announcing that the nation's largest LGBT-rights organization would ask the FCC to investigate the incident. 
"HRC is filing a complaint with the FCC so that these types of organizations know there are consequences for their actions," Sainz added. "It's unacceptable to launch these types of despicable attacks from dark corners, and it’s incredibly irresponsible to send out unsolicited messages to people who have no desire to receive this type of vitriol."

Although it is illegal to send spam text messages, apparently the texts originated as emails, and using email-to-text technology, the perpetrators may be exploiting a loophole in federal law.

Where In The World Is MadProfessah? Houghton, MI

I was on a business trip to Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI (population: 7,708) when Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard. Unfortunately, due to the air travel disruptions caused by the largest Atlantic storm to ever make landfall in the United States, I am not back in my usual location of Arlington, VA but will be staying an extra 48 hours in the Upper Peninsula (the U.P.) of Michigan.

It's actually a very beautiful location, if a bit remote as you can see from the graphic above. There's effectively only one flight a day out of here and it only goes to Chicago O'Hare (ORD) one of my least favorite airports in the world. I'm much happer spending my time in Houghton (where the people are lovely) than trying to find an overpriced hotel room in Chicago or worse yet sleeping on cots (or benches!) in O'Hare. (Trust me, that has happened to me before, one reason ORD is an airport I generally try to avoid if at all possible!)

Wish me luck to get back to the DC metropolitan area sooner rather than later!

Godless Wednesday: The Dawkins Scale

Where do you place yourself on the Dawkins' Scale? The scale was presented by noted atheist Richard Dawkins in his classic book The God Delusion. Even Dawkins describes himself as a 6 or a 6.9 and refers to the scale as a "spectrum of theistic probability." The reason why Dawkins doesn't put himself as a 7 is because the atheist position relies on the fact that there is no evidence that God exists, but being rational always allows for the possibility that such evidence could be presented or discovered at any time, thus making the "100% sure" a difficult position to embrace. But this puts atheists at a distinct disadvantage when conducting arguments with people lower on the scale, since those people do not apply the same principles to their position.

I think I would put myself at a 7. Previously I would have put myself at a 5 or 6, but as the corrosive effects on society of the number of people who publicly portray themselves as 1 has become more apparent to me, I think it is more and more important that those people be counter-balanced by equally visible people at the other end of the scale.

Apart from this political rationale, I also am very very confident that there is no such being as "God" as Christians, Jews and Muslims who would classify themselves as "1" on the Dawkins' Scale all believe in. It is pretty obvious that no single "God" would eet all the characteristics that these competing faiths indicate that "he" must have. So, that is another reason why I am confident about declaring myself a "7" on Dawkins' Scale.

So, where would you put yourself on the Dawkins' Scale?

Hat/tip to Unreasonable Faith

Federer Concedes 2012 Year-End #1 To Djokovic

Roger Federer lost a tough 3-set match to Juan Martin del Potro 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(3) in the final of his hometown tournament in Basel, Switzerland on Sunday and then immediately withdrew from the Paris Masters tournament, thus ceding the year-end #1 ranking to Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic responded to the news that he will end the year as the #1 player for the second-consecutive year at a press conference in Paris:
“It feels very satisfying, and of course I'm very happy to be able to finish the season as No. 1. Obviously that serves as an indication of how good the season was for me,” says Djokovic. “It was very difficult to follow up after 2011 and to expect, well, from myself to repeat what I've done in that season. But winning one Grand Slam this year, and five titles so far and being very consistent with my results helped me to be in this position right now.”
Djokovic so far has won a tour-leading 70 match wins (to 11 losses) while there are still two important tournaments left to play: the Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals, both of which were won by Federer last year. Last year, Djokovic also won 70 matches but only lost 6 times all year while winning 3 major tournaments. In 2012, Djokovic reached 3 major finals but only won one of them.

Federer had beaten del Potro 6 consecutive times in 2012 and had not lost to the Argentinian since 2009. Del Potro improved to a career head-to-head record of 3 wins and 13 losses. Two of these three wins have now occurred in tournament finals. I believe this is evidence that del Potro is getting closer to the form that made him a grand slam final winner in 2009. It will be interesting to see if he will become the player who will be successful in breaking the stranglehold that the Fantastic Four at the top of men's tennis have had on the game for the last four years.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

POLL: Very Tight Race on MD's Question 6

A new poll of likely voters shows a very tight race in Question 6, the referendum on same-sex marriage in Maryland, with 47% of voters saying they want same-sex marriage to be illegal and 46% saying they want it to be legal. This new poll is from the same pollsters that had previously shown a 49%-39% lead for Question 6. The margin of error in the polls s 3.5 percentage points. The rule of thumb is that the vast majority of voters in the "Undecided/refused" category tend to vote against marriage equality.

The Baltimore Sun reports:
The numbers have moved amid television and radio commercials from the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposes same-sex marriage, and stepped-up efforts by pastors preaching against Question 6.
Much of the advertising is focused on African-American voters, a bloc that traditionally opposed same-sex marriage but had been warming to the idea. In late September, the Sun poll showed a majority of blacks in favor of Question 6 — evidently a high-water mark.
This time, the poll found 50 percent of black voters oppose the measure and 42 percent support it.
The new Sun poll found that 70 percent of the respondents who attend a religious service once a week are against Question 6.
"I'm a Catholic," said Laura Long, a 46-year-old Annapolitan who says she will vote no. "There are going to be some things not everybody can do," she said, saying marriage is one of them. "Leave it as religious sacrament."
But Charles McDougle, a 61-year-old black man from Temple Hills, said he sees same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue. "I'm not a theologian," he said. "I'm not trying to get into all the inner workings of the Bible on this marriage question."
A bright spot for supporters is that a slight majority of likely female voters — 51 percent — support same-sex marriage, the poll found.
June Stouffer, 64, of Washington County said the key to her decision to vote yes on Question 6 is "the fact that religious personnel are not required to marry people if it is against their beliefs."
Younger voters — those under 35 — are among the strongest supporters of the measure, the poll found. But they are also a group known for low voter turnout, [the pollster] noted.
This is not a good trend in Maryland, but it should be interesting to see if the campaign for marriage equality so that a post mortem analysis can identify changes in public opinion is a result of the heterosexual supremacists mendacious ads.

That's a pretty eye-popping number of 70% of religious people opposed to marriage equality. *sigh* I suppose it is too much to expect someone who believes in an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful old dude in the sky to understand the concept that we're talking about a civil marriage license issued by the state very similar to how the state issues licenses for other activity. This has nothing to do with what churches or religious institutions want to call a marriage. But it is still annoying and frustrating that people can have such misguided views and the power to enact them into public policy through voting on ballot measures. It is precisely this combination opponents of equality count on.

Anti-Gay Marriage Side Using Same Ad Everywhere

The heterosexual supremacists who are paying Frank Schubert to run all four of the anti-gay marriage ballot campaigns in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington should be annoyed that he is charging each one of them for his services (to the tune of millions of dollars personally) while he is creating the same, identical campaign in each state. Surely there should be a buy one, get 3 free deal?

Look at this new video compilation of the identical ad airing in four different states from Leadership Lab's David Fleischer who has been fighting anti-gay marriage initiatives since the first one in 1998(!) in Hawaii which demonstrates that the fight around LGBT equality at the ballot box has always been about reconciling in heterosexual minds the connection(s) between homosexuality and children, regardless of what the actual issues (i.e. gay marriage) has actually been about. Do heterosexuals really think it is okay for their own kids to group up to be gay or lesbian, or would they try and take some action (i.e. vote) to stop that from occurring, if they could? Logically, of course, most parents must realize that there is no action that can impact their child's sexual orientation, but emotionally they may be able to be manipulated to vote a certain way to indicate that they wish they could do something about that.

Eventually, homosexuality will not been by a significant majority of heterosexuals as a "disorder," and that is the day when these ads by Schubert will stop working to enact discriminatory ant-gay laws at the ballot box. The million-dollar question this year is, is 2012 the year that happens? We'll know more in just over a week. Stay tuned!

1 Week Until Election: Obama 247, Romney 206

There are only 7 days until the election! The presidential race has grown only slightly less tight in the last week, when Obama-Biden had a mere 233 points compared to Romney-Ryan's 195, a difference of 38 electoral votes. This week the Bue team has 247 electoral votes compared to 206 electoral votes for the Red team, a difference of 41 electoral votes.

The number of states who are in the Undecided category has dropped to Colorado (9), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Virginia (13) and Florida (29), a total of 85 electoral votes still up for grabs, which is down from 110 votes that were in this category last week.

Basically at this point, the race is too close to call but the number of scenarios by which Obama-Biden could reach 270 electora votes is stil considered larger than Romney-Ryan, providing the incumbent with an important advantage.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Eye Candy (bonus): Grigor Dimitrov is Amazing...

21-year-old Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria is getting a lot of attention for the astonishing trick shot he hit against Victor Troicki in Basel, Switzerland last week which is reminiscent of the magician's touch his idol Roger Federer is known for. Some are calling Baby Fed's behind-the-back, half-volley dropshot winner the shot of the year. See for yourself:

In my mind, he should be getting even more attention for this shot: the picture of him goofing around with fellow tennis hottie, Dmitry Tursunov, lifting up his shirt to reveal a stunning set of abs. Who knew that's what he was hiding under that loose tennis gear? I guess all that off-court training is good for something after all. Makes you wonder about other guys on tour... Gael Monfils? Feliciano Lopez? Feel free to suggest more names of tennis players "you'd like to see more of" in the comments.

Consider this your Bonus Eye Candy for the day!

Eye Candy: Austin Wilde

Austin Wilde is apparently a well-known adult performer. I had never heard of him until seeing a reference to him on Sozo's Blog. Regardless of how he makes a living, he is definitely Eye Candy. Here at, we don't discriminate, our motto is "hawt is hawt"! Austin's stats are listed as 28 years old (born in 1984) and 5'8" and 165 pounds.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

WTA TOUR FINALS: Serena Wins 3rd YEC, 58-4 in 2012

As expected, Serena Williams continued her domination of the top of women's tennis by dismissing World #2 Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to win her 3rd WTA Tour year-end championships. This was Serena's 7th title of 2012 and her 58th tour win for the year (balanced with an awe-inspiring low total of only 4 losses).

Serena again re-affirmed her domination of Sharapova, winning her 10th match in 12 meetings (the only losses to the Russian coming in two huge matches, the 2004 Wimbledon final and the 2004 WTA Tour year-end championship match, when Sharapova was a teenage phenom). You read that right, Serena has not lost to the 4-time major champion for 8 long years, and they both know it every time they step on to court together. Playing Sharapova concentrates Serena's mind so that her unforced errors drop precipitously while her deadly accuracy and power remain, a lethal combination which resulted in 40 winners (to a mere 14 errors) in the 89 minute championship match, while never even facing a break point.

But really 2012 was the year the now-31 year old Serena played an entire tour season completely healthy and committed to the game in a long time and the results are clear and convincing. Serena ended up winning 47 of her last 49 matches in 2012 and went on an 11-0 run against the Top 2 players in the world. During that time she won 2 majors and 2 Olympic gold medals.

However, by winning the year-end championships for the 3rd time at age 31, Serena became the oldest player to ever win the tournament and joined Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters and Chris Evert as 3-time winners. She joined Victoria Azarenka as the only other player to win $7 million in a season.

As long as she remains healthy there is no reason to think that Serena will not continue her domination of women's tennis for at least the next year or two, which should allow her to reach (and possibly even surpass) the 18 majors that Evert and Navratilova share. Graf's total of 22 should be safe. Probably.

GOP's Good News: "Americans Slightly More Racist"

Wow, now here's a headline you don't see every day: "Americans Slightly More Racist." This is referring to the results of a new poll conducted by the Associated Press which compared a similar poll taken in 2008.

Here's the Washington Post's take:
In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell. 
Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison.
There are immediate political implications, of course. And, unsurprisingly, there are differences in how racist adherents to the political parties are.

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to pro-black sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to anti-black attitudes. 
The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

Read that again. "Republicans were more likely that Democrats to express racial prejudice in questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats)." Discuss!

Andrew Sullivan makes the connection, in case it is not as obvious to you as it is to me:
Close to 80 percent of Republican voters expressed "explicit racism." Maybe that's why they are comfortable with a candidate from a church whose theology remains based on white supremacy and that barred African-Americans from full membership as recently as 1978.
I was struck by the connection between the two stories as I read that Iowa's largest daily newspaper, The Des Moines Register, after endorsing every Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 (including Obama in 2008), has endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012. The results of the poll showing Americans are more racist in 2008 is clearly good news for the Republican Party's goal to re-take the Presidency, which is why I decided to lead this post with the stylized (hagiographic) portrait of Mitt Romney.

Reading the Register's reason(s) for endorsing Romney is like entering bizarro-world. They basically endorse all of the Republican's talking points regarding the rationale for his presidential run and ignore the President's. They attempt to divorce Romney's economic positions from his extremist views on social issues. When a decision is made that literally is not rationally related to the facts on the ground, I believe one can look to external reasons for the decision, and often times one can see an animating force for the decision fueled by animus. I hope that is not the case in this situations, but it's hard to think otherwise when you see things like this:

(Photo: A supporter of Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan waits for a campaign
event to begin on October 12, 2012 in Lancaster, Ohio.
By Jamie Sabau/Getty Images.)

Hat/tip to Political Wire and Andrew Sullivan.

Obama-Biden & Romney-Ryan Will Each Raise $1B

This week came the news that both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns will raise more than $1 billion each
From the beginning of 2011 through Oct. 17, Mr. Obama and the Democrats raised about $1.06 billion, and Mr. Romney and the Republicans collected $954 million, including some money for the party’s Congressional efforts, setting up 2012 to be the most expensive presidential campaign in history.


Mr. Romney and the Republicans raised about $21.3 million more than Mr. Obama and the Democrats during the first 17 days of October, according to the disclosures filed on Thursday, as Mr. Romney rose in the polls and performed well in debates, emboldening his supporters.
Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee took in $92.4 million during that period, after surpassing Mr. Romney in August and September.
Mr. Romney and the R.N.C. raised $113.7 million over the same period, the final days for which the campaigns are required to report their fund-raising before the election on Nov. 6. Mr. Romney and his party also spent about $146.2 million during the first 17 days in October, slightly less than the $149.7 million spent by Mr. Obama and the Democrats.
While Mr. Obama’s team invested tens of millions of dollars early in the campaign to identify, contact and raise money from grass-roots voters, those expenditures have left the Republicans with more cash in the final weeks of the election that could finance a late surge of advertising. Mr. Romney and the G.O.P. ended the final filing period with $169 million in cash on hand, significantly more than the $123.8 million held by Mr. Obama and the Democrats.
Earlier in the year the Republicans were claiming that Obama-Biden would raise $1 billion dollars and the Blue team, demurred, not wanting to get caught up in an expectations game. They responded by saying that if you count Super-Pacs then the Red team would spend more money on the 2012 elections than the Democrats. It looks like both sides exceeded their expectations for how much they could raise.

The Republicans have $45 million more to spend than the Democrats on the presidential race as of October 17th.

There are now 9 days until the election. Are you looking forward to the whole thing being over as soon as possible as I am?

WATCH: A Clear, Logical Rebuttal of NOM's Anti-Gay Claims

This is another great video from Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) completely demolishing the "arguments" made by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in their latest video on marriage.

 Baume points out the multiple ways that NOM goes beyond the limit of reasoned political discourse into offensive, personal attacks on the dignity and self-worth of gay and lesbian couples.

 Check it out!

 Hat/tip to TowleRoad.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

WTA TOUR FINALS: Serena v Sharapova in final

Serena Williams continued her deadly efficient demolition of the elite draw at the WTA Tour Championships, this time defeating World #3 Agnieska Radwanska 6-2 6-1 to reach the final, where she will face World #2 Maria Sharapova in a reprise of the 2012 London Olympics gold medal match. The two semifinals were, respectively, repeat showdowns of the 2012 Wimbledon final and the 2012 Australian Open final. The Wimbledon result was repeated with Serena winning over Aga while in the other Sharapova was able to reverse the result with her first hard court win against World #1 Victoria Azarenka since 2009(!) by the fairly easy score of 6-4 6-2. Azarenka had serving troubles throughout the match (as well as during her loss to Serena earlier in the week) and in the latter stages was hampered in her usually superior movement with what looked like a thigh or hamstring injury.

Serena is 9-0 against Top 5 players in 2012 and has only lost two matches since late March (and a mere four matches all year long despite playing a complete season for the first time since 2009).

Serena will face Sharapova, who played excellent tennis to finally stop her hard-court losing streak to Azarenka. The problem for Sharapova is that the last time she played Serena she barely won a game, and the fact is that she has not beaten Serena since the finals of the 2004 WTA Championships in Los Angeles (which I attended). She doesn't only lose to Serena, she loses badly. The recent matches have not even been very close (although the earlier meetings used to be). One really can't call theirs a rivalry because Sharapova has won so few of their matches over the years. This fact should free up Sharapova to go for broke because she literally has nothing to lose. No one expects her to win this match so she should hit the ball even harder than usual.

As for Serena, her problem may be over confidence. She is now 11-1 against World #1 Azarenka and 9-2 against World #2 Sharapova and in 2012 has won 7 consecutive matches against her putative rivals for the throne at the top of women's tennis. With a win on Sunday she will end the year with 58 wins and only 4 losses on the year.

That being said, Sharapova can be dangerous. However Serena looks like a woman on a mission and is determined to reach World #1 again. Serena has won a tour-leading 6 titles in 2012 (tied with Azarenka) and if she wins in Istanbul it will be her 7th title of the year in as many finals and her 3rd time winning the year-end championships (2001 walk over Lindsay Davenport and 2009 d. Venus Williams).

In fact, I would not be surprised if we start talking about a Serena slam sometime in 2013, especially if Serena wins the Australian Open, which is rather likely. She has a mere 3 more majors before she reaches the gaudy totals of the all-time greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, which at the age of 31 is something she could very well reach in the not too distant future!

Saturday Politics: Great Resource on CA Propositions

The above image is a screen shot from, a very useful resource for California voters who are contemplating how to vote on the 11 ballot propositions on the 2012 general election ballot. I just selected the postions of the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Bay Guardian and San Diego Union-Tribune but you can customize it how you like. I also included the positions of the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party. There's a whole other option of  selecting the positions from various unions as well.

One weird feature of the website is that it doesn't allow you to add your own choices in the red/green comparison table, although it does allow you to share your choices via social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest.

If you are a California voter I strongly encourage you to use to find out more about the ballot propositions to help you make your decisions. You can also see my own positions on the 2012 California ballot propositions:

Good luck, and happy voting!

POLL: MN Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment May Fail

Heartening news out of Minnesota regarding their Proposition 8 copycat measure to amend the state constitution to ban marriage equality. A new poll from the St. Cloud Statewide Survey indicates that 51% of likely voters will vote against the ban while 44% will vote for it. Among registered voters the lead for the forces of equality is greater (49% No, 41% Yes) but the No side falls below the magical 50% number, which is worrisome.

There's also some reports that this polling outfit consistently under-samples Republicans and may overstate Democratic support.

Regardless, one common feature of all the ballot measure fights in 2012 is that the polls have been close, showing that support for and opposition to marriage equality are nearly equal, which demonstrates a massive improvement for the forces of LGBT equality.

Queer Quote: Doug Wright On "Moderates" For Romney

This is a quote from award-winning playwright Doug Wright (Grey Gardens, The Little Mermaid, I Am My Own Wife) that is currently going viral around the web and on Facebook. It responds to someone who claims they are a "moderate Republican" and thus support Mitt Romney for president even though they disagree with his policies on social issues. Wright's response is today's Queer Quote:
"I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, 'My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.' It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you 'disagree' with your candidate on these issues."
Hat/tip to Joe.My.God. Of course even groups of Republicans who happen to be LGBT like the Log Cabin Republicans have decided to endorse Romney for President, although this is prompting significant  negative reactions.

Friday, October 26, 2012

POLL: Prop. 34 (Death Penalty Repeal) Now Ahead

Good news! As a longtime member of Amnesty International, I have long been opposed to the death penalty, viewing it as a barbaric and archaic exercise of state power that discriminates against racial and ethnic minorities and expensively fails to positively address the problem of violent crime. Most "civilized" countries in the world have already abolished the death penalty but large majorities in the United States continue to support the bizarre practice of killing people to send the message that killing people is wrong.

Thus I have been quite pleased to see Proposition 34 qualifiy for the 2012 California ballot and have closely followed its progress of this measure which would replace the death penalty in California with life in prison without parole instead.

Previous polls by The Los Angeles Times from late September shows that Proposition 34 was behind (38% yes, 51% No) but a new poll from the same group shows that support for "justice that works" has surged:
Forty-two percent said they would vote for Proposition 34, with 45% saying no. In September, the gap was 38% to 51%, a 13-point difference. A significant 12% of respondents said they did not know how they would vote, nearly identical to the 11% who had not decided last month. 
When voters heard more information about Proposition 34, such as its financial ramifications and details of the effect on prisoners, responses flipped: 45% were in favor and 42% against — still very close to the survey's margin of error, which is 2.9 percentage points. 
Proposition 34 would apply retroactively to condemned inmates, require convicted murderers to work in prison and contribute to victim restitution funds, and direct $100 million to law enforcement over four years. It could save the state as much as $130 million a year, according to California's nonpartisan legislative analyst. 
California has more than 727 inmates on death row, the most in the nation. Since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1978, 13 inmates have been put to death and many more have died of old age, other natural causes or suicide. Court rulings have prevented executions for six years. 
Supporters contend that the system is broken and wasteful, with the state spending tens of millions of dollars each year on capital trials and appeals. They argue that DNA-based exonerations across the nation demonstrate that innocent people remain at risk of being executed.
The exciting news about this poll is that it shows movement toward the passage of Proposition 34 even before the yes campaign had started airing its television ads in support of death penalty repeal. The Yes side has far more money than the No side, but the conventional wisdom is that a ballot measure needs to be well-over 50% heading into election day because Undecided's tend to break heavily to the "No" side to maintain the status quo when they are unclear or uncertain about the effect of the initiative's passage would be.

One could make the argument that the ballot measure on the death penalty is different from other issues since most people know where they stand and they know the issues involved (one could make a similar argument regarding ballot measures on marriage equality at this point in time as well).

We shall find out what happens on November 6th! It would be great if the largest state in the Union took a decisive step towards ending the death penalty on that day.

Radio Ad Featuring Obama Promotes Question 6

Here is a transcript of a pro-Question 6 radio ad which Freedom to Marry is spending $100,000 to air in Maryland starting today. It features the audio of President Barack Obama endorsing marriage equality from May 2012
Two women discussing the election in a diner.  <diner SFX> 
Woman 1:  So who are you voting for for President? 
Woman 2:  (laughing) … Who do you think? 
Woman 1:  I know … but what about Question Six?  My Pastor says he’s ok with it, but I just don’t know… 
Woman 2:  I didn’t know either, but then I heard President Obama supported marriage for gay couples. 
Woman 1:  Really? 
Woman 2:  You haven’t heard him?  I’ve got the clip here on my phone… 
Woman 1:  You have that on your phone?!!?  (teasing) 
Woman 2:  Yes!  It’s THAT important…listen up:
Obama Clip: “Same-sex couples should be able to get married.  I had hesitated on gay marriage because I thought civil unions would be sufficient … You know, Malia and Sasha, they’ve got friends whose parents are same-sex couples, it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents would be treated differently.  That’s the kind of thing that prompts a change of perspective.  When we think about our faith, it’s also the golden rule…” 
Woman 1:  That is SO true...  
Woman 2:  Isn’t it though?  I’d always kinda been on the fence, but Obama makes it so simple: it’s about fairness – treating everyone equal under the law. 
Woman 1:  Well, if that’s what a vote for Question Six means, I’m fired up and ready to go!
This ad is airing just as the word is spreading that Obama-Biden 2012 has endorsed the Yes position on Question 6. Hopefully this will give the campaign to defend Maryland's marriage equality law at the ballot the boost it needs to be victorious on election day. 

What is very important about this ad is that it is a direct appeal to African-American voters, by the most prominent and respected African-American politician in the country. This is an excellent about face from Freedom to Marry, which initially refused to include Maryland in its list of states where it was focused on winning the freedom to marry in 2012. At the time, many people speculated if the reason Freedom to Marry was abandoning Maryland was the racial make-up of the state, which is 30% African American.

There was some belief that because African Americans are more religious than other groups and the leadership and decision-makers in most LGBT orgs are white, that it would be more difficult to fight to defend marriage equality in Maryland at the ballot box. 

Maryland may still fail to pass Question 6, but at least the fight has been engaged and the divide between LGBT activists and African-Americans has been narrowed. One result of this activity is that the support in the African-American community for marriage equality in Maryland is now 42%, in a recent poll (with 53% opposing).

Queer Quote: Jerame Davis on LCR's Romney Pick

Here is another on-the-record quote from Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats on the announcement that Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed Mitt Romney for President:
"This endorsement was not principled in any way - how could it be when it excuses some of the most radical anti-LGBT positions in presidential history? Log Cabin's endorsement of Romney actually does harm to anyone they can claim to represent. It's really quite tragic. 
"I wouldn't advocate for Log Cabin Republicans to be shouting from Dupont Circle that Mitt Romney is a homophobe - that's not their job. But I would advocate for them to hold their Party and their candidates accountable by not rewarding damaging behavior and not making a mockery of what it means to be labeled a LGBT organization."
Some people would say that perhaps the head of the "gay Democrat" group would be the worst person to quote in response to any action by the "gay Republican" group, but I disagree. The two are mirror images of each other, and if anyone knows the pressure of balancing partisan versus LGBT instincts it would be someone like Jerame Davis who faces the exact same pressures. The point here is that R. Clarke Cooper, the head of the Log Cabin Republicans put partisanship above LGBT equality, and that is reprehensible.

Celebrity Friday: Openly Gay John Noguez in Jail

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
John Noguez is the only official  that is openly gay who has (ever?) been elected countywide in Los Angeles County, representing a population of nearly 10 million people. He was elected the Los Angeles County Assessor in the November 2010 general election. He is 47 years old and despite being openly gay and elected to multiple offices (city councilman and mayor of Huntington Park) he has been married to a woman since 2001.

Clearly Noguez is a complicated person, but his life grew even more complicated when he was arrested on serious charges of corruption and bribery on October 18th.

This week Noguez failed to make bail and will remain in jail because a judge refused to reduce it from over one million dollars:

"Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, who has spent the last six days in jail after his arrest on suspicion of taking bribes to lower property tax bills, will stay behind bars a while longer."

"On Monday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba refused to reduce Noguez's bail below $1.16 million -- the amount the county allegedly lost in tax revenue due to the scheme, prosecutors claim."

"Noguez's attorney, Michael Proctor, said Noguez would not be able to make that bail. He had asked Torrealba to consider a bail of about $400,000. Torrealba also set bail at $1.16 million for Ramin Salari, a tax consultant accused of bribing Noguez to lower property taxes for his wealthy clients. Salari is expected to put up the money and be released, said his attorney, Mark Werksman."

This case may be more complicated than it seems. The L.A. County Assessor values all property in Los Angeles County, which leads to the amount of property tax that all property owners must pay in the County. Lots of people are willing to say off the record that they think Noguez is a "good guy" and question whether Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley may be over-zealous in prosecuting Noguez. However, there are a lot of facts coming out which do not look good for Noguez. This story should be an interesting one for quite some time to come. The good news is that it doesn't look like Noguez's sexual orientation has played a role in his arrest at all, but you never know when it might come up.

Hat/tip to LGBT POV

WTA TOUR FINALS: Serena Beats Down #1 Vika

Serena Williams won her 56th WTA tour match of the year, beating World #1 Victoria Azarenka for the 5th time this year and improving to a career head-to-head record of 11-1 against the 2012 Australian Open champion. In fact, Serena has now won 46 of her last 48 matches and has only lost four times in 2012 (to Ekaterina Makarova in the 4th round of the Australian Open, Caroline Wozniacki at the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Virginia Razzano in the 1st round of the 2012 French Open and Angelique Kerber in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Financial Open.

By defeating Azarenka 6-4 6-4 Serena is now 3-0 in the round-robin at the WTA Tour Year-End Championships and only needs to win two more matches to complete her stunning 2012 season. Azarenka had a bad serving day but showed her mental tenacity by breaking Serena at love when  the American was serving for the first set but then Vika ended up losing the set on another double fault. Despite throwing her racquet to the ground, the word #1 was able to race out to a double-break 3-0 lead in the second set. However, Serena was able to storm back with clutch serving, eventually winning 4 games in a row and although Azarenka was able to stop the run by holding to 4-all the next time she served she went down triple break point and ended the match with a whimper on yet another double fault.

Serena and Maria Sharapova have now qualified for the semifinals in their respective halves of the draw. On Friday, Azarenka will face Li Na in an important match that will decide who will be the second player who advances to the semifinal from the Red Group.  Additionally, Sara Errani and Agnieska Radwanska will play a match that will decide who advances to the 2nd second semifinal slot in the White Group.

In addition to the semifinal slots, the World #1 is up for grabs as well. If Kvitova-replacement Sam Stosur beats Sharapova then Azarenka will automatically get the year-end #1 ranking. Stosur lost to Errani today. If Azarenka wins her match against Li Na then, the Belarus will end the year at #1. If Sharapova beats Stosur and Azarenka loses, Sharapova would still need to win her semifinal and the final in order to claim the #1 ranking, which is a very unlikely result.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Obama Picks Pro-Equality Side In Gay Ballot Fights

Huge news today from the Obama for America campaign on the issue of marriage equality. The president's re-election team today sent out statements to the groups fighting to enact marriage equality in Washington, Maryland and Maine saying that President Obama is endorsing the pro-equality side in all four of these ballot measure campaigns.

The official statement of the President in favor of Washington's Referendum 74 (issued by Washington state Obama for America press secretary Paul Bell) is:
“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the president believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. Washington’s same-sex marriage law would treat all Washington couples equally, and that is why the President supports a vote to approve Referendum 74.”
While the official statement on Maine's Question 1 issued by Obama for America's Northeast regional press secretary Michael Czin reads:
"While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the president believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. The president believes same-sex couples should be treated equally and supports Question 1."
The official statement on Maryland's Question 6 from Obama for America spokesperson Frank Benenati reads:
“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the president believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. Maryland’s same-sex marriage law would treat all Maryland couples equally, and that is why the president supports Question 6.”
Way back in April the Obama-Biden campaign released a statement in opposition to Minnesota's Proposition 8 copycat measure which would amend that state's constitution to ban marriage equality. That statement read (in part):
"While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. That's what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do -- it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples."
Today's statements are especially significant because they show that not only is the President opposed to discriminatory measures like Minnesota's but they are also in favor of affirmative measures like Question 1 in Maine, Question 6 in Maryland and Referendum 74 which would all enact marriage equality if passed by voters on November 6th.

WATCH: MN Pro-Equality Ad Talks About Values

I really like this ad from Minnesotans United for all Families, the group opposing the state constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, because it talks about values, a topic that heterosexual supremacists always seem to be bringing up. Believers in equality have values as well, especially the value of the Golden Rule (Treat others as you want to be treated).

I think the effect of this ad is two fold: it discusses that children get values from their parents (thus blunting the ridiculous and misleading argument that somehow marriage equality will cause some kids to be taught particular values about marriage--there is no connection between the two things!) and that the most important value should be the Golden Rule, with the obvious implication that voting to ban someone else's marriage is clearly wrong because you wouldn't want your marriage banned by voters.

Minnesota is probably the toughest battle of the four marriage equality ballot measure fights we are facing this Fall, but it is good to see that some new and strong arguments are emerging that could be deployed in other, future fights over this issue.


Recently I went out with co-workers to the same AMC movie theaters in the Courthouse section of Arlington that I saw Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar and Woody Allen's To Rome With Love. The movie theaters were pretty run-down and sorta nondescript but the company was good and the movies were okay.

This time when we entered the movie theater we discovered it had been radically transformed through an astonishingly luxurious (and expensive-looking) renovation. Atleast half the seats had been removed and replaced with cushy, red leather recliners that were more comfortable than the seats on most Business or First Class flights. Astonishingly, the price of the film has not gone up. I have now discovered my favorite place to see a movie in the Washington, D.C. area, perhaps in the country are the AMC Courthouse 8 theaters. Even in Los Angeles, a movie-going mecca, only the Arclight Cinemas have the level of service and style (individual seat reservations, gourmet food at the concessions, knowledgeable ushers!) equivalent to the newly renovated AMC theaters in Courthouse. But Arclight charges a premium (about $14 a ticket) for these enhanced amenities, while the AMC Courthouse tickets are just $10.75 ($11.25 for real3d). It's quite a bargain.

Looper has a very healthy rating of 93% on among critics. It also features a stellar cast which includes Joseph Gordon-LevittBruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels. The film is written and directed by Rian Johnson and it is his vision which is the primary creative force behind the film.

One of the best aspects of the film is its visuals, which are outstanding. The film is set in 2044, in Kansas City, and the art direction and set dressing is managed cleverly to indicate the future without being too obvious or visually obtrusive about it. There are subtle touches, like the ubiquitous presence of solar panels, on cars and buildings as well as a general sense of decay which communicates that the film is depicting a very different world from our own. The costume designer cleverly has most of the characters dress in styles that we would recognize now and the script explains that "retro" fashion is very popular.

The most important aspect of the film is its plot, which simply is about Joe (Gordon-Levitt's character) failing to shoot Bruce Willis' character, who is Joe from 2074. Joe is a "looper," someone who shoots the people who bad guys from the future send back periodically. Eventually, he knows that the person sent back will be himself and he is expected to shoot his future self and "close the loop." Because this fails it leads to some typical mind-bending time-travel induces paradoxes, but the real impact of the film is given by Old Joe's relationship with a woman he meets during the 30 years of life he experiences before he shows back up to screw up Joe's life in 2044 as well as Joe's relationship with a woman and a young boy who (may) hold the secret to why 2074 is so messed up and why recently a lot of loopers are suddenly having their loops closed. The tension between Joe and Old Joe, who are technically the same person, but in different time lines with very different agendas, is an absolute scorcher of a central idea to wrap a movie around, and Rian Johnson pulls it off in style.

Overall, Looper is a surprisingly good science fiction thriller with a complex central twist that is effectively and stylishly executed.

Director: Rian Johnson.
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content. Release Date: September 28, 2012.
Viewing Date: October 23, 2012.

Writing: A-.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: A-.

 Overall Grade: A/A- (3.917/4.0).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

EQCA's New Executive Director is John O'Connor

Equality California board chairs Clarissa Filgioun and Cary Davidson sent out a press release today announcing that the state's largest LGBT political advocacy organization has named John O'Connor as its new Executive Director, more than a year after my friend Roland Palencia announced he was resigning as the previous head of EQCA. (Disclaimer: From 2002 to 2006 I served on the board of directors of Equality California and Equality California Institute.) It is good news to see that one of the most important organizations in the country regarding LGBT equality is no longer going to be leaderless. Some people might question my characterization of EQCA in that way, but by definition the largest LGBT political advocacy group in the largest state in the country will (and some would argue should, or must) have a national profile.

From the press release:
"I am honored to lead Equality California forward as the statewide voice on LGBT equality. The message will be that we are for full equality and nothing less," said O’Connor, who currently serves as the executive director of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. “That means enacting, implementing and enforcing legislation that expands the protections and freedoms afforded to LGBT Californians, supporting and electing pro-LGBT legislators, and winning the hearts and minds of Californians through effective education. I won’t just be speaking — I’ll be listening too, to our coalition partners, to the needs of LGBT Californians, and to everyone involved in building a state of equality.”

O’Connor has extensive experience leading non-profits through transition and into solvency and stability. Most recently, through his work at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, he brought in new staff, established a new counseling center — which was fully staffed and operational within a year — and forged important partnerships with area schools in order to bring anti-bullying and suicide prevention workshops into every 9th grade and first year continuation class. From 2006 through 2010, O’Connor worked directly under former California First Lady Maria Shriver to establish the California Hall of Fame at the California Museum, and he played a key role in stabilizing the museum and leading fundraising and program development that brought the organization statewide visibility and acclaim.

O’Connor brings important national and foundation experience to his new role. From 2002 to 2004, O’Connor was national director of the Gill Foundation, a $220 million foundation dedicated to advancing LGBT equality. He also served as program director of The David Geffen Foundation, where he worked closely with charities and issues of importance to the LGBT community.

“On behalf of the boards of directors, we are very pleased to welcome John aboard, knowing that his background and experience will be valuable as we chart our future,” said Clarissa Filgioun and Cary Davidson, board presidents of EQCA and EQCA Institute respectively. “John is a bold leader with a history of leading nonprofits into the next phase of their journeys. He will enable EQCA and EQCA Institute to broaden our work and move forward on our path to achieve LGBT equality in California.”

O’Connor was selected by the Boards of Directors of Equality California and Equality California Institute after an extensive, national search conducted by executive search firm Morris & Berger.
Check out Karen Ocamb's LGBT POV for more information on this story.

WTA TOUR FINALS: Kvitova Out, Serena Into SFs, Vika Escapes

Petra Kvitova, the defending champion of the WTA Year End Championships, lost an atrocious straight sets match to Agnieska Radwanska yesterday and promptly withdrew from the 2012 WTA Tour championships in Istanbul today, citing a viral illness. Kvitova will be replaced in the field by Samantha Stosur.

Meanwhile Serena Williams, still looked rusty and error-prone in her 6-4 6-1 win against Angelique Kerber on Tuesday and repeated the sketchy performance on Wednesday in her 7-6(1) 6-3 win against Li Na. In both matches, the "best serve in women's tennis" was nowhere to be seen, with Serena barely placing half of her first serves into the court.

Serena's next match will be against World #1 Victoria Azarenka who won a classic barn burner against Kerber, saving two match points in a 6-7(11) 7-6(2) 6-4. Azarenka served for the 2012 U.S. Open championship against Serena at 5-4 in the 3rd set but ended up losing that match. Since then Serena has been off the tour entirely while Vika is on an 11-match, two tournament winning streak.

Serena was asked about the match-up with Azarenka and said:

“She has not stopped since January,” Serena said of Azarenka. “She’s been so consistent this whole year. It’s good to see someone playing so consistently throughout the whole year.
“It’ll be interesting to see our matchup. It’ll be fun. Regardless of what happens, I’m going to have a good time. I know she’s going to give 200 percent, and I am going to go out there and do the same.

It should be a great match on Thursday, even though Serena has nothing to lose because she has already qualified for the semifinal round. Azarenka needs one more round-robin win to clinch the year-end #1 ranking, and if she also reaches the semifinals, the two would meet again this week in the final, the very last official WTA tour match of the year.


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