Saturday, November 30, 2013

WATCH: Sneak Preview of The Walking Dead Season 4 Mid-Season Finale!

The Walking Dead - 4x08 " Too Far Gone" : Sneak...
by Llegaronparaquedarse
Oh crap! I found a sneak preview of tomorrow's mid-season finale of The Walking Dead. Ywo of my favorite characters, Michonne and Hershel, are being held captive by the Governor in order to force Rick and the others out of the prison. I don't see how this can possibly end well!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Which Flag Is Offensive To Republicans: Gay Pride or Confederate Pride?

A poll of potential Republican primary voters by Public Policy Polling asked this group about the relative acceptability of the Confederate flag (a.k.a. "The Stars and Bars") versus the Gay Pride flag (a.k.a. the Rainbow Flag) and the results were somewhat disturbing:
Q3 Do you think high school students should be
allowed to wear confederate flags to school, or
Think they should............................................ 43%
Think they should not...................................... 37%
Not sure .......................................................... 19%

Q4 Do you think high school students should be
allowed to wear gay pride flags to school, or
Think they should............................................ 28%
Think they should not...................................... 57%
Not sure .......................................................... 15%

Q5 Do you think it’s more appropriate for high
school students to wear gay pride flags or
confederate flags to school?
Gay pride flags................................................ 9%
Confederate flags ........................................... 38%
Not sure .......................................................... 52%  
It is somewhat bizarre to juxtapose these two symbols since the Stars and Bars is a symbol of racism and oppression and enslavement of African-Americans while the Rainbow flag is a symbol of the diversity of sexual expression.

Or, as openly gay (and Black) journalist Jonathan Capehart puts it:
Folks, the Confederate flag is no better than a Swastika. It is a symbol of white supremacy, hate and oppression that has no place in American political discourse. That Kanye West wants to co-opt the rebel banner is as noble as it is futile. Meanwhile, the rainbow that is the gay pride flag symbolizes inclusion and acceptance. Oftentimes, usually in other countries, the words “pace” or “peace” can be found emblazoned on it. The rainbow flag is the very antithesis of the Confederate flag. That the latter is deemed more acceptable than the former is deplorable.
It is NOT a coincidence that the state flag of  Mississippi still contains the stars and bars of the Confederacy, while the state flag of Arkansas contains motifs (white stars on blue diagonal stripes) which come from the stars and bars. Both Florida and Alabama have official state flags which retain the X shape from stars and bars. There have been long-standing and ongoing controversies over public displays of the Confederate flag.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Thursday, November 28, 2013

GRAPHIC: Map Shows Location Of Racist and Homophobic Tweets

Racist tweets according to their geo-location tags
Homophobic tweets according to their geo-location tags

Courtesy The Root

BOOK REVIEW: Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey

The third book in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey is Abaddon's Gate. Happily, it maintains the quality of the first two entries Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War, which were both excellent examples of sci-fi space opera at its finest.

Abaddon's Gate continues the story by following the series of events that are happening to Jim Holden and the rest of the crew of the spaceship Rocinante that began in Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War.

The structure of these books is that the story is told from the point of view of various characters, which in this book are Holden, Anna Volovodov (a lesbian pastor from Europa who is part of a humanitarian contingent sent to investigate the anomaly called "The Ring" that has formed at the edge of the Solar System in the end of Caliban's War), Clarissa Mao (the sister of Julie Mao who was one of the key characters who died in Leviathan Wakes; Clarissa is masquerading as Melba and is determined to kill Holden as revenge for the part he played in her sister Julie's death) and Bull (security officer on Behemoth, the largest ship in the fleet of the Outer Planets Alliance, which is also on its way to The Ring).

Sadly, key characters from the previous books do not return in the latest book, most notably Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala (the profane grandmother who while appearing to be a mid-level functionary in the United Nations is probably the most important on Earth) and Sergeant Bobbie Draper (a Martian Marine who was the sole survivor in the alien attack on Ganymede that catalyzed events in Caliban's War).

The only character who has had POV chapters named after him in all three books is Holden. What Corey seems to be doing is introducing new characters in each book while simultaneously ramping up the action  and expanding the scale of the plot.

The Expanse series (as it is now called) is most well-known for incredibly detailed action sequences, wry humor, political intrigue and thoughtful and nuanced characterization. All of these features are apparent again in Abaddon's Gate, in addition to another aspect of the books: pulse-pounding suspense!

Although the series was initially conceived as a trilogy the great news is that the series has been expanded to six books, and the fourth book in the series, Cibola Burn, will be released on June 17, 2014. I can't wait!

Title: Abaddon's Gate.
James S.A. Corey.
Paperback: 576 pages.
Date Published: June 4, 2013.
Date Read: July 23, 2013

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Do Corporations Have Religious Beliefs?

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a case about whether the federal mandate that for-profit corporations must cover comprehensive medical care (including contraception) for their employees under the Affordable Care Act violates federal law (the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act) and the religious freedom rights of the corporation.
Three federal appeals courts around the country have struck down the contraception coverage rule, while two other appeals courts have upheld it. That "circuit split" made a Supreme Court review more likely. Among the plaintiffs is Hobby Lobby, Inc. a nationwide chain of about 500 for-profit arts and crafts stores. David Green and his family are the owners and say their Christian beliefs clash with parts of the law's mandates for comprehensive coverage. They say some of the drugs that would be provided prevent human embryos from being implanted in a woman's womb, which the Greens equate to abortion. The privately held company does not object to funding other forms of contraception -- such as condoms and diaphragms -- for their roughly 13,000 employees, which Hobby Lobby says represent a variety of faiths. Companies that refuse to provide the coverage could be fined up to $1.3 million daily.
David Green frames the argument this way:
"This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.
The Friendly Atheist responds:
On that matter, this isn’t just a war on Green’s “religious conscience.” This is a war on science and sex. Green doesn’t care that the FDA has said birth control pills don’t cause abortions — rather, they prevent abortions from happening, which you would think he’d totally support — but he believes they cause abortions. So there. And it’s hardly a surprise that an evangelical would be opposed to women having sex that doesn’t lead to a child, though Green has no problem paying for his employees’ Viagra pills… 
David Green thinks his religious beliefs ought to trump those of his employees. He doesn’t want them making their own health care decisions; he thinks he knows better than they do. 
There’s another issue here, too: If the Supreme Court rules in Green’s favor, where is the line drawn? What if a business owner is a Jehovah’s Witness who doesn’t believe in blood transfusions? Or a Christian Scientist who believe in the power of prayer over medicine? 
That the Supreme Court thinks this is a case worth hearing is frightening. That they could rule in the religious owners’ favor is a disaster in the making.
What if a business owner believes AIDS is God's punishment and that their religious beliefs would be violated if they paid for HIV treatment? Should businesses be allowed to not offer health plans that cover treatments for sexually transmitted infections if their religious beliefs say that sex outside of marriage should be punished?

Religious belief is so inherently arbitrary (and varied) that it simply doesn't make any sense for the religious beliefs of corporate owners to determine what kind of health benefits their employees receive. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby by determining that corporations have cognizable constitutional rights to freedom of religion it could radically restructure the religious balance of American society in as dramatic a fashion as the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen United has negatively impacted our electoral process.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TENNIS TUESDAY: Casey Dellacqua Comes Out, World Shrugs

Australian doubles specialist Casey Dellacqua came out of the closet when her partner Amanda delivered her son Blake last summer. Dellacqua teamed up with fellow Aussie Ashleigh Barty to reach the finals of three of the four Grand Slam tournaments (Australian, Wimbledon and US Open) in 2013 but there was almost no media reaction to the fact that this elite sports figure is openly gay.

Dellacqua is quoted about the (lack of) press reaction by Sports Illustrated:
“It’s not news for the majority of people in our lives,” Dellacqua told Fairfax Media. “We’ve got a lot of great family and friends, a lot of lovely people around us. It hasn’t been too much of an issue to be honest with you, I haven’t had too much reaction or interest. I’m not sure what to say because I haven’t been asked until now. I’ve done a couple of interviews and it hasn’t been much of a big issue.” Nor should it, Dellacqua believes. “I feel so. I don’t feel like I’m any different,” she said.
“No, it’s not like it’s been a big secret or anything,” she said. “I’ve just gone about my life and am very proud of my family. Someone had asked me why I hadn’t played and that was the reason. There wasn’t much more too it, it is the way it is. Like everyone else’s relationships, it’s not too much of a big deal, to be honest.”
Hopefully, Casey will serve as a role model for other players on the WTA tour to feel comfortable enough to come out proudly about their sexual orientation. I'm talking to YOU, Samantha Stosur!

Racism Is Over? Two Counter-examples From Los Angeles

I was struck by two recent news stories in the Los Angeles Times which to me seem to reflect the reality of the salience of race and racism in the lives of African American men in Los Angeles.

From "LAFD firefighter wins $1.1 million racial discrimination verdict":
A civil court jury on Monday returned a $1.1 million verdict against the City of Los Angeles, finding in favor of a black firefighter who said he had been discriminated against during a nearly three-decade career because of his race. 
The verdict comes after 16 days of deliberation — and six years after another jury ruled against Jabari S. Jumaane, who alleged a pattern of racial bias, harassment and retaliation in the Los Angeles Fire Department when he worked as a fire inspector. That decision was overturned after an appeals court granted a new trial, agreeing that there had been jury misconduct in the original case. 
According to a 2012 report by the city’s office of the independent assessor on fire department litigation, Jumaane’s allegation of jury misconduct included a declaration by a juror who “claimed to have witnessed racially motivated misconduct by fellow jurors.”
The retrial jury’s ruling is a blow to a department that has found itself accused of systematic discrimination — particularly against black firefighters — in the past.
And "Judge accuses UCLA police of brutality":
David S. Cunningham III is a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, and a onetime federal civil rights attorney. 
But on Saturday morning, he found himself handcuffed in the back of a UCLA police car. Officers had pulled him over as he was driving his Mercedes out of his Westwood gym — because, the police said, he wasn't wearing his seat belt. 
What happened next is a matter of dispute, but it ended with the African American judge yelling to a growing crowd in the heart of Westwood Village about police brutality. 
Cunningham, 59, has now filed an excessive force complaint with the university, and his attorney said Monday that he believed race was a factor in how the judge was treated. 
"Do you think this would have happened if he was a white judge?" said the attorney, Carl Douglas. 
UCLA officials said the officers handcuffed Cunningham when he disobeyed their order to stay inside his car while they checked his driver's license and registration.
Do you see the common factors between the two stories?

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Poll Indicates Majority Support For Marriage Equality in Mexico

A new poll from Mexico shows that although support for same-sex marriage is high, discriminatory attitudes towards LGBT people are still prevalent in the country.
According to a Parametria survey conducted in July, 52 percent of respondents support gay marriage, while 44 percent remain opposed. Fifty-two percent of Roman Catholics are also in support. That's a thirteen point increase in support from a previous poll conducted in December of 2012.
Fifty-seven percent of Mexicans (60% of Catholics) support gay troops serving openly in the military.
Openly gay politicians are supported 49-45 percent.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that gay people in Mexico should be treated equally, but 9 in 10 acknowledged that discrimination exists in the nation.
However, a large majority of Mexicans (70%) are opposed to gay couples adopting children, a 4 point drop from last year's survey.
And when asked to choose either a statement in support of same-sex unions as a testament to a free society or a statement in support of marriage remaining a heterosexual union, only 36 percent chose the former, a ten point increase from 2004, while 51 percent chose the later.
These are very interesting results. It is curious how people could support the right for same-sex couples to get legally married but in the same breath do not think those same couples should be able to adopt kids!

WATCH: Trailer for HBO's new gay series "Looking"

The 8-episode first season  of HBO's new drama about the life and loves of modern gay men set in San Francisco called Looking stars openly gay Jonathan Groff (Glee) and Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Men of a Certain Age) premieres on January 19, 2014.

The trailer doesn't look like the series is going to be featuring diverse characters, but since there is so little original gay content from major media sources I will probably watch it. It basically looks like a gay version of Lena Dunham's Girls.

Eye Candy: Alex Ortiz (reprise)

Alex Ortiz has appeared as Eye Candy here before (July 1, 2013). He is active on Facebook as Alexander Julius Ortiz and well-known as a natural bodybuilder and has worked as a model (for obvious reasons!)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Oregon Religious Extremists File "Right To Discriminate" Initiative

Hmmm, there's an update from Oregon, where a proposed 2014 ballot measure to repeal a 2004 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage is expected to qualify soon. According to Think Progress, Oregon United for Marriage they have 115,000 signatures of the 116, 284 signatures required to qualify an initiative.

As I have mentioned before, heterosexual supremacists are starting to recognize that the kulturkampf over marriage equality is almost over, and the forces for equality are winning. As a rearguard action, they are trying to change the argument from whether marriage equality should be enacted to "how can religious people be exempted from having to interact with legally married same-sex couples and acknowledge their existence." This shift is reflected in the fights over religious exemption amendments to marriage equality statutes that have been enacted in Delaware, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Illinois and Minnesota this year. It also explains why there is currently a case pending before the United States Supreme Court which revolves around the question of whether the refusal of a New Mexico religious photographer to provide services to a lesbian couple for their commitment ceremony is violating the Land of Enchantment's public accommodations statute.

Now in Oregon, the group that was preparing to fight the marriage equality initiative is filing their own initiative to "protect [the] religious freedom" of private citizens serving in non-governmental capacities from being published for  "declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support" a same-sex marriage or commitment ceremony.

The full text of the initiative is:
Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
SECTION 1. This 2014 Initiative shall be known as the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative and is intended to exempt a person from supporting same-sex ceremonies in violation of deeply held religious beliefs.
SECTION 2. Religious freedom is the first freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution. It is a fundamental human right and is the right to express, think and act upon what you deeply believe. Religious freedom upholds stability in a diverse society. Wherever religious freedom is high, there is better health, more economic prosperity, lower income inequality and sustained democracy. Religious freedom protects the rights of all individuals and groups, whether religious or not. Unfortunately, there are groups pushing the view that religion is purely a private matter and that religious voices or opinions should be silenced. Religion is more than just private worship. It involves public expression on moral and social issues. Religious freedom, our first freedom, needs protection as this Initiative intends to do.
SECTION 3. (1) As used in this section:
(a) “Person” includes individuals, sole proprietorships, nonprofits, corporations, associations, firms, partnerships, limited liability companies, or other legal entities defined in ORS 174.100(5).
(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if doing so would violate a person’s deeply held religious beliefs, a person acting in a nongovernmental capacity may not be:
(a) Penalized by the state or a political subdivision of this state for declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage ceremony or its arrangements, same-sex civil union ceremony or its arrangements, or same-sex domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements; or
(b) Subject to a civil action for declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage ceremony or its arrangements, same-sex civil union ceremony or its arrangements, or same-sex domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements.
(3) This section must be construed in favor of the broad protection of religious exercise to the maximum extent permitted by the Oregon Constitution and the United States Constitution. 
I would vote against this initiative if it qualified for the ballot, but I'm not sure that I am completely against a carveout in public accommodations law to allow religious people an exemption related to marriage equality ceremonies. However, I would only support an exception limited to this one area. The problem is that I am sure the religious extremists who are circulating this initiative would make the argument that if you are willing to exempt religious people from public accommodations law for the purpose of marriage ceremonies, why not also do so for other areas like housing or other "intimate" services like manicures, massages, etc.? Once you have a carve out for one area of public accommodation how would you prevent the accommodation from being extended to various other areas?

After all, in the grand scheme of things, if you are a religious person and you are offering your services to the public, that means that you are going to offer services to people who may do things that are completely anti-thetical to various aspects of your religion. Why is it that religious people want a carve out for not supporting same-sex marriages, but not for people who are getting married when the bride is pregnant, or the couple is interracial or for couples who violate some other religious principle. It is very hard to believe that this initiative is motivated by a desire to protect religious freedom and not a desire to protect religious-based homophobia.

Friday, November 22, 2013

2013 CHENNAI WCC: Carlsen Wins Title By Defeating Anand 6.5-3.5!

The King is dead, long live the King! 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway has won the world chess championship match by defeating Viswanathan Anand 6.5 to 3.5. Carlsen won the 5th, 6th and 9th games in the 10-game match. The 9th game was the most exciting, with Anand apparently building up a huge attack and then suddenly blundering to lose the game. reports:
Magnus Carlsen won the 2013 World Chess Championship inChennai, India to become the 16th Undisputed World Champion of Chess. The 10th and last game of the match ended in a draw, and so the final score is 6.5-3.5 in favour of the Norwegian, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday in eight days from now.
Le roi est mort, vive le roi! Magnus Carlsen is the new World Champion of chess, and follows Viswanathan Anand's reign as undisputed world champion between 2007 and 2013. From the traditional lineage of chess players who won the crown in a match, Carlsen is the 16th champion after Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, José Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vassily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosjan, Boris Spassky, Robert Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. If we include FIDE World Champions Alexander Khalifman, Ruslam Ponomariov, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Veselin Topalov, Carlsen is the 20th Champion of the game.
Congratulations to Magnus on his victory!

Democrats (Finally) Change Filibuster Rules On Presidential Appointments

The Democratic majority in the United States Senate has finally acted to limit partisan filibusters of presidential appointments, voting 52-48 to change the operating rules of the Senate, by deploying what was previously known as the "nuclear option."

Progressives are generally thrilled with the rule change and this graphic depicting the current makeup of the federal judiciary is the main reason why:

These results are summarized by Campaign for America's Future:
When Obama came into office, Republican appointess held 59.4% of the filled judicial seats. But just this month, Democrats took a one-seat edge and now hold 50.06% of the seats. 
(The shift was little noted in the media. USA Today flagged that Democrats reached a tie on November 1. Soon after, the Senate filled two vacancies, while one new vacancy was createdwhen a Democratic judge moved to “senior” status.) 
But while Dems now hold that paper-thin edge, there are 93 vacancies on the table. (Plus another 18 judges have announced they will vacate their seats in the near future.
If Republicans dare Democrats into scrapping the filibuster for judicial nominations, President Obama can move to fill all those vacancies, which would give Democrats control of more than 55% of the judiciary.
It would indeed be a great thing if the federal judiciary actually was occupied by people who thought it was their job to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority and enforce constitutional liberties and civil rights instead of the  fraud of "original intent."

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Partners of Bayard Rustin and Sally Ride Attend WH Award Ceremony

Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week, and Walter Naegle, Rustin's life partner was in attendance. The award is the nation's highest civilian award and of the 16 recipients this year (which included Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Steinem) two of them were representatives of the LGBT community, Rustin and Sally Ride. Ride's life partner Tam O'Shaughnessy also attended the ceremony.

Metro Weekly reports:
 "As the first American woman in space, Sally didn't just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it," Obama said of Ride. "And when she came back to Earth, she devoted her life to helping girls excel in fields like math, science and engineering. 'Young girls need to see role models,' she said, 'you can't be what you can't see.' Today, our daughters -- including Malia and Sasha -- can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way."

Ride, who became the first American woman to travel to space in 1983, died in July 2012 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Ride devoted much of her life to advancing science education and the U.S. space program.

For Rustin, who died in 1987, Obama said final recognition for his role in the civil rights movement was part of a broader struggle for equality. 

"For decades, this great leader, often at Dr. King's side, was denied his rightful place in history because he was openly gay," Obama said. "No medal can change that, but today, we honor Bayard Rustin's memory by taking our place in his march towards true equality, no matter who we are or who we love." 

Rustin was an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize the early "freedom rides" and played a key role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington.


Naegle and O'Shaughnessy, who had never met before, were alphabetically seated next to each other during the ceremony presenting a resonant image. Both said they believed their presence as the gay partners of two Americans being awarded the nation's highest civilian honor would not go unnoticed.

"I think having Walter and me onstage for our partners sends a huge message to the world and that feels good," O'Shaughnessy said.
It's nice to see that members of the LGBT community are being recognized at the highest level, now perhaps soon we can start recognizing people before they die. People like Mary Bonauto, Larry Kramer and Phill Wilson would be on my short list of future possibilities.

President Signs HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act Into Law

Office of the Press Secretary
November 21, 2013

Statement by the President on the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act

Earlier today, I signed into law the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that allows scientists to carry out research into organ donations from one person with HIV to another.  For decades, these organ transplants have been illegal. It was even illegal to study whether they could be safe and effective.  But as our understanding of HIV and effective treatments have grown, that policy has become outdated.  The potential for successful organ transplants between people living with HIV has become more of a possibility.  The HOPE Act lifts the research ban, and, in time, it could lead to live-saving organ donations for people living with HIV while ensuring the safety of the organ transplant process and strengthening the national supply of organs for all who need them.

Improving care for people living with HIV is critical to fighting the epidemic, and it’s a key goal of my National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  The HOPE Act marks an important step in the right direction, and I thank Congress for their action. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

FILM REVIEW: 12 Years A Slave

The film 12 Years A Slave has been getting a lot of attention from critics and moviegoers, primarily for its incredibly realistic depiction of slavery, and the fact that it is based on a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of Solomon Northup. Northup was a free Black man from New York who in 1841was kidnapped and transported to the South against his will, somehow survived 12 years as a slave and then published a book detailing what happened to him. Black British filmmaker Steve McQueen discovered the incredible story and decided to make his 3rd feature film an adaptation of Northup's book into a movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup and sports a cast with celebrated white actors Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano and Benedict Cumberbatch. Another key character in the book is a female slave named Patsey played by Lupita Nyongy'o.

The Other Half and I were able to see 12 Years A Slave at our new favorite theater (Arclight Cinemas in Pasadena) recently. We both agreed with the enthusiastic reactions from the people at (96% critics, 93% audience) and disagree with critics who call the film extremely difficult to watch. There are some scenes which are extremely intense but the film is very well paced and the screenplay cleverly splits the story in such a way that it begins with Northup in bondage in Louisiana but then quickly shifts to show his life as a prosperous Negro gentleman with a wife and two young kids.

From the title of the film we know that Northup survives, but since we don't know what indignities and deprivations he suffers in slavery there is still significant suspense in the audience as we watch the film. And the fate of every other Black person in the film is subject to the whim (no matter how deranged, prejudiced or arbitrary) of any White person in the film.

Additionally, as a Black person, the sonic assault of the use of the n-word is somewhat disturbing, especially coming out of the mouths of so many recognizable (and well-liked) actors like Paul Giamatti, Cumberbatch, Dano and Fassbender.

Despite that aspect of the film, the overall experience of sitting in a theater and watching a visual representation of what slavery was actually like unspool before you for roughly two hours is incredibly rewarding and educational simultaneously. I hesitate to use the word obligatory, but for people who are genuinely interested in issues that involve race, going to see 12 Years A Slave is an edifying and virtuous act, and that is meant as a compliment to the film and the filmmakers.

Title: 12 Years A Slave.
Director: Steve McQueen.
Running Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality.
Release Date: October 18, 2013.
Viewing Date: November 16, 2013.

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

Overall Grade: A+/A (4.16/4.0).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

GODLESSS WEDNESDAY: The Bible Put In Costco's Fiction Section; Controversy Ensues

Just in time for Godless Wednesday, this story is hitting the news today:
A California pastor says he found the Bible filed under “fiction” at a Costco store near his home. 
Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach said he made the discovery Friday while shopping for a present for his wife in Simi Valley. 
“All the Bibles were labeled as fiction,” said Kaltenbach, pastor at the nondenominational Discovery Church. 
“It seemed bizarre to me.” 
The pastor said he checked the shelf for other Bibles, and he told Fox News’ Todd Starnes that each copy had a sticker that said: “$14.99 Fiction.” 
Kaltenbach said none of the Costco employees he found would answer his question about the Bibles, so he took a photo of one and posted it on Twitter.
“People are pretty shocked and upset,” Kaltenbach said. “We are supposed to be living in an era of tolerance, but what Costco did doesn’t seem too tolerant.” 
The pastor said he doubted the Washington-based company would have labeled a Koran as fiction and took the label personally. 
“If they don’t believe in the Bible, that’s fine – but at least label it as ‘religion’ as some bookstores do, or ‘inspiration,’” he said. “On the one hand Christians should not yell out.’ We aren’t living in Iraq or Iran. But on the other hand, I believe that we do need to stand up for our faith and we need to be vocal about our concerns.” 
A spokeswoman for Costco told Starnes the Bible was mislabeled as the result of human error at a warehouse,” and that the issue had been resolved.
It doesn't seem surprising to me that the Bible should be labeled as fiction. Where did he want it to be put, Biography? Of course, Costco should have just labeled it as "religion" but I wanted to blog about the story, which of course is now being picked up by Faux News and the conservative blogosphere, as an example of how controversy is manufactured in this country.

And, yeah, it's sorta funny, too.

QUEER QUOTE: Oklahoma Gov Stops All Military Spouse Benefit Applications

Wow. Just wow. In order to not have the Oklahoma National Guard process applications for legally married same-sex couples who are legally entitled to military spousal benefits, Republican Governor Mary Fallin has ordered the National Guard to stop processing all spousal benefit applications. This is a bit like saying "Hmmm, we can't have separate but equal schools? Well, then, let's cancel public education!"

Gov. Fallin is quoted by the Tulsa World as saying:
Oklahoma law is clear. The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples.The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies. It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people.
This is simply astonishing. Previously Fallin was one of eight governors identified by the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as being in violation of military policy. Curious how the other 30-something states that have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage didn't interpret their laws in such a virulently homophobic way. I wonder why not? Tulsa World goes on to explain the context of Fallin's statement, which is today's Queer Quote.
Although Oklahoma owns most of the state's National Guard armories and training centers, the facilities were built almost entirely with federal funds. 
The federal government provides about 90 percent of the budget for the Oklahoma Military Department, which includes the National Guard. 
Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, blasted Fallin, saying, "The governor is sending the message that Oklahoma desires to be an island of prejudice and continues to uphold laws crafted out of fear and drafted by bigots and hypocrites. 
"Once again she has insulted our citizen soldiers who daily stand in harm's way for the people of Oklahoma," Jenkins said. 
The current controversy began in early September, when the Defense Department said it would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in states where such unions are recognized. This followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that all legal marriages, regardless of the spouses' genders, must be honored by the federal government.
Some people really don't understand the concept of "equality for all"! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TENNIS TUESDAY: Czech Republic Wins Davis Cup For 2nd Year in a Row

For the second year in a row, the Czech Republic won the annual Davis Cup competition, with Radek Stepanek claiming a win in the live 5th rubber. Last year, the Czech team beat the Spanish team when Stepanek defeated Nicolas Almagro. This year the Czech team beat the Serbian team when Stepanek defeated World #117 Dusan Lajovic. Novak Djokovic won both his singles matches, extending his current winning streak to 24 consecutive matches, but playing without Janko Tipsarevic or Victor Troicki those were the only ties the Serbian team was able to win, possibly because Djokovic did not play in the doubles rubber, where Tomas Berdych and Stepanek were able to beat the team consisting of doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozolac. Even Zimonjic is questioning that decision, although press reports claim it was a team-based decision.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18, 2003: Marriage Equality Decision Announced in Massachusetts

Mary Bonauto of GLAD is viewed by some as the lawyer most
responsible for the current state of marriage equality in America
Today is the tenth anniversary of the release of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the first decision in the United States in which a state's highest court ruled that traditional marriage laws were discriminatory and decided that marriage equality is the appropriate remedy. In Goodridge, the court gave the state 180 days to implement the ruling, issuing an order that caused marriage equality to go into effect on May 17, 2004, so that became the first date that same-sex couples could get married in the United States. The decision was released in response to a lawsuit filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), an LGBT legal advocacy organization, and argued by Mary Bonauto, its Legal Director.

Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed conducted an extensive interview with Bonauto about her role in marriage equality on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the historic decision.
Ten years after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered that the state become the first in the country to allow same-sex couples to marry, the once-feared concept has gained mainstream popular support, is recognized by the federal government, and is now the reality in 15 states and Washington, D.C. 
Without Mary Bonauto, however, marriage equality might never have happened. 
The lawyer brought marriage equality cases in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. She argued the case to the justices in Massachusetts who brought marriage equality to the United States. She won the first decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s federal definition of marriage, and the first appellate decision too — a ruling that forced the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. If there’s been a big moment in marriage equality’s long march to reality, Bonauto was probably there. 
And it’s no secret either: The movement’s other leading lawyers openly credit Bonauto for making the success possible. 
After losing at trial, the case advanced to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, where Bonauto argued for legal marriage equality on March 4, 2003. 
“Before the argument, I went up to this … law library that I used to go to all the time,” she says. “I just went in there and I was just trying to steel myself, thinking, Mary, you know, you are right. You’re right. This is correct. You are on the right side here.” 
Bonauto had just 15 minutes before the court. 
“I think the first question was, ‘Why should we do something no one else has ever done?’ — which is a fair question, and I said, ‘Because marriage is a fundamental right, [this is] sexual orientation [discrimination], and this is the right thing to do.’” 
The court agreed. 
“The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals,” Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote in the court’s landmark decision, issued on Nov. 18, 2003. “It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.” The government, the court held, “has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.”
Happy Anniversary, Massachusetts!

EYE CANDY: Lamar McCall (black/white)

Lamar "Aston Martin" McCall has appeared as Eye Candy before on this blog (September 9, 2013). He is a 35-year-old African American model and dancer in the Philadelphia area. He is active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow to access more pictures of this hottie!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Missouri To Recognize Marriage Equality For Tax Purposes

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) announced this week that he supports marriage equality as a matter of public policy and issued an executive order that would allow legally married same-sex couples who file taxes in Missouri to do so jointly, despite the existence of a state constitutional amendment passed in 2004 which said that "to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports
Nixon said he was making the change because state tax law is linked to federal tax law. 
After the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act in June, the IRS ruled that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, no matter where they live. 
At a news conference in his Capitol office, Nixon told reporters he will issue an executive order today telling the Missouri Department of Revenue to accept the couples’ joint state returns if they file joint federal returns.
Think Progress explains how the legal situation for same-sex couples has changed since the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor:
When the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, it opened up the possibility for same-sex couples to file their federal tax returns jointly for the first time. In the past, such couples living in states that recognized their marriages could file jointly at the state level but had to file separately at the federal level. The situation is now switched, so any couple who legally married in one state but then moved to another that didn’t recognize their union can file jointly for federal taxes, but will still have to file separately for state taxes. Missouri will become the first exception to this. 
As I have been saying, we are running out of blue states to make advances in marriage equality and the next frontier in ending discrimination against LGBT people will be occurring in conservative red states. The only remaining blue states that do not have marriage or civil unions are Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. It's curious that these are some of the most populous states in the country and currently all of them (except Virginia) have Republican governors but have gubernatorial elections in 2014. Virginia is the location of a high profile federal marriage lawsuit, and there are active lawsuits in many of the other states as well. Blue states which are expected to have enacted marriage equality in the foreseeable future are New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

SATURDAY POLITICS: There are now 5 Openly Gay U.S. Ambassadors

Wally Brewster has been approved (unanimously) by the United States Senate as the new Ambassador to the Dominican Republic (my dream job, LOL). Brewster previously served as a board member of the Human Rights Campaign, which sent out a notice about Brewster's confirmation:
Prior to this year, three openly gay people had served as U.S. Ambassadors (Jim Hormel, Michael Guest and David Huebner).  Just this year, five openly gay people have been confirmed as Ambassadors (Brewster, along with John Berry in Australia, James Costos in Spain, Rufus Gifford in Denmark, and Daniel Baer as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). It is a testament to President Obama and the U.S. Senate that the sexual orientation of these ambassadors is irrelevant to their qualifications for their posts.  All Americans should be proud to have these fine public servants representing the interests of the United States.
Of course one might notice that all five LGBT individuals are white gay men, which is not indicative of the diversity of the LGBT community, but is representative of the people who get rewarded with ambassadorships through political appointments!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

2013 CHENNAI WCC: Carlsen Leads Anand 4-2 At Halfway Point

The Word Chess Championships is currently going on in Chennai, India between Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen. The 22-year-old Carlsen is challenging the defending champion who is almost twice his age. The match is at the halfway point, and after beginning with four draws disaster has struck for Anand with two consecutive losses, one with black, and more ominously, one with white. (Generally among elite chess players having white and the right to play first is considered a tangible advantage.)

Here are the two games Anand has lost, starting with Game 6:

and Game 5

It is hard to see how Anand comes back from a 0-2 deficit. There are only 6 games left. Basically he would have to do to Carlsen what what Carlsen did to him. Presumably Carlsen will be trying to draw the remaining games, while Anand will be desperately trying to win (which may lead to another loss.)

It should be noted that Garry Kasparov also won the World Championship when he was 22, and dominated chess for the next decade. We may be seeing history repeat itself....

Friday, November 15, 2013

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Actor Who Plays Huck on Scandal Is Gay!

The actor who plays the key character of Huck, the troubled ex-CIA assassin on ABC's hit television show Scandal is Guillermo Diaz and apparently he is an out gay man!

Hat/tip to Wonder Man


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