Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Reading

Out of the Death Business — Matt Ford in The Atlantic reports on Pfizer’s decision to stop selling drugs for lethal injections.

Pfizer said Friday it would impose stringent controls on distributors to block its drugs from use in lethal injections, underscoring the pharmaceutical industry’s consensus against participation in the death penalty amid a nationwide shortage in execution drugs.“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” the pharmaceutical giant’s updated policy said. “Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”

The new policy’s impact on future executions will be difficult to measure. Many states with capital punishment have also enacted laws that shield the identities of execution-drug providers, making those drugs’ origins hard to trace. It is also unclear when or how often Pfizer-manufactured drugs have been used in U.S. executions.

But Pfizer’s move adds new barriers as states struggle to find reliable suppliers of execution drugs. Maya Foa, executive director of Reprieve, a U.K.-based human-rights organization, said in a statement that Pfizer’s move means “all FDA-approved manufacturers of all execution drugs have spoken out against the misuse of medicines in lethal injections and taken steps to prevent it.”

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company opposed the use of its drugs in lethal injections before today’s update. An earlier version of its policy on capital punishment took a less forceful stance on the issue than Friday’s update, insisting that “efforts to influence policy” were better directed towards legislators and public officials.“Our distribution plan, which restricts the sale of these seven products for unintended uses, implements our publicly stated position against improper use of our products and, most importantly, doesn’t stand in the way of patient access to these critical medications,” an October 2015 version of the policy stated.

“However, due to the complex supply chain and the gray market in the United States, despite our efforts, Pfizer cannot guarantee that a U.S. prison could not secure restricted products through other channels not under Pfizer’s control,” it cautioned.

Hail New Columbia — John Nichols at The Nation on support for admitting Washington, D.C. to the union.

When it comes time to write the Democratic platform, it is likely that the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns will have their disagreements. But there is one place where they can find common ground and address a glaring omission in the party’s statement of principles and purposes.

As recently as 2000, the Democratic platform declared support from what should be a basic premise of a party that advocates for voting rights and robust democracy: statehood for the District of Columbia. The platform on which Al Gore ran for the presidency that year declared, “Just as our country has been the chief apostle of democracy in the world, we must lead by example at home. This begins with our nation’s capital. The citizens of the District of Columbia are entitled to autonomy in the conduct of their civic affairs, full political representation as Americans who are fully taxed, and statehood.”

In 2004, however, the word “statehood” was dropped. While the party still advocated for equal rights and representation, it no longer declared that the residents of Washington, DC, should be able to lock in their rights as residents of a state that is equal to every other American state. Despite efforts by DC officials and statehood advocates to get the word restored in 2008 and 2012, the platform has remained vague on the issue.

That should change in 2016.

President Obama has endorsed statehood for DC—which, if estimates are correct, has a higher population than the states of Wyoming and Vermont—and so have Clinton and Sanders.

Clinton wrote a terrific article for The Washington Informer this week, in which she argued that support for DC statehood is critical to “restoring faith in democracy.”

“[Enfranchisement] isn’t solely a matter of individual rights. In the case of our nation’s capital, we have an entire populace that is routinely denied a voice in its own democracy,” explained the former secretary of state. “Washington, DC, is home to nearly 700,000 Americans—more than the entire population of several states. Washingtonians serve in the military, serve on juries and pay taxes just like everyone else. And yet they don’t even have a vote in Congress.”

“Hard as it is to believe, America is the only democracy on the planet that treats the residents of capital this way,” continued Clinton, who argued that

Lacking representatives with voting power, the District of Columbia is often neglected when it comes to federal appropriations. Many of the District’s decisions are also at the mercy of right-wing ideologues in Congress, and as you can imagine, they don’t show very much of it. Everything from commonsense gun laws to providing women’s health care and efforts to cut down on drug abuse has been halted by Republicans, who claim the District is an exception to their long-held notion that communities ought to be able to govern themselves.

Solidarity is no longer enough. We need a solution.

That’s why, as president, I will be a vocal champion for DC statehood.

She will get no argument from Sanders.

The senator from Vermont is a co-sponsor of the “New Columbia Admission Act,” a bill that would lay groundwork for making Washington, DC, the 51st state.

“Washington, DC, is currently home to more people than the state of Vermont, yet its residents lack voting representation in Congress,” says Sanders. “I think it is morally wrong for American citizens who pay federal taxes, fight in our wars, and live in our country to be denied the basic right to full congressional representation.”

This is a long-term stance for Sanders, who as a member of the US House, supported DC statehood initiatives.

Sanders once asked during a congressional debate, “How could I in good conscience say that it is appropriate for Vermont to have two seats in the Senate, which we do, to have a congressman who can vote on all of the issues, which we do, to have a governor and a state legislature which deals with all the problems facing our people, which we do, and then say that the people of the District of Columbia, with a population larger than Vermont and larger than some other states, should not be able to enjoy the same rights?”

“I could not make that case. It would not be a fair case. It would not be a rational argument,” replied Sanders, who explained, “This debate is about one thing and the thing alone. That is whether the people of Washington, DC, are entitled to be full citizens. To me the answer is obvious and I intend vote yes for statehood for the District of Columbia.”

Sanders and Clinton are right.

DC statehood is a voting-rights issue and a democracy issue. And the Democratic platform should make that absolutely clear.

Our History in Super 8 — Alastair Gee in The New Yorker on the revelations of gay home movies.

One home movie shows a telegenic group of men on a getaway at a shoreline cabin in the Bay Area town of Vallejo, in 1947. The friends sunbathe, laugh together, mug for the camera with more than a touch of theatricality. A man picks some orange flowers and tucks them behind his ear; another wears a grass skirt and dances the hula.

Another movie, from 1946, shows a house party where guests in suits and ties smoke cigarettes and drink from dainty glasses. Men dance in pairs, hands clasped, a head against a cheek. One giddily air-claps to music the viewer cannot hear.

Both of these films, and numerous others like them, are part of the private home-movie collection of Harold O’Neal, an amateur filmmaker who spent much of his adult life in San Francisco. Born in Stockton, California, in 1910, he was a reserved, somewhat shy man who worked as a rehabilitation officer for the Veterans Administration and later in personnel for the Army Corps of Engineers. Like many gay men and women of the time, he kept his sexuality closely guarded. But over the years O’Neal made dozens of home movies—of house parties, drag performances, skinny-dips, travels with his partner—many of which captured the rhythms and intimacies of gay social life long before it was allowed to flourish in the open.

O’Neal’s home-movie collection spent decades in obscurity, as home movies often do. Then, in the mid-nineteen-nineties, a San Francisco filmmaker, Peter Stein, put an ad on local television soliciting historic footage for a documentary he was making about the Castro, and O’Neal responded. Only a few minutes of his footage, showing parties, San Francisco street scenes, and O’Neal standing atop Coit Tower, ended up in the film, but Stein realized that O’Neal’s recordings were valuable artifacts of San Francisco gay history. Stein alerted Susan Stryker, who was the executive director of the city’s GLBT Historical Society, and on the drive home from a vacation Stryker stopped in Washington, where O’Neal had relocated, to ask him to donate his films. O’Neal was ambivalent. As Stryker was packing up to leave, O’Neal’s life partner, George Torgerson, walked out to the car and handed her paper shopping bags filled with reels. “He wants to let go, but he can’t let go, so I’m letting go for him,” Torgerson said.

With O’Neal’s permission, the movies now live in the GLBT Historical Society archives amid a remarkably varied set of holdings, from a sewing machine used to create the first rainbow flags to the sequinned outfits worn by the disco star Sylvester. Clips from several of the films also appear in “Reel in the Closet,” a new documentary about gay home movies by the Bay Area independent filmmaker Stu Maddux. Maddux read about the Society’s work and spent a year digging through the archives. “To see those same types of mannerisms and the same types of laughter, and laughter at the same things, just made me feel like I wasn’t alone in time,” Maddux told me. “Like my generation and the generations around me are not alone in time.” His film includes footage from a tape discovered in an unmarked can at a San Jose flea market, showing the San Francisco lesbian bar Mona’s Candle Light around 1950. A drag king called Jimmy Reynard introduces a chanteuse; female patrons with immaculate, gamine haircuts listen at tables; there is the twinkle of jewelry. In another clip, from 1978, the documentarian Dan Smith recorded people on the streets of the Castro describing their reactions to the murder of Harvey Milk. There are long-haired men, cops, a leather aficionado. “Nobody filmed us,” Smith says in “Reel in the Closet.” “So we really thought that in order to be recorded it was necessary for us to do it ourselves.”

One challenge for home-movie preservationists is that most footage, having been shot for a private audience of family and friends, isn’t particularly accessible to the general viewer. But what the movies lack in narrative cogency they make up for in a sense of immersion—of giving viewers the feeling of dropping directly into the private worlds of strangers. In the case of gay home movies, the viewing experience is complicated, and enriched, by the knowledge of what’s to come, for good and for bad—the liberation of Stonewall, the devastation of the AIDS crisis, the undoing of the Defense of Marriage Act, which couples like O’Neal and Torgerson, who both died in the mid-aughts, never got to see.

Jim Morin — Lookin’ pretty.

Morin 05-15-16

Doonesbury — The happy couple.

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