Friday, March 10, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Short Takes

Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent.

Arms Race: Trump calls for U.S. nuclear supremacy.

Hang in there, RBG — Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’ll stay on SCOTUS as long as she can.

Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep protections for transgender students.

Cheap Seats — Airlines’ no-frills flying taking off.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trump Gives Us The Creeps

Via the Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.

Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday that the administration is ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration, which is set to go to the nation’s public schools, does not offer any new guidance, instead saying that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges.

The administration said that it would not rely on the prior interpretation of the law in the future.

This is what happens when you let creepy people who are obsessed with the personal habits of absolute strangers take over the government.

What we really need are protections against those people.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

No Extra Rights

Via the Hill:

Trump Cabinet pick Ben Carson reiterated his belief Thursday that LGBT Americans don’t deserve “extra rights.”

During Carson’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) pressed the Housing and Urban Development nominee about whether he would enforce LGBT protections in the public housing sector.

“Of course, I would enforce all the laws of the land,” Carson responded. “Of course, I think all Americans should be protected by the law.”

“What I have said before is I don’t think anyone should get ‘extra rights,’” he added.

Carson’s remarks mirror those from his 2014 CPAC speech: “Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else, but they don’t get extra rights,” Carson said at the time. “They don’t get to redefine marriage.”

No one is asking for “extra rights,” Dr. Carson.  I’m certainly not; I have enough trouble exercising the ones I already have.  I just want to have the same rights as everyone else, like the right not to be fired for whom I’m married to or whose picture I have on my desk; not to be denied housing because of whom I share the house with; not to be denied the right to visit a sick friend in the hospital; and not be denied the dignity of not having to make a big deal out of the fact that should I ever be fortunate enough to meet someone and fall in love and get married, buying a wedding cake doesn’t require a court order.

According the LGBTQ community the same rights as everyone else isn’t a zero-sum game.  When we have them, they’re not taken away from the non-LGBTQ folks.

What is both ironic and telling is that within my lifetime people such as Dr. Carson were routinely denied the very rights I’m seeking assurance of.  He of all the people in Trump’s world should be especially mindful of just what is at stake when we demand equal rights under the law.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Reading

Racial Epithet — Charles P. Pierce on going public with racism.

Out in the country, how’s that transition going? That well, eh, Medium? That’s quite a gallery you’ve got going there, and Shaun King on the electric Twitter machine is doing a good job collecting the True Horror Tales, too.

Look, I’m not sure how much good politically the mass marches that broke out in a number of cities on Wednesday night ultimately will do. A part of me—the pragmatic, cynical part—agrees that it will set deeper in concrete the hatred and dread common to those voters who lined up behind El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago and expressed their economic insecurity in such interesting ways. I mean, I get that argument, and I agree with its fundamental premises.

But what I think about it shouldn’t really matter a damn to those people in the streets. I’m not going to get harassed at a gas station. My kids aren’t going to be tormented on the playground. Nobody’s going to spray-paint a swastika on my garage or tell me to hustle my ass to the ovens. Nobody’s going to ship my abuela back to El Salvador. I can’t begin to plumb the depth of the fear that the targets of this unmoored ferocity must be feeling. I am sorry flags got burned and that property was damaged and that CNN found a marcher saying untoward things about civil war—the kind of loose talk, by the way, that was commonplace among supporters of the president-elect before the returns rolled in Tuesday night.

Which brings me to another point.

Ever since it became plain that Donald Trump was going to be the next president of the United States, there’s been an awful lot of chin-stroking about how the “coastal elites” had failed to articulate the economic anxiety of the white working class and/or the rural proletariat. (Somebody should tell me why the white working-class and the black working-class are different. Never mind. I think I figured it out.) This rather mystifies me since it seemed that the elite political media spent an awful lot of money sending people out to take the temperature of the people in the body shops and battered farms of the lost exurban paradises. Every other day, some member of that ol’ debbil media was out there, buying them all a cookie. These people were not ignored. They were as well-represented in the coverage of this election as any group was. Long ago, the indispensable Alec MacGillis determined that this was the story of the election and he’s spent a lot of times listening to the folks out there and bringing their stories back to us. Via ProPublica:

And yet St. Martin was leaning toward Trump. Her explanation for this was halting but vehement, spoken with pauses and in bursts. She was disappointed in Obama after having voted for him. “I don’t like the Obama persona, his public appearance and demeanor,” she said. “I wanted people like me to be cared about. People don’t realize there’s nothing without a blue-collar worker.” She regretted that she did not have a deeper grasp of public affairs. “No one that’s voting knows all the facts,” she said. “It’s a shame. They keep us so fucking busy and poor that we don’t have the time.” When she addressed Clinton herself, it was in a stream that seemed to refer to, but not explicitly name, several of the charges thrown against Clinton by that point in time, including her handling of the deadly 2012 attack by Islamic militants on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya; the potential conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation; and her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State, mixing national security business with emails to her daughter, Chelsea. “To have lives be sacrificed because of corporate greed and warmongering, it’s too much for me — and I realize I don’t have all the facts — that there’s just too much sidestepping on her. I don’t trust her. I don’t think that — I know there’s casualties of war in conflict, I’m a big girl, I know that. But I lived my life with no secrets. There’s no shame in the truth. There’s mistakes made. We all grow. She’s a mature woman and she should know that. You don’t email your fucking daughter when you’re a leader. Leaders need to make decisions, they need to be focused. You don’t hide stuff. “That’s why I like Trump,” she continued. “He’s not perfect. He’s a human being. We all make mistakes. We can all change our mind. We get educated, but once you have the knowledge, you still have to go with your gut.”

I advise everyone who has lurched from one simple explanation for Trumpism (“Those people be stooopid.”) to another simple explanation (“Why won’t the Democrats reach out more?”) to read that passage carefully. There literally is no innovative political strategy, and there is no creative policy prescription, that would have convinced that woman to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is so deeply sunk in the mire of misinformation that she never will be pulled out again. Who is it, precisely, that doesn’t care about her, and how was that manifested in her daily life? How, precisely, would Donald Trump care about her? The piece is replete with these kind of moments. What should the Democrats do to meet halfway the guy who believes the nation is being “pussified”? What’s precisely the political outreach strategy that will bring back a guy who says this?

“If I say anything about that, I’m a racist,” he said. “I can’t stand that politically correct bullshit.” He had, he said, taken great solace in confiding recently in an older black man at a bar who had agreed with his musing on race and crime. “It was like a big burden lifted from me — here was this black man agreeing with me!”

And if, as has been suggested, HRC had switched her strategy from talking about Trump’s manifest unfitness to office to a pitch that she was on their side, would that have sold?

“They feel like this is a forgotten area that’s suffering, that has been forgotten by Columbus and Washington and then they hear someone say, we can turn this place around, they feel it viscerally.” And he feared that the national Democratic Party did not realize how little it could afford such a loss, or even realize how well it had those voters in the fold as recently as 2012. “I’m a believer in the Democratic coalition, but they’re writing off folks and it’s going to hurt them,” he said. “To write them off is reckless.”

Again, in what way had the Democratic coalition been “writing off” these people? It wasn’t the Democratic coalition who stymied actual stimulus spending in 2009. It wasn’t the Democratic coalition that hamstrung the Affordable Care Act so that Republican governors could refuse to take FREE MONEY! to implement it. I wish there was a political fix for these folks but the fact is that, more than anything else, they have been victimized by a stratagem through which people refused to allow government to work and then blamed it for being ineffective. Old dog, as the late Ms. Ivins used to say, still hunts.

And, of course, there is the Other Thing.

Jones, 30, who worked part-time at a pizza shop and delivering medicines to nursing homes, joked at first that his vote for Obama might have had to do with his having been doing a lot of drugs at the time. He grew serious when he talked about how much the Black Lives Matter protests against shootings by police officers grated on him. Chicago was experiencing soaring homicide rates, he said — why weren’t more people talking about that?

People were. Lots of people were. The quick retort to people (like me) who argue that nativist racism played a decisive role in the election generally point to counties that voted for Obama in 2008 (and, occasionally, in 2012, too) but flipped to Trump in 2016. This, they say, is proof that the vague sense of having been “written off” in those places was a more powerful motivator there than race. But I tend to agree with Jamelle Bouie, who wrote that a big part of the reason these places went for Obama was that neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney were racially inflammatory enough. That, in this painful area, they didn’t “tell it like it is.” Trump did. Via Slate:

There’s an easy rejoinder here: How can this be about race when Trump won some Obama voters? There’s an equally easy answer: John McCain indulged racial fears, and Mitt Romney played on racial resentment, but they refused to go further. To borrow from George Wallace, they refused to cry “nigger.” This is important. By rejecting the politics of explicit racism and white backlash, they moved the political battleground to nominally colorblind concerns. Race was still a part of these clashes—it’s unavoidable—but neither liberals nor conservatives would litigate the idea of a pluralistic, multiracial democracy. Looking back, I thought this meant we had a consensus. It appears, instead, that we had a detente. And Trump shattered it.

Those people who felt “forgotten” and “left behind”? Where do they stand on right-to-work laws? Where do they stand on voter suppression laws, which go out of their way to prevent a solid voting bloc of white and black working-class voters? Where do they really stand on trade, with Bernie Sanders or with the Wal-Mart to which they go every weekend?

I would like someone to convince me that economic populism without the accelerant of racial animosity would have changed the results materially on Tuesday. It never has before. The Jacksonian Democrats successfully rebelled against the effete establishment and the eastern speculators, and some of them even embraced the new white immigrants from Europe, but they did so while being stalwart defenders of the slave power and by conducting genocide by a number of means against the indigenous populations of North America. Under the Jackson administration, the Southerners took every opportunity to hijack lands that belonged to the Creek and Cherokee peoples and ol’ Andy, who got all up in John C. Calhoun’s grill when that worthy threatened nullification over the tariff, found his inner Tenther when it came to land grabs by the Georgia legislature. The reason he had the political space to do so was because Americans considered the Native peoples less than human. That was how populism worked back then.

I would like someone to convince me that economic populism without the accelerant of racial animosity would have changed the results materially on Tuesday.

In the late 19th century, populism of all sorts flared in reaction to the excesses of the Gilded Age and the political consequences of the industrial money power. For a time, this reaction included millworkers and farmers, men and women, and even black and white citizens. In the early 1890s, a Georgia congressman named Tom Watson created what was called the Farmer’s Alliance which, eventually, got folded into a populist political party that splintered off from the Georgia Democratic Party. He supported African-American suffrage and, in 1892, Watson ran for re-election on a platform that included an anti-lynching law. He was beaten. And then he was beaten again in 1894. He entered a period of exile and emerged as a virulent racist and anti-Catholic. From the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

Through his Jeffersonian Publishing Company, Watson also produced a magazine and a weekly newspaper that achieved widespread circulation throughout the South and in New York. Watson’s Jeffersonian Magazine in particular became an outlet for lengthy editorials on anti-capitalistic political philosophies and for strong diatribes reflecting his increasing racial and religious bigotry. Although Watson had long supported black enfranchisement in Georgia and throughout the South, he changed his stance by 1904. Resentful of Democratic manipulation and exploitation of black voters and strongly opposed to the increased visibility and influence of such leaders as W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, Watson endorsed the disenfranchisement of African American voters, and no longer defined Populism in racially inclusive terms. Watson supported Hoke Smith in the 1906 Georgia’s governor’s race only on the condition that Smith support black disenfranchisement, and the inflammatory rhetoric that surrounded the issue was partially responsible for sparking the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906. Governor Smith later delivered on his promise to Watson by leading the successful adoption of a constitutional amendment that effectively disenfranchised black Georgia voters. During his 1908 presidential bid Watson ran as a white supremacist and launched vehement diatribes in his magazine and newspaper against blacks. Watson also launched an aggressive campaign against the Catholic Church. He took issue with the hierarchy of the church and railed against abuses by its leaders. He mistrusted the church’s foreign missions and its historic political activities. The Catholic Church responded by putting pressure on businesses that advertised in Watson’s publications, resulting in an effective boycott. In 1913, during the trial of Leo Frank, Watson’s strong attacks on Frank and on the pervasive influence of Jewish and northern interests in the state heavily influenced negative sentiment against Frank, who was lynched by a mob in 1915.

By 1922, Watson got himself elected to the United States Senate. He knew where the power was.

The tragedy of American populism—whether it’s in the previous Gilded Age or the current one—is that the country’s original sin makes populism’s success almost impossible without some sort of us-versus-them dynamic. Since the myth of the American Dream almost always makes a true class-based politics impossible, the search for that essential dynamic almost invariably becomes white-vs-black or native-vs-immigrant.

That’s happening again, with another “populist” champion and the people who now have followed him into whatever future they imagine he will bring them. I wish to god this weren’t the case, but it is.

The Assault on LGBTQ Rights Is Already Underway — Michelangelo Signorile in the Huffington Post.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this at all. We are in for a full-blown assault on LGBTQ rights the likes of which many, particularly younger LGBTQ people, have not seen. Progress will most certainly be halted completely, likely rolled back. And it’s already underway.

First, forget any of your thinking that Donald Trump is from New York City, probably has gay friends, sent Elton John a congratulatory note on his civil union in 2005, used the acronym “LGBTQ” (in pitting gays against Muslims at the Republican National Convention, when he vowed only to protect us from a “hateful foreign ideology”) or any other superficial things you may have read or heard.

Ronald Reagan was from Hollywood, and he, too, had many gay friends, including legendary actor Rock Hudson. Reagan even came out against an anti-gay state initiative while he was governor of California. But once Reagan made his pact with the religious right in his run for the presidency ― for him it was Jerry Falwell, Sr., for Trump it’s Jerry Falwell Jr.― he had to bow to them if he wanted to get re-elected. That meant letting thousands of gay men, transgender women, African-Americans and other affected groups die from AIDS (including his friend Hudson) without even saying the word “AIDS” until years into the plague, let alone take leadership on fighting the epidemic with government dollars and research.

That was then, and this is now: Earlier in the year, before Mike Pence was chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, using Trump’s analogy of running a business to explain how he’d run the country, told HuffPost’s Howard Fineman that the vice president of the Trump administration would really be the “CEO” or “COO” ― or, the president of the company ― while Trump would be more like the “chairman of the board”:

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO…There is a long list of who that person could be.”

That person turned out to be Pence, and, before and after the election, there’s been some analysis and commentary suggesting that Mike Pence could be “the most powerful vice president ever.” And now, just days after the election, his power has increased tenfold as he is replacing Chris Christie as chairman of Trump’s transition team, filling all the major positions in the incoming Trump administration.

Mike Pence is perhaps one of the most anti-LGBTQ political crusaders to serve in Congress and as governor of a state. Long before he signed the draconian anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” law in Indiana last year, he supported “conversion therapy” as a member of Congress, and later, as a columnist and radio host, he gave a speech in which he said that marriage equality would lead to “societal collapse,” and called homosexuality “a choice.” Stopping gays from marrying wasn’t biased, he said, but was rather about compelling “God’s idea.”

Ben Carson, who compared homosexuality to pedophilia and incest, is a vice chairman of the transition team and so is Newt Gingrich, who has attacked what he called “gay fascism” and, in 2014, “the new fascism” around LGBTQ rights.

And right on cue, already appointed to lead domestic policy on the transition team is Ken Blackwell, formerly the Ohio secretary of state. Blackwell compared homosexuality to arson and kleptomania, which he called “compulsions.” In an interview with me at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2004, he explained:

“Well, the fact is, you can choose to restrain that compulsion. And so I think in fact you don’t have to give in to the compulsion to be homosexual. I think that’s been proven in case after case after case…I believe homosexuality is a compulsion that can be contained, repressed or changed…[T]hat is what I’m saying in the clearest of terms.”

Expect each of these individuals and more bigots to have prominent positions in the Trump administration.

As I‘ve written over and over again throughout the election campaign ― as the media had bizarrely and irresponsibly portrayed Trump as “more accepting on gay issues” ― Trump met with religious extremists, and made promises to them. He promised he would put justices on the Supreme Court who would overturn marriage equality (and the list of 20 candidates he has offered, certainly fit the bill), which he’s consistently opposed himself since 2000. He promised that he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would allow for discrimination against LGBT people by government employees and others.

It may or may not be difficult or unrealistic to overturn marriage equality over time, though the anti-equality National Organization for Marriage has sent Trump a plan. But by passing bills like FADA ― already introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate and House ― and others yet to come, gay marriage can be made into a kind of second-class marriage. Clerks like Kim Davis can be given exemptions from giving marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Federal employees would be able to decline interactions with gay and lesbian married couples. Businesses such as bakers and florists, who’ve become flash points in some states where they refused to serve gays, could be granted the ability to turn away gays under federal law, and all that could head to a much more conservative Supreme Court if challenged.

Trump has said he would overturn what he saw as President Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders, and those could include Obama’s orders on LGBTQ rights, such as banning employment discrimination among federal contractors.

Mike Pence, as Dominic Holden at Buzzfeed points out, has already said that he and Trump plan to withdraw federal guidance to the states issued by the Obama administration protecting transgender students:

 “Donald Trump and I simply believe that all of these issues are best resolved at the state level,” he said in an October radio show with Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. “Washington has no business intruding on the operation of our local schools.”

No one should take solace in the fact that gay billionaire Peter Thiel, who spoke at the GOP convention, is on the transition team. Thiel has never been a champion of LGBTQ rights, and is now most noted for bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker -– shutting it down ― in an act of revenge because the publication reported the widely-known fact that he is gay.

If Trump treats the presidency the same way he treated the GOP convention in Cleveland, he’ll make gestures ― like giving Thiel a role in his administration or using the acronym “LGBTQ”― that will feed the media notion that he is somewhat pro-LGBTQ, while giving the nuts and bolts of rolling back or halting LGBTQ rights to others. While Trump was onstage at the convention uttering the acronym “LGBTQ” (and had used Thiel’s speaking slot as a bit of window dressing too), the platform committee of the RNC had just hammered out the most anti-LGBTQ platform in history in the basement of the convention center. Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, told me at the RNC that he was “very happy” with the platform, which, as a member of the committee, he made sure included the promotion of “conversion therapy.”

Trump was hands-off on the platform when it came to queer issues (unlike on the issue of trade or, in what seemed like deference to Russia, on aid to Ukraine), letting people like Perkins push an extreme agenda, and knowing he needed to court them. He spoke at the FRC’s Values Voter Summit in September, promising to uphold “religious liberty,” and white evangelicals did turn out in huge numbers to vote for him on Tuesday ― comparable to, or greater than, every other GOP presidential candidate in recent years. He will need them if he wants to get re-elected, and that means he’ll have to give them some big things now. And evangelical leaders told The New York Times this week they expect him to deliver:

[W]ith Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, an evangelical with a record of legislating against abortion and same-sex marriage, as vice president, Christian leaders say they feel reassured they will have access to the White House and a seat at the table. “I am confident he will do as president what he said he would do as a candidate,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, who helped mobilize Christian voters for Mr. Trump.

If Trump is thus as hands-off on LGBTQ issues as president as he was at the RNC, letting people like Pence ― again, possibly the most powerful vice president ever ― get his way, along with people like Carson, Blackwell, Gingrich and likely many others, you can bet that the assault on LGBTQ rights is already underway. It’s only a matter of time before we know the full magnitude. And that’s why we must pull ourselves out of grief, get fired up, and begin the fight right now.

Trump Googles Obamacare — Humor from Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Speaking to reporters late Friday night, President-elect Donald Trump revealed that he had Googled Obamacare for the first time earlier in the day.

“I Googled it, and, I must say, I was surprised,” he said. “There was a lot in it that really made sense, to be honest.”

He said that he regretted that the frenetic pace of the presidential campaign had prevented him from Googling Obamacare earlier. “You’re always running, running, running,” he said. “There were so many times that I made a mental note to Google Obamacare but I just never got around to it.”

Trump also told the reporters that, now that the campaign was over, he had finally found the time to Google Mexico.

“Really eye-opening,” he said. “A lot of the Mexicans are terrific. They do just terrific things.”

When asked if Googling Mexico had affected his position on building a wall, Trump said, “Quite frankly, it did make me wonder a bit about that. A lot of these terrific Mexicans could come in and make a real contribution to our country and, in exchange, I think they’d really benefit from Obamacare.”

The President-elect also said that he had put Mike Pence in charge of the transition team “to give me more time for my conversion to Islam.”

Doonesbury — Ladies man.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Coming Out

logo_ncod_lgToday has been designated as National Coming Out Day. In fact, it’s the 29th annual NCOD.

Well, 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of my coming out to my family. They took it well; we now joke that Mom turned to Dad and said “Ha! You owe me five bucks.”

But every day is a coming out in some small way for me even though I know my co-workers and friends and even people who don’t know me but who read my blog, my plays, or my Facebook page know I’m gay. (If you didn’t already know, well, hey, guess what…) I don’t make a big deal out of it; I don’t have a rainbow sticker on my car, I don’t announce it to people when I meet them, and I don’t think I fit into the cultural stereotypes that seem to be a part of our society’s identifiers as gay; for instance, I usually buy my clothes at the next aisle over from auto parts, and the only reason I know show tunes is because I’m a theatre scholar; it comes with the job. Cultural stereotypes work if you own them. As one of my characters in my novel “Small Town Boys” says when someone finds out he’s gay: “Yeah, I know.”

I am still getting used to being out in some way or another. I have unfriended people I’ve known all my life who said they were sad to hear I am gay, and I am sure there are people who say things and call me names behind my back. Well, they would probably do it if I wasn’t gay; people who find nits to pick are looking for them.

What I hope for with this day is that people who are afraid of coming out will take some comfort and assurance by seeing others say it. It may not prompt them to come out; each of us must do it in our own way and at our own level, but even if they never do they may know that they are never alone. We’re a tribe and we support each other even when we don’t know you because we really do.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Short Takes

Supreme Court blocks transgender bathroom rule for now.

President Obama commutes sentences for over 200 federal inmates.

Jetliner explodes, burns on Dubai runaway; no casualties.

GOP allies plan “intervention” for Trump.

Tropical Update: TS Earl heads for Belize.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 2-1; streak hits 8.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Short Takes

Britain poised to have second woman prime minister.

Super typhoon aims at Taiwan.

Commercial flights to Cuba could start as early as this fall.

Testy meeting with Trump on Capitol Hill.

To Boldy Go: First “Star Trek” gay character comes out in the next film.

The Tigers lost to Toronto 5-4.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Short Takes

Transgender men and women will now be allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Iraqi airstrikes hit 200 vehicles carrying ISIS fighters.

Turkish police arrested 13 people in connection with the attack on the Istanbul airport.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson dropped his bid to run for prime minister.

R.I.P. Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock that basically predicted where we are now.

The Tigers rallied in the ninth to beat the Rays 10-7.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.  Oh, and happy new (fiscal) year.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Stonewall

This is significant.

President Obama will designate a new national monument at the historic site of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City to honor the broad movement for LGBT equality. The new Stonewall National Monument will protect the area where, on June 28, 1969, a community’s uprising in response to a police raid sparked the modern LGBT civil rights movement in the United States.

The designation will create the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans, just days before the one year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 states.

Significant in the fact that in less than half my lifetime we have gone from an administration that mocked AIDS victims — when it finally got around to saying the word — to one that supports equality in all its forms and venues, including transgender rights.

Of course it’s not over.  I and millions of LGBT citizens still live in states where it’s legal to be discriminated against in employment and housing, where it’s still acceptable to bait and stigmatize gays and lesbians in political campaigns, and where a commercial showing two dads or two moms raising a family generates a call for boycotts (and, of course, fund-raising).

Designating a national monument will have no practical effect in changing the remaining conditions of hate and bigotry in places where it’s still not acceptable in the sight of many for a man and a woman of different races to get married.  It is, however, a milestone to acknowledge the history and mark the place and then keep moving on.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Reading

Up Yours, Trump — Aziz Ansari in the New York Times on why Donald Trump makes him scared for his family.

“DON’T go anywhere near a mosque,” I told my mother. “Do all your prayer at home. O.K.?”

“We’re not going,” she replied.

I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped.

Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from “Homeland” or some monster from the news.

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.

There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the F.B.I. is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 percent of the Muslim American population. If you round that number, it is 0 percent. The overwhelming number of Muslim Americans have as much in common with that monster in Orlando as any white person has with any of the white terrorists who shoot up movie theaters or schools or abortion clinics.

I asked a young friend of mine, a woman in her 20s of Muslim heritage, how she had been feeling after the attack. “I just feel really bad, like people think I have more in common with that idiot psychopath than I do the innocent people being killed,” she said. “I’m really sick of having to explain that I’m not a terrorist every time the shooter is brown.”

I myself am not a religious person, but after these attacks, anyone that even looks like they might be Muslim understands the feelings my friend described. There is a strange feeling that you must almost prove yourself worthy of feeling sad and scared like everyone else.

I understand that as far as these problems go, I have it better than most because of my recognizability as an actor. When someone on the street gives me a strange look, it’s usually because they want to take a selfie with me, not that they think I’m a terrorist.

But I remember how those encounters can feel. A few months after the attacks of Sept. 11, I remember walking home from class near N.Y.U., where I was a student. I was crossing the street and a man swore at me from his car window and yelled: “Terrorist!” To be fair, I may have been too quick to cross the street as the light changed, but I’m not sure that warranted being compared to the perpetrators of one of the most awful incidents in human history.

The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community “know who the bad ones are,” implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males.

According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities “who the bad ones are,” or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.

One way to decrease the risk of terrorism is clear: Keep military-grade weaponry out of the hands of mentally unstable people, those with a history of violence, and those on F.B.I. watch lists. But, despite sit-ins and filibusters, our lawmakers are failing us on this front and choose instead to side with the National Rifle Association. Suspected terrorists can buy assault rifles, but we’re still carrying tiny bottles of shampoo to the airport. If we’re going to use the “they’ll just find another way” argument, let’s use that to let us keep our shoes on.

Xenophobic rhetoric was central to Mr. Trump’s campaign long before the attack in Orlando. This is a guy who kicked off his presidential run by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” to this country. Numerous times, he has said that Muslims in New Jersey were cheering in the streets on Sept. 11, 2001. This has been continually disproved, but he stands by it. I don’t know what every Muslim American was doing that day, but I can tell you what my family was doing. I was studying at N.Y.U., and I lived near the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, I was on the phone with my mother, who called to tell me to leave my dorm building.

The haunting sound of the second plane hitting the towers is forever ingrained in my head. My building was close enough that it shook upon impact. I was scared for my life as my fellow students and I trekked the panicked streets of Manhattan. My family, unable to reach me on my cellphone, was terrified about my safety as they watched the towers collapse. There was absolutely no cheering. Only sadness, horror and fear.

Mr. Trump, in response to the attack in Orlando, began a tweet with these words: “Appreciate the congrats.” It appears that day he was the one who was celebrating after an attack.

Lost Remains — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on why the Remain vote lost in Britain.

To many people around the world, the United Kingdom’s vote, on Thursday, to quit the European Union came as a great shock. But the result, with fifty-two per cent of voters in favor leaving the E.U., shouldn’t have been such a surprise. The fact is, the E.U. has never been particularly popular with ordinary people in the U.K., particularly England, and in the weeks leading up to the vote many opinion polls showed the Leave side with a narrow lead. The financial markets and most commentators, myself included, were assuming that, at the last minute, prudence and risk aversion would generate a swing in favor of Remain. That didn’t happen.

The easiest way to understand what did happen is to look at some voting maps. With the exceptions of London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, every major region of the U.K. voted to exit the E.U. The Remain vote was particularly weak in the West Midlands and the Northeast of England, two areas that have been hit hard by de-industrialization. But even in the relatively prosperous Southeast of the country, if you subtract London from the results, a majority of people voted to leave.

The Guardian has published some telling charts detailing the demographic breakdown of the vote. For one thing, they show gaping class divisions. One of the best predictors of how people voted was their education level. Those with college degrees tended to opt for Remain, while people without them tended to opt for Leave. Age and income gradients were also clearly visible in the vote tabulations. The older and poorer you are, the more likely you were to vote Leave. The younger and richer you are, the more likely you were to vote Remain.

Put all this data together, and the implication is that, outside of Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are special cases, the British working classes and lower middle classes, particularly those living in the provinces, have delivered a stinging rebuke to the London-based political establishment, which was largely in favor of staying in the E.U. But what explains this revolt against the élites?

One popular theory points to racism and nativism, which featured prominently in the anti-E.U. campaign. The Leave side went up in the polls after it managed to shift the debate away from the likely economic impact of Brexit and onto immigration and issues of national sovereignty. Although much of the immigration into the U.K. comes from outside of the E.U., the Leave forces were able to focus attention on the freedom of movement for workers, which is one of the founding principles of the E.U.

In the past decade or so, Britain has taken in many thousands of immigrants from Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European countries that joined the European community after the Berlin Wall came down. In many working-class areas of the U.K., there is a lot of resentment toward these new arrivals, who are viewed as competitors for jobs and government-provided services, such as education, health care, and welfare. “A majority of people thought immigration is too large, and that leaving the E.U. would bring it down,” John Curtice, a political scientist at Strathclyde University who is also the BBC’s resident polling guru, said on-air on Thursday, as the results came in.

A second theory, which I examined in a post on Thursday, is that economic anxieties and resentments underpinned the political anger that fuelled the Leave vote. Demagogues such as Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, were able to exploit these economic worries, directing them against immigrants and other easy targets.

Yet another argument is that the Leave result was really about culture and values. Pointing to data collected by the British Election Study, Eric Kaufmann, a professor of politics at Birkbeck College, argued on Friday that the best predictor of voting patterns wasn’t income or education levels but attitudes toward the death penalty, which are a proxy for authoritarian attitudes more generally. “The probability of voting Brexit rises from around 20 per cent for those most opposed to the death penalty to 70 per cent for those most in favour,” Kaufman wrote on the Web site of the Fabian Society. “Wealthy people who back capital punishment back Brexit. Poor folk who oppose the death penalty support Remain.”

This is an interesting theory, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why hostility toward the E.U. has risen in the U.K. during the past couple of decades. Has the British public become more authoritarian and resistant to change during that period? I don’t think so; if anything, attitudes about gay marriage and other social issues show a shift in a liberal direction.

What has certainly happened is that decades of globalization, deregulation, and policy changes that favored the wealthy have left Britain a more unequal place, with vast regional disparities. “It’s the shape of our long lasting and deeply entrenched national geographic inequality that drove differences in voting patterns,” Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation, a bipartisan think tank, commented on Friday morning. “The legacy of increased national inequality in the 1980s, the heavy concentration of those costs in certain areas, and our collective failure to address it has more to say about what happened last night than shorter term considerations from the financial crisis or changed migration flows.”

That argument sounds persuasive to me. On Thursday night, it was the early announcement of a huge Leave vote in Sunderland, a depressed city in the Northeast that used to be a big shipbuilding center, that indicated the way the night was headed and caused the pound sterling to plummet in the Asian markets. Meanwhile, the Remain vote was consistently stronger in prosperous areas. Economics matters.

Still, the margin of victory was narrow, and it is also worth looking at the way the Leave and Remain campaigns were run, and considering how things could have turned out differently. If the Remain side, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, had managed to persuade two in a hundred more voters to accept its arguments, it would have won. But the Remain campaign was uninspiring in the extreme.

In retrospect, it can be argued that Cameron’s mistake occurred as far back as 2013, when, in an effort to satisfy the Eurosceptics inside his own Conservative Party, he pledged to hold a referendum at some point before 2017. At the time, this was an easy promise to make: Cameron believed he couldn’t deliver on it. He was then heading a coalition government alongside the pro-E.U. Liberal Democrats, who wanted no part of a referendum and had the power to veto one. But after the Conservatives pulled off a surprise in the May, 2015, general election and won a majority in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister felt he had no option but to follow through on his promise.

Yet even after he had set a date for the referendum, Cameron could surely have done a better job of selling an upbeat vision of the E.U., one that had Britain as an active and enthusiastic member. Rather than accentuating the positive, Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to scare the electorate into voting their way, arguing that a vote for Leave would plunge the U.K. economy into a recession and cost the average household about sixty-two hundred dollars a year.

Almost all economists agree that the E.U. has been good to Britain. But the sixty-two-hundred-a-year figure was so large, and so specific, that many people didn’t believe it. Speaking to the BBC on Friday morning, Steve Hilton, a former political adviser to Cameron, conceded that the negative campaign, which was dubbed Project Fear, had backfired. Rather than winning people over, it alienated many voters who had legitimate concerns about the E.U. “People have expressed real anger at being ignored by the system, and I think this is at the heart” of what happened, Hilton said.

Looking ahead, the fate of the Remain campaign should serve as a reminder of the limits of negative campaigning—a reminder that Hillary Clinton would do well to take note of as she goes up against Donald Trump. In confronting populist demagoguery, it isn’t enough to attack its promulgators. To get people to turn out and vote in your favor, you also have to give them something positive to rally behind. The Leave campaign, for all its lies and disinformation, provided just such a lure. It claimed that liberating Britain from the shackles of the E.U. would enable it to reclaim its former glory. The Remain side argued, in effect, that while the E.U. isn’t great, Britain would be even worse off without it. That turned out to be a losing story.

How Orlando Hurt Puerto Rico — Jennifer Velez in Mother Jones on the heartbreak the shooting brought to the island.

As news of the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando spread, families in Puerto Rico began to receive frantic calls about their sons, daughters, siblings, nephews, nieces, and cousins who had been celebrating a Latin-themed night of music and dancing in the crowded bar. They were among the 49 people who were dead after a gunman opened fire at the club around 2 a.m.; approximately 53 others were wounded before police killed the shooter.

As many as 23 of those who died were identified as being Puerto Rican. Although it’s unclear how many were actually born on the island, many of the victims had family there. As they grapple with the unspeakable loss of loved ones, these families also face unusual challenges in the wake of the largest mass shooting in US history, from the potentially steep cost of burial and other expenses, to navigating the complex web of victims’ services as a Spanish-speaker with limited English.

Although pledges to help are coming from the government,advocacy organizations, and private companies, even those families who receive some assistance may struggle to cover all the costs, especially those with large extended families who may have wanted to fly in and support relatives in Orlando. “Once they arrive here to be able to claim the remains of their loved ones, it’s like where do they stay? How do they get from point A to point B?” said Samí Haiman-Marrero, a local Orlando business owner and a part of the core team of Somos Orlando (“We Are Orlando”) a coalition of organizations that formed after the tragedy to act as a bridge between families who need assistance and organizations that can help. They have connected families with resources that offer a variety of services, including housing, or grief counseling in Spanish.

“It’s not just parents and immediate siblings perhaps that are traveling, we’re talking about large groups of family members trying to come,” Haiman-Marrero noted. “It’s a really tight knit community and so the mourning transcends beyond the typical nuclear family.” She described one family of 25 who traveled from Puerto Rico to Orlando and needed help with housing. “I got some calls directly from Puerto Rico [asking in Spanish], ‘We’re arriving tomorrow we need a place to stay, it’s five people a baby and that’s it. We need help,’” she said.

There are also other significant issues that families are facing—some are logistical, some financial, and some are cultural. Here is an overview:

Language is a barrier: When dealing with an emergency, being able to communicate with police, officials, and other key people is essential. For some victims’ families who do not speak English and only speak Spanish, something as simple as making a call to get information about a loved one can be a struggle. “For these families to travel from Puerto Rico…to pick up the body of their son or daughter, it’s heart breaking, their hearts are in pieces,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, executive director of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a social justice organization for the LGBTQ community in Puerto Rico. Adding to their grief, he says, “There are language barriers and there are cultural barriers.” When Haiman-Marrero got a call from Puerto Rico from a woman seeking housing for her and her family, Haiman-Marrero made sure the services she recommended had Spanish language support. “I made sure before I even provided the information to the young lady that called from Puerto Rico” those services would be in Spanish. “I didn’t want her to be scrambling.” The assistance center set up at Camping World Stadium for those affected by the massacre had help in both languages, said Haiman-Marrero.

Families who want to bury loved ones in PuertoRico may face hefty funeral expenses: If families want their loved ones to be buried on the island close to relatives, the process can be costly. The cost of shipping remains to Puerto Rico may include charges from the funeral home in Orlando, which would be responsible for sending the body to Puerto Rico, and additional expenses for the funeral home in Puerto Rico. Funeral services, the shipping of remains, and church services among other costs can run from $5,000 to $8,000, said Mariela Atkins, office manager at Robert Bryant Funeral & Cremation Chapel in Orlando, which provided services for three victims, one of whom was to be transported to Puerto Rico. But costs vary depending on what families desire, Atkins said. For example, the price of a casket has a broad range depending on the style, material, or size. A government victim’s compensation fund is also helping with funeral costs.

But some airlines are stepping in to help. United Airlines is providing the transportation of remains at no cost said Ida Eskamani, development officer for Equality Florida. Southwest is also providing transportation of the remains free of charge. JetBlue has offered complimentary travel for immediate family and domestic partners of victims.

Some groups are raising money to help, but funds have not yet reached the families: Equality Florida, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization, is part of the Somos Orlando coalition and has created a GoFundMe account that in the week after the shooting has raised more than $6 million. The organization partnered with the National Center for Victims of Crime to distribute funds to families. But no funds have reached victims’ families yet, said Mai Fernandez, executive director with the National Center for Victims of Crime. She explains that the organizations intended to wait to disburse funds until the pace of donations slowed and they can assess the total amount that is available for aid.

There are longstanding taboos about homosexuality in Puerto Rico: Pedro Julio-Serrano who runs the LGBT program based in Guaynabo has faced homophobia in Puerto Rico and understands a deep cultural problem that some families face. “It’s a very touchy subject, but some of the victims’ families found out that their victim was LGBT when this happened, so they will have to do deal with that,” he said. “It’s tragic that someone has to wait until they die for their family to find out that they are gay.” Some of the Puerto Rican victims moved to the U.S. mainland because they wanted to live in a environment that was more accepting of the LGBT community, he added.

Although some views about the LGBT community are slowly changing, the island’s machismo culture and strict, traditional views on gender roles are still dominant: Men should be masculine, emotionally tough, marry women, and have children. There is also a history of violence. In the 1980’s a serial killer on the island killed 27 gay men. Hate crimes have dwindled in recent years, Serrano said, but the homophobia and discrimination are still big problems. Some families are grappling with grief and must also cope with their own uncomfortable views about homosexuality.

“This [tragedy] is something that goes to the heart of who we are as Puerto Ricans,” Serrano notes. “We’re frightened, but we won’t live in fear.”

Doonesbury — Double or nothing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Something Good

The massacre in Orlando has inspired some people to come out.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Just hours after the music at the Pulse nightclub was interrupted by the roar of gunfire, a teenager with a nose stud and tight jeans peered across his dinner table here. “Dad,” Carvin Casillas said, “I’m kind of gay.”

The worst mass shooting in United States history by a single perpetrator, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured, has sent the nation reeling and ignited heated conversations about firearm access, terrorism and homophobia. It has also had the incidental effect of pushing some gay people in this increasingly Latino community out of the closet.

Some had their sexuality revealed by accident: Gertrude Merced learned that her 25-year-old son, Enrique, was gay only after she heard the news of his death. Others, though, have chosen to expose their inner lives, stirred by the outpouring of support for Orlando’s gay community or wrought with sorrow and unable to keep their secrets in anymore.

“I just had to let them know,” said Mr. Casillas, 19, a soon-to-be college freshman who had been dancing at Pulse for more than year, unbeknown to his Puerto Rican father and Cuban mother. His mother had raised him in a church where parishioners learned that gay people went to hell.

“This is getting to be a bigger part of me every day that passes on,” he said of his sexuality. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to keep that from my family.”

It is up to each person as to how to deal with their coming out, and it’s sad that it took a tragedy to bring some like Carvin Casillas to make the decision to open up to his parents, but it’s worse when they keep it in.

Not every person who is LGBT can come out publicly, either because of their family situation or it may just not be in their nature to announce it to the world, but coming out to yourself first is the most important step.  Believe it or not, the rest is easier.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday Reading

Not The Only One — Rinku Sen points out that Donald Trump isn’t the only racist in the GOP.

Donald Trump’s latest attack on US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the suit brought against Trump University by its former students, led Paul Ryan to distance himself from the candidate he’s endorsed. He called Trump’s statement “textbook” racism, wishing aloud that Trump would stick to the GOP’s focus on revitalizing the economy. Ryan didn’t go so far as to withdraw his support from a Trump nomination, noting that the GOP policy agenda has a far greater chance of succeeding with Trump in the White House than with Hillary Clinton. But it is that policy agenda itself that advances racism, even if it stops short of racial slurs about the people who will suffer the most from its implementation.

Ryan’s clumsy attempts to navigate around Trump only throw into relief the GOP’s broader refusal to acknowledge that racism takes many, many forms—most of them unconscious, hidden, and systemic. Trump’s overt racism actually obscures the party’s covert racism. In some cases, that covert racism may even come with good, if paternalistic, intentions of saving communities of color from the “evils” of dependence. But for the GOP—and too many Democrats, for that matter—if racist intention isn’t obvious (and sometimes, even if it is), there is no need to bring up race at all. Indeed, doing so points to the moral weakness of racial justice advocates.

New York Representative Lee Zeldin, for instance, is particularly opposed to the notion that we might develop a policy agenda that actually directs resources to the racial groups with highest need. “So being a little racist or very racist is not OK,” he said on CNN in countering attacks on Trump, “but, quite frankly, the agenda that I see and all the microtargeting to blacks and Hispanics from a policy standpoint, you know, that’s more offensive to me.” Trump surrogates like Zeldin don’t want us to consider the possibility that a supposedly universal agenda might have different impacts on different racial and ethnic groups. Rather, they want us to believe proponents of “identity politics,” as another Trump surrogate argued, are the real racists, pushing “political correctness” down the collective American throat.

This isn’t new. Resistance to the idea that “textbook” racism can be found in our political and economic systems as much as in our individual hearts and minds was also fully present in the policy debates of the 1960s. And that resistance deeply shaped the Civil Rights Act. For example, in the employment section, employers were vulnerable under the law only if a complainant could prove a “pattern or practice of resistance” to civil-rights measures—or, if you can establish a racist intent. That was written to punish only the most explicit kind of Southern racism, while leaving the subtler Northern version intact. While updates to the act gave lip service to the notion that racist impact constitutes discrimination, even if intention is not obvious, civil-rights plaintiffs still bear the burden of establishing intention if they want any recourse.

Or take voting today. Perhaps GOP leaders are sincere when they say their ongoing attack on (nonexistent) voter fraud with new voter-ID laws are not designed to suppress the votes of people of color. But they will not acknowledge evidence that the law’s impact is nonetheless voter suppression. Or take the question of equal opportunity for children. A bill adopted by the House Education and Workforce Committee this year, which Ryan has endorsed, forces 11,000 high-poverty schools out of eligibility for free-lunch programs, lowers nutritional standards, and makes it much tougher for schools to enroll kids who need help. The children who are adversely affected will be far disproportionately of color. But they aren’t named as targets, so we cannot pin down racist intention; Ryan and many others denouncing Trump this week would strongly object if someone called the bill “textbook” racism. As long as lawmakers and politicians don’t say “black” or “Mexican” or “Arab,” they are cleared of racist intention, as though the impacts of their actions don’t matter.

But they do matter, to a growing electorate of color.

The GOP (and, again, lots of Democrats, too) willfully ignore the fact that all politics are identity based. White men are simply not required to own their identities in politics because they constitute the default universal. When Zeldin calls out “microtargeting” as racist, he attempts to shut down any discussion of the racialized effects of supposedly race-neutral policies. The result is a debate in which only the most obvious, intentional brand of racism is to be condemned.

The Next Step — Frank Bruni profiles Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who could be the next rising star.

If you went into some laboratory to concoct a perfect Democratic candidate, you’d be hard pressed to improve on Pete Buttigieg, the 34-year-old second-term mayor of this Rust Belt city, where he grew up and now lives just two blocks from his parents.

Education? He has a bachelor’s from Harvard and a master’s from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Public service? He’s a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve. For seven months in 2014, he was deployed to Afghanistan — and took an unpaid leave from work in order to go.

He regularly attends Sunday services at his Episcopal church. He runs half-marathons. His TEDx talk on urban innovation in South Bend is so polished and persuasive that by the end of it, you’ve hopped online to price real estate in the city.

And though elective office was in his sights from early on, he picked up some experience in the private sector, including two years as a consultant with McKinsey. He describes that job in politically pitch-perfect terms, as an effort to learn how money moves and how data is mined most effectively.

Two years ago, The Washington Post called him “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of.”

And that was before he came out. He told his constituents that he was gay in an op-ed that he wrote for the local newspaper last June, during his re-election campaign. Then he proceeded, in November, to win 80 percent of the vote — more than the first time around.

But what happens if he aims higher than this primarily Democratic city of roughly 100,000 people — which he’s almost sure to? Is there now a smudge on that résumé, or could he become yet another thrilling symbol of our country’s progress?

The breaking of barriers was the story of last week, as Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination. There are more milestones to come: for women, for blacks, for Hispanics, for other minorities.

Although voters in Wisconsin elevated an openly lesbian candidate, Tammy Baldwin, to the United States Senate, and Oregon’s governor has described herself as bisexual, no openly gay, lesbian or bisexual person has ever emerged as a plausible presidential candidate.

How soon might that change? Could we look up a dozen or more years from now and see a same-sex couple in the White House?

I’d wondered in the abstract, and after a veteran Democratic strategist pointed me toward Buttigieg as one of the party’s brightest young stars, I wondered in the concrete.

He probably winced when he read that: At no point during my visit with him last week did he express such a grand political ambition or define himself in terms of his sexual orientation.

“I’m not interested in being a poster boy,” he told me. He has not, since his op-ed, spoken frequently or expansively about being gay.

He doesn’t hide it, though. His partner, Chasten Glezman, a middle-school teacher, moved in with him this year and sometimes accompanies him to public events.

One day Buttigieg popped into Glezman’s classroom with an offering from Starbucks. That night, he got an email fuming that the children had been unnecessarily exposed to certain ideas.

He wrote back “explaining how what I was doing was the same kind of thing a straight couple would do,” he told me. “I didn’t go in there to discuss L.G.B.T. issues. I went in there to bring a cup of coffee to somebody that I love.”

“But it was one of those moments,” he added, “when I realized we can’t quite go around as if it were the same.”

South Bend is Indiana’s fourth largest city and abuts the University of Notre Dame, where both of Buttigieg’s parents have taught. It was once famous for its Studebaker auto assembly plant, but that closed more than half a century ago, prompting a painful decline.

Buttigieg has worked to reverse it. His “1,000 houses in 1,000 days” campaign demolished or repaired that many abandoned homes. New construction and the dazzling River Lights public art installation, which bathes a cascading stretch of South Bend’s principal waterway in a rainbow of hues, are reinvigorating the city center. And the old Studebaker plant is at long last being renovated — into a mix of office, commercial, residential and storage space.

All of that could set Buttigieg up for a Senate or gubernatorial bid down the line. So could his sharp political antenna. He saw the future: In 2000, he won the nationwide J.F.K. Profile in Courage Essay Contest for high school students with a tribute to a certain congressman named Bernie Sanders.

“Politicians are rushing for the center, careful not to stick their necks out on issues,” he wrote, exempting Sanders and crediting him with the power “to win back the faith of a voting public weary and wary of political opportunism.”

He seems always to say just the right thing, in just the right tone. When I asked why he signed up for the Navy Reserve, he cited his experience canvassing for Barack Obama in Iowa in 2008.

“So many times, I would knock and a child would come to the door — in my eyes, a child — and we’d get to talking and this kid would be on his way to basic training,” he remembered. “It was like this whole town was emptying itself out into the military.” But very few of the people he knew from Harvard or Oxford signed up.

When I asked where the Democratic Party errs, he said that too many Democrats “are not yet comfortable working in a vocabulary of ‘freedom.’ Conservatives talk about freedom. They mean it. But they’re often negligent about the extent to which things other than government make people unfree.”

“And that is exactly why the things we talk about as Democrats matter,” he continued. “You’re not free if you have crushing medical debt. You’re not free if you’re being treated differently because of who you are. What has really affected my personal freedom more: the fact that I don’t have the freedom to pollute a certain river, or the fact that for part of my adult life, I didn’t have the freedom to marry somebody I was in love with? We’re talking about deep, personal freedom.”

HE also challenged the degree to which some Democrats “participate in the fiction that if we just turn back the clock and get rid of trade, everybody can get their manufacturing jobs back. There are a lot of people who think they lost their jobs because of globalization when they actually lost their jobs because of technology.”

The solution, he said, isn’t isolationism, protectionism and nostalgia. It’s new skills and a next generation of products and services.

Did I mention that he speaks passable Arabic? Or that he’s an accomplished musician who played piano with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in 2013 for a special performance of “Rhapsody in Blue”?

Or that he recently won a J.F.K. New Frontier Award, given annually to a few Americans under 40 whose commitment to public service is changing the country?

The daunting scope of his distinctions may be his greatest liability. (How many accolades named after J.F.K. can one man collect?)

That and his precociousness. Before his mayoralty, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for state treasurer of Indiana. He was 28.

So he’s not the most relatable pol in the pack. The laboratory would fix that.

Or maybe he’s fixing it himself. I last saw him at South Bend’s minor league baseball park, where he was chowing down on an all-American supper of nachos smothered in strips of fatty beef and a pale yellow goo. It looked like training for the Iowa State Fair.

Give him some Tums. And keep an eye on him.

Turn on the Dark — Rebecca Boyle in The Atlantic on the disappearance of the night sky.

The Pawnee people took literally the idea that we are all star stuff. In their cosmology, which dates back at least 700 years, the first woman was born from the marriage of stars, and the first man from the union of the sun and moon. The stars themselves were sent by the creator god, Tirawa, who tasked them with holding up the sky.

The brightest stars were entrusted with Earth’s climate, which was thought to be the key to its fertility. But this arrangement made some lesser stars jealous, so they stole a sack of violent storms that belonged to the brighter stars and emptied them on the Earth, and this is how death came to the world.

Today, the clouds, wind, and rain are still the principal ways that humans experience the sky, and that experience is changing. The Pawnee lived through thunderstorms and tornadoes, but ours are likely to become more violent as climate change worsens. And our night sky is changing too. As light pollution intensifies, it’s emptying out of stars, and life on Earth is paying a price.

One-third of humanity —and 80 percent of North Americans—can’t see the bright smear of the Milky Way, our home in the cosmos. For the first time in the history of our species, entire generations of people have never seen our galaxy.

A full 99 percent of the people in North America and Europe sleep under a bright haze at night, caused by light pollution. A new dark sky atlas describes just how widespread this problem is, and gives scientists a starting point for studying the impact artificial light is having on humans and the other creatures that share this planet.

“The light that we detected is not even seen by people, because they are asleep; it is only seen by astronomers,” says Fabio Falchi of the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Thiene, Italy. “But I am convinced that light pollution is no longer a problem for astronomers. It is a global problem for everyone. All life on Earth evolved with the dark, with 12 hours of dark and 12 hours of sun. But now we are enveloping our planet in a perpetual glow. And life is affected by that.”

Falchi and Chris Elvidge, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have been studying satellite images of the Earth at night since the 1990s. Their first atlas, produced in 2001, used older satellite data that was taken around 8 p.m. local time, while the updated atlas comes courtesy of a new satellite that captured sky glow around 1 or 2 a.m. Because of these and other differences, the new atlas can’t be directly contrasted with the old one. But the scientists think light pollution is more widespread now, even as some communities are trying to bring back the night. This is partly because of LEDs.

“Awareness is rising, but not as much, I think, as the new lights,” Falchi says.

Many cities are replacing their older high-pressure sodium or metal halide street lamps with LEDs, which use less energy but shine more brightly, especially in the part of the visible-light spectrum that scatters the most. (This is the same effect that makes the sky blue.) This means cities are both getting brighter and spreading their light across greater distances. Standing in Death Valley National Park, for example, a visitor can see gumdrop-shaped domes of light hovering over Las Vegas to the east and Los Angeles to the west, both of which are hundreds of miles away.

[…]

Falchi and Elvidge say they have also sought out dark skies, but they have to travel to get them. A few years ago Falchi visited Chile’s Atacama desert, one of the driest and darkest places on the planet, where the view of the Milky Way presented him with what he called one of “the great natural wonders.”

Elvidge tries to escape the haze by visiting the mountains, an easy and obvious choice for someone in Boulder, Colorado. But sometimes he drives east instead, passing the exits for Denver and the smaller agricultural city of Greeley. After a two-hour ride, he arrives at the windswept Pawnee National Grassland.

Nobody lives out there now; the Pawnee themselves are long gone, and white farmers mostly abandoned the area after the Dust Bowl. Apart from the sandstone Pawnee Buttes, improbably rising from the plains like a pair of prairie ziggurats, the grassland’s most compelling feature is its sky. Here, you can see the same stars the Pawnee people did, centuries ago. Taking them in just as the Pawnee would have, you can wonder, as they did, where we came from.

Doonesbury — Academic festival overture.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Reading

Not Acceptable — Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker of the danger of accepting Donald Trump.

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’

No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

And Trump announces his enmity in the choice of his companions. The Murdoch media conglomerate has been ordered to acquiesce; it’s no surprise that it has. But Trump’s other fellow-travellers include Roger Stone, the Republican political operative and dirty-tricks maven, while his venues have included the broadcasts of Alex Jones, a ranting conspiracy theorist who believes in a Globalist plot wherein “an alien force not of this world is attacking humanity”—not to mention Jones’s marketing of the theory that Michelle Obama is a transvestite who murdered Joan Rivers. These are not harmless oddballs Trump is flirting with. These are not members of the lunatic fringe. These are the lunatics.

Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, the kind who does not know the difference between lies and truth. Whatever the clinical diagnosis, we do appear to be getting, in place of the once famous Big Lie of the nineteen-thirties, a sordid blizzard of lies. The Big Lie was fit for a time of processionals and nighttime rallies, and films that featured them. The blizzard of lies is made for Twitter and the quick hit of an impulse culture. Trump’s lies arrive with such rapidity that before one can be refuted a new one comes to take its place. It wasn’t his voice on that tape of pitiful self-promotion. O.K., it was—but he never mocked the handicapped reporter, he was merely imitating an obsequious one. The media eventually moves on, shrugging helplessly, to the next lie. Then the next lie, and the next. If the lies are bizarre enough and frequent enough, they provoke little more than a nervous giggle and a cry of “Well, guess he’s changed the rules!”

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.

There is a difference between major and minor issues, and between primary and secondary values. Many of us think that it would be terrible if the radical-revisionist reading of the Second Amendment created by the Heller decision eight years ago was kept in place in a constitutional court; many on the other side think it would be terrible if that other radical decision, Roe v. Wade, continued to be found to be compatible with the constitutional order. What we all should agree on is that the one thing worse would be to have no constitutional order left to argue about.

If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate. Before those famous schoolroom lines, Pope made another observation, which was that even as you recognize that the world is a mixed-up place, you still can’t fool yourself about the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable: “Fools! who from hence into the notion fall / That vice or virtue there is none at all,” he wrote. “Is there no black or white? / Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; / ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now.

Where You Go Matters — The New York Times on how a personal issue became a national cause.

The people of Palatine, Ill., a middle-class suburb of Chicago marked by generic strip malls and tidy cul-de-sacs, had not spent much time debating the thorny questions of transgender rights. But in late 2013, a transgender high school athlete, so intent on defending her privacy that she is known only as Student A, took on her school district so she could use the girls’ locker room.

After the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled in her favor last fall, the two sides cut a deal: Student A could use the locker room and the school would install private changing areas. Some in the community denounced the arrangement; others joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represented the girl, in declaring a victory for civil rights.

Now the whole nation is in a pitched battle over bathroom access, with the Obama administration ordering all public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. Across the country, religious conservatives are rebelling. On Friday, lawmakers in Oklahoma became the latest group to protest, proposing one measure to effectively overturn the order, and another calling for President Obama to be impeached over it.

How a clash over bathrooms, an issue that appeared atop no national polls, became the next frontier in America’s fast-moving culture wars — and ultimately landed on the desk of the president — involves an array of players, some with law degrees, others still in high school.

The sweeping directive to public schools seemed to come out of nowhere. In fact, it was the product of years of study inside the government and a highly orchestrated campaign by advocates for gay and transgender people. Mindful of the role “Whites Only’’ bathrooms played in the civil rights battles of more than half a century ago, they have been maneuvering behind the scenes to press federal agencies, and ultimately Mr. Obama, to address a question that has roiled many school districts: Should those with differing anatomies share the same bathrooms?

The lobbying came to a head, according to people who were involved, in a hastily called April 1 meeting between top White House officials — led by Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser and one of his closest confidantes — and national leaders of the gay and transgender rights movement. North Carolina had just become the first state to explicitly bar transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice.

“Transgender students are under attack in this country,” said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based advocacy group that is active on the issue, summing up the message he sought to convey to Ms. Jarrett that day. “They need their federal government to stand up for them.”

Ms. Jarrett and her team, he said, listened politely, but “did not reveal much,” including the fact that a legal directive on transgender rights that had been in the works for months was about to be released.

When — or precisely how — Mr. Obama personally weighed in is not clear; the White House would not provide specifics. But two days before that meeting, scores of advocacy groups sent Mr. Obama a private letter, appealing to his sense of history as he nears the end of his presidency, in which he has already advanced gay and transgender rights on multiple fronts.

“Too many students — including every single transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming student in North Carolina — will go to sleep tonight dreading the next school day,” the groups wrote, telling him that “your legacy will be defined by the tone you have set and the personal leadership you have shown on these issues.”

The dispute in Palatine came amid increasing confusion for school districts over how to handle questions about bathroom access for transgender students. Officials at the Department of Education said it had received hundreds of requests for guidance — so many that advocates for gay and transgender rights, frustrated by the Obama administration’s failure to issue specific policy guidelines, decided to act on their own.

In August, several groups seeking protection for transgender people — including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Education Association and the National Center for Lesbian Rights — issued a 68-page guide for schools, hoping to provide a blueprint for the White House.

At the Department of Education, Catherine E. Lhamon, 44, a former civil rights litigator who runs the agency’s Office of Civil Rights — and has made aggressive use of a federal nondiscrimination law known as Title IX — was taking the lead. The department’s ruling in favor of Student A in November was the first time it had found any school district in violation of civil rights over transgender issues.

For Student A, the federal intervention has been life changing. Her mother, who requested anonymity to protect the privacy of her daughter, said she was close to finishing her junior year and had just gone to the prom with a group of friends. (She wore a “nice, expensive dress” with a lot of sparkles, her mother said.) Student A is starting to think about which college she might attend.

“She’s in her own teenaged world right now,” her mother said.

The ruling in Palatine reverberated across the Midwest. In the South Dakota Legislature, Republicans were so alarmed by the situation in Palatine that, in February, they passed a measure restricting bathroom access for transgender students — similar to the one that later became law in North Carolina. Opponents sent transgender South Dakotans to meet with Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, and they believe that influenced his veto of the bill.

Among the visitors was Kendra Heathscott, who was 10 when she first met Mr. Daugaard, then the executive director of a social services organization that treats children with behavioral problems. In his office to lobby against the bathroom measure, she reintroduced herself. “He remembered me as a little boy,” she said.

In Wisconsin last year, another Republican-sponsored bathroom bill began to work its way through the Legislature, but was beaten back by transgender rights activists, many of them teenagers.

Remember 2008 — Tim Murphy at Mother Jones reminds us of the intense Democratic primary race eight years ago and how that turned out.

After last weekend’s chaotic Nevada Democratic convention, where supporters of Bernie Sanders tossed chairs and later sent death threats to the state party chair, leading Democrats called on the Vermont senator and his supporters to settle down. They wanted Sanders backers to quit complaining about a “rigged” nominating process and to lay off the threat to take the fight to the July convention if—as looks almost certain—Hillary Clinton locks up the nomination next month. At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky chastised the Vermont senator for not rebuking his supporters and asked if Sanders “wants to destroy the Democratic party.” He depicted Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, as Thelma and Louise, driving off a cliff.

But, in a way, the party has been at this precipice before. The fretting over what a Sanders schism might mean for the party’s chances in November against Donald Trump is not without justification. And many Democrats had cause to freak out over a New York Times article that reported that Team Sanders was bent on causing Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, much harm in the weeks up to and at the convention. But Sanders’ decision to push for the Democratic nomination all the way to the convention is not unprecedented. This is sort of what happened the last time there was a Democratic presidential primary, when Clinton was in the never-give-up role.

The comparison isn’t perfect. At this point in 2008, Clinton, running second to then-Sen. Barack Obama, had a statistically better shot at the nomination than Sanders does now. The gap in pledged delegates was much smaller, and there was an unsettled issue of how harshly Michigan and Florida would be penalized for holding early primaries against the party’s orders. (Clinton won both states, Obama had chosen not compete, and it was unclear how many delegates each state would have at the convention.) Still, Clinton was a long shot, and Obama backers wanted her to go away quietly, or at least to quit attacking the likely nominee. She and her supporters chose the opposite course, pitching superdelegates to switch sides based on a racially tinged argument that Clinton would fare better than Obama in the general election.

Here are some flashbacks to that tense period in 2008:

May 8: After narrowly beating Obama in Indiana, Clinton says, “Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again.” This was an argument that superdelegates should support her because her black opponent wouldn’t be able to win white voters in November.

May 9: Sixteen pro-Clinton House members send a letter to superdelegates touting Clinton’s “ability to connect with voters we must deliver in the fall, including blue collar Democrats who can sway this election as they have in the past.”

Mid-May: Bill Clinton frantically tries to convince superdelegates to switch their allegiances. According to Game Change, “Clinton’s message, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly, was that the country wasn’t ready to elect an African American president.”

May 23: Hillary Clinton tells the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that she’s staying in the race because anything can happen. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California,” she says. She pledges to fight until the convention and challenges Obama to more debates. Obama supporters howl at Clinton’s fear tactic.

May 31: The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meets to settle the fate of the Michigan and Florida delegates. It decides to cut both states’ delegations in half—a death blow to Clinton’s chances. Angry Clinton supporters outside the meeting tell the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein that an ex-Senate majority leader (Tom Daschle) had “rigged” the South Dakota primary, that Obama was in the pocket of a billionaire megadonor (George Soros), and that his base of supporters was little more than an “anti-woman cult.”

Early June: Rumors circulate of a secret video, known as the “whitey tape,” in which Michelle Obama supposedly shares a stage with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and denounces white people. According to Game Change, the Clinton campaign clung to the video as its last best hope: “[Top Clinton aide Sidney] Blumenthal was obsessed with the ‘whitey tape,’ and so were the Clintons, who not only believed that it existed but felt that there was a chance it might emerge in time to save Hillary. ‘They’ve got a tape, they’ve got a tape,’ she told her aides excitedly.”

There was no tape, and Clinton dropped out of the race on June 4, shortly after the last Democratic primary. On June 27, she and Obama held their first joint appearance together, in Unity, New Hampshire.

Sanders may yet pursue a different course. (His aides are talking about trying to transform the Democratic Party and its rules.) But for now, his decision to stay in the race and keep the pressure on the front-runner is not extraordinary. It’s déjà vu.

Doonesbury — Found money.

Friday, May 20, 2016