Sentinel Confrontations

December 21st, 2011 No comments

I have a new piece over at The New Civil Rights Movement, where I explore several recent confrontations between right-wing Republicans and “ordinary Americans.” The very fact of these meetings presages the decline of the far right’s position on LGBT equality issues, but that doesn’t mean the death throes will be smooth. No. Expect continued thrashing, and bashing. Perry and Gingrich lead the way, and they’re so clueless they don’t even realize that their extreme positions are dooming their candidacy.

Too  bad, because a campaign season’s worth of this buffoonery would at least have had comic value. Expect instead a dreary slog, inching painfully toward next November.

Shut Up and Drive?

December 14th, 2011 No comments

You would have thought the National Transportation Safety Board had launched an all-out attack on motherhood: Last night, we got word that NTSB is recommending a total ban on cell phone use in cars. The radical part of the proposal is that it would include hands-free phoning; no state has gone that far.

I can’t see these recommendations being enacted, but at least NTSB has provoked the right conversation. Because it turns out that the hands holding the phone aren’t the problem, it’s the chit-chat itself. But if in-car yakking is the problem, why not muzzle the passengers and turn off the radio? And, for the love of God, will someone please make the kids in the back seat shut up?

But not all conversation is the same. Radios can, I’m told, be turned off. Passengers can be asked, at first politely and eventually escalating to a scream, to clam up — indeed, most will instinctively do so when they see that the driver’s full attention is needed for some task (for instance, driving). Caution: not effective with children. The person on the other end of a phone, though, doesn’t know what’s going on in the car and drivers are often reluctant to tell them. They get caught up.

So will limiting cell phone use to hands-free models do any good at all? Yes, because it will also stop texting. As it is now, texting bans are useless without a ban on hand-held cell phones — because unless the cop is peering directly into the window (and what’s he doing there?), the driver can always claim to have been dialing, not texting.

And texting is the thing we really need to stop. Here’s a strategy I tried on my niece: When she told me she sometimes texted while driving, even though she knew she shouldn’t, I told her that I had an idea for safer driving:

Stop texting and consume a fifth of whiskey. You’ll be better off, statistically speaking. Given that her generation has been drilled — constantly and to some good effect — about the perils of drinking and driving, this message might click.

Please text the link to this post. But pull over first.

Concession Obsession

December 11th, 2011 No comments

The strategy for winning the Prop 8 litigation should have been apparent all along — let the proponents self-destruct. I discuss their counsel’s latest concession at this past Thursday’s hearing over at The New Civil Rights Movement. Not even Wile E. Coyote was this self-destructive.

Nadal to Retire in 2012

November 28th, 2011 2 comments


You read it here first:

Rafa Nadal, the greatest clay court tennis player in history — and one of the greatest ever, period — will retire from tennis sometime during 2012.

Here’s what he said, just today, in discussing his preparation for Davis Cup (which at this point seems like an experiment on the players’ bodies, a torturous coda to a season that will never end):

“[M]ore than a lack of passion, it is a weariness from many years of playing at this level, week after week.”

Just tired because it’s the end of the year? No. Here’s what he said earlier this year, right in the middle of the French Open, which he’d then won five times:

“It’s my ninth year on the tour, and its completely the same feeling every year. You don’t have the chance to stop, never. I think for that situation we have a shorter career. So having a different model of ranking, of competition, I think we can have longer career, no? I [am] almost 25, but seems like I am playing for 100 years here on the tour. I didn’t spend a weekend at home since the week of Davis Cup before Indian Wells. That’s too much. Tennis is a very demanding sport mentally and physically. I won Roland Garros five times, but next Monday I am practicing on Queen’s. So that’s makes the career shorter for everybody.”

“We have four Grand Slams, we have nine Masters 1000, and the year is 12 months. I know that they’re gonna reduce two week but, seriously, is not enough. [We are not ] gonna have these changes for my generation, but hopefully for the next generations to have a better sports life. Because I think you need two months, two months and a half of rest at the end of the season. You have to practice. I never able to practice and to try to improve the things during the off-season, and that’s something I think terrible. Sometimes it’s like work. And, in my opinion, tennis is not work. It’s passion.”

Does this sound like someone who’s going to be around for long?

Borg, another player who had prodigious success at an early age, walked away at age 26 when he lost his single-minded focus, and, coincidentally, when he could no longer defeat John McEnroe. Now Nadal, age 25, has been thoroughly thrashed by Novak Djokovic all year (0-6, all in finals) and just got hammered at the WTF (World Tour Finals; get your mind out of the gutter) — 6-3, 6-0 — by that other guy in the top three. Federer was as up, and relentless, as Nadal was down, and despondent. With the possible exception of Serena Williams (who has taken some long breaks from the tour), I’ve never seen anyone so hard-working or passionate about tennis as Nadal. And that can’t last forever.

Rafa’s light is blinking red. He’ll be gone within a year. It’s easy to blame the length of the season (let’s!), but I just think that his style of play isn’t suited to a long career. I’m hope I’m wrong, but I doubt that I am.

They’re Still Standing

November 17th, 2011 No comments

Today, the CA S Ct opined that the Prop 8 official proponents have standing to appeal under state law. The Ninth Circuit will surely accept the ruling, and we can move on to the merits of the case. Here’s my analysis over at The New Civil Rights Movement. As always, comments welcome — on either site.

Dimensions of Personhood: Reflections on Penn State and Mississippi

November 12th, 2011 No comments

Last week, pundits and prognosticators were puzzled when Mississippi voters decisively rejected an amendment to the state’s constitution that would have made fertilized eggs persons, presumably entitled to all the rights that human beings enjoy. The measure, which almost surely would have been declared unconstitutional by the courts (I doubt the Supreme Court even would have bothered to weigh in), ended up being too much even for voters in one of the reddest of red states. But let’s not forget that more than four in ten voters said “yes” to the measure.

More than anything else, a “yes” vote required turning a blind eye to the complexities of life. Not only would the measure have outlawed certain forms of contraception (bringing us back to an earlier time when the state’s heavy hand tried to control reproductive decisions), and raise problems for in vitro fertilization (by effectively limiting many women to a single embryo), it would also have denied reality by fully equating even the earliest embryos to the women carrying them. In theory, this would have stopped even abortions needed to save women’s lives — by what logic, other than a utilitarian calculus that seems ruled out by the logic of this measure, could the embryo’s life be affirmatively ended in order to save the mother’s?

Such certainty in the face of such complexity is easy, and cost-free, when you’re pulling a level at the ballot box. But I wonder how those same people would have reacted had they come upon the horrific scene that confronted Mike McQueary that day in the shower at the Penn State athletic facility. Or if they had been told what happened, as was Joe Paterno. How sure are they that they’d have done the right thing? I’d like to think I’d have known exactly what to do, but you never know unless you’re in that moment. It’s humbling to think about, and the reason we need clear and unambiguous rules in place to deal with such cases. Even then, we won’t always get it right.

Perhaps thinking through some of the “what ifs” would have resulted in a different vote on personhood — so easy to state, so hard to define, and so likely to cause terrible difficulties.

Marriage By Any Other Name

October 11th, 2011 1 comment

That was the title of the American Law Journal show that featured me and a couple of practicing lawyers. It aired yesterday and it now available on the web, here. Lots of interesting territory covered, I thought — better than the typical sound-bite-y news show. Reactions welcome (I think).

Something to be Avoided?

October 9th, 2011 No comments

An interesting argument made by this writer against the passive voice. His conclusion: there’s no good reason it shouldn’t be used (by us). The whole piece is worth reading (it’s not long). But the kicker: those who inveigh against the passive voice use it themselves. Yep, it’s used by them:

[T]his is where modern American writing instruction has brought us. Totally unmotivated warnings against sentences that have nothing wrong with them are handed out by people who (unwittingly) often use such sentences more than the people they criticize. And the warnings are consumed by people who don’t know enough grammar to evaluate them (which is why the percentage of passives in published prose continues basically unchanged over time). The blind warning the blind about a danger that isn’t there.

Don’t just sit there, er, passively. Would that something be done by you!

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Categories: grammar, humor Tags: ,

First Post on The New Civil Rights Movement Now Up

October 7th, 2011 No comments

It’s here. Please, trundle on over and see what you think. I’m responding to the argument from the left that marriage equality would be bad for the GLBT community. I get into how the denial of equality in marriage for women negatively affected not only married women, but all women.

The New “New Civil Rights Movement” Blogging Adventures of Old Me

October 3rd, 2011 1 comment

Yes, my wandering through the blogosphere only lasted for a weekend. Last Friday evening, I met David Badash, the founder and mover of the New Civil Rights Movement, and just today I’ve agreed to blog for them on a basis-to-be-determined-as-we-go-along. The site features some great opinion and analysis of LGBT issues, and is often quoted and linked to by influential media.

Whatever I write for that site, I’ll link to here. Expect something by week’s end, and then frequently until I can establish some rapport with readers. Here’s hoping that 365gay and Word In Edgewise readers will support me in this new venture. I’m looking forward to doing some good work.