Suddenly, it's becoming less of a stigma for bigwigs to associate with gays in the Republican Party. Not only has former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman's 9/22 fundraiser for gay marriage rights attracted numerous high-octane Republican donors and activists, but Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee will help the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, raise money for its political action committee. (Part of this story was first reported last month.)
A glossy pamphlet advertising the Log Cabin Republicans' national dinner at the Capitol Hill Club highlights an hour-long cocktail gathering with the two party committee chairs, both strong opponents of gay rights. But their attendance will add to the coffers of the LCR's political action committee, which endorses Republicans who support gay rights.
The LCR national dinner, which follows the private fundraiser, will include Sessions, Rep. Judy Biggert, Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. The Daily Caller's Tucker Carlson will serve as Master of Ceremonies.
The Log Cabin Republicans' Mission Statement proclaims fidelity to conservative principles like a "strong national defense" and "limited government" before it discusses marriage rights and an "inclusive definition of the family." But in practice, the group does not endorse candidates who oppose gay rights.
Cornyn and Sessions are not on record as having ever supported any gay rights measure. Cornyn has been derisive about gay marriage in the past, likening homosexuality to "man on box turtle," but recently said his opposition to gay marriage should not be construed as any effort to degrade the dignity of people whose sexual orientation is different than his. (CORRECTION APPENDED)
Like Cornyn, Sessions has received a "zero" rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which scores lawmakers based on their support for gay rights initiatives.
The presence of the top two party political strategists at a gay Republican event means that both men do not believe the criticism they'll get from consorting with gay rights advocates will in any way complicate either their immediate goals as party committee chiefs or the future of their political careers. What message their presence does send, aside from each side's willingness to be used as a financial vehicle, is unclear. An NRCC spokesperson said that Sessions was attending in his capacity as NRCC chair.
The Log Cabin Republicans have re-invented themselves several times over the past several political cycles, endorsing George W. Bush in 2000 but refusing to endorse him in 2004 because of his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay rights. This led to a schism among gay Republicans, with the LCR's board insisting that "certain moments
in history require that a belief in fairness and equality not be
sacrificed in the name of partisan politics; this is one of those
In 2008, the LCR endorsed the McCain-Palin ticket despite its solid opposition to gay rights, although McCain was lauded for his opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment.
The tension here is that while there is not even a remote chance that a Republican Congress will advance the cause of gay rights, the Log Cabins have to start somewhere. Either they build bridges with the GOP leadership, or they sit on the sidelines. And there's perhaps no better time to begin relationships than when voters are not preoccupied with social issues.
Executive Director of LCR, it would be irresponsible of me to not seek common
denominators or common points of interest to build relationships with our
conservative colleagues," R. Clarke Cooper, LCR's executive director, wrote in an e-mail message.
For example, if I can start a dialogue with my Republican colleagues by agreeing
on economic growth and tax equity for all Americans, that is much better than
refusing to dialog because some Republican members may not support other
equality measures. Yes, there are differences among Republicans when it comes
to the application of civil rights for gays. Some Republican members of
Congress are willing to co-sponsor Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), but
remain uncomfortable supporting full marriage equality. So, do I deny the
support of some pro-ENDA Republicans because they have yet to fully appreciate
why equity in civil marriage is necessary? No, I will embrace their existing
support and then work to secure further understanding and support.
Mehlman, in an interview, said that the event he is co-hosting with Manhattan Institute board chairman Paul W. Singer has $1,000,000 worth of commitments. He said he was happy to see that GOP leaders were attending Log Cabin events -- "that's great news."
Still, at least three potential GOP presidential candidates said they support the campaign of activists who want to oust Iowa justices who legalized same-sex marriage, and none of the potential GOP candidates has expressed support for ending the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on gays in the military.
Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city's publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city's police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.
The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today's riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
In Baltimore, where 25-year-old Freddie Gray died shortly after being taken into police custody, an investigation may uncover homicidal misconduct by law enforcement, as happened in the North Charleston, South Carolina, killing of Walter Scott. Or the facts may confound the darkest suspicions of protestors, as when the Department of Justice released its report on the killing of Michael Brown.
What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn't wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn't looked.
Cinderella marries Prince Charming. Aladdin weds Princess Jasmine. In 50 Shades of Grey, Ana falls for Christian. From bedtime stories to films, we are exposed to a repeated idea: that love, or at least lust, crosses class lines. In fiction, cross-class relationships either end in marriage and happily-ever-after, or else in dissolution and even death. But what happens in real life?
Last year, I set out to answer this question by interviewing college-educated men and women who had married partners from different class backgrounds, for my book The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriages. Not surprisingly, their relationships had little in common with the romances we see in the movies.Class had shaped each spouse so much that the people I interviewed had more in common with strangers.
On Monday, Americans watched televised images of riots and looting in Baltimore, Maryland, where days of peaceful protests sparked by the killing of Freddie Gray gave way to mayhem in at least several locations. As CNN broadcast scenes of young people looting a CVS pharmacy and police cars burning in the streets, its commentators, including anchor Wolf Blitzer, criticized Baltimore officials for allowing such flagrant lawlessness to transpire. "I keep asking where are the police," he said. "They seem to be invisible." In fact, law enforcement had come under attack by high school students throwing cinder blocks, dispersed that crowd, and had officers massed at several spots, just not the particular corner where the news helicopter trained its cameras. The anchor treated truths not captured on CNN's video feeds as if they didn't exist. Americans should avoid that sort of myopia.
“As a basic principle, we can’t tell you to stop recording,” says Delroy Burton, chairman of D.C.’s metropolitan police union and a 21-year veteran on the force. “If you’re standing across the street videotaping, and I’m in a public place, carrying out my public functions, [then] I’m subject to recording, and there’s nothing legally the police officer can do to stop you from recording.”
“What you don’t have a right to do is interfere,” he says. “Record from a distance, stay out of the scene, and the officer doesn’t have the right to come over and take your camera, confiscate it.”
Officers do have a right to tell you to stop interfering with their work, Burton told me, but they still aren’t allowed to destroy film.
Does Adam Sandler have an expiration date? Does his particular brand of slapstick—humor that's infused with a wan self-deprecation, that manages to be simultaneously silly and sociopathic, that once found Sandler punching Bob Barker in the face while informing him that "the price is wrong, bitch"—hold up? Is Sandler's own price now, finally, wrong?
Recent events would suggest yes. Late last week, in the course of filming Sandler's newest project, the made-for-Netflix Western spoof The Ridiculous 6, a Native-American cultural advisor and several performers and extras walked off the set in protest. (Sample characters: Beaver Breath, No Bra, Sits-on-Face. Sample line: "Say honey: how about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?") As Allison Young, a Navajo actress who quit after being asked to do a scene "requiring her to fall down drunk, surrounded by jeering white men who rouse her by dousing her with more alcohol" told the Indian Country Media Network, “We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’”
Police say that intentionally banging a suspect around in the back of a van isn't common practice. But the range of slang terms to describe the practice suggests it's more common that anyone would hope—and a roster of cases show that Freddie Gray is hardly the first person whose serious injuries allegedly occurred while in police transit. Citizens have accused police of using aggressive driving to rough suspects up for decades in jurisdictions across the country. Though experts don't think it's a widespread practice, rough rides have injured many people, frayed relationships, and cost taxpayers, including Baltimore's, millions of dollars in damages.
Atheism is intellectually fashionable. In the past month, The New York Times has run severalstories about lack of faith in its series on religion. The New Yorker ran an article on the history of non-belief in reaction to twonew books on the subject that were released within a week of each other in February. The veteran writer, Adam Gopnik, concludes this:
What the noes, whatever their numbers, really have now … is a monopoly on legitimate forms of knowledge about the natural world. They have this monopoly for the same reason that computer manufacturers have an edge over crystal-ball makers: The advantages of having an actual explanation of things and processes are self-evident.
This is a perfect summary of the intellectual claim of those who set out to prove that God is dead and religion is false: Atheists have legitimate knowledge, and those who believe do not. This is the epistemological assumption looming in the so-called “culture war” between the caricatures of godless liberals and Bible-thumping conservatives in America: One group wields rational argumentation and intellectual history as an indictment of God, while the other looks to tradition and text as defenses against modernity’s encroachment on religious life.
In a recent dispatch from Ferguson, Missouri, Jelani Cobb noted that President Obama's responses to "unpunished racial injustices" constitute "a genre unto themselves." Monday night, when Barack Obama stood before the nation to interpret the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, he offered a particularly tame specimen. The elements of "the genre" were all on display—an unmitigated optimism, an urge for calm, a fantastic faith in American institutions, aneven-handedness exercised to a fault. But if all the limbs of the construct were accounted for, the soul of the thing was not.
There was none of the spontaneous annoyance at the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, and little of the sheer pain exhibited in the line, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." The deft hand Obama employed in explaining to Americans why the acquittal of George Zimmerman so rankled had gone arthritic. This was a perfunctory execution of "the genre," offered with all the energy of a man ticking items off a to-do list.