Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From Frohnau to Schmöckwitz

Ever looked closely at a map of Berlin? All those magical place names?

Not magical, you say? You're just not trying!

OK, so this is not everybody’s idea of a fun alternative to cleaning your sock drawer, but it is mine. I carry around with me a love of this city that goes back to the time my Uncle Willi first took me there and showed me where the family came from. I have childhood memories of my grandmother telling me about walking down Unter den Linden and pressing her nose against the shop windows and dreaming of someday having a dress like that.

A few years after that first trip I went back again, this time wearing an American army uniform. I had trained to be a Russian “linguist”. The military uses this word for anybody who speaks, even poorly, a language they paid lots of taxpayer money to teach them. Once I got there, for reasons that I won’t explain here, I got switched from Russian military spying to German political spying, partly because nobody had bothered to teach the German “linguists” to handle the Saxon dialect of nearby Dresden. I didn’t have much experience with the dialect either, but I had a German grandmother, so I had a head start.

These days I live in San Francisco where an earthquake could come along at any moment and end my days. In those days, one way to be cool, if you were twenty and in the U.S. Army of Occupation, was to taunt fate and laugh at the possibility the Russians could march in without warning, take the city and do us in that way. To my Berlin family and friends, the fact that the heart of the city they had grown up in was now inaccessible was heartbreaking. To us Americans, the inaccessibility only lent excitement. It was a place of mystery and endless fascination.

Nearly thirty years later, when the wall came down in 1989 and the city started putting itself back together, I was living in Japan. I had given up the plan to emigrate to Berlin. I still went back as often as I could, but it was receding in my imagination. It was no longer a place I could lay claim to. It was a whole new place and try as I might I would never make up for lost time.

Recently, I have become aware of how much of my energy goes into raving about the state of American political life and I need ways to get calm. Music helps. So does Google. Now, I can sit in front of the computer and spend the entire day flying over the cities of the world reliving past travels thanks to Google maps. Much of that time is wandering between places I know in Berlin, and coming to terms with the fact that “they” are now “us” and “there” is now “here.”

Recently I came across the name “Marzahn-Hellersdorf.” I had never heard of it before. I can’t tell you what a blow it was to my ego to learn it’s one of the twelve boroughs of the new united Berlin. Taku and I are going to Berlin this summer and one of the things he wants to see is the museum put together by that guy who lived his life in a dress, collected antiques, and called himself Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. It’s on the easternmost side of the city, in the borough of Marzahn-Hellersdorf, and deep in the once forbidden territory of da drüben –“over there.”

So now I pore over maps.

All those Slavic names. You know about Moscow and Krakow. But do you know Kladow and Gatow, Karow and Pankow, Treptow, Malchow, Rudow and Buckow?

They’re all pronounced “-oh”, incidentally, not “ow”, as in “how now brown cow” and the way English speakers pronounce Moscow and Krakow. (And not like the “uff” in Krakow, as the Poles say it, either). A linguistic curiosity, breaking the otherwise highly consistent rules of German pronunciation.

Berlin too is Slavic, as you may know. Polabian, to be specific. Not that that helps much, since the last native speaker of Polabian, a woman, died in 1756, and the last person who spoke any Polabian at all died in 1825.

But just in case anybody asks you about the origin of both “Berlin” (pronounced bay-uh-leen, in German, by the way) and all those place names ending in –ow, don’t hesitate. Speak right up and say, “Well, my best guess would be Polabian.”

I’ve known some of these place names all my life. Some, like Wedding, make me remember my friend Merrill, who worked there as a construction worker after we got out of the army. Spandau will always make me think of the prison where the British Commandant, whom I met at a party one time, played chess with its sole prisoner, Rudolf Hess, even though the average British soldier was strictly forbidden to have any contact.

But those names – like Lichterfelde, where I lived during my army days in the Berlin Brigade (in Andrews Barracks, formerly the home first of Prussian cadets and later of the Waffen SS at the corner of Finkensteinallee and Kadettenweg – if you click on "Andrews Barracks" and scroll down to about an inch from the bottom, you'll even see pictures of Bldg. 904, home of the "spooks" - that's us, the spies, and I think the actual room I lived in) – and Charlottenburg and Dahlem, where all my friends live, are all West Berlin names. The new Berlin opens up all sorts of places I know only from stories. Pankow, the word that represented the ruling class of the supposedly classless DDR. Köpenick, as in The Captain of Köpenick, a book by Carl Zuckmayer, the writer I chose for my senior thesis in college to the absolute horror of my department chair. “German literature has Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Hölderlin, Lessing, Rilke, Kafka, and even that bastard Bertolt Brecht, and you want to read Carl Zuckmayer?” So many memories, but so little knowledge of the mysterious east.

It’s all such an adventure now. All so intriguing. Even though the wall came down twenty years ago, it’s all still new to me.

So in preparation for my next trip I’ve been committing the map to memory. Or trying to. Berlin reduced its twenty-three “Bezirke” (boroughs) to just twelve in 2001. I’ve got those down. Now I’m working on the “Ortsteile” (“localities” in English), the subdivisions of the Bezirke. That’s taking a little more work, because there are 95 of them.

I’m working on mnemonic devices. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

The 95 official locality place names include (the list is not exhaustive):

1. a couple of “aeries”:
Haselhorst and Karlshorst

and a couple of “courts”:
Tempelhof and Adlershof;

2. three “castles”:
Charlottenburg, Rummelsburg, and Blankenburg;

3. three “cities”:
Siemensstadt, Wilhelmstadt, and Gropiusstadt;

and three places which carry Friedrich’s name:
a grove – Friedrichshain; a field – Friedrichsfelde; and a “close,” – Friedrichshagen;

4. five fields and five Lakes:
Blankenfelde, Lichterfelde, Marienfelde, Hakenfelde, and Friedrichsfelde (just mentioned). Oh, and Falkenhagener Feld.

The districts with lake names are:
Heiligensee, Wannsee, Weißensee, Halensee, and Nikolassee;

5.six mountains:
Schöneberg, Lichtenberg, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Falkenberg, Wartenberg, and

6. thirteen villages, which I have ordered alphabetically:

1. Biesdorf,
2. Bohnsdorf,
3. Heinersdorf,
4. Hellersdorf,
5. Hermsdorf,
6. Kaulsdorf,
7. Mahlsdorf,
8. Mariendorf,
9. Rahnsdorf
10. Reinickendorf,
11. Schmargendorf,
12. Wilmersdorf,
13. Zehlendorf.

That still leaves all the names of places that stand alone, like Frohnau, Lübars, Staaken, Westend, Moabit, Grunewald, and Buch. There are a few more.

Französisch Buchholz. Does your home town have a place name that translates “French Bookwood?” No relationship to that Greek god, Horst Buchholz, that I worshipped when I was younger, (although he was a Berliner, too).




Saturday, March 27, 2010

Are you in real estate?

When your enemies stop coming after you with guns and baseball bats, you can always, of course, shoot yourself in the foot. That’s what seems to be going on in Berlin at the moment with gay people. Some gay people, anyway.

Germany, like most of Northern Europe, has left the United States in the dust when it comes to gay rights. Most countries now embrace gay people, at least at official levels. The Catholic Church is still fighting recognition of gay rights tooth and nail, but fortunately the church has pretty much lost credibility in Europe. Many countries have even added marriage and adoption rights to all the other rights of citizens which signal freedom from discrimination. Homosexual acts are legal in every country in Europe. And that, believe it or not, since 1929, includes the Vatican!

If I had been German, for example, my partner would not have had to spend $7000 on lawyers to help him with the process of becoming a resident. We would have gone to the Standesamt, signed on the dotted line, and presto, a visa for my life partner tout de suite.

Germany's capital city, Berlin, and its second largest city, Hamburg, both have mayors who are gay and my German friends find that fact totally unremarkable.

So far so good, right? Well, yes. But here comes the foot-shooting part.

Two years ago, in May, a memorial went up in Berlin, across from the Jewish memorial, to gays persecuted by the Nazi regime. Lots of nice speeches, including one by gay mayor Klaus Wowereit. (I wasn’t there, unfortunately, but it was covered in the media and is still available on YouTube. )

The memorial itself is a graceless block of concrete, but I understand there are times to be silent, sober, unadorned and undistracted. As with other memorials, you need other experiences to bring home the horror. If you've ever seen Bent, for example – I saw it on Broadway with Michael York many years ago and it remains the most compelling thing I've ever seen on stage – you won't need much to jog your memory. This is a memorial, not an attempt to relive the past.

A nice touch is the video screen showing "The Kiss". "Kissing" would be more accurate, but let's not quibble.

Wasn't long, of course (why is this so predictable?) before vandals had at the memorial, smashing it, scratching the screen, covering it with graffiti. That was something I imagine the people responsible for putting this together planned for.

What they didn't see coming was the ruckus that has ensued following the realization that, for the next couple of years, the original plan called for the kissing men to give way to kissing women. The problem is what exactly are we remembering? And are we remembering or are we politicking?

Lesbians were not taken seriously by the Nazis any more than they were in Victorian England. Queen Victoria, remember (it isn't true, unfortunately - it's an urban legend) was supposed to have prevented laws against lesbian behavior because "Women wouldn't do such things!" In any case, there are few cases of lesbians in concentration camps, and the memorial recognizes that fact. Mostly, though, what information there is is highly contested.

But what to do about the fact that switching off is part of the original deal? And while you worry about historical accuracy, you might do well to remember when the gay memorial was dedicated, Jewish groups protested that such a memorial to a few thousand insults the memory of the millions who died for being Jewish. And that the Jews are not the only people to have to contend with holocaust deniers. They have bigger fish, t'is true, but we have right wing Michael Medved.

I remember a lecture by Gore Vidal once on political activism by gays. In his talk he mentioned the thousands of gays killed in concentration camps. Somebody stood up and hit him with that question. "Isn't there something wrong about talking about gays in concentration camps when the number of Jews killed was so much greater. "Numbers?" Vidal said, "Numbers? What, are you in real estate?"

This same issue came up again when gays in the U.S. cast their struggle as a struggle for civil rights. Many African-Americans felt that claim encroached upon their territory and bristled. Sometimes you just can't seem to make room for everybody.

But is this analogous? Is six million to perhaps 10,000 on a par with 10,000 to, what, a dozen? Three dozen? The problem is numbers, or more precisely the fact that the numbers are uncertain. How and when do you remember people whose numbers cannot be determined? Do you start only when the numbers exceed a handful? The size of a village? A million?

Irrelevant discussion, say memorial organizers. The women in camps were not there for being Lesbian, they say. The muddying of the details by those wanting to keep memory alive always comes back to revisionist history.

It's a self-inflicted wound, a divide and conquer strategy inflicted from within. Is one justified in grabbing the mike at a Jewish memorial and insisting Jews stop what they're doing and include gays and gypsies and socialists and Jehovah's Witnesses in every remembrance of Jewish suffering?

How does one take sides on this issue? Perhaps the answer comes in making a distinction between linking and appropriating. At the opening ceremony to the memorial, at least one speaker suggested it was appropriate that this be linked to the Holocaust Memorial. Linking is the right thing to do. Appropriating through revisionist history is not.

The final decision about this is not in. There is a jury and they supposedly will make a decision in a couple weeks. I wish it had not come to this and that the lesbians of Berlin might have been persuaded to let this memorial stand as it is.

Lesbians and gay men have so much to gain from working together for the LGBT (yes, the L should come first) cause, so much to lose from infighting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Letter to Nancy Pelosi

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
90 7th St., Suite 2-800
San Francisco, CA 94103

March 22, 2010

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

I'm sending you a check for $50. It's not much, given that government runs on trillions these days, but it's what I can afford. And I want to give it to you.

I have been so fed up with the Democratic Party lately that my impulse to write a check even for this amount surprises me. I have been routinely telling the phone solicitors from the DCCC that, given the way the Democratic Party has wussed out lately, I have been wishing a pox on both your houses.

I understand what you're up against. The Stupaks who make you believe you have to throw women under a bus, the Nelsons who make you believe you have to throw everybody but Nebraskans under a bus, the Republicans who make you believe you have to throw gays and everybody too poor to buy a congressman under a bus. It's a hard job standing up and doing the right thing.

But damned if you haven't gone and done it this time.

I am so proud of you. So proud to live in the San Francisco Bay Area and be able to say, Nancy Pelosi, she's from here!

So proud.

So proud.


Alan J. McCornick

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tanel, Oleg and Mark

Those of you familiar with American Idol probably already know it is a spin-off of Britain’s Pop Idol from back in the day when Simon What’s-his-name first became a household name. And it is not the only spin-off. The whole world, it would appear, is dying to worship at the feet of idols.

There’s Tanel Padar, for example, of Estonia’s Pop Idol program, Eesti otsib superstaari. He likes to walk down the street with no shirt on – no mean feat in Tallinn, Estonia, where the temperature today (I just checked) has a high of 37 and a low of 17 degrees Fahrenheit, singing rock music in English.

You can of course hear it in the original Estonian, if you prefer.

Then there’s the winner of Kazakhstan’s SuperStar KZ, Oleg Karezin, , singing Russia’s number one pop song of all time, “Moscow Nights”. Which says what must be volumes about Russian/Kazakh relations these days, if I only knew how to read the real scoop in Kazakh. Qazak. Whatever. Strikes me as sort of like winning a national singing contest for singing “Home on the Range.” But what do I know.

To add the sublimely absurd to the gag me with a spoon curious, Oleg, complete with soldier jacket hooked over the shoulder, also does Tyomnaya Noch (Dark Night) - a super-sentimental Russian war song of loss and homesickness and all those other soulful Russian things only Russians can sing about because of generations of inherited pain from the time the Tatars invaded.

Only now the kids can’t tell the song from Home on the Range/Moscow Nights/You are my sunshine.

But seriously, folks. Tyomnaya Noch! Watching Oleg do this is like fingernails on a blackboard. I’m a died-in-the-wool fan of Dmitri Hvorostovsky, the opera singer with the magical stage presence that goes on and on. Once you’ve heard him do Tyomnaya Noch, this pop version will make you throw your face in your hands and sob.

Or maybe not. Maybe you like these young pop idol thingies.

Another one I’m trying to get some perspective on is this German winner. The German Pop Idol is called DSDS (Deutschland Sucht den Superstar/Germany’s looking for the superstar), a dumb name, but what did you expect, "Marlene sings Fledermaus"?

Anyway, the winner of the 2007 DSDS (by 78% in the final round) and current heartthrob is a guy called Mark Medlock. Now here’s an interesting guy. He has all the stuff that puts the pop into pop idol. Remember Susan Boyle? The frumpy dumpy woman with limited social skills and a voice to make grown men cry? Up out of nowhere?

Well, Mark Medlock was a garbage collector, among other things. Born of an African-American father and a German mother, he dropped everything to nurse his mother at the end of her life and his father died of a heart attack a couple years after. He’s now making a name for himself doing very sexy Latin/Caribbean kinds of music.

I know the German preoccupation with race and all that crap is long gone, but you still wonder if Hitler and Goebbels and the boys (curses be upon their names) aren’t twisting mightily in their graves. Representing Germany like this and being adored by children. A black German.

And if that weren’t enough, note this little side bit of info in Wikipedia on the guy:
In 2001 Medlock married his former boyfriend. The couple eventually got divorced in 2004, and Mark moved into a living community with his three cats Aragon, Cookies, and Heaven.
Sometimes the world is actually fun.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My friends, their house

In a former life, I was a linguist.

And every once in a while I still like to play with grammar puzzles.

Not everybody’s cup of tea, to be sure. I almost always have to play by myself.

But look at it this way. You won't win a Nobel Prize, but then people who wrap themselves up in language puzzles, (free cell, sudoku puzzles, memorizing the kings of England...) tend not to bother much with conspiracy theories, either.

Here’s a grammar puzzle I just came across.

A friend e-mailed me an invitation to dinner on a Friday night. I wrote back that I couldn’t come because I like spending Friday nights at my friends Dov and Cathy’s house.

Note the apostrophe after Cathy and not after friends, even though it's in apposition to Dov and Cathy, and not after Dov, even though it's his house too.

But that's small potatoes curious compared to what happens when you leave out the appositive phrase and just use "friends".

Here’s how I started the e-mail:

"On Friday nights we always go to dinner at friends' house."

Immediately upon writing “at friends’ house” I felt a terrible pang of indefinite article deprivation. The brain sent out a sharp signal to the fingers to edit.

I know the obvious solution. When in doubt, circumlocute. Say "On Friday nights we always go to dinner at the house of friends."

But that sounds too close to saying I'm going to dinner at the House of Usher. Besides, I hate being told I have to be a bore, grammatically.

So I went looking for answers.

Remember when you first learned there was a definite article, the, in English and an indefinite article, a/an?

And that the was unchangeable and worked for both singular and plural nouns?

And that some was the "optional plural" of a/an, as in "a breast" (singular) and "breasts" or "some breasts" (plural)?

And that the some in the noun phrase "some breasts" needed to have the stress on the noun, because if you put it on the adjective "some" it meant "some as opposed to others" and not "some, not just one"?

And that English has two ways to form the possessive, the Saxon way and the Latin (a misnomer for the French) way? (and that the grammatical term for "possessive" is "genitive":
Saxon genitive: the bee's knees (singular)/the bees' knees (plural)
as opposed to:
the Latin/French genitive: the knees of the bee (singular)/the knees of the bees (plural)

OK, so here's my question.

What is it with this friggin English language that you can't say things you want to?

I know you could put the optional indefinite plural article some in front of "friends" and fix the problem.

"On Friday nights we always go to dinner at some friends' house."

That's kind of a solution, yes, but that makes it sound as if the friends are nobody in particular. That's not the case. I would not pick nobody in particular over the guy whose invitation I'm turning down. They are special friends. And I don't want to say I'm going to dinner at some special friends house instead of accepting your invitation because you're not special.

I don't like the options, in other words. And that word some doesn't seem to have balls.

So what this means, apparently, is that I have to learn a new (to me) three-part rule:

1) Some is the plural of "a."
2) Some is optional. It alternates with Ø (no article at all).

e.g., "breasts" = "some breasts"

And here's the hard part.

3) It is not always optional.

"We always go to dinner at some friends' house."
≠ ?"We always go to dinner at friends' house."

Another way to say the same thing would be this:

It would appear we have a rule which runs:

You can alternate the Latin and Saxon possessive in the singular, but in the plural you must use only the Latin possessive if the possessor is plural.

e.g., the house of a friend = a friend's house
the house of friends = [there's no other way to say it]

That’s some dumb-ass rule, and plays havoc with the rule of economy for rules. (Cover the maximum number of cases in the minimum number of words.)

I know the cardinal rule in grammar. Never ask why. Only observe what.

(But I'd really like to know why. Is there something religious going on here?)

Note that this is a problem peculiar to English, and to a degree, its cousin, German. I suspect it’s universal to the speech of all us children of Goths and Vikings, but I’m not that well informed, so let me move on.

1. In Japanese, there is no singular/plural distinction, so you don’t run into this problem:

"I'm going to dinner at yujin no uchi.” (yujin = friend or friends; no = ‘s; uchi = house)

2. In French you say chez un ami singular or chez amis/chez des amis (i.e., same "some" distinction, but this time truly optional) (I'm sure that certain portions of il popolo francofonico will tell me there are actually hair-raising distinctions and nothing in life is optional, but that would be going off on a tangent.)

3. In German you say "Wir gehen zu Freunden" when there are lots of Freunds and "zu einem Freund" when there's only one. "Einig-" is the German equivalent of "some" and you can say both "zu Freunden" and "zu einigen Freunden", but the "zu" (like the chez in French) covers the notion of house, and that means this example doesn't illustrate the parallel and we need to check this out with a different noun. Let’s do it with “car”.

“I'm driving a friend's car.” = Ich fahre den Wagen eines Freundes. Or von einem Freund, if you are wearing jeans instead of evening wear. Or eines Freundes Wagen, if you want to sound like you started grammar school in 1839.

“I'm driving the car of some friends.” = Ich fahre den Wagen von (optional: einigen) Freunden (Note the use of the non-Saxon genitive even in Ur-Saxon, suggesting that even the Saxons had self-doubts), and Ich fahre den Wagen einiger Freunden is interchangeable with Ich fahre den Wagen von einigen Freunden (same jeans/evening wear distinction) (i.e., “some”) but not *Ich fahre den Wagen Freunden. (i.e., the null indefinite article in a Saxon genitive).

There are all these dialect variations of the Dative possessive, of course, such as Meinem Freund, sein Wagen (my friend his car) and Meinen Freunden, ihr Wagen (my friends their car), and the interesting fact that that's now the only way to say the possessive in Afrikaans, but let's get back to the point of the curious and hard-to-explain grammar rule in English for when to use the plural, sometimes optional, indefinite article.

Why can’t I say:

I’m going to dinner at friends’ house.

I know the answer is you just can't and look at you with the why questions all of a sudden.

But am I missing something obvious?

Do fill me in, if you’ve read this far and have any ideas.

Love and smooches,


Merrill McPeak, S. J. ?

I just read argument in the New York Times by retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak for not overturning Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. I am, no surprise, annoyed and disappointed. I think the good general has his head up his ass. Let me tell you why.

But first, let me do something else. Let me defend the man personally. I can see what’s coming. As the word gets around about McPeak’s opposition to the planned policy change now supported by the president, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, and a majority of Americans, gays are going to be all over this guy like stink on the bad stuff. For many of us this is an existential battle and it should be no-holds barred.

At the risk of inadvertently renewing my Uncle Tom credentials, let me urge my gay brothers and sisters to hold back on the personal stuff and just have at his arguments.

Here’s the personal stuff.

• McPeak was arrested for drunk driving a few years back. A total red herring. Leave it alone.
• Conservatives (particularly Robert Goldberg, writing in The American Spectator) fault him for his complaint that American Jews in New York and Miami have too much influence over American foreign policy in the Middle East. And for remarks about a Born-Again/Israeli alliance. And they fault him for making it appear that Bill Clinton attacked Obama’s patriotism when he didn’t. Also red herrings.
• There is criticism of him for his reponsibility in making the Air Force dress uniforms look like airline pilot uniforms (they changed back after he retired). Nothing to do whatsoever with his ability to think clearly on military policy.
• Some will want to fault him for his support for the bad guys. He was the Oregon state chairman of Bob Dole '96 and of Oregon Veterans for George W. Bush. They should remember that he also became disenchanted with the Republican administration after the war in Iraq and became an Obama supporter.
• He will be criticized for overseeing the delivery of fighter planes to the Suharto government after they massacred people in East Timor. Not a pretty thing to have on your resume, but he was a military man following orders and America was in full support of Indonesia’s government. The problem here lies in the administration’s policies, not this man’s individual responsibility.

So much for the bad stuff, from the progressive point of view.

Here are the arguments he makes in the New York Times article (in italics), with my commentary:

Seventeen years ago, the chiefs — all four of us, plus the chairman and vice chairman — concluded that allowing open homosexuality in the ranks would probably damage the cohesiveness of our combat units.

Yes, and seventeen years ago quite a few people in America still believed that masturbating would give you warts. People reach bad conclusions sometimes, they learn, they move on.

Perhaps young American men and women will fight better when openly gay soldiers are included in the ranks, though I’ve heard no one make this claim.

You’re right. No one has made this claim. The question is would they fight worse if they didn’t have the talents of people like the Arabic translators to help in the battles?

As one might guess, most homosexuality “separations,” as they are called in the Air Force, occurred in the first few weeks of basic training, before the more costly technical training began. And many of these removals would have occurred in any case, since they were the result of unacceptable conduct and not just a declaration of sexual orientation.

Many of these removals would have occurred in any case? That makes removing people for their identity OK? Because some would be removed for their behavior later? Are you serious? Isn’t that why taxis don’t pick up black men on the streets of New York? Because some of them might do bad things?

People cannot serve in uniform if they are too old or too young, too fat or too thin, too tall or too short, disabled, not sufficiently educated and so on.

I get it now. Because people are kept out of the service for good reason there’s no reason for keeping them out for bad reasons as well? Am I on the right track here?

… the integration of blacks in the Air Force is one of the great success stories of the civil rights movement.

The Army and Navy, however, were models of passive resistance. The Air Force had nearly completed integration before the Army really started.

You speak of “integration” as if you were going to put gays into the military for the first time. Gays have been serving in the military since the beginning of time. There is not a military force anywhere where gay men and women have not served. Any effective force works on merit.

Warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other. To undermine cohesion is to endanger everyone.

Tell it to the Spartans. Tell it to Alexander the Great. Have you never seen a friendship between a gay man and a straight man? Is it not at least theoretically possible in your wildest imagination? Think, man!

Didn’t know you got Jesuitical training at Grant’s Pass High School.

Come on, General. Move into the 21st Century.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beat me, I been bad

Boys and girls, I give you State Senator Roy Ashburn, serving (how else?) proudly the 18th District of California. That's Bakersfield, Inyo, Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino Counties. About 50% Republican, 30% Democrat. 62% white, 27% Hispanic.

Note, if you click on the link on his name, the “Fox” theater just behind his head. The fighter jets. The amber waves of grain.

What’s not to love about this American. This Republican American.

Nice catholic boy. Father of four daughters. Grandfather of two.

The Republicans are down on him because he once voted to raise taxes. Don't know if you're up on the state of the State of California. There's a march scheduled for today down Telegraph Avenue by students from the University of California, where they recently raised tuition by about 30%. Public schools are letting teachers go, the parks are closing, the state is issuing vouchers instead of paychecks. We broke, broke, broke.

And rich, rich, rich.

But Republicans are committed to not paying taxes, so there you have it.

Which puts Roy Ashburn in a positive light. He stood up to his fellow Republicans, see, and voted for emergency funding. Common sense in most places. Positively heroic in the broken State of California.

OK, so he's against abortion rights and has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. Nobody's perfect.

Lousy record on immigration, but that's true for lots of people.

Because of that vote on taxes, he showed he is not one of those obstructionist Republicans who votes party line blindly. He picks and chooses his issues, maybe.


How about his record on gay rights?

Here’s Equality California’s mission statement, an organization I have volunteered for:

"Equality California and its sister organizations, Equality California Institute and Equality California PAC, share a common mission to ensure and promote dignity, safety and equality for all of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Equality California, formerly known as California Alliance for Pride and Equality (CAPE), was founded in 1998."

I looked up what Equality California had to say about his voting record on gay rights issues. Their rating on him for 2008? 0. (10 in 2007, 0 in 2005-6)

How about the Lambda Letters Project?

Here’s their mission Statement:

Mission Statement: To promote the social, economic, and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, couples, and families; people affected by HIV/AIDS; people of color; and women. We do this by urging elected officials to enact and support legislation that accomplishes this goal.
Ashburn’s score: 0

According to Project Vote Smart, here is his voting record on gay issues:

09/09/2009 Recognizing Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages
SB 54 - Voted: NO - Concurrence Vote Passed - Senate (23 - 14)

09/08/2009 Harvey Milk Day
SB 572 - Voted: NO - Concurrence Vote Passed - Senate (23 - 14)

05/14/2009 Harvey Milk Day
SB 572 - Voted: NO - Bill Passed - Senate (24 - 14)

03/02/2009 Statement of Opposition to Proposition 8
SR 7 - Voted: NO - Resolution Passed - Senate (18 - 14)

08/07/2008 Expanding Anti-Discrimination Laws
AB 2654 - Voted: NO - Bill Passed - Senate (23 - 15)

08/05/2008 Creation of "Harvey Milk Day"
AB 2567 - Voted: NO - Bill Passed - Senate (22 - 13)

OK, so not one of our guys.

So what is this nice catholic boy (divorced) doing in a gay bar in Sacramento last night? And who was that guy with him at two in the morning in a state-licensed vehicle when he was stopped on L Street for driving funny after he left the bar?

Don’t know if you’ve seen the documentary Outrage. About the closeted in our number, those whose souls the church has succeeded in putting through a paper shredder for the particular way they like to reach out and touch someone.

Poor Roy Ashburn.

Grampa dancing in a gay bar and picking up guys. Drunk driving a vehicle with state licence plates.

Tell me this guy wasn’t looking to get caught.

Beat me, beat me, I been bad…