Thursday, January 31, 2013

Good on Gomer

Were my maternal grandmother alive, would she rejoice in Jim Nabors, a.k.a. Gomer Pyle, getting his love of 38 years, his new husband?

Out to his friends and colleagues, but no one else, the 82-year-old actor figured it was time, while he had time. He and partner Stan Cadwallader flew from their Hawaii home to Seattle, where such doings are legal.

Pic note: Public domain from Marine Corps.

Licit or not, my grandmother 1) adored Nabors on The Andy Griffith Show and other TV, particularly where he'd sing, and 2) was befuddled by and hostile to homosexuality. She was born at the very start of the 20th Century and lived her whole life in the hills of central Maryland and the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia.

Mable didn't consider herself a hick. After all, they lived in Romney, the Hampshire County seat, with a metropolitan area population of over 2,000. The hicks and ridge runners came from the real hills to downtown Romney with its several restaurants, department store, groceries, and menswear shop (run by the mayor, head of the only Jewish family in the county).

Yet the wild, the citified, and sexually remarkable were not an admitted part of her world. Yet, it turns out, gays were about. A very familiar relative by marriage was one, several family members I learned had bi relationships, and my best friend in the town where I summered and spent my holidays my whole childhood and youth was gay. Had she known things I did, she likely would have denied it each and all.

One of her daughters, my mother, was more candid but still befuddled. Two of my longest-term friends are gay men. She knew them both, one from my sandbox days and one from college on. They would visit her on swings through the Southwest, with their partners. She and they all enjoyed their meals and conversations for many years. She would tell me how much she loved the four of them, but always add that she just didn't understand homosexuality.

She didn't live long enough for the full circle. I have solemnized both couples' marriages.; I suppose she would have said she didn't understand same-sex marriage either.

Her own mother though was never in a state of mind to discuss homosexuality. She read her Bible and The Upper Room daily as well as attending and serving in church. Without the obnoxious aspects, she was a fundy, and I have no doubt she knew same-sex love to be sinful.

Gaydar jokes aside, Nabors was fairly plainly gay at least to us boomers. That was fine enough. What I had trouble with was what my grandmother adored, his drama-queen singing. He favored lugubrious ballads, huge, round-mouthed tones and virtually no feeling involved.

Yet, every week, she'd invariably say if Gomer was on with Andy, "I hope he sings." Also, when the Cumberland Times or TV Guide would list him as a guest on some other program, she was elated because it invariably meant he'd do a number or two. She loved the songs even if she would have hated the sin.

She'd be well over 100 now. I have to wonder whether she would have grown at all with the times. Surely she never would have left Romney. What would it have meant to her to know I'd performed several gay weddings, of people she knew and liked? What would the growing national support of SSM meant to her? Could she have talked about it with me?

Grandmother Mable taught several generations to think for ourselves, to speak up at every lunch and dinner on every subject, to be well read and informed. She had her huge blind spots. I have to wonder whether she would have shifted over the decades. In particular, Jim Nabors was a hero of hers. wouldn't that be something fine?

My blessings fall on Jim and Stan, newlyweds.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama's Great Rights Address

Put me in the long column of those pleased with President Barack Obama's second inaugural address.

I am torn about whether he should have been so bold in his first one. I do admit that had he campaigned so progressively strongly, he might well have lost that election. We are a socially slow nation.

Several areas in particular yesterday's speech struck many of us lefties. For example:

  1. A long overdue parallelism and paean to Seneca Falls (women's suffrage), Selma (Black civil rights), and Stonewall (gay rights) was the clear moral and intellectual posture we've longed for from him.
  2. A strong statement for marriage equality — "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law - for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

Many other themes he iterated had appeared and gotten action in his first term. He wants to complete equal pay for equal work for women, for instance. He likewise spoke again of curbing gun violence, reversing climate change and many more works in progress.

It seems part of his finally fully supporting LGBT rights, including marriage equality, reflects the nation's zeitgeist. Leading the reversal of the military Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy, led his opposition to the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act, which in turn led his clear support for marriage equality. Instead of costing him this election or poisoning the well of public support, those did the opposite. Most of America is with him on these issues.

The unhappy and increasingly scatter band of anti-LGBT sorts still chant. They point to the 31 states that enacted anti-same-sex-marriage laws and/or amendments after New Hampshire went with civil unions and then Massachusetts with marriage. The coup those who would hamper, harm and hinder homosexuals maxed out and is being reversed, in many cases by the most populous states. It's a dwindling party of bigots, doomed to sit increasingly in their rented halls and living rooms muttering.

We can hope for the slim chance that the SCOTUS will fully enable SSM. Otherwise, the Prez can continue to nibble away at the blocks to equality here. Placing such rights clearly on a plane with other huge civil-rights struggles has already set the tone.

Monday, January 07, 2013


Splendid piece in the SF Chronicle yesterday details the unresolved angst and conflicts in the GOP over marriage equality.

Despite nearly 40 states having anti-same-sex marriage laws or amendments in place, GOP and independent voters have moved on. The paranoid, puerile panic was the ephemeral anomaly and not the new, permanent norm.

Writer Carolyn Lochhead compiles trends, including things many of us already know — such as Dick Cheney supporting SSM and President Obama not getting any measurable blow-back from announcing he favored it before the last election.

She brings in analysts who say that Latinos and African Americans are not the only groups the GOP is turning off. For one, Cato Institute Senior Fellow Walter Olson said bluntly, "Republicans have to be delusional to think they can take that position into a national campaign, that there ought to be a constitutional amendment against something that there is now majority support for."

She also offers a small taste from the bowl of nuts, notably National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown. He seems virtually alone in his dire, "Practically, the Republican Party dies if it abandons marriage." GOP voters and many of its pols are muttering or even shouting that it's time to get past this irrational obsession, in light of a solid majority of the nation approving of SSM.

The piece touches on changes by the Church of the Latter Day Saints.She even ends up with a crisply applicable history lesson no states-rights and alcohol prohibition,with some counties remaining dry even today.

Dems might appreciate the national GOP remaining stupidly diverted by anti-equality fights they've already lost.  We probably can't count on that much longer.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Warren Brings It Home

Not exactly an Andrew Jackson moment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's ceremonial ceremony had little pomp, no fluff and lots of celebrity pols. The conceit was that while she had already legally taken the oath, a show version in Boston would reinforce her populist cred. It worked.

The drama on stage was largely unspoken. Senior Senator for the moment John Kerry towered politically as well as physically. The always funny and nearly as candid as Barney Frank Sheriff Andrea Cabral (check her wonderful lacy black fan she kept flapping) started with the virtual certainty that Kerry will become Secretary of State. Kerry himself said that should that happen, Warren will be the Junior Senator for about three legislative days, as opposed to his 26 years behind Ted Kennedy.

What didn't happen was anyone overtly pitching for either the resulting interim Senate spot or for the permanent spot to be decided in a special election, likely in June. The tension was there though, with so many possibles within a few yards of each other and sometimes in adjacent seats on stage.

Frank already made his lust known on the Morning Joe Show. He said he told Gov. Deval Patrick he would like the appointment. In his usual straight ahead style, he said, "I’m not going to be coy. It’s not something I've ever been good at. I've told the governor that I would now like frankly to do that because I would like to be a part of that. It’s only a three-month period; I wouldn't want to do anything more. I don’t want to run again…Coach, put me in!" With all the looming fiscal conflicts and crises to resolve in Congress, Frank figures he decades of expertise there make him the right temp for the job.

While I saw the two huddling to one side of the stage before showtime, no one could hear, there were no bear hugs following, and Patrick has never indicated approval of the plug-in. MA political gossips instead latched onto yesterday morning's tweet from Patrick's campaign demigod, Doug Rubin. While Rubin noted later he was typing only for himself, he did tweet, "I respect Cong. Frank and what he has accomplished, but there are better options for MA Senate interim appointment."

Rubin is always smart and often right. I lean with Frank on this one. The interim Senate seat is a specialized one for the fiscal expertise and negotiating skills it will require. Frank knows the devil out of the money and tax aspects, as well as the reality of Congressional dealings.

Likewise, no one spoke to the special election. At hand were Rep. Ed Markey, who not only announced first, but quickly got oral support from several MA pols. Most significantly was Kerry

Yet Congressmen Mike Capuano and Steve Lynch are likely to make plays. Also MA Sen. Ben Dowling was there and could well go for the special election. They milled around the stage, shook hands, hugged the women pols, and tried not to look too eager or needy. As an interesting sidelight, when the college president was calling out the officials there, Capuano was the only Congressman who got big cheers and applause. He truly is the working voters' champion that ex-Sen. Scott Brown pretended to be. That plays well, at least in the Boston area.

Not surprisingly, over at the Herald, in several posts related to the ceremony, the negativity was predictable. The commenters large dislike liberals, disrespect women, and detest progressives. The usual clowns who ride the fantasy pony of Warren gaining some advantage after the fact from her slight Native American heritage, continued to rant about certain debt and death of honesty via her. A few did manage to note that yesterday's show swearing in was apt for someone they continue to define as a fake Indian. A lefty woman will never, ever suit them.They become pebbles washed up on the banks as the river flows on.

My mini-rant is one of amusement rather than disdain. Warren believes she is a true egalitarian. Certainly her writings and public service indicate that. Yet the upper distant half of the auditorium of perhaps 1000 seats was for us plebes. Thus, the shots that follow are from over 100 feet away and not all that clear.

Lower seats were for pols not important enough to be on stage, yet more important an ordinary voters. There were press rows, chosen campaign workers and such. No guards kept hoi polloi away, but there was a decided caste system in play. Again, her heart and head are aware, but this was no Andrew Jackson, let-the-rabble-in moment.

No one seemed to notice or mind. In fact, at the following reception in the student cafeteria, hundreds dutifully lined up in airline-ticket-style rows to get pix taken with her, her husband and Justice Kagan. People wanted to be part of their populist Senator's day.

browniepledgeThe cute quotient came via the Cohasset Girl Scout, including the short end. They led the pledge of allegiance. Towering pols behind them, Steve Murphy and Andrea Cabral had to nudge the girls off stage as they became stunned by the clapping, cheering audience. 
MA Treasurer/Receiver General and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, The latter, publicly at least, gave his Senatorial ambitions a rest for the afternoon. grossmanmarkety
bumpcoakleyMA Auditor Suzanne Bump and AG Martha Coakley also got spots on stage and were very busy before showtime. Neither allegedly wants to pending open Senate seat.
On the other hand, whatever Bump had to say to Boston City Council President Steve Murphy kept his constantly amused.murphybump
cabralfanMy nominee for best accessory of the day was Sheriff Andrea Cabral's lacy black fan. She gave it a real workout. 
Gov. Patrick stifled himself. Warren praised him and his wife for their support and advice. He said nothing to us about the coming interim or replacement Senate spots.devalmic
kerrymicKerry managed to speak of his near certain move to Secretary of State in theoretical terms. He did seem elated at the idea though. 
Warren as always had the crowd with her populist messages, such as everyone paying fair taxes and government cuts starting, not with Social Security, but with big agriculture and big oil.
She concluded by saying she hoped to be able to live to up Ted Kennedy's legacy. "As I take this oath of office, I make this sacred promise to each and everyone of you that's here today witnessing, I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as your Senator, I am grateful for your hard work and support, I am deeply touched by the faith and trust you have put in me, and I pledge today that I will  never, never stop fighting for you."
Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Warren's Triumphant Replay

In a splendid bit of local political theater today, Elizabeth Warren seemed to be sworn in as U.S. Senator, the first ever woman to hold the post from MA, on the main stage at Roxbury Community College. I suspect everyone in the packed hall knew she'd officially taken the oath in D.C. and then did it again for the photo-op with VP Joe Biden administering the oath.

Nonetheless, the idea worked. She brought the sense of ownership, both for voters of her and for her of constituents. It was a jolly hour, with nearly all the state's political big shots speaking, glad-handing or mugging for cameras.

A few were missing. Boston Mayor Tom Menino is still not dancing on his toes after his recent hospital stays.  City Council President Steve Murphy sat on the stage in his place. The until-a-few-days-ago Sen. Scott Brown somehow didn't make it either. More seriously, I was a little surprised not to see U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas. While her district is farther north, as a woman in Congress she would have been a likely cameo performer.

Warren did her part though to bring Menino into the occasion. She gave the only real speech and she thanked him specifically. The other speakers were gushing over the pols, naming many, teasing Senior Sen. John Kerry for being about to leave office to become Secretary of State, as soon as he is confirmed.

While she's senator of the state and not Boston, this still is his town. It was peculiar that so many had spoken briefly, flinging praise around without mentioning Menino. Warren said she couldn't let the occasion pass without "a special thank you to our great mayor." She added that, "They Mayor gave me good counsel more than a year ago, telling me that it's really all about just fighting for our working families. He told me to say what I believe and to trust in people. He told me, 'Get out there and do that, kid. They'll be there for you.'"

That advice mirrored his endorsement of her in Roslindale in September. Then he told voters to support her, work for her and vote for her because, "she has your back." He said because of that she "got my vote. She has my help."

She had considerable praise for Kerry and for the only-a-few-days retired Rep. Barney Frank. No one at all mentioned that Frank has publicly said he'd like to fill Kerry's seat for the several months until a special election is held. He said his financial expertise from the House side would be very useful with the pending Senate negotiations.

While he briefly huddled with Governor Deval Patrick, No one else knows whether he even mentioned his eagerness to temporarily become a Senator.

At least three who would become the next Senator in the likely even that Kerry becomes Secretary and his slot goes to a special election. Congressmen Ed Markey, Mike Capuano and Steve Lynch all floated around the stage, smiling and seeming to be in the moment. While Markey has already announced and gotten early approvals from various pols, That election is perhaps six months away and will be the one chance to become a U.S. Senator for all three Reps. This looks like a worth battle.

More commentary on this event and a few snaps to follow.