Keepin’ It Surreal

I’ve heard people say that Las Vegas is the most surreal place on earth. But I just spent the weekend in Palm Springs, and I beg to differ.

Las Vegas has no sham about what it is — a place to indulge in all those things that you’re not supposed to do, like drinking, gambling, going to titty bars, eating bad food, smoking indoors.

Palm Springs, on the other hand, is much more multi-tiered.

There’s the ‘Famous People Live(d) Here’ tier. That tier is unmistakable, especially when you’re waiting at the stoplight at the corner of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.

Then there’s the ‘I’ve Earned the Right to Retire Here’ tier. Hectare upon hectare of gated communities, all of which look just as recently installed as the palm trees that surround them. I often wonder, in such surroundings, just who the gates are meant to keep out. I can’t recall the last time I saw so much automotive bling-bling (gold trim on half-block wide Cadillacs, landau roofs, custom hood ornaments), except perhaps on one of those BET music videos.

Then there’s the ‘I’ve Earned the Right to be Gay Here’ tier. And the nudist tier (which overlaps sometimes with the gay tier). And the Indian Gaming tier (which, interestingly, seems to have been appropriated in part by Donald Trump — funny, I didn’t even know he was Native American). And the mega-Christian tier, which inspires people to decorate their cars with tributes to the big J.

One of the scariest tiers is the media tier, which consists of only happy news (in spite of a world in total turmoil). I’m sure the focus groups must have revealed long ago that the population in Palm Springs didn’t want to know anything disturbing or complex, because everything is reduced to the most banal, palatable or cute.

I guess the break with reality is why people make this a weekend escape. What worries me is that some just never come back.

Mike Pence

Mike Pence’s Fugue State

Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have been walking around in a fugue state for the last week. Somewhere between my empathy and my thirst for comeuppance lies a certain curiosity about what it must be like to be in his shoes these days. His world – or at least his political world – has turned upside down and back again in record time.

Between his bumbling appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and his wheezing press conference the following day, the governor has received more national attention than he has ever dreamed of having, most of which has been exceedingly negative.

Pence is certainly no political neophyte. Far from it. He is what most observers would refer to as a seasoned politician. So why, then, has he appeared to be at such a loss for a solution to his (and Indiana’s) mounting public relations nightmare?

The most logical hypothesis is that he has managed to surround himself for years with people who either agree with his positions or who are politic enough not to challenge them too sharply.

The positions he has taken and the values he has held have generally fallen on the spectrum somewhere between conservative and off-the-charts right wing. This is particularly evident when you review his record on LGBT issues.

  • In 2006, he voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
  • In 2007, he voted No on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while in Congress
  • In 2010, he voted No on President Obama’s proposed repeal of DADT, arguing that “unit cohesion” would be affected.

It’s not just LGBT issues where he’s taken the most right-leaning positions. He’s voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and he opposed a similar state act in Indiana.

While there may have been viewpoints expressed that were different from his own, Pence pretty much skated by both in Congress and as Governor without having too much opposition aimed directly at him.

Suddenly this week, Pence faced genuine pushback – both in Indiana and across the country – the likes of which he’s never experienced after signing the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surrounded by a gaggle of nuns and his most devotedly anti-LGBT cronies. To say that he reacted to that pushback like a deer in the headlights drastically underestimates headlights.

He first denied that the bill had anything to do with discrimination, and then spun on his heels almost immediately to request that the law be changed.  On Thursday of this week, Pence signed the hastily cobbled-together amended version of the RFRA, under an even more secret veil of secrecy than he had signed the original version.

It remains to be seen how much additional blowback he’ll face and how much more political capital he’ll lose. But one thing is certain: even if he regains his equilibrium, his political world will never be quite the same.

Suffer the Little Children

The Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, is today’s winner for purveying hatred in the name of religion. I don’t think there are any Grammy’s in their future, but they have put together an original song, with a new child star.

Could this be the next Rick Santorum? (He’s already got the sweater vest.) Was indoctrination like this the cause of the current Rick Santorum? We may never know.

Note the congregation cheering and clapping at the success they’ve had teaching their children to hate. Lemmings? Sheep? You decide.

NAACP: Equal Equals Equal

In a somewhat surprising move, the NAACP passed a historic resolution endorsing marriage equality.

President and CEO Benjamin Jealous made the following statement:

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”

Although the endorsement carries no specific legislative weight, the significance of the largest and arguably best known civil rights organization in the nation making such an endorsement can’t be ignored, particularly since there has been such disparity in polling numbers between the black community and the community at large when asked about marriage equality.

Opposition among blacks is often attributed to black churches.  The text of the NAACP’s resolution addresses that opposition in a somewhat roundabout way:

“The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, educational, social and economic equality’ of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.”

Read more about this:

Actual Family Values

With the word “family” having been appropriated by hate groups like the “Family Research Council,” “Focus on the Family,” and “American Family Association,” sometimes you need to cleanse your palate with some actual family values.

As Papi says, “Perfecta!”

At Liberty

Mitt Romney today made one more stride at fusing church and state, with his speech at Liberty University. His pandering seems to know no boundaries.

In one fell swoop, Romney sucked up to the “religious” right and fumblingly grabbed at the youth vote, a demographic for which he desperately needs to gain traction.  (I hope, for his sake, that he doesn’t consider the students at Liberty University as being representative of the youth vote.)

The line in his speech that made the 30,000 or so lemmings in the stadium leap to their feet and applaud was:

“I believe that Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

This, of course, is the same person who claimed in 1994 that he was going to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights.  This is the also same person who signed the nation’s first marriage equality law into effect.

Does anyone else find it somewhat ironic that a speech advocating significantly restricting liberty is being delivered at Liberty University?

View the Mitt’s entire speech at Liberty University (if you can stomach it) in the video above.

A Preview of Things to Come

The nutjobs on the “religious” right are coming out in full force. The age of reason apparently hasn’t reached this constituency yet.

Given the heat that the President’s endorsement of marriage equality is generating, we can expect more of this irrational, fact-free rhetoric coming from the right. The fear that the world is changing around them seems to have provoked Perkins and others to behave in even more absurd and backwards ways.

Fortunately, there are folks like Barney Frank who can approach subjects logically and rationally. Is it wrong for me to giggle when Barney Frank makes mincemeat out of Tony Perkins?

If we’re lucky, Congressman Frank will be even more outspoken when he’s no longer in Congress. And if we’re really lucky, Tony Perkins and his kindred spirits will just go away.