Archive

June 17th, 2016

Gay bars were supposed to be safe spaces. But they often weren't.

    Since at least the 1940s, gay establishments such as Pulse have served as a safer sanctuary and haven for LGBT people. Entering these places meant a respite from the closet. There, those who had been shunned by family, friends, communities, employers, landlords or the state could make temporary residence. For some, it was more of a home than they had ever known.

    Even the very real risk of raids, harassment and exploitation did not deter queer people from patronizing these places. Access to them could be a matter of life and death; the effects of depression and anxieties waiting in the outside world were too much to bear for some people shut out by their families or towns. Gay bars and clubs helped combat isolation. They forged community.

    These gay establishments have always been political. Their mere existence is an act of defiance. They represent the claimed spaces of people who often live outside the margins of mainstream society. Perhaps the best known of these is the Stonewall Inn; the 1969 police raid at that New York City bar helped spark massive social and political gay mobilization.

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Even Republicans agree: Trump failed his first leadership test miserably

    Donald Trump responded to the Orlando shooting with a massive display of what he likes to call "strength." That simply has to work, right? After all, people are frightened, so they'll gravitate towards whichever candidate more persuasively promises to smash the enemy -- both without and within -- while ignoring the flouting of American values embedded in the details, right? That's Trump's explicit bet.

    But Politico reports Tuesday morning that even Republicans think that Trump's response to the shooting is profoundly problematic. What's important about this report, though, is that Republicans say that his response was worrisome both in terms of the substance and in terms of the politics.

    Republicans tell Politico that Trump failed what is known as the "desk test," i.e., whether his behavior inspires voters to confidently picture Trump in the Oval Office during a time of crisis. Others worry that Trump's post-Orlando behavior raises doubts about whether he understands the president's role. And on the substance, the blowback was even worse:

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Does it matter that Donald Trump has banned The Washington Post? Not in the way you'd think

    Does Donald Trump believe in the well-established role of the press in American democracy? It certainly doesn't look that way. In recent months, his staff has roughed up a reporter and thrown another one out of a press event, and he has insulted journalists and blasted unfavorable news coverage.

    Yet, he has benefitted from oodles (that's the technical term) of free exposure in the media. And he obviously craves media attention - in much the same way an addict craves his fix.

    Now, the latest chapter. Calling The Washington Post phony and dishonest, Trump has revoked the press credentials that allow Post reporters access to his campaign rallies.

    This gives The Post unwanted membership in a growing club of banned news organizations, including Politico, BuzzFeed, the Des Moines Register and the Huffington Post.

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June 16th

Stretching justice to defend the death penalty

    A judge shouldn't be allowed to vote in a case involving a capital sentence when he was formerly the prosecutor who sought the death penalty in the same case. That sounds obvious, and the Supreme Court said so on Thursday.

    But three justices dissented, suggesting that the answer might not have been obvious after all. The dissents show how deeply divided the court really is over the death penalty - and how far the conservative justices are prepared to go in its defense.

    The facts of the case go back to 1984, when Terence Williams, who had just turned 18, participated in the beating and murder of Amos Norwood, 56, in Philadelphia. The prosecutor in Williams's case wanted to seek the death penalty, and asked approval from the Philadelphia district attorney, Ronald Castille. Castille approved in 1986, writing on the letter of request, "Approved to proceed on the death penalty."

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Assault weapons must be banned

    The only reasonable response to the massacre in Orlando is to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons. All else, I'm afraid, is just noise.

    If this ensconces me in an ideological corner, I'm fine with that. If it insults the Constitution, so be it -- any other response would do far greater harm to our freedoms. Or we could argue for a while and then do nothing. We've tried that course of action many times, and it doesn't work.

    An Islamic State sympathizer was able to go into a gun store days or weeks ago and buy both a pistol and an AR-15-style semiautomatic assault rifle, which he used to kill 49 men and women at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Had he been armed with the pistol alone, he still would have killed people -- but not so many. Keeping military-grade combat weapons out of the hands of maniacs should not be a controversial idea.

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Why I light candles after tragedy

    "We want policy change, not prayers." Immediately following the violence in Orlando, my friends' social media posts made their priorities clear. They were unimpressed with the deluge of social media piety following the latest mass shooting.

    As a gay man, I heard their plea: They saw prayer-themed hashtags and photos as nothing more than unwanted folderol.

    But as a Christian, following the horrific news Sunday morning, I did what people of faith do best: I lit candles. A few others sent out tweets, we showed up in Washington's Dupont Circle and we lit more candles.

    Our ordinary religious rituals are a spiritual emergency preparedness plan of sorts. We practice the fire drills so that when the panic of actual smoke and flame overtake us, we will hopefully remember where the exit is - or at least which direction to crawl.

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We're out and proud - especially after Orlando.

    I woke up Sunday morning to the horrible, alarmingly common news of an incident of gun violence and terrorism. But this one was different: The shooter's target was the LGBT community. I learned about the incident as I was getting ready to march in Philadelphia's Gay Pride Parade. I never questioned whether I would march, but it took me hours to realize why.

    The thousands of people who gathered for the Philadelphia parade were joyous, not sober, even as news began to stream out: The Orlando shooting left 50 dead, 53 more wounded and was now the worse mass shouting in U.S. history.

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Two wins for gun control buck the U.S. legal trend

    Gun-rights advocates have been on a roll, as lower courts building on Supreme Court jurisprudence have subjected gun control laws to heightened scrutiny.

    But last week, the trend stalled. One appeals court upheld laws against carrying concealed guns in two California counties. Another stayed the judgment of a lower court that had struck down Washington, D.C.'s concealed-carry restrictions, signaling it would probably reach a different result. The changed momentum suggests that localities may not lose the ability to regulate concealed handguns - at least for now.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit validated concealed-carry bans in San Diego and Yolo counties. Like many such laws, they require an applicant to show "good cause" to the county sheriff to get permission to carry a concealed handgun.

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Trump just banned the Washington Post from covering him; that's bad for democracy repeating to correct slug

    Donald Trump announced via Facebook Monday afternoon that he has decided to ban the Washington Post from covering his presidential campaign:

    "Based on the incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record setting Trump campaign, we are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post."

    Trump expanded on that in a statement released Monday night. Here it is, in full:

    "The Washington Post unfortunately covers Mr. Trump very inaccurately. Today's headline, 'Donald Trump Suggests President Obama Was Involved With Orlando Shooting' is a perfect example. We no longer feel compelled to work with a publication which has put its need for "clicks" above journalistic integrity.

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Trump bluster about radical Islam helps radical Islam

    If past is prelude, then the massacre in Orlando this weekend will benefit Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency. As the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has boasted, he gained significant support in December when a husband-and-wife Jihadist duo shot up a government building in San Bernardino, California.

    Now Trump is crowing. His tweets and interviews since the shooting are a series of told-ya-so's. He is quite pleased with himself for observing that President Barack Obama doesn't call these mass shootings "radical Islamic terrorism."

    For Trump's supporters, this kind of talk makes their guy appear brave and thoughtful. If we cannot name the enemy, the reasoning goes, then how can we defeat it?

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