Posted by Brad @ 4:47 pm on February 24th 2014

All the People Predicting Gay Disruptions Were Wrong

A nice bit from Nathaniel Frank describing Jason Collin’s NBA debut as an openly gay player last night.

The mature response to Jason Collins’ first game as an openly gay player raises the following question, which, with only slight exaggeration, I’d answer affirmatively: Has there ever been so enormous a social change to which so many people, in such a short time, have basically responded, “We were all wrong; it was better on the other side of the darkness”?

Of course, not everyone is happy with the triumphs of gay equality. Too many are still wrong on gay rights. But the response to Jason Collins and to Michael Sam, poised to be the first openly gay NFL player, makes the increasingly shrill and desperate actions of anti-gay activists seem, well, shrill and desperate.

There was a period – and I think it’s past now – between the time where true gay equality was taken as a serious policy proposition (say, late 90s) and the time when that same gay equality was basically normalized and has become almost humdrum (now-ish) – basically after the period where gay equality could just be laughed off, when it had to begin to be seriously engaged if one opposed it – where we were treated to an avalanche of argumentation that basically amounted to “it would be incredibly disruptive to open that door”. From workplace rights to DADT to boy scouts to marriage to whatever. The crux of the argument – and I don’t just mean from evangelical homophobes but even nearly all mainstream liberals like Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton – was that “maybe it’s right to discriminate maybe it’s wrong but either way if we end such and such ban it would be enormously disruptive so let’s not / let’s find a middle path”. End the marriage ban, it would throw polite society into a tizzy. End DADT and the barracks environment would become chaotic, poisonous, and disruptive. A gay in a professional sport would create all kinds of locker room / team chemistry issues and a huge media circus. And on and on and on. None of these predictions were particularly empirical or quantified – indeed the more you tried to nail them down the more nebulous they became – but they were nevertheless nearly universal.

And, guess what, they were nearly universally wrong.

I’m glad we’re turning the page, but I do want to keep pointing that out. Of course, we still have pockets of this argument going still – see the worry (and Pyrrhic legislation in KS and AZ) that not letting private businesses discriminate against gays means the dissolution of freedom of religion somehow – but for the most part, even strident anti-gay opponents have had to more or less give up the ghost on predicting societal chaos if this or that barrier gets broken, for fear of getting laughed off the stage. Either they have to go down the road of complete marginalization in terms of the mainstream conversation (which some do), or they have to try to whittle down their cause to near meanginglessness (like arguing that the reason we should worry about gay equality is because it marginalizes people with anti-gay views and that this is a serious problem we should give a shit about for some damn reason).

Anyway, worth noting, after another perceived barrier to gay equality goes down, like nearly all the others, not with a bang but with a whimper.

Posted by Brad @ 1:05 pm on February 17th 2014

Spying to Protect Us

From lawyers working with foreign clients in trade negotiations.

Is there anyone left that wants to argue that America’s program of total information awareness relating to spying on American citizens is restricted or even mostly used to protect us from terror?

Posted by Brad @ 6:32 pm on February 14th 2014

Music Video of the Week

Chris Smither – Origin of the Species

Posted by Rojas @ 9:47 pm on February 10th 2014

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, what have you got to hide?”

…ask the advocates of unrestricted executive search authority. To which one might reply: Ask Brandon Mayfield.

Posted by Brad @ 2:44 am on February 7th 2014

“Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”

That’s the name of a secret memo Michael Isikoff published, in which Obama’s DOJ offers the (secret) legal justification for targeting American citizens for assassination. It is not the core legal rationale (that is still secret), but tracks closely with what we assume to be in it, so serves as a pretty strong proxy. Again, not only are the details of the kill list top secret, but so to is the administration’s rationale for why it believe it has this power in the first place.

In any event, that title might sound pretty specific, but as Glenn Greenwald goes to great lengths to parse, is so un-specific as to be a literal blank check.

Here are some tidbits from the memo itself deconstructing its own title.

To the question of “well how do we know they’re a senior operational leader of Al Quida or associate force?”, answer:

“an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US”.

Oh, so only in those cases?

“This paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful. […]It concludes only that the stated conditions would be sufficient to make lawful a lethal operation”

Ah. Sufficient. But not necessary.

Well, still. Imminent threat of violent attack sounds pretty bad.

[definition of imminent threat] “does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack . . . will take place in the immediate future”.

Huh. Well, at least we as Americans still have due process right?

“while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applie[s], it c[an] be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”

Oh. :/