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June 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 9:16 pm

Anti-Jaywalking Cop Retires After 34 Years

June 29, 2009
By Emily Yehle
Roll Call Staff

Officer Garland Thompson was in the middle of writing a ticket on Sept. 11, 2001, when a passerby told him and the man he was ticketing that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center.“When the man heard that, he said, ‘That makes me sick,’” Thompson recalled recently. “And I said, ‘Don’t get too sick. I’m gonna write you this ticket.’”

The violation was an outdated car registration, and Thompson stood by his word, issuing the $100 ticket in the moments before a second plane hit the Twin Towers. It likely was the last traffic ticket issued before police shut down the Capitol.

Those who know Thompson won’t be surprised. The 57-year old Capitol Police officer is known for his tenacious enforcement of traffic laws near the Capitol South Metro station, where he has spent more than 30 years scolding jaywalkers and issuing parking tickets.

He will retire on Tuesday, leaving behind a legacy of — depending on who you ask — admirable morals or overzealous policing.

“You can’t find people who are lukewarm about him,” Bruce Kieloch agreed with a laugh.

Kieloch, a Democratic consultant, met Thompson 15 years ago near the officer’s post at First and C streets Southeast, where Thompson was melting snow on the sidewalk with a gallon jug full of salt. Kieloch stopped to help.

“We just became friends after that,” he said. “He’s a reminder of a simpler time when a Capitol Police officer was one part police officer, one part tour guide.”

From his vantage point behind the Cannon House Office Building, Thompson has watched the everyday scenes that go on behind Congressional history while ensuring no one violates any law on his watch.

Tom Williams/Roll Call

Capitol Police Officer Garland Thompson helps a pedestrian at his customary spot at the corner of First and C streets Southeast. Thompson retires this week.
He sees staffers and Members and Congressional employees walk their morning route, sometimes over years or even decades. He’s met a slew of celebrities — from Chris Rock to Chuck Norris to Willie Mays — as they’ve crossed his path on their way to pitch their latest cause to Congress.

The sometimes darker side of the neighborhood has also emerged over the years. Thompson’s corner of Capitol Hill has been the site of suicides, shootings, fights and fires.

He vividly remembers a simmering July day when officers found a baby left inside a locked car. Officers broke the window, and Thompson took care of the infant for hours until the father showed up.

But Members and staffers know Thompson most for his booming voice, which has put fear in the heart of every jaywalker who has dared cross his intersection against the light. Once reprimanded, few forget the experience (including several still-traumatized Roll Call reporters).

Dan Kurtz, a Capitol Police officer who has known Thompson for 30 years, often waves pedestrians across New Jersey Avenue Southeast during a red light when no cars are coming.

Sometimes, he said, they won’t budge.

“They’ll say, ‘But that other officer,’” Kurtz said. “I say, ‘I know what the other officer said. It’s OK here.’”

When Thompson isn’t scolding pedestrians, he’s friendly and talkative, handing out trinkets to children or giving tourists directions to his favorite sights. Fellow officers say he sometimes breaks into song during morning roll call, and every year, he dresses up as Santa Claus for local children.

But on C Street, Thompson takes his duty seriously. Though traffic is usually sparse near his intersection, he is determined to set an example.

His oft-repeated mantra says it all: “Remember Capitol Hill is a lawmaking area, not a law-breaking area.”

“The big thing is getting people to understand the law,” he said, “whether they’re the king of the world or the little bitty guy sitting on the street corner somewhere begging for money.”

Thompson was born in Burlington, N.C., where his parents instilled in him a “very strict attention to things.” He sang in church, hung out at his parents’ outside barbecue restaurant and remembers being told stories about his grandmother, who carried a pistol under her apron for protection when alone with her nine children.

When Thompson was in high school, he wrote to J. Edgar Hoover for a job at the FBI — and got one as a clerk and later a fingerprint examiner in Washington, D.C. Almost 40 years after leaving his hometown, he still carries a Southern twang (“doggone it” is a favorite phrase) and a love for North Carolina barbecue.

Thompson joined the Capitol Police in 1975, and for a couple of years he handled posts throughout the Capitol and House office buildings. But it soon became clear that manning the doors wasn’t for him — he was so thorough at checking bags and purses that lines would form and visitors grew angry.

He began his post on C Street in 1977 and was appalled to see people “crossing haphazardly all over the place.”

“I said, ‘I’m gonna patrol this,’” he recalled. “This is out of sight.”

He has stuck to that goal ever since. His ever-watchful eye has created perhaps the only corner on Capitol Hill where pedestrians actually wait on the corner when cars are nowhere to be seen.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said he repeatedly used Thompson as an example of “effective law enforcement” when he was the chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources.

“There’s one place in the world where you do not jaywalk,” said Mica, who learned that lesson when he was a Hill staffer in the 1980s. “While he is one of the most pleasant and cheerful people, he also has zero tolerance for any offenses.”

Thompson may be controversial among staffers — and newbies who are often the target of his jaywalking ire — but he is beloved by many Members. News of his retirement prompted lawmakers to attend two parties, and several have given him farewell gifts in recent days.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) stopped by a party for Thompson in the Capitol last week and immediately began reminiscing. He met Thompson 13 years ago, when as a new Congressman he wandered into the officer’s territory.

“He says to me, ‘Where you going, sir?’” Pascrell said. “I said, ‘Officer, I’m going home, and I don’t know where that is!’”

Pascrell, of course, now knows the way home, but he hasn’t ever forgotten Thompson’s help. Other Members say Thompson is a familiar character in a community prone to turnover.

“I don’t know his heritage, but he’s the classic image of an Irish cop,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said. “Everyone knows who he is.”

Thompson has the traffic tickets to prove it. He has saved almost all of them, only recently cleaning out of his locker what he calls “hoards” of paper.

But handing out tickets isn’t what he remembers most about his career. He has drawers full of letters from friendly tourists, pictures with Members and celebrities, and mementos from inaugurations.

He is also proud of his role as the oldest member of the Capitol Police ceremonial unit, which helped bury presidents, icons and fellow officers. His badge is faded from his faithful polishing before every burial.

He hopes, he said, that he achieved his aim of being an “Andy Griffith” policeman.

“I wanted to show myself as a friendly policeman, a policeman willing to serve them and help them, but also a policeman who wants to be firm,” he said. “I wanted things to be in order.”


June 25, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 5:16 pm

frame game

Something Real

Did Mark Sanford admit to a sin worse than sex?

By William Saletan
Posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009, at 5:29 PM ET

It’s the first rule of adultery redemption: minimize the affair.

Bill Clinton did it 11 years ago:

I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part. … Now, this matter is between me, the two people I love most—my wife and our daughter—and our God.

That’s the ticket: The only woman you love is your wife. The mistress is—er, was—just a “lapse in judgment.” As John Edwards put it last year:

In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. … I was and am ashamed of my conduct. … But that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then.

That’s even better. The “error in judgment” is over. Long over. And it was short. Really, really, really short (even if, in fact, it wasn’t). You’re ashamed of the lapse. It was a betrayal of who you are. It wasn’t the real you.

Here’s Sen. John Ensign’s version, issued a week ago:

Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life. If there was ever anything in my life that I could take back, this would be it. … I know that I have deeply hurt and disappointed my wife Darlene, my children, my family, my friends, my staff and others who believed in me. To all of them, especially my wife, I am deeply sorry. I am truly blessed to have a wife who has forgiven me.

See? You love your wife. She’s all you ever cared about. And all those tender moments you spent with what’s-her-name? They’re the worst thing you ever did. You wish you could take them back.

Sticking to this script is your best shot at salvaging your career and maybe your marriage. That’s why adulterous politicians normally talk this way. But Gov. Mark Sanford isn’t normal. Here are excerpts from his press conference today:

I’ve been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a—which started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. … Over this last year it developed into something much more than that. … This person at the time was separated, and we ended up in this incredibly serious conversation about why she ought to get back with her husband. … And we had this incredibly earnest conversation. … And we developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years. And then, as I said, about a year ago, it sparked into something more than that. I have seen her three times since then, during that whole sparking thing. … I spent the last five days, and I was crying in Argentina so I could repeat it when I came back here, in saying, you know, while, indeed, from a heart level, there was something real—it was a place based on the fiduciary relationship I had to the people of South Carolina, based on my boys, based on my wife, based on where I was in life, based on where she was in life, and places I couldn’t go and she couldn’t go.

Dear, dear friend? Something much more than that? Incredibly earnest conversation? Remarkable friendship? Sparking thing? Something real? Where I was in life? Places I couldn’t go?

Has Mark Sanford lost his mind? Doesn’t he understand that you never, ever, ever admit that you loved the other woman? That you still have strong feelings for her? That part of you wishes you could leave your job and family and go with her?

The cynical interpretation of Sanford’s heresy would be that in his case, the appeasement calculus goes the other way: He needs to convey love for his mistress rather than his wife, because his mistress could do him greater harm, perhaps by spilling more details of the relationship. But I don’t buy that. Sanford has always been an idealist. A weirdo, but an idealist. I think he loved this other woman. I think he still does. And he won’t belittle or renounce that love because it was, and is, something real.

I feel awful for Sanford’s wife and kids. But compared with all the cheaters who have gone before him, I don’t think less of him for genuinely loving the other woman or for admitting it. It beats the hell out of seducing somebody, kicking her to the curb, and pretending she was nothing to you—or really meaning it.

AP Video: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford Admits Affair


William Saletan is Slate‘s national correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2221333/

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 2:36 pm

A First Lady Who Demands Substance
Michelle Obama Wants to Be Part of Events That Have Purpose And a Message — and That Parallel the President’s Agenda.

By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 25, 2009


For weeks, Michelle Obama had been telling her staff and closest confidantes that she wasn’t having the impact she wanted. She is a woman of substance, with a background in law, public policy and management, who found herself relegated to role model in chief. The West Wing of the White House — the fulcrum of power and policy — had not fully integrated her into its agenda. She wanted more.

So, earlier this month, she changed her chief of staff, and now she’s changing her role.

Her new chief of staff, Susan Sher, 61, is a close friend and former boss who the first lady thinks will be more forceful about getting her and her team on the West Wing’s radar screen. The first thing Sher said she told senior adviser David Axelrod, whom she has known for years: When I call, “you need to get back to me right away.”

The former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, 37, was “not on the first lady’s wavelength,” said one source, echoing others, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. “Susan is more of a peer,” a senior White House official said. “I think that’s probably a better model.”

Although Obama’s job-approval ratings have soared, the first lady — a Harvard-educated lawyer — wasn’t satisfied with coasting. She is hiring a full-time speechwriter and has instructed her staff to think “strategically” so that every event has a purpose and a message. She doesn’t want to simply go to events and hug struggling military families, she said; she wants to show progress. “Her desire is to step out more and have deliverables,” said communications chief Camille Johnston. “It’s about things that are coming up that we want to be a part of: child nutrition reauthorization act, prevention and wellness for health-care reform.”

In the past couple of weeks, Obama has been more vocal about the specifics of the president’s health plan, and she will play a substantive role in promoting it. She will soon announce the creation of an advisory board to help military families. And she will be the face of the administration’s United We Serve, a summer-long national service program, which she launched on Monday. Even her social events have a message: She let congressional families know that before the annual White House barbecue today, the 500 guests are expected to show up at Fort McNair to stuff camp backpacks with goodies for the children of military personnel.

Obama has also taken stock of her family life, which she has found to be more constrained than she expected. She has concluded that there’s really only one road toward some semblance of a private life for them — and it leads away from the White House.

Laying Out Her Strategy

On Jan. 14, days before the inauguration, Obama assembled her new staff in a conference room at transition headquarters for a two-hour lunch meeting. In the room was a mix of loyal campaign aides, good friends she had persuaded to leave high-paying corporate jobs, and political professionals who were virtual strangers to her. It was the first time many of the 20 or so aides had met, and the incoming first lady said she expected them to operate “at 120 percent.” All eyes were on them, she cautioned, and there was little room for error.

She emphasized that they must work on a parallel track with the president’s office to avoid the historical East Wing-West Wing tensions that have plagued most administrations. “Seamless” was the word she used to describe the partnership she expected with her husband’s staff.

Last, she exhorted her staff to find a personal balance. For her part, Obama informed them that she would practice what she preached: She did not intend to work more than 2 1/2 days a week. She was also planning to take off the month of August.

Unspoken but well known to some in the room was how unhappy Obama had been with the lack of campaign support she received during the presidential primaries. The president’s advisers acknowledge that Michelle Obama was ill-served in the early days of the 2008 campaign, when opponents were able to portray her as unpatriotic, haughty and a caricature of an angry black woman. She was horrified to learn that she had become a liability to the candidate for saying that for the first time in her life, she was proud of her country.

“Obviously, given how fundamentally distorted the public lens was on her, I think we could have done a much better job for her. . . . I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Axelrod concedes. “It took her a while to dig out of that.”

It was against this background that the first lady and her staff were determined to create in the White House a culture that was, as Norris put it, “authentic” to the first lady. Since the election, her disciplined (journalists might say controlling) staff has carefully managed her media exposure and methodically laid the groundwork for her issues, a “soft launch,” as one aide said. And the first lady’s approval ratings flew into the 80s, exceeding her husband’s, and higher than any other first lady’s at a comparable time.

Norris had been Obama’s Iowa state coordinator and had become close to Michelle Obama during the campaign. But Norris said in an interview that she came to agree that she wasn’t a good fit for this job — which requires not only management and policy skills but also inevitably touches on the first lady’s personal and family life.

One early miscalculation on Norris’s part was that she tried to take on Desiree Rogers, a close friend of the first lady, insisting that the social secretary report to her. The disagreement culminated in what one White House aide described as a “blowup.” Valerie Jarrett, aide to the president and a friend of both women, had to step in and smooth over a conflict that many thought should never have been engaged. “We brought in people with strong personalities and passions,” Norris said. “Disagreements are inevitable.”

Jarrett — a Chicago friend who is helping develop the first lady’s official role — said Michelle Obama’s immense popularity has forced a rethinking of how she fits into the policy calculus. “We spend time thinking that through and where is she going to have the biggest impact,” Jarrett said.

Axelrod said that initially “we were throwing her out there in the kinds of events that were probably not press-worthy. . . . There was a push for quantity and not quality.”

But he added that the plan had always been to enhance her role around this time, after she had a chance to settle her family. “We are focused now on quality events that are related to her passions,” he said. “We don’t want to use her as a utility player for political chores.”

Sher noted: “The key is you can get schedule-driven as opposed to being strategy-driven. You could spend all your time yes-no, yes-no as opposed to [deciding] what are the things that we really should be working on.”

Sher, a lawyer and manager, has already begun stepping up interaction with the West Wing — particularly with Anita Dunn, the communications director, who had advised Michelle Obama during the campaign. “Anita is paying attention to us over here,” Sher said.

Elements of Chicago

In naming Sher, Obama took another step toward re-creating her Chicago life on a world stage. She has surrounded herself with familiar faces, starting with her mother, who lives in the White House and takes Malia and Sasha to school every day in an unmarked SUV. Obama begins her day at 5:30 a.m. with another Chicago transplant, Cornell McClellan, who has been her and her husband’s personal trainer for 12 years. The family’s meals are largely prepared by Chicagoan Sam Kass, a White House assistant chef, who also oversees the organic garden.

After the move to Washington, Obama sat down with her staff and two calendars: one from the office, one from Sidwell Friends, her daughters’ new school. No events would be scheduled that presented a potential conflict with the girls. But she quickly discovered that her days off don’t allow her any real freedom. When she wore shorts to walk the dog last week in a sheltered spot on the White House lawn, photos showed up on the Internet within hours.

So now, with school over for the year, Obama has developed a plan that takes her and the girls out of Washington, where she thinks they can have more fun and independence. Sasha and Malia accompanied the first lady to San Francisco on Monday, and next month, they will join their parents on an official presidential trip to Russia, Italy and Ghana. The family is expected to spend more time at Camp David, where they can entertain close friends in privacy.

At work, Obama runs her office like a business in which she is chief executive. She doesn’t want to micromanage, she has made clear; she wants to delegate. Up and down the hall are professional women with whom she has a longtime connection and whom she trusts to execute her vision. Rogers, another friend from Chicago, has an office just a few feet away. Also nearby is Jocelyn Frye, whom Obama met at Harvard Law School and who is the first lady’s policy director. A family law advocate and expert on equal opportunity employment law, Frye is also a link to the D.C. community. She grew up in Washington and still lives a few blocks from her parents’ house in the Michigan Park area of Northeast. She has pointed the first lady to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and schools.

Sher, who worked with Michelle Obama in the Chicago mayor’s office and later hired her at the University of Chicago Medical Center, was a reluctant recruit, leaving her husband behind in Chicago.

Sher, Rogers and Jarrett are so close that they have rented apartments in the same Georgetown building, near the waterfront, with Jarrett and Sher directly across the hall from each other. “We’ll even do errands together on the weekend,” Sher said. The first lady attended a small birthday celebration for Rogers last week and has had “girls’ nights” with the women.

They all know that Obama wants to continue to offer opportunities to people like herself. She grew up in working-class South Chicago, in the shadow of one of the most elite private colleges in the country, the University of Chicago. Yet Obama recalls vividly that when she was a high school student hoping to rise above her circumstances, the university seemed far beyond her reach. She was determined this would not happen at the White House on her watch.

“No one there had ever reached out to say, ‘Hey, maybe there’s a place for you here,’ ” Johnston said. Obama has either visited or invited to the White House students from 30 Washington schools, and she was instrumental in developing the first White House summer internship program specifically for D.C. high school students. She brought high school girls to the White House to rub elbows with such female icons as singer Alicia Keys and astronaut Mae Jemison. Some of the girls were so nervous, they were sobbing before they went inside. “Michelle hugged each and every girl before they left,” Jarrett said. “We talked about that night a lot, and she was really quite struck by her ability to really leave a lasting, positive impression as a role model.”

Social as Political

Though Obama doesn’t have much freedom outside the White House, she has already shaken up the status quo in her new home, including turning the White House fountains green on St. Patrick’s Day and holding the first Seder hosted by a president. She also intentionally served a formal dinner to the nation’s governors on mismatched china — 28 years after Nancy Reagan famously complained because nothing matched and proceeded to spend $200,000 on a new set of Lenox.

One of the first people let in on Obama’s vision was the woman charged with executing the cultural and social message for the White House: Rogers, 50, the first African American social secretary. The stuffy world of protocol has never seen the likes of Rogers, a glamorous Harvard MBA and former corporate executive, who unabashedly posed in $100,000 earrings for a magazine photo shoot — much to the amusement of her boosters in the East Wing, and the anxiety of the president’s advisers. Axelrod, a longtime friend, let it be known that he was agitated by the WSJ magazine profile in which she wore the earrings and talked about the “Obama brand.”

Obama tasked Rogers with ensuring that every social event has a populist component, as she did last week when Duke Ellington High School students attended workshops with jazz greats. Rogers said that the Obamas want to convey that coming to the White House is “just a home visit.” That’s why, she said, the first lady hugs so many people who walk through the doors. “You try to take the fear out of just the mere awe of walking through the gates.”

The Obamas are in no rush to schedule a state dinner for a foreign head of state, Rogers said. At the president’s request, the first lady is planning a series of intimate “salon dinners.” Rogers said she had provided the Obamas with a list of about 1,000 arts, business and science names and several suggested guest lists. “The opportunity to have 10 people that you’re interested in and hear what they have to say about something,” she said. “How fabulous!”

Every morning, Rogers and Sher attend White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s 8:15 staff meeting. Johnston, a newcomer to Obama’s circle but a White House veteran, and Katie McCormick Lelyveld, the first lady’s press secretary, sit in on White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s daily message meeting. As part of the president’s domestic policy team, Frye meets with its staff weekly. Senior aides David Medina and Trooper Sanders work on national service and international issues, and Norris remains close to the office in her new job at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

They’re all focused on raising the stakes. “It isn’t just about hugging,” Sher said. “Whatever she talks about will bring press and interest, but it’s important that she’s not just talking [but] actually moving forward on those issues.”

June 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 3:11 pm

Tauscher to Cede Her House Throne

June 22, 2009
By Tory Newmyer
Roll Call Staff

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) was getting frustrated.In the midst of a heated budget debate this spring with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the GOP’s master of House rules and process was having trouble reclaiming his time, and he lodged his complaint with the presiding lawmaker, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.). “I asked you to allow me to reclaim my time,” Dreier said to Tauscher. “I said it three times with enthusiasm, so I don’t believe that I was talking over the gentleman.”

An unruffled Tauscher responded that the cross talk made it difficult to know who controlled the floor. She admonished Dreier to “respect the gavel.” And then she gave the Rules Committee’s top Republican another rhetorical wrist slap, warning lawmakers to “bear in mind the principle that proper courtesy in the process of yielding and reclaiming time in debate, and especially in asking another to yield, helps to foster the spirit of mutual comity that elevates our deliberations above mere argument.”

It was a brief moment, but it revealed why Tauscher has emerged as the young majority’s most trusted steward of frequently tense proceedings on the House floor.

Facing down Dreier, the minority’s most formidable floor presence, less practiced gavel-wielders might have folded, or lost their cool. But Tauscher has proved an unflappable arbiter, earning her an unofficial post as the go-to speaker pro tem that is reflected in the hours she’s logged atop the rostrum.

So far this Congress, she has spent about 60 hours in the chair, about 13 hours longer than her nearest rival. And Tauscher was the most frequent presence in the chair during the last Congress as well, racking up a whopping 175 hours.

“I’ve wanted to throw the gavel at a few people,” said Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), a member of the small clutch of Democrats who most often volunteer for the duty. “She can be yelled at and prodded and poked without losing her cool. If there’s an incident, she’s the person I’d most like to see in the chair.”

Now, with Tauscher awaiting Senate confirmation for a State Department gig as the Obama administration’s lead arms control negotiator, her colleagues are starting to determine who will fill the various roles she carved out for herself in the House. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) is in line to replace her as leader of the business-friendly New Democrat Coalition. Less clear is who will take over for her as chairwoman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces — or as the party’s favorite to keep things calm when Republicans start throwing bombs during floor debates.

Like Republicans before them, Democratic leaders try to cycle as many of their own as they can into the Speaker’s chair but look to a short roster to keep things on track day-to-day. Beyond Tauscher and Capuano, that list includes Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Ed Pastor (Ariz.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Mike Ross (Ark.), John Salazar (Colo.), José Serrano (N.Y.), John Tierney (Mass.) and Anthony Weiner (N.Y.).

The Speaker’s office circulates a schedule at the start of the week seeking volunteers. But leaders will also tap proven presiders if they anticipate a contentious debate or tough vote.

Tauscher has seen her share of both.

Last year, she was in the chair when Republicans staged a walkout to protest Democratic attempts to subpoena former Bush White House officials instead of debating the administration’s warrantless wiretapping effort. A few weeks later, Tauscher presided over a rare secret session of the House — the first since 1983 — that Republicans called to discuss that program. That performance, which she said she still can’t talk about, earned her a mounted gavel she keeps at home.

Two similar trophies hang in her office, bestowed for presiding over the vote to expand a children’s health insurance program earlier this year and the second, successful attempt at passing a Wall Street bailout last fall.

But it was the first bailout vote a week earlier, which failed, that was likely the most dramatic of Tauscher’s short career as a speaker pro tem. Tauscher — who at 25 had become the youngest woman ever to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and spent 14 years on Wall Street as an investment banker — had a keen sense of what was at stake that day. “I knew exactly what was going on with the markets even though I couldn’t see it,” she said.

And her parents, watching on cable at home, saw a split-screen that showed Tauscher presiding over a chamber in chaos while the stock market nose-dived. Later, she would tell her mother, “The Dow Jones Industrial Average is not an applause meter,” to explain it was nothing personal. At the time, however, she had to keep the vote open — despite GOP shouts of protest — while leaders of both parties searched for “Yes” votes, then gavel it closed when they came up short.

“You have to have resolution,” she said. “At the same time, it was very disappointing to close the vote and have the outcome we had.”

Most days, Tauscher has had better luck keeping order, something her colleagues said she does with a measured voice, a restrained gavel and her signature move: a punishing peer over her glasses.

“If you’re making a highlight reel, you could fill up 15 to 20 minutes just with her icy stares,” Weiner said. “She’s often as intimidating with her looks as she is with her words or actions.”

It’s an ability Tauscher said she gets from her mother. “She didn’t ever really yell. But she would give you a look and you’d think to yourself, ‘Well, I know I’ve just shrunk 10 inches.’”

But the job requires more than delivering silent reprimands. Tauscher said she tried to focus on “optics, pitch, tone and tempo.”

“You want to have a tempo of moving things forward, but you also don’t want to act as if you can just sluice the stuff through,” she said. “People have got to be heard … and if you have an air of cordiality, of professional respect, then that is perhaps what other people on the floor will pick up and try to do it that way.”

June 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 2:32 pm

Published on The Root (http://www.theroot.com)

Home > Where’s the Pride in Pride Parades? Where’s the Pride in Pride Parades?

By: Cord Jefferson Posted: June 15, 2009 at 6:38 AM

Gay Pride Month: Where’s the Pride in Pride Parades? In a politically important moment for the gay community, thongs and theatrics don’t cut it. cord.jefferson

The gay community has every right to claim its place in the civil rights struggle. But there was a reason Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin wore suits. In a politically important moment for the gay community, thongs and theatrics don’t cut it.

<p>In a politically important moment for the gay community, thongs and theatrics don’t cut it.</p> 06/15/2009 06:38

There’s a famous photograph [1], taken by Charles Moore, of Martin Luther King Jr. being shuffled off to jail by two Montgomery, Ala., police officers. King had been loitering, meaning he sat down for a meal at a segregated restaurant. The image of the crime’s aftermath is striking for a number of reasons: the cops’ stone-faced indifference; the bucolic bushes behind the three men, which belie the violent tension of the scene; the way King is waving away some anonymous person, as if to say, “Let them do their job. Everything’s going to be fine.”

To anyone who’s ever spent time in the Deep South in the summer months, the picture is notable for another reason. On the day it was taken, Sept. 3, 1958, the high in Montgomery was 91 degrees, and the humidity was at a sultry 81 percent. It was the kind of weather that keeps people up at night, sticking to them like a hot, moist patina.


Looking at King, however, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d been picked up in the winter. As natty as a movie star in a gray wool suit and pressed white shirt, his eyes remain calm beneath the shade of a wide-brimmed fedora. It’s a gentleman’s outfit, similar to others he often wore to appear in public, and it must have been a horribly uncomfortable get-up on such a muggy day, not to mention in a dank prison cell.

Fast forward five decades to the civil rights movement currently at the forefront of American politics and minds: that of the LGBT community, which has been on a roller-coaster ride in recent weeks. There have been notable successes (marriage rights affirmed in six states) and surprising failures (the endurance of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy). This month, hundreds of thousands of men and women around the world will take to the streets to march for visibility and solidarity in gay pride parades. Much like Dr. King before them, the LGBT marchers ask simply for the basic rights granted other Americans—the right to work, the right to safety, the right to equality.


Unlike Dr. King, few of them will appear in suits.

Probably the most succinct critique of the modern pride parade is a 2001 article from satirical paper The Onion, “Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years [2].” In it, a straight female witness to a gay pride march in Los Angeles says, “I’d always thought gays were regular people, just like you and me, and that the stereotype of homosexuals as hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants was just a destructive myth.” She then adds, “Boy, oh, boy, was I wrong.”

The quote, like the rest of the article, is an exaggeration, of course, but the underlying point stands. With their ribald costuming and hyper-sexualized theatrics, pride parades are certainly things of joy, excitement and bawdy humor.

But at the risk of sounding like a staid homophobe, I’m often left wondering where the pride part comes in.


The annual marches ultimately accomplish two things: They entertain those of us—gay and straight—who already wholeheartedly support the cause of equal rights for the LGBT community, and they feed into the rotten stereotypes of bigots, the same people who fear gay Boy Scout leaders and consider same-sex marriage “deviant.” The LGBT community has every right to claim its place in the civil rights struggle. But in such a politically important year for the gay community, perhaps it’s time for its members to start taking some cues from the civil rights movement of old.

Martin Luther King Jr. dressed that way for a reason, one that goes beyond the simple explanation “that was the style of the era.” It’s the very same reason he diligently practiced his oration and responded to violence with peace: because to do otherwise would be what his detractors expected. What King and his colleagues knew is that, despite their narrow thinking, bigots have remarkable memories, the kind perfect for bearing grudges based on a singular negative interaction. If the head of the NAACP were just once to show up drunk to an event, with stains on his shirt, telling dirty jokes, a racist would need only one look to decide that, indeed, blacks were sinful heathens. To that end, African-American civil rights leaders did everything in their power to avoid that response, even if it meant marching from Selma to Montgomery in starched shirts tucked into dress slacks, business skirts [3] and suits and ties [4].

Knowing that there are people—voters who have the power to deny them rights—who will judge them based on the flamboyance of their appearance in one parade, why hasn’t the gay community decided to tone down the pride festivals?

Earl Fowlkes (pronounced “folks”), president and CEO of the International Federation of Black Prides [5], argued in a recent interview for this article that one can’t equate the African-American marches of the ‘50s and ‘60s with modern-day pride parades. “The civil rights marches were done to bring attention to the suffering of black Americans,” he told me from his office in Washington, D.C. “The gay pride parades, on the other hand, are really celebrations.”


While Fowlkes agrees that part of the goal of pride parades is to raise awareness, he says that, if they’re comparable to anything in the black community, it’s not civil rights marches, but Juneteenth parties, the annual African-American bashes marking the end of slavery. He also notes that many blacks in the gay community intentionally avoid pride parades specifically because of the infamous reputations they’ve gotten over the years. “Many of us do not feel comfortable with the behavior of our white counterparts in their expressions of their sexuality. White privilege allows you to do a lot of things that I can’t as a black man, gay or straight,” he said.

Fowlkes’ final sentiment reminds me of something my father used to tell me over and over as a child. Sitting me down to my homework or to read a thick book, he’d say sternly, “As a person of color in America, sometimes you’re going to have to do two for a white person’s one. That’s not fair, but that’s life.”


I wish I could say that no bigots are going to use pictures of a few men in thongs in San Francisco to write off millions of gay, lesbian and transgender people, but I can’t. There’s a lot at stake right now. The community is on the verge, perhaps, of a tipping point for rights and acceptance. Maybe, just once, the LGBT community should try abandoning the scant costumes and embellished sexuality and “do two.” They could march down the center of America’s great cities in all the clothes they regularly wear, exposing themselves for what they truly are: normal human beings. It wouldn’t be as fun as past parades, and it’s not fair. But for now, that’s life.

Cord Jefferson is a writer living in Brooklyn. Some of his other work has appeared in National Geographic, The Daily Beast and on MTV. You can contact him here [6].

June 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 10:26 pm

June 14, 2009

A Plea for Tolerance in Tight Shorts. Or Not.



SACHA BARON COHEN recently approached Elton John through a representative. Could he use “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Mr. John’s hit song from “The Lion King,” for a pivotal scene in his forthcoming movie?

“Brüno,” an R-rated comedy set for wide release by Universal Pictures on July 10, stars Mr. Baron Cohen as a flamboyantly gay fashion journalist from Austria. The filmmakers wanted to play the song during a scene in which the title character, participating in a cage-fighting match, pulls down his opponent’s pants and kisses him on the mouth, prompting a horrified crowd to throw garbage at him.

The answer was no. Mr. John, along with the Walt Disney Company, which owns the copyright to the song but seeks his approval in such matters, learned of the scene’s particulars and blanched, according to one of Mr. John’s advisers. But then Mr. John reversed himself — kind of. He didn’t want to be associated with the provocative scene, but he ultimately agreed to perform part of another song that functions as a coda to the film.

So it goes for “Brüno,” a movie that, in mercilessly exploiting the discomfort created when straight men are ambushed by aggressive gayness, happens to (surprise!) expose homophobia. Gay groups are reacting with deeply mixed emotions, heightened by the recent triumphs (Iowa) and losses (California) in efforts to legalize gay marriage. Is the film then vulgar, inappropriate and harmful? Or bold, timely and necessary? All of the above?

Ultimately the tension surrounding “Brüno” boils down to the worry that certain viewers won’t understand that the joke is on them and will leave the multiplex with their homophobia validated.

“Some people in our community may like this movie, but many are not going to be O.K. with it,” said Rashad Robinson, senior director of media programs for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “Sacha Baron Cohen’s well-meaning attempt at satire is problematic in many places and outright offensive in others.”

Holding the opposite view are people like Aaron Hicklin, the editor of Out magazine, who said he plans to put Mr. Baron Cohen on the August cover. “The movie does something hugely important, which is showing that people’s attitudes can turn on a dime when they realize you’re gay,” Mr. Hickland said. “The multiplex crowd wouldn’t normally sit down for a two-hour lecture on homophobia, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I’m excited about that.”

“Brüno” is not a lecture, at least not overtly. Like “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the 2006 smash that starred Mr. Baron Cohen as an anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist, “Brüno” is first and foremost a raunchy comedy featuring a not-so-bright guy who embraces sexism, racism and stereotypes as he happily goes about his business. Borat and Brüno are both familiar to fans of “Da Ali G Show,” Mr. Baron Cohen’s satirical talk show, which first ran in Britain in 2000 and began appearing on HBO in 2003.

Yet “Brüno” is also intended as a statement about what it is like to be a member of a minority in America in 2009. Mr. Baron Cohen’s malaprop-loaded antics are fictional, but the hate they can elicit from the people he encounters is ostensibly real. (The same was true of “Borat,” which some human rights groups also greeted with hostility; Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said at the time that audiences “may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke.”)

Bloggers have given “Brüno” an unofficial subtitle: “Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt.”

Universal won’t discuss the filmmaking process, but the studio insists that the vast majority of the people who appear with Mr. Baron Cohen had no idea they were being filmed for a Hollywood movie. Ads for “Brüno” trumpet, “real people, real situations.”

That was at least true of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, the former Republican presidential candidate. In a scene filmed in early 2008, Mr. Paul sits for an interview with the Baron Cohen character. (Mr. Paul has said he was told the topic would be Austrian economics.) When lighting trouble delays the interview, Mr. Baron Cohen strips to his underwear. Mr. Paul storms out muttering, “This guy is a queer.”

In a subsequent radio interview Mr. Paul said: “I don’t like the idea that he lies his way into an interview. To me it’s a real shame that people are going to reward him with millions and millions of dollars for being so crass.”

Judging from the way certain subjects in “Borat” reacted after that film was released, Universal’s lawyers will be busy. At least six lawsuits were filed against the comic and 20th Century Fox, the “Borat” distributor. So far no plaintiffs have won, but some cases are on appeal. (Universal, which won a bidding war with 20th Century Fox for the distribution rights to “Brüno,” paying $42.5 million, seems happy to take the risk. “Borat” cost $18 million and brought in $262 million worldwide.)

“Brüno” was served with its first lawsuit on May 22. According to a complaint filed by a California woman, Mr. Baron Cohen — as Brüno — infiltrated a charity bingo tournament and offended the elderly audience with vulgarities while calling a game. The plaintiff, Richelle Olson, contends that she was severely injured when she tried to grab the microphone away from him. In a statement Universal called the lawsuit “completely baseless,” noting that full footage of the encounter shows that Ms. Olson was never touched.

As roles go, there is no ambiguity about Brüno: he is a limp-wristed, sex-crazed queen. Universal’s promotional materials show him dressed in hot pants, leopard bikini underwear and riding nude on a unicorn.

The character has evolved in appearance since the television show. This Brüno has plucked eyebrows and longish hair with blonde highlights. He wears mauve lipstick. Mr. Baron Cohen also appears to have shed several pounds of arm, leg and torso hair through waxing or electrolysis.

In one scene Brüno appears on a talk show holding a baby who is wearing a T-shirt reading “Gayby.” The sequence flashes back to Brüno having sex in a hot tub while the baby sits nearby. (A person who worked on the movie noted that the flashback consists of still images that were photoshopped – no baby was actually present – and that the sex is only strongly implied.) He then boasts to the outraged talk-show audience that the baby is a man magnet (only he uses unprintable language).

In another scene Brüno, intent on becoming straight, goes to a martial arts instructor to learn how to protect himself from gay people. “If they get close to you, hit them,” the teacher says. How can you spot a gay man? “Obvious is a person being extremely nice” is the answer. Gays can be tricky, the instructor warns: “Some of them don’t even dress no different than myself or you.”

The movie also touches on the reckless pursuit of fame. For instance, under the pretext of conducting a “glamorous baby” photo shoot, Brüno interviews real moms and dads, many holding their babies on their laps. He asks one mother “is your baby comfortable with bees, wasps and hornets?” She answers, “George is comfortable with everything.” Dead or dying animals? “Yes.”

“Can Olivia lose 10 pounds in the next week?” Brüno asks another mother, who doesn’t bat an eyelash: “Yeah, I’d have to do whatever I could,” she says.

Mr. Baron Cohen declined to be interviewed for this article, as did Larry Charles, who directed the film (as well as “Borat”). Universal also declined to make a production executive available for an interview, providing the following statement instead:

“ ‘Brüno’ uses provocative comedy to powerfully shed light on the absurdity of many kinds of intolerance and ignorance, including homophobia. By placing himself in radical and risky situations, Sacha Baron Cohen forces both the people Brüno meets and the audience itself to challenge their own stereotypes, preconceptions and discomforts.

“While any work that dares to address relevant cultural sensitivities might be misinterpreted by some or offend others, we believe the overwhelming majority of the audience will understand and appreciate the film’s inarguably positive intentions.”

The studio has twice shown unfinished versions of “Brüno” to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and said that test audiences have come away with a clear understanding of the film’s positive social message. Universal also said that it screened 20 minutes of unedited footage at a Texas film festival this year, and that blog coverage was overwhelmingly upbeat.

Marketing “Brüno” poses unusual challenges for Universal, as some multiplex chains will only run trailers to R-rated films before other R-rated movies. And a stunt at the MTV Movie Awards on June 1 may have damaged the movie’s credibility, film marketers say.

During the show Mr. Baron Cohen, dressed as Brüno, dangled above the audience from wires wearing a jock strap and giant white wings. He landed face down in the lap of the rapper Eminem, who stormed out of the theater. The problem: Eminem admitted to being in on the stunt — and thus faking his reaction — which may lead audiences to doubt the studio’s assertion that actors were not used in the film.

Meanwhile the debate among gay rights advocates goes on.

“We strongly feel that Sacha Baron Cohen and Universal Pictures have a responsibility to remind the viewing public right there in the theater that this is intended to expose homophobia,” said Brad Luna, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign.

Cathy Renna, who left the Gay and Lesbian Alliance after 14 years to start her own similarly focused consulting firm, said she thinks gay audiences will greet the film warmly. “Of all minority groups I think gay people are the most likely to be able to laugh at themselves,” she said. “If nothing else, let’s hope this prompts a lot of conversation.”

Will the stereotypes Mr. Baron Cohen explores offer support to opponents of gay marriage?

“I don’t think that any conservative group is going to use ‘Brüno’ to make a point about how awful gay people are,” said Frank Voci, the founder of White Knot, a nonprofit group focused on gay rights. “If they try to go there, we can easily turn around and point out how horribly these people reacted to him being gay.”

Universal would be happy if more people just took the position of Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of “Milk” and has been an outspoken opponent of California’s recent ban on gay marriage.

Asked for his thoughts on “Brüno,” Mr. Black responded by e-mail, “Sadly, I haven’t seen the film yet!”

June 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 2:10 pm


‘Dr. Satan, come out!’

A Fayetteville doctor, himself a target of abortion protestors, says law officers failed to protect Dr. George Tiller
Published 6/11/2009

As the whole world knows, my friend, Dr. George R. Tiller, was murdered on Sunday morning, May 31, 2009, while he was doing his regular Sunday activity, ushering in his Lutheran church in Wichita, Kan.

Like Tiller, I too am an abortion provider. Since I stopped doing later abortions, between 18 and 24 weeks, I have sent most of my patients seeking late second trimester abortion to Dr. Tiller’s office. Some were women who faced a major threat to their life or health if they were to continue with what had been a wanted pregnancy. Or their wanted baby was diagnosed with a major anomaly incompatible with survival for more than a few days or years and only then, a life of suffering and incredible pain.

George took them when they were not able to pay for his services. He accepted patients for whom we sometimes had to give money to even make the trip. George’s colleagues who knew of his deep religious faith, generosity, kindness and love called him St. George when we spoke among ourselves, though we knew it embarrassed him to hear himself addressed this way.

America’s, and the world’s, women have lost a champion in Dr. George R. Tiller. And Wichita and Kansas have embarrassed themselves by not protecting one of their brightest, bravest, kindest, and most generous and most faithful sons. And I have lost a friend and colleague. 

George Tiller grew up in Wichita, the son of highly respected Wichita family practitioner, Dr. Jake Tiller. He served for a time after medical school in the U.S. Navy as a flight surgeon.

Soon after he and his wife, Jeanne, moved to California with the Navy, his parents, sister and her husband were killed in a small plane crash. George had expected to serve several years in the Navy, but was granted a hardship discharge to come home and deal with the loss of his family. His sister and her husband had a baby that George and Jeanne adopted and raised as their own.

George Tiller had intended to come home, take care of his parents’ affairs, sell the practice and eventually train as a dermatologist.

However, it turned out his father’s many patients in Wichita expected a different course for Dr. George Tiller. And George never was a man to disappoint and avoid what was expected of him. In fact, he always gave much more than expected. 

Soon after taking over Dr. Jake Tiller’s practice, George discovered that his father, driven by his conscience, had provided safe abortions for his patients even before the Kansas abortion laws were liberalized, years before Roe. v. Wade. And George, like his father, was driven by his conscience. Soon after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 he started to provide abortion care as part of his routine family practice, as did many thousands of physicians all over the country.

These were physicians who, like Dr. Jake Tiller, had seen the terrible consequences that accompanied “criminal abortions.” The vast majority of abortions done before Roe v. Wade were provided by untrained, often uncaring individuals whose patients frequently ended up desperately ill, sterile, or dead because of massive infection, hemorrhaging or terrible injuries to internal organs.

These “Doctors of Conscience” were primarily family physicians, ob-gyns and general surgeons who’d had to care for women after their back-alley abortions. They were also trained to take care of patients with incomplete abortions, infected abortions, inevitable abortions and all the problems associated with the large number of miscarriages that occur every year in our country. Remembering what they had seen, as soon as Roe became the law of the land, they began to provide safe, now legal abortion care.

Very soon after Roe, a few dedicated people, mostly young Roman Catholic men, accompanied sometimes by their priests, began to picket hospitals, medical offices and reproductive health facilities around the country where these services were provided.

And only four years after Roe, the two free-standing facilities in New York and Oregon were firebombed.

Then along came 1980 and Ronald Reagan, who ran on a “pro-life” platform.

Reagan became the first American president to address abortion in his State of the Union speech in 1984. Only a few days earlier he’d told a large group gathered in Washington to rally against safe abortion that he would consider a presidential pardon for people convicted of attacking clinics and providers.

Almost immediately physicians like Dr. George Tiller and me, and a few thousand others, became the targets of large groups of people standing in front of our offices, screaming at us, our staff and our patients: “Baby killer!” “Abortion is murder!” “Don’t kill your baby!” They waved large pictures of electively aborted fetuses, more of large miscarried fetuses and sometimes of late-term stillbirths. (These pictures are still used.) They attempted to terrorize us into ending a desperately needed service. Dr. George Tiller and I refused to be terrorized.

All this negative activity, and the fear that it inspired in physicians, had a serious effect on the number of physicians willing to provide this service. In my part of Arkansas, by the end of 1983, there were only two physicians willing to provide this care: My partner and I. Then in the summer of 1984, my partner had three major surgeries and after he recovered, he told me, “God doesn’t want us to do abortions anymore.” And I became the only physician in my part of Arkansas providing this service.

At that time, I really was not much aware what was going on around the country. I just knew that if I were to continue to practice as I had been, if I was determined to follow my conscience, I had to speak out; I had to tell my community what I was doing and why I was doing it.

This had the immediate effect of inspiring a major increase in anti-abortion activity in front of my office. Many Catholic, Baptist and other fundamentalist churches’ priests and preachers began to deliver sermons calling abortion murder, an abomination, and told their parishioners to join them in picketing in front of my office. They encouraged them to write letters to me and to the newspaper editors in our state; to write columns, speak on TV and radio about how terrible safe, legal abortion is.

Very soon, I was asked to debate, to speak publicly in various venues. And I did. I also answered every letter I received with a return address.

In the summer of 1985, my office was firebombed. I began to get threatening calls from men, and a very few women, telling me that they were going to kill me. After the first few of these calls, I began to carry a weapon everywhere I went. We also put in a “panic button” at my office in case something happened outside that frightened my staff.

Pickets continued at my office; during the first half of 1989, we came under almost daily attack by anti-abortion militants. The largest force contained over 500 people. Two of the people who threatened to kill me, whose threats both I and our local police took seriously, picketed regularly in front of my office, one of them screaming, “Dr. Satan, come out! Come out, Dr. Satan!” An insane diabetic man was there every day for two years until “God told him to stop taking his insulin” and he died three days later from massive increase in blood sugar.

One Saturday morning, one of my staff brought her young children. One of the children said, “Momma, why does that man want Dr. Satan to come out?” After that, I became Dr. Satan when my staff wanted to tease me, and it might take me a day or so to regain my identity as Dr. Harrison.

During this time, the would-be terrorists in front of my office slowly changed the attitude of my community. People began to work in my support, writing their own letters and columns, joining me in my public activities and soon seriously outnumbering the folks who had been opposing me. Individuals and groups began to be arrested in front of my office, to do jail time and pay large fines for violation of various laws: trespassing on my property, chaining themselves to my office, super-gluing doors, vandalizing cars, attacking patients, invading my office.

While I definitely did not encourage it, young people began to curse our pickets, several of whom had buckets of urine, and worse, thrown on them as they prepared to listen to a group of smiling young people who seemed to have slowed to tell them how much they supported what they were doing. By the summer of 1989, it had become very uncomfortable to stand in front of my office.

On rainy days, water was splashed on them as they stood on the narrow sidewalk in front of my office. In winter, they were splashed with slush. Their churches began to lose members. The ministers in other churches began to speak in support of me and what I do. My community began to seriously support what I did. And soon, I no longer felt the need to carry a weapon, because my community became my security wall, both my armor and my armory. I was supported by the mayor, the city board, police, the courts, the prosecutors and judges simply because they did their jobs. 

On the first Saturday in June, Dr. George Tiller’s funeral was held in the College Hill Methodist Church in Wichita. The Lutheran church where he was killed was much too small to contain the people from all over this country, Canada and South and Central America who showed up to honor this remarkable man and hear his friend and children eulogize him. His wife, Jeanne, a member of the choir at their church, sang a beautiful “Lord’s Prayer” for her husband, who she called “my best buddy and the love of my life.”

I find it extremely uncomfortable to cry. But I totally lost my composure at the oldest daughter’s eulogy to her father and during Jeanne’s beautiful song.

When we arrived at the funeral, the entire neighborhood of the church was surrounded by Wichita police and county sheriff’s officers. Federal marshals were guarding every hotel where an abortion care provider was staying. It was the same at the Wichita Country Club, where an after-funeral reception was held for family, friends, National Abortion Federation members and staff, and members of other reproductive rights organizations and Medical Students for Choice, one of whom came from Montreal.

We were provided incredible security at Dr. Tiller’s funeral and the reception held for us. Pickets were nowhere to be seen by most of the people attending the activities, though apparently several showed up, carried their signs and screamed at those who passed.

Wichita is a pretty town. There are many new and well-kept buildings and businesses; much highway and street improvement is going on. The streets are clean, and the homes and lawns well kept. There are gated communities and beautiful churches. It is obviously a wealthy and well-policed community. And there are both local and federal laws to keep patients and staff and reproductive health care physicians safe and free of harassment.

What happened in Wichita that allowed the amazing levels of harassment that Dr. Tiller, his staff and his patients endured since 1985 when his office, like mine, was firebombed? Dr. Tiller himself survived a previous murder attempt in 1993. Why didn’t Wichita protect its native son like Fayetteville and Arkansas have protected me for the past 22 years?

Wichita’s and Kansas’ police and government officials, prosecutors and courts were too often influenced by mostly Republican religious fundamentalists who joined the anti-abortion criminals in their efforts to drive Dr. Tiller out of his beloved Wichita and Kansas.

A Kansas law that allows a relatively small group of citizens to call a grand jury to investigate suspected criminal conduct, intended to help Kansans prosecute powerful politicians who might otherwise never be held accountable, was used against George. He was accused of violating Kansas’ late-term abortion laws. He was acquitted. This law was never meant to be used to persecute individuals who were lawfully involved in activities that religious fundamentalists found sinful. I am glad Jehovah’s Witnesses never became a major force in this country or physicians providing blood transfusions to dying patients might have come under attack in Kansas.

After doctors and staff members began to be murdered in the 1990s, a Democratic Congress and Democratic president passed and signed into law the FACE act, which was supposed to make activities like those taking place in front of my office in the 1980s and Dr. Tiller’s office since 1985 a federal crime. Many of us thought that this would make people like me, and Dr. Tiller and his patients and staff, less susceptible to the activities that continued at his office. But such activities increased during the Bush years.

A common pious remark among many on the Religious Right whose activities incited the murder of Dr. George Tiller is, “He sowed the wind and now he has reaped the whirlwind.”

Federal, state and local governments, in allowing the religious terrorists — as dangerous as those who kill in the name of Islam — to continue their attacks on Dr. George Tiller, his staff and his patients and their families for the past 22 years are the ones who have “sown the wind.” Now, unless there is government action on all levels, many more of us will “reap the whirlwind.”


Dr. William Harrison, 73, is a Fayetteville physician. He is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

June 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 2:30 pm
June 10, 2009

Mogul Ascends With Old Hollywood Clout


LOS ANGELES — In 1992, Ariel Zev Emanuel, a young operative with the struggling InterTalent agency, had a problem with the rent on a $639-a-month walk-up in the city’s modest Fairfax district. The landlord took him to court seeking eviction, and won.

Today, Mr. Emanuel has a $10 million home in the Brentwood neighborhood; a pipeline to the White House through his brother Rahm, its chief of staff; and a sprawling new talent agency of his own design, called William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

As Hollywood stories go, that is a good start. But it needs a third act.

Long known as a hardball player of considerable skill, Mr. Emanuel, 48, has emerged in the last six weeks as the pre-eminent power player in a Hollywood that has often bemoaned the sunset of colorful moguls from an older generation, including Michael Ovitz and David Geffen.

As the co-chief executive and principal architect of William Morris Endeavor, formed in late April by the merger of Mr. Emanuel’s Endeavor with the venerable William Morris Agency, Mr. Emanuel has finally stepped into their shoes — assuming he can hold his venture together. He spent much of the last week in mixers meant to help hundreds of wary colleagues from the newly joined agencies get comfortable with one another.

Hollywood, meanwhile, is still struggling to get comfortable with Mr. Emanuel and his aspirations — and to figure out exactly what makes him tick.

“It’s about respect,” offered J. C. Spink, a young producer who, with his business partner Chris Bender, has been a protégé of Mr. Emanuel’s. “With nine out of 10 people, if not more, they tend to be in this business for respect.”

Others queried in the last week mentioned power, money, an itch to surpass the Creative Artists Agency, and, most intriguing, a surge of ambition that came with the return of Mr. Emanuel’s brother Rahm, a former Clinton adviser, to the White House with President Obama. “Ari wants an empire,” said one associate, who insisted on anonymity to protect his relationship.

If empire is indeed being born here, it is being shaped by a restless achiever who hungers for the bold stroke — as when Mr. Emanuel and three colleagues in 1995 started Endeavor with a nighttime raid on their own office files at International Creative Management — even when that leaves a mess to be cleaned up afterward. In the case of their I.C.M. caper, James A. Wiatt, then president of the agency, caught and fired the four before they could quit.

Even hardened observers of Hollywood’s coarse ways were stunned when Mr. Emanuel and his colleagues dumped dozens of Morris agents and parted ways with Mr. Wiatt, who had since become the Morris chairman, less than a month after the merger was approved. Mr. Wiatt, 62, had expected to continue as chairman for perhaps a year, but has decided to leave in the coming months.

(Mr. Wiatt declined to comment and Rahm Emanuel did not respond to queries for this article.)

Even as Mr. Wiatt opted out, Mr. Emanuel’s temper flared in negotiations with NBC over the drama “Medium,” which was created by one of his clients, Glenn Gordon Caron. The spat, which broke out when the network balked at financial terms, concluded with “Medium” moving to CBS and Mr. Emanuel threatening Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, with personal ruin, according to three people with knowledge of the incident. Mr. Graboff declined to comment; an Emanuel colleague insisted the threats were not personal.

“Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of Ari Emanuel, especially now that his brother is running the White House,” said one television executive, who asked for anonymity to preserve harmony with him.

Mr. Emanuel is now pushing toward a next step that will involve an alliance with a still-to-be-formed investment firm. The goal is to put financial firepower behind the agency, new capital that could, for instance, allow partners or clients of William Morris Endeavor to finance media start-ups or its own productions.

To that end, Joseph Ravitch, an investment banker formerly at Goldman Sachs, and Jeffrey A. Sine, from UBS Warburg, have been working quietly for months to assemble a firm and a fund that would involve William Morris Endeavor and Mr. Emanuel. Prior to the merger, Goldman considered organizing a purchase of Endeavor. But a deteriorating economy, coupled with a growing sense that William Morris was vulnerable, led instead to talks — with Mr. Ravitch advising Endeavor — that resulted in the current merger.

(Neither Mr. Ravitch nor Mr. Sine returned calls for this article; Mr. Emanuel declined to be interviewed.)

But people who have been briefed on the financial enterprise said Mr. Ravitch expects to have it up and running this year, giving William Morris Endeavor access to perhaps the most sought-after commodity in show business: Fresh capital.

Too, Mr. Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, a fellow co-chief of William Morris Endeavor, have been spending time, on the golf course and off, with Theodore J. Forstmann. A friend of both, the private investor controls IMG, a powerhouse sports and media agency that produces lucrative events like fashion shows and golf tournament programming.

Despite widespread speculation about an alliance or merger between the new agency and IMG, no formal ties are likely in the near future, according to people who are involved with each agency and spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid damaging relationships.

If past is prologue, Mr. Emanuel’s approach to growth will be anything but conventional.

Two years ago, in a speech at a gala for the Lab School of Washington and Baltimore, which presented him an award for outstanding achievers with learning disabilities, Mr. Emanuel described his idiosyncratic business style as being rooted in a struggle with dyslexia.

Captured in a video now posted on YouTube, a nervous Mr. Emanuel said that dyslexics, if they overcome their disability at all, do so by inventing a path of their own. The effort “actually provides them with insight to find inventive solutions to life and in business that others when they’re in those situations probably never find,” Mr. Emanuel said.

Mr. Emanuel boasted in the video that he now reads scripts for clients like Larry David and Martin Scorsese. More, even Mr. Scorsese would be at home in a state-of-the-art screening room in Mr. Emanuel’s house, purchased four years ago for $9.85 million, as a 10-year-old Endeavor was coming into its own. (As for that Fairfax district eviction, Mr. Emanuel, who had irked the landlord by trying to use his security deposit for his last month’s rent, moved out before any sheriff showed up.)

Mr. Emanuel’s dominance within Endeavor — universally acknowledged, though he had no formal title and shared control with three other members of a permanent governing group — was built around a client list that is unusually scattershot.

It includes those with long-time connections, like the writers John Altschuler and David Krinsky, a team who had started many years before at InterTalent and later helped produce the animated “King of the Hill,” and the actor-filmmaker Peter Berg, who was Mr. Emanuel’s roommate at Macalester College in Minnesota. They are matched by a roster of movie stars as eclectic as Mark Wahlberg, Michael Douglas and Sacha Baron Cohen. Then come writer-producers like Greg Daniels (“The Office”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”), and a grab-bag of performers and media types whose common threat might simply be that they are interesting to know.

In this last category, Mr. Emanuel has represented the documentary filmmakers Michael Moore and Errol Morris, “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal and interviewer Charlie Rose.

A year ago, Mr. Rose, on his television show, moderated a freewheeling session with the brothers Rahm, Ari and Ezekiel Emanuel, a renowned bioethicist who described his brothers as being driven by an ethos: “What are you doing today to make the world better?”

In Ari’s case, that has meant driving a hybrid Prius and electric Tesla, keeping the roof of his home lined with solar panels and serving as a director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund.

But Mr. Emanuel has also undertaken less high-minded ventures. For instance, he became one of the biggest shareholder in, and a consultant to, Tablemax Holdings — a small Las Vegas-based company that makes electronic gambling tables (“Caribbean Stud Poker”) for Indian casinos and other gambling operations.

“I do actually believe it’s going to come through,” said Gavin Polone, a Hollywood producer who was recruited as a fellow investor by Mr. Emanuel. Mr. Polone joined the agent in guaranteeing millions of dollars in bank loans for the company, which has been struggling in the tough economic climate.

Another foray involves Live Nation, the concert company whose proposed merger with Ticketmaster is under review by federal antitrust regulators. Mr. Emanuel is on the Live Nation board, but directors of the combined companies have not yet been named.

Mr. Emanuel’s position will be complicated by the merger of Endeavor, which had no significant music business, with William Morris, a music powerhouse whose performer clients will find their fortunes affected by deals with the new concert company.

But Michael Rapino, chief executive of Live Nation, said he did not see a potential conflict of interest in Mr. Emanuel’s evolving roles. “We hope he would find time to continue to be a member,” he said.

Mr. Rose, a friend who describes himself as “the fourth Emanuel brother,” acknowledged that something about Mr. Emanuel’s status has changed in recent weeks.

“It seems to have kicked to another level,” Mr. Rose said. “A convergence of things has enabled him to be seen at a more commanding height.”

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


June 9, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 5:00 pm

Slate Magazine

You Can Live Without Apple’s New iPhone

But it’s getting harder to live without the App Store.

By Farhad Manjoo
Posted Monday, June 8, 2009, at 8:48 PM ET

I didn’t go to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday expecting a revolutionary new iPhone. That’s a good thing, because I didn’t see one. Instead, Apple unveiled what folks in the computer industry call a “speed bump”: The new iPhone is nearly identical to the old iPhone, except it’s faster. It also records videos and understands voice commands—two features that many other cell phones have long boasted—and it includes a digital compass, which makes its maps program much smarter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset about any of that stuff. My iPhone, like any computer, sometimes slows to a crawl, and Apple says that the new iPhone 3G S is twice as fast, on average, as the old one. (The S stands for “speed.”) The phone goes on sale on June 18, and I confess I’m one of the suckers who’ll stand in line to buy it. But not without a bit of hesitation.

The mobile phone market has lately become one of the most innovative corners of the tech business. The Palm Pre—with its stylish new operating system, its elegant design, and its amazing wireless battery charger—certainly seems worthy of my attention, as do the many phones based on Google’s Android OS that are expected to be released this year. What’s more, after a couple years of using an iPhone, there’s a lot I hate about it—AT&T’s terrible cellular network, for instance, and the cumbersome way it switches between different programs.

Still, what I saw on Monday cemented my idea that the iPhone is becoming nearly impossible for any other mobile gadget to beat. That’s not because the device itself is perfect. It isn’t. Over the last year, though, the iPhone has attracted something that none of its rivals can match: a devoted following of developers who are building amazing programs for the device. There are now more than 50,000 applications available in the iPhone’s built-in App Store, and Apple says that the pace at which developers are adding programs is accelerating. None of Apple’s competitors comes close to these numbers. Android is in second place with 5,000 apps, and the Nokia and BlackBerry stores have just over 1,000 apps each. If you buy a Pre, brace yourself for a comically small number of add-ons—today you’ll find just 18 apps in Palm’s online store.

Earlier this year, Apple unveiled version 3.0 of the iPhone’s operating system; the software will be available for all iPhones and iPod Touches on June 16. During the past few months, app developers have been creating programs that take advantage of the new operating system’s features, and on Monday Apple invited several companies to show off what they’ve built. The demos were amazing, an innovative and exciting counterpoint to Apple’s same-y new hardware. Through these programs, the iPhone becomes something like a universal remote—a device that spices up all kinds of everyday interactions.

Consider auto-sharing service Zipcar‘s new app: When you need wheels, load up the program to find available cars displayed on a map around you. You can pick a car you like and reserve it right from the phone. That’s when the real fun begins. As you approach the Zipcar lot, you find two buttons on your phone: honk and unlock. Yes, your iPhone can now double as your car keys. (I guess that means if you lose it, you’re doubly screwed.)

Airstrip Technologies, a development house that makes medical apps, showed off a more serious version of the same concept. The company has created a program that allows physicians to review their patients’ vital signs from anywhere—your doctor can get a live picture of the pulsating waves of your cardiac rhythm, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and other stats. There are many more such programs: Johnson & Johnson is making an iPhone-enabled diabetes monitor that lets people study their blood glucose levels on the go; Pasco makes scientific probes that hook up to the phone and let kids have fun in science class; and two companies, Line 6 and Planet Waves, have built an app that lets guitarists control their amps and MIDI guitars from their phones.

Demos of these last two apps didn’t quite work on stage at the WWDC, which is uncharacteristic for Apple events. (Apple reps assured us everything had worked perfectly in rehearsal.) Fortunately, the audience was composed mainly of developers, folks who were willing to give their fellow programmers the benefit of the doubt, and who were effusive in their applause. Perhaps the most popular app on display was Apple’s own Find My iPhone, which does exactly that by making your phone ring even if you left it in silent mode. (So I guess you’re not at risk of losing your car keys after all!) The app, which is available only to subscribers of Apple’s MobileMe service, also shows your phone’s physical location on a Web map, and it lets you erase your data remotely if it’s been stolen.

Is it fair to compare the riches of the iPhone App Store with its rivals’ offerings? After all, the iPhone store has been open since July 2008; the Android shop opened a few months after that, and the Palm Pre just came out this weekend. Won’t those other stores eventually catch up with Apple’s offerings?

I doubt it. The software industry is a network-effects business—as developers create more programs for the iPhone, it attracts more customers, which in turn makes it even more attractive to developers. The developers have flocked to the device even though Apple’s terms are arguably more onerous than those of other stores. The Android store, for instance, exercises no editorial control over the apps that make it to the store. Apple, on the other hand, has been known to boot apps for what seem to be completely arbitrary reasons. But Apple has also given developers deeper access into key parts of the phone’s OS. It now lets programmers build apps that access the phone’s built-in Google Maps, and it lets them hook up programs to peripherals (like those MIDI guitars). The one thing still missing: background processing. This means that you can only run one third-party app at a time—so you can’t listen to, say, music from the Pandora app while you’re reading your e-mail. In time, this might change.

There is, of course, an irony in Apple’s success. For years, Apple fans claimed that the company made the best PCs in the world, hands down. Nevertheless, it was hard to argue with the fact that Windows PCs simply ran more programs. Now Apple is in the position once occupied by Microsoft. Over the next few years, Palm, Research in Motion, Nokia, Sony, and others are sure to create some transcendent mobile devices. But the hardware hardly matters anymore. How is anyone going to compete with all these amazing apps?

Farhad Manjoo is Slate‘s technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can e-mail him at farhad.manjoo@slate.com.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2220032/

June 8, 2009

not sure what’s with the twitter articles today, esp. since i’m not on it

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 8:05 pm

Slate Magazine

Orphaned Tweets

When people sign up for Twitter, post once, then never return.

By John Swansburg and Jeremy Singer-Vine
Posted Monday, June 8, 2009, at 11:41 AM ET

After examining some 300,000 Twitter accounts, a Harvard Business School professor reported last week that 10 percent of the service’s users account for more than 90 percent of tweets. The study dovetails with recent analysis by the media research firm Nielsen asserting that 60 percent of Twitter users do not return from one month to the next. Both findings suggest that, thus far, Twitter has been considerably better at signing up users than keeping them.

Which got us to thinking—there must be a legion of Twitterers out there who sign up, tweet once, and never return. In the spirit of the great blog One Post Wonder, “a collection of blogs that have one post,” we set out to find these orphaned tweets. Different people obviously have different tweet metabolisms, but we decided that any account that’s been dormant for at least six months is fair game. We found several thousand of them.

Naturally, many orphan tweets betray skepticism about microblogging. “I don’t get it… what’s the point of this thing?” read ben_pursell‘s first and last tweet. “Twitter deez nutz,” remarked beebles, rather caustically, before signing off for good. Yet a surprising number of one-and-done Twitterers demonstrate keen enthusiasm, leaving us to ponder what led them to change their minds:

sk8ie I’m here!
7:42 AM May 16th, 2008

micatron sign me up damn it!
9:28 AM Sep 11th, 2008

treyharness This technology is awesome. If you haven’t signed up already, do it now so we can all stay connected. Its much easier than email or phone.
7:25 PM May 7th, 2008

Some one-time users don’t seem to understand what kind of service they’ve signed up for.

brittanyblevins what kind of donuts are you offering?
12:23 PM May 8th, 2008

reginarowland o1o6AqhQ0B
9:46 PM May 19th, 2008

pmosterday Director of Advancement
12:55 PM Nov 20th, 2008

The lion’s share of these singular postings describe a discrete experience or a current mood. This is probably because an orphan tweet is also a first tweet, and first-timers typically stick to answering the question hovering above the Twitter dialog box: “What are you doing?”

beckysomsel heading north for a party!
6:44 AM Dec 5th, 2008

anord04 eating a miniature pie
10:21 AM Jun 23rd, 2007

kttheet Wearing a gigantic t-shirt (2XL).
9:56 PM Apr 22nd, 2008

apsolutely4me picking lint from Judy’s naval while she is napping!
4:10 PM Sep 7th, 2008

ChristianDA Designing performance nutrition for Navy SEALs. Fighting government corruption (tall order). Telling American stories.
12:58 PM Nov 28th, 2008

Because orphan tweets are followed by a long silence, these ephemeral status reports take on a strange permanence. Is anord04 still working on that miniature pie? Was it bigger than it first seemed?

Reading many of these one-offs, you can’t help but wonder whether some tragedy has come between the user and his second post.

Phillyrules it hurts to breathe. should I go to the hospital?
10:09 PM Aug 23rd, 2008

muthuboss life is hopeless ……
10:26 PM Jul 6th, 2008

rvictor Trying to escape this insanity
7:24 PM Jan 7th

jeffreyshardy Sitting next to a big, hairy, smelly guy on the bus
5:04 PM Feb 11th

DouglasAllen I am writing an email to the makers of Spray N Wash to thank them for making a product that got the blood stains out of my new PJs and robe.
7:40 PM Aug 27th, 2007

Not all orphan tweets inspire such macabre thoughts. At their best they resemble found art, an index of first lines of poems that have yet to be written:

mundial marching backwards toward the source of the four winds
9:45 AM Jul 17th, 2007

stonelove27 I am standing behind my nose…
11:59 AM Sep 5th, 2007

ladydrea Marcus Aurelius! You are loved! (I’m typing now…)
10:53 AM Jun 7th, 2008

newdayrising sold your soul to Jesus for a carton of yoghurt. He doesn’t even like yoghurt that much.
12:48 PM Mar 31st, 2008

boustanyn Getting ready for the third phase of life on this earth….
12:51 PM Nov 17th, 2008

bkennedy weeping gently
2:47 PM Mar 30th, 2007

In at least one instance, two orphan tweets appear to have been in conversation.

marcbresseel getting ready for cannes – printing latest briefing – I hate folding my shirts 8:36 AM Jun 14th, 2008

Kolcott @Marcbresseel You fold your shirts?
9:13 AM Jul 10th, 2008

A lone call followed by a lone response; a social network of two.

While we found thousands of orphan tweets, our search was by no means comprehensive. Slate readers, let us know if you’ve come across orphan tweets in your travels across the Twitterverse. Send your favorite examples to slateculture@gmail.com, and we’ll publish them in a follow-up on Brow Beat, Slate‘s new culture blog. Also, if any of the authors of the orphan posts featured here happen to read this, please send us an e-mail and tell us why you quit. To verify your identity, we’ll ask you to log back in to Twitter and file that long-awaited second tweet.

John Swansburg is Slate‘s culture editor. You can e-mail him at dvdextras@gmail.com and follow him at www.twitter.com/swansburg.
Jeremy Singer-Vine is a Slate intern.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2219995

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