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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Interview with gay marriage movement founder Evan Wolfson

>>Full Interview

Evan Wolfson, the founder of the modern gay marriage movement, tells the waiter he would like an iced decaf and "the usual." Wolfson, one of Time Magazine's Most Influential People in the World, is a man who unflinchingly knows what he wants and stays his course, whether it be in his choice of restaurant or in his choice of battle. And others always know when they see Evan coming what it is that he wants.

Since his time at Harvard Law School when he wrote a paper on the topic, what Wolfson wants is the right for gay people to marry. The issue gained national prominence in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court held in Baehr v. Lewin that the government had to show a reason for the denial of the freedom to marry, not just deny marriage licenses to the plaintiff gay couples. Wolfson was co-counsel in the historic 1996 Hawaii trial in which he argued that the government does not have a sufficient reason for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. In 1999, Wolfson contributed to Baker v. Vermont, the case that led to the creation of civil unions; advised the lead attorneys in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the case that led to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts; and since 2003, when he founded the primary umbrella organization coordinating the efforts to win marriage for gay people, Freedom to Marry, Wolfson has played a role in every marriage equality case in the United States. He is the movement's founder and leader, and his focus remains square on winning that right. "For years," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, "many of us were saying to him, 'We're not ready. The country's not ready. And, by the way, you're crazy.'"

When I make a statement to him about his devoting his life to gay marriage, he corrects me: "I’ve played a part in cases that span the entire spectrum of eliminating gay people’s exclusions and limitations on who gay people are, and I’ve also written on immigration and economic justice, and I have worked on cases involving race discrimination in jury selection and women’s inequality. I don’t think one has to pick one of these things; they work together."

Indeed, he has. Wolfson was lead counsel before the Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the case arguing against the expulsion of gay scoutmasters. As an intrepid young assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, Wolfson worked on People v. Liberta to end the exemption that allowed women to be raped by their husbands legally, a right in New York State as early as 1984. And he helped end the practice of choosing jurors based upon their race.

Wolfson's entire career has been at the center of the most explosive legal and cultural issues of the last thirty years in the United States, and his influence has been profound. David Shankbone sat down with him to discuss some of the recent decisions affecting gay marriage, gender in marriage and reactions in the gay community to his fight for their rights.

Wolfson and gay marriage

DS: You are one of the leaders, arguably the founder, of the modern gay marriage movement—

EW: —marriage. Not gay marriage. Marriage. We’re not fighting for gay marriage, or same-sex marriage, or any phrase like that. We are fighting for an end to exclusion from marriage. We are fighting for the freedom to marry, the same freedom, rules, responsibilities and respect as our non-gay brothers and sisters have. It’s not just a question of wording.

DS: The argument is posed that it’s not the same given that marriage has traditionally been a heterosexual institution.

EW: The defining tradition of marriage has been change. Throughout its thousands of years of history, across all societies, the most predominant tradition of marriage is that marriage has changed constantly from place to place, across time.

DS: How has marriage changed recently?

EW: There are four profound battles just within my lifetime that have changed marriage. First, the battle to end the government’s role in limiting people’s ability to get out of a failed or abusive marriage. The choice by a couple of whether to marry or divorce, that it be made by the couple rather than be imposed from without was a legal and cultural battle that took decades, arguably centuries. We changed that tradition just in my lifetime, and marriage is stronger for it. Very few people today would turn the clock back, despite all the rhetoric of our opponents who use divorce as an excuse as to assault gay people on marriage. In fact, they are not seriously working to end divorce because they understand that most people believe rightly that is a decision that belongs to human beings and not one to be imposed from without.
The second important change was ending government interference in personal choices, such as whether or not to engage in sex with a married partner and whether to use contraception [the Supreme Court's Griswold decision]. Many opponents of gay people’s right to marry have never accepted that fundamental principle as a matter of law, even though they exert it in their own life, often hypocritically, behind closed doors. They profess to want to roll back the clock on the Griswold decision and all the others that established the principle that those decisions rest with individuals.
Third was ending race restrictions on who could marry whom; that only came to a conclusion, legally speaking, forty years ago. Forty years ago there were people defending with the same ferocity as that with which they oppose gay people’s right to marry, the government’s right to restrict who can marry based upon their race, preaching who was the right kind of person to marry somebody else. Forty years ago people believed that was okay.
The fourth was ending the legal subordination of women in marriage. The definition of marriage said it was okay for a husband to rape his wife because he is entitled to take what belongs to him. I worked on the case that ended what was called the marital rape exemption.

DS: That was here in New York?

EW: That was here in New York when I worked for the Brooklyn D.A.’s office. This is not ancient history! This is not the Civil War…this was in our own country in our lifetime in New York State. Marriage has always been this battlefield upon which larger questions have been addressed, and there have been many, many changes in the institution that have made it stronger and more reflective of American values--love, choice, freedom, equality, commitment, dedication--and reflective of who Americans really are, including men, women and people of diverse religious opinions, and gay people. Values and exclusion: that’s what this struggle is about.

DS: How did you first become involved in the marriage issue and why was it something you decided to dedicate yourself to?

EW: The short answer is that I don’t believe now, and I didn’t believe when I started this, that you can say you are for equality but acquiesce in exclusion from the central social and legal institution of this and virtually every other society. That’s not equality. You can’t say you are for equality if you accept exclusion from something so important legally and personally.

DS: But why marriage and not immigration, or adoption? There are many areas where gay people are excluded from participation. Why do you personally focus on marriage?

EW: These are not either/ors. It’s not like you have to pick one thing. However, the reason I think it is so central to the discussion is because marriage is not just about getting married.
Marriage is a vocabulary, it’s a vehicle, an engine for a larger discussion that moves people’s understanding of who gay people are, why sex discrimination is wrong, why exclusion is wrong in America, that brings up discussion the separation of church and state, that brings up discussion of whether there should be limitations or roles based on sex, or whether w:men and women should be treated equally. Whether two women should be considered whole when they form a committed and loving relationship, as opposed to saying they are unwhole and unequal because they don’t have a man in their life.
These larger questions are engendered by marriage, are promoted by the discussion around marriage, because marriage is a vocabulary in which non-gay people talk about these things and think about these things. Marriage has always been a battleground on which questions like this, large defining questions about what kind of country we are going to have and society we are going to have and the proper boundaries between the individual and the government, have been contested throughout American history. Gay people are not the first people to tackle these questions on the battleground of marriage. By claiming the battleground and vocabulary, we are not only addressing our exclusion from an important legal institution, to which thousands and thousands of protections, responsibilities and opportunities are connected. It’s even bigger than that, because we are not just talking about that set of legal protections and responsibilities and the tangible and intangible consequences that flow from that, we are indeed engaging through that vocabulary in a discussion about central and important questions that in a way advances our cause, and a larger causes, more effectively than virtually any other single thing. That’s why for all the work I have done on many different things, I see the marriage work as important.

The gay community and marriage

DS: It does not appear many gay people are galvanized to fight for the marriage right.

EW: For what do you see gay people more galvanized? I would say the opposite. I’ve seen gay people marching in the streets of California, on Freedom to Marry day all around the country. But marching in the streets is not the ONLY methodology of social change. Here in New York we passed a marriage bill this year. California passed a marriage bill through two consecutive legislatures after unseating anti-gay opponents and electing pro-gay legislators. That took action, that took planning.

DS: Larry Kramer, a very prominent gay critic of his own community, has taken it to task for its inaction and focusing on sex and having a good time instead of working to change their place in American society. But you are saying that there is no case of wider apathy amongst gays nor a relative disengagement with their issues?

EW: Absolutely we need to have more people break their silence, find their voice, engage in this discussion with the nongay people around them about who gay people really are, why marriage matters, how the denial of marriage hurts them, their loved ones, their partners.... We need more gay people. We also need more non-gay people.

DS: Do you feel disappointment with the level of involvement of the gay community in the marriage issue?

EW: I always want more. My job is to want more, to help make more happen, and I believe if more people would break their silence, take action, write a check, get involved, talk to their mothers and roommates, we’d go there faster. What keeps me going is spending less time on disappointment and more time on possibility, and I always believe we can get more. That leads me to push harder for more. A few months ago people thought we would never live to see a marriage bill passed in New York, particularly after the cruel blow of the loss in court last year. Within less than a year we got the New York assembly to pass a marriage bill. Just a few years ago people didn’t think we would ever get a legislature to pass a marriage bill. California broke that impasse, now twice.

DS: In July of 2006 there was a proclamation that went out called Beyond Same-Sex Marriage. It was signed by a lot of well-known people: Cornel West, Armistead Maupin, Gloria Steinem, Terrence McNally. All friends of the gay movement—

EW: —and all supporters of the freedom to marry—

DS: —That proclamation said too many resources are going toward gay marriage. In a similar vein, one Wikipedia editor asked, "Should we be fighting for the ultimate 'prize' of same-sex marriage when most states haven't even given the basic gay rights of non-discrimination in employment, non-discrimination in housing and non-discrimination in public places/accommodation?"

EW: Well, first of all, the signers you mentioned who signed that Beyond Marriage statement also are strong supporters of the freedom to marry. The statement itself did not actually say what you just said. Some of the organizers of Beyond Marriage who have their own political agenda took that broad coalition of people who signed off on the generically good goals laid there and presented it as a focused attack on the marriage work. More than the statement or many of the individual signatories themselves believe in.

DS: Have any of the signatories rescinded their support of the Beyond Marriage statement?

EW: I don’t know that anyone has been asked to do that. I think the reason why people sign statements like that is because they are in agreement with the general goals. They are not necessarily responsible for or paying attention to what some of the people with a more focused or stronger agenda have to say.

DS: What was the motivation behind the letter? People such as Richard Kim, associate editor of The Nation and one of the organizers, said it supported the notion that too many resources were going toward marriage fights.

EW: I think some of the organizers had an agenda. Richard Kim clearly has an agenda that is very different from what Gloria Steinem or Armistead Maupin have. I think if Terrence McNally, Steinem and the others were actually shown some of Richard Kim’s articles as opposed to the broad, conciliatory and coalition-building goals found in that statement, they would not endorse his articles nor his views.

DS: Why not?

EW: Kim’s articles are dismissive of the importance of marriage and the aspiration to marry that millions of people have, and that people like Gloria Steinem and Terrence McNally support. What I said to the Beyond Marriage organizers is that 90% of what is in that document we agree with and, in fact, I have worked for. In their schema I am supposedly the antithesis of everything they stand for, yet I would argue I have done more to attain their goals than they have.

DS: Are too many resources going toward marriage fights?

EW: That’s completely untrue. To the contrary, the work to win the freedom to marry, particularly in some of states that are primary battlegrounds right now, is under-funded. We need more resources to go to winning public opinion. I also don’t believe that money goes to one fight done right takes away from other fights we care about. I think when we do one fight right our movement’s work rises collectively. Gay people should not have to choose which is more important to them: their love or their job. That’s a false choice.

DS: Some argue that marriage fights are "too much, too soon" and that it hurts the other fights; that it causes a backlash.

EW: If you look at the successes of this year, we have won more non-discrimination measures, we have won more protections for transgender people, we have won more—or at least as many—gains for youth protection this year than any other year in our movement. All of it fueled by and accelerated by the marriage work and the discussions it engenders about gay people and our common humanity. That helps move the benchmarks about what is fair. Richard Kim and some of the others--not all--but some of the others have a false choice framing that continually undermines the common effort. Many of the goals that they support I also support. That said, I don’t think they speak for everybody that signed that statement, and the proof is that it went out there and went nowhere. Meanwhile, those of us who feel differently continue to move forward and rack gains for the movement, including, for example, the win in Iowa just a few weeks ago.

The Iowa and Maryland decisions

DS: Was it a win in Iowa, or was it a brief respite?

EW: It was a judge in Iowa finding that the denial of couples and families in Iowa of the freedom to marry has to change and end, and that same-sex couples should have the same freedom to marry as different sexed couples. That’s a win. It’s not a final win, because the case is being appealed. But just a few years ago if people were asked if we could get a judge in Iowa to strike down the exclusion from marriage, right there in the heartland, I think most people would have said we couldn’t.

DS: Last week, Maryland's Court of Appeals became the latest high court, after New York, Washington and New Jersey, to refuse to grant marriage rights to gay couples. What’s your reaction to the decision? There haven’t been many gay marriage gains recently.

EW: I don’t see it that way. I see very clearly we are in fact winning. The number of people who are wrestling with this question, their desire to be fair but who are also struggling with their conflict and discomfort about gay people. Many don’t understand yet how the denial of marriage really effects real life people who they are increasingly coming to know. They are having to think about how marriage is something precious and important to same-sex couples and their kids, as well as to them. They are wrestling with all this. I have no doubt and I see every day that more people are moving in our direction.

DS: Why is momentum in your movement seemingly stalled?

EW: What hasn’t happened yet is that the decision-makers at a given moment, whether it be judges on a court or the right combination of legislators and a governor, have gotten to the place where they have brought the second state [In 2004 Massachusetts became the first state to pass gay marriage]. What hasn’t happened is all those things coming into alignment to get the second get the fifth state. So you are absolutely right that the victory of the next state has remained a teeny bit beyond our grasp so far, although we continue to come closer and closer. 4-3 in Maryland is not something people thought was going to happen even that close just a few years ago. On the other hand, 4-3 is not good enough. It needs to be four to three in our favor, or five to two. We are this close to getting the second state, and Maryland was very disappointing because we hoped that it might be the next one.

DS: The decision was quite strong.

EW: No, the decision was quite mediocre.

DS: But the court ruled against even domestic partnerships.

EW: Correct, although the reason the court gave for that is that the plaintiff’s didn’t ask for it. They could have written more; they encouraged the legislature to move forward; they didn’t preclude a case challenging the denial of the incidence of marriage and unequal treatment generally; they simply ruled on the question before them. That said, it was a disappointing decision. It was very mediocre and the reasoning was shallow and inadequate. They never explained how if procreation is somehow central to marriage--which legally it clearly is not--how denying gay people the right to marry promotes procreation.
Freedom to Marry’s role

DS: What role does Freedom to Marry play in these cases?
EW: We provide a role as adviser and consultant when asked.

DS: Were you an adviser and consultant to the plaintiffs in the Maryland case?

EW: Yes.

DS: Does Freedom to Marry play more of a coordinating function?

EW: That’s one role Freedom to Marry plays. The lawyers in our movement know how to handle these cases; in Maryland it was the ACLU, and Ken Choe did a brilliant job at argument. My role is as an adviser and consultant, but is almost as much about being a friend and colleague as it is about the need for one more opinion. The more important role Freedom to Marry plays is to remind all of us in this movement that winning a lawsuit, winning a legislative battle, winning a ballot measure and winning the hearts and minds of the public are not things to be done in an isolated fashion. we need to integrate all the work of what Martin Luther King called the methodologies of social change. To make sure they are all being done in concert, so that when the lawyers are doing a brilliant job in court, the rest of us are doing a serious, persistent engagement of the public and opinion leaders. The way a lawsuit turns out is at least as much effected by the work that is done in the food court as it is by what is done in the law court. The conversations we have around the court are important as the briefs we file in the court. So Freedom to Marry's more important role in cases like Maryland is to support the leaders on the ground and to have the engagement that creates the climate for the court to rule in our favor.

DS: How do you handle losses such as the one in Maryland?

EW: What eased the pain of Maryland was the truly striking and compelling video of the Mayor of San Diego signing a measure in support of gay marriage, even though literally just hours before the press conference he said he would veto it. He’s a Republican ex-police chief, but when he looked his gay staffers and his gay daughter in the face and talked with them, he realized he couldn’t do it, and came out for the freedom to marry. He talked about how civil unions--the position he had hours before--was not good enough. He provided a moral witness, a living testimony, of a person thinking deep and the power that gay people have to change minds when they speak to people like him and get them to look deep in their heart. That moment last week is an indication of how more gay people and more non-gay people can play more of a role in moving this momentum toward marriage equality even faster.

Domestic partnerships and civil unions

DS: Why are domestic partnerships or civil unions not adequate?

EW: Civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other legal mechanisms can serve a value in helping end discrimination and helping achieve protections and some degree of security for families. But they are no substitute for the tangible and intangible security, protection, responsibility and respect that come with the freedom to marry. I’m all for partnerships, civil unions and other mechanisms that help families meet their needs and do better. But not as a substitute for ending discrimination in marriage. Gay people should not have to go in the back door and settle for less; they should not have to take a legal mechanism that is separate and lesser, when we already have one system in our country that fully provides protections and responsibilities and respect. That’s called marriage. Most non-gay people would not trade their marriage for a civil union, and gay people shouldn’t have to, either. Especially when there is no good reason for the government sending some families around the back while others come in the front.

DS: People like Alan Dershowitz have raised an argument that the word 'marriage' should be reserved for religious contexts, and in civil and legal contexts we should use a uniform concept of civil unions.

EW: Is Alan Dershowitz married? [he is] For those same reasons he found it important to be legally married, and entitled to respect for that, so should gay people be married. If it’s good enough for Professor Dershowitz, it’s good enough for us.

DS: He’s not arguing against marriage, but against marriage as a civil institution.

EW: Why do we suddenly have to throw out the entire system, invent some whole new thing, just because gay people want to get married? I don’t actually see Alan Dershowitz doing anything about this, other than writing an article, because he probably rightly understand it would be an immense project to go around the country and convince 200 million plus people to trade in their marriage for something new and explain why we are doing this when we actually have a legal system that already clearly distinguishes between civil and religious marriage. Government doesn’t issue bar mitzvah licenses or communion licenses, but it issues marriage licenses because marriage is a legal institution that is distinct from whatever ceremonies or important meaning people find when they celebrate their religious marriage in church, synagogue, temple or mosque.
Marriage in the United States is a civil union; but a civil union, as it has come to be called, is not marriage. It is a proposed hypothetical legal mechanism, since it doesn’t exist in most places, to give some of the protections but also withhold something precious from gay people. There’s no good reason to do that. We don’t need to invent a whole new system because we already have a distinction between civil and religious.

DS: People argue that system is already broke. Half of marriages end in divorce. If that system isn’t working for straights, why should we introduce it for gay people?

EW: I don’t accept that at all. The system works for individuals who seek the freedom to marry, enter into marriages, and find enrichment and love and support and public affirmation and a vast array of legal and economic consequences. Many marriages may fail individually, but as an institution it works and many individual marriages work. Most people who divorce also remarry. That every marriage doesn’t work does not mean that marriage as an institution isn’t serving very important functions for people. What Alan Dershowitz proposes is something people say when they don’t bite the bullet of simply saying we should end the exclusion of gay people from marriage. Instead, they go off into some whole other academic abstraction that sounds good, but that they themselves don’t follow. They give no political plan for achieving it, and they can’t even articulate a reason for why we need to do it. That proposal to create something brand new out of cloth called civil union, there’s no reason why that would actually work better or worse to affect the current divorce rate. Why would that be any different than it is for marriage?

Transgender people and marriage

DS: Transgender people face specific issues in marriage since what constitutes a man or a woman is often legally defined. How does the marriage movement address this issue?

EW: Our understanding of how you define a man and a woman should absolutely be true to people’s lived experience and should not be laced with archaic gender roles and discriminatory attitudes about men and women or about people who are transgender. Second, we all have an interest in ending sex discrimination in marriage. How you come to be a same-sex couple, whether by transition as a transgender person, or simply by falling in love with a person of the same sex, really shouldn’t affect your ability to get a marriage license. It should not matter to the government because there is no good reason for the government to impose a different sex restriction on a couple who wants to marry. That’s true whether it be a couple that includes a person who is transgender or a couple who happened to get there by falling in love.

DS: Do you see the issues interrelated, or does winning the freedom to marry itself usurp any problems faced by intersexed or transgender people?

EW: I think ending the different sex restriction on who can marry and ending sex discrimination in marriage would significantly help people who are transgender, people who are gay and people who fall in love with somebody of the same sex. Let’s remember: we don’t fall in love with categories, or an entire sex. A man doesn’t marry women, he marries a particular woman he loves. You marry the man you love, and that’s true of transgender people, straight people and gay people. So ending discrimination in marriage would help all of us, but of course ending discrimination in marriage doesn’t solve every problem for everybody. It’s not like ending discrimination in marriage is the only thing that matters.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Movie 'The Assassination of Jesse James' leaked on the internet

>>Full Story, a website that allows users to display links to movies you "can watch for free online" has leaked The Assassination of Jesse James an upcoming movie to be released in theaters on October 10. The movie can bee seen in six parts, all which link to an online video hosting website called Veoh, similar to

The movie, was by someone attending what appears to be a special screening of the film and can be downloaded free of charge, 12 days before it's even released into theaters. When going to view the movie, you have the option to download the part you are watching.

Directed by Andrew Dominik, the movie is about an outlaw named Robert Ford, a man who decided to join the James-Younger Gang which was the gang of Jesse James, an American outlaw, in the 1800's. The movie is based on the novel of the same name, written by the novelist Ron Hansen.

Brad Pitt is starring as James, and Casey Affleck will star as Ford.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Interview with musician John Vanderslice

>>Full Interview

John Vanderslice has recently learned to enjoy America again. The singer-songwriter, who National Public Radio called "one of the most imaginative, prolific and consistently rewarding artists making music today," found it through an unlikely source: his French girlfriend. "For the first time in my life I wouldn't say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position..."

Since breaking off from San Francisco's legendary local band, mk Ultra, Vanderslice has produced six critically-acclaimed albums. His most recent, Emerald City, was released July 24th. Named after the nickname given to the American-occupied Green Zone in Baghdad, it chronicles a world on the verge of imminent collapse under the weight of its own paranoia and loneliness. Wikinews reporter David Shankbone recently went to the Bowery Ballroom and spoke with Vanderslice about music, photography, touring and what makes a depressed liberal angry.

DS: How is the tour going?

JV: Great! I was just on the Wiki page for Inland Empire, and there is a great synopsis on the film. What's on there is the best thing I have read about that film. The tour has been great. The thing with touring: say you are on vacation...let's say you are doing an intense vacation. Once I went to Thailand alone, and there's a part of you that just wants to go home. I don't know what it is. I like to be home, but on tour there is a free floating anxiety that says: Go Home. Go Home.

DS: Anywhere, or just outside of the country?

JV: Anywhere. I want to be home in San Francisco, and I really do love being on tour, but there is almost like a homing beacon inside of me that is beeping and it creates a certain amount of anxiety.

DS: I can relate: You and I have moved around a lot, and we have a lot in common. Pranks, for one. David Bowie is another.

JV: Yeah, I saw that you like David Bowie on your MySpace.

DS: When I was in college I listened to him nonstop. Do you have a favorite album of his?

JV: I loved all the things from early to late seventies. Hunky Dory to Low to "Heroes" to Lodger. Low changed my life. The second I got was Hunky Dory, and the third was Diamond Dogs, which is a very underrated album. Then I got Ziggy Stardust and I was like, wow, this is important...this means something. There was tons of music I discovered in the seventh and eighth grade that I discovered, but I don't love, respect and relate to it as much as I do Bowie. Especially Low...there was just a tape off with a panel with Steve Albini and how it has had a lot of impact.

DS: You said seventh and eighth grade. Were you always listening to people like Bowie or bands like the Velvets, or did you have an Eddie Murphy My Girl Wants to Party All the Time phase?

JV: The thing for me that was the uncool music, I had an older brother who really into prog music, so it was like Gentle Giant and Yes and King Crimson and Genesis. All the new Genesis that was happening at the time was mind-blowing. Phil Collins's solo record...we had every single solo record, like the Mike Rutherford solo record.

DS: Do you shun that music now or is it still a part of you?

JV: Oh no, I appreciate all music. I'm an anti-snob. Last night when I was going to sleep I was watching Ocean's Thirteen on my computer. It's not like I always need to watch some super-fragmented, fucked-up art movie like Inland Empire. It's part of how I relate to the audience. We end every night by going out into the audience and playing acoustically, directly, right in front of the audience, six inches away—that is part of my philosophy.

DS: Do you think New York or San Francisco suffers from artistic elitism more?

JV: I think because of the Internet that there is less and less elitism; everyone is into some little superstar on YouTube and everyone can now appreciate now Justin Timberlake. There is no need for factions. There is too much information, and I think the idea has broken down that some people...I mean, when was the last time you met someone who was into ska, or into punk, and they dressed the part? I don't meet those people anymore.

DS: Everything is fusion now, like cuisine. It's hard to find a purely French or purely Vietnamese restaurant.

JV: Exactly! When I was in high school there were factions. I remember the guys who listened to Black Flag. They looked the part! Like they were in theater.

DS: You still find some emos.

JV: Yes, I believe it. But even emo kids, compared to their older brethren, are so open-minded. I opened up for Sunny Day Real Estate and Pedro the Lion, and I did not find their fans to be the cliquish people that I feared, because I was never playing or marketed in the emo genre. I would say it's because of the Internet.

DS: You could clearly create music that is more mainstream pop and be successful with it, but you choose a lot of very personal and political themes for your music. Are you ever tempted to put out a studio album geared toward the charts just to make some cash?

JV: I would say no. I'm definitely a capitalist, I was an econ major and I have no problem with making money, but I made a pact with myself very early on that I was only going to release music that was true to the voices and harmonic things I heard inside of me—that were honestly inside me—and I have never broken that pact. We just pulled two new songs from Emerald City because I didn't feel they were exactly what I wanted to have on a record. Maybe I'm too stubborn or not capable of it, but I don't think...part of the equation for me: this is a low stakes game, making indie music. Relative to the world, with the people I grew up with and where they are now and how much money they make. The money in indie music is a low stakes game from a financial perspective. So the one thing you can have as an indie artist is credibility, and when you burn your credibility, you are done, man. You can not recover from that. These years I have being true to myself, that's all I have.

DS: Do you think Spoon burned their indie credibility for allowing their music to be used in commercials and making more studio-oriented albums? They are one of my favorite bands, but they have come a long way from A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell.

JV: They have, but no, I don't think they've lost their credibility at all. I know those guys so well, and Brit and Jim are doing exactly the music they want to do. Brit owns his own studio, and they completely control their means of production, nad they are very insulated by being on Merge, and I think their new album—and I bought Telephono when it came out—is as good as anything they have done.

DS: Do you think letting your music be used on commercials does not bring the credibility problem it once did? That used to be the line of demarcation--the whole Sting thing--that if you did commercials you sold out.

JV: Five years ago I would have said that it would have bothered me. It doesn't bother me anymore. The thing is that bands have shrinking options for revenue streams, and sync deals and licensing, it's like, man, you better be open to that idea. I remember when Spike Lee said, 'Yeah, I did these Nike commercials, but it allowed me to do these other films that I wanted to make,' and in some ways there is an article that Of Montreal and Spoon and other bands that have done sync deals have actually insulated themselves further from the difficulties of being a successful independent band, because they have had some income come in that have allowed them to stay put on labels where they are not being pushed around by anyone.
The ultimate problem—sort of like the only philosophical problem is suicide—the only philosophical problem is whether to be assigned to a major label because you are then going to have so much editorial input that it is probably going to really hurt what you are doing.

DS: Do you believe the only philosophical question is whether to commit suicide?

JV: Absolutely. I think the rest is internal chatter and if I logged and tried to counter the internal chatter I have inside my own brain there is no way I could match that.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and their music?

JV: The thing for me is they are profound iconic figures for me, and I don't even know their music. I don't know Winehouse or Doherty's music, I just know that htey are acting a very crucial, mythic part in our culture, and they might be doing it unknowingly.

DS: Glorification of drugs? The rock lifestyle?

JV: Almost, like, an out-of-control Id, like a completely unregulated personal relationship to the world in general. It's not just drugs, it's everything. It's arguing and scratching people's faces and driving on the wrong side of the road. Those are just the infractions that land them in jail. I think it might be unknowing, but in some ways they are beautiful figures for going that far off the deep end.

DS: As tragic figures?

JV: Yeah, as totally tragic figures. I appreciate that. I take no pleasure in saying that, but I also believe they are important. The figures that go outside—let's say GG Allin or Penderetsky in the world of classical music—people who are so far outside of the normal boundaries of behavior and communication, it in some way enlarges the size of your landscape, and it's beautiful. I know it sounds weird to say that, but it is.

DS: They are examples, as well. I recently covered for Wikinews the Iranian President speaking at Columbia and a student named Matt Glick told me that he supported the Iranian President speaking so that he could protest him, that if we don't give a platform and voice for people, how can we say that they are wrong? I think it's almost the same thing; they are beautiful as examples of how living a certain way can destroy you, and to look at them and say, "Don't be that."

JV: Absolutely, and let me tell you where I'm coming from. I don't do drugs, I drink maybe three or four times a year. I don't have any problematic relationship to drugs because there has been a history around me, like probably any musician or creative person, of just blinding array of drug abuse and problems. For me, I am a little bit of a control freak and I don't have those issues. I just shut those doors. But I also understand and I am very sympathetic to someone who does not shut that door, but goes inot that room and stays.

DS: Is it a problem for you to work with people who are using drugs?

JV: I would never work with them. It is a very selfish decision to make and usually those people are total energy vampires and they will take everything they can get from you. Again, this is all in theory...I love that stuff in theory. If Amy Winehouse was my girlfriend, I would probably not be very happy.

DS: Your latest CD is Emerald City and that is an allusion to the compound that we created in Baghdad. How has the current political client affected you in terms of your music?

JV: In some ways, both Pixel Revolt and Emerald City were born out of a recharged and re-energized position of my being....I was so beaten down after the 2000 election and after 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan; I was so depleted as a person after all that stuff happened, that I had to write my way out of it. I really had to write political songs because for me it is a way of making sense and processing what is going on. The question I'm asked all the time is do I think is a responsibility of people to write politically and I always say, My God, no. if you're Morrissey, then you write Morrissey stuff. If you are Dan Bejar and Destroyer, then you are Dan Bejar and you are a fucking genius. Write about whatever it is you want to write about. But to get out of that hole I had to write about that.

DS: There are two times I felt deeply connected to New York City, and that was 9/11 and the re-election of George Bush. The depression of the city was palpable during both. I was in law school during the Iraq War, and then when Hurricane Katrina hit, we watched our countrymen debate the logic of rebuilding one of our most culturally significant cities, as we were funding almost without question the destruction of another country to then rebuild it, which seems less and less likely. Do you find it is difficult to enjoy living in America when you see all of these sorts of things going on, and the sort of arguments we have amongst ourselves as a people?

JV: I would say yes, absolutley, but one thing changed that was very strange: I fell in love with a French girl and really the genesis of Emerald City was going through this Visa process to get her into the country, which was through the State Department. In the middle of process we had her Visa reviewed and everything shifted over to Homeland Security. All of my complicated feelings about this country got even more dour and more complicated, because here was Homeland Security mailing me letters and they were all involved in my love life, and they were grilling my girlfriend in Paris and they were grilling me, and we couldn't travel any more because she had a pending visa. In some strange ways the thing that changed everything was that we finally got the visa accepted and she came here. Now she is a Parisian girl, and it goes without saying that she despises America, and she would never have considered moving to America. So she moves here and is asking me almost breathlessly, How can you allow this to happen--

DS: --you, John Vanderslice, how can you allow this---

JV: --Me! Yes! So for the first time in my life I wouldn't say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position of saying, Listen, not that many people vote and the churches run fucking everything here, man. It's like if you take out the evangelical Chrsitian you have basically a progressive western European country. That's all there is to it. But these people don't vote, poor people don't vote, there's a complicated equation of extreme corruption and voter fraud and here I am trying to rattle of all the reasons why I am personally not responsible, and it put me in a very interesting position. And then Sarkozy got elected in France and I watched her go through the same horrific thing that we've gone through here, and Sarkozy is a nut, man. This guy is a nut.
"I was so beaten down after the 2000 election and after 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, I was so depleted as a person after all that stuff happened, and I had to write my way out of it; I really had to write political songs because for me it is a way of making sense of processing what is going on."photo: David Shankbone

photo: David Shankbone

DS: But he doesn't compare to George Bush or Dick Cheney. He's almost a liberal by American standards.

JV: No, because their President doesn't have much power. It's interesting because he is a WAPO right-wing and he was very close to Le Pen and he was a card-carrying straight-up Nazi. I view Sarkozy as somewhat of a far-right candidate, especially in the context of French politics. He is dismantling everything. It's all changing. The school system, the remnants of the socialized medical care system. The thing is he doesn't have the foreign policy power that Bush does. Bush and Cheney have unprecedented amounts of power, and black budgets...I mean, come on, we're spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, and that's just the money accounted for.

DS: What's the reaction to you and your music when you play off the coasts?

JV: I would say good...

DS: Have you ever been Dixiechicked?

JV: No! I want to be! I would love to be, because then that means I'm really part of some fiery debate, but I would say there's a lot of depressed in every single town. You can say Salt Lake City, you can look at what we consider to be conservative cities, and when you play those towns, man, the kids that come out are more or less on the same page and politically active because they are fish out of water.

DS: Depression breeds apathy, and your music seems geared toward anger, trying to wake people from their apathy. Your music is not maudlin and sad, but seems to be an attempt to awaken a spirit, with a self-reflective bent.

JV: That's the trick. I would say that honestly, when Katrina happened, I thought, "okay, this is a trick to make people so crazy and so angry that they can't even think. If you were in a community and basically were in a more or less quasi-police state surveillance society with no accountability, where we are pouring untold billions into our infrastructure to protect outside threats against via terrorism, or whatever, and then a natural disaster happens and there is no response. There is an empty response. There is all these ships off the shore that were just out there, just waiting, and nobody came. Michael Brown. It is one of the most insane things I have ever seen in my life.

DS: Is there a feeling in San Francisco that if an earthquake struck, you all would be on your own?

JV: Yes, of course. Part of what happened in New Orleans is that it was a Catholic city, it was a city of sin, it was a black city. And San Francisco? Bush wouldn't even visit California in the beginning because his numbers were so low. Before Schwarzenegger definitely. I'm totally afraid of the earthquake, and I think everyone is out there. America is in the worst of both worlds: a laissez-fare economy, Grover Norquist anti-tax, starve the government until it turns into nothing more than a Argentinian-style government where there are these super rich invisible elite who own everything and there's no distribution of wealth and nothing that resembles the New Deal, twentieth century embracing of human rights and equality, war against poverty, all of these things. They are trying to kill all that stuff. So, in some ways, it is the worst of both worlds because they are pushing us towards that, and on the same side they have put in a Supreme Court that is so right wing and so fanatically opposed to upholding civil rights, whether it be for foreign fighters...I mean, we are going to see movement with abortion, Miranda rights and stuff that is going to come up on the Court. We've tortured so many people who have had no intelligence value that you have to start to look at torture as a symbolic and almost ritualized behavior; you have this...

DS: Organ failure. That's our baseline...

JV: Yeah, and you have to wonder about how we were torturing people to do nothing more than to send the darkest signal to the world to say, Listen, we are so fucking weird that if you cross the line with us, we are going to be at war with your religion, with your government, and we are going to destroy you.

DS: I interviewed Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running for President, and he feels we should use as a deterrent against Islam the bombing of the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

JV: You would radicalize the very few people who have not been radicalized, yet, by our actiosn and beliefs. We know what we've done out there, and we are going to paying for this for a long time. When Hezbollah was bombing Israel in that border excursion last year, the Hezbollah fighters were writing the names of battles they fought with the Jews in the Seventh Century on their helmets. This shit is never forgotten.

DS: You read a lot of the stuff that is written about you on blogs and on the Internet. Do you ever respond?

JV: No, and I would say that I read stuff that tends to be . I've done interviews that have been solely about film and photography. For some reason hearing myself talk about music, and maybe because I have been talking about it for so long, it's snoozeville. Most interviews I do are very regimented and they tend to follow a certain line. I understand. If I was them, it's a 200 word piece and I may have never played that town, in Des Moines or something. But, in general, it's band mates ask why don't I read the weeklies when I'm in town, and Google my name. It would be really like looking yourself in the mirror. When you look at yourself in the mirror you are just error-correcting. There must be some sort of hall of mirrors thing that happens when you are completely involved in the Internet conversation about your music, and in some ways I think that I'm very innocently making music, because I don't make music in any way that has to do with the response to that music. I don't believe that the response to the music has anything to do with it. This is something I got from John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, I think the perception of the artwork, in some ways, has nothing to do with the artwork, and I think that is a beautiful, glorious and flattering thing to say to the perceiver, the viewer of that artwork. I've spent a lot of time looking at Paul Klee's drawings, lithographs, watercolors and paintings and when I read his diaries I'm not sure how much of a correlation there is between what his color schemes are denoting and what he is saying and what I am getting out of it. I'm not sure that it matters. Inland Empire is a great example. Lynch basically says, I don't want to talk about it because I'm going to close doors for the viewer. It's up to you. It's not that it's a riddle or a puzzle. You know how much of your own experience you are putting into the digestion of your own art. That's not to say that that guy arranges notes in an interesting way, and sings in an interesting way and arranges words in an interesting way, but often, if someone says they really like my music, what I want to say is, That's cool you focused your attention on that thing, but it does not make me go home and say, Wow, you're great. My ego is not involved in it.

DS: Often people assume an artist makes an achievement, say wins a Tony or a Grammy or even a Cable Ace Award and people think the artist must feel this lasting sense of accomplishment, but it doesn't typically happen that way, does it? Often there is some time of elation and satisfaction, but almost immediately the artist is being asked, "Okay, what's the next thing? What's next?" and there is an internal pressure to move beyond that achievement and not focus on it.

JV: Oh yeah, exactly. There's a moment of relief when a mastered record gets back, and then I swear to you that ten minutes after that point I feel there are bigger fish to fry. I grew up listening to classical music, and there is something inside of me that says, Okay, I've made six records. Whoop-dee-doo. I grew up listening to Gustav Mahler, and I will never, ever approach what he did.

DS: Do you try?

JV: I love Mahler, but no, his music is too expansive and intellectual, and it's realized harmonically and compositionally in a way that is five languages beyond me. And that's okay. I'm very happy to do what I do. How can anyone be so jazzed about making a record when you are up against--shit--five thousand records a week?

DS: But a lot of it's crap--

JV: --a lot of it's crap, but a lot of it is really, really good and doesn't get the attention it deserves. A lot of it is very good. I'm shocked at some of the stuff I hear. I listen to a lot of music and I am mailed a lot of CDs, and I'm on the web all the time.

DS: I've done a lot of photography for Wikipedia and the genesis of it was an attempt to pin down reality, to try to understand a world that I felt had fallen out of my grasp of understanding, because I felt I had no sense of what this world was about anymore. For that, my work is very encyclopedic, and it fit well with Wikipedia for that reason. What was the reason why you began investing time and effort into photography?

JV: It came from trying to making sense of touring. Touring is incredibly fast and there is so much compressed imagery that comes to you, whether it is the window in the van, or like now, when we are whisking through the Northeast in seven days. Let me tell you, I see a lot of really close people in those seven days. We move a lot, and there is a lot of input coming in. The shows are tremendous and, it is emotionally so overwhelming that you can not log it. You can not keep a file of it. It's almost like if I take photos while I am doing this, it slows it down or stops it momentarily and orders it. It has made touring less of a blur. Concretizes these times. I go back and develop the film, and when I look at the tour I remember things in a very different way. It coalesces. Let's sya I take on fucking photo in Athens, Georgia. That's really intense. And I tend to take a photo of someone I like, or photos of people I really admire and like.

DS: What bands are working with your studio, Tiny Telephones?

JV: Death Cab for Cutie is going to come back and track their next record there. Right now there is a band called Hello Central that is in there, and they are really good. They're from L.A. Maids of State was just in there and Deerhoof was just in there. Book of Knotts is coming in soon. That will be cool because I think they are going to have Beck sing on a tune. That will be really cool. There's this band called Jordan from Paris that is starting this week.

DS: Do they approach you, or do you approach them?

JV I would say they approach me. It's generally word of mouth. We never advertise and it's very cheap, below market. It's analog. There's this self-fulfilling thing that when you're booked, you stay booked. More bands come in, and they know about it and they keep the business going that way. But it's totally word of mouth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wikinews interviews U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo

>>Full Interview

Tom Tancredo has been a member of the United States House of Representatives since 1999, representing the 6th Congressional District of Colorado. He rose to national prominence for his strong stance against illegal immigration and his announcement that he was a Republican candidate in the 2008 Presidential election. Wikinews reporter David Shankbone recently spoke with the Congressman:

WN: Throughout my life my father, a lifelong Republican and an avid listener of Rush Limbaugh, told me that all we needed in this country was a Republican Congress, Republican Senate and a Republican White House to get this country on the right track. Last year he expressed his disappointment to me. So many Republicans, like my father, feel lied to or let down by the party. The rationale for the Iraq War, the sex and bribery scandals, the pork barrel projects, and, as Alan Greenspan recently pointed out, the fiscal irresponsibility. People feel there have been many broken promises. Why should someone vote Republican today?

TT: The best reason I can give: we’re not the Democrats. The best thing we have going for us is the Democrats. Maybe that’s as far as I can go; I hope that there are candidates out there who will reflect and carry out the values that your father believes in when he votes Republican. To the extent you can ferret those people out from the others, that’s who he should vote for. The party was taught a pretty harsh lesson in this last election. I have noticed in the last several months we have done a better job of defending Republican principles as the minority than we ever did in the majority. I feel more in tune with the party now than I have throughout the Bush Presidency. Even before he came in, we were in the majority and we were still spending too much. Hopefully we can say that we were spanked by the American public and that we learned our lessons. There are true believers out there who will stick to their guns, and it’s a matter of principle. What’s the alternative? Hillary Clinton?

WN: You yourself said you would only serve three terms in Congress, but then broke that promise. What caused you to reverse yourself?

TT: What happened was this: having ‘lame duck’ stamped on your forehead in Congress when they know you are not going to be around. Then the committee assignments become less meaningful. That was just one of the factors. Far more significant was my becoming the most visible Congressional member on the immigration issue. When I came into Congress I approached Lamar Smith, who was “The Man” on immigration, and said to him, “I’ve come to help you on this issue.” I felt it was one of the most serious we face as a nation. Lamar said, “It’s all yours! I’ve had it with 10 years of busting my head against the wall!” I started doing special orders---that’s when you speak to an empty chamber and whoever is watching CSPAN--and I did that night after night and wondered if it was worth it; was anyone paying attention? Then I’d go back to my office to pick up my keys and I’d see all the telephone lines illuminated, and the fax machine would be going, and a pile of e-mails would be handed to me the next day. I realized: people pay attention. I started picking it up, speaking around the country, leading the caucus on it. In time it became apparent there was nobody to hand the baton to; there were supporters, but not one single soul was willing to take it on as their issue. It was the first year of my second term that I sent a letter to every supporter I had. I said I had come to this conclusion that at the end of my third term (which is three years away) I don’t know if I will run again or not, but that the decision would not be based upon the term limit pledge, because immigration issue makes me feel I have a responsibility I can not shirk. I said that if anybody who gave me money based upon my term limits pledge wanted it back, I would do so. I received maybe three requests.

WN: There are an estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. To round up and deport millions of people would be a major government undertaking, requiring massive federal spending and invasive enforcement. What level of funding would be necessary for U.S. Immigration and Customs to achieve the level of enforcement that you'd like to see?

TT: Only a relatively slight increase because the only thing you have to do, other than building a barrier on the southern border, is go after employers. We need to go aggressively after the employers, and try to identify some of the more high profile employers who are hiring illegal aliens. Go after them with fines, and if they are not only hiring them but also conspiring to bring them in, then they could go to jail. A perp walk would have a chilling effect. If you break that magnet, most illegal aliens would go home voluntarily. An article in the Rocky Mountain News stated there has been an employer crackdown in Colorado, and that they are going home or moving on to other states. If we did it nationally, they will return home, because the jobs are no longer available. It doesn’t have to happen over time or instantaneously. The costs to the American public for 12 million illegals are enormous and far more than are paid for by the illegal immigrants themselves in taxes.

WN: How long would full enforcement take for you to succeed?

TT: It would be a couple of years before employers were weaned off illegal immigrants and then a couple more years before you saw a really significant reduction.

WN: Can you explain your remarks about bombing the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina as a deterrent to terrorists operating against the United States.

TT: The question I was answering was "What would you do if Islamic terrorists set off on or more nuclear devices in the United States?" My response was that we would need to come up with a deterrent, and that deterrent may very well be a threat to take out their holy sites if they did something like that in the United States. I still believe it is something we must consider as a possible deterrent because at the present time there are no negative consequences that would accrue to the people who commit a crime such as a nuclear, chemical or biological attack. There are no negative consequences; they may die in the attack but that is not a negative consequence for them. Usually they aren’t going to be state actors.

WN: But wouldn’t an attack on Mecca and Medina be an attack on a sovereign state?

TT: You are not attacking the state, but the religious ideology itself. Holy sites are not just in Saudi Arabia; there’s a number of them. In fact, Iran has one of the holiest cities in Islam. And I never used the word nuclear device; I was talking about taking out a physical structure. The reason I suggested it as a possible deterrent is because it is the only thing that matches the threat itself. The threat is from a religious ideology. Not just from Islam, but from a nation whose requirements include jihad against infidels, and we are a threat to their culture, which is why they believe we need to be destroyed. We must understand what motivates our opponents in order to develop a successful response. I’ve received death threats, enormous criticism, and I’ve been hung in effigy in Pakistan, but nobody has given me an alternative strategy that would be a deterrent to such an event. I guarantee when you read the national intelligence estimates, you would be hard pressed to not walk away from doing something.

WN: Aside from becoming President, if you could be granted three wishes, what would they be?

TT: It was the other night that I saw for the third or fourth time Saving Private Ryan and in the last scene Private Ryan asks, "Have I been a good man, have I earned it?" My greatest wish is to be a good father and to have earned everything I have been given in this life. And to be a better Christian.

WN: Farmers rely heavily on seasonal manual labor. Strict enforcement of immigration laws will inevitably reduce the pool of migrant labor and thus increase costs. Do you support tariffs or other government intervention to keep American farm products competitive?

TT: No, I don’t , because I challenge the premise of the question. The ability for farmers to obtain workers in the United States is only minimally hampered by the immigration process because there is, in fact, H-2A, the visa that is designed specifically for agricultural workers. We can bring in 10,000,000 if we want to. There are no caps. There are restrictions in terms of pay and healthcare benefits, and that’s what makes hiring illegal aliens more attractive. The costs would increase for certain agricultural interest, but it would be regional. You would also see a very aggressive movement toward the mechanization of farm work. We are seeing it today in a lot of areas. We saw it in the tomato industry with the Bracero Program. That was a program many growers relied heavily upon: workers, primarily from Mexcio would come up seasonally, work, and then went back home. It was successful. But liberals ended the program as a bad idea because the immigrants couldn’t bring their families. When that happened, tomato growers said they’d go out of business. Lo and behold they developed machinery that can harvest citrus fruit, and now they are genetically engineering trees that have a thicker bark but are more flexible so they can be shaken by these machines. You’ll see it more and more.

WN: Do you agree that our forefathers intended birthright citizenship?

TT: No, the Fourteenth Amendment, upon which the concept of birthright citizenship is based, was a response to the Dred Scott decision.
During the original Senate debate there was an understanding that it wouldn’t be provided to people simply because they were born here, but instead to people under our jurisdiction. For instance, nobody assumes a child born to an embassy employee or an ambassador is a citizen of this country. There was an understanding and a reference to "under the jurisdiction" of the United States.

WN: You and Karl Rove engaged, in your words, in a screaming match over immigration, and Rove said that you would never again "darken the doorstep of the White House." Are you still considered persona non grata at the White House?

TT: Yeah, even though he is gone, the President’s feelings about my criticism of him have not changed. It wasn’t my stand on immigration, it was my criticisms of the President that have made me persona non grata.

WN: Psychologist Robert Hare has discussed in his work the use of doublespeak as a hallmark of psychopaths, and social scientists have pointed out that the use of doublespeak is most prevalent in the fields law and politics. Do these two trends alarm you?

TT [Laughs] Yes and no. Unfortunately doublespeak is all too characteristic of people in my profession.

WN: What is the proper role of Congress in the time of war?

TT: To first declare it, and then to fund it or not.

WN: Politics is dominated by lawyers. What other group of people or professions would you prefer to see dominate the field of politics and why?

TT: I can’t think of a particular profession from which I would be more comfortable drawing politicians from.

WN: Do you think lawyers are better for handling legislation and as politicians?

TT: No, they don’t offer anything particularly advantageous to the process. I don’t think it should be dominated by one profession. I’ll tell you what this profession is, and it doesn’t matter what field you come out of. There’s something I noticed here. I tell every single freshman I come across that there are very few words of wisdom, having only been here for ten years, that I can pass along to you but there is one thing I can tell you: this place is Chinese water torture on your principles. Every single day there is another drip, and it comes from a call from a colleague asking you to sign on to a bill you wouldn’t have signed on to; but it’s a friend, and it’s not that big a deal. Or a constituent who comes in and asks you to do something and you think it wouldn’t be such a big deal; or a special interest group that asks you to vote for something you wouldn’t vote for. After time it erodes the toughest of shells if one isn’t careful doesn’t think about it. Even if you recognize that these small steps lead to a feeling that remaining here is the ultimate goal; that the acquisition of power or the maintenance of power is the ultimate goal, that really does… it doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer or not, it does seem to have an impact on people. It’s a malady that is very common in Washington, and you have to think about it, you really do, or you will succumb to it. I don’t mean to suggest I’ve been impervious to these pressures, but I’ve tried my best to avoid it. One reason I am persona non grata at the White House is not just because of immigration, but because I refuse to support him on his trade policy, his education policy, Medicare and prescription drugs initiatives. I remember leaving that debate at 6:30 on a Saturday morning , after having the President call every freshman off the floor of the House to badger them into submission until there were enough votes to pass it. I remember a woman, a freshman colleague, walking away in tears saying she had never been through anything like that in her life. Here was a Republican Congress increasing government to an extent larger than it had been increased since Medicare had come into existence. Your dad should have been absolutely mortified, because it was against all of our principles. And I know the leadership was torn, but we had the President pressing us: we had to do it, we had to stay in power, the President is asking us to do it. Principles be damned. There were people who caved in that night who I never in a million years thought would.
And the threats! “You like being Committee Chairman?” Yes I do. “Do you want to be Chairman tomorrow?” And that’s how it happens. I was called into Tom Delay’s office because I was supporting Republican challengers to Republican incumbents. I had a group called Team America that went out and did that. He called me and said to me, “You’re jeopardizing your career in this place by doing these things.” And I said, “Tom, out of all the things you can threaten with me that is the least effective because I do not look at this place as a career.”

WN: You have supported proposed constitutional amendments that would ban abortion and same-sex marriage. You are also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. Why do you believe that the U.S. Constitution should regulate medical procedures and personal relationships, but not gun ownership?

TT: The issue of medical procedures and relationships: I don’t really believe the federal government or any level of government has any business in determining about who I care about, or who anybody cares about, but I do believe they have a legitimate role, and the federal government has a responsibility, because of reciprocity. We are only one federal judge decision away from having gay marriage imposed on all states. That’s why there is a need for a Constitutional Amendment. I really believe a family--male, female, rearing children--I believe that is an important structure for the state itself, the way we procreate, which hopefully provides a stable environment for children. That is important to the state, and that’s why I think it’s legitimate. The reciprocity clause forces us into thinking about a Constitutional Amendment. I believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned because I think it’s lousy law, and many liberal jurists think it’s lousy because it read into the Constitution a right to privacy. I don’t’ see a connection between these things and the 2nd Amendment. Same-sex marriage and abortion, perhaps, but I don’t see a connection to the Second Amendment question. I support the 2nd Amendment because it is one of the most important we have. It’s a right we have to protect a lot of our other rights. And in our urban centers…and I don’t’ believe as some Second Amendment radicals believe that every single person has that right. I don’t think so! If you have committed a felony, or if you are a danger to yourself or someone else, then you shouldn’t be able to obtain a firearm, but law-abiding citizens should because it gives them a sense of security and protection against people who would do you harm. I don’t believe urban communities are more dangerous because people are allowed to own guns, but because dangerous people have guns. I would feel more comfortable if in the District of Columbia I could carry a concealed gun. I have a permit.

WN: You recently spoke out against the Black and Hispanic Congressional caucuses, stating, "It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a color-blind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race. If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses." Do you also believe there is no longer a need for the NAACP?

TT: No, I think it’s fine, because it’s a private organization, and people can belong to whatever private organization they want, and the need will be determined to a great extent by reality. If in fact people feel committed to an organization that they believe represents their interest, and it’s a voluntary association, that’s fine. All I’m saying is that for Congress to support these things, that run on money that is appropriated--though they fund them in a convoluted way, but it gets there-- my point was about leading by example. If people said we don’t think it’s a good idea, maybe that would have an impact on how people feel about things like the NAACP. I would hope there would be, and I would assume Martin Luther King hoped--that’s his quite about a colorblind society--that there will come a time we don’t need them. That it’s an anachronistic organization. I also don’t believe in the creation of districts on race.

WN: You were one of a handful of Republicans who voted for a bill proposed by Maurice Hinchey and Dana Rohrabacher to stop the Department of Justice from raiding medical marijuana patients and caregivers in states where medical marijuana is legal, citing states' rights concerns. On the other hand, you have suggested state legislators and mayors should be imprisoned for passing laws contrary to federal immigration law, and you support the Federal Marriage Amendment to ban gay marriage nationally. How do you reconcile these seemingly contradictory positions?

TT: We are talking about issues that are legitimately based upon the Constitutional roles of the state and federal government. I believe there is no Constitutional provision that suggests the federal government has a role to play in preventing states, or punishing states, over laws with regards to medical marijuana. I believe absolutely there is a role for the federal government for punishing states or laws when they contravene federal jurisdiction. For instance, protecting states against invasion. Immigration is federal policy, and there’s a law actually called “Encouragement”: you can’t encourage people to come in illegally or stay here illegally. I believe that is constitutionally a federal area.

WN: If you had to support one of the Democratic candidates, which one would it be and why?

TT: Although I couldn’t vote for him, if I had to support one for a nominee it would be Obama, and I would do so because first, I believe we could beat him [laughs], but secondly, and less cynically, I think it would be very good to have a black man, a good family man, and a very articulate man, to have him as a role model for a lot of black children in this country.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gay World Cup begins in Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires, Argentina – With more than twenty-eight teams of different places of the world, the 10th Gay World Cup begins in the city of Buenos Aires, and it is tried by this event, to show the fight against the sexual discrimination.

It is the first time that World Gay Cup is carry out in a Latin-American city and in this edition there take part more than twenty-eight teams, which are not selections, since any countries take any more than one team for country.

Some of the countries that participates in this championship are Uruguay, Chile, Australia, Iceland, England, Mexico, Canada and Argentina, represented by the Dogos, the Amerika team and SAFG. Also, the United States is one of the countries that more teams presented for this edition: Boston Americas, New York Ramblers, Seattle Rain, Florida Storm and Philadelphia Falcons.

The World Cup that began yesterday, is carrying out in the Parque Sarmiento (Sarmiento Park), located in the Saavedra neighborhood and has the support of the AFA (Argentine Football Association), the secretary of sports of Buenos Aires, the Ombudswoman of the city and the INADI (National Institute Against the Discrimination). The championship will last until next September 29.

In dialog with Wikinews, the president of the Homosexual Community Argentina (CHA) César Cigliuti expressed that this one is an opportunity to show the fight against the discrimination and more in an area like the football, where this happens to diary in the fields of the Argentina. The final will be played in the Defensores de Belgrano's field.