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Taking the Keys – And The Checkbook – Away from Gay Inc.

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After millions of dollars, and several decades of mediocre advocacy, is it time to take away the keys, and the checkbook, from Gay, Inc.?

Columnists Tanya Domi and Clinton Fein hold a discussion.


Clinton: As we head into a new election season, it’s instructive to take note of powerful initiatives that have been and continue making an impact. Consider Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project or the “Ben Cohen Acceptance Tour 2011,” by the England World Cup rugby player of the same name. Both address homophobia and bullying and the recent spate of widely publicized suicides and beatings that are finally making people take notice. Most recently, the world champion San Francisco Giants released an “It Gets Better” video. An unprecedented coming out of professional and/or amateur sports figures is shattering stereotypes and providing kids with diverse and powerful role models.

Tanya: I agree Clinton with your conclusions.  To date, Savage and Cohen’s groundbreaking efforts have been the most powerful, visually attractive, and personally effective messages advocating for the acceptance of LGBT people in American history.

I actually think Savage and Cohen were able to create these platforms and projects because they were not hemmed in by organizational politics and had no limits of creativity as individuals. Despite all the cash that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), has managed to raise, they have not created anything to date that comes close to that of Savage or Cohen.

Clinton: Seventeen months before the election HRC, the gay community’s largest lobbying organization announced they are endorsing Obama in 2012. The issues they claim to be focusing on are the same ones they’ve been focused on since anyone can remember. The only newsworthy thing about their predictable, yawn-inducing announcement was that they shot their wad earlier than usual – before the presidential field has been formally established. And even so, hardly anyone noticed.

Tanya: Yes, they will be invited to more White House receptions perhaps because of this endorsement and they may get meetings with some key officials, but in the final analysis, they are not taking the community with them. We still do not have complete repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, nor do we have a date of certification to repeal.  David Smith, the Vice President of Programs backed the White House “take or leave it DADT repeal plan” proposed by Jim Messina, the then-deputy chief of staff of the Whites House in late 2009 (now the Obama ’12 campaign manager), and Smith’s takeaway was essentially “the community may not like it, but we (HRC) will follow the White House lead and do exactly what they dictate, no matter the fall out,” according to a person familiar with the process.

Now, there are anti-gay amendments included in the House National Defense Authorization Bill that would impede the final steps for repeal.  What is the plan?  Wait on the White House? That is not a strategy.  HRC did not lead alone on the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, but co-chaired the effort with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Anti-Defamation League, who has led the hate crimes coalition and has been a leader on fighting bigotry for decades. HRC has not moved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to a successful vote in Congress, 17 years and counting.  They own the federal legislative ponderosa—where is the strategy? So despite all the millions in cash they have raised, they have very little to show for it.  It is quite a damning legacy.

Clinton: For decades now, the giddy, star-fucking Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) hosts lavish ceremonies, providing awards to celebs for playing gay persons without resorting to old, trite stereotypes — as if that’s either an acting or humanitarian achievement. Again, aside from a few self-defined A-gays clucking at the thought of being surrounded by a few lower letter celebrities, the world was more interested in just about anything else.

Tanya: The question today is should GLAAD close their doors?  They have been bleeding money since late 2008.  They have lost nearly 14 board members and numerous staff members during the past year and a half because of alleged dubious actions by Jarrett Tomás Barrios, President of GLAAD.  According to an interview by journalist Michael Signorile of GLAAD former Board Co-Chair Laurie Perper, on June 7, Perper asserted that Barrios, desperate to hang onto vital board support, agreed to endorse the AT&T-T-Mobile merger, in exchange for backing by Troup Coronado, a board member and a former Vice-President of Public Affairs with AT&T, according to the GLAAD website.  Barrios sent a letter of support from GLAAD to the Federal Communications Commission.

Clinton: The whole GLAAD AT&T-T-Mobile mess is unbelievable. Here you have an organization that is supposed to serve as a watchdog to identify and remedy negative portrayals or misrepresentations of gays in the media behaving in a way that brings shame and discredit on the very community it purports to represent. And further, gives fodder to those who have been reprimanded or called out by GLAAD, that their motives are more about self-enrichment than anything else.

It’s time for a metaphorical Gay Inc. exfoliation.  Not only is HRC a flaccid, impotent DC-ensconced waste of oxygen, but their complacency and lack of achievement is no longer just a matter of ineffectiveness, it’s dangerous. Their claim that they represent gays and lesbians is slanderous and their raising money on that premise is fraudulent. Who exactly do they represent? (Rich, white males and a few token lesbians need not answer.)

Tanya: This is the point Clinton—HRC is a very effective marketing machine—“but there is no there there”.  They organize nice dinners around the country and if the annual D.C. dinner is headlined by an Obama Administration official, they can make a killing in fundraising.  But the fact remains, what have they achieved with this money?

Contrast HRC’s achievements with that Paul Yandura, a former politico who served in the Clinton White House, who teamed up with Jonathan Lewis, a progressive funder, took their money and resources elsewhere, despite overtures from HRC (who asked gay donors to back their/White House DADT repeal “strategy and plan”) and started Get Equal in January 2010 to amazing, concrete results in just 12 months by helping push DADT across the finish line.  This nascent and nimble civil disobedience organization, has put some kick back into accountability of government officials and the gay organizations alike. Get Equal drove Obama and many of his staff members to distraction, as it staged civil disobedience acts and haunted the Administration at every turn during the debate on DADT that ultimately led to the repeal of the law.

Yandura and Get Equal staff have created an effective alternative, as have the successful projects of Savage and Cohen. Their success lifts all LGBT boats.  We should not fear change in creating new organizations that are effective.  Our movement has significant infrastructure today—+500 LGBT organizations around the country, including 29 national organizations according to the Movement Advancement Project, who spend $161 million dollars in annual operating budgets, with 808 persons on their respective staff. We are at a crossroads and that requires innovation accompanied by new thinking outside the box.  If you want to maintain the ossified status quo then stick with HRC and GLAAD and remain frustrated and angry.

But the rules of the game has changed and the new generation of LGBT young people are not going to wait another 40 years for equality.  Gay, Inc. needs to be more transparent, less secretive and elite and much more dynamic and responsive.  I do not see that happening anytime soon.

Clinton: At a certain point in life, when hearing and eyesight deteriorate and reflexes of seniors who are just a little too slow, driving can become a serious hazard to the driver and anyone on or near the road. It’s up to the people around them to step in before anyone is injured. Caregivers, usually their children, are advised to pay attention to warning signs that it may be time to take away their keys and figure out alternative transportation.

The warning signs have been around for a while now, but they have become increasingly impossible to ignore. Those of us wanting a new kind of organization, with fresh, new ideas, uncompromised transparency and community input need to act.

For GLAAD and HRC, it’s too late. It’s now time for these organizations to stop siphoning much needed money the community could use for far more important, measurable things and to be firmly retired, moved away from the machinery and have their keys taken away.

 

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

Clinton Fein is an internationally acclaimed author, artist, and First Amendment activist, best-​known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his Annoy​.com site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.” Fein’s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award.

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News

‘Supposed to Be Hard’: Political Experts Explain Their Thinking on Biden and the Election

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Two weeks after the political class’s response to President Joe Biden’s poor debate performance threw the 2024 election into chaos, four political experts share their thinking about where the race actually stands and what Biden’s supporters should do.

“He can’t win right!? They point to the polling right?” wrote political strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher, a frequent NBC News/MSNBC political analyst, linking to a report about the latest polls which show President Biden ahead of Donald Trump. “Well this is the 2nd poll (credible poll) in 2 days showing the Pres race in statistical deadlock two weeks after debate! Using polls to push Biden out feels like red wave 2020 bs all over again.”

Belcher was commenting on the latest Marist College poll produced for NPR/PBS NewsHour. It found Biden beating Trump 50-48 in a one-to-one matchup. When factoring in the four third-party/independent candidates including RFK Jr., Trump came out ahead of Biden, 43-42.

FiveThirtyEight’s regularly updated polling aggregator currently shows Trump up over Biden by 1.9 points, a drop from Thursday where he was more than two points over Biden. FiveThirtyEight also currently shows; “Biden wins 50 times out of 100 in our simulations of the 2024 presidential election. Trump wins 49 times out of 100.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Former Republican and former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer, a resident scholar at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, says the Democratic “freak out needs to stop.”

“Enough.”

Pointing to that same Marist poll, she focuses on a different question.

“This poll also shows character matters more than age. That’s to Biden’s advantage.”

NPR’s headline on its article detailing the poll reads: “After Biden’s debate performance, the presidential race is unchanged.”

“Biden actually gained a point since last month’s survey, which was taken before the debate,” NPR reports, adding: “the survey also found that by a 2-to-1 margin, 68% to 32%, people said it’s more concerning to have a president who doesn’t tell the truth than one who might be too old to serve.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

To Setmayer’s point, NPR also says, “A majority said Biden has the character to be president (52%), while a majority also said Trump does not (56%).”

Mike Madrid, the Latino GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, offered advice to Biden supporters on how to think about Democrats and pundits pushing for the President to drop out of the race, and how to deal with the day-to-day emotional toll.

“Getting lots of questions on how to lower the anxiety level people are feeling. Best thing you can do is unfollow the people attacking Biden gratuitously. Don’t engage them. Unfollow them. It’s not an honest discussion. It’s a frenzy that’s doing real damage.”

“You will not get an explanation from the political arsonists fueling this panic,” he added. “Stop looking for one. Unfollow them. Drop your subscription. Quit listening. That’s the best thing you can do in the pro-democracy fight right now. Their gaslighting is now a suppression tactic.”

To someone who said they are “scared,” and the situation is “confusing, maddening and sad,” Madrid advised: “Nothing has changed. Stop watching TV and get off Twitter. Take the weekend off. Please.”

The Lincoln Project’s Stuart Stevens, a political strategist for decades and author of “The Conspiracy To End America,” writes: “I worked in campaigns for 30 years. I am hardwired to respond one way when your guy is in trouble: fight harder. Don’t start looking for exit ramps or magic bullets. Play the next play. Do your job. Ignore the scoreboard. It’s supposed to be hard.”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

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News

RFK Jr. Apology Over Sexual Assault Allegation ‘Disingenuous’ – Unsure if More to Come

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate running for president, has apologized to the woman who accused him of sexual assault, and separately told reporters he does not know if there are more potential accusers.

The 70-year old anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist who has said a worm ate a portion of his brain, has not denied allegations of sexual misconduct. A recent Vanity Fair profile reports that in 1998, Eliza Cooney, 23-years old at the time and working as a part-time baby sitter for RFK Jr. and his wife’s children, felt his “hand moving up and down her leg under the table” during “a meeting in the family kitchen.”

There are other allegations in the Vanity Fair profile that include Kennedy being shirtless in Cooney’s bedroom and asking her to rub lotion on his back, which she said was “totally inappropriate.”

And this: “A few months later, Cooney says, she was rifling through the kitchen pantry for lunch after a yoga class, still in her sports bra and leggings, when Kennedy came up behind her, blocked her inside the room, and began groping her, putting his hands on her hips and sliding them up along her rib cage and breasts. ‘My back was to the door of the pantry, and he came up behind me,’ she says, describing the alleged sexual assault. ‘I was frozen. Shocked.’ ”

RELATED: ‘What in the F’: RFK Jr. in Photo With Alleged ‘Barbecued’ Dog Carcass Disgusts Critics

The Washington Post Friday morning reported RFK Jr. “privately apologized to a woman who accused him of sexual assault, saying he does not remember the alleged incident and that any harm he caused was ‘inadvertent.’ ”

“’I have no memory of this incident but I apologize sincerely for anything I ever did that made you feel uncomfortable or anything I did or said that offended you or hurt your feelings,’ Kennedy wrote in a text message to Cooney sent at 12:33 a.m. on July 4, two days after her accusations became public. ‘I never intended you any harm. If I hurt you, it was inadvertent. I feel badly for doing so.’ ”

Cooney told The Post that Kennedy’s texted message was “disingenuous and arrogant.”

“I’m not sure how somebody has a true apology for something that they don’t admit to recalling. I did not get a sense of remorse.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Also on Friday, hidden in the middle of a Boston Globe soft profile of the presidential candidate whose support has reportedly now hit ten percent – possibly enough to change the outcome of the election – is Kennedy’s apparent acknowledgment there could be more allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Asked if other women might come forward with similar allegations he said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.’ ”

The Globe notes Kennedy “is currently on the ballot in nine states, and submitted enough signatures to eventually get on the ballot in 15 states. There are five other states where the campaign claims to have enough signatures but hasn’t turned in them in yet, in some cases because the window to do so hasn’t opened.”

FiveThirtyEight reports there is a 58% chance the election “is decided by a smaller margin than the vote share for third-party candidates,” meaning Kennedy, who has the largest portion of third party votes, may have the potential to change the election outcome.

In a parenthetical addition, Vanity Fair updated its report, writing: “After this story was published, Kennedy told the Breaking Points podcast, in response to Cooney’s allegations, that he is ‘not a church boy… I have so many skeletons in my closet.’ When pressed to respond directly to her claims, he told the anchor, ‘I’m not going to comment on it.’ ”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

 

 

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OPINION

Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

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Following President Joe Biden’s 58-minute long unscripted, solo press conference without a teleprompter, fielding questions from reporters and responding with nuance and depth on a range of issues including foreign and domestic policy, some critics are calling on his opponent, ex-president Donald Trump, to do the same.

It’s been a long time since Trump has held an actual unscripted, lengthy, solo press conference, with questions from reporters, and well-over a year since he did one that wasn’t centered on his legal crises.

“When is last time Trump did an hour long press conference? Anyone know?” asked Bloomberg News’ Steven Dennis Thursday night after the President’s press conference.

“So now the media will demand that Trump hold an hour-long press conference on complex foreign policy issues — right?” snarked attorney and legal commentator Tristan Snell, who headed the successful New York State civil prosecution of Trump University.

READ MORE: ‘Dead Heat’: Biden Ahead or Tied With Trump in Two New Post-Debate Polls

“Trump is getting a free pass just like he did in 2016. No way he could do a press conference for 40 minutes after 3 long days with world leaders. He is incoherent most of time when he’s not spewing bile,” declared CNN Political Commentator Karen Finney Friday morning.

“It’s now time for the corporate media to dissect every word Trump says for the next two weeks, have debates on his mental state, amplify the small number of Republicans who want Trump to drop out and demand he hold a press conference where we can dissect him even more,” remarked attorney and SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah Friday morning.

“Per CSPAN last time Trump held a press conference that approached an hour in length at which he took questions from reporters, he was still president,” observed Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) Friday morning.

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

He adds, “Per the CSPAN archive, the last time Donald Trump took questions from reporters in a press conference was on February 8th. National and campaign reporters made an issue of the lack of press conferences with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. To date, they have not done so with Trump.”

On November 8, 2022, from Mar-a-Lago, after polls closed, Donald Trump delivered remarks discussing the midterm elections. He spoke for about four minutes to supporters and took no questions from reporters, whom he mocked. (Full C-SPAN video.)

Semafor’s David Weigel argues, “A lot of the ‘whatabout Trump’ stuff is cope, but he really is getting an easy ride with interviewers compared to 2016 or 2020.”

“Most of his interviews are softball-fests. When he did All-In the campaign had to clean up his green card/diploma answer.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

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