Monday, March 26

Ζήτω η Ελλάς

Yesterday was Greek Independence Day (in addition to being the Greek Orthodox feast of the Annunciation), which commemorates the beginning of the Greek uprising against the Ottomans in 1821.

The Greek struggle for independence was long and bitter. Many of the fighters were recruited from bands of brigands from the mountains, known as klephts (κλέφτες). Long-standing rivalries between clans meant that they were sometimes more interested in fighting each other than their Ottoman masters.

After the war, brigandage continued to plague the modern Greek state, though there was often a tacit understanding between the brigands and corrupt local authorities who allowed the brigands to operate with impunity in exchange for bribes. This situation was parodied in Le Roi de Montagnes, written in 1856 by the French novelist Edmond François Valentin About (1828 – 1885), during his stay in Greece as an archaeologist for the French School at Athens. The satirical novel went on to become a classic and the best-known of About’s works. La Grèce Contemporaine, which About wrote in1855, was also very successful.

Sunday, March 25

Son Shine

A special day. Joe and I are now raising a teenager.

I took the above photo today during our walk to the top of Hammond Hill in the Blue Hills reservation.

Friday, March 23

Sudan Suspends Aid Workers in Darfur

The Sudanese government has temporarily suspended fifty-two local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in South Darfur after an investigation found they were not complying with regulations. Read the full story here.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 20

Good news for us, bad news for them

Although the announcement that Massachusetts Senate President Robert E. Travaglini will resign his post tomorrow caught me by surprise, it has apparently long been anticipated by political insiders. It is virtually certain that Travaglini will be succeeded by Plymouth Democrat Therese Murray (pictured left), who will become the first woman ever to preside over the Massachusetts Senate as president.

Murray, a liberal who presided over the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been an ardent advocate of social programs and liberal issues, such as same-sex marriage. Her rise to the Senate presidency is sure to be greeted with dismay by those hoping to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, effectively reversing the Goodridge decision, which recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry back in 2004.

Last November, it appeared as if the issue were dead when the legislature recessed without voting on a petition initiative to place same-sex marriage on the ballot in 2008. I myself thought that the fight was finally over. However, Romney’s grandstanding paid off when, as a result of a lawsuit he brought, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court held on December 27 that the legislature had a constitutional obligation to vote on the petition. Although the court also conceded that they lacked the authority to force a vote, the court’s talk of “constitutional duty” was enough to scare legislators into voting on the petition when the constitutional convention reconvened on January 2.

The result, as expected, was that the petition received enough votes to advance to the next legislative session, after which it would—if it received 50 votes—be placed on the 2008 ballot. Travaglini was among those who voted to advance the petition. Murray voted against it. Moreover, Travaglini could have used his authority as Senate president to adjourn the convention without voting on the petition. After all, the court’s ruling that the legislature has a constitutional duty to vote on all ballot questions brought by petition initiative wasn’t compelling enough to produce a vote on another citizen-led ballot initiative, the Health Care Amendment, which sought to amend the constitution to ensure “that every Massachusetts resident has access to affordable, comprehensive and equitably financed coverage for medically necessary health and mental health care services.”

A date for the next constitutional convention has not yet been set, but it will most likely begin this Spring. I myself have been dreading it, as it seemed unlikely that a convention presided over by Travaglini would almost certainly put same-sex marriage on the 2008 ballot. With Travaglini gone and Murray in his place, all bets are off. Although it’s much too soon to declare victory—I learned my lesson last November—it doesn’t look good for opponents of same-sex marriage.

Murray promises to be much more amenable than Travaglini to derailing the amendment by legislative maneuver—in other words, what Deval Patrick referred to as “whatever means appropriate.” In his statement to the legislature the day before his inauguration, Patrick encouraged the legislature to adjourn as a means of killing the petition once and for all. Although such a move would be controversial, Murray’s past support of same-sex marriage strongly suggests that with her in the president’s chair, an amendment turning same-sex couples into second-class citizens stands a much better chance of being defeated for good.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 13

General Asshole

There once was a general called Pace
whose views on gays were a disgrace;
with thousands of dead civilians
and misspent billions,
he needs to be put in his place.

Tuesday, March 6

A Piano Should Fall on Her Head

Dropping a piano on Ann Coulter’s head would, one could argue, be a waste of a good piano. It’s probably unnecessary, since at this point in her career she appears to be self-destructing, choking on her own vitriol. She was excoriated by all three of the top Republican presidential candidates after referring to John Edwards as a “faggot” at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Her response was to conclude that Giuliani, McCain, and Romney “aren’t that smart.”

Since then, she has vehemently defended her use of the derogatory term “faggot,” which demonstrates not only a total lack of empathy, but the cruel, hate-filled mentality that is at the heart of the far-right, no matter how compassionate they wish to appear to rank-and-file voters. Coulter, however, insists that her use of the term was acceptable because everyone knows that Edwards is married with children. I guess in her world, those qualify as impeccable credentials for being straight. She must’ve been busy feasting on babies during the whole Haggardgate scandal. But that’s not really the point here.

The point is that “faggot” is a slur regardless of the (perceived) sexual orientation of the recipient. To argue, as Coulter has, that she “didn’t use an insulting word” just because she didn’t use it to describe someone she knew to be gay ignores the fact that the word “faggot” is, regardless of the context in which it is used, a slur that derives its power from its association with a despised minority, the GLBT population in this case. By using the word “faggot,” Coulter was attempting to invoke the scorn associated with that minority in the mind of her audience and attach it to the person at the receiving end of the insult, who in this case happened to be John Edwards.

Clearly, her intention was not to praise, but to insult Edwards, and to do so by attacking his masculinity. Her comment would lack meaning if “faggot” were a neutral term. It’s not as if she called him, say, a radish or a Volkswagen. Coulter was well aware of the word’s negative connotation and was deliberately trying to cash in on it in order to malign Edwards. Moreover, by using using the term “faggot” to attack someone, gay or straight, Coulter not only reinforced its potency as a slur, but also the idea that the population associated with the slur is vile enough to render them an effective insult.

Even Ann Coulter is smart enough to understand that. Verizon, Sallie Mae, and Georgia-based NetBank certainly are. In response to Coulter’s most recent act of bigotry, all three companies have pulled their ads from her website.


Monday, March 5

Aman Yala

The 22nd Annual Balkan Music Night, this coming Saturday beginning at 7:30pm at the Friends of the Performing Arts Center in Concord, MA.

I’m playing two sets; the first is upstairs with Joe, Mike the drummer, and our friend P (on violin, vocals). It will feature songs from the islands of Lesvos and Kalymnos, which is one of P’s specialties. Right after that I do another set with all of the above plus K on accordion in the main dance hall downstairs.

I hope we have as good a gig as we did in New York at Golden Fest.

Saturday, March 3


Today on the Boston Common at 5 o’clock.

Friday, March 2

A Little Taste

The recent controversy at Regent College over Pat Robertson’s choice of Mitt Romney as keynote speaker at the evangelical school’s May 5 commencement should give Romney a little taste of the chilly (if not downright hostile) reception he’ll receive from the evangelicals he’s tried so hard to court in the last few years in anticipation of his presidential bid.

I have said many times that Romney is in for a rude awakening if he thinks that evangelicals are going to embrace him as their candidate in 2008. To be sure, some will. Most, however, will not. It simply doesn’t matter how aggressively Romney engages in gay bashing or how passionately he defends his pro-life position. Even his former liberalism won’t harm him as much as his Mormon faith, which in the eyes of many evangelicals (and not just them) ranks as suspect at best. In 2004 the World Religions and Religious Movements class offered by Regent’s department of Renewal Studies classified Mormonism as a “contemporary cult.”

Moreover, if Romney thinks he can pull off a JFK-style victory, he’s fooling himself. While there may be superficial similarities between the obstacle presented by Romney’s Mormonism today and that posed by Kennedy’s Catholicism in 1960, there really is no parallel.

According to the 1961 Statistical Abstract of the United States (the U.S. Census does not include statistics on religion), Roman Catholics constituted approximately 26% of the population in 1957. By way of contrast, the 2001 Statistical Abstract put Mormons at a mere 1%.

Add to those numbers the fact that by 1960, Catholics had been prominent in state and local politics in many parts of the country for the better part of a century and had built a powerful political machine. Conversely, it was only a little over a century ago that Mormonism officially rejected polygamy.

Opposition from America’s evangelicals may not break Romney’s campaign, but his shift to the far right suggests that he is strongly counting on their support. It will be interesting to see if, once he realizes that the Religious Right doesn’t want him, he moves back toward the moderate to liberal positions he once espoused to try his luck with those closer to the center. I for one am not convinced that this slippery chameleon’s conservative views are etched on golden tablets.

Labels: , ,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.