Grossly Inappropriate

A review of current events, culture, the arts, contemporary society, and anything else I can possibly get my hands on.

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Location: Cambridge, MA

I'm a 22-year old registered Democrat and meat lover who has lots of angst against social injustices and (for now) too much time on his hands. I was born in Hong Kong, raised in California, and educated at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. I currently reside in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

When injustice abounds, every moment is a moment of truth

The problem with doing the right thing is that there is never a good time to do it.

During oral arguments before the California Supreme Court on March 5 in the case for gay marriage, Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar questioned one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs who argued that it was time for a ground-breaking ruling on GLBT rights. She asked: “Why is this the moment of truth, as opposed to 10 years from now?”

Justice Werdegar’s question raises an interesting point: if the public is more accepting of gay and lesbian Americans 10 years from now, does that make gay marriage more valid in 2018 than it is today? Just because it would probably be more politically palatable to wait a decade to advocate for full equality for GLBT Americans, does that mean discrimination today is more acceptable?

In fact, the United States has a long history of postponing doing the right thing in pursuit of political convenience. Women were certainly no less capable of making sound political decision – or running for president – in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the vote, than they had been in 1910 or would be in 1930. African American laborers were no less deserving of sharing the same counter as their White colleagues during a lunch break in 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education declared that separate facilities on the basis of race was unconstitutional, as they had been in 1944 or would be in 1964. In all of the great civil rights decisions in our nation’s history, it would have been easier to wait 10 years for the moment of truth, but postponing still could not alter the fundamental injustice that occurred before and after.

The great thing about civil rights activists is that they never stop trying, but unfortunately it always seems to take awhile before they succeed. 60 years before Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court had a significant opportunity to get racial equality right the first time around when Plessy v. Ferguson came before the bench in 1896. Four years earlier, Homer A. Plessy boarded an East Louisiana Railroad train car that was reserved for use by White patrons only; Plessy, who was one-eighth Black, refused to leave the car and was arrested and jailed. His appeal to the Supreme Court against racial segregation of public facilities ended with what has become almost universally derided as one of the most misguided legal philosophies of American history: Justice Henry Billings Brown wrote that “separate but equal” public facilities did not violate the constitutional rights of African Americans. No doubt Justice Brown considered what must have appeared to have been a massive and immovable groundswell of public opinion against integration, and he thought to himself, “Maybe we can wait another 10 years before we do this.” In the process, Plessy v. Ferguson carried out racist institutions for another 60 years, ushering in the Jim Crow era and enabling countless deaths of innocent men and women.

Plessy v. Ferguson was a convenient decision, but it wasn’t the right decision. Thanks to the courage of people like Chief Justice Earl Warren and suffragette Susan B. Anthony, it’s easy to point out today that “separate but equal” was wrong and that women have always been as capable as men to be scientists, to own property, and to vote. But the thing with history is that what comes before tends to influence what happens after. When the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in the Bay State in 2003, anti-gay protesters foretold the end of civilization. Five years later, however, Massachusetts has yet to sink into the Atlantic Ocean; what’s more, the state elected its first African American governor in 2006. If we are to strive for a better world tomorrow as Justice Werdegar seems to hope that we do, then we had better start today.

In California, we face another Plessy v. Ferguson moment in the GLBT rights movement. Again, as before, it would be easier to acquiesce to what is most politically expedient. We do live in a democracy, and popular opinion is important. But so is equality. And when the mood of the mob turns against the rights of the few, as it has for so long against gays and lesbians, it is everyone’s responsibility to raise the bulwark against intolerance. When it comes to the courts, this is not judicial activism; it is simply doing the right thing.

And there’s no better time to start than today, here, with the California Supreme Court.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I regret that this is turning into an anti-Mitt Romney blog, only because there are so many other worthwhile things to rant about in the world and so many other injustices to expose.

But Mitt Romney is just too much of a tool to let alone.

Today, the Globe reported that Mitt had joined the NRA only six months ago, reversing gun control positions he'd held when he ran as a moderate Republican for the US Senate in 1994. Back then, the "good" Mitt supported registration waiting periods and a ban on assault weapons. The "lifetime membership" he bought is already raising eyebrows, as more long-standing gun advocates are questioning is motives for joining the movement only months before declaring his presidential ambitions, all the while pandering to other conservative causes as well.

I'm not sure where having AK-47s floating around neighborhood playgrounds counts in the "well regulated militia" part of the Second Amendment, but, if Mitt and his fellow gun crazies really want to play, maybe they should go hunting with Dick Cheney. Since the NRA seems to be doing such a bang-up job of educating people about how not to shoot other people in the face, the rest of us will just have to hope that they'll take each other out before long.

It's also quite funny (and loathsome) that Mitt Romney is so intent on making portraying himself as a leader capable of escaping the influence of the Mormon cult leadership that he seems to have forgotten Church teachings. When George Stephanopoulous asked Mitt what Muslims might think of the Mormon belief that Christ will return in the Second Coming to New Jerusalem (somewhere in Missouri) and reign for 1,000 years, Mitt replied defensively: "that doesn't happen to be a doctrine of my church."

Oh, really?

"Our belief is just as it says in the Bible, that the messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives, and that the Mount of Olives will be the place for the great gathering and so forth," Mitt elaborated.

"..And so forth"?

Doctrine and Covenants 57:2
documents a revelation to Joseph Smith in Jackson County, Missouri, where God supposedly proclaimed that the city of Independence "is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion," Zion being the gathering place of the faithful Mormons after the Second Coming of Christ.

Looks like someone should stop reading NRA literature and read his own religious books instead.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Beginning of the End

If there's any candidacy I'm more virulently opposed to than Sam Brownback's, it's Mitt Romney's.

Alas, ending months of AGONIZING suspense, this lowlife has announced that he is jumping into the GOP field.

Of course, that's not really true. Romney's been planning his entry for a while (easily tracked by when he started saying nasty things about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts while being its governor). There was a Globe cartoon that I can't find now but that most succinctly described how disingenuous this man is as a leader: Mitt is at the podium on TV proclaiming something like "I will do for all Americans what I did for the people of Massachusetts." A man and a woman sit, unimpressed, watching his speech; one of them says: "What? You'll tell anti-American jokes?" Any level-headed CEO with that kind of attitude about the organization he or she is leading knows that publicly humiliating the employees and investors does nothing to motivate change but instead causes internal confusion, resentment, and anger. But Mitt was evidently uninterested in actually creating change. He was so disinvested in Massachusetts that he announced in Michigan, his supposed home state.

My friend Seth made a good point last November that Romney was sitting out the gubernatorial election in Massachusetts not because he wanted to concentrate his efforts on winning the presidency. He could have done both; many sitting governors have gone on to campaign for and win the presidency. No, Mitt was sitting out because he knew he would get trounced by Deval Patrick because the people of Massachusetts, spurned by Mitt time and again, have come to hate him almost as much as he hates them. Such a setback would have irrevocably hurt his presidential campaign. No one seems to be paying attention to that deft little trick, however, or the fact that under Mitt's leadership the Republican Governors Association lost its largest number of governor's offices for the first time in a long time. Again, way to pull through.

There is no critiquing Mitt's campaign style. He's a very well polished man, with years of PR experienced honed at Harvard's graduate schools, at Bain Capital, and as the public persona of the Salt Lake City Olympics. He's admittedly the most conventionally presidential-looking of everything vying for the White House from either party (with a full head of hair and a wholesome, blond wife). With this one, it's all about the substance, and I'm afraid the substance's pretty ugly.

One awkward stage moment at the announcement, though. I'm no marriage counselor, but I'm pretty sure Ann's trying to hug her husband with this kiss, while Mitt's body language seems stiff and reluctant. He treats his wife like he treats Massachusetts.

How will he treat America?

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's a Girl

I'll take a brief breather from the political news to write on one of the biggest news breaks in higher education in a long time: Harvard has appointed Drew Gilpin Faust as its 28th president and the first woman in its long history to serve in that post.

As a follow-up, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article discussing the American Council on Education's study of the lack of diversification in the president's office at U.S. colleges and universities (you can read the article here, if you have a password). That article, I think, misses the point (again).

Mostly, I was disappointed with its narrow definition of diversity among American college and university presidents. If the administration of American higher education is truly to diversify in the future, it will have to look beyond traditional paradigms of male-and-female and black-and-white.

Nowhere in the article was there mention of the rare achievements of administrators like Chang-Lin Tien and Henry Yang, both presidents of campuses in the University of California system. Tien, who was president of UC Berkeley, was the first Asian American to head a major U.S. research university. Since that breakthrough, however, news of other top appointments for Asian Americans has been scarce.

This trend is indicative of an obsession of the black-or-white racial paradigm in this country. Asian Americans lead higher education in the number of non-White students admitted, and they lead the ranks of non-White faculty members (at a measly six percent). However, when it comes to achieving the top rank at their respective colleges and universities, Asian Americans make up just 0.7 percent of presidents and chancellors in the U.S., compared to six percent for African American leaders. I am by no means arguing that "my people" deserve a larger section of the pie merely based on statistics and numbers. I am arguing that higher education has often been the leader for positive social change in this country, and that, to continue to do so, the pie must be enlarged to take advantage of the wide diversity of talent and skill in the country's pool of capable faculty and administrators.

I'm afraid that race has become something of a smokescreen in higher education administration, and to project an image of diversity colleges and universities tend to consider as the main option to a White candidate a Black candidate, even though there is no lack of other non-White candidates available. It will perhaps take a little stretch of the imagination and of institutional willingness to ensconce a non-traditional president, but imagination and courage is exactly what is needed if we intend American higher education to empower and lead our country.

Over six months ago, I wrote to the Chronicle to support the presidential candidacies of people like Denise Denton, whose tragic death reminded us all of the shortage of talented GLBT presidents and how their lonely situations make their jobs even more challenging. That letter, which was eventually picked up by the Advocate, fell on deaf ears. Drew Gilpin Faust's appointment as the president of Harvard University again brings the debate of presidential diversity to the fore.

When will we actually take the debate seriously?

As an aside, it also seems that someone who was actually attending the Obama rally has commented on my post. Which is wonderful, because I know no one who was at that rally, which means people other than my friends are reading this blog. So welcome. At the same time, I wonder how many interns have been dispatched by the campaigns across the blogosphere to search by keyword and "set the record straight." Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the debate and discourse this type of engagement will bring. Thanks for visiting; keep it comin'.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Obama's Sun Dawns

Barack Obama is in.

He announced this morning in the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln and in front of the state capital where he launched his political career only ten years ago. The frigid Midwestern temperatures meant that we couldn't really get a peek at Barack's sartorial style (and, in warmer weather, his apparently stunning physique). Barack made the unfortunate decision of announcing in a massive black overcoat, which his opponents - most notably Hillary - had avoided by launching their candidacies online and in the comfort of a warmly decorated room. The open-air ambience is a nice touch, but I would have gone with a heavier wool suit and a lot of space heaters instead of the overcoat and the scarf, which give the air of Barack as stopping through only briefly and not even having enough time to shed his outerwear and have a serious conversation about the country's future.

There is one area of political style, however, in which Barack has clearly set himself apart: his logo is brilliant.
Eschewing the dead-horse stars-and-stripes theme that his co-candidates have all chosen, Barack decided to symbolize his candidacy with a circular logo that captures all of the elements of the flag. The red-and-white stripes recall the cornfields of the Midwest whence Barack comes and that hold the key to his electoral success. The blue is, obviously, translated into a bright and hopeful sky. In the background, a bright sun, with warming tones of yellow, rises over the land as what is unmistakably dawn; there is no debate this time - unlike when Benjamin Franklin was asked of his chair in Independence Hall - whether America is rising or declining. With Barack, America is rising to a new day.
The whole logo is encapsulated in a circle that resonates with the "O" that leads Barack's last name. There are no sharp edges and no sharp points. It is clean, clear, and wholesome. Kudos to whomever designed this little subtle but powerful thing. Absolutely brilliant.

By comparison, the losers in the category include:

What is this? The 1800s? Color made its debut 50 years ago. John McCain's campaign would do well to use it. And black... A funeral for America? Dour, depressing, and aged: that's what this logo tells me about John McCain and his candidacy.

Sam's logo looks like a seventh-grader made it for a middle-school art project. Someone accidentally left on the caps lock button while typing "Brownback," perhaps under some delusion that making EVERY WORD BIG evokes power. Actually, it evokes tacky.

Better. The streamer effect with the American flag is modern, and the waves look natural (unlike Brownback's American flag). The "Hillary" looks a tad muscular, which is probably what the first serious major-party woman candidate for president wants to project. I wonder, though, what those three stars stand for, since each star on the American flag symbolizes one of the fifty states. Someone needs to think through that symbolism.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I haven't posted in a while, which means I've actually been productive. Shocking.

The latest flurry of chatter seems to be whether or not Nancy Pelosi deserves a big plane or an itty bitty little plane that terrorists will attack when she lands in Des Moines to refuel.

My suggestion: Don't get a big plane, Nancy. Just flap that little purple whatever-the-hell-it-is, and you'll fly away just fine.

In other news, Barack and Mitt will both probably announce in the next week. We'll catch up with their kick-off stylings then.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Executive Pay

President Bush thinks that executive pay should be tied to performance.

The President of the United States makes $400,000 a year.

If President Bush's pay were tied to his performance, how much would he be paid?

- Say that 100% approval rating equals $400,000/year...

- Major polls from the last two weeks put his average approval rating at 33.91%...

Bush would be making $135,640 for his crappy executive performance.

And that's still too much, if you ask me.

First Up: How To Launch a Bland Campaign

as you've probably heard by now, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) has announced that he's running for president. which is good, because his campaign launch gives me fresh fodder for critiquing fashion, image, and style in politics.

Joe Biden's candidacy is an interesting case from a stylistic perspective, because Joe Biden is not all that interesting as a candidate. he's one of those senators whom you hear about a lot ranting on this or that (along the lines of, say, Richard Lugar, his ranking member on Foreign Affairs, Chris Dodd, and others), but for whom a sharp mental picture doesn't appear right away in your head (unlike, say, Ted Kennedy and Joe Lieberman). the good news there is that the campaign has a lot of flexibility to work with in terms of the image, if most Americans don't already associate various things with Joe Biden when they hear his name. the bad news is the other side of that coin: Biden is bland.

let's start with Joe's website.

the first thing that strikes me is that there are WAY too many pictures of Joe Biden. and these aren't pictures of Joe Biden shaking hands, like on Obama's website. these are big pictures of Joe Biden staring at me like a deer caught in headlights, doing something with his mouth that might be called more a smirk than a smile. so already I'm thinking to myself a number of things:
1. this guy likes how he looks a little too much: vain and superficial
2. he's really wants to establish eye contact with me: desperate
3. why is he smirking? maybe he thinks his campaign is a joke, or that soldiers dying in Iraq is funny

Joe is wearing a dark navy blazer and a light blue shirt, with the top button undone. good choice on the unbuttoned shirt, although I can't say the same of the blazer. look at Barack. he has a crisp white shirt (with a tie on, unfortunately) with his sleeves rolled up and no jacket. the image Barack projects is much more working-candidate than patrician-candidate. Joe Biden doesn't need any more reminders that he's old and that he's probably running because this is the last open presidential field he'll see for a long time. the "I'm more comfortable with my jacket on, thank you" look screams inaction and inertia to me, rather than the energy and the momentum that I feel just looking at Barack's picture. at least he's not wearing a tie, unlike Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, and Bill Richardson. I don't even know who Duncan Hunter is pointing at on his home page, but it looks like the staff was aiming for "strong" but overshot and got "heavy-handed" and "scolding instead. Sam Brownback just looks like a douche. Bill Richardson is the only one who pulls off the suited look because of the way he's positioned: slightly contraposto to show the effort he's making to turn his attention to me (me!), thus alleviating the otherwise static and uncaring tone. Bill's suit, though, leaves something to be desired. you're big enough, buddy, without wearing a dark color that makes you look positively like a boulder; try a vertically striped shirt next time, and don't crop the picture so close that it squishes against your bulbous features.

the reason why women should get into politics (besides the fact that they obviously make up half of the country's population and should therefore be equally represented in the upper echelons of government) is because they bring so much more flexibility in fashion and image than men. if I didn't know any better, I'd say that Duncan Hunter and Sam Brownback were wearing the same suit. Hillary, on the other hand, gets to do all sorts of things with her wardrobe. in her current homepage, she's sporting an Al Gore-esque tan suit with a popped collar. the lighter shade contrasts well with the dark, bad, evil, deep tones of the men she's running against, although it's not quite as bold a statement as her crimson blazer for the "I'm In" announcement, which no man could ever pull off (or, if you're Sam Brownback, would ever dream of pulling off because it would look too ga-aa-ay). it's hard to see how the suit is cut, but what's nice about women's suits - especially military-looking ones with stiff upper collars - is that they can be sexually ambiguous, so they can flatter the woman's shape and bring out her feminine qualities (which voters I'm sure love because it doesn't threaten or belittle them) while giving an external image of toughness (which voters love because, well, we're American and enjoy feeling like we can beat down on other people if we wanted to). the only criticism for Ms. Clinton is that the suit looks out-of-place at a nursing home campaign stop, partly because it doesn't match what the other ladies are wearing but more because it crinkles while she bends this-way-and-that to shake hands. take a hint from Obama: shed the coat when you're on the trail and working. if you're going to really get to know America in the next two years, don't treat every room like a subcommittee hearing and don't treat everyone like a congressional staffer.

and, for goodness sakes, don't dress like it either.

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A New Direction For Me (And For America)

I've decided that I'm going to stop blogging about substantive political issues and actually get down to the important things in life: fashion, image, and style. my new goal is to be the Joan Crawford of politics.

why? because fashion, image, and style matter, unfortunately, even in a serious political system. in a culture of sound bites and 30-second TV ads, what you look like and how you are perceived are just as important as what you say and/or believe (for reasons that escape me, politicians don't often match up the two). there's no doubt that ideas matter, of course, as they should. but I'm just too lazy and tired form my day job to deal with them all the time.

so what will this new blog cover? well, fashion, of course. like Nancy Pelosi's olive-green suit at the 2007 State of the Union. it's always fascinating to analyze people's choices in projecting images of themselves. how do fashion, image, and style affect politics and the exchange of ideas? there's a whole semester's worth of discussion to be had right there. in addition to these conscious choices, however, there are also stylistic factors that are without our control. like our names, for example. why did Dukakis lose to Bush? it wasn't because his policies sucked any more than Bush's. in an intelligent debate of ideas, Dukakis should have drawn much closer to Bush than he did. I think it was the landslide that it turned out to be because of his last name. America was not ready for a president whose name sounded vaguely like a combination of intimate body parts and functions ( tell me). Which, of course, implies certain things about America's readiness for non-White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant presidents, since it's more than likely that a non-WASP will have a last name other than Bush, Washington, Adams, or Smith (isn't it interesting that the closest we came to having a Smith was New York's Alfred in 1928, and he didn't win because he was too Catholic for the time?). thankfully, the times, they are a-changin'. you now have candidates like Bill Richardson who's half-Mexican but has a fully anglicized last name.

WHOA. curve ball.

these are interesting issues, and we'll be looking at them closely, starting with Joe Biden's presidential announcement.

but first, let me get back to my day job for a little bit.