Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

Typically, I don't write many posts that don't revolve around Gay issues, GOP politics, or Cal. Still, there has been a little known news story that caught my attention in the media recently.

Way down in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley lies rural Kings County. The county's economy is primarily based on agriculture, is surrounded by dairies and fields, and is known to be one of the poorest counties in the state. Some of the largest, non-agricultural businesses operating in the county are PG&E, Chemical Waste Management, and Standard Oil. Each have been identified historically as some of the worst polluters in the region.

Now in the virtually uninhabited area South of Kettleman City (home to the In-N-Out on Interstate 5) a massive new green community is in the planning stages.

As a Californian, my heart warms a little whenever I hear of a privately planned development that would function in such a way as could conserve environmental resources. This one certainly intends to do that.

Quay Hays vision for Quay Valley Ranch is a city that would produce all of its own energy through solar panels, would rely totally on energy efficient cars, and would be the model city of the future with efficient homes with a minimal commute to work or play. The city plans call for parks, hotels, tourist attractions, schools, and (perhaps most appealing) as many as 40,000 new jobs.

Unfortunately, Hays is very much akin to the Medicine Man roaming into a small town, preying on naiveté, and selling cure-all potions before moving on to the next town. It seems that Hays has a history of selling investors more than he can provide.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Around 1985, Neal Levin, a now-retired financial adviser for Hollywood celebrities, said Hays came to him looking for money to start a Chinese restaurant called Bao Wow. Those who invested included satirist Weird Al Yankovic, singer Melissa Manchester, Olympian Bruce Jenner, rock band Devo and Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin. The restaurant didn't make it in Beverly Hills and moved to Encino. It was sold after five years because it was not profitable, Levin said.

In 1992, Hays started the General Publishing Group out of his home. For his first book project, he persuaded the Democratic National Committee to commission a coffee-table book on the history of the Democratic Party for its 200th anniversary.

Before going bankrupt in 1999, General Publishing issued scores of titles and generated positive industry buzz for its rapid growth.

The Chronicle goes on and on about the failed business ventures started by Hays.

My hope is that these small communities don't get duped by the razzle-dazzle this big city businessman is peddling. Before investing in a green city in the shadow of three large polluters, it would be smart to make sure the city isn't sitting right in the plume, that other buyers plan to move there, and that the developer hasn't failed on every business venture he has ever attempted.

Buy California Grown

It seems that gawkers everywhere are spotting royalty in interesting places. And I am not talking about Princes William and Harry. California's own Katherine Schwarzenegger, the Governor's 17 year old daughter, has been spotted touring prestigious schools on both coasts.

Back in January, blogger Frank Russo caught Miss Schwarzenegger with First Lady Maria Shriver on Berkeley's very own Telegraph Avenue. The two were taking a look at the wares sold by the iconic street vendors. At one such stop, the two looked at nearly every political t-shirt and bumper sticker sold by the vendor that usually sets up his stand on the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph nearest American Apparel. Many of these shirts are emblazoned with less-than-flattering images of dear old Arnie.

It appears, though, that Cal may have a bit of competition in courting the Governor's daughter. Recently, Katherine Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver were spotted at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Mother and Daughter (but not Grandmother, who visited the admissions office but left soon after) took a walking tour of the campus. According to the student tour guide that led the two through the Foggy Bottom campus, the Schwarzenegger family visited at least two other campuses in the DC area that day including Shriver's alma mater, Georgetown.

My always-impartial advice to Katherine: Buy California Grown. Go Bears!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Don't Be Cruel

Once again, California is tossing around a Death-With-Dignity/Assisted-Suicide/Euthanasia bill modeled on Oregon's law. This one is a little more tightly controlled than past version but is no less necessary than past incarnations.

This bill would allow those with terminal illnesses to end their own life, at their own hand. It would, however, require that the patient have a prognosis of six-months or less to live and that the doctor explain, in writing, alternatives in treatment and hospice care. All patients seeking physician-assisted-suicide would be required to undergo a psychological evaluation and only those found to be mentally capable could be allowed to request a lethal dose of medication. Further, patients would have to request a lethal dose of medication in writing with at least two unrelated witnesses present. In order for the death to be legal, the patient would have to take the medication of their own volition and action without any coercion from others. Actions intended to force a patient to end their own life would be considered in the highest class of felonies.

For most healthy people, the idea of killing oneself is outrageous. However, at the end of a life already being cut short by a painful and debilitating disease, there is often little dignity left. Those who would force such individuals to endure their diseases unwillingly are cruel and unjustified.

Certainly, many of those who are nearing the end of a struggle with terminal cancer, AIDS, or any one of a plethora of painful, life-ending diseases would not choose to take their own life. Their choice to continue living with their struggle should be considered as sacred as the choice others would make to end their own life. The benefits of living longer may, in some instances, outweigh the benefits of dying. A hastened death, however, may reduce some of these costs in some instances. Such costs can be measured monetarily, psychologically, in the burden of survivors watching family members struggle, and in the pain endured by the patient. Certainly, the decision to end ones own life should not be a choice taken lightly.

Fabian Nunez's AB 374 takes each of these factors into consideration and makes every effort to ensure that the patient is well informed and acting according to his or her own wishes. The freedom to end one's own life is a liberty that should be established under the law to allow already dying individuals the ability to cut short their suffering. Any action by government officials to prevent such freedom would be cruel.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Decline of the GOP

It should come as no surprise that party loyalty among Republicans is waning in this country. Our president, proudly displaying his party loyalty, has seemingly made every effort to drive moderates, libertarians, and the intelligent (other than evil geniuses) from the ranks. Following his lead, the party leadership, both nationally and locally, have similarly done their part in maintaining ideological purity.

The obvious result has been a reduction in party loyalty by these alienated groups. We can all remember when Log Cabin Republicans famously declined to endorse President Bush during his reelection campaign, citing his lack of support on Gay issues. More recently, we saw Congress move from Republican control to the Pelosi Reich. Fewer and fewer Americans are willing to support the GOP.

A poll came out today that shows a more marked decline in Republican Party loyalty than we have seen in decades past. What’s more, the poll shows that typical voters are moving away from the socially conservative notions that are a hallmark of the Republican Platform.

Back in 1994, 84% of voters supported "old-fashioned values about family and marriage." That number has since dipped to 76%. More drastic is the reduced support for allowing school boards to have the right to fire Gay teachers, which dropped from 39% in 1994 to 28% in 2007.

These numbers show that the public sentiment is progressively more centrist on social issues. The Republican Party is hemorrhaging membership specifically because they are out of touch with voters. The Grand Old Party should focus on issues where it can agree with a majority of voters and return to a platform of small government and economic prosperity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ASUC Elections

It's that time of year again! Soon, Sproul Plaza will be filled with students that haven't adequately bathed or changed their clothes in days. A veritable forest of campaign signs will spring up on every path to campus. The aggressiveness of the campaigners will leave even the most zealous member of CalPIRG jealous.

And this is not a protest to stop the war, defend equal rights, reinstate Affirmative Action, or support one of the seemingly countless candidates for President.

This is an ASUC election.

Granted, that I am no longer a student at Cal and cannot vote for ASUC officers. Still, I am a big fan of politics and spent more than my share of time in Eshleman Hall. I would like to hear from as many candidates as possible (for both executive and senate offices) as I plan to make endorsements early in the campaign.

Contact me at and I will ask you a few questions about what you know and how you intend to serve. Give it a try, it's free and (mostly) painless.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Faces gets a Facelift

Thanks to proprietor of several local Gay businesses, Terry Sidie, Sacramento's premier gay dance club has doubled its size. Of course, if you are Gay and in Sacramento this weekend, you probably already knew that because you were probably there.

Our "beloved" old Faces is still there behind all the new glitter, but with much more to offer. Instead of entering through a crowded hallway connecting the house dancefloor to the bar and the hip-hop room, guests now enter through the annex.

Immediately, clubbers are greated with a big, new dancefloor covered in enough lights and lasers to distract anybody- at least until a hot guy comes by and offers to buy the next drink from one of the new bars set up around the perimeter of the room. A large video screen anchors one wall and projects live images of dancers from a camera suspended from above.

Watching the action from above is now possible from the upstairs lounge. Complete with yet another bar and comfortable seating and tables, this area is the perfect area to take a break from the dance floor below.

For the smokers out there, there are two new smoking patios in addition to the old one on the K Street side. One of these patios is home to the much talked about swimming pool.

Yes, the rumors are true. Faces installed a swimming pool. And, yes, partiers can swim in the pool (at least when the pool is open during Happy Hours).

Unfortunately, the new glitz and glamour doesn't cover up all the problems with the old face of Faces. The hip-hop room is still packed full of heteros, straight from the ghetto and the old front bar definitely shows its age.

Even given the line stretching around the corner and down the block on Saturday night, we can be certain that the crowds at Faces won't be quite so big at Faces in a few weeks. Hopefully, when the crowds go down, the cover will return to its old $8 (instead of the $10 charged last Saturday night).

Still, I think the new Faces is something to check least until Badlands opens!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Alex Randolph, He's So Hot Right Now

The Bay Area Reporter is a strong voice for the Gay community of San Francisco and the BAR seems to have a little crush on Cal alumnus, Alex Randolph. Most recently, they have included Randolph in a profile of Black, Gay politicians in San Francisco.

After Alex graduated from Berkeley, he served as Campaign Manager for another Cal alum, SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who represents the Castro. Randolph seems to have quickly morphed into Dufty's new protege.

After securing Dufty's reelection, Randolph picked up a post in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services and covers much of the action in the Castro. He has also become active in SF's LGBT Democratic club.

According to the BAR, Randolph has indicated that he has not ruled out a possible run to replace Bevan Dufty when he terms out in 2011.

"It is a possibility, but I haven't given it any strong thought yet," he said. "When the time comes, I might, but not right now."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Gay Frat Dudes!

I have also been negligent in welcoming Sigma Epsilon Omega to campus. ΣΕΩ is promoting itself as the new Gay fraternity at Berkeley. Although I welcome any attempt to expand the Cal Greek Community and wish the best for the men of Sigma Epsilon Omega, I question whether there is a need for a Gay fraternity on campus.

Most fraternities on campus are accepting of Gay members. In fact, I know of few that do not have openly Gay brothers in their active membership and do know of one that welcomed a transgendered man. When I came out of the closet, my fraternity brothers were among the most accepting people in my life at the time.

More importantly, unlike other living environments including dorms and co-ops, fraternities are values-based organizations. Dorms and Co-ops can benefit from having a random mix of people or a themed living environment. Greek houses, however, are intended to be people of similar values living together in a brotherhood or sisterhood, building familial ties. While Gay people absolutely should be included in these environments, these values transcend sexual orientation. Those that want to live in a Gay themed house should look towards Oscar Wilde House, an apartment or house shared with Gay friends, or the LGBT themed dorm.

I do welcome Sigma Epsilon Omega onto campus and wish them the best of luck. Hopefully, the brothers of that fraternity will develop a brotherhood based on shared values beyond the acceptance of homosexuality. There is always room on campus for another Greek house. Best of Luck!

Cal Students for Marriage Equality

I have been neglectful in my duties to welcome Cal Students for Marriage Equality to the Blogosphere. CSME is a relatively new student group on campus (okay, not that new since it was founded by Andy Ratto before he graduated) with the intent to promote marriage equality in the Cal community. Think of it as the Human Rights Campaign or Equality California on a local scale. As one of their activities, they are maintaining a blog discussing Gay issues in the media. They are the newest addition to my blogroll. I know some of the leadership involved with CSME and expect to hear good things coming from their organization.

Unfortunately, it seems CSME is showing up a little late to the party. Most of the pressing issues facing Gay Californians have already been resolved. Although the term "marriage" is not yet awarded to Same-Sex couples, all the benefits and responsibilities the state can bestow are already granted. More notably, Cal is located in one of the most Gay-friendly regions of the world where most people are already accepting of Gays and Lesbians.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Love a Man in Uniform

I've blogged on the Military Readiness Enhancement Act before the Pelosi Reich began. Of course, we all knew the bill that would end Don't Ask Don't Tell wouldn't get passed by a Republican, lame duck congress.

But, the bill is back with new support under the Democratic congress. Unfortunately, I have not found the new bill number for the legislation (last year's bill number was H.R. 1059).

Bringing an end to DADT is one of the most important issues facing Gay rights at the moment. From the Gay rights perspective, it is a government field which Gay men and women are explicitly banned from serving in openly. From a military perspective, DADT diminishes the pool of qualified candidates that the military may recruit. Further, it has been shown that many of those removed from the military for being Gay are the all-important Arabic translators that our military currently has a shortage of.

Never has there been a shortage of Gay and Lesbians serving in any branch of the United States military. Rarely does a week go by that I don't meet a guy from the Marines or Air Force out at the local Gay bars. While these men and women are usually not "out" at work (and, in fact, might not come out if DADT were reversed), they deserve the opportunity to serve without fear that they might be removed from their chosen profession because of their sexual orientation.

Hopefully, this year's version of the bill will fare better than HR 1059 did.