Tag Archives: Towleroad

Open The Closet And Walk To The Outside

Marc Ambinder:

Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter’s questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities — such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (“Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…”). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
Mehlman is aware that his attempts to justify his past silence will not be adequate for many people. He and his friends say that he is aware that he will no longer control the story about his identity — which will simultaneously expose old wounds, invite Schadenfruede, and legitimize anger among gay rights activists in both parties who did not hide their sexual orientations.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Ambinder was apparently pushed to run the story two days early after Mike Rogers, whose track record on outing conservative politicians is very good, reported on Blogactive that Ambinder was preparing a story that would confirm that Mehlman was gay and the story was slated for Friday or early next week.

Within an hour of Rogers going public with his scoop that Mehlman was about to come out as gay, Ambinder posted his story.

It’s a rumor that has circulated around Washington, D.C., for years.  Mehlman–who was recently in the news for buying a condo in New York City’s very-gay Chelsea neighborhood–has previously denied he’s gay but now he tells Ambinder that he “arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently” and “anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.”


In 2006, Mehlman’s sexual orientation led to an uncomfortable moment for CNN after they edited a transcript and a video that featured Bill Maher outing Mehlman on Larry King Live. That story was later told in the documentary Outrage, which featured Rogers and his work to “out” closeted  gay conservatives who work against the LGBT community.

Ambinder seems like a natural to break the Mehlman story.  In 2006, he wrote about the challenges that Mark Foley scandal created for gay Republicans, including the lavender mafia that surrounded Foley and reached into the Republican establishment. A well-connected openly gay reporter, Ambinder would have the connections inside the web of gay Republicans to convince Mehlman to give him an exclusive.

According to the story, Mehlman and Ambinder have been talking for a number of years about Mehlman coming out and his views on gay issues.

Honestly, I thought the guy came out years ago. Remember when Bill Maher talked about the rumors surrounding him on Larry King’s show — back in 2006? I guess you were the last to know, Ken.

He’s doing this now, it seems, because he wants to drum up publicity for the cause of gay marriage and figures that “Republican whom everyone thought was gay actually is gay” headlines will do the trick. Could be, although Ambinder’s careful to remind readers of the sort of social con initiatives that the GOP pushed during Mehlman’s RNC tenure. That won’t endear him to gay activists, and his newly public identity won’t endear him to social cons. Maybe he should have just worked for gay marriage like Ted Olson and kept his orientation private?

Joe My God:

Andy Towle is reporting that Mehlman has already agreed to chair a “major anti-Prop 8 fundraiser” for Americans For Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies’ outfit. Gee thanks, shitbag. That’s like offering to help rebuild a house when YOU were the fucker that helped BURN IT DOWN.


Just got off the phone with Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization challenging Proposition 8 in federal court, regarding former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and reports that he is about to come out of the closet.

Griffin tells me that Ken Mehlman is chairing a major fundraiser in late September that has already raised over $1 million for the organization battling Prop 8. The fundraiser is co-chaired by prominent Republican donors Paul Singer and Peter Thiel and will be held at Singer’s home.

A large number of other Republicans are co-hosts of the fundraiser including Mary Cheney, Margaret Hoover, and Steve Schmidt. Dick Gephardt is also among the hosts.

Said Griffin to Towleroad:

“Mehlman has committeed his own resources and been an integral part of the team at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Our goal is to get as many people who aren’t on the side of gay marriage on our side, and once they are here, to welcome them.”

Said AFER board member Dustin Lance Black:

“Ken represents an incredible coup for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We believe that our mission of equal rights under the law is one that should resonate with every American. As a victorious former presidential campaign manager and head of the Republican Party, Ken has the proven experience and expertise to help us communicate with people across each of the 50 states.”

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Good for Ken. I know a lot of people will want to criticize him for heading up the GOP as a closeted gay man. He says he only recently came to terms with being gay. I suspect he always knew he was gay, but recently came to terms with accepting it, and embracing it. And good for him. He’s now doing the right thing, helping support marriage equality. I’m not going to fault him for that. Coming out is a horrendously difficult and complicated thing. It’s not rational.

Now, does that mean I oppose efforts to out people who are hurting our community? Absolutely not. I was there with the rest of them calling Mehlamn out for being a closeted gay man running a homophobic political party. Our long-time readers will remember Mehlman Mondays on AMERICAblog. I long talked about Mehlman being the only closet-heterosexual I’d ever heard of – a man not willing to admit he’s straight.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace him now. And not just for strategic reasons. Mehlman, from what Ambinder says, is doing the right thing. He’s now using his position in the GOP to help our community on our number one issue: marriage. For that, he deserves our thanks.

Now, let me say, the GOP was happily anti-gay under Mehlman, so I don’t buy his story that he helped temper their nastiness. They were still homophobic bigots, regardless of what Mehlman did or didn’t do, and he chose to remain as their head. For that, he gets no thanks. But is he making up for it today? You betcha. It’s a start, and a damn good one.

As for the Democratic party, I hope someone at the DNC is starting to sweat. We now have the former head of the Republican party who is to the left of Barack Obama on gay marriage. There’s a virtual groundswell of senior Republicans coming out for marriage equality. It can’t be going unnoticed in the gay community. And while it doesn’t mean 70% of the gay vote will now go Republican instead of Democrat, it does mean that growing numbers of gays and lesbians will starting thinking of the GOP as a legitimate alternative to the Democratic party.

And finally, how about that religious right? The Republicans lied to them about Mehlman for years. And Mehlam himself admits that he used his position as RNC chair to help stop the GOP gay-baiting. The religious right was totally pwned.

Ann Althouse:

Journey? Oh, I hear the dog-whistle. He’s calling the Oprah crowd. Family, friendssupportive… he wants Democrats, women, etc., to care about him. Don’t hate me because I’m/I’ve been a Republican. Love me, because I’m gay, and oh! how I’ve anguished in the company of Republicans.

UPDATE: Michael Calderone at Yahoo

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Gabriel Arana at Tapped

Maria Bustillos at The Awl

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The Thin Red Line And The Thin Blue Line Move Extremely Close Together

Nate Silver:

In April, 2009, when we last took a survey of gay marriage polls, we found that support for it had converged somewhere into the area of 41 or 42 percent of the country. Now, it appears to have risen by several points, and as I reported yesterday, it has become increasingly unclear whether opposition to gay marriage still outweighs support for it.

Here is a version of the graph we produced in 2009, but updated to include the dozen or so polls that have been conducted on it since that time, as listed by pollingreport.com. I have also included opinions on gay marriage from the General Social Survey, which asked about gay marriage as long ago as 1988.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

For the first time ever, a poll shows that more Americans support the right of gay people to marry than those who oppose it, 52-46, according to CNN. That’s a major milestone in itself, but what’s more, gay-marriage supporters could not ask for a better symbolic representation of America’s changing attitudes than the one in this graph

Joe My God:

I know you freaks are dying to comment on the shape of the graph.


Kevin Drum:

It’s only one poll, but it’s clearly part of a multi-decade trend that’s been moving in the right direction at the rate of a little over 1% a year. Until recently that is: in the past three years, polling on this question has improved at the rate of 3-4% a year. And this might end up being the greatest legacy of Vaughn Walker’s decision in the Proposition 8 case. His opinion might not have much influence on the Supreme Court when they end up ruling on the issue, but it probably does have an impact on public opinion. People respond to the opinions of thought leaders and authority figures, and when judges and politicians start speaking out more openly about this, it makes it safer for ordinary citizens to follow suit. Some of that is probably what’s happening here.

What’s also remarkable — though not new — is the huge gender divide on this question: men are obviously far more threatened by the idea of same-sex marriage than women are. Being thought a sissy during childhood is a common and scarring experience for boys, but being thought a butch or a tomboy probably isn’t such a wide or traumatizing experience for girls. In this particular case, men remain far more trapped in their traditional gender roles than women.

Allah Pundit:

Note the distinction. Ask people whether gays should have the right and you get a 52/46 split. Ask them whether gays do have the right — which of course was the point of Walker’s due process and equal protection rulings in the Prop 8 case — and it shrinks to 49/51, which is still a thinner margin than when Gallup polled a similar question just two months ago. It’s hard to draw strong lessons from a three-point swing, which is within the margin of error, but it does point towards the possibility that you’re more likely to build public consensus by taking the incrementalist approach and letting legislatures create rights than having courts divine them from the Constitution.

Andrew Sullivan:

What backlash? CNN’s latest poll, in the wake of the Walker decision, is easily the most promising to date for those of us in support of marriage rights for all. For the first time, a slim majority of all Americans backs not just marriage, but a constitutional right to marriage for gay couples. A majority, in other words, believes this to be a civil rights issue, which, of course, it is, because civil marriage has long been regarded as a fundamental civil right in American constitutional history. And a majority is in favor! I’m not sure what to make of a small discrepancy in wording – between whether gays already “have” such a right or whether they “should have” – but wouldn’t go so far as Allahpundit in arguing it shows that this process should be driven solely by state legislatures.

I know it’s messy, but surely the fact is that the classic American process is not, and should not be, either judicial tyranny or majority rule over a minority’s rights. It’s an ongoing interaction of the two. Would I prefer a total legislative and democratic victory for marriage equality? You bet I would. At the same time, can anyone gainsay our amazing progress in making the case?

In 1989, the idea was preposterous. But by relentless arguing, debate, litigation and legislative and ballot-box initiatives, we have moved the needle faster than anyone once dreamed of. When a proposition has 50 percent support, you can argue either that there is no need for the courts to act. But you could equally argue that with public support already this high, such a ruling could not meaningfully represent anything approximating “tyranny”. Certainly far less so than when the courts struck down bans on inter-racial marriage which enjoyed very strong popular support at the time, especially in the states where they prevailed.

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Congresscritters Are Busy Critters, With All The Bill Writing And Amending And Such

The Hate Crimes bill:

Tim Lynch at Cato:

Last night, the House of Representatives approved a defense spending measure that included a totally unrelated bill that would ban so-called “hate crimes.”

I’ve testified twice against federal hate crimes proposals.  Here’s the case against the law (in brief):

First, the federal hate crime law is unconstitutional because it is beyond the powers of Congress.

Second, the law will not prevent violent crime.  Anyone already inclined to kill or beat up another human being is not going to reverse course because Congress passes a new law against violence motivated by bias.

Third, the law does take the state too close to the realm of thought crimes.  In order for a prosecutor to prove the “hate” aspect, detectives have to dig into a person’s life, thoughts, writings, conversations, etc., to gather the “evidence.”  There’s no good reason to go there because — let’s remember — violent acts are already against the law!


“Democrats and advocates hailed the 281-to-146 vote, which put the measure on the brink of becoming law, as the culmination of a long push to curb violent expressions of bias like the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student.’ Left unchecked, crimes of this kind threaten to ruin the very fabric of America,’ said Representative Susan Davis, Democrat of California. The hate-crimes measure was approved as part of a broad $681 billion Pentagon policy measure, a strategy that infuriated House Republicans who accused Democrats of employing a form of legislative blackmail. Most Democrats voted for the measure, as did more than 40 Republicans.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure early next week, after which it will head to Obama for his signature.

Said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in a statement: “This measure is long overdue and I am pleased that Congress has voted to do what’s right. Martin Luther King, Jr. often said that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’  We see that beautifully illustrated here today.”

Jacob Sullum at Reason:

Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten to death in Wyoming, and James Byrd, a black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Texas, were both murdered in 1998. In both cases, their killers seem to have been motivated by bigotry. What else do they have in common? Their murderers were arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison or death, all without the benefit of hate crime laws, state or federal. Hence it is very strange to slap their names on a piece of legislation that is based on the premise that such crimes might go unpunished without a federal law aimed at violent criminals motivated by bigotry. “The hate crimes act,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman  Carl Levin (D-Mich.), “will hopefully deter people from being targeted for violent attacks because of the color of their skin or their religion, their disability, their gender or their sexual orientation, regardless of where the crime takes place.”

Deter people from being targeted? Talk about blaming the victim. What Levin presumably meant is no less ridiculous. Is it at all plausible that the men who murdered Matthew Shepard or James Byrd would have been deterred by the prospect of federal, as opposed to state, prosecution? How many lives can you serve in prison? How many times can you be executed?

Amanda Terkel at Think Progress:

Yesterday, the House voted “to expand the definition of violent federal hate crimes to those committed because of a victim’s sexual orientation” by passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The right put its homophobia on full display in an attempt to kill the legislation, with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) saying that it would lead to Nazism, and the legalization of necrophilia, pedophilia, and bestiality.

Today in an interview with Radio America/WorldNetDaily, Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
– who has said that hate crimes legislation creates “sacred cows” and puts the “victimizer’s focus on someone else” — tried to argue that such a bill is unnecessary. His argument? Matthew Shepard himself wasn’t actually murdered because he was gay:

KING: I didn’t make the point, but others did, that James Byrd was sentenced to death in Texas, and I don’t know if that sentence has been carried out yet. But he received highest penalty available under the law for the dragging death of James Byrd. And the Matthew Shepard case, there’s been a fair amount of information that came out that that really wasn’t the motivation of the people who killed him, but they did receive the maximum penalty under the law.

And on to the Franken amendment:

Radley Balko:

Thirty GOP Senators vote against a bill that would give court access to employees of military contractors who are raped while overseas. As I understand it, Franken’s bill applies only to civil suits. The real problem is the legal netherworld that exists when contractors work overseas where they’re bound neither by U.S. law nor local law. Or at least that was the Bush Justice Department’s excuse for not prosecuting these rapes. Anyone know if Congress has changed that to make contractors working for the U.S. government subject to U.S. law?

Mark Kleiman:

So let me just throw this out as a challenge:  can anyone name a good argument for voting against the Franken provision?  Here’s a statement of the facts in the gang-rape case that KBR was able to duck responsibility for.   And here’s a story with some quotes from Sessions.

The good news is that none of the Republican women voted with Sessions.  The bad news is that three-quarters of the Republicans in the Senate did.

And someone in the White House needs to have a serious talk with the Secretary of Defense to remind him that there was an election last fall.   I can understand the bureaucratic politics that led DoD to oppose the bill – after all, the people who gave all those contracts to Dick Cheney’s old company are mostly still in place – but this one needed some adult supervision, and Gates failed to provide it.

Bryan McAffee at Right Pundits:

Personally I have no problem with the Franken Amendment, besides the fact that it singles out Halliburton, which Democrats love to use as their favorite boogey man next to Karl Rove. Actually, I don’t get why so many Republicans voted against it. Do we really want to say that victims of sexual assault can’t get access to courts to sue their employer. I’m all in favor of arbitration and mediation, but those types of alternate dispute resolution were not really set up to handle victims of rape or sexual assault, they are more for contractual issues, pay issues, etc. We should have judges and juries of our peers evaluating these kinds of important cases. The biggest strike against arbitration is that they are nearly impossible to appeal, so once the case is decided, there is nothing you can do after that point.

Sen. Sessions, who did vote against the bill, argued that this gives Congress too much power to alter employment contracts of private companies and that it went against the recommendation of the Defense Department, but eh, I don’t think those concerns outweigh the concerns that rape victims should have more legal protections.

So, as much as I hate to say it, good on you Sen. Franken. I think your incessant hounding of Halliburton is childish, but over all, the Franken Amendment probably accomplishes something worthwhile.

Steve Benen:

Let’s not overlook the larger context here. Democrats are expected to try to find “bipartisan” support on practically everything. Some GOP lawmakers think health care reform isn’t “legitimate” if it doesn’t have 80 votes.

And yet, when the Senate considered a measure yesterday to give rape victims who work for U.S.-subsidized defense contractors a day in court, 30 out of 40 Republican senators said, “No.”

The notion that the majority should be able to reach constructive, worthwhile compromises with this minority is clearly ridiculous.

UPDATE: On the end (it looks) of the Franken amendment:

Jonathan Zasloff

John Cole

UPDATE: Franken amendment lives:


Steve Benen

UPDATE #3: Dahlia Lithwick in Slate

Will at The League

UPDATE #4: Erin Geiger Smith at Law Review at Business Insider

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Filed under Crime, Legislation Pending, LGBT, Military Issues, Race

Hey, Andy Did You Hear About This One?


The 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. There’s a website, We Choose The Moon.

Jack Grant at Moderate Voice


Charles Krauthammer in WaPo:

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. We say we will return in 2020. But that promise was made by a previous president, and this president has defined himself as the antimatter to George Bush. Moreover, for all of Barack Obama’s Kennedyesque qualities, he has expressed none of Kennedy’s enthusiasm for human space exploration.

So with the Apollo moon program long gone, and with Constellation, its supposed successor, still little more than a hope, we remain in retreat from space. Astonishing. After countless millennia of gazing and dreaming, we finally got off the ground at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Within 66 years, a nanosecond in human history, we’d landed on the moon. Then five more landings, 10 more moonwalkers and, in the decades since, nothing.

To be more precise: almost 40 years spent in low Earth orbit studying, well, zero-G nausea and sundry cosmic mysteries. We’ve done it with the most beautiful, intricate, complicated — and ultimately, hopelessly impractical — machine ever built by man: the space shuttle. We turned this magnificent bird into a truck for hauling goods and people to a tinkertoy we call the international space station, itself created in a fit of post-Cold War internationalist absentmindedness as a place where people of differing nationality can sing “Kumbaya” while weightless.

Bruce Watson at Daily Finance:

As America celebrates the fortieth anniversary of its first visit to the Moon, it seems reasonable to reconsider the broader significance of this event. On one level, the 1969 moon shot was the ultimate in hyper-expensive vanity projects, a bright, bold move that inspired the country, impressed the world, and resulted in untold scientific advancements. It’s hard to quantify the intangible benefits of the program; even now, for a certain segment of the populace, part of the wonder of the moon lies in the fact that it holds a wire-impregnated American flag that is eternally flapping in a nonexistent breeze.

[…] For a generation that is too young to remember World War II or the Apollo landings, nationalism seems cheesy and threadbare. A renewed space program could be the first step toward a renewed sense of non-religious, non-partisan national destiny.

If American astronauts go back to the moon, they will probably do so in an Orion capsule, atop an Ares rocket. It would cost between $28 and $36 billion to put these components into space by the end of 2010. Flying three missions per year through 2015 would run an additional $14 billion.

The usual — and, admittedly, relevant — arguments against a new space program generally boil down to the fact that there are numerous vital projects that need to be done on planet earth, any of which would benefit from the infusion of $28-$50 billion. On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailouts will ultimately cost between $25 billion and $2.5 trillion, depending upon who is doing the accounting.

Joel Achenbach reviews Rocket Men in WaPo:

Forty years on, the space program is still struggling to figure out how to top the fabled moonshot of July 1969. Apollo 11 may have been the greatest achievement in space flight, but arguably it nearly killed the space program. Because what do you do after you shoot the moon?

You build a space shuttle. You build a space station. You launch telescopes. You dither around in low Earth orbit for decades. But no matter what you do, you find that Apollo 11 is an impossible act to follow.

John Derbyshire at NRO:

Feedback from my own column on Apollo has opened my eyes to a peculiar contradiction in the conservative soul. On the one hand, as patriots, conservative Americans take great pride in our nation’s achievements. It can’t be denied that landing men on the Moon was a simply tremendous achievement. On the other hand, conservatives look askance at big, expensive federal programs, and the Apollo program was surely one such.

The cognitive dissonance thus engendered has produced some very tortured logic among my e-mailers. A common argument is that by demonstrating our aerospatial-technological superiority to the Soviets, Apollo helped win the Cold War. I can’t myself see any evidence that Apollo advanced our victory in the Cold War by so much as fifteen minutes, and nobody has anything concrete to offer. The U.S.S.R. decayed on its own domestic timetable, with very little reference to what we were doing. So it seems to me, anyway. Contrariwise to the Apollo argument, our humiliation in Vietnam should have enormously encouraged the Soviets; but I see no real sign of that, either. They just went on slowly crumbling.

Huginn and Muginn at Daily Kos:

Looking back, it also seems as if that was the last great moment I can remember of national, or international unity — a moment in which we were drawn together not by sorrow, or shock (as on 9/11) but one in which we were united by joy and the giddy thrill of human accomplishment. Sure, there were those who claimed this as a uniquely American moment, and in some ways it was that. But even for Americans, this was not a political moment; it was neither Republican nor Democratic — NASA was born in a Republican administration and boosted by two Democratic ones. Even though Nixon was President at the moment of the moon landing, it was not his moment to take credit (and — amazingly enough, he knew this). The landing was, in all the ways that really counted, a triumph that transcended nationalism. (“One giant leap for mankind.”) They celebrated in the streets of London, Paris, Tokyo, and elsewhere, as enthusiastically as we did in Times Square.

Yes, I know that the moon program was driven in large part by the dynamics of the Cold War. But the greatest legacy of the program is that it allowed us to look back at ourselves — the small blue marble — and see that what brings us together is much bigger than what sets us apart. It was that moment — an entire planet with its hopes and dreams embodied in two men walking on another world — that contributed in great part to the environmental movement, not to mention a generation of children that would grow up embracing technology and its ability to solve the world’s problems. And, of course, Tang.

Carl M. Cannon in Politics Daily:

Will these decisions ultimately ground mankind? Will we never set foot on the moon again – or on Mars ever? That doesn’t seem likely. If we don’t go, someone else surely will. It’s human nature, and Americans are hardly the only ones on this planet: We’ve been cooperating in space for years with astronauts from other nations, including Russians, the people who got Kennedy’s attention. Meanwhile, Obama has ordered a review of NASA’s entire human space flight program, which is due out later this summer. I don’t know what that report will say, but I would mention three small words to the man in the Oval Office who will receive it. Yes. We. Can.

Michael Laprarie at Wizbang:

The program to land a man on the moon was named Apollo. It was preceded by the Mercury program (1961 – 1963) and the Gemini program (1965 – 1966). Apollo 1 ended in disaster when its crew, Gus Grissim, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, died in a fire during a launch simulation on January 27, 1967.

The Apollo program was grounded for nearly a year after the fire, while the command module underwent a through redesign. Apollo 4 (Nov. 1967) and Apollo 6 (April 1968) were unmanned test launches of the full Saturn V launch vehicle and command/service module configuration. Apollo 7 (October 1968) was the first manned Apollo flight. Apollo 8 (December 1968) was the first manned space flight to break earth orbit and orbit the moon. The reading of Genesis 1 by the Apollo 8 crew while circling the moon was an incredible event that spiritually united a world that had been torn apart by war and strife.

Apollo 9 (March 1969) was the first mission flown with the Lunar Module. The astronauts successfully extracted the LM from the third stage of the Saturn V, orbited the earth with the command/service module (CSM) and LM docked, separated the LM and tested its engines, and performed several space walks. Apollo 10 (May 1969) set the stage for the moon landing. The full spacecraft (CSM and LM) left earth orbit, orbited the moon, separated, and the LM crew descended to within 8.4 nautical miles of the lunar surface.

And in July 1969, the first mission to actually land a manned space craft on the moon was a “go.”

Ethan Siegel at Scienceblogs:

We are definitely the first species in our Solar System to willfully travel to another world, and depending on what or who else is out there, we may be the first species in our whole galaxy or even the entire Universe to do so!


Jason Perlow at ZDNet:

To send men to the moon, a much larger rocket engine was going to be needed. In 1960, the Marshall Space Flight Center, led by NASA’s chief rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun, determined via early calculations that they would need to design a multi-stage rocket with over 7 million pounds of thrust in its boost stage — this was many orders of magnitude above what was currently available. It eventually fell upon Rocketdyne to design a RP-1/LOX engine, eventually designated the F-1,  which would have 1.5 million pounds of takeoff thrust apiece. Five F-1s would be used on the S-IC first stage on the Saturn V, which would have a combined thrust of 7.5 million pounds.

NASA had just under 10 years in order to satisfy Kennedy’s edict to get men on the Moon. Fortunately, Rocketdyne had already done a lot of the groundwork and gained a lot of experience with Atlas, Jupiter and Thor, and had begun early development of a prototype high-thrust rocket engine for the Air Force even before NASA asked for engines with the specifications for the Saturn V boost stage. Rockedyne was testing early prototypes of the precursor to the F-1 as early as 1959. The problem now was scaling up those engines and designing turbopumps that could handle the 40,000+ gallons per minute each giant F-1 engine would consume.


Matt Patterson at Big Hollywood:

Mr. Armstrong is still alive, and, as far as I know, in good health.  But alas, one day, like all of us, Armstrong will shuffle off this mortal coil.  When he does, his passing will no doubt be news – it will lead on all of the broadcast and cable news programs, and decorate the front pages of the daily papers.  He might even for a brief moment replace The Chosen One’s smiling visage on the covers of the etiolated news weeklies which grow thinner in size and substance with each passing week.

But will millions tune in to watch the funeral proceedings from across the globe?  Will thousands descend into the streets in tears, inconsolable at the loss?  Will there be a sports arena filled with famous and non famous mourners, gathered to celebrate his life?  Will models and preachers and sports stars proclaim his heroism?

Doubtful, I should say.


And Scienceblog again

UPDATE: Tom Wolfe in NYT

Peter Lawler at PomoCon on Wolfe

Doug J. on Wolfe

Megan McArdle:

Four years before I was born, man walked on the moon for the first time, the most magnificent single feat our little tribe of East African Plains Apes has ever managed.   Now we don’t even do that.  What happened to the dream?  Government mismanagement, yes, but something more than that, too, some failure of imagination and will.

I hope that by the fiftieth anniversary some people, somewhere, will have regained the momentum that pushed mankind into our first tenative baby step towards the stars.

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It Happened One Night On Christopher Street

Stonewall_Inn_1969On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred and gave birth to the gay rights movement.

Frank Rich in the NYT:

LIKE all students caught up in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, I was riveted by the violent confrontations between the police and protestors in Selma, 1965, and Chicago, 1968. But I never heard about the several days of riots that rocked Greenwich Village after the police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in the wee hours of June 28, 1969 — 40 years ago today.

Then again, I didn’t know a single person, student or teacher, male or female, in my entire Ivy League university who was openly identified as gay. And though my friends and I were obsessed with every iteration of the era’s political tumult, we somehow missed the Stonewall story. Not hard to do, really. The Times — which would not even permit the use of the word gay until 1987 — covered the riots in tiny, bowdlerized articles, one of them but three paragraphs long, buried successively on pages 33, 22 and 19.

But if we had read them, would we have cared? It was typical of my generation, like others before and after, that the issue of gay civil rights wasn’t on our radar screen. Not least because gay people, fearful of harassment, violence and arrest, were often forced into the shadows. As David Carter writes in his book “Stonewall,” at the end of the 1960s homosexual sex was still illegal in every state but Illinois. It was a crime punishable by castration in seven states. No laws — federal, state or local — protected gay people from being denied jobs or housing. If a homosexual character appeared in a movie, his life ended with either murder or suicide.

The younger gay men — and scattered women — who acted up at the Stonewall on those early summer nights in 1969 had little in common with their contemporaries in the front-page political movements of the time. They often lived on the streets, having been thrown out of their blue-collar homes by their families before they finished high school. They migrated to the Village because they’d heard it was one American neighborhood where it was safe to be who they were.

Stonewall “wasn’t a 1960s student riot,” wrote one of them, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, in a poignant handwritten flier on display at the New York Public Library in the exhibition “1969: The Year of Gay Liberation.” They had “no nice dorms for sleeping,” “no school cafeteria for certain food” and “no affluent parents” to send checks. They had no powerful allies of any kind, no rights, no future. But they were brave. They risked their necks to prove, as Lanigan-Schmidt put it, that “the mystery of history” could happen “in the least likely of places.”

Video from Salon

Round-up of posts and articles Towleroad

Tjlabs at Daily Kos:

I was ordained a deacon in 1972 and served in two different parishes until the Church and I came to a mutual parting of the ways. During that time, I baptized dozens of babies, preached dozens of homilies and distributed hundreds of communions. But deep down I knew the real reason for becoming a priest. The Church was the safest place for a gay man to hide undetected by cloaking himself in the mantle of holiness and celibacy. I had gay classmates and knew gay priests but the straight clergy vastly outnumbered the gay clergy contrary to recent events and scandals within the Church. And the gay clergy were gay, not pedophiles. That was a whole other issue. And those we knew about were widely shunned by the rest of us.

It wasn’t until some years later after I had left the Church that I realized that the gay revolution which began 40 years ago tonight in a Mafia-run bar for gays and transvestites was also the catalyst for my personal revolution. I knew that I didn’t want to live a lie and that I didn’t want to live alone, surviving on one night stands and furtive trysts. So when I got out in 1973, I came out. But it was still early days for the gay movement for equality, rights and acceptance. You could still get fired from your job for being gay. You could still be refused an apartment for rent for being gay. And you still had to endure the verbal taunts and sometimes the threats of actual physical violence.

Teacherken at Daily Kos

Detroit Mark at Daily Kos:

But I just thought there would be something terribly wrong to let June 28th, the Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, to go by without at least trying to pin my own personal celebratory card on the wall for my sisters and brothers to remember and celebrate.

So here’s to my Forequeers.  Thank you girls, some of you adults with a full head of political activism who fought with years of preparation, and some innocent young kids left homeless on the benches of Christopher Park who stood up just out of the innate sense that something wrong needed to stop, all of whom made that night the night gay people would never go back into the closet without a fight.


But what if the cops never came? We’ll never know how that scenario would’ve gone down, but when you quiz an 89-year-old former cop who was part of the raid that night, it’s clear the Stonewall riots were destined to happen. And Seymour Pine, then the NYPD’s deputy inspector, has no regrets: “Yes, of course” the police did the right thing, Pine said in an interview with The Brian Lehrer Show. “When we took the action that we took that night, we were on the side of right. We never would have done something without supervision from the federal authorities and the state authorities. They were involved with this just as well as we were.” Insists Pine: “I don’t think not liking gay people had anything to do with it.”

James Ford

The Colbert Report

Jaclyn Friedman in The American Prospect

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