E.J. Graff

Barney Frank Goes Home

The idea that Massachusetts could lose Barney Frank in our congressional delegation never crossed my mind before yesterday, but I'm told that he's been signalling he's ready to go for a couple of years now. The New York Times ' Abby Goodnough had a nice item about his departure announcement, which includes a great kicker about his famous combativeness with reporters and, well, everyone: Mr. Frank’s famous petulance was on display at times on Monday; he dismissed what he called a “gotcha” question from a reporter about his personal investments and, upon learning she worked for Fox News, said, “Quelle surprise.” He also said he looked forward to leaving office so that “I don’t even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don’t like,” leading another reporter to ask, “Have you ever?” “Some of you may not think I’ve been good at it,” Mr. Frank said. “But I’ve been trying.” I have to say, I am really looking forward to the "Barney Frank greatest hits"—the quips, the tongue-lashings,...

Advertising for Marriage

Rex Wockner, longtime gay reporter, says this is the best marriage equality TV spot he has ever seen. The LGBT newsweekly The Advocate agrees . I haven't seen as many as they have, but it's pretty great. My only thought: it could be even better if there's another one just like it, in which the principal figure is a woman. What do you think?

Women in the Boardroom

This morning, Women's E-News reports that since 2003, when Norway required corporate boards to be made up of at least 40 percent women, "plenty of other European countries have followed : Spain: 40 percent by 2015 for market-listed companies or those with more than 250 employees. France: 40 percent by 2017 for market-listed companies or those with more than 500 employees. The Netherlands: 30 percent by 2016 for market-listed companies or those with more than 250 employees. Iceland: 40 percent by 2013 for companies with more than 50 employees. Italy: 30 percent by 2015 for market-listed companies. Belgium: 30 percent by 2016 for big market-listed companies and by 2019 for small- and medium-sized companies." The writer, Nele Feldman, then asks why this hasn't happened yet in Germany, "where women make up 15 percent of the board of directors ." I know what you're thinking: The U.S. must not need such a law, since women already make up more than ... umm... okay, just kidding. According to...

13 Ways of Looking at a Turkey

Okay, maybe not thirteen ways. I didn't count. But we're not really working today, right—day before a holiday and all? So enjoy this .

More Thoughts on Football

I should have posted this poem in October. But since I'm on a football jag now, here's a famous poem about what young men are channeling when they play football. Written in 1964, it includes some offensive language from its era. But I love this poem and have known it by heart for decades. Autumn Begins in Martin's Ferry, Ohio -- James Wright In the Shreve High football stadium, I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville, And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood, And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel, Dreaming of heroes. All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home. Their women cluck like starved pullets, Dying for love. Therefore, Their sons grow suicidally beautiful At the beginning of October, And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.

Football is Hell

As I think you know by now , I don't pay much attention to football. But between the concussion suicides and the Sandusky allegations, I've gotten a bit interested in the sociology of the sport. And so this Sunday's New York Times interview with former pro football player Kris Jenkins interested me. Jenkins makes it clear that he signed fully signed up for the brutality and pain: You ever been in a car crash? Done bumper cars? You know when that hit catches you off guard and jolts you, and you're like, what the hell? Football is like that. But 10 times worse. It's hell.... [O]ver the years, I wore the left side of my body down. I was past hurt. I was at the point of numb. Like my body was shutting down nervous systems, so I didn’t have to deal with pain. The numbness started at the very beginning. I couldn’t feel part of both arms. I couldn’t feel part of both legs. It was worse on the left. I’m just starting to get feeling back in my left side. Look, football is no joke.... We...

Sandusky's Victim One Bullied out of School

According to Sara Ganim at the Patriot-News , the reporter who first broke the Penn State sexual-abuse story back in March, Sandusky's Victim One has had to leave school because he's being bullied: Officials at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County weren’t providing guidance for fellow students, who were reacting badly about Joe Paterno’s firing and blaming the 17-year-old, said Mike Gillum, the psychologist helping his family. Those officials were unavailable for comment this weekend. The name-calling and verbal threats were just too much, he said. The news media may have moved on, but these kids are going to have to live with the fallout from being assaulted, abused, and blamed for the rest of their lives. I can hardly even speak about how appalled I am about this. Yet I'm not surprised. This is what happens to girls and women who report assaults and rape. Why would it be different for boys and men?

Department of Follow-Up: How Do You Make Better Parents?

Like a lot of nerds, my jaw dropped this weekend when, on the NYT 's opinion page, Tom Friedman concluded that what our education system needs to help children perform better is ... drum roll ... better parents . Well gosh, no one ever thought that before. Um, could you follow that up with a policy Rx, please? Fortunately, Dana Goldstein has indeed done that, right here . Her column is a nice guide to school-reform thinking on precisely this question, with great links...

The Internet Miniskirt

Flickr/Ed Yourdon
I've been lucky. There was no Internet back in the 1990s when I was one of the few women writing in the mainstream media about LGBT issues. Hate mail, then, was actual, physical mail, usually sent to a newspaper and forwarded, although one or two writers somehow found my home address. But even those were pretty mild. The usual theme was that I was going to hell; sometimes I got conversion pamphlets, with handy cartoon illustrations of people on fire. I got a couple of letters with disgustingly graphic ideas about my sex life, but those were overshadowed by the religious pamphlets and the psychotics' letters—which you learned to recognize by the tiny handwriting on the envelope, and which ran six to ten pages, and almost always mentioned alien life forms somehow. So when, in the Internet era, I started writing more about women's economic lives—exposing the gross details of sexual harassment, or explaining the violence involved in occupational segregation—I was honestly shocked by the...

DNA, Massachusetts, and the Question: Why Exonerate the Innocent?

Why exonerate the innocent? For some of us, the answer is obvious: justice. It's immoral to keep a person behind bars for someone else's crime. But not everyone believes that's enough of a reason. Here's how they think: Is it really worth overwhelming the underfunded criminal justice system (in Massachusetts, the vast majority of assistant district attorneys, the workhorses of the system, make between $40,000 and $80,000 a year, plus death threats) to process DNA requests for the few outliers who think they're innocent? For that side of the fence, here's the motivator: If the wrong person is in jail, there's a rapist or murderer still walking around, endangering the rest of us. Neither of those reasons has been enough for my home state of Massachusetts, putatively so liberal, to require judges to grant prisoners access to DNA evidence. This weekend Michael Blanding and Lindsay Markel of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism , where I am a senior fellow, published a...

Unemployment and Underemployment Over Time

I'm not the only nerd here in the room, right? Phew. Check out Remapping Debate's new graph of Bureau of Labor Statistics data of unemployment and underemployment, by state, over time. Don't miss the widget that lets you examine how the data differs by year. In brief: It looks grim. Do use the data for good.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Adoption

Over the past two months, I’ve posted a few items about fraud and corruption in international adoption, a subject I’ve reported on extensively . Of the many articles I wrote on the topic, one story in particular broke my heart—and illuminated how such frauds occur. I’ve just heard, again, from one of the principals in the situation, and I’d like to post his letter. Before I do so, here’s a summary of—and links to—the articles that offer background. In brief: In 1998, Americans adopted 29 children from a town in Sierra Leone whose birth families now say they were stolen. At the time, the Americans believed they were saving desperate orphans from a brutal civil war. But the birth families have now testified that they were offered a free education for their children and were never told that those children would leave the country—much less that the children would be permanently taken away by foreigners. In reporting that story, I ended up talking to people at every stage of the adoption...

Prop. 8 Challengers Have Standing

The California Supreme Court has ruled that, in its view, the people who brought Proposition 8 to the ballot -- the initiative that halted California's same-sex marriages -- have the "standing" to back that law in court. Exactly what does that mean? It's complicated. Learn more from Chris Geidner, here .

DOMA, DOMA, DOMA: 2, Executive & Legislative Challenges

Executive. There’s a campaign under way to get President Obama to say he supports marriage equality; he hasn’t gone that far, claiming instead that his position “continues to evolve.” He has said that he opposes DOMA—which means little, in practice, for all the reasons we know from middle-school civics classes. Because it’s Congress’s job to make laws and the executive branch’s job to enforce them, the president can’t just stop enforcing DOMA: Same-sex couples still have to file taxes as single, and so forth. However, the executive branch does have some discretion. To wit: In February 2011, Obama’s administration made big news when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his office would no longer defend DOMA in court—because they believed it was unconstitutional, for the reasons listed in the lawsuits below. This was controversial. However: The U.S. has stopped some deportations of a binational married couple’s foreign-born spouse, saying that getting rid of people who are here...

DOMA, DOMA, DOMA: 1, Judicial challenges

Last week, while men in power were getting called out for behaving badly (see under: Cain, Herman; Penn State football), the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) behaved well—by voting out of commmittee a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. As I mentioned last week , no one expects the repeal bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, to actually come to the Senate floor this year. But that’s not really the point of the SJC’s action. DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act ) is under attack on quite a few fronts. At every front, those involved are looking over their shoulders and watching what’s happening elsewhere—which means that while no single success brings it down, each one reverberates and affects the chances in the next battle. In theory, every branch of government is independent; in reality, they’re always watching each other. The SJC’s vote affects the other branches, just as the various lawsuits against DOMA surely gave the senators on the committee the courage to...