Youth

Merit Badge for Silence

As with the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the Boy Scouts' position on homosexuality denies gay people the basic right to self-definition.

(AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP Photo/LM Otero) Jennifer Tyrrell delivers a petition with 300,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts of America headquarters urging the organization to abandon its policy of excluding gays. Tyrrell was ousted as a den mother because she is a lesbian. On Tuesday, after a two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) "emphatically reaffirmed" its current ban on "open or avowed homosexuals"—a restriction that applies not only to Scout leaders, but to Scouts as well. I have a soft spot for the Scouts, having been a member until I reached high school (the uniforms, if you haven't noticed, are radically uncool, and as soon as I hit adolescence, my interest in earning merit badges evaporated). But I still remember how to tie a square, bowline, and sheet knot—and how to hang a bear bag. I learned the importance of the latter the hard way, at Boy Scout camp. Too tired to be bothered with finding a tree tall enough to hoist my bag of food, I swung it onto the roof of the Scoutmaster’s lean-to...

The Boy Scouts Get It Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Wikimedia Commons/Norman Rockwell
David Crary at the Associated Press just broke the news that "the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays." A month ago, when I wrote that it was almost time to return to the Boy Scouts because they were going to dump the policy, I apparently placed too much faith in those who wanted to reform the organization. I'm told, so far, that the LDS church (hmm, don't we know a prominent public figure who is Mormon?) and the Southern Baptists have a lot of power internally, and that they blocked any movement into the 21st century. Here's Crary's quote that suggests that (emphasis mine): The Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, contended that most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both leaders and Scouts. "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said...

Penn State Redux

Flickr/davidambrocik
How in the world did Penn State allow assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to molest children—sometimes on its grounds—for 11 years without notifying authorities? That's the question the institution hired former FBI director Louis Freeh's consulting firm to investigate in-depth. This morning, Freeh's task force released its independent review—which is just as damning as you can imagine, saying that all the key people, Paterno included, "repeatedly concealed critical facts" to protect the institution rather than the victims. Here are the key findings from the executive summary: Four of the most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University—President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno—failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and...

Anderson Cooper Is WHAT?

Flickr/dbking
Did anyone even notice, yesterday, that Anderson Cooper came out as gay? One person I know said, "You mean he wasn't out?' She wasn't kidding; she really thought he was as out as Ellen , who was indeed a trailblazer back in the day, and took a lot of hits for it—making it possible for Cooper's news to be just another item in everyone's Twitter feed. As June Thomas wrote , "The news was met with a whole lot of 'duh!' and a little bit of bitterness . It’s not like Cooper’s sexuality was a big secret—just last week I referred to him as ' openly closeted .'" (Andrew Sullivan, whose email to Cooper purportedly spurred the announcement, got this comment as a response.) So here's something even more groundbreaking, which I missed until now. Last month, the UConn men's hockey team posted a video announcement , as a team, saying that they welcome anyone who can play, gay or nay. As ESPN reported : ... the players pledge to support "any teammate, gay or straight, that can help us win games."...

LEGOs for Oil?

(Flickr/bdesham)
Recently, I found myself in a LEGO store. The reasons for my going to the store are not that interesting—suffice it to say, I needed a gift and scented candles would not be appreciated. This was my first time in such a store, though I had loved LEGOs as a child. I remembered them as a sort of high-tech Lincoln Logs—inoffensive, brightly colored building bricks, with an occasional person to keep things interesting. On their face, they seemed genderless. My first move was to head to the "Friends" section, to check out the brand's latest, controversial line. Apparently LEGO felt there was room for them in the Barbie and Bratz market. The first set I saw, Stephanie's Cool Convertible , features a curvy little blonde doll, complete with a miniskirt and pink bow, who rides in a purple convertible. A little dog in the back seat has a slew of pink grooming products, as well as its own matching pink bow. Using the convertible, girls can take other LEGO Friends "to the beauty shop, to the beach...

Cruel? Sure, but How Unusual?

Alito’s overlooked, important dissent on juvenile sentencing 

AP Images
One of the most interesting dynamics on the Roberts Court is the emerging rivalry between Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito for intellectual leadership of the conservative wing. From time to time, Alito openly mocks Scalia’s “originalist” philosophy (see, for example, his concurrence in United States v. Jones , ridiculing the idea that “eighteenth-century tort law” can decide questions about global positioning technology). It’s a generation thing: Alito is a callow 62 to Scalia’s 76. Like young folk everywhere, he’s embarrassed for his friends to see him in public with crazy Uncle Nino. So spare Alito a shred of empathy for what happened during the opinions session Monday. For the first time in his tenure, Alito delivered a dissent from the bench. It was a stem-winder, too—largely ad lib, intemperate, and dripping with scorn for the Court’s majority. Yet Scalia’s bizarre electioneering rant against Obama the same day is now the talk of the legal nerdosphere. The outrage...

Why Does The Atlantic Hate Women?

The picture alone filled me with dread: a baby in a briefcase. (Do go look at Jessica Valenti’s hilarious compilation of images from this genre.) That sick feeling only increased when I got to the hideous ­headline: “ Why Women Still Can’t Have It All .” There they go again! Once again, The Atlantic has put on its spike heels to gleefully dance on feminism’s head, this time reviving the imagery of the “ mommy wars ” while trotting out an astounding successful woman to bemoan her failure. Veteran journalist Caryl Rivers has accurately diagnosed this as “ The Atlantic ’s Woman Problem .” Someone there doesn’t like us, except when we’re agonizingly single, or home with our babies, or killing off men’s careers. Someone there got stuck on some 1980s Time magazine misinterpretation of feminism as exhorting us all to be “career women” (does anyone really use that term?) in shoulder pads and sad little bowties, leaving our babies home alone, refrigerator open, to fend for themselves while we...

Almost Time To Go Back to the Boy Scouts

(Flickr/kylerush)
Last week, I was a guest at the LGBT Connect day at Netroots Nation, meeting all kindsa people I've mostly encountered online. You know how these kinds of conferences go: glasses are hoisted, gossip is swapped, and you learn the story behind the story. While there, I learned that the Boy Scouts are "reviewing" their anti-gay policy—a first step to rejecting it. You remember their policy, right? No atheists, no gays. They went to the Supreme Court in 2000 to defend that exclusion, winning the right to be wrong in a 5-4 decision penned by Rehnquist and joined by Kennedy. (Trivia: B oy Scouts of America v. Dale was argued on the LGBT side by Evan Wolfson, who then left Lambda Legal to found and run Freedom to Marry .) But 12 years has gone by, and the social tide has turned. And so the Boy Scouts are starting to clear their throats publicly in the direction of change, in official discussions like this one with David Crary, social issues reporter at the AP (who, by the way, I rely on on...

Ho-Hum, Another Day, Another DOMA Defeat

How boring are marriage equality wins now? So boring that yesterday's DOMA defeat isn't even on The New York Times home page this morning, as I write this. And yet it's a big deal. Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were together for 44 years. (Do go see the adorable movie about their life together; they're a very cute couple.) They married in Canada in 2007, a marriage that was recognized by their home state of New York. But when Thea died, the federal government taxed Edie on her estate as if they were strangers. The ACLU brought the suit, there were some private grumbles that there were already plenty of DOMA lawsuits and that a plaintiff as well-off as Windsor wouldn't be sympathetic—but I don't think anyone wants a widow stripped of property that she's treated as her own for decades. And in any case, there are so many lawsuits at this point, who even notices the plaintiffs? Yesterday, a federal district court judge in New York ruled that, at least in this case, DOMA's Section 3 "does...

A Mayor for the Occupy Set

Jefferson Smith isn't planning to shed his activist and political organizer cred if elected to run Portland.

(Flickr / hotshot977)
In the early 2000s, Jefferson Smith grew a reputation in progressive grassroots political circles as the hulking 6’ 3” strawberry-blond force of nature behind Oregon’s The Bus Project , a non-profit merry band of allies named for a 1978 touring coach bought on eBay, which busied itself , training scores of young people in the mechanics of democracy, signing up tens of thousands of new voters, and selling t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Vote, F*cker.” In 2008, Smith won election to the Oregon House of Representatives, where he memorably convinced colleagues on both sides of the aisle to Rickroll the chamber , one word at a time. A well-styled and widely-circulated TED talk last summer on the structural opportunities of politics in the public interest added to his mainstream credibility as a big thinker. In some liberal circles, Smith, now 38, is the embodiment of the promise of netroots-generation politics: the idea that, as the Bus Project puts it, “democracy works best when more...

Payback Time

Here's how it works: Little red riding hood gets abused at home. Then she meets the man of her dreams. (Sometimes this happens after she runs away to escape the abuse, since wolves hang out in bus stations, scanning for prey. Or maybe it happens outside her middle school for delinquent girls. Opportunities are many.) Wolf showers girl with attention, love, sexual passion—all the things she's been starved for all her life. Then, after a few weeks, he asks her to prove her love by going out on the street or meeting men solicited on backpage.com , where code words are used to signal that she's well under 18, so they can pay for their apartment, or food, or whatever it might be. Within another few weeks, her body is being sold eight to twelve hours a day. Her captivity is enforced by violence, isolation, coercion, branding, and constant supervision. After awhile, she's convinced that she's worthless, that no one else will ever love her, that police will arrest her and civilians would...

Young, Restless, and Not Voting

(Flickr/Matt Ortega)
This week, as the general election campaign “ramps up” for the umpteenth time, President Barack Obama has been conspicuous about talking to the young folks of America. He’s gone where they congregate—college campuses to talk about student loans and on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to slow jam the news and stand next to “The Roots,” absorbing their cool by osmosis. In the last presidential election, young Americans ate up the heaping spoonfuls of hope served to them by the Obama campaign— 66 percent of 18-29 year olds voted for him, while John McCain got only 32 percent of the same demographic. By comparison, in 2004 , 54 percent of the same age group went for John Kerry, 45 percent for George W. Bush. But the youth of 2012 are a bit more pessimistic than they were in 2008. According to a poll released late last week, 61 percent of college-age Millennials (the futuristic-sounding name given to the generation born in the late 1980s and early 1990s) are registered to vote, but only 46...

I Went to School for This?

A broader approach is needed to give students with debt the same opportunities their parents had.

(Flickr/rocketlass)
For those who make the investment, college graduation is supposed to signify the transition from training for life to living it. But for many young adults in the class of 2012, this year’s ceremony will be more like an anticlimax. According to a new analysis of government data by the Associated Press , more than half of young college grads are either not working or working in jobs that don’t offer them enough hours, enough pay, or the promise of a future career. The AP reports: Young adults with bachelor's degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs -- waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example -- and that's confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans. The report reveals a harsh reality for students, their parents, and an economy that needs trained workers in high-skill jobs. Today, young people facing job and income insecurity put off decisions that were once the hallmarks of maturity, such...

Tennessee Lawmakers Tackle Sagging Pants

(Flickr/ Tobyotter)
Tennessee's lawmakers have been on a roll with vital pieces of legislation, necessary to the well-being of their residents. There's the bill to protect teachers who tell students that scientific ideas like evolution and climate change aren't necessarily true . There's the bill to ensure public buildings can display the Ten Commandments (and other "historically significant documents") if they choose. But now, they've really hit the meat of important issues with a bill to outlaw saggy pants. The bill, which now awaits the governor's signature, creates a statewide dress code for public-school students , making it illegal to dress in an "indecent manner." In addition to sagging pants, sports bras may also be under threat, as the legislation forbids showing "underwear or body parts" if it "disrupts the learning environment." (As I remember high school, body parts seemed to distract and disrupt even when covered.) But despite the measures passing with overwhelming support (unanimously in...

Son, You Could Be Trayvon

(Flickr/Albertism)
I’m furious that Trayvon Martin is getting blamed for his own murder. If smoking pot in high school were an executable offense, as the Miami Herald seems to suggest, we would cut the U.S. population by about a third. Add tardiness to the list—again, as the Miami Herald seems to be doing—and I believe we could eliminate Social Security entirely. How was a young man shot and killed and the man who did it still hasn’t been arrested or charged? Does anyone believe for a minute that if things were reversed—if Trayvon Martin had shot George Zimmerman—that Martin would be walking around free? (By the way, don’t miss Charles Blow grilling Joe Oliver, George Zimmerman’s acquaintance, on MSNBC; he starts about 8:33 minutes in.) Why, with someone dead, with the evidence of Zimmerman’s past vigilantism and domestic-violence charges and arrests and anger-management courses, with those horrifying 911 tapes, and all the rest, why is the man still walking around free? Look, Zimmerman may not be...

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