Jason C. Weinreb Archives

Smearing Elena Kagan, and a counterfactual

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In a recent blog post and an appearance on -- our favorite. . . FOX News! -- Newt Gingrich has claimed that the New England penal colony we know as Harvard has a double standard on gay rights. His real agenda, though, is to smear Elena Kagan, whose vociferous opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is hardly a secret. The back-story is that Kagan was dean of Harvard law school in 2005, the same year that the University accepted a large gift from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to advance cross-cultural understanding. As we all know, the Saudi regime is notoriously repressive towards homosexuals, and sodomy is punishable by death under the law of the land -- which just happens to be Sharia (Islamic law). Gingrich never explicitly questions Kagan’s moral character, but the implication is clear: Harvard (and by Harvard we mean Elena Kagan) has historically lambasted the US military for its discriminatory policies towards gays and lesbians, yet is willing to accept a donation from a country infamous for its persecution of homosexuals. Never mind that 1) it wasn’t Kagan’s decision to accept the gift, 2) she was in a poor position to undercut Harvard’s initiatives as its employee, 3) this happened in 2005 yet Gingrich has waited until now to smear “Harvard," 4) Georgetown University’s 2005 acceptance of a similar gift from Prince Talal is glossed over, and 5) that this tells us nothing whatsoever about the kind of Justice Elena Kagan might be.

Here’s a counterfactual. Suppose Kagan had come out (pun intended) against Harvard’s acceptance of Talal's gift to the detriment of the school's public standing. Do you really think Gingrich would have applauded Kagan for taking the moral high ground? Isn't it more likely he would have suggested  that Kagan’s views on gay issues compromised her ability to be professional, and that this has implications for a career as Justice? Who does Gingrich think he’s fooling here? Newt me.
 

Why "Don't Ask, Don't Give" Is a Mistake

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DNCgay.jpg

Almost everyone in the LGBT community is disappointed with the Obama administration. Granting hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners was a step in the right direction, but then came more of the same: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) -- the most visible gay issue nationwide besides marriage equality -- has yet to be repealed. This latest failure to achieve equality has come to embody the totality of Democratic inaction in recent years regarding gay rights, and LGBT resentment is mounting as the party continues to balk at the gay agenda.

Some -- John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay, to be precise -- have made it their mission to finally stick it to the Left after years of waiting in vain for change. Their brainchild, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give” campaign (DADG), is a boycott of the DNC pending the repeal of DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Unfortunately, DADG won't force Democrats’ hand on these issues. Even worse, it will likely damage the gay rights movement in the long-run.

Jazz: A Straight Man's World?

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parse.jpg“Are you straight?"

As a jazz pianist, I'm asked this almost every time I’m at a session. In this context, it is slang that we musicians use to verify that players know what the form of a tune will be before it starts. Among a few close musician-friends who know my sexual orientation, I sometimes joke in reply: “No, actually.” But when the question comes up at a gig or jam session with unfamiliar musicians in France, Holland, or Boston, I just smile to myself and reply, “yeah.”

It goes without saying that one’s sexual orientation -- just like gender, race, religion, you name it -- has no place on the bandstand. All that should matter is what a player brings to the musical conversation. If any genre has come to stand for an affirmation of common humanity, it is jazz. Despite being borne out of the suffering of a distinct ethnic group, its endeavor to transcend the historical memory of African American suffering has earned it almost universal appeal.