David Kurtz at the Talking Points Memo blog gives us some insight into how former Chicago public school’s CEO Arne Duncan is settling in on his first days as Secretary of Education from the employees perspective:
I work at the Department of Education headquarters in DC. Today completed our 2-day introduction to Arne Duncan. Yesterday he had lunch in our cafeteria (Edibles, ha ha), with his wife and children. His wife wore jeans and a sweater and Arne looked like an average joe in khaki dress pants, white shirt and tie. They stood in all of the lines and talked to anyone who approached them. They probably stayed 90 minutes. It was definitely the highest cafeteria attendance ever.
Yesterday afternoon he visited every floor of our building and introduced himself to everyone. We all came out into the hall and he shook everyone’s hand with a “Hi, I’m Arne.”
By the end of the day yesterday, everyone was aglow, since this was already more attention than we’d received from Spellings or Paige. Today, however, was the all-staff meeting, and I can say that the morale in the building increased ten-fold by the end of it.
Our auditorium was beyond packed, with people standing in the aisles. I myself snagged a seat on the floor next to the stage kindergarten-style. Arne stood in front of a blue screen that read “Call me Arne!” in bright yellow letters. He insisted that we call him Arne, rather than Mr. Secretary or anything like that, saying his name was Arne before he got this job and it would be 8 years from now.
I know this isn’t anything earthshattering, but the change in the atmosphere at the Department over the last week has been really astounding. In the past, we all knew that the Secretary had an agenda that she was going to follow, and that we were only there to affirm that her way was best. We really feel that Arne wants to know the truth, whether it fits with his agenda or not.
(photo from Obama-Biden Transition Project)
“As we can see here clearly, Illinois, though more corrupt than average, isn’t close to the top.”
Breaking News! According to the Trib, Federal Agents have taken Gov. Blagojevich into custody this morning. No word yet on the charges, but he’s been the target of Federal investigation into corruption and influence peddling for quite some time. I’m sure more details will come later…
Update:Well, the details are coming out. Apparently, Blago tried to *sell* Obama’s Senate seat?! If any of these charges are proved up, Blago is not only the most arrogant politician I’ve ever seen, he’s also the dumbest. Who, when they *know* they are under the Fed’s magnifying glass tries to pull this kind of thing? I mean, he was *daring* people to record him, you know? Sheesh.
Are you like me? You had a ticket to go to Grant Park for Obama’s acceptance speech, and you stayed home to have chicken pot pie with your cranky German grandma instead?*
Well, you could have soaked up some of the residual vibes by joining the thousands of Prop 8 protesters at Federal Plaza yesterday. Spirits were high and soon the exuberance spilled out into the streets of downtown Chicago, where an impromptu parade stopped traffic for as long as 20 minutes at a time.
Joyful protesters were met with open-mouthed Michigan Avenue shoppers, who put down their Macy’s bags long enough to clap and cheer. The police were very relaxed (despite the lack of parade permit) and even stopped cabs and CTA buses full of Chicagoans gave cheerful honks and peace signs.
I was there supporting my gay loved ones and with the help of videographer and interviewer Daisy Mertzel, I put together this four minute video, which fairly captures the spirit of the event.
There’s another big gay rights protest this Saturday November 15 at 12:30 at Federal Plaza (on the corner of Adams and Dearborn Streets). This one is happening in cities across the US, since the issue of gay marriage is now being debated at a national level.
If You’re Straight, Why Should You Care?
My roommate and I, though standard-issue heterosexuals, feel very strongly about gay rights issues, adhering to the wacky belief that all Americans deserve the same legal rights (including the right to marry). And what with the recent influx of Obama-inspired hope, we whipped out the colored markers, put together some signs, and joined a few friends at last Friday’s protest against Prop 8 (which re-wrote the California state constitution to strip gays of, among other things, the right to marry).
The location of a particular downtown hotel was chosen as the protest location because inside, a media group was giving an award to James Dobson, who poured millions of dollars into the efforts to strip people of civil rights. He is aggressively homophobic, has considerable resources to sink into his efforts to keep gays second-class citizens, and he’s a big proponent of a therapeutic approach to “treat” homosexuality. His views are not supported by the mainstream mental health community, like the, you know, American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.
Really? People really believe that gay people choose to be gay? Choose to be part of an oppressed minority subject to violence and discrimination, when they could just take a couple of seminars and re-program their sexual orientation? This flies in the face of biology, neuroscience, and common decency to fellow human beings.
As has been pointed out in recent media examples, so what if changing the law to include homosexuals in marriage rights is “redefining marriage in America?” If we hadn’t redefined marriage at other points in history, it would still be illegal for black people to marry each other. In 1967, it was illegal in 1/3 of states for President-elect Obama’s parents to have been married to each other, because marriage between a black person and a white person was illegal.
Gay Nanny Lani Trail
Among the peaceful protesters (there was no counter-protest) we saw last Friday was an adorable little boy holding a sign that said “I love my gay nanny.” I snapped a quick photo. Turns out he was there with both his mom and his nanny, who ended up emailing me when she saw the picture on my blog. Well, the internet is a magical place, so now Lani and I are Facebook friends and I hope to bump into her again at tomorrow’s protest, where a filmmaker friend and I will be doing a little mini-documentary.
And now, a little bit about Chicago’s most internet-famous gay nanny (at least, that’s what we’re hoping for), Lani Trail:
Lani describes herself and her partner Sharyl as “recovering evangelicals.” “I am a survivor of ex-gay reparative therapy so we wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” she explained. “I was there because Dobson promotes reparative therapy which is damaging our community and stunting sexual growth. I attended a group called Redeemed Lives in Wheaton, IL. Redeemed Lives has the ludicrous idea that overcoming homosexuality is the same as overcoming drug or alcohol addiction, which is why they group them together in therapy. Dobson supports this.”
Lani believes that surviving reparative therapy is a challenge in and of itself. Even now, long after her attempt to “un-gay” herself, Lani still struggles to accept that she’s not harming her nanny kids when they see her and her partner together.
She feels very fortunate to be nannying for a loving, accepting family. Her partner and her employer are both psychology professors with clinical psychology degrees, and she says that the child she nannies for gets the appropriate level of explanation for the family’s involvement in gay rights issues. “His mom and dad have worked tirelessly to help him understand that my partner and I love each other just like his parents do, but that we can’t get married and that some people are mean to us. That’s enough for him.”
And knowing that my friends Tom and George, who have been together for years, finally got married a few weeks ago, only to have their marriage struck down by people like Dobson, is enough for me. Pick up some posterboard and join me tomorrow for another exercise in free speech.
Photos by Elizabeth McQuern.
Tuesday was a historic and barrier breaking night with the election of the first African-American President. It was exciting, and amazing. However, Tuesday night was a terrible night for gay rights. The passing of prop 8 in California made a constitutional amendment taking away the right for same sex couples to marry. Arizona prop 102 and Florida amendment 2 did similar destruction to human rights. Arkansas voted a ban against unmarried couples becoming foster or adoptive parents.
If this removal of human rights upsets you, then you can protest against one of Prop 8’s most powerful proponents, James Dobson. Mr. Dobson is receiving an award from the Museum of Broadcast Communications for his daily radio show Focus on the Family. Gay rights group Truth Wins Out along with Equality Illinois and the Gay Liberation Network will be protesting James Dobson and his anti-gay message.
You can join their support of civil rights by joining the protest Saturday November 8th 5:30-7:30PM at the Renaissance Chicago Hotel, 1 W. Wacker Dr. Can’t make it? Here are some other things you can do:
To fight back against this offensive decision, DumpDobson.com is asking fair-minded people to take four actions.
1. E-Mail Radio Hall of Fame CEO Bruce Dumont, firstname.lastname@example.org, and urge him to withdraw Dobson’s honor.
2. Sign our letter to the Radio Hall of Fame urging them to reverse their foolhardy decision to celebrate Dobson’s shameful and ignoble career.
3. If you live in the Chicago area, please sign up to participate in our protest.
4. Donate to Truth Wins Out or Donate to the Gay Liberation Network to help us fight back.
(photo by Liz Henry)
What a night last night! You can see some of my experiences at the Grant Park Rally on flickr here. After you get done checking that out you can then go over to K-Rock’s collage of various front pages from around the world announcing our new president, Barack Obama. Which will have to do ya because all Chicago papers sold out toot sweet, and even extra printings of the Tribune, Sun-Times, and RedEye (really!!??!?) are hard to come by.
After everything I’ve been hearing about how crazy long the lines are all over the country (my brother-in-law was in a line of 200 people in South Carolina) and indeed right here in Chicago I was very surprised at how quickly we were in and out of the 30th Precinct of the 48th Ward of Chicago (this morning around 8:00 am). There are two precincts in our polling place and the other had three people in line; ours had one person ahead of us. Did everyone in Edgewater vote early, or do I live in an apolitical bubble in the city?