Waldlaw Blog

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Might Just Have to Move to Texas So I Can Vote for This Guy!

This interview with Gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman was just brought to my attention, and it's too good not to share! Kinky's Run For Governor Of Texas Jan. 22, 2006 (CBS) There has been no shortage of great characters in the governor’s mansion of the great state of Texas. There was Ma Ferguson, who, on the subject of teaching foreign languages, said if English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Texans. And there was Sam Houston, who beat an opposing politician, literally throttled him with his cane. There was Ann Richards, who described George Bush senior as “Poor George, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Well, the latest eccentric with his eye on the prize may be the oddest ball of all, a man who boasts he never held a real job, did have a real drug problem, gets his biggest kicks from offending people, yet maintains a surprisingly large following. Morley Safer reports on Texas’s leading singing Jewish cowboy, Kinky Friedman, who is campaigning as an independent to be the next governor of the Lone Star State. "Politics is the only field in which the more experience you have, the worse you get," says Friedman. "And I think musicians can better run this state than politicians. And, hell, beauticians can better run the state than politicians." When he was reminded that musicians are not known for their excellent work habits, Friedman replied, "OK, so we're not gonna get a lot done early in the mornings. All right? But you know what [musicians] are? They're honest. They're honest. And I want people, in this administration, that don't care about the Republicans and don't care about the Democrats, but care about Texas. That's what I passionately care about." Does he think Texas is ready for a Jewish governor? "Absolutely. Listen, I tell people, trust me, I'm a Jew, I'll hire good people," Friedman says. Friedman is optimistic, but before he assumes office, he must get 45,000 signatures between March and May to get on the ballot. And then, next November, he must beat not only the Democratic challenger, but current Republican Gov. Rick Perry. It sounds impossible, except for one fact: in the last governor’s race only 29 percent of voters showed up at the polls, making Texas fertile ground for a popular outsider. Friedman admits he is going after some part of that 71 percent, the people who didn't make it to the polls in the last gubernatorial election. “And we're going after the young people. The teachers. Every crazy redneck in Texas is already supporting me. It is not Kinky Friedman versus Rick Perry. It's Kinky Friedman versus apathy," he says. ....On the campaign trail, Friedman is one candidate who needs no introduction. Everybody, it seems, wants to get a little Kinky. For decades, Friedman has had a cult following, singing about subjects no one else would go near, like the Holocaust and racism. His band’s name, “Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys,” was designed to offend. For Friedman, the country cliché of lost love was never enough. Among his greatest hits: “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” That song led to threats by both Jewish groups and anti-Semites, though they all failed to see he was trying to point out the ignorance of bigotry. Was anger what motivated him as a songwriter? "No, I don't think that was. I think telling the truth is what did," says Friedman. "Telling the truth is what I do and as, you know, the old Turkish proverb … 'If you tell the truth, have one foot in the stirrup.' " Friedman recorded 11 albums and hit it almost big, touring with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. He fully embraced the wild life, which he readily admits included mountains of cocaine. "I think you have to find what you like and let it kill ya, you know? You struggle with your demons and you conquer them," he says. "I mean, I haven't done drugs in what? Twenty-five years or more. Been a long time. When I left New York. I was there for awhile in '85 and came back here when my mother died. I lived here at the ranch and that pretty well cleansed me, and I think the Texas Hill Country cured me." It's country he knew from childhood. His parents were teachers who ran a summer camp, not poor enough, he says, to lead him to country music stardom, not rich enough for him to get into the quaint and colorful oil business. He lives mostly alone with his immediate family — his dogs he calls the Friedmans. Lots of dogs. Down the road from his house, he’s got 60 of them, all stray and abused and waiting in a kind of utopia to be adopted. In the past seven years, Friedman’s Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch has helped 1,500 find new homes. "And you know what I say, 'Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make 'em wag his tail,' " Friedman says. Friedman, 61, says he thinks he will have a wife and family one day. "I'd like to have a first lady, yeah. We'll see," he says. "I mean, there's no hurrying. I've waited this long. Why make a tragic mistake at this time, you know? Plus, I’m gonna be workin’ for the people of Texas and it’s gonna be fun." Fun for Friedman and his pals. He has the support of some big names in country music, including Willie Nelson, who threw a fundraiser at his golf course with entertainment by Billy Joe Shaver. And there’s the literary Kinky Friedman, hit of the Texas book festival. He has written 23 books. Some are mysteries with a detective named Kinky Friedman. Others feature his wit and wisdom. The latest is called “Texas Hold 'Em : How I Was Born in a Manger, Died in the Saddle, and Came Back as a Horny Toad.” And for years, he wrote a column for “Texas Monthly” magazine. How serious is Friedman about his run for governor? "I think he's dead serious. I think that if you ask him whether this is a joke, if you even suggest it's a joke, he'll lunge at you," says Evan Smith, the editor of "Texas Monthly," and one of the top political commentators in the state. What does Smith think are Friedman's strengths as a candidate? "His strengths, I think, begin with his independence," says Smith. "He's independent of everything and of everybody. And sometimes he's independent of his own brain. His mouth is independent of his brain. But I think the fact that he's willing to take on the establishment, however he defines it on a given day. Republicans, Democrats, you know people in power. He has tapped into a dissatisfaction with the accepted order." "The Democrats and Republicans are the same guy admiring themself in the mirror," says Friedman. "And if an alternative is on that ballot in Texas, I guarantee you, Texans are gonna take it. The politicians don't know this yet, but the people do." The one predictable thing about Kinky Friedman is that he’s unpredictable. "The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments being taken out of the public schools. I want them back," says Friedman. Why? "I want them back, they belong there," says Friedman. "Maybe I'll have to change their name to the Ten Suggestions, you know. But they were taken out, not by separation of church and state, but by political correctness gone awry. One atheist stands up and says, 'I don't like the Ten Commandments,' and suddenly out they go. And, of course, we all know what happens to an atheist when he dies. His tombstone usually reads, 'All dressed up and no place to go.' " Friedman has at times spoken irreverently about Jesus. Does he worry that religious voters in the very religious state of Texas might be offended? "Well, I just said that Jesus and I were both Jewish and that neither of us ever had a job, we never had a home, we never married and we traveled around the countryside irritating people," says Friedman. "Now, if that's comparing myself to Jesus, I don't really think it is. But, the Jesus in my heart is a Jesus with a sense of humor. And, personally, I think he's enjoyin' my campaign as much as anybody right now. I think he is." The issues Kinky Friedman will have to address may include headline issues such as gay marriage and prayer in schools. "I'll tell you right now. I'm for prayer in school," he says. "I say what's wrong with a kid believing in something? I don't care if it's a tree or a rock or something, he should believe in something. I also support gay marriage. I say they have every right to be just as miserable as the rest of us. And I'll tell you another thing, you won't find any candidate that supports prayer in school and gay marriage. For that reason alone, people should vote for an independent-thinking person." Such independence led him to a campaign manager who helped turn Jesse Venture into the governor of Minnesota. Dean Barkley loves underdogs. "I've been through this before. I've been through the, you know, this, 'Ha ha, you can't win,' and all this other stuff. This guy can win," says Barkley of Friedman. Is Barkley concerned that some of Friedman's songs, such as "They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore," might offend religious Christian voters? "I mean, Kinky has never been one too worried about offending people by telling 'em stuff," says Barkley. "And I've told him, 'Don't change.' I mean, be who we are. Don't turn into a typical politician and start telling people what they wanna hear. Because I think it's style as much as anything with Kinky. Just keep on being you." Which may mean appearing dressed as the Queen of England on the cover of “Texas Monthly” — Friedman did that back in 2004. But this outsider has been an insider enough to have been invited to the Clinton White House and the Bush White House. How does he explain his unique relationship with the presidents? "Well, that should be easy," says Friedman. "Bill Clinton was a fan of my books. And he wrote me, wrote me a letter here, which the postman of Medina thought was from the White Horse Saloon in Nashville where they do line dancing. And it was really from the White House. And George W. Well, he wrote me first too. And I don't know why these guys write me. But, he wrote me and I wrote him back and he invited me to the White House. I guess it's alarming that the president has time for this sort of a pen pal relationship. But, everybody needs a laugh." Laura Bush is also a fan, a supporter of his dog pound. If he gets on the ballot, it raises the delicious prospect of a three-way debate between the Democratic candidate, Gov. Perry and Kinky. But Perry might welcome him into such a debate, in order to split the opposition vote. "Well, I hope he does welcome us into the debate, 'cause that's what they thought in Minnesota," says Barkley. "And guess what happened?” The odds are long that this outsider will get to hang his hat in the governor’s mansion, but Friedman is pushing ahead one voter at a time. "Me winning, an independent winning, in Texas would be great for the governorship itself, great for the people of Texas and great for the Kinkster," says Friedman. "I'm gonna win, win, win all around. And we'll put a smile on everybody's face in America and it would send a shiver up the spine of career politicians everywhere.” In closing, Friedman likes to repeat his trademark one-liners. “May the God of your choice bless you,” he says. “Criticize me all you want, but don’t circumcise me anymore!"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why I HATED King Kong

On Saturday, my partner and I took a group of 10 boys to see King Kong (no, we're not insane -- it was our younger son's 10th birthday party). Not to mince words, I HATED IT. Let me tell you why.... First of all, it is over 3 hours long. There are very few movies out there that I want to see enough to sit in a movie theater for over 3 hours. I mean, it's just TOO LONG to sit in the dark and eat bad popcorn. Second of all, the dark-skinned scary natives, sort of aborigine-zombie combos, were offensive (I mean really offensive -- how in the world did Hollywood get away with this blatant racism in 2006???), unnecessarily scary for the kids, and unnecessary to the plot. One of these days, I'd like to see a movie where the scary natives are blonde and blue-eyed and wear gingham. Now that would be a cool plot twist! Third, I think the directors got confused about what movie they were making. Or maybe they are just into making stews -- take a little "Jurassic Park," add a pinch of "Creature from the Black Lagoon," then stir.... Fourth, the directors created a really interesting pair of characters in the African-American First Mate on the ship (I forget his name) and the young Caucasian man he rescued on a prior journey (I think he was called "Jimmy"), made sure we were thoroughly invested in their characters, then killed off the First Mate as soon as possible and never told us another word about what happened to the young man after the boat left the island with Kong. Talk about loose ends! Fifth, and this was the worst part of all, there was nothing in the movie that actually addressed what a horrible story it is. I mean, this group of folks come to a remote island uninvited, capture the giant ape that has lived there for years and is -- without a doubt -- a fundamentally "good" creature, drag the poor animal back to New York for the sole purpose of making a buck, then kill it in cold blood when it acts like the animal it is. And there is NO MESSAGE that this is wrong. NO MESSAGE that the guy whose idea this all was is a very bad man. NO MESSAGE that the military is going over the top when they gun Kong down in cold blood rather than making an effort to capture him and return him to the wild. Instead, it is all played as just an action movie, with no moral story to tell. I saw the remake of Godzilla, the one with Matthew Broderick, and I loved it. I loved it because they explained Godzilla as a creature accidentally created by underwater testing of nuclear explosives -- so her enormity was a direct product of humans messing with nature -- and they stressed that she was just acting like lizards are supposed to act, trying to eat and protect her young, and not being "bad" or aggressive beyond what her instincts were telling her -- the only problem was that she was GIGANTIC, so her behavior had very serious consequences for the humans trying to live around her, so ultimately they had to kill her too -- but you came away with a sense of how wrong the whole thing was. It wasn't just "let's exploit the scary wild animal to make a buck and then kill him when he acts like wild animals act." Maybe I'm overreacting, but there I was with 10 kids, and being with kids always makes me think about the messages they are taking away from the movies they are seeing or the books they are reading -- and I HATED the message of King Kong, to the extent there was a message at all. So here's my advice -- if you want to see a "scary beast" movie, save the admission price on a ticket to King Kong and rent Godzilla (the Matthew Broderick version). Then send me a note and let me know what you think....

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Virginia Considers Law Banning Insemination of Unmarried Women

Does anyone remember the Murphy Brown uproar, when Dan Quayle got all hot and bothered over Murphy Brown becoming a single mother by choice (apparently forgetting that she was a fictional character on a sitcom, and not a real woman giving birth to a real baby)? Well, just in case you thought those days were over.... Hot off the presses, here's this week's winner of the "proposed repressive legislation" award: Va. bill would halt lesbian insemination Anti-gay delegate files pre-session bill By LAURA DOUGLAS-BROWN Jan 7, 4:46 AM A bill in the Virginia state legislature would prevent unmarried women from using assisted reproductive technology, including lesbians who frequently use donor insemination to have children. Robert Marshall, a Republican state lawmaker in Virginia, wants to stop doctors from helping unmarried women have babies. Del. Robert Marshall (R-Manassas), who has also sponsored measures to ban same-sex marriage and strictly limit abortions, pre-filed HB 187 on Jan. 2 for the 2006 state legislative session, which begins Jan. 11. The measure would forbid medical professionals from providing to unmarried women “certain intervening medical technology” that “completely or partially replaces sexual intercourse as the means of conception.” The bill provides a list of medical procedures, including “artificial insemination by donor” and invitro fertilization. ....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wasn't I Just Talking About Abortion??

How ironic to wake up this morning to the headline that couples in India with access to ultrasound have been finding out the sex of their fetuses and aborting the girls in horrifying numbers. "The British medical journal, the Lancet, published a study Monday quantifying the phenomenon: The report estimated that Indian women aborted a stunning 10 million girls in the two decades leading up to 1998. The study, analyzing data from a national survey of 1.1 million households, calculated that 500,000 female fetuses were aborted each year in India. The 'girl deficit,' as the study labeled it, was more prevalent among educated women and did not vary according to religion, the study found. 'What surprised me was that the data suggest it is a problem right throughout society, particularly among the elites, who have more access to ultrasound equipment and have more spending money,' said Dr. Prabhat Jha of St. Michael's Hospital at the University of Toronto, an author of the study. 'You would think that maybe this happens in more repressive states toward women, but it is happening everywhere in India.' [For the whole article, go to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/10/MNGSIGKT9L1.DTL&hw=india+abortion&sn=001&sc=1000.] So what are we in the pro-choice movement supposed to do with THAT??!! I maintain that every woman, everywhere, should have access to safe and affordable abortions. But it's a sad statement on world cultures -- our own included -- that the choice of when and whether to give birth has become so tied to ability to afford the family one might otherwise cherish..... Hey, maybe that's the real lesson here -- that those of us who would rather that fewer women end up choosing abortion need to be working hard to fight world poverty. I think I'll write to the National Right to Life Committee and make the suggestion....

Monday, January 09, 2006

Abortion on my Mind

I don't often think about abortion. I mean, now that I'm in my mid-40's, it isn't much of an issue for my peers any more. And my clients are mostly lesbians and gay men striving to become parents, or straight singles or couples involved in adoptions, so the children in my law practice are very much chosen children. But in the past couple of weeks, abortion keeps coming up, and it has me thinking.... I remember marching with my mother in demonstrations during the days of Roe v. Wade. I remember the fight for safe abortion on demand being a big deal during my childhood and young adulthood. But now, as I prepare to teach a family law course at the University of San Francisco, I'm thinking that many of my students will have grown up taking abortion completely for granted. I have always been deeply conflicted about abortion, although I have NEVER been conflicted at all about women having the right to choose abortions. But I'm very kid-centric myself, and I have always felt that I could never have gotten an abortion if I had an unintended pregnancy (and this isn't just recent -- I felt this way when I was 17 and living with a boyfriend in Boston). I remember some folks saying "once you've been pregnant and had a baby, you won't be for abortion any longer." That was exactly the opposite of my experience. Once I went through pregnancy and childbirth myself, I really couldn't imagine forcing any woman to go through that to deliver a baby she didn't want, against her will (although I certainly admire and respect women who choose to deliver unwanted babies and give them up for adoption). I felt about pregnancy sort of the way I felt about law school -- I put up with law school because I genuinely wanted to be a lawyer, not for the pleasure of the experience, and I never understood my fellow students who were there just because they couldn't figure out what else to be doing with their lives. Likewise, I gladly went through pregnancy twice, because I deeply wanted the babies that resulted. But I didn't love it, as some women do -- it was a means to an end that I knew I wanted. So going through a pregnancy to give birth to a baby that I know I won't be raising?? Thanks, but no thanks. Anyway, as I've sat in my livingroom reading up on all the abortion cases over the past couple of nights, in preparation for teaching them next week, I've been sickened by descriptions of the "partial birth" abortion procedure while simultaneously being worried sick that Alito's addition to the Supreme Court will mean the end of a woman's right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in a medically safe way. I guess this is another example of what I was saying last week about those younger days when I thought things were simple.... What I know is this: as ambivalent as I am personally about abortion -- as much as it makes me cringe to think about the "partial birth" abortion procedure -- as much as I wish every baby conceived could be born into a loving home -- we had better be ready to fight for abortion like we've never fought before. As I go into class next week, and look at the women in their 20's who've never had to think about going to another state to get an abortion, or trying to induce a miscarriage without medical supervision, or the myriad of other ways that women their age had to deal with unwanted pregnancies before Roe v. Wade, I recommit myself to fighting for every woman's right to have access to safe abortion procedures if and when they need them. Will my sons remember marching with their mother in demonstrations about abortion, as I do? I truly hope not.

Speaking of States Moving to Ban Gay Adoptions....

AN ARTICLE JUST PASSED ON TO ME BY SHANNON MINTER, LEGAL DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS: Move to ban gay adoptions will hurt children Deb Price / January 9, 2006 F riends admiringly call the home of Jill and Renn McClintic-Doyle "The Land of Broken Toys." There, physically or emotionally broken children are taken in, cared for, and loved just as they are, regardless of whether they can be mended. In that very special place in Stone Mountain, Ga., no child is ever "unwanted." During the past 15 years, the women, a couple for a quarter-century, have become foster moms or adoptive moms for more than a half-dozen kids, several of them babies. Each of the abandoned children was, as foster-care lingo would put it, "hard to place" because of HIV infection, mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, blindness, race or other characteristics that scare away many would-be foster parents. Take Christopher, for example, an 11-year-old African-American boy with severe autism. He can't dress himself or speak. "The woman who had him before was well-meaning but treated him like a potted plant," says Jill, who jointly adopted him with Renn after an earlier adoptive parent fled. "We try to get him to do things as he can. He's the greatest kid." Or take Jonathan, born weighing just two pounds. He was so sickly that the couple couldn't bring him home. They mothered him in the neonatal care ward until his death, six days before his first birthday. "When Renn would walk in, there was such a difference in Jonathan. He never had his own crib or his own home, but he had his own mother," recalls Jill, a cheerleader for motherhood whose five biological children are now adults. "Renn and I had both worked in hospitals and seen adults die alone," Jill explains of the pull they felt toward fragile children. "The idea that a child would die alone, without ever having felt loved, I can't imagine anything worse. We didn't value these children based on the length of their lives." Repeatedly, child welfare workers turned to the couple for help. Antonio, Mickey, Halimah, Jonathan, Mary, Laurie, Bree, and Christopher wouldn't have had a chance to be mothered by the big-hearted couple if Georgia restricted gay parenting. But a state constitutional ban on gay foster parents, adoptive parents, or both could fly through the Georgia Legislature and go to the voters this year. Even though a half-million children lack permanent, loving homes, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee also appear headed toward similar votes. "First it was marriage, and now it's adoption," notes Carrie Evans of the gay Human Rights Campaign. "This doesn't have to do with the well-being of children any more than marriage amendments have to do with protecting marriage. It's about how far the right wing can go to enshrine anti-gay prejudice into state constitutions and use them to increase turnout of anti-gay voters." Ballots in at least four states -- perhaps 13 -- will be marred this year by anti-gay marriage initiatives. Alaskans will likely be asked to ban partner benefits for gay public employees. And voters in Dearborn Heights could be asked to repeal a nondiscrimination law. "We could have roughly half of the country's population voting on us in one year," says Dave Fleischer of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force. Saying she'd "walk across coals" for her children, Jill McClintic-Doyle calls the anti-parenting proposals "a tragic thing to do to these kids." She adds, "They are kids who deserve to be loved and deserve a home. Why deny a child that?" The youngest victims of anti-gay prejudice will never know what hurt them. You can reach Deb Price at (202) 662-8736 or dprice@detnews.com.