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Politics (#110 of 80)

15 Songs About AIDS

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15 Songs About AIDS
15 Songs About AIDS

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the first report of the virus that would become known as HIV. In 1998, singer-songwriter Dan Bern released a song called “Cure for AIDS”; there have been countless jokey songs about the disease, including Ween’s “The HIV Song” and “Everyone Has AIDS” from Team America: World Police, but Bern’s seemingly lighthearted track was profound in its idyllic vision of a world free of the disease. Fifteen years later, an end to the epidemic feels like a very real possibility. Nearly 30 million people have reportedly died from AIDS, but each week seems to bring news of another breakthrough in the decades-long quest for a vaccine or cure. We thought this would be a good time to look back at some of the music inspired by the crisis that (eventually) galvanized a generation into action.

On Trend The Changing State of Coming Out in Hollywood

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On Trend: The Changing State of Coming Out in Hollywood
On Trend: The Changing State of Coming Out in Hollywood

She certainly came prepared. The E! correspondents may have told you that Jodie Foster wore Giorgio Armani to the Golden Globes, but her frock was more like a suit of armor, its metallic straps criss-crossing her chest as if she were bracing for impact. Amid an awards show that’s often little more than a boring, booze-soaked, wannabe Oscars, Foster—who, at 50, proved a drastically young choice for the HFPA’s career-defining Cecil B. Demille Award—provided a riveting slice of LGBT history, using the acceptance of her honorary trophy as an opportunity to deliver a coming-out speech…sorta. Everyone knows the story by now: How Foster jokingly announced that she’s “single” after a virtual drum roll of anticipation, how she thanked her longtime partner and two strapping sons, and how she professed the value of personal privacy, declaring that she’s no reality star, like “Honey Boo Boo Child.” Gawker had a particularly douchey field day with the latter portion of Foster’s monologue, viciously berating the actress for demanding privacy as a public figure in a very public forum. The contradiction at which Gawker took aim is glaringly apparent, but while celebrities may sacrifice certain libel rights and anonymous trips to the grocery store, they are not, in fact, required to divulge personal details to the masses. If there’s anything to deride about Foster’s show-stopping moment, it’s that it felt dated, dusty, even quaint.

UC Davis: A Lesson in Civil Disobedience

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UC Davis: A Lesson in Civil Disobedience
UC Davis: A Lesson in Civil Disobedience

By now you’ve seen the video and heard the outrage: A group of student demonstrators at the University of California Davis supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement and protesting violent police action against University of Berkeley protesters two weeks earlier were pepper-sprayed by UC Davis police. If the incident doesn’t become an iconic, defining moment of the Occupy movement a la images of black Americans being hosed down by police during the civil rights movement, it has at least galvanized the cause and ignited a long-overdue debate about police aggression circa 2011.

While the UC Davis police were acting on orders by the university’s chancellor, Linda Katehi, it’s unlikely she instructed Lt. John Pike to nonchalantly stroll up and down and shower the students with military-grade pepper spray at point-blank range like he was killing cockroaches in his kitchen. No reasonable civilian would begrudge police officers their right to protect themselves while in the line of duty, but despite UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza’s statement that the pepper spray was used because students were preventing the officers from leaving, video and photographs of the incident contradict her account. Even Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly—who likened pepper spray to a nice, peppery vinaigrette on The O’Reilly Factor last night—thinks Spicuzza’s claim is bogus.

Sarah Palin’s Rallying Cry

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Sarah Palin’s Rallying Cry
Sarah Palin’s Rallying Cry

When Sarah Palin’s new video message regarding the controversy surrounding the assassination attempt of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was released today, I couldn’t help but think of Osama Bin Laden. Some will no doubt be tempted to stop reading right here, and dismiss this as the rant of some partisan lefty. A lefty I am, and I make no bones about it, but hear me out. Bin Laden doesn’t just release one of his cave messages to the West following a terrorist attack for which he’s responsible; he often chimes in after any notable calamity, claiming tacit responsibility or pointing a figure at the consequences of American imperialism.

 

It Gets Better…or Does It?

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It Gets Better…or Does It?
It Gets Better…or Does It?

Public figures and private citizens of all stripes are joining a movement to tell gay teens suffering from bullying in school or struggling with their identity that “it gets better.” The campaign, simply dubbed the It Gets Better Project, was launched by columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage in the wake of a recent string of teenage suicides across the country which have gotten a surprising amount of mainstream media attention.

But does it really get better? It certainly can, and it most likely will, in a multitude of ways, for most young gays growing up today…if, like the campaign says, they would just live to see it. Cultural change often happens fast, even if it seems unbearably slow; I graduated from high school just a year and a half before the premiere of the first network sitcom with an openly gay male lead character (whose name was in the title, no less!) and just months before my school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance was started. The experience of being a gay teen was measurably different between the time I attended my high school and the years that followed soon after.

Spill, Baby, Spill

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Spill, Baby, Spill
Spill, Baby, Spill

During the summer of 2008, leading up to the presidential election, Republican nominee John McCain scheduled and then abruptly cancelled a meet-cute with the press atop an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. Despite claims that weather concerns prompted the change in plans, the real reason appeared to be the fact that, nearby, half a million gallons of oil was gushing into the Mississippi River thanks to a tanker accident. The reality about offshore drilling was sullying McCain’s political plans, and Barack Obama, the man to whom he lost the election, is now facing a similar inconvenient truth as president.

In March, Obama announced plans to lift the 20-year moratorium on new offshore oil and gas drilling as part of a comprehensive energy policy. Ever the pragmatist (and hopeless romantic, apparently), Obama presumably intended to grease the wheels of an energy and climate bill that faces an uphill battle in Washington thanks to the influence of Big Oil on both sides of the aisle. Most experts agree that, for a nation that represents 20 percent of global oil consumption but is home to just two percent of the world’s reserves, the impact of offshore drilling on gas prices would be negligible, but it was part of a political strategy designed to—foolishly, if the stimulus bill, health care reform, and the right-wing response to Obama’s announcement were any indication—lure Republicans to the negotiating table.

The Lieberman Problem

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The Lieberman Problem
The Lieberman Problem

“I don’t think we need it now,” a prominent U.S. senator said in a statement yesterday regarding a public health care option, and it wasn’t a Republican. Once again, “Democrat” Joe Lieberman has gone rogue. Shortly after the 2008 election, I posited a scenario under which Lieberman, who failed at almost every turn to use his chairmanship on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to hold the Bush administration accountable, would become a thorn in the side of the Obama administration. Democrats, led by the new president, refused to strip Lieberman of his title or his seat in the Democratic caucus after the Connecticut senator not only campaigned against his own party during the presidential election, but did so rather unscrupulously.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said then that he trusted Lieberman, but this new development in the seesawing life of the so-called public option should come as no surprise: Lieberman went on record as being against a filibuster-proof majority months ago, and he’s fought against his own party on key issues for years. Until now, it’s been his position on foreign policy that has been most troubling (it’s disturbing, if not downright dangerous, to have a politician who pals around with a hatemonger like John Hagee simply because—even though Hagee’s position on Israel is based on his belief that the preservation of the Jews is integral to the coming Rapture—he supports his Zionist agenda to chair a national security congressional committee), but Lieberman’s maverick-y impulses are now poised to kill what could potentially be a transformative piece of domestic legislation. According to Firedoglake, if Lieberman votes against cloture, the process by which Democrats can prevent a filibuster by Republicans, it will be the first time in American history that a member of a super-majority has joined the opposition to filibuster a bill.