October 21, 2005

The Truth Is Out There: One of the more banal plaints in progressive journalism, usually written in an alt-weekly or "gay" publication, is the piece coyly outing various famous personages. In it, the writer will take to task some closeted celebrity for not being more forthcoming about their sexuality, or nail some Republican politician for hypocrisy over the same issue. Thanks to the internet, allegations about the sexual preference of Jodie Foster, Tom Cruise, David Dreier, Anderson Cooper and half the studio heads in Hollywood are available for public review, as if anyone outside the corner of Castro and Market gives a rat's ass whether Barry Diller or Pete Williams is queer.

There is one group, however, that never gets "outed" in any of those pieces, of course: gay athletes. This may be hard to understand outside the parochial world of independent journalists, but to the overwhelming mass of humanity in the Western World, sports are our single most important cultural pastime, a common language uniting all races, creeds, colors and classes, and play a much greater role in determining male (and, increasingly, female) sexual ideals in our society than movies, television, politics or any other institution.

Mix in the tendency for SportsWorld to support a generally conservative viewpoint, and one would think that public challenges to gay athletes would prove to be too tempting to resist. The battle to insure full civil rights for gays and lesbians is being fought out across the country right now, state by state, and it would be far more cataclysmic in Red States if an athletic hero were to "stop playing games and start answering ‘the question’," than it would for a supporting character on Will & Grace to do the same thing.

And obviously, gay men and women are as present in sports as they are in any other social institution. But if one didn't know any better, one would think that they were limited to individual sports, such as figure skating, or were confined to women's sports, where the stereotype of the tomboy is still present. But even those athletes can pretty much live a secret life in peace; the gay athletes we know about are either those who came out after they retired (Billy Jean King, Greg Luganis, Glenn Burke) or those whose homosexuality was revealed post-mortem (Jerry Smith, Bill Goldsworthy, Tim Richmond). Martina Navritolova is the only major athlete I can think of who was outed in the prime of her career, and that had more to do with a palimony suit against her than the efforts of the gay press. It would seem that the safest place in the world to avoid unwanted publicity about one's sexual preference is to play in the NFL or Major League Baseball.

So why isn't it done (and, mind you, I'm not endorsing the practice of outing celebrities; I'm just baffled as to why this particular social institution has not received the same scrutiny)? Why is a person's privacy respected if he is, lets say, famous for having hit over fifty home runs in a fluke season in the mid-90's, but not if he's a news anchor for Fox or CNN? [link via Wonkette]

October 19, 2005

YBK [Post-game]: In the final week under the old law, there were at least 205,000 personal bankruptcies filed, and after electronic filings and other yet-to-be-counted measures are considered, the total may surpass 300,000 500,000. The previous record was just over 100,000 filings, set the previous week, and a normal week would have seen about 30,000 filings. Taking into account that the average amount of credit card debt per filing is just under $20,000, almost all of which will now be forgiven by the terms of the old law, in the past fortnight we may have seen one of the greatest transfers in wealth from the rich to the poor in history: $8 billion $12 billion, from the credit card industry to consumers. Suffice it to say, it will take awhile for Biden's Friends to recover, another victim of the Law of Unintended Consequences !!

UPDATE [10/20]: Statistics revised per Washington Post story this morning.
"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way." Interesting, since he supposedly told the Grand Jury that Rove had told him had no role in leading Valerie Plame's name...we are starting to get into the area that got Nixon kicked out of office in 1974, ie., obstruction of justice, failing to carry out his oath to faithfully carry out the laws, etc.
Of all the reasons to go after Noam Chomsky, the notion that he actually decided to make money in his old age has got to be the silliest. Hell, I blasted the new bankruptcy law, but I'll be damned if I'm going to start pretending that my opinions should make me forget that I'm trying to run a business here. As a brother Idiotarian, I sympathize and salute Chomsky's ambition. Until they change the tax laws in this country to make them more equitable, his critics should grow up.

October 18, 2005

I think I'm going to start to back away from my earlier kind words for Harriet Miers. I can handle her not having sat as a judge, working at a law firm representing white collar crooks and union-busting businesses, having pro-life and/or anti-Roe tendencies, even being a crony of the President. All of those things are pretty much par for the course when you elect a Republican to the White House, and, except for the Roe litmus test, not all that unusual with nominees from progressive Presidents. This sort of thing, though, makes me believe that she has no core convictions, save whatever gets her on the Court. Her confirmation hearings could get very grisly....
A good primer about the significance of Judith Miller in the Plamegate scandal, from Matt Welch. By the way, Welch has had a pretty impressive run as of late; his reporting and commentary on the urban legends arising out of Hurricane Katrina were especially prescient.

October 17, 2005

FWIW: Among the approximately quarter of a million people who filed bankruptcy last week was former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. His three fights with Holyfield were perhaps the best fights in that division since Ali's retirement. Sadly, his life seems to have collapsed in recent years.
YBK [Fin]: As expected, the legacy of the new bankruptcy law will be the manner in which ordinary people across the country reacted in the past few weeks. What had been a slow but significant increase in filings in the immediate aftermath of the new law's passage became a cataclysmic disaster last week. Since many of the filings are done electronically, the long lines outside the courthouses on Friday give no indication of the true sign of the numbers of people who filed, but don't be surprised if the final numbers are close to what typically appear over a span of a couple of months. If the people who called my office are any indication, most of them never would have even considered the possibility of filing bankruptcy, had it not been for the new law.

The conservative business paper Investor's Business Daily reports that credit card companies, the prinicipal backers of the new law, are finally beginning to realize that they may have been screwed by their lobbyists:
Ray Bell, vice president of Creditors Interchange and host of an upcoming industry meeting on bankruptcy, said he fears some credit card firms haven't studied the fine print of the new law, which could be changed via lawsuits in the courts, he said.

"The credit card industry isn't necessarily prepared for what's coming," Bell said. "We're going to have court rulings to the north, south, east and west. Interpretations will vary ... Uncertainty may hit the credit card industry - they have not taken the time they needed to do to manage the process that's coming."


While the impact isn't likely to cripple any credit card companies, analysts have been playing a parlor game of sorts to assess the effects.

Wachovia analysts recently changed their rating to market perform from outperform on Capital One, partly on concerns about bankruptcy filings.

"While Capital One's recent credit results indicate relative stability, we are growing increasingly concerned about the outlook for consumer credit," the analysts said in a report.

Wachovia said rising energy prices, increased bankruptcy filings and weakening consumer sentiment in the last few weeks are "a troublesome trifecta."
Similar horror stories are reported in the article, which was clearly written before the last-minute explosion, about AmEx and CitiGroup. Although it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of sharks, the impact on the rest of us could be even worse, as we have to put up with higher monthly rates and more aggressive collection activity to make up for the huge loss in revenues from YBK.

October 16, 2005

Some Perspective on Becoming a Made Man: Since it's not every day that one gets published in the LA Times, I made a special trip this evening to a 7-11 to pick up the early Sunday edition of the paper to read my column. Beaming with pride, I placed the "Current" section in a prominent place at the bar, making sure my fellow patrons had a good look at my handiwork, when one of the other customers saw the paper, quickly perused the column, eloquently stated "whatever", and tossed it aside to see if he could get a good look at whether the sports section had anything on the SC-Notre Dame game.