Monday, March 25, 2013

Close to home ...

Portman announcement braver than Clinton’s

Last week’s column on gay marriage — particularly on Hillary Clinton’s relatively late-to-the-party support of gay marriage — got a lot of feedback.

Not only has there been a lot of feedback on the column itself, there’s been a lot of news on the topic in the last week. And there seems to have been a lot of news on the topic every week for the last … forever.

As I write this column, gay marriage is the top news story on my Google News feed. There are stories about the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia, the state of Ohio, Starbucks, and a variety of pols who have recently come out in favor of gay marriage.

Over the weekend, former GOP poster boy and brain Karl Rove said he imagines that the Republican nominee for president in 2016 could be someone that supports gay marriage, simply as a sign that the pendulum is swinging in that direction.

As I mentioned last week, 58 percent of Americans have recently voiced support for same-sex marriage. That means that some self-described Republicans must be in that crowd. One such self-described Republican is Ohio Congressman Robert Portman, who recently changed his tune — very publicly — on the topic of same-sex marriage, largely due to the fact that his 21-year-old son is gay.

Some have said that Portman’s reversal is a selfish one … and a sign that the GOP remains out of touch with the real world. Unless it affects them directly, they don’t care, it’s been said.

I think that’s more of a humanity thing than a GOP thing, though. It’s also the reason that support for same-sex marriage is increasing. According to a CNN/ORC International survey, 57% of respondents say they have a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian. That number is 12 points higher than six years ago.

I’d also like to point out that there are a number of fathers (and mothers) who find out that their sons (and daughters) are gay, but who don’t come around on the topic. Fortunately, though, those numbers are thinning.

Rob Portman isn’t just any dad, either, as indicated by the first reference of “Ohio Congressman Robert Portman.” His position dictates certain things. And his party affiliation dictates things as well. At least it did until now.

Frankly I’m just as impressed with Rob Portman’s decision to “come out” in support of gay marriage as I was unimpressed with Hillary Clinton’s.

Clinton was the one of the last Democrats to support what has essentially been a Democrat position. She was the final lemming, if you will. Portman, however, is one of the first Republicans to support what is about to become a human issue. He is a leader among his kind.

Scott Leffler is neither Democrat, Republican, nor lemming. He was for gay marriage way before it was cool. Tweet your support (or vitriol) @scottleffler

Monday, March 18, 2013

Do you really want Hillary Clinton defining marriage?

On Monday, former first lady, secretary of state and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton came out in support of gay marriage.

The part of me that supports gay marriage thinks this is a great thing. But the part of me that has watched with mild dismay over what the Clintons have referred to as marriage is a little taken aback.

My personal belief is that marriage is a covenant between the two parties involved and God … or the church, if you prefer. I have long believed that if a couple could find a church to pronounce them spouses, it makes no difference what the state or federal government thinks. After all, the state’s role in marriage is simply one of codifying that which is already true.

To further explain: If two men or two women could find a church to say that they are legally married, the state of New York (or any other state) should not have any sort of veto power over a legally binding contract. The state’s sole role should be to mark it in the books as being “so.”

As of late, the topic of gay marriage has gained support among not only Democrats but the public at large. In fact, a recent poll said that 58 percent of Americans now support gay marriage. To be honest, I find that number to be surprising. I am shocked to believe that that many heterosexuals would be willing to share their “right” to marriage with homosexuals. But it shows that as a society we are making progress on the compassion front.

My biggest issue here is that by Hillary Clinton attaching her name to this cause, she actually dilutes the notion in a sort of “guilt by association” manner. Because the Clintons marriage has long been believed to be more of a political partnership than a personal partnership, I fear that some who oppose gay marriage will actually hold Bill and Hillary up as an example of why not to support gay marriage.

Imagine if you will Bernie Madoff discussing the importance of investing. Once his name is involved, the whole notion becomes tainted. He is probably responsible, after all, for people burying their money in their backyard or hiding it in a box under their bed. In fact, his suggesting that people should invest in the stock market should only serve as an example of why you’re best off doing just that — hiding your money in your freezer, ala William Jefferson.

Ronald McDonald shouldn’t be a spokesperson for dieting. Chelsea Handler shouldn’t be a spokesperson for sobriety. Sylvester Stallone shouldn’t be a spokesperson for yoga. And Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be a spokesperson for marriage — gay, straight or any other kind.

Scott Leffler would hide his money in his freezer … if he had any to hide. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fortunately someone with some brains stepped in

I don’t know what it is that causes heroes to wait until the last possible minute to save the world, but it often seems to be the case.

Superman. Batman. Spiderman. Not Aquaman. He was never cool. But those other guys know how to save the world. And with dramatic effect.

Add to that list one Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling. Now you may disagree with me calling him a hero — or my claim that he has saved the world. But I think the guy’s great.

Justice Tingling struck down the controversial New York City ban on large sugary drinks Monday. It was set to take effect today.

The ban would cap sugary drinks at 16-ounce servings, whether they’re in single-serving bottles or fountain beverages at restaurants, movie theaters, delis, etc. The size limit applies to any beverage that has more than 50 calories per 16 ounces. It exempts, however, milk drinks and 100% juice drinks.

The law has been pushed vigorously by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who says there’s a direct link between sugary drinks and obesity.

Sunday, Bloomberg "All we're doing in New York is reminding you that it's not in your interest to have too many empty calories. ... If you want to have 32 ounces, just buy two 16-ounce cups. Take them back to your seat. If you want 64 ounces, take four cups back."

So basically Bloomberg is saying that he’s not banning the drinking of mass quantities of pop — or whatever — he’s just making it more difficult.

Who died and made Michael Bloomberg king?

Apparently no one since Judge Tingling was around to dethrone him — at least on this issue.

Look, I’m all for people being healthy. I don’t consume much pop. But when I do, it’s usually of the 32-ounce variety. If I’m going to be unhealthy, I want to be gluttonous about it. And seeing as this is America, I’m still under the impression that it is my God-given right.

But what is going on in this state? We’ve got the governor limiting bullets, the mayor of New York limiting sugary drinks. I can only imagine that a law will be introduced soon saying that cigarettes must be purchased individually rather than by the pack — or God forbid, carton.

I have a doctor. When I need health advice I ask him. Not that, I always listen of course. So I certainly don’t need an elected official to offer me health advice. They usually can’t even pass a budget on time. If they can’t do their job, why would I think they could do a doctor’s?

Maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit with my hero worship of the judge. But it’s nice to see someone step up once in a while and tell these elected officials that they’re their job is to help us. Not to babysit us.

In truth, Scott Leffler hates going to the doctor — just like any normal adult male. Follow his unhealthy tweets @scottleffler.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Only Dennis Rodman could go to N. Korea?

It seems like people are a bit upset with Dennis Rodman.

The retired NBA player/reality TV show in the making became the first American to publicly meet with dictator Kim Jong Un last week. And upon returning the U.S, lobbied on behalf of the North Korean dictator.

Rodman said Kim wants to normalize relations with the White House and begged him to pass that message along to President Obama.

“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him. He said, ‘If you can, Dennis, I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me,” Rodman said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

Rodman was in North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters.

For their part, the White House says Kim should focus on the well-being of his people instead of “celebrity sporting events” and Rodman should focus on basketball.

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh joked that Rodman is taking over as the new secretary of state. Surely that didn’t help with the White House’s ego.

And it seems like they weren’t fond of being shown up by a two-bit punk. By which, I mean Rodman, of course.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Col. Steve Ganyard said, “There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more personally about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary."

Scary, indeed.

What’s scarier still is that the White House has no announced plan to change that fact. Maybe the president is gunshy for what could be portrayed as “the apology tour, part II.” Mind you, I don’t think that’s accurate. I think we just like to keep some nations at an arms’ length.

But in this frightening time of arms deals and arms races, maybe we need less arms’ lengths.

I’ve never made any bones about the fact that my biggest issues with the federal government is on foreign policy. It’s always seemed arbitrary for me. We give China “most-favored nation” status but we can’t travel to Cuba or buy a quality Cuban cigar?

It seems like maybe we hold grudges. And most elected officials can’t really tell you why.

Personally, I think anyone we could employ to work as an ambassador to spread our message of peace and freedom should be free to do so. Even if it’s Dennis Rodman.

Scott Leffler has never been to Cuba. Nor has he even smoked a “quality Cuban cigar.” But if he ever does, he’ll probably tweet about it @scottleffler.