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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The California Supreme Court's Illogical Prop 8 Decision


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 will go down as an eventful San Francisco day, sunny, and yet dark, and one that saw a lot of people marginalized who didn’t want to be. But then, who does. Before I turn to who said what, and who got arrested, I stick my head right into the belly of the beast, the California Supreme Court’s decision.

Today, in first upholding Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative to make same-sex marriage illegal that passed in November 2008, and yet protecting the 18,000 same-sex marriages that were done before the passage of the initiative, the California Supreme Court successfully stood logic on its head. I’ve just read the Court’s entire 167-page decision, and while I understand the reasons given by the majority of justices (six supporting the decision, one against it and even then the six judges that agreed were not perfect in their union) I’m concerned with the logic behind them.

To cut to the chase, the Court has placed the 18,000 same-sex marriages in a legally questionable second-class status of rights that, even though the Court claims to protect their rights under marriage, didn’t even consider if those rights would be maintained if the couples elect to divorce or remarry each other for the sake of the children they have.

First, even though I’ve read the full document, I encourage you to do so as well. Even if you think you can’t understand what’s there, challenge yourself, read it, talk about it with your friends. And most of all learn from it.

A Three-Pronged Decision

The California Supreme Court based its decision on three considerations, if the initiative was a constitutional amendment or revision, the validity of the initiative process itself, and if Proposition 8 itself is retroactive, applying to existing same-sex marriages.

In upholding Proposition 8, The California Supreme Court tried to get itself out of a legal pickle created in early 2008, when it protected same-sex marriages in a case called “The Marriages Cases”. To recap, the Court determined that marriage was not limited to a man and a woman.

But later in the same year, Californians passed Prop 8, which earned 52 percent of the vote. Then, California Attorney General Jerry Brown challenged Prop 8 in the California Supreme Court, most famously. (Brown used the observation that “natural law” was over the California Constitution, and since Prop 8 eliminated the rights of a group of Californians, it was in violation of the “unalienable rights” granted by the California Constitution and “natural law”. In today’s decision, The Court wrote that while Brown’s argument was creative, and I would add logical, it was “without merit.”)

And there we have the Court’s pickle: upholding their own decision protecting existing same sex marriages, and yet protecting the initiative process of which Proposition 8 is a part.

In the Decision the majority of judges argue that the initiative process itself is part of The California Constitution and thus can’t be considered something that alters and is outside of the California Constitution. Moreover, the Court writes that Proposition 8 itself is not a constitutional revision, but just an amendment. Why? Because the Court’s majority claims it only concerns marriage and doesn’t call for a large number of word additions or changes. The decision outlines a number of case examples where the Court’s decision backed the idea that an initiative was an amendment and not a revision to the California Constitution, as some of Prop 8’s attackers have claimed.

Finally, the Court majority asserts that even though the framers of Prop 8 may have intended otherwise, the way it was written itself prevents it from being retroactively applied. Thus, existing same sex marriages are upheld.

But here’s where the problem starts, even if one agrees with the other aspects of the majority’s decision. The Court writes “a retroactive application of the initiative would disrupt thousands of actions taken in reliance on The Marriages Cases by these same-sex couples, their employers, their creditors, and many others” (p. 134) and then goes on to mention that such would result in “undermining the ability of citizens to plan their lives according to the law as it has been determined by this state’s highest court.”

But I argue in upholding Prop 8 and existing same-sex marriages, the Court has placed the rights of the existing married couples in disarray and damaged the California Constitution in the process: it’s not for all Californians. If same-sex married couples chose to divorce, they can’t then marry someone else of the same sex, or remarry the same person even if it would be to the benefit of the family they established! There’s no evidence in the Court’s decision – and I looked for it - that this was taken into account.

The dissenting opinion by Justice Moreno focused on the stripping of rights to a minority group, but since the reality is that being gay or straight is really more fluid than fixed and the choice of the individual, the Court’s decision impacts a much broader group of the population and one that’s hard to quantify.

Peaceful Protests in San Francisco

The decision left a lot of people scratching their heads in and around San Francisco City Hall and the California Supreme Court building just next door. While a peaceful protest complete with pre-arranged arrests amassed on Van Ness Avenue between the City Hall and Davies Symphony Hall, a large press conference was held in the South Light Court in City Hall.

California Supreme Court There, many of the lawyers who worked to combat the passage of Prop 8 shared their observations with the audience. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who played a key role in the battle against Prop 8, said I’m disappointed... I think the Court in my view focused on procedure rather than arguments. And that fundamental rights are part of the debate.” He said it was back to the ballot box, a view shared by the Court itself in the decision issued today.

A Shameful Intellectual Display

The Court’s majority decision was shameful, to say the least. I told someone that people will develop an intellectual argument to support their raw emotions, and this California Supreme Court did just that. The Court’s emotional bent is to protect what was decided by it and by the voters in the initiative process rather than challenge it, even if such an alteration would protect the full state constitutional rights of all Californians.

Some conservatives have interpreted the California Supreme Court’s decision as the Court defining marriage as between “a man and a woman”, but that’s wrong. The Court is protecting the initiative called Proposition 8 which claims marriage is between a man and woman because it interprets the California Constitution as consisting of these constitutional amendments and the Court has stated that its job is to interpret the state constitution and that it’s not above it. That distinction is important because should voters pass a new initiative that overturns Prop 8, the Court would be legally inclined to protect it as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

American Idol Adam Lambert, Britney Spears Attacked On Stage. Why?


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Not too long ago in Western culture it seemed we had this mostly unwritten rule that when a performer was at work, we didn't rush the stage to be with them or follow them around, unless of course they asked us to. Well, in this Internet age the act of rushing the stage and stalking has become all too commonplace, with the latest victim being American Idol star Adam Lambert; pop culture icon Britney Spears faced the same incident just two weeks before.

And the act of stage rushing isn't limited to popular singers on television; a duo named Matt & Kim from Brooklyn were rushed at the annual multimedia event "South by Southwest" (or SXSW) in March.

Who's next, Susan Boyle?

In Spears' case the stage crasher, 20 year-old Kyle King, was a man who was whisked off and arrested by security after Britney let out a scream. By contrast, Lambert laughed the whole deal off - you can hear him - as authorities carried the shirtless woman (not topless as some reports have it) off and away from Lambert. Matt of Matt & Kim said "I don't know if anyone else woke up this morning feeling like they'd been in a brawl," ... "I woke up with a limp!"

I'm sure there are other examples of rushing the stage, but as it seems to be a form of stalking, I wonder if it's not a kind of new reaction by some to the new fame of others. All of the examples have people between the age of 20 and 30 who are doing the stalking, which means they're part of a generation that gets most of its media online -- they're hyper-engaged in media. Moreover, and now I'm spinning a theory as I've not found a study on this behavior in the Internet age, I wonder if those who stalk performers and media content creators in some way feel close to them because of the Internet, and want to complete the desire to "reach out and touch them."

And I'm not claiming their impulse is always harmless. Just ask American Idol host Paula Abdul, who was stalked by a contestant who eventually killed herself outside Abdul's home. Jamie Foxx fought off his stalker last month (what is it with April and March?) as he was in Philadelphia filming a movie.

Some people want to do harm to the simple video-blogger. I use as one example Melissa Compagnucci, a video-blogger who caught Internet fame after CNN discovered her for the CNN / YouTube Democratic Debate in 2007, and even flew her out to be part of the event itself with Anderson Cooper. But after the CNN spotlight, her vlogging attracted a stranger who took to taking pictures of where she lived at the time, just to let her know that he or she knew where she lived!

In Mel's case she just stopped posting vlogs for a few months, which is what I told her not to do. But now, she's back and is working for Ford Motor Company with the very cool gig of driving around the new Ford Fiesta for six months! I'm very happy she's "in the mix" as they say. But as to why people try to scare Melissa (or for that matter me) or any vlogger I don't know. I do know it's more common than it should be , and at least one vlogger was murdered , Asia McGowan last month, and by a nut case who reportedly "scorned Black women, discussed suicide, and decried atheists" and then killed himself.

And I get the same kind of messages she was complaining about; I just don't answer them.

No, I'm not comparing myself to Adam Lambert or Britney Spears, but Asia McGowan, yes. I am writing about those who feel it's necessary to "hate on" someone just because they dare have a media presence. I personally think the local police should have a protection list for entertainers, journalists, bloggers, and vloggers, so they know who we are and we have someone internally to call where we can report someone before its too late. I fear this is getting way out of hand. We've seen the loss of Chauncey Bailey who was gunned down in the line of journalist duty and Asia McGowan for sharing her view on the issues of the day. I don't want to ask who's next and I believe the same mentality that rushes someone like Adam Lambert or Britney Spears would do this to a journalist or a vlogger.

Enough's enough.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Twitter Retains Fewer Users Than Facebook and MySpace? So?


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YouTube, MySpace, Metacafe, DailyMotion, Blip.tv, Stupid Videos, Sclipo and Viddler

I saw an interesting blog post today over at Webguild.org reporting that Twitter is "Doomed" (in fact the title is "Twitter Doomed") and I had to laugh. There have been any number of people explaining either why they don't use Twitter or predicting its demise. There's even a website-style blog called "Twitter Backlash". But back to the post that got my laugh banks engaged and this sentence:

Apparently more than 60 percent of Twitter users fail to return the following month and pre-Oprah more than 70 percent of Twitter users failed to return to the site according to David Martin, Vice President, Nielsen Online.

Apparently Nielsen believes it appropriate to lump in Twitter with social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and others, and that's the problem. Twitter's a micro-blogging environment much more than a social network and thus should not be compared to Facebook and MySpace. Facebook and MySpace have places for photos of whatever you're doing or a place for installing your favorite music to share with others. That's not what Twitter's designed to do. Thus comparing them is lumping Apples with Oranges.

Twitter, again, is for the act of "micro-blogging" or explaining something in less than 150 characters. That's a system that can be and has been incorporated into a social network like Facebook, but it's not a social network like MySpace and Facebook.

I think what's happening is because one can communicate with others on Twitter, or have "friends", it's viewed as a social network as opposed to something that allows social-networking.

Two different actions.

In Facebook I have various pages, I'm a "fan" of President Obama, and I can see my friends photos, attend events I'm invited to, and play games they invite me to engage in (when I have time).

I can't do any of that on Twitter.

So it should come as no surprise that Twitter has a lower retention rate than Facebook or MySpace. Hey, people like to learn about other people which is what we use Facebook and other networks for. (Personally, I swear by Linkedin which I use far far more than MySpace.)

I don't see Twitter as a competitor to Facebook, but as complementary to Facebook. My Tweets go from my Twitter page out to my followers then onto my Facebook page and for good measure migrate over to my FriendFeed page as well. And my blogs are hooked in the same way: Blog to Twitter to Facebook to FriendFeed. Hey, that horizontal subscription count can add up!

The reason Twitter has a lower retention rate is simple: there's less there. It's a great place for the rapid transfer of information but that's it and you have to use it to understand its value.

Alas, Twitter doesn't have the revealing voyeur factor, so unless someone comes up with an app to send Paris Hilton sex tape through Twitter, the retention rates always going to be less than for Facebook, and that's just fine with me. Twitter's going through a shake out period where everyone thinks they have to use it. It's not for everyone. Eventually, we'll get rid of the wanna bees and be left with a really engaged Twitterverse.


New TV Show by Zennie62's On BART and Oscar Grant

On Saturday, May 2nd, my new television show starts. It's called "The Blog Report With Zennie62" and features the use of my video blogs in a weekly 30-minute format broadcast and co-produced by CoLoursTV in Denver. The start time is 3:30 PM Pacific Time, 6:30 PM Eastern Time and the show is replayed at 11:30 PM and 2:30 PM respecfully.

If you don't have a TV you can see the live stream at CoLoursTV.org. or Zennie62.com

The first show focused on selected events that occured after the shooting of Oscar Grant by BART Officer Johannes Mesherle on New Year's Day. It opens with my walk through a riot-ravaged downtown Oakland where I talked with many people about what happened, including a group of kids who were some of the rioters. Then we focus on the words of "DaveyD", America's foremost hiphop reporter and voice of the street, who shares his observations of how Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums handled the situation. And finally we hear from Dellums himself. This is not the last time I will visit this issue, but it's a good place to start the show.

The standard format is to present politics, news, sports, and tech in some combination for each show. Sometimes it's me talking about an issue; other times it's me talking to someone else, and with this show we will feature the work of other video-bloggers. It's a vloggers' playground.

The show will have a deliberate vlogger feel. Videos that you see on my channels at YouTube, Blip.tv, and other places make up the show. There's no studio; the camcorder is the star instrument. That means we can go anywhere at anytime and quickly make a video. It also means I can share what's happening in the news on the blogsphere in video form and show it on "The Blog Report". A lot of ground we can cover considering I never dreamed of having my own television show, but this whole road I've taken has been totally unplanned by me.

"The Blog Report" all started last year when I met Art Thomas who's the Executive Vice President with CoLoursTV at a media walk-through for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He lived in Oakland before moving to Denver and so we had a lot to talk about. I was looking for a sponsor for our show at the time, so I sent a proposal to Thomas. That exchange turned into an idea for placing our videos on CoLoursTV and that became the concept called "The Blog Report With Zennie62".

Our first concern was how to get the videos up on television without a loss of at least the quality that is seen on Blip.tv and Viddler, which have the sharpest video uploads (that written, I love YouTube and the quality's really improved over time such that it's competitive with the two, but YouTube's best system is the website design and its "viral" nature as well as The YouTube Partner program.) I think we solved that problem and I understand the TV version looks even better than what you're going to see here.

I look forward to your feedback and questions. We're seeking sponsors and there are some organizations we simply want to establish strategic partnerships with, so please contact me. The possibilities for this are many and should serve as an example for a possble future for newspapers as well.

If you're a video-blogger located anywhere in the World and have material that's not longer than 4 minutes tops, notify me via email at zennie@sportsbusinesssims.com and we'll go from there. I prefer the video is already uploaded on some site, Brightcove, Blip.tv, YouTube, etc, so I can see it.

I wish to thank Art Thomas, Damon Purdy, and Tracy Winchester of CoLours TV, as well as Steve and Bernard who made me look good in the promo. I also wish to thank Google / YouTube for their support and encouragement and specifically Chad, Emily, and Hunter. A big loud shot-out to the iReport team at CNN: Lila, Henry, Rachel, David, Nicole Saldi, and the rest. And thanks to the team at CNN Special Projects, Errol and Jessica, and to Roland Martin and his staff at CNN for discovering me. Finally, thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle for seeing the value in how I do what I'm doing and providing a platform. To the National Football League and Commissioner Roger Goodell, Greg Aiello, and Frank Supovitz ("Mr. Super Bowl") And of course, thanks to my Mom and my relatives in Chicago and Tennessee.

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