Monday, March 2, 2015

Conservative yuck factor goes up...

PM Harper, another Tory and evolution-hater MP James Lunney.
Yuck and yuck and yuck.

It seems the thinly-veiled, socially conservative extremist face of the Conservative movement in this country is showing itself more honestly lately.

Smart politics?  Nope.  Arrogant?  Yes.  Representative of mainstream Canada?  No way. 

These folks belong no where near the levers of power.  I'm glad the Ontario PCs remain stuck in opposition and reportedly intent on staying there (if the weekend's membership recruitment numbers prove to be true.)

I hope our misguided federal Conservatives - with a caucus filled with dinosaurs like Cheryl Gallant - get knocked back into opposition where they belong this year. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tory Plett's bullying of trans people continues in Ottawa

Wednesday was Pink Shirt Day in Canada, a day to stand up against bullying.

But in Ottawa, where Tories act like bullies most of the time, attacking anyone who can't fight back easily, they ignored the day and continued their old tricks.

Tory Senator Don Plett ignored his critics, including me, and bulldozed ahead with amendments to Bill C-279, a NDP private member's bill that seeks to add "gender identity" to the Canadian Human  Rights Act and the Criminal Code's anti-hate provisions.   Plett succeeded at a Senate committee on Wednesday to pass amendments to the bill that would fundamentally undermine its intentions by exempting the legislation from applying to "sex-specific" facilities such as public washrooms.  

Now the amended bill must go back to the House of Commons, where the original version passed in 2013.  But the bill's author, MP Randall Garrison, now says even he would vote against it if it miraculously comes up for a vote again in the Commons before the summer break because of Plett's discriminatory amendments.  

Now Garrison predicts the bill is dead in this Parliament. 

“It does look like the death of the bill,” Mr. Garrison said from Ottawa Wednesday. “I can’t understand why the Conservative leadership of the Senate would allow this small group of senators to derail the bill since the Senate twice voted, in principle, in favour of the bill.”

Shame! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tory leadership candidate caught catering to homophobia during sex-ed curriculum debate

A few hundred social conservatives reportedly gathered outside the Ontario legislature Tuesday to protest the province's revised sex-education curriculum, claiming ignorance is a virtue when it comes to their kids' health and knowledge of their own bodies, I guess. 

Decades ago, these folks represented mainstream Ontario thinking.  Not any more.

But as they dwindle in number, there are still some misguided conservative politicians willing to pander to them, including Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton, who is running for his party's leadership.   He's frequently been openly critical of changing our outdated public school curriculum, claiming not enough parents (like him) have been consulted.  In truth, the process for drafting a new curriculum has included thousands of parents around the province.  McNaughton objects to the wishes of the socially conservative few not trumping the majority.

This week, McNaughton said, in a not too subtle reference to the premier's sexual orientation, that it's not the job of the premier – "especially Kathleen Wynne" – to tell parents what is age appropriate for their children.  He left those words out there for all to interpret as they saw fit until reporters finally demanded yesterday McNaughton explain himself.  In response, he lamely said Wynne was unqualified due to unrelated scandals and an alleged lack of consultation (which of course is a farce.) 

Homophobes speak in code today.  It helps them deny later they were being homophobic when in truth that's exactly what they were doing at the time.  Nudge nudge, wink wink. 

Premier Kathleen Wynne was having none of it yesterday and I love this clip of her from the legislature.  


Friday, February 20, 2015

'Matt Shepard Is A Friend of Mine' opens in Toronto

Director Michele Josue, father Dennis Shepard and mother Judy Shepard
address crowd at gala event in Toronto last night.
I attended the gala screening last night of the documentary feature 'Matt Shepard Is A Friend of Mine' by director Michelle Josue at Toronto's Carlton Cinemas, and later the Q&A session at the Marquis of Granby pub where the filmmaker as well as Shepard's heroic parents, Judy and Dennis, answered audience questions.

Judy Shepard is a force of nature, working tirelessly since her son's tragic death in 1998 to promote tolerance and better understanding through the Matthew Shepard Foundation.  That spirit was on full display last night as she took most of the audience questions.

The film is a loving and tender portrait of the young man whose life was tragically cut short in 1998 by two gay bashers in Wyoming.  The emotional doc offers greater details about Shepard's life, fleshing him out as a human being.  We learn that Matt was passionate and political and suffered from personal demons. Still searching for himself but perhaps finding some peace in school in Laramie, it's clear he hoped he'd make a difference in the world.  One can't help but think about how great a person he could've become had he lived.  It's been almost 17 years since this tragedy and the film acts as a great reminder of Shepard's legacy as well as how far we've come since then. 

Check it out at the Carlton this week if you can! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

OPEN LETTER to Senator Don Plett re: Bill C-279, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity)

OPEN LETTER to Senator Don Plett,

I understand from this Hill Times article that you are planning to introduce amendments in the Canadian Senate to this democratically-passed private member's bill, Bill C-279, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity).  

To date, you haven't specified what those amendments might be or why they are necessary, except only to make public comments at a committee meeting last fall that exposed your thinking on human rights and transsexuals:

"Sen. Plett said the bill in its current form has the potential to be abused by sexual predators and pedophiles as they would be able to access women’s public washrooms. 

“If my five-year-old granddaughter doesn’t want to be in a bathroom with a biological male. … What is her option? She doesn’t want to be there. What’s her option?” said Sen. Plett in October in the Committee meeting."

Can you please provide verifiable links to the legal studies and police reports or anything else valid that have caused you to hold this concern?   I highly doubt it. 

I strongly suspect that you have no valid cause to hold these concerns.  Instead, your comments are simply reflective of the same old bigoted stuff inspired by fictional stories of yesteryear when transsexuals and homosexuals were considered nothing more than perverts hiding in dark places trying to rape little children.  

Were this the 1950s or 1960s and you were in the southern United States serving as a Senator, I'm sure you'd express similar concerns about desegregated bathrooms like this:

“If my five-year-old grandson doesn’t want to be in a bathroom with a Negro male. … What is his option? He doesn’t want to be there. What’s his option?”

Can you deduce the inherent injustice in your comment when you simply replace one minority group with another?  That somehow the rights of transsexuals or anyone else must be suppressed in order to accommodate the bigotries of the majority?

I would argue that maybe your granddaughter's option is to understand and accept that transsexual people, who are no threat to her, exist in this world and have a right to use public restrooms too.   And perhaps she should also stop listening to her grandfather on these issues.

Your arguments are on par with those of Rob Anders and other bigots in your party.  You should be ashamed of yourself! 

I understand that if you succeed in proposing unnecessary amendments to this Bill, it will once again delay passage of protecting the human rights of a very vulnerable group in our society.   Human Rights laws exist to protect such vulnerable communities who are frequently the victims of crime like discrimination.  I thought Conservatives were supposed to be on the side of victims?   But sadly I've learned from the collective records of Conservatives that they are merely only concerned with victims' rights as long as those victims look, live and love just like them. 

In the interests of justice and fairness, I implore to put aside your groundless fears and focus on what's right for Canadians! 

The transgendered and transsexual community, very vulnerable to discrimination in our society, has been waiting for protections such as these at the federal level for decades.  An equivalent bill protecting gays and lesbians was passed in Ottawa almost 20 years ago.

Bill C-279 was passed by a clear majority vote in the House of Commons in March 2013 with unanimous opposition support, plus 18 Conservative MPs.   Trying to amend the bill now would force the bill to return to the House of Commons for another vote, something apparently unlikely to happen in time before this October's federal election, which would kill the bill altogether.   A similar bill would have to be introduced again in the next parliament. 

We know how many years we've waited to see something like this bill passed into law.   The time for amendments is over.  Your fears are groundless.   Please don't put up further impediments to passing these important protections for a very vulnerable community. 

Sincerely,
Matt Guerin,
A concerned Ontario voter

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I encourage all readers to contact Senator Plett to voice your concerns over his attempts to kibosh much-needed protections for the trans community in federal law.  

Telephone:
613-992-0180  or 1-800-267-7362
Email:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Unelected Conservative senators threaten to kill democratically-passed Trans Rights Bill


This is a travesty on a number of levels.  

First, the transgendered and transsexual community, very vulnerable to discrimination in our society, has been waiting for protections such as these at the federal level for decades.  An equivalent bill protecting gays and lesbians was passed in Ottawa almost 20 years ago. 

Secondly, the bill was passed by a vote of 149 to 137 in the House of Commons in March 2013 with unanimous opposition support, plus 18 Conservative MPs.  Now unelected Conservative senators appointed by Stephen Harper (who voted against the bill in the House) may end up killing the bill by trying to amend it in yet unspecified ways.   

That would force the bill to return to the House of Commons for another vote, something apparently unlikely to happen in time before this October's federal election, which would kill the bill altogether.   A similar bill would have to be introduced again in the next parliament. 

Bill C-279, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity), would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or gender expression and it would amend the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as a recognized group when offences are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate.

Conservative Senator Don Plett, a former Conservative Party president, who is threatening the bill with amendments, has raised the tired, old attack that protecting trans people from discrimination will somehow allow sexual predators a new legal defence when entering public women's washrooms.  

It's the same old bigoted stuff inspired by fictional stories of yesteryear when transsexuals and homosexuals were considered nothing more than perverts hiding in dark places trying to rape little children.  
  
“If my five-year-old granddaughter doesn’t want to be in a bathroom with a biological male. … What is her option? She doesn’t want to be there. What’s her option?” said Sen. Plett in October in the Committee meeting.

Maybe her option is to understand and accept that transsexual people, who are no threat to her, exist in this world and have a right to use public restrooms too?   



It's time to start agitating to get this bill finally passed.  We can't wait any longer for it.  

Here is a link to Senator Plett's contact information and email, also copied below.   I'm certainly going to email his office today to urge him to drop his ill-informed criticisms and let this bill pass into law.  

I urge everyone to do the same: 

Senator Don Plett's contact info: 


Telephone:
613-992-0180  or 1-800-267-7362
Email:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ontario PCs now must choose between moderate mainstream or Tea Party takeover


Tea Party Ontario PC leadership candidate Monte McNaughton
I love Kathleen Wynne dearly and greatly appreciate her style of leadership.  I find that I agree with her on most issues.   I think she brings a smart balance between pragmatism and progressive politics and has the listening and consensus-building skills that make her a great leader.  I hope that she continues to govern Ontario for as long as possible.

But by 2018, the Ontario Liberals will have been in power for 15 years.  It's also likely that the federal Liberal Party will be back in power in Ottawa by then.  Ontario voters love to elect different parties to office federally and provincially.   Thus an Ontario Liberal government long in the tooth with a long legacy of scandals will likely be extremely vulnerable to an effective challenger next time. 

Thus far, the mainstream of the Ontario PCs seems to be coalescing around the leadership candidacy of Christine Elliott, MPP for Whitby-Oshawa and widow of former federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.   This week, two of her moderate opponents for the leadership, Vic Fedeli and Lisa MacLeod, dropped out and endorsed her.   Elliott's been talking like a smart red Tory, emphasizing fiscal conservatism but also socially progressive policies.  She's very much in the same ilk as Bill Davis and John Tory.   Should she win the leadership and project competence and vision, she'll give Wynne quite the challenge in 2018. 

Yet the Tea Party wing of the Ontario PCs refuses to go away.   It seems clear that both Lambton-area MPP Monte McNaughton and Barrie MP Patrick Brown are fighting over that Tea Party vote in order to try to stop Elliott.  

As for Brown, I can only say this: if Brown is talented enough to be premier of Ontario, wouldn't he have at least made federal cabinet by now?  Such a talent would've ascended higher than the backbench in Ottawa, no?  Brown strikes me as a twerp, in over his head with an ego out of touch with reality.  He'd be a weaker leader than Tim Hudak.   It remains to be seen if his leadership campaign will get any real traction.

But it's perhaps Monte McNaughton who might form a bigger threat.  Now he's been endorsed by former Toronto crack mayor Rob Ford, who's turned his back on his family friend, Elliott, in favour of this unknown MPP from southwestern Ontario.   

Why?  Unfortunately it seems to be that McNaughton, along with a number of far-right Tea Party types, want to keep the Ontario PC Party on the far right. And this attracts RoFo. 

The far right Ontario PCs have been a losing force since 2003 in Ontario.  That year, Ontario voters signaled fatigue with years of undermining public services by electing a Liberal government promising to return quality to public education and public health care.   In 2007, in response to the right-wing promise to finance more religion in public schools, Ontario voters gave the Liberals another huge majority.  And in 2014 (and to a lesser extent in 2011), when offered an austerity agenda that would cut thousands of public service jobs, Ontario voters opted against such lunacy.

It's baffling that there is still a contingent of Ontario PCs who think that if they keep down this road they'll still be able to win one day.   It's the definition of insanity.  Thus, it's not surprising that Rob Ford would be supportive of it.

Ford carefully nourished a bigoted persona and still does.  His barely-concealed contempt for the LGBT community - including refusing to take part in Pride Toronto events - were designed to win support of anti-gay bigots in the suburbs and ethnic communities.   Disrespecting gays was a fundamental building block of Ford Nation.

It worked for one election for RoFo in 2010.  In 2014, after four years of crack scandals and general incompetence at City Hall, that support was still there for his brother, who earned 34% of the vote and carried many low income areas where homophobia runs rampant.  Now RoFo thinks he can work his homophobic magic for Monte McNaughton.

The only issue for which McNaughton has been getting any ink is his frequent criticism of the new Ontario education curriculum.  He's using rhetoric similar to that used by Charles McVety-type bigots around the province, who are attempting to slam the changes that would emphasize the importance of consent.

Martin Regg Cohn recently wrote a nice column about the burgeoning fight over the curriculum.

Columnist Andrew Perez also recently wrote about the ongoing struggle in the Ontario PCs. 

As a tactic, it could prove somewhat effective in a party with only about 10,000 members at the start of this leadership race.  If they can sign up a bunch of bigots across the province, it could hamper Christine Elliott's more moderate campaign.  

But like the Tea Party in the U.S., where weak, far-right candidates managed to win Republican nominations, only to get crushed by their Democratic opponents in the general election, this tactic will actually help Ontario Liberals and Kathleen Wynne in the end. 

If by some pathetic miracle that McNaughton or Brown do manage to win the Ontario PC leadership in May, they will ensure another Liberal majority for Kathleen Wynne in 2018.  Both would be less effective at winning over Ontario voters than Tim Hudak.




Friday, January 30, 2015

Feature film 'Tru Love' a delight


I want to give a quick shout-out for a feature film I saw last weekend: 'Tru Love,' by co-directors Kate Johnston and Shauna MacDonald, which is playing for a second week until Feb 5th at Toronto's Carlton Cinema.

Like most queer Canadian indie flicks, this delightful lesbian romance was shot on a small budget by some very talented people.   Their labour of love has had much success on the international film festival circuit, won many awards and is getting released soon on various platforms around the world.  For now in Canada, the film continues its theatrical run in Toronto at the Carlton and probably more cities soon.

The film chronicles the unlikely romantic spark between two women, one older and one younger, in a gorgeously photographed Toronto.  In the leads, Shauna MacDonald and Kate Trotter are wonderful.

Buy Carlton theatre tickets here: https://carlton.rainbowcinemastickets.com/boxoffice/

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Harper Government spent $7 million of your tax dollars to attack Justin Trudeau's position on marijuana

In yet another disgusting abuse of power and waste of taxpayers' hard-earned dollars by Stephen Harper and his government, it's now been confirmed that a laughable "Health Canada" ad campaign last fall - which featured dubious claims about non-existent science and a lot of misinformation - cost we taxpayers $7 million.

The ad campaign was clearly designed with Conservative party political intentions in mind to scare ignorant parents into opposing the liberalization of Canada's marijuana laws, which just so happens to be the position favoured by Harper's main political opponent, Justin Trudeau.

I'll copy the Canadian Press story in its entirety as the facts without comment are outrageous.  Those particularly outrageous, I'll highlight in bold:

Conservative government’s anti-drug advertising blitz last fall cost $7 million



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This was not some innocent, non-partisan effort by Health Canada, clearly.

It represents the kind of despicable decision-making and disrespect for taxpayers' dollars that will not cease until Stephen Harper is removed from office.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

HuffPost's Michelson: "Yes, Billy Crystal DID Just Make A Homophobic Statement (And Here's Why It Matters)"

This story about Billy Crystal has been making the internet rounds this week.  

I thought I'd comment, mostly to post a link to this great article by Noah Michelson, executive editor of the HuffPost's Gay Voices section, who beautifully sums up the issue and articulates many of my own thoughts in reaction to Crystal's homophobia.

But first some background.  Crystal appeared on a panel this past weekend in Pasadena when he was asked what it was like to play one of the first gay characters on American TV (on the ABC show "Soap" in the late 1970s) and how television's treatment of gay characters has changed since that time.

Crystal reportedly said, "There were times where I would say to [the actor who played his boyfriend], 'Bob, “I love you,' and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, 'What is your problem?' Because it made you sort of very self-conscious about what we were trying to do then."

So far, so good.  But then Crystal started talking about recent television depictions of gay people: 

"And now it’s just, I see it and I just hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face -- well, that sounds terrible -- to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing."

Crystal then alluded to some TV shows today (such as the new show 'How To Get Away With Murder,' which contains numerous sexy man-on-man sex scenes):  

"Sometimes I think, 'Ah that’s too much for me...Sometimes, it’s just pushing it a little too far for my taste and I’m not going to reveal to you which ones they are."

Michelson, in his HuffPost article, then quotes a follow-up comment from Crystal reacting to the negative feedback his comments received:

"First of all, I don't understand why there would be anything offensive that I said. When it gets too far either visually...now, that world exists because it does for the hetero world, it exists, and I don't want to see that either. But when I feel it's a cause, when I feel it's "You're going to like my lifestyle," no matter what it is, I'm going to have a problem and there were a couple of shows I went 'I couldn't watch that with somebody else." That's fine. If whoever writes it or produces it...totally get it. It's all about personal taste."

To me, this was just Crystal expressing probably what a lot of heterosexual men of his generation feel about the gays: you can exist, I just don't want to see too much of you.  Or something to that effect.

But I urge you to read all of Noah Michelson's commentary, who is fair to Crystal while also calling him out for his "homophobia."  Here is just a small snippet:

"I think we can all read between the lines there. Let's not forget that one of the great things about being straight is that no one is ever going to accuse you of pushing your "lifestyle" on anyone else because your "lifestyle" is already the status quo. It's everywhere! You don't have to worry about your televised kisses or -- sweet baby Jesus help us! -- sex scenes being referred to as some kind of gratuitous political statement (or a "lifestyle") because your kisses and -- sweet baby Jesus help us! -- sex scenes are fundamentally seen as normal and healthy. What other "lifestyles" could he be talking about? People in relationships with balloon animals? Vegans who refuse to stop wearing leather? Whatever they are, I'm willing to bet my 401k he isn't talking about being straight as a "lifestyle."

Now to celebrate how far American TV has truly come, I give you one of the hot gay sex scenes featured this past fall on ABC's 'How To Get Away With Murder."  Enjoy!   



Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sudbury Liberal opponents grasp at straws with OPP's help

When you tell someone they're not going to be your party's candidate in an upcoming byelection, that you're going to appoint someone else if they even try to run, but let's look at the bigger picture and consider not only what's best for the party but also how else you can stay involved politically instead of the job that's not available to you, is that a crime? 

When you don't offer someone an appointment or a job, are you actually offering someone an appointment or a job?  

Most reasonable people would say no.  But in the hyper-partisan world of Queen's Park, where desperate NDP and PC opposition MPPs have been grasping at anything slightly smelly or unethical for years to scream, "Crime!" or "Corruption!", the answer is yes.

Sadly, the Ontario Provincial Police continues to entertain the notion that somehow a crime was committed when a couple of Liberals spoke to former Sudbury Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier about options for staying involved politically after they told him he wouldn't be the party's candidate in the Feb 5th provincial by-election. 

"We have said repeatedly, and now the tapes have confirmed, that we were working to see if we could keep this young man involved in the team," said Premier Kathleen Wynne today. 

"There had already been a decision made that Glenn Thibeault was going to be our candidate, and so now we're just going to work very hard to get him elected."

Of course, no amount of common sense will prevent opposition MPPs from seeing "crime" where there is merely ineptitude or something unseemly.   It also seems Adrian Morrow of the Globe likes to hear things that aren't there too. 

I listened to the recordings that were posted this week by Andrew Olivier.  I have to agree that it doesn't appear that anything concrete was ever offered to him.  But it was strongly hinted in his conversations with Sudbury Liberal bigwig Gerry Lougheed and Liberal operative Pat Sorbara that if he supported Wynne's choice for candidate that he could possibly find other ways to stay involved politically, perhaps with a run for the party in the future. 

When you suggest sacrificing for the good of the team might benefit you in the future, is that a crime?  Or is it stating the obvious?  It clearly wasn't obvious to Olivier, I guess. 

Based on the phone recording, it's clear that Sorbara didn't offer Olivier anything concrete except possibilities.  Some of the options discussed Sorbara clearly has no power to offer, such as work in Thibeault's theoretical constituency office (should he be elected) or on the party executive.  Or even a provincial appointment.  

But what is clear is how intent Olivier now is to wreck havoc on the party and leader with whom he was prepared to stand just a few weeks ago.  His independent candidacy and the release of these recordings this week seem to be the last sticks of dynamite Olivier has loaded onto the bridge between him and the Liberal Party.  

I'm not a hyper-partisan Liberal.  I'm not really that active anymore.  While I have worked for the party and volunteered for the party for years, other mostly non-partisan, creative efforts command my attention these days.  But I understand how party politics works and I've seen dozens of people get shafted by the powers-that-be in the Liberal party. 

The true team players, when asked to make a sacrifice for the team, realize such sacrifices can possibly lead to future rewards.   Rarely are those rewards clear or obvious when you make those sacrifices.  There's usually only hope or a vague promise.   It's the gamble you take when you make the sacrifice.  I have no doubt in this case that Olivier is now just trying to exact some revenge.  It strikes me as quite spiteful and short-sighted that Olivier, at the relatively young age of 36, has decided this is the hill he's prepared to politically die on.  

Now his goal seems to be nothing more than ensuring the defeat of Glenn Thibeault in the by-election and electing the NDP, as his independent candidacy probably won't be garnering many votes come Feb 5th.   One thing is certain: he's finished as a Liberal candidate in the future.  That's too bad.

In the end, I suspect the OPP will again close the investigation, as will Elections Ontario, with zero charges laid.   I hope that happens before Feb 5th.  

You can dislike how things have been handled in Sudbury.  But just because you don't like them, doesn't mean you have the right to call them, "Criminal!" 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Two great films up for Golden Globes tonight: 'Selma' and 'Pride'

I have been busy lately catching some 2014 films I missed last year.

Scene from 'Selma'
The most recent viewing was director Ava DuVernay's superb 'Selma,' (pictured on the right) which chronicles the efforts of many led by the late Martin Luther King Jr. to achieve full voting rights for African-Americans in Alabama and across the racist southern states in the 1960s, specifically the Selma marches in 1965.

The direction of this film by Ava DuVernay is artful but also completely accessible.   The acting is exceptional, including the lead performance by David Oyelowo as King, who really captures the passion, determination, intelligence and grace of the man.   As a work of art and entertainment, the film works on all levels and is most deserving of the praise it's receiving, including a Best Picture (Drama) nomination in tonight's Golden Globe Awards.

As with any high-profile feature film about contentious events, there has been some controversy about the film's depictions.  Most particularly, a former Lyndon Johnson adviser, In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him."

The film's director effectively rebuffed the accusations on her Twitter account with:

"Notion that Selma was LBJ's idea is jaw dropping and offensive to SNCC, SCLC and black citizens who made it so.

"More detail here. LBJ's stall on voting in favor of War on Poverty isn't fantasy made up for a film. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/07/08/the-color-of-law"

"Bottom line is folks should interrogate history. Don't take my word for it or LBJ rep's word for it. Let it come alive for yourself."

Sage words not to forget.  That New Yorker article is a very detailed account of the events that led up to the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, many of which seem to be depicted quite accurately in the film.   

"Johnson recognized the need for additional voting-rights legislation, and he directed Nicholas Katzenbach, soon to be his attorney general, to draft it. “I want you to write me the goddamnest toughest voting rights act that you can devise,” is the way he put it. But then progress slowed. Johnson had the most ambitious legislative agenda of any President since F.D.R. (his idol), and he explained to King that he was worried that Southern opposition to more civil-rights legislation would drain support from the War on Poverty and hold up bills on Medicare, immigration reform, and aid to education. He asked King to wait."  

After watching the film and doing my own research, I'd have to agree that the portraits painted in the film 'Selma,' are pretty much accurate.  Grassroots organizers including King found Selma as a primary example that could be used to justify the crucial importance of voting rights reform.  They did the heavy lifting.  There's no indication in the film that LBJ used the FBI to disparage King.  But the film does post verbatim transcripts of FBI logs that clearly show that King was being monitored throughout the entire period.  

It's probably true that LBJ first wanted political conditions to be in place before pushing for voting rights reforms over other priorities.  And the Selma experience ultimately created those conditions.   The film portrays King as being fully aware of that political reality and organizing to make it happen.  Without a doubt, King and his supporters and other activists were the primary players in those marches including their conception, plus obviously the execution: they walked those miles, they put their lives at risk.  The televising to millions of Americans and others across the world of the first march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge which ended with unarmed and peaceful protesters being brutally attacked by police under orders from the Alabama governor marked a turning point for the civil rights movement.  And the events gave Washington the impetus to push the reforms.

All in all, 'Selma' is a great example of civil rights history that deserves to be viewed and studied.

Another film nominated for the Globes tonight, 'Pride,' (pictured on the right) also depicts historical efforts against injustice and discrimination, albeit with a lighter, more humorous tone than 'Selma.'

Directed by Britain's Matthew Warchus, 'Pride' is a lovely film with great heart about gay activists in 1980s Britain raising money to help support striking miners in Wales and across the U.K.   Beautifully acted by a huge U.K. cast including Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Dominic West and a bevy of cute young men including Ben Schnetzer, the movie succeeds because it shows the great benefits of forming alliances between the downtrodden or attacked groups that otherwise might never interact.   Through those unlikely alliances, greater communication, understanding and personal growth result, sometimes in small intimate ways, and also in larger ways: because of the efforts of those few gay activists, huge swaths of Britain's labour movement became more supportive of queer rights.  

Some might take issue with the alliance between coal miners and gay activists if they value equality but not industries that clearly had grown inefficient.  In fact, the burning of coal is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases and continues to fall out of fashion.  Ontario has shut down all of its coal-burning energy facilities, as we know.   The film barely mentions the word, "coal," and instead focuses on the relationships between the characters.  The workers under threat in the film are fighting for basic survival and a way of life, not simply for coal.  They had followed paths laid out for them by their communities (most of which were single industry towns), only to see their livelihoods threatened in the name of an uncaring ideological government only concerned with the bottom line.

Had I been among the gay activists in the U.K. in the 1980s, I would've joined this movement for certain.  The film succeeds in depicting that era in the gay rights movement extremely well.  They were different times, indeed, and it's great to have this gem of a film to depict them.

While 'Selma' succeeds in showing both black and white activists coming together to fight injustice, the activists in 'Pride' are all lily-white.  No doubt, London's gay scene in the 1980s wasn't too racially diverse, nor were the mining towns of Wales.   But the themes of different groups coming together to fight for their rights resonate in both films.

I urge you to check out both of these films as soon as you can.