Rabbi Paley: Notes from the memorial for fallen officers


Rabbi Andrew Paley, right, speaking at the Meyerson

Rabbi Andrew Paley, senior rabbi at Temple Shalom in North Dallas, described the experience of participating in the memorial at the Meyerson Symphony Center to the five police officers killed in an ambush on July 7, as “powerful, exciting, overwhelming.”

Paley was one of three clergy who offered a prayer during the tribute, and he sat on stage directly behind First Lady Michelle Obama.

The dignitaries on the stage whispered to one another several times throughout the event. But it seems what the audience most noticed was when former President George W. Bush whispered some comment to the First Lady and her reaction to him.

Micki Rawlings leaned over to say something to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price commented to DART Police Chief James Spiller. The Bidens interacted. But the current first lady and former president were cutting up like old friends.


Michelle Obama seems to be trying not to laugh at a comment former President George Bush made to her while their spouses look on.

Paley said the comments he heard were mostly innocuous. Commenting on one soloist from the interfaith choir that performed, Bush leaned over and said, “Man, can she sing.”

But other comments got more of a reaction when Bush said something to the first lady and both his wife and her husband laughed at Michelle’s response.

Paley said the Bushes arrived at the Meyerson about 40 minutes before the Obamas and Bidens, who had been visiting injured officers at Parkland Hospital before the service. He said while they were waiting backstage, Bush put everyone at ease, asking, “How’s it going everybody?” as he walked in.

“I understood why people like him,” Paley said.

Paley described Mrs. Bush as “classy, composed and refined,” but as they waited for the Obamas, the other memorial participants sat in a circle talking.

“Bush tried to connect with everyone,” Paley said. He didn’t want any formality. “You know, I’m not the president,” Bush told them and sat in the circle with them. To make those participating on the world stage for the first time, along with others who were old hands at it, the former president told some stories as they waited backstage for what would be a very solemn and moving event.

Bush told the group about meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Putin came to the White House, he met Bush’s Scottish terrier Barney. When Bush was in Moscow, he visited Putin’s residence. The Russian leader brought out his dog, Konni, a black Labrador retriever, and said, “My dog’s bigger.”

As they waited for the Obamas and Bidens, the choir sang on stage, but backstage, the group chatted. Paley asked Bush if he was still painting. “Like a madman,” Bush said. Paley told the former president he had seen his series of portraits of world leaders at the Bush Library. “Not my finest work,” Bush told him.

Before going on stage, Paley asked Bush if he’d ever been to Temple Shalom. “Not yet,” Bush told him. Paley invited him, saying, “We’d love to have you.” Bush said jokingly, “I don’t get that far north.” Temple Shalom is just north of LBJ Freeway on Hillcrest at Alpha Road.

Paley described Vice President Joe Biden as very likable. “He’s just like on TV — warm and approachable.”

As they lined up to go on stage, Biden was behind Paley. The rabbi said something about being ahead of the Vice President and Biden joked, “I’m Catholic, but I’d follow the Jews anywhere.”

He called the President and First Lady “genuinely nice people,” and said he left feeling the Obamas were “real humans who were really heartbroken” after all efforts to do anything about gun violence had been thwarted. After the memorial, Paley said, Obama spent about an hour with the families of the slain officers.

—  David Taffet

Dubya won’t reveal whether he’s evolved on same-sex marriage

Former President George W. Bush

Former President George W. Bush

Former President George W. Bush refused to answer a question about same-sex marriage during his recent trip to Africa. He said he is retired from politics.

Bush and former first lady Laura Bush, both Dallas residents, were in Zambia last week to open a clinic that will screen women for cervical cancer. They spent several days helping to renovate the clinic before its reopening.

The Zambian clinic is not the first Bush foray into the health of people in Africa. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, was signed into law 10 years ago during the Bush administration and continues to provide medications for persons living with AIDS in Africa.

While he was in Zambia, a local reporter asked Bush whether same-sex marriage was compatible with Christian values.

He answered by referencing a parable.

“I shouldn’t be taking a speck out of somebody else’s eye when I have a log in my own,” Bush said.

—  David Taffet

Petition aims to stop N. Central from being named after George Bush

Rep. Dan Branch

State Rep. Dan Branch

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, has introduced a measure in the Texas House to change the name of North Central Expressway to George W. Bush Expressway.

Aside from it being confusing (George H.W. Bush Expressway already crosses North Central in Plano), a petition to stop the bill mentions preemptive wars, torture, corporate welfare and more as reasons to not name the road after him.

Branch’s district  includes most of Downtown, Uptown and parts of Oak Lawn.

The road is named after the North Central Railroad that followed the route from Downtown Dallas before the original highway was built in the late 1940s.

On April 25, the George W. Bush Library opens at Southern Methodist University. As happened during the groundbreaking, a protest is planned during the ribbon cutting. According to the Huffington Post, protesters will be demanding Bush be held accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of U.S. and international law.

More than 15,000 people have already signed the petition on SignOn.org to stop the renaming of Central Expressway. The text of the petition against renaming Central is below.

—  David Taffet

Public Policy Polling: Perry particularly unpopular

Gov. Rick Perry in a parody of his "Brokeback" video

If a Public Policy Polling poll is correct, Rick Perry may be in his last term in office.

According to PPP, only 29 percent of Texas voters think Perry should run for governor again in 2014 and fewer still — just 19 percent — think he should run for president again.

The ever-resilient governor could still win another term in Austin, however. Of Republicans polled, 49 percent would like to see the governor run again.

With his campaign only suspended, Perry is still technically running for president and will appear on the Texas primary ballot. His campaign was marked by gaffes and insults and his “Brokeback” YouTube video remains one of the most “unliked” on the site.

The poll found that Texans think LBJ was the best of the Texas presidents with 39 percent. George W. Bush is next at 22 percent and his father gets 19 percent. That adds up to only 80 percent. Possibly the other 20 percent polled couldn’t stomach any of them.

Although George H.W. Bush was the least great Texas president, he has the highest favorability rating at 54 percent. People like him — out of office.

Kay Bailey Hutchison had an approval rating of 50 percent. Interesting she did so miserably in the race against the governor. Guess he wasn’t so unpopular before he ran for president.

—  David Taffet

Ken Mehlman inspiring? Not to me

Hardy Haberman
Flagging Left

Why honor a man who spent years not just hiding in the closet, but working with those who oppressed his LGBT brothers and sisters?

In a move that has stunned a lot of folks, Out Magazine has named Ken Mehlman one of its 100 most inspiring people of the year. I was stunned not just by Mehlman’s inclusion in the Out 100 list, but the use of the word “inspiring” to describe him.

Let me explain.

Ken Mehlman was campaign manager for the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush. You remember him?

He was the president who threatened to veto the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which added sexual orientation to the list of protected classes in existing hate crimes laws. And he was the president who supported the federal Marriage Protection Amendment, a heinous law that — luckily — failed to pass.

Then, from 2005 to 2007, Mr. Mehlman served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. During that time, he supported the Republican Platform, which included opposition to same-sex marriage.

Well, maybe that’s water under the bridge. But I have to say, I do not find Mr. Mehlman in any way inspiring.

What is inspirational about a man hiding in the closet, actively working against LGBT rights on perhaps the largest scale imaginable?

What is inspirational about a man who served as the guiding force of a Republican Party that stepped up its use of anti-gay rhetoric and propaganda to motivate the most conservative of its members?

What is inspirational about a man who, when he finally decided to come out at 43, assembled a team of strategists to make his coming out as painless as possible?

Now to be fair, since he has opened his closet door, Mehlman has gone on record as supporting many LGBT causes. He even lent his support to the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Good for him. But Out Magazine’s criteria for their selection is “the extraordinary power of the individual to inspire and motivate by example.”

What kind of example has Mehlman set?

From what I can tell, his example is this:

• Stay in the closet as long as you can, and do anything necessary, even if it means supporting people who actively work to discriminate and inflict suffering on the LGBT community.
• Do anything necessary to gain power and wealth and influence for your own gain, then once you are well situated, carefully come out while offering support to the same people you helped oppress.

• Come out once there is little danger of your actions hurting your own personal wealth or celebrity status.

• Lastly, make a grand show of your compassion and support for LGBT causes with sufficient effort and cash to buy your way into prominence as a gay icon.
Harsh words? You betcha.

Here is the deal: I understand just how difficult it is to come out, every LGBT person does. We have not reached a time when coming out is simple and non-traumatic.

I also understand how everyone comes out at their own pace. For me it was a process that took several years, starting when I was 18 and continuing until I was 20.

During that time I was conflicted and confused and sometimes hid my orientation. But I never actively tried to oppress my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Still, giving Ken the benefit of the doubt, maybe he didn’t realize he was gay until 2010. Whatever his story, I have sympathy for him in his personal struggle, but absolutely no sympathy for his active participation in the oppression of LGBT people and the encouragement of homophobic smear campaigns which stepped up the level of hatred and discrimination in our country.

Maybe I need to take a page from the fundamentalists’ creed, and “love the sinner, hate the sin?” The problem with that is I would still be “hating,” and that’s not going to help anyone.
I don’t hate Ken Mehlman; I just find him a very sad person who may or may not be trying to atone for his past behaviors. That is a very human struggle and one we all face at one time or another. To do that with grace and humility might be something truly inspiring.

For that, I will wait and see.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November, 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

President George W. Bush at a gay gym?

The Bilerico Project posted the below photo of Dallas resident and former President George W. Bush at Washington D.C.’s gay gym, VIDA. The photo was originally posted on Twitter by Brightest Young Gays. We’re assuming the photo is legit. We’re also guessing Bush went to VIDA only because he was too clueless to know where he was. But who knows, maybe Laura’s finally gotten to him.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Uplifted by ‘The Response,’ Gov. Perry may announce presidential bid this week

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. More than 30,000 people are said to have attended “The Response,” Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Saturday. Check out our coverage of the LGBT (and non-LGBT) responses to The Response here, here, here and here. For those who actually care what went on inside the stadium, we’ve posted some video below. The first segment is Perry’s speech in its entirety, which turned out to be rather political despite his assurances that it wouldn’t be. The second is a report from the Texas Tribune which indicates that not all attendees — including Perry — actually fasted on Saturday. And the third is a compilation from Right Wing Watch featuring some of the speakers at the event.

2. Now that The Response is over, Perry is likely to announce that he’s running for president as early as this week.

3. But not all Republicans are thrilled about Perry’s all-but-certain candidacy. During NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday, GOP consultant Alex Castellanos called Perry “Sarah Palin in a skirt” and a “lighter” version of George W. Bush.

—  John Wright

King & Spalding withdraws from DOMA defense; attorney Paul Clement joins new firm

Paul Clement

King & Spalding, the law firm that agreed to defend the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of House Republican leaders, has withdrawn from the case. And the Washington-based partner who had signed on as lead counsel in the DOMA defense, Paul Clement, resigned from King & Spalding today.

The Atlanta-based law firm agreed to take the case for a fee of more than $500,000 to be paid by taxpayers. House Republican leaders took on the job of defending DOMA after President Barack Obama announced that the Justice Department would no longer do so.

In his resignation letter, Clement said he plans to continue as counsel in the case with another law firm, Bancroft PLLC. Clement is a former solicitor general and served in the George W. Bush administration. Bancroft was founded by a former Bush assistant attorney general.

Clement said in his resignation letter that he did not have strongly held views about DOMA but that “representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters.”

—  David Taffet

Tune & terror

‘TORTURE’ MEMO | The Bush Administration gets a kick in the pants in Christopher Durang’s hilarious absurdist comedy.

Tommy taps and a brown guy gets the 3rd degree in 2 disparate shows

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Christopher Durang is a no-holds-barred kind of playwright: You either give yourself over to his scathingly satiric absurdist romps entirely, or you sit there, nose firmly out of joint, dreading every outrageous moment of it.

I rather expected the audience at opening night of Why Torture Is Wrong and the People Who Love Them to head out in droves come intermish. After all, this is the space that usually houses the agreeable romantic musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Torture bandies about the F word with and makes fun of George W. Bush. It shows a half-naked brown man being savagely beaten by a gun-toting Republican. This is not what you’d call “Highland Park-Friendly Theater.”

But I counted few defections in the well-attended debut. That’s enough to give you hope not only for theater, but for humanity.

Durang’s play — the title alone is a delicious bit of nonsense — probably has a limited shelf-life, with time-sensitive references to “shadow government,” Tom Stoppard’s Russian play cycle, Terry Schiavo and “torture memos.” 9/11 may remain a presence in our lives for decades, like Pearl Harbor, but the details surrounding it begin to fade into memory. Torture helps preserve them. It’s a comedy, but an angry comedy, with political history taking center stage.

Durang traffics in “types:” The dithery Leave It to Beaver-esque mom (Brandi Andrade), the Right Wing gun loving Fox News zombie (Terry Vandivort), the volatile Middle Eastern (Nas Medhi) who, even if he isn’t a terrorist, acts like one. (Perhaps his most subversive attack on the Neo-Con ideal of America is this line: “I believe food, electricity and housing should be free.”) None of them are completely innocent, but there’s no doubting Durang’s point-of-view: He’s pushing buttons like crazy. It’s an equally offensive comedy that makes you rot against more than root for.

It’s all pretty genius.

And all pretty well played, too. Lee Jamison hasn’t had a chance to do much comedy, what with serious turns in Equus and Closer to Heaven, but she’s excellent at it, with the timing about open physicality of a young Kim Cattrall. She plays Felicity, a flighty party girl who drunkenly marries Zamir (Medhi), who claims to be “Irish” but is in fact from a Muslim country.

Felicity takes Zamir home to meet her parents (Andrade, Vandivort); dad immediately suspects him of being a terrorist and sets up his own Abu Ghraib-like interrogation cell in his “butterfly room” to squeeze a plot out of him — and possibly launch World War III. “Even if our intelligence is wrong, it’s good foreign policy to bomb [some] countries,” dad declares. You can practically hear those words coming out of Dick Cheney’s mouth.

Although Durang’s use of repetition has a musicality to it, like a coda, the ending, which tries to rewrite everything that came before it, falls flat, and some of the scene changes get awkward. But a few quibbles don’t undercut the strengths of the performances by Jamison, Andrade and the very sexy Medhi. If loving a crazy Muslim is wrong, I don’t want to be right.


HAPPY TUNE | Native Texan Tommy Tune recounts a storied career in his one-man showcase.

Across town you won’t find a less similar show, but one just as easy to recommend. Tommy Tune just turned 72, but to watch the six-and-a-half-foot-tall Texan glide across the Fair Park Music Hall stage, sharing lessons about tap and life from his 50-year-career in show business (which he launched on the very same stage), you’d swear he was still just a kid hoping to make it big with his next audition. There’s a twinkle in his eye that age cannot dim. He’s a living legend of Broadway, and you can feel the history ooze from his every pour.

His showcase performance, Steps in Time, is basically a one-man show that traces his career from local chorus boy to the most honored performer-director in Tony history (nine awards and counting in four categories). You’re fully aware, even before he sings a song with the word “old-fashioned” in the verse, that he’s exactly that: A throwback to the big, splashy book musicals of the past. You can’t really imagine him directing Spring Awakening.

Except you kinda can. Tune sings a Green Day song in this show, arranged as a more traditional Broadway ballad, and while his theatricality man seem old-school, it’s also tremendously effective: Tune’s sentimental reflections on lost loves, on the greatest dancer he ever worked with (Charles “Honi” Coles) and even his post-encore exhibit are almost corny, but so gosh-durned sincere that they bring a tear to your eye. The show’s simplicity serves its star well: Tommy, and his lanky frame and his stories for 90 minutes. All history should be this entertaining.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

LGBT Democrats meet to strategize for the future

Texas Stonewall Democrats assess 2010 ‘ass-whipping’ at the polls during weekend meeting}

See related slideshow here


From Staff Reports


Members of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus from all across the state met in Austin on March 5-6 to assess the “ass-whipping” Democrats took at the polls last November and to develop messaging and other strategies for winning in 2012, according to caucus president Dan Graney.

Keynote speakers were openly bisexual Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and national transgender activist Mara Keisling.

Sinema warned Texas Democrats that “Arizona is coming to a state near you,” calling her home state the breeding ground for the anti-immigrant, anti-choice, anti-worker’s rights and anti-children’s health care measures currently being proposed in many state legislatures, including Texas.

Sinema called the spreading efforts an attempt by the Tea Party to “mainstream hatred in this country,” adding that “Tea Party” is just another name for Republicans.

Sinema said Democrats must build coalitions to stop such legislation, and encouraged LGBT Democrats to reach out to even unlikely allies to get — and give — support.

“After all, LGBT people make up only 4 percent of the electorate and you need 50 percent plus one to win,” Sinema said, who stayed after her speech to autograph copies of her book, “Unite And Conquer: Building Coalitions That Win — And Last.”

Keisling, mixing healthy dose of humor in with her experience and expertise, urged LGBT Democrats to move outside their “issue silos” and talk about racism, immigration and other progressive issues. She jokingly referred to former President George W. Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry as her “prior husbands” and referred to the Tea Party as a reincarnation of the John Birch Society.

Keisling expressed little hope for the advancement of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act over the next two years, saying that the measure is dead for now thanks to the Republican majority in the U.S. House.

Other guest speakers at the conference included Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman and state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

Villarreal led a plenary session that included an analysis of the November 2010 election and small group sessions to develop messaging for the 2012 election. A second plenary session, led by TSDC Vice President Erin Moore and Rio Grande Valley Chapter President Eli Olivarez, focused on winning strategies for the 2012 election.

Awards were presented to Houston LGBT activist Brad Pritchett,  Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. The conference also included a TSDC executive board meeting and workshops on a variety of topics, such as building a bigger club and youth involvement and use of social media.

Many who attended the conference stayed to participate in Equality Texas Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

A total of 70 LGBT Democrats and straight allies from across the state registered for the conference. There was representation at the conference from all nine active chapters statewide, including many young people, as well as from Galveston and Tyler.

For more information about the conference, go online to  TexasStonewalldemocrats.org


—  Kevin Thomas