Daily Archives: February 7, 2012

Proposition 8 Overturned

Well, yeah. As the federal court of appeals panel noted, “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” And that’s not a nice thing to do.

I’ll have more thoughts on this in a bit, when I get caught up on the details. In the meantime, here’s the actual text of the ruling for you to peruse.

Update: Okay, just read the ruling. As I read it, this basically boils down to something I’ve noted before, which is that Prop 8 existed for the sole purpose of taking away from a particular group of people a right they already had (and which, in the case of the state of California, 18,000 couples availed themselves of), and that’s pretty easy to mark as a violation of the Constitution.

The ruling also takes a bat to what passes for the justifications the pro-Prop 8 had for keeping Prop 8 on the books; the court says two things, which are “You guys aren’t actually aware of California law, are you?” and also “If the text of law doesn’t say it, than the law doesn’t do it,” the latter being a response to the idea that Prop 8 was designed to put a pause on same-sex marriage when in fact the text makes it clear that a “pause” was not part of the plan.

Upshot: You can’t withdraw from people a right they already have just because they’re getting their gay cooties all over the institution of marriage. As I said earlier: well, yeah.

I’ll additionally note the judges did a fine job of keeping the ruling as limited as they possibly could, passing up every opportunity to widen the scope of the ruling or make larger constitutional pronouncements. This might disappoint folks who were hoping for a grand gesture that said “same sex marriage for all!” but I think the court recognized that this ruling would almost certainly be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, and wanted to give the SCOTUS as much of a reason as possible not to take the appeal, or if they do take it up, to let it stand. A narrow ruling dealing only with California is better likely to achieve that than a wider ruling. Thus, the focus on California law, dropping in federal law only when necessary and studiously avoiding any larger constitutional implications. I think it’s probably a smart way to go but I also acknowledge it’s not my ability to be married that’s up for discussion here.

In sum, I am (not surprisingly) pleased with this ruling. I hope it sticks.

The Business Case Against Karen Handel

Susan G. Komen Senior Vice President for Public Policy Karen Handel, the presumed designated sacrificial executive for the Komen folks, on account that outsiders suspected she was behind the plan to stop funding Planned Parenthood (and certainly appears to have pushed for it enthusiastically), has indeed resigned from that foundation, although she seems not particularly inclined to fall on her sword in doing so. Instead she looks to be planning to make as much trouble for Komen folks as she can on her way out the door.

And, well, look. If Ms. Handel was indeed brought in after certain decisions regarding Planned Parenthood were already made, and the Komen folks decided they just needed someone who’d be happy to manage and execute the plan, then it’s perfectly reasonable for Handel to cry foul as she’s shown the exit. And as Handel is declining a severance package (and its likely non-disparagement clause), she’ll be able to rend her garments and beat her chest about how awful the Komen folks were to her to the anti-abortion crowd, which will make them even less inclined to support Komen in the future. So don’t cry for Karen Handel; I think she’ll be just fine in all of this.

But it does once again bring into focus just so spectacularly blunderheaded this whole adventure by Susan G. Komen has been from a policy point of view, and this is something that Ms. Handel, as the VP of Public Policy, should have been on top of for her organization. Leaving out any direct issues of morality or politics (I know, I know, go with me for a minute here), what’s basically happened is that on account of $700,000 worth of grants, the Susan G. Komen Foundation in just one week wrecked a billion-dollar brand identity that took decades to develop. Solely from the point of view of policy and brand strategy, it’s impressive in an entirely horrifying way. While I fully believe the Komen folks have brought this on themselves (“oh, no one will mind if we withdraw our support for Planned Parenthood if we reverse engineer this totally obvious excuse to do so!”), my business mind cringes in sympathy for them.

(There is a gripe in some quarters that the Komen folks should be able not to fund whomever they wish. I agree with this 100%, of course, and have consistently said so. I think where I diverge with the gripers is that I also understand that actions have consequences. Komen was perfectly within its rights not to give funds to Planned Parenthood; the people who complained about it — many of whom had previously donated time and treasure to Komen — were also perfectly within their rights to do so, and to withhold their donations, plan to boycott companies that allied with Komen, and to look for new organizations to support. This is what one would call the free market at work.)

The Komen folks erred in lots of ways, but from a business point of view, where they erred the most is in understanding what their brand stood for and who supported it, and for not developing a messaging strategy regarding their new funding policy that was more than one response deep, just in case that response failed spectacularly, as it did in this case. From a purely business point of view, Karen Handel deserved getting canned not because she supported (or drove) the decision to have Komen drop its support for Planned Parenthood, but because as its Vice President of Public Policy she completely failed to do her job. Komen got its ass handed to it. That Handel didn’t anticipate that better, or help her organization respond to it better, and indeed seems to have exacerbated the situation, is why she should be shown the door. And she has. As often happens when one does a bad job.

The Big Idea: Saladin Ahmed

Influences aren’t just things as a writer that you pull from — they can also be things that you push against. And sometimes you do both at once. Saladin Ahmed knows about this; in his widely acclaimed debut Throne of the Crescent Moon (which has garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews) he’s looked at his favorite works both as inspiration and things to rebel against. What are those works, and what are their qualities and flaws, as Ahmed sees them? He’s here to tell you.

SALADIN AHMED:

The Big Idea behind Throne of the Crescent Moon had to do with writing something that was both an homage and a response to the heroic fantasy I grew up reading and watching. I was born in post-race riots Detroit at the beginning of the slow social and economic meltdown of that city. I grew up down the street, in the working-class Arab American enclave of Dearborn, MI. My Dad was a union activist and community organizer who instilled in me pride in my Arab heritage and a strong sense of social justice, but also a deep love for fantasy and science fiction.

Fast forward 30 years, and these things are still a big part of my consciousness. Sometimes, over the years, they’ve bumped up against each other, and Throne of the Crescent Moon is my first attempt to…transcribe the sound of that bumping, if that makes any sense.

But concrete examples are sometimes more useful than such abstraction – voila!

- I love Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire. But I don’t like that royalty and nobles – or royals and nobles in disguise – are almost always the main POV heroes in fantasy. So my characters are mostly lowborn.

- I love the Aiel from The Wheel of Time (and that Rand is one by blood!). But I don’t like that Fantasyland’s pseudo-Arabs are usually depicted in a marginalizing manner. So I put the pseudo-Middle East at the center of my series.

- I love Sturm Brightblade from Dragonlance . But I don’t like that fantasy novels have tended to depict holy warriors/paladins as noble and inspiring when wearing pseudo-European garb but scary when wearing pseudo-Muslim garb.

- I love Star Wars (indulge me, please, by calling it fantasy), but I don’t like the way youth and self-discovery are so often the focus on fantasy plots. So I wrote a 60-something main character who damn well knows who he is – and just wants the world to leave him the hell alone.

- I love Aragorn… But I don’t like the way heroic fantasy celebrates hereditary power so uncritically. So I slapped my heroes in the middle of a plot to usurp a dynasty.

And so on. Throne of the Crescent Moon is, in a sense, a tightrope walk. Might be I’ve fallen a few times, but I hope I’ve taken some entertaining – maybe even thrilling – steps along the way.

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Throne of the Crescent Moon: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.