Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elisa Chan is not the biggest problem here.

So I was all set to viciously mock the letter-writers defending San Antonio city councilwoman Elisa Chan's words in the tape one of her former staffers made and gave to E-N columnist Brian Chasnoff, but then I sat down to read the transcript and while the dude who falsely claimed her privacy was violated and the woman who claimed that the reaction to Chan's comments meant her "free speech rights must be ignored or muted to accommodate the pro-homosexual propaganda and agenda" deserve every bit of scorn which may be heaped upon them, I think I'm going to have to leave that to Erik, because the transcript reveals a lot more going on than is immediately apparent.

Namely, Elisa Chan is an idiot, and councilman Ron Nirenberg's chief of staff Jeff Bazan is also a crazy-pants homophobe, something Chasnoff seems to have done his best to conceal in his column.  In that column, Bazan claims that "I was basically explaining the viewpoint that some people have on the gay marriage issue. What I said was wrong and I deeply regret it. I can say that those comments, which were intended to be purely political, do not reflect my heart."  Which is, quite frankly, obvious bullshit and not something Chasnoff should have let slide.

Because Bazan seems to be driving the whole thing.

Here's a pretty sizable chunk from the first page of the transcript, which I've linked above  (I'm going to clear up the formatting a bit so it's hopefully easier to tell who is saying what):

Charles Mazuca, chief of constituency: ...fine. Or if a woman who's bisexual, that's fine. Even if she's bisexual, that's okay 
Elisa Chan, councilwoman: Exactly... 
Jeff Bazan, chief of policy: Anything goes... 
Chan: So Disgusting! 
Jeff: No morals and values. Pretty soon what's going to happen you know because like a lot of the liberals and like the, umm, pro gay folks, they say as long as it's between two consenting adults... You know that's... You know that's pretty wide you know... That can go for incest, and say it's an adult, an adult man and his adult daughter... 'Hey, they're consenting adults' you know, brother and sister, they're, as long as they're over 18 they're consenting adults.
In context, it seems as though Chan's infamous "so disgusting" comment may have been in response to Jeff's "anything goes" claim, but she does make a similar comment later on, so it's probably fair to say that she does indeed find homosexual activity to be disgusting.  However, in a press conference today, she said that the "so disgusting" comment was referring to pedophilia and bestiality, not homosexuality itself.

But it's Jeff who keeps hitting on the bullshit about normalizing homosexuality leading to legalized incest, bestiality, and pedophilia:

Jeff: Okay, and incest, you know... 
Jackie: That's never going to be not against the law. 
James Stevens, council aide: That's what they used to say about... 
Jeff: The road that, the road that we're going, Jackie, incest and being able to marry animals, that's all gonna happen. 
Jackie: It's not. 
Jeff: Yes, yes!
 From page three:

James: There's also the... You could consider what people are going to consider an adult. If you keep on pushing these boundaries, they could push the age... 
Jeff: Yeah, there's an organization out there that's trying to decriminalize sexual relations between... 
Charlie: Men and boys. 
Jeff: Adults and children.
 Got that?  James Stevens, the man who made the recording and handed it over to Chasnoff, starts in with this bull about "push(ing) the age" presumably downward and Jeff jumps in with NAMBLA without saying that it's a fringe group of pedophiles that normal gay people--just like normal straight people--revile.  Then on page four, they start the conversation about pansexuals, a term Chan (and most of the rest of the world) is completely unfamiliar with:

James: Pan? Is it? Pan sounds like pantheist. Someone who thinks nature is god. 
CW Chan: Let me get my definition correct, because I'm very... 
James: Yeah, something... Nature. Like they want to have sex with nature. 
CW Chan: Oh... 
James: That's what it sounds like. I don't know if that's it or not.
At this point, it is fairly clear that Chasnoff's whistle-blower is playing rope-a-dope with Chan, who (to be fair) comes off as quite the dope.

This is from page 5:

CW Chan: You know, to be quite honest, I know that this is not politically correct. I never bought in that you are born, that you are born gay. I can't imagine it. 
James: People will tell you, people will ask you, "Are you born straight?" And that's the counterargument. 
CW Chan: Absolutely! We are born with our sexuality. Everything else is behavior or preference, in my opinion. 
Charlie: Pansexuality is when you are somebody who has sex with people who do not identify with sexual orientation. So they themselves say, see themselves just as... 
James: That's pan? 
Charlie: Yeah. 
CW Chan: Say it again? 
Charlie: If you don't call yourself, if you don't identify your sexual orientation as being completely a woman... 
CW Chan: Uh huh?
Charlie: You know, you think of yourself as a, you know, a sexual... entity... without identity... 
CW Chan: How can that be??? 
(Laughing. Unintelligible) 
Charlie: ... then y'all can engage as pansexuals and that's all y'all. 
CW Chan: I will say, "Strip down! What equipment do you have?"
Jeff: That's what I'm saying... 
CW Chan: I'm telling you! 
Jeff: ... how creative can you be? 
CW Chan: I'm telling you! Crazy! We're getting to crazy realm. 
James: Believing that it's not a choice...

As an interesting side step, let's take a minute to look at how Chasnoff presented this exchange:
As the talk shifts back to pansexual people, whose sexual orientations encompass all gender identities, Chan asks, “How can that be?”
“I will say, 'Strip down! What equipment do you have?'” she continues. “I'm telling you. Crazy. We're getting to crazy realm.”
I've got to say, I find this incredibly deceptive, although unsurprising.  A portion--no telling how long--of the conversation is unintelligible, so Chasnoff seemingly decides to ignore that it happened, fails to give the context that Chan is clearly baffled by a concept he has to explain to his readers, and cuts out a lot of perfectly intelligible words spoken by other people.  It seems to me, given the entire context, that Chan is reacting poorly to a concept she has never encountered before--a concept even I had to look up a year or two ago--that was poorly explained to her by the very person who turned over this tape.  That puts a slightly different shine on things, doesn't it? Not, mind you, that I think she's somehow magically indifferent on the subject.  She probably puts it right with "disgusting" homosexuality.  But that still doesn't change the fact that Chasnoff cut out what he felt were the most damning quotes and presented them without meaningful context.

This is starting to get really long, so I'm going to try to hit the high points partially via Chasnoff's column.  I actually think that contrasting the transcript with his presentation is pretty illustrative, so let's do that again.

Here's Chasnoff:
An aide suggests that homosexuality could be linked to biology: “Americans can, with almost a 90 percent success rate, identify gay people by their face alone,” he says.
“No, that's because they shave,” Chan said. “And I also think they could take hormone shots.”
Here's the transcript:

Roger: The argument that, that I read in this paper, there's two arguments in this paper. The first one was that Americans can, with a ninety percent success rate, identify gay people by their face alone, which implies that there are some biological traits that are linked to becoming a homosexual. 
Cw Chan: No, that's because they shave. 
James: No, that's because the muscles in the face, but again that's a subconscious thing. 
Roger: But the other thing... 
Cw Chan: And also I think they could take hormone shots.
He's closer to accurate with this one, but I still have a slight problem.  There's nothing in the transcript to indicate the aide was actually suggesting that homosexuality is linked to biology; he's just talking about some paper he read.  So it's not like her aides were trying to be the voices of reason here, as Chasnoff implies.  Also, you find the whistle blower is right in the thick of the biology-denying conversation.

Let's get to the meat of the ordinance bit, where it's suggested that Chan write an op-ed opposing the ordinance.  Chasnoff makes this claim: "But Chan seems to reject that strategy, opting instead to cloud the issue and conceal her views." 

Here's the relevant portion of his column:

But Chan seems to reject that strategy, opting instead to cloud the issue and conceal her views.
“This is my philosophy, guys,” she says. “Whatever you want to do in your bedroom is none of my business, but do not impose your view on other people, especially becoming policy ... because personally, I think it's just disgusting just to even think about. All the definitions. ...
“But I don't want to go against, necessarily ... I don't want to beat up anybody,” she continues. “Maybe what we can do, can we maybe throw some questionable confusions like, OK, this 'transgender,' because the definition is so broad... Maybe I say I was not educated on what transgender is about.”

Look at the conversation context, though--and my apologies for how bloody long this is going to be, but it's necessary:

CW Chan: What do we do? I guess write an op ed. Write a... What do we do? What do we write? 
Roger: I would just appeal to your base. No one's... This thing's gonna pass, I'm pretty sure there's almost nothing you can do to stop it so you might as well take the opportunity to connect with people who will potentially vote for you in an upcoming Republican primary.
Cw Chan: Well, but, but we can't be silent, right? 
Roger: No, you should definitely not be silent. You should go down kicking and screaming. 
Jeff: Become a culture warrior on this one. 
Roger: Yeah. 
Charlie: Because I mean, you can cite the CCR that itself it says the ordinances already exist. We're just putting them together and making it more umm, umm, more deliberate.
Roger: But yeah, just call it out for what it is...
Charlie: Say we don't need another layer. We don't need additional. It's just extra government. We don't need extra government. You know...
James: It's essentially the same argument you had for the ethics. You're adding rules that aren't necessary.
Roger: But this is more obvious political hackery.
Jeff: But I think the, but the obvious... But they get to score the most political points you have to like stand up and be anti-gay.
Roger: That's true.
Jeff: You get the most political points by standing up for traditional values with this one. It's not an economic argument. This isn't a small government argument. This is a social, cultural argument right here and this is how you... And you're going to score the biggest points by taking that stand.
James: I agree with that but to play devil's advocate, you could try to swing the conservative gay vote, who are, they're conservative in their beliefs but....
CW Chan: No, I don't think that's...
James: It would be way fewer points though.
Roger: But if she's, if you're in a Republican primary against anyone that you could conceivably be against, they're also going to be opposed to gay marriage. So that means that anyone who is gay, that's their only issue.
CW Chan: You know, I voted no when that was put on the Constitution about a marriage should be between a man and woman.
Roger: Yeah.
CW Chan: Okay? And I'm telling you, that's how... That's okay if you want... This is my philosophy, guys. Whatever you want to do in your bedroom, that's none of my business, but do not impose your view on other people, especially become a policy. And I'm, that's all. Because personally, I think it's just disgusting just to even think about. All the... definitions...
Jeff: But, but if you are, but if we are going to write something, I suggest it, to score the most points, it be, you know, a pro... It doesn't have to be anti-gay, but pro-traditional values.
CW Chan: okay, I'm for that, but I don't want to go against, necessarily... I don't want to beat up anybody.
Jeff: No, you're not going to beat up... That's what I'm saying. It's not anti-gay, it's profamily. 
Roger: And then the other thing I think you should do... 
CW Chan: Maybe what we can do, can we maybe throw some questionable confusions like okay, this transgender... Because this definition is so broad, we don't want to go into detail, but if you, I look up, I had a... Maybe I say I was not educated on what transgender is about. I look up the, the Wikipedia, whatever, and I'm very surprised how broad the definition can be and it can cause a lot of troubles. What is the, would that, in other words start to have a lot of questions. Would we be discriminating someone if a person go to uhh, uhh, go to a female bathroom?

Again, apologies for how damned long that turned out to be; I wound up quoting a good two pages of the transcript, nearly.  But it was necessary, because if you read the discussion of Chan potentially writing an op-ed, you see that Chasnoff's claim that Chan is trying to "cloud the issue and conceal her views" is absolute bullshit.  For starters, she doesn't even come across as having an opinion on what the op-ed should include.  She looks like the very definition of a Useful Idiot, quite frankly.  Chasnoff chooses to cut out and ignore (rather than summarize) great swaths of the conversation, including no small portion of what Chan herself says.  He leaves out the fact that she voted against Texas's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which is important because it seems to go against his stated claim about her real reasons for objecting to enlarging the ordinance.  She absolutely does call homosexuality disgusting again, but I find it very difficult to believe that a woman who was against enshrinement of homophobia in the State's constitution would be against this city ordinance because of her loathsome personal views.  I find it impossible to believe someone would vote against banning gay marriage because she doesn't feel it's the state's place to codify her personal beliefs and then use those personal beliefs as the basis of her stance on a city ordinance.  It just doesn't make sense, but then, not much that comes out of her mouth in the conversation does, so who knows.  I don't.  And neither, frankly, does Brian Chasnoff.

To be clear, I do not find what she is saying defensible.  Y'all know I've ripped people for the idiotic "whatever you do in your bedroom is OK" bit before.  However, none of this excuses Chasnoff's decision to pull together only bits and pieces of what was said and to strip off the context and make this appear to be solely Elisa Chan holding forth on how icky teh gays are.  If your eyes haven't glazed over with all the quoted transcript, you might have realized that Mr "Appeal to Your Base" Roger up there is the same person who was supposedly defending the biological basis for homosexuality.  You'll also note that Bazan is dominating the whole damn conversation.

Chan is a homophobe.  There's no question about that.  She absolutely does go off on a bizarre little bit about how gays shouldn't be allowed to adopt (and is completely ignorant of the fact that they can, indeed, adopt not just in the United States, but in Texas).  She absolutely does call homosexuality disgusting.  However, her bigger sin, looking at the transcript, seems to be that she is an easily-led idiot.  She comes across as completely clueless on a number of issues, rather than outright malicious.  It might--I say might--be possible to respectfully educate her and change her mind.  Supposedly the President has evolved on the issue of homosexuality, so it's certainly possible that someone who clearly lacks knowledge might, given proper education, experience a similar change of heart.  But I don't know.  And I certainly think she has no place in politics, but I already thought that on account of her obvious lack of ethics.

Now, let's consider Jeff Bazan and James Stevens.  If you read all thirteen pages of the conversation's transcript, you will see they dominate it, particularly Jeff Bazan.  The way I see it, this presents us with a few possibilities.  On the surface, Jeff Bazan appears to be every bit the intolerant jerk Chasnoff claims Elisa Chan is.  Bazan is the one to pop off with the idiocy of claiming that legalized incest  and bestiality are next.  Bazan is the one who tells her to "(b)ecome a culture warrior on this one".  The other possibility is that he was working with Stevens to make Chan appear worse than she is.  Bazan claims to be merely a political hack who essentially played devil's advocate throughout the conversation; I believe the transcript puts the lie to that claim.  I'm glad to see Nirenberg has placed him on "indefinite administrative leave", but quite frankly I think he needs to be fired.  I don't have the first clue about Nirenberg, but if he truly finds the discussion as abhorrent as he claims, he needs to get rid of Bazan.  Period.

What, then, of James Stevens?  He's the whistle blower here.  He is also, however, the person who tries linking normalization of homosexual activity with pedophilia, who initially misleads Ms. Chan about the meaning of 'pansexual', and who gives every appearance of buying into the BS about homosexuality being a choice.  Stevens quite obviously leads Chan in a couple of places.  So we are again faced with the question of why: Were there other conversations which Stevens found objectionable, so that he led this one when presented with the opportunity to record it?  Is he a disgruntled employee leading his boss to her political doom?  Some combination of the two? (I'm betting on this one, by the way.)

I'm also interested in the question of why a recording made 21st May didn't see print until 15th August.  Chasnoff indicates that Stevens quit Chan's staff the week he published his column on the issue.  That's nearly three months after the recording was made.  Now, had I been the person in possession of such a recording, I would have done my damnedest to get it publicized immediately.  Did Stevens take the recording to Chasnoff immediately, and did Chasnoff then sit on it for 11 weeks?  Or did Stevens sit on it for so long and then Chasnoff run with it as soon as he was given the opportunity?  This strikes me as a very important question, because the answer would help to shed light on Stevens's motivations.  Did he encounter a hostile work environment, document one instance of it, and then continue on working until it became intolerable?  Did he record many conversations and choose to pass along the most damning?  Did he make one recording where he led his boss into making statements even more bigoted than she is to begin with, in order to make her politically radioactive?

Here's something else interesting from Ms. Chan's press conference:

Stevens is the former Chan staffer who secretly released the audio recording.  Chan said, interestingly, after the meeting, Stevens asked to become a full time employee.  She asked why somebody who allegedly found her comments so repellant would want to work for her full time.
So, again, I am prompted to question Stevens's motivations.  This extra information makes the timing of his turnover to Chasnoff even more important.  Providing, of course, that it's true.  Chan also made the claim that the recording was edited prior to being published, and there's plenty of indication that's true.  Mind you, I read the transcript rather than listening to the audio recording, but the transcript makes it clear that the recording cuts on in the middle of a conversation.  And then Chasnoff cut and hacked even more for his column.

I don't think the full truth is going to come out on this one.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Sabra, as usual, great analysis. Your post should be taken verbatim and placed as the cover story for The Current or some other local paper as a counter to the Express-News.

I was actually reading the transcript posted on the Express-News page before I had to immediately see if you had posted anything about this. Honestly, and shame on me, I never even considered the selective reporting that you have clearly, in my opinion, shown in your post.

What I did see in the transcript was that Ms. Chan is a complete idiot, not based only on her views, but her severe lack of common knowledge about members of the society she is supposed to represent. I don't expect us all to be PhD's in sexuality, but seriously, read a newspaper or the Internet.

What I also saw was that members of her staff are even bigger morons. I don't begrudge them their religious beliefs or certainly, the fact that they spoke honestly when they thought they were having a private conversation, but seriously, did they really allow themselves to make the leap from homosexuality to incest and animal-human marriages? In this day in age? C'mon Mr. Bazan.

In the end, this other character, Stevens, the whistle-blower loses all credibility as he clearly is leading the conversation into further idiocy. Like you, I have no idea why, but I can just say this: he and the Express-News guy both seem dishonest and creepy.

Finally, I saw somewhere that some local Tea Party organization immediately raised the flag of support for Ms. Chan. Another group of total idiots. Not all Tea Partiers, but this group of Tea Partiers. You cannot under any circumstances support any public official who is this stupid in private, just because you happen to share her homophobic views.

Jesus Fuck! How do they even get through the Pledge of Allegiance at council meetings without this woman drooling on herself, or her staff stapling their fingers shut?

Sorry, that was a bit long winded.