the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

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Lady Gaga and Target Unite for LGBT Causes

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Lady Gaga has power, and to snicker at it is a mistake.

The 25-year-old pop goddess played hardball with Minnesota-based retailer Target and won.

Target wanted a special edition of her newest hit, “Born This Way,” which has already been called a gay anthem by Elton John. (Upon its release two weeks ago, it became the fastest-selling song ever on iTunes.) Lady Gaga wasn’t so willing to agree, given that Target had previously supported political candidates with anti-gay reputations.

“That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had in a business meeting,” Lady Gaga told Billboard.com. “Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups.”

She didn’t stop there. “Our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made supporting those [anti-gay] groups,” she said.

Target took heat last year for giving $150,000 to support a political action group, Minnesota Forward, that supported Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who backed a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The company has pledged almost a half-million dollars to gay-equality groups so far in 2011, according to Billboard. One of them is Project 515, a Minnesota organization that wants gay families treated equally with straight families under state law. Target officials told Billboard that they had always supported groups in the LGBT community.

They added that Lady Gaga did not solely influence their decisions. “Certainly her perspective was very helpful in conversations,” Dustee Tucker Jenkins, Target’s vice president of public relations, said. “But we’ve considered a variety of different perspectives along the way, and that’s gotten us to where we are today.”

Target did not return calls for this story.

Lady Gaga has become a force in LGBT activism. In 2010, she supported repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from serving openly in the military, and asked her fans (whom she dubbed “Little Monsters”) to put pressure on their senators for repeal.

Just this week, Lady Gaga teamed up with M•A•C Cosmetics for a second year in a row, announcing that sales of lipstick and “lipglass” shades she helped design will go toward fighting HIV/AIDS. (Lady Gaga is a strong advocate for safe sex and AIDS testing.) The company has released a promotional video in conjunction to the lipstick line.

The video for “Born This Way” launches online Monday.

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Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 4:02 am

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas Won’t Seek Third Term in 2012

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Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has served three terms in the Senate, is hanging up her political hat next year and returning to Texas.

“I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2012,” she wrote in a letter to supporters that was posted on Facebook. “That should give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be.”
She added: “When my current term is up, I will have served Texas for 19 years in the United States Senate. I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state. The last two years have been particularly difficult, especially for my family, but I felt it would be wrong to leave the Senate during such a critical period.”
Hutchison and her husband, Ray Hutchison, a bond attorney in Dallas, adopted two children, Kathryn Bailey and Houston Taylor in 2001. She was 58 at the time. Her husband, a former member of the Texas legislature who lost a campaign for governor in 1978, was 68.

Though the adoptions created a mild controversy about older parents adopting children, Hutchison once referred to the move as “just a dream come true for us.”

Hutchison, the most senior female currently serving in the U.S. Senate, has had a storied political career in Texas state politics and Washington.

In 1993, she became the first — and so far the only — woman to represent Texas in the Senate when she won a special election after Lloyd Bentsen resigned to become secretary of the treasury in the Clinton Administration. At the time, she was serving as state treasurer.

The next year, she won a full six-year term. In 2000, she was the first Texas U.S. senator to receive more than 4 million votes in a single election.

In 2010, Hutchison ran against Texas Gov. Rick Perry as a moderate alternative. But her pro-choice position became fodder for Perry. Although she had endorsements from former President George H.W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, Hutchison lost to Perry 31 percent to 53 percent in the Republican primary.

Hutchison is one of the Republican Party’s brightest stars, often appearing on political talk shows to press the GOP agenda. Still, she broke ranks during the health care debate and opposed an attempt to stall the bill in the Senate.

But on most issues, she stands by her party. Just last month, she said she would not support the DREAM Act and voted against the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

In 2006, she received more campaign contributions from members of large oil and gas corporations than any other member of Congress. Just this week, in a press release from her office, she “cautioned against putting American energy jobs at risk through new layers of bureaucracy recommended in the National Oil Spill Commission’s report on the BP oil spill.”

Hutchison has been a fierce advocate for NASA, Amtrak, military families and homeland security. She serves as the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

During her political career, Hutchison has had a series of strange threats and stalkers. A man who volunteered on her first state legislative race in 1972 asked her to marry him. She said no, and he broke into her campaign office, driving an ice pick through a campaign poster with her image. The man resurfaced periodically in her life.

In 1996, Hutchison led efforts for a new federal anti-stalking law. Former President Bill Clinton called her “a victim of stalking who fought back.”

Her stalker died in 2002, but six years later, another entered Hutchison’s life, referring to her children’s adoption in disturbing phone messages. He was later indicted and charged with third-degree felony stalking.

Hints have been floating that Hutchison would not seek re-election. In August 2009, she put her 4,300-square-foot home in Virginia up for sale. At the time, an aide said, “She’s coming home to Texas. That’s why it’s for sale.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 3:06 am

Lady Gaga: A Political Tsunami, Waiting to Hit

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Lady Gaga is a political force.

Don’t laugh. Just consider her activism this year. She has taken on several political hot potatoes – the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, Arizona’s immigration law, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

For all of Lady Gaga’s outrageous costumes and catchy dance tunes, the 24-year-old singer, known as Mama Monster to her fans, has alerted the Millennial generation to issues that otherwise may have gone under their radar screens.

With a social media network larger than any politician’s, including President Barack Obama‘s or potential 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s, Lady Gaga is one of the most influential, and powerful, people in the world. Forbes Magazine ranked her seventh in its recent 2010 list of most powerful women. She didn’t even make the list in 2009.

The Native New Yorker – whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – has 21 million Facebook fans (Obama has 15 million, Palin two million) and nearly seven million Twitter followers. The numbers increase daily. Her videos recently hit a milestone with one billion views on YouTube. Her adoring fans, also called Little Monsters, track her every move and respond eagerly to her calls for political action.

When she appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards in September, retired gay military officers from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) escorted her down the red carpet. Her political statement: Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The SLDN received an instant public relations boost that money cannot buy. More than 100,000 people visited the group’s Web site within 72 hours. Nearly 93 percent were new visitors.

After the show, Ellen DeGeneres invited Lady Gaga to her talk show. Dressed in her now-infamous meat dress, she used the talk show to call for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule a Senate vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She also encouraged her fans to call Reid’s office. Naturally, she also tweeted, “CALL HARRY REID to Schedule Senate Vote.”

Reid returned the tweet, triggering a lovefest between the two: “@ladygaga There is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so.”

The pop goddess continued to urge her Little Monsters to call their senators and ask them to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She then challenged Sen. John McCain and other senators who opposed the repeal in a stark black and white video, where she also showed fans how to call their senators and what to say. She even headed to Portland, Maine, for a rally to try and persuade Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to support the repeal.

When the bill failed, Lady Gaga vowed to continue her fight for gay and lesbian issues. Her next album will be called “Born This Way” – a shout-out to her LGBT fans, and she recently recorded a duet with Elton John.

Celebrity activism is nothing new. Ever since Bob Geldof’s Band-Aid in the 1980s, Bono has become a dedicated political saint, leading the charge on myriad causes, including debt relief for Africa. In the 1970s, Jane Fonda spoke out against the Vietnam War, and Marlon Brando focused on the Civil Rights Movement and Native American causes.

But Lady Gaga has harnessed the potential of 21st Century social media unlike any of her musical peers or even Washington politicians who pay consultants big money to work social media magic.

“She’s like a tribal leader,” says Gordon Coonfield, associate professor of communication at Villanova University. “Tribal leaders have their own influence and are about bringing networks together. She has her own influence and technology and a new kind of network power that traditional politics can’t really afford to ignore.”

A lot of celebrities tweet, but as Coonfield points out, Lady Gaga takes it a step beyond witty updates and relationship drama. She tweets not only about the cocktail she drank at a bar but also about serious topics.

“We are talking about issues that could change the military and fates of people,” Coonfield says.

Imagine if Lady Gaga decided to lead a march on Washington with millions of Little Monsters in tow. Unlike Glenn Beck, Lady Gaga has a colossal global following. She would shed an international light on her cause célèbre, and her crowd might very well dwarf Beck’s and Jon Stewart’s.

Lady Gaga, who made $62 million last year, likely won’t leave her music career any time soon to launch a run for office. But what if she decided to create GAGAPAC to donate to progressive candidates? One tweet would likely result in hefty donations and free publicity for the candidate of her choosing.

On another front, Lady Gaga might also give Palin’s Mama Grizzlies a run for their fur if she decided to endorse candidates and campaign – even virtually – for them. Who knows? Harry Reid might be on safer ground today if Lady Gaga had helped him in Nevada against Palin-backed Sharron Angle.

First Lady Michelle Obama may be the most powerful woman in the world, but Lady Gaga is not far behind. After all, Lady Gaga is already ahead of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who ranks No. 11. If Lady Gaga maintains her star power into 2012, she could likely unleash her Little Monsters – many who may be voting in their first election – to become a progressive, liberal tsunami in GOTV efforts. And a real worry for conservatives.

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm