John Nicholson Houston’s new lesbian mayor, Jon Wiener on Howard Zinn’s The People Speak, Ari Berman on Editor & Publisher closing its doors



Voters in many parts of the country are still struggling with the notion that same-sex couples should enjoy the same rights as other Americans, but they don’t seem to have any problem being governed by gays and lesbians. The same November election in which Maine voters overturned that state’s marriage equality law by a 53-47 margin also saw more than sixty openly gay and lesbian candidates win elections for posts ranging from mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Detroit City Council president.

Over the course of the following month, even as New York State legislators rejected same-sex marriage and the DC City Council voted to legalize it (setting up a wrestling match with Congressional conservatives), Georgia voters elected the country’s first openly lesbian African-American state legislator (

Simone Bell

); Broward County, Florida, became the largest jurisdiction to be governed by an out gay man (when county commissioner

Ken Keechl

took over as mayor); and the Democratic majority in California’s Assembly chose an openly gay man as its candidate for speaker (

John Perez


Then came the really big news. After an ugly campaign in which social conservatives tried to stir antigay sentiment, Houston’s lesbian city controller,

Annise Parker

, was elected mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city. Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund president

Chuck Wolfe

got it right when he said, “This is a watershed moment in American politics. Annise was elected by fair-minded people from across the city because of her experience and competence, and we’re glad Houston soundly rejected the politics of division. This victory sends a clear signal that gays and lesbians are an integral part of American civic life.”   JOHN NICHOLS


The first time

Howard Zinn

‘s now-classic book A People’s History of the United States appeared on TV was in HBO’s The Sopranos, when Tony’s teenage son, A.J., came home from school with a copy of the book and told his parents that, according to Zinn, Christopher Columbus was a slaveowner and murderer. Tony angrily replied, “In this house Columbus is a hero. End of story!”

That was 1999. On December 13 Zinn’s The People Speak–the documentary inspired by his books–premiered on the History Channel. The documentary “gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout US history,” says

Anthony Arnove

, who produced and co-directed the show.

The History Channel is best known for World War II documentaries, which has earned it the nickname “the Hitler channel.” The People Speak made it onto this unlikely site apparently because of the irresistible actors who appear in the documentary, including

Matt Damon


Josh Brolin


Danny Glover


Marisa Tomei


Morgan Freeman


Sandra Oh

, along with musical performances by

Bob Dylan


Bruce Springsteen


Eddie Vedder

, among others.

My favorites from the documentary include Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grass Roots,” from 1963 (“America’s problem is us. We’re her problem.”) and Frederick Douglass’s 1857 words, read by

Don Cheadle

(“Power concedes nothing without a demand”).

“We wanted to choose words that had some meaning today,” Zinn told me. “Not from Supreme Court decisions or presidential speeches, but from some people you’ve never heard of.”

There’s also a soundtrack on CD, and a big website with video and a classroom study guide. A DVD will be out in January. The People’s History book, meanwhile, has now sold 2 million copies.

And the Columbus part that got Tony Soprano mad? It’s in the documentary–an excerpt from Spanish priest Bartolomé de las Casas’s The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account, read by

Viggo Mortensen



Editor & Publisher

might be the most important publication you’ve never heard of. I knew little of the magazine’s 125-year history of reporting on the newspaper industry until I interned there in the winter of 2002-03. E&P‘s editor,

Greg Mitchell

, told me then that he wanted to scrutinize the media’s shoddy coverage of the impending war in Iraq–particularly the cheerleading agitprop of major news organizations. E&P‘s small staff in Lower Manhattan became a crack fact-checking and watchdog crew, asking the tough questions that so few in Washington asked, shining a spotlight on the early dissenters such as

Knight Ridder

‘s Washington bureau and highlighting the views of editorial pages–some of which were surprisingly skeptical–across the country. I remember Mitchell reading the antiwar editorials of the

Orange County Register

, a bastion of right-wing Republicanism, with a keen eye and wonder. The magazine won a

Neal Award

–“the Pulitzer Prize of business journalism”–three years in a row for its Iraq coverage.

So Mitchell described it as quite a “shock” to learn, on December 10, that the

Nielsen Company

was immediately closing E&P–seemingly yet another casualty of the industry it so dutifully covered. But maybe this sad story will still have a happy ending. Based on “overwhelming reader and advertiser demand” in the wake of the surprise announcement, Mitchell said the staff planned to publish another issue on January 4 and hoped to strike a deal with Nielsen or find a new buyer. Let’s hope they can. On Iraq and many other issues, history will look kindly on E&P. May its indispensable reporting, in one form or another, live on.   ARI BERMAN


In early December

Walter Tróchez

, a Honduran AIDS and gay rights activist, reported to authorities that four armed men had attempted to abduct him. The kidnappers beat Tróchez, an active resister of the Honduran coup regime, and told him that they were going to kill him.

Tróchez escaped that day, but on the night of December 14 someone returned to finish the job–fatally shooting Tróchez in the chest. Since the June 28 military-religious coup, at least seven and as many as sixteen LGBT people have been killed; the state has yet to investigate whether these murders were politically or homophobically motivated, despite pleas from local activists and human rights groups. Indeed, just weeks before Tróchez was murdered, he wrote an e-mail describing the escalation of violence against LGBT people, an English-language version of which can be found on The Nation‘s website. Tróchez was 27.   RICHARD KIM

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