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Archives, November 17 to December 20, 2004

Tuesday December 28, 2004

The Gods Of The Copybook Headings

A really rocking good post from Sullywatch, which I’m sorry to say it took me so long to see.

You didn't understand what we were saying then, and still don't now: The war was inherently bad. It did not go bad.

You have to read the whole thing. He ends it with a some Kipling:

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return

You should go read that poem too. Sullywatch is right, Kipling does sometimes kick ass. When people find out I named my home computers after Jungle Book characters, and the network Seeonee, I almost always get an “Oh yes, that Disney movie was so cute.” Not! I hate what Disney did to those stories!

“Copybook” is British for notebook, and a copybook heading was an old proverb a teacher would assign to their class to write an essay on. I note that the poem is often cited on religious right web pages. They’re reading it the way they read the Bible. See…the old eternal truths will always prevail… Well…yes…but “All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four” aren’t eternal truths because they’re old ones. Self delusion in the face of uncomfortable truths, a way of life that American fundamentalism, and their twenty-first century enablers the republicans, proudly wear on their collective sleeves, and how reality has a relentless way of smacking it in the head, is what this poem is about.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

It’s Dead Jim

Well…maybe not dead, but not at all well either. I put Mowgli back together, and set his BIOS so that only the primary IDE channel is active, and neither Windows version will boot, and SuSE and Mandrake Linux only run briefly, before freezing. The only thing resembling an error message I’ve gotten so far, was a kernel panic in Mandrake, while it was doing a disk check after a reboot from one of those freezes.

My working hypothisis is that it’s a bad motherboard. I can still run Akela, my Windows 2000 laptop, if I need to run any Microsoft platform only applications. But for now my main workstation is Bagheera.

Even allowing that I’ve managed to preserve all my data, it’s still going to take me weeks to recover from this. I have to research a new motherboard, and maybe other bits and pieces of hardware too. Then I have to install it, then I will probably have to reinstall both Windows drives, and all the applications therein. But at least I don’t have to go about it in a panic. Bagheera and Akela can keep me going until I have Mowgli back up and running.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Compassionate Conservatism…

The smirking fratboy jackass threw a bone to the ones left behind in the aftermath of that killer tidal wave…he’s promised the region fifteen million dollars in aid. Let’s assume, recklessly, and against all past behavior, that this figure is genuine.

He’s spending an estimated thirty to forty million on his inauguration. In Asia, they’re calling it stingy. I’d say they’re foolish if they think they’re really getting fifteen million in aid from Bush. Maybe fifteen million to Haliburton to dig them a couple of mass graves.

As one of the posters in Atrios comments said, the worst thing about the Bush presidency is how it’s taken away my pride in America.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That Dave…

I’d planned on doing a little lite housekeeping today. This morning, when I got up, my main workstation, Mowgli, was displaying the Windows XP disk check screen, and what was worse, it seemed to be locked up.

I tried a re-boot and after several attempts knew I was in for some serious computer repair. During boot, Mowgli would try to fix whatever it thought was the problem on C: and then promptly hang.

Let me give you a quick idea of my home setup. Mowgli, my main workstation, is a homebrew, made from an ASUS motherboard with an Athlon 1.3 gig processor and a half gig of memory. It was built about three years (I think) ago, and has always been a reliable workhorse. Mowgli has two physical hard drives. Its primary is actually a removable disk pack. This lets me boot between different versions of Windows and Linux. Its secondary disk is divided into two logical FAT32 partitions, which both Windows and Linux (and Mac) can read and write to. I store data on this drive, and native applications on the removable drive packs. Periodically, I back up the data drive to one of two USB drives. I have four other machines here: Bagheera – my Mac G5, Akela – my Toshiba laptop which runs Windows 2000, Hathi – a homebrew 486 which used to run Windows 3.11 and Baloo – my IBM PS2 model 80, which runs IBM PC DOS 2000. Hathi and Baloo don’t get much use anymore, and I might retire Hathi at some point. Baloo I’ll keep as a collector’s piece (I have its original IBM monitor, keyboard and mouse).

When I discovered my trouble this morning, my most recent data drive backup was about a week old. Not fatal, but I stood to loose all my mail and a few text files from the week. Far worse, I stood to loose the photoshop work files that went into making the holiday cartoon. All I had was the jpeg I’d posted to my web server, and which had none of the intricate image layers I’d done my work on. Since the cartoon was finished, this wasn’t necessarily a big loss. The original artwork is in pen and ink on Bristol 2-ply board, resting safely an archive box. But the color was added in Photoshop and I didn’t want to loose the work files.

I shut down Mowgli and removed the XP drive, and tried booting Windows 2000, to see if I could get it to read my data drive. Windows 2000 came up, and I plugged in one of my USB backup drives and tried to copy some files. I got a blue screen the moment I tried. Now I was skeptical. It’s not impossible for a failure to hit both physical drives at once, but a blue screen made me wonder if it wasn’t a controller or motherboard failure. I rebooted, and turned off the secondary IDE channel in the BIOS. Now Windows refused to boot at all. It just hung at the initial boot screen.

I shut down Mowlgi again, and tried booting up Linux. SuSE Linux booted just fine. I shut down, rebooted and turned the secondary IDE back on. Again I got a clean boot, but Mowlgi hung as soon as I tried to access the data drive. I rebooted and brought Linux up in single user command line mode and tried again. Now I could at least see the drive. I tried getting directory listings for various folders and files, and found I could navigate the entire drive tree without a problem via the bash command line.

I tried copying some files. If I could just get the new cartoon work files copied over, and maybe, maybe the mailbox files, I could rest a little easier. The first file I tried copied over smoothly, but the second copy brought Mowgli back down again. I rebooted and tried again. I figured I’d either pin down where the bad part of the drive was, or prove to my satisfaction that it wasn’t the drive, but the controller. After a few tries, I was able to copy most of my cartoon work files. Sometimes Mowgli would hang when I tried to copy a file, and on reboot that same file would copy over just fine. Size seemed to matter. Small files copied over without a hitch. Large files usually took several tries to copy. That being the case, I figured the drive itself was probably okay.

I shut Mowgli down, and went out to my friendly neighborhood computer store and bought one of those small cases to convert a 3.5 inch hard into a USB drive, and put Mowgli’s data drive in it. Then I took it downstairs to Bagheera, my Mac G5, plugged it in, and switched it on. Bagheera saw the new drive, and gave me an icon on the desktop for both its logical drives. I double clicked on one of them and got a finder window that showed me everything in the drive. Now I was able to copy everything over to Bagheera’s own hard drive, including all my cartoon work files, and my mail files. I downloaded a copy of Mozilla Thunderbird for the Mac, installed it and pointed it to my copied mail files, and I was back in business.

So for now, I can use Bagheera as my main workstation, while I figure out what to do about Mowgli. It looks like I need a new motherboard. It’s time and money I hadn’t planned on spending, but at least I’m not computer and Internet-less. My strategy here has always been to spread the work around among various machines that could each take over if one failed.

A new motherboard shouldn’t be all that much. It’s mostly the time I have to spend looking at specs and Linux hardware compatibility charts and taking Mowgli apart and putting him back together that’s annoying. But I’ll save it for later. I’m not going to stress about it on vacation time. And this gives me a reason to spend more time getting to know my way around a Mac.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday December 27, 2004

Says It All

I said I wouldn’t write about politics for a while…didn’t I? Oh well…

Country singer Chely Wright said yesterday she was dismissing the head of her fan club and shutting down a team of volunteers after The Tennessean learned that some of them posed as members of the military or their families to promote her latest song.

Seventeen members of a handpicked team of fans contacted radio stations around the country asking for more airplay for Wright's pro-military ballad, The Bumper of My SUV. It was all part of an organized campaign by leaders of the fan club who encouraged the team to do such things as "tell 'em your husband is a marine - whatever it takes."

After Wright learned that The Tennessean intended to publish an article about the campaign in today's newspaper, she issued a statement saying that she had dismissed Chuck Walter, a longtime friend who has headed her fan club since 1996.

Wright said she was "shocked, saddened and deeply upset by this unethical behavior." She said Walter was "an unpaid volunteer who acted without my knowledge or direction."

In an interview a day earlier, Wright had described Walter as "my best friend. We talk all the time, about everything."

The success of Bumper has been a bit unusual compared with the way things generally go in country music.

Last week the song was listed by Billboard magazine as the second fastest-selling single in country music even though Wright no longer has a deal with a major record label. The promotional power of a major label is usually essential in getting sales as well as radio play.

The Bumper of My SUV is being distributed independently and the song has appeared to be getting unusual grass-roots support. Some radio stations have reported lots of calls and e-mails from listeners who want to hear Bumper played - including members of the military and their families.

Last week The Tennessean learned that many of those calls and e-mails were coming from a team of 17 fan club members who were encouraged to pose as either members of the armed forces or their spouses and contact radio stations around the country asking for the song to be played. Increased airplay not only can move a song up the Billboard charts, resulting in publicity, but also can acquaint more people with the song and bring additional record sales.

Campaign of deception used to push patriotic song up charts

Phony war…phony support…phony patriotism…phony morals…somehow it all adds up doesn’t it? How do you lie to a radio station manager that you’re the wife of a marine in Iraq without knowing that you’re lying? Well of course you don’t. You know. You know even as the words are leaving your mouth. And does that mean you stop thinking of yourself as a moral person afterward? Of course not. The ends justify the means… But no…ends and means are of a piece. It should surprise no one that the right lies, because the central fact of right wing politics is its opposition, its hatred of reality. It’s Bryan endlessly howling at Darrow and Darwin. When reality is your enemy, lies are the only friends you’ve got and shame is for devil worshiping liberals. I’m certain that the sympathy and support Chely Wright’s fan club members got from radio station managers, touched them deeply.

This story btw, came to my attention by way of the Moment Of Triumph Blog, which has a great post up by Grand Moff Texan that you should read.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Reasons To Keep Your Vacation Plans Flexible…#22

Well…the weather was not with me. I’d planned to zip down to Florida for a few days to get a last taste of summer before January and February, and maybe find myself bit of inner peace before entering the second Bush term. I’d thought to either go to South Beach or Fort Lauderdale, both of which have a sizable enough gay presence that I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable vacationing in George Bush’s America. But it was not to be.

I left early yesterday morning, and after I made it past the legendary “Mixing Bowl” (where I-95 connects to the Capital Beltway in Virginia) I ran into slow traffic. I stayed with it figuring it would thin out by Richmond. No. It was periods of stop and go followed by brief periods of highway speed, followed by more stop and go, all the way to North Carolina, where it became just stop and go. I was on the road for eight hours, and only made 200 miles.

Just south of the North Carolina line, nature brought forth a snowfall on a track that couldn’t have been more perfect had it been aiming directly for I-95. By the time I got to Rocky Mount, I-95 had turned pretty much into a parking lot. There were accidents, but nothing major (though I heard there was a bad one further south) and none were blocking the highway. But the locals were crawling and I couldn’t figure it. There was only about an inch or so of snow on the roadside, and the highway itself was clear, but wet. This would have produced a shrug up here in D.C. and Baltimore. I watched several snow plows clearing the shoulders of the highway. Then the horrible truth dawned on me: They weren’t salting the road!

Sweet Jesus, thinks I, this road is going to be a solid sheet of ice when the sun goes down! And so it was. By the time I realized what was going on, the roadside motels had already filled up.

Northbound traffic was fine, it was only southbound that was tied up. From that, and the few small reports I was able to get off the radio (thank you for killing local radio Clear Channel!) I reckoned that conditions were even worse further south. By nightfall, at Rocky Mount, I was averaging about eight miles an hour. Unless I wanted to sleep in my car that night, there was no point in going further, and hoping I could break free. With the sun down the road was already turning to ice in spots. It would only get worse as the temperatures dropped, and bad as it was in Rocky Mount, I strongly suspected it was worse further south. I later learned that conditions further south were indeed much worse.

At first I tried to find a place to bed down in Rocky Mount. All the roadside motels were booked solid. I later learned that because of how bad I-95 was, some were letting people sleep in the lobbies. I tried driving around town to see if there were any small, out of the way motels that might have been overlooked by the I-95 crush. I found myself driving over utterly unplowed town roads along with drivers from as far away as Quebec, all looking for what I was looking for, a place to sleep. It was hopeless. I looked at the clock. It was about 7:30. The highway northbound was clear, but probably iced all the way back to Virginia. But there was nothing else to do unless I wanted to sleep in the car, and I didn’t have a sleeping bag with me. That was a mistake. I figured this to be just a quick overnight trip down to Florida. But in winter you should always prepare for getting stuck in the cold. So I got back on I-95 northbound.

Thankfully, there was almost no traffic going northbound. At first the road was solid ice, and the few of us on it just crept at about four or five miles an hour, the slowest my car goes in first gear. Then the road cleared a bit and there was only ice around the on ramps, where cars had driven onto the highway with their tires wet from the snow on the side streets. By the time I got back to Virginia, the road was mostly clear. I was able to get back to highway speed just south of Petersburg. I got back to Baltimore around midnight.

So much for Florida. I could try again, but the forecasts don’t have the Carolinas warming up enough to clear those roads until the end of the week. Now I’ll just spend a few days in my traditional vacation spot, Ocean City, New Jersey. I’ve booked myself from Wednesday though News Years Eve at my favorite OC spot, the Port O Call. It won’t be summer, but the forecasts call for it to at least be in the fifties. And I’ll be spending my vacation money in a blue state, which is where I probably should have been spending it anyway.

In the meantime I’ll do some blah-blah stuff around the house that needed doing, I just never had time for, and try to cultivate a little inner peace, between now and New Year. For the time being, this blog will be what I originally intended it to be, a personal, not a political blog. I’m taking a vacation from all that until after New Years. The coming Bush years are going to be bad. I need a small break before entering them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday December 25, 2004

Holiday Break

My Holiday Cartoon is up, and that’s about it for me here until after New Years…unless something comes that I just have to post about. I’m taking a between Christmas and New Years break, and perhaps a short road trip in the meantime, weather permitting.

Enjoy your holidays! Have fun, stay warm, hug someone you love, eat recklessly.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday December 24, 2004

Oh, Are You Still Here Rich?

Steve Miller at the Independent (sic) Gay Forum quotes approvingly, while former Log Cabin Republican Rich Tafel wags his fingers at the new leadership…

Now that the election has passed, the part of the gay community that has built a movement on the demonization of Republicans will...

Okay…stop right there. If anyone has built a movement on demonizing anyone it isn’t gays Rich, it’s You Know Who:

The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our countryís founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should "family" be redefined to include homosexual "couples." We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

The Party opposes the legalization of sodomy. The Party demands Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.

2004 Texas State GOP Platform

Don’t tell me you haven’t read this Rich. No, it’s not demonizing republicans to call this sort of thing for what it is. Gay republican support for the republican party has moderated it in no humanly discernable way. It is worse now then when the Log Cabin was first created. You haven’t made any difference.

The Republican Senate candidate in Oklahoma warns of "rampant" lesbianism in some schools in the state in a tape released Monday by his Democratic opponent.

The remark by Republican Tom Coburn drew a skeptical response from state educators.

"I don't believe that," said Keith Ballard, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. He said the group's attorneys "haven't said anything to me about that."

In the tape released by the campaign of Brad Carson, the Democratic candidate, Coburn says a campaign worker from Coalgate told him that "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"

The Associated Press - GOP Senate candidate in Oklahoma speaks of 'rampant' lesbianism in schools

How much of your life are you willing to let the republicans eat Rich? My bet is all of it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Why I Don’t Have One Of Those Little = Stickers On My Bumper

Michelangelo Signorile puts another skewer in HRC’s side to see if it’s done yet…:

Far be it from me to criticize someone for their sexualityósome of my best friends are straightóbut when you're firing your lesbian executive director and telling the world you're going to moderate your positionsóon the front page of the New York Times, no lessóit's perhaps not the best time to make a straight guy the mouthpiece of your organization. Imagine if a man popped up as a spokesperson for the National Organization for Women, telling the press that NOW will be "moderating" a bit on the issue of abortion. What if a white guy took over as NAACP honcho to explain why the group should consider "compromising" on affirmative action in light of Bush's victory?

They don’t get it, and they never will. HRC fired Cheryl Jacques because she committed two unforgivable sins: She made the ersatz gay civil rights group take a stand in opposition to republican gay bashing, and she insisted it take an uncompromising stand on equal rights. That elicited cries of partisanship from the self loathing homosexual caucus, which thinks that being non-partisan means kissing republican ass no matter how many lines of anti-gay hate they write into their platforms.

The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our countryís founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should "family" be redefined to include homosexual "couples." We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

The Party opposes the legalization of sodomy. The Party demands Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.

2004 Texas State GOP Platform

In the face of a republican party that seems, almost impossibly now, to harden a little more and a little more every year in its hostility toward gay and lesbian Americans, HRC could either drop the laughable fiction that a non-partisan fight for equality is currently possible, or become what even the Log Cabin Republicans refused to become this year, partners in our own oppression. Cheryl Jacques wanted HRC to be relevant to the struggle for equal rights. But ultimately, as she and her supporters found out, that meant making HRC something it had decided long ago that it wasn’t.

In 1989, the same year as Madison and Kirk’s After The Ball came out, HRC redefined itself from a political action committee to a professional lobbying organization. “For the promotion of the social welfare of the gay and lesbian community by drafting, supporting and influencing legislation and policy at the federal, state and local level.” It decided to become an inside the beltway group, and its early emphasis on bi-partisanship, and “straight acting” politics led to some degree of suspicion right away, that it was more a group for wealthy and upper middle class gays, and everyone else who didn’t want to be associated with all those freaky, fem, butch clone, drag, longhaired hippy, loudmouthed, weirdos who’d already been fighting for decades for the freedoms they were now enjoying. And as HRC grew in size, wealth and status, it seemed to accomplish very little other then prove its Damn The Grass Roots, Inside The Beltway Is All That Matters perspective by, among other things, endorsing Al D’Amato over Chuck Schumer in 1998, and a third march on washington that activists hated , precisely because they knew it would drain local resources while accomplishing nothing for gays beyond the reach of the Capital Beltway (A suggestion was floated to instead organize a lot of simultaneous marches at the state capitals…but that suggestion was summarily ignored).

While rich right wingers were building a massive grassroots machine, HRC was busy contemplating its Washington D.C. navel. HRC wanted to play the insider game, like the big guys. But the right knows that in the end it is votes that count, and means developing grassroots activism. But the grassroots activists were precisely what HRC existed to give its members a safe distance from.

While the right began a sustained campaign of demonizing the democrats, feminazis and militant homosexuals, HRC bought into an image of heartland America that would be accepting of the homosexuals in its midst, if only the gays cleaned up their act. It’s the essential straight acting conceit, the essential failure to look, without flinching, into the pit of hate. Heartland America’s problem with gay people isn’t merely an image problem; not when families can throw their own children out into the streets for being homosexual.

While the right was building a Mighty Wurlitzer, HRC was imagining itself a behind the scenes player; a role that fit nicely with its We’re Not Like Those Loudmouthed In-Your-Face Militants persona, and many of its own members’ arms length relationship to the larger gay community. But for a minority oppressed by the closet, quiet activism is a proposition with a built-in need to fail. The complaint that homosexuals are shoving their sexuality in everyone’s faces, is really a complaint that we are visible at all, that we are living our lives as if there is nothing wrong with us. Quiet, behind the scenes activism, only legitimizes that complaint, that belief that there is something dirty about our very existance, that shouldn’t be openly discussed.

A love that cannot speak its name, cannot organize. A love that cannot speak its name, will not make itself heard in the American political dialogue. Anyone working to improve the status of gay and lesbian Americans must, necessarily, attack the closet head-on, burst the doors open, smash the walls to pieces. Anyone who wants to make a difference in our lives must attack anti-gay prejudice and hate head-on, must defend our humanity whenever, and wherever it is attacked. HRC never wanted to be that kind of organization. When the day came that they found they had a executive director who wanted it to be that kind of organization, of course they fired her.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday December 20, 2004

Schedenfreude

Amazingly, not everything president I Love Big Government does is popular with some the right…

A bipartisan group of senators, representatives, and members of the 9/11 Commission flanked President Bush Friday at his signing of sweeping intelligence reform legislation. But an equally diverse collection of citizens' groups criticized what they saw as the potential for government oppression and invasions of privacy codified in the new law.

...

At issue is Section 1027 of Subtitle B of the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, entitled "Drivers Licenses and Personal Identification Cards."

That provision requires the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Homeland Security to "establish minimum standards for driver's licenses or personal identification cards issued by a State" within 18 months after the enactment of the law. Licenses and photo IDs from states that fail to comply with the standards would not be accepted by the federal government for any purpose, including getting past airport security, entering a federal building or even claiming certified mail.

...

Proponents of Section 1027 said requiring uniform, basic information on driver's licenses was not the same as creating a national ID card issued by the federal government. But Jim Babka - president of DownsizeDC.org, a citizens' group that lobbies Congress to reduce the size of the federal government - disagreed.

"When you standardize everything, when the federal government sets all the rules and collects all the names in a federal database, it doesn't matter what entity actually hands you your card," Babka argued, "you've got a national ID card."

High potential for abuse, fraud, disclosures and mistakes Babka warned that a national ID card system would have an inherently high potential for abuse, in part because the new law designates appointed officials, rather than elected representatives, to set the standards.

"You need a driver's license to purchase a gun from a dealer, you need it to travel on any form of public transportation, you need it to get a job, you need it to open a checking account, to cash a check, to check into a hotel, to rent a car, and to purchase cigarettes or alcohol," Babka explained. "So, if the federal government can set the standards so high as to deny you a driver's license or a photo ID, it's effectively turned you into a non-person."

Section 1027 supporters defended the law and pointed to the legislative mandate that the standardization regulations, "shall include procedures and requirements to protect the privacy and civil and due process rights of individuals who apply for and hold driver's licenses and personal identification cards."

But Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, took no comfort in that alleged protection.

"When the government says they're concerned about my privacy after they've just said I have to have one of their cards, somehow, that's not very reassuring," Pratt said.

"I still have a Social Security card that says, 'Not for Use for Identification,'" Pratt added. "Anybody who thinks that they are going to stop where they are doesn't understand 'mission creep' in government."

George Getz, communications director for the Libertarian Party, concurred.

CNSNews.com - Driver's License Rules in Intel Law Spark Outrage

Hey…jackasses…you got what you voted for! Now quit complaining.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday December 19, 2004

On The Other Side

Via Atrios, Alicublog has yet another account of how right wing blogs have been busy inciting hate toward opposition to the Iraq war, based on one false accusation after another…:

Back in September, a soldier on leave from Iraq got beaten up outside a Toby Keith concert. The soldier, Foster Barton, said that he was attacked because he was wearing an Operation Iraqi Freedom t-shirt. It was reported that the assailant had slurred Barton's military service.

Though the parking lots of superpatriotic extravaganzas are not normally hunting grounds for roving gangs of John Kerry supporters, blame was laid at their doorstep. "Not anti-war," indeeded the Ole Perfesser, "just on the other side." One account was illustrated with a burning American flag, a silhouetted figure flashing the peace sign in the foreground.

Ole Perfesser, being the right wing blog propagandist Instapundit. How evil these anti-war protesters are. Indeed…indeed. But…no…

Yesterday Cornwell pleaded guilty to a felonious assault on Barton. In his statement to the judge, Cornwell did not denounce the Bush Administration or the Iraqi invasion, or cry "Viva La Huelga." He told the judge that the fight outside the Toby Keith concert "started after the two exchanged insults about the other's military unit," according to the local news.

Dig it. The man who attacked Barton was himself a soldier. The fight was a not entirely unheard of altercation between two soldiers over the honor of their respective units. Wow…like that just doesn’t ever happen. But count on Professor Gutter Crawling Hack to jump on something like this, utterly without care for the facts of the matter, and brand it a case of anti-war leftist violence. A dead skunk on a Tennessee road could have looked at the initial reports, that one man had attacked another outside a Toby Keith concert, a Toby Keith concert for christ sakes with a little skepticism. (a couple of drunken rednecks get into a fight at a Toby Keith concert…say, now there’s news for you…) But not Instapundit.

And I don’t believe for an Insta that Instapundit is that gullible. He saw something he knew he could fan into a little anti democrat hysteria, and he went for it. Because American democracy can’t work, if Americans can’t talk to each other, and right wingers like Instapundit don’t want it to work. He’s not just anti-democrat, but on the other side.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

All Your Holidays Are Belong To Us

I think I’ve figured it out now… fundamentalists are borg.

RALEIGH, N.C. - This year, as Christmas season swung into gear, Pastor Patrick Wooden's followers fanned out to shopping malls across Raleigh to deliver a muscular message of holiday cheer: As Christian shoppers, they would like to be greeted with the phrase "Merry Christmas" - not a bland "Happy Holidays" - and stores that failed to do so would risk losing their business.

Nearly six weeks later, some citizens in Raleigh are seething over what they see as an attempt to force religion into the public square.

But others say "Merry Christmas" is rolling off their tongues more easily and more often than in previous years.

Conservative Christians nationwide have converged around the topic of Christmas, complaining that secularists and nonbelievers have tried to obliterate the holiday's religious meaning.

Yes…well that’s the complaint, and it’s a bogus one. Fundamentalists can be reliably counted on not to say what they mean when it comes to these little dirty cultural skirmishes. There is more then one holiday being celebrated at this time of year. Christmas is the holiday of the majority. Others, such as hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, and other such, are celebrated by various American minorities. When a store clerk says “Happy Holidays” to a customer, they’re saying that everyone is welcome in their store.

That’s the problem.

In Oklahoma and Miami, local skirmishes have erupted over the display of nativity scenes on government property. A California man has called for a boycott of Macy's and Bloomingdale's department stores, demanding the phrase "Merry Christmas" be used. In Denver, the mayor's attempt to remove "Merry Christmas" from a light display raised such a howl of protest that he reversed his decision. Here in Raleigh, the grass-roots campaigning has focused on retailers. And it's been so invigorating that the church is making plans for next year, said Wooden, a barrel-chested former football player who leads a conservative black congregation of about 3,000. "Our position is: If they want the gold, frankincense and myrrh, they should acknowledge the birth of the child," said Wooden, pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ.

We won’t spend our money here unless you spit in the faces of your non-Christian customers, with a cheerful holiday smile. It’s interesting and saddening, how eagerly some black ministers in particular, are signing on to the religious right crusade to separate non fundamentalist Americans from America. What the hell do they think their place will be, in an America that doesn’t belong to all Americans?

"It's a cultural war. We are in the thick of it," Creech said. "It's not so much an attack on us. It's an attack on Christ."

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Or deported to a nice little camp somewhere so we don’t have to remember every year around this time that we have to share America with the likes of you. That’s what happens to minorities when they’re isolated from the rest of society, and you don’t have to ask jews about it, you can ask any japanese American who lived through world war II.

Coming soon to a store in your neighborhood…little Christmas signs that read: We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. This means you pagans, you atheists, you liberal heretics, and especially you jew Christ killers. Merry Christmas!

[Edited a tad]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday December 18, 2004

Hey…Neat Trick…

The reporter who broke the story of how the CIA and the Nicaraguan Contras were up to their asses in the crack cocaine traffic that was drowning American inner cities in the 1980s has, you may have already heard, committed suicide. He shot himself in the head.

Twice.

The accepted media wisdom is that Gary Webb got the story wrong. That’s based largely on the fact that after the story broke, the CIA investigated itself, and found it had done nothing wrong. Imagine that.

Xymphora has a short list of other fascinating reporter-suicides. Gosh, I had no idea that James Hatfield, author of Fortunate Son, had also committed suicide. What a shame. Reporting must be a very stressful line of work.

Of course, Webb left a suicide note…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Doubletalking For Values

365Gay reports that some Massachusetts companies are still refusing to treat the families of their gay employees equitably.

General Dynamics, FedEx, and NStar are among a major corporations in the state that say they are not bound to provide the benefits. The companies all say that because their health plans are federally regulated they are complying with the federal Defense of Marriage Act which bars same-sex unions.

Each of the companies has what is known as self-insured health plans. These are benefits plans in which the employer, not an insurer, collects the premiums and pays the medical and hospital bills of its workers. Self insured plans fall under federal regulations.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting says that about 66 percent of large US companies have self-insured plans.

A FedEx worker in Massachusetts contacted the Boston Globe newspaper after she was notified by her employer that her application to have her wife covered under the company's insurance plan was rejected.

"FedEx is not discriminating against you because of your sexual orientation," FedEd said in its letter of rejection to the worker. "Rather, the company is following the terms and conditions of its benefit plans" under federal law.

That’s just pure doubletalk. To the extent that DOMA has any bearing at all on private insurance plans, it’s probably that the federal government cannot mandate coverage for same sex couples. But look at the wonderful excuse it gives to homophobic companies like Federal Express, to not do something they were disinclined to do in the first place. And they get to twist the knife by claiming that what they’re doing isn’t discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation…as if DOMA itself isn’t exactly that.

FedEx is not discriminating against you because of your sexual orientation… What a crock. FedEx just kicked one of their employees in the face, then told them it wasn’t a kick in the face and anyway somebody else told them to do it. This is what the politics, this is what the morality of anti-gay hate, brings people to. This is what it brings a nation to. Lying to your neighbors, to you fellow Americans, goes from political tactic, to policy, to patriotic duty, to prayer. Before you can throw your neighbor in the gutter, you have to jump in yourself.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Suffocating Your Friends And Neighbors In A Closet

Kevin Naff, over at the Houston Voice, has a good column up about The New Anti-Gay McCarthyism, now sweeping America since the Bush election (I refuse to call it a re-election).

The modern day Red Scare began with drumming out those deemed disloyal to President Bush or anyone viewed as less-than-supportive of his so-called "war on terror."

The Bush scare tactics that were deployed to push us into war are now used to bully Americans into following the GOP's backward-looking views on domestic cultural issues, including gay rights.

This trend, and the ensuing witch-hunts targeting the disloyal, now has the "liberal media" running scared and working overtime to ape the Bush propaganda machine over at Fox News. There are numerous recent examples of media capitulation to fundamentalist Christian conservatives, which now wield a power wildly disproportionate to their numbers.

Both NBC and CBS have rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ that advocated for inclusiveness of gay couples. CBS told the UCC that the ad was unacceptable for broadcast because of scenes that address "the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups" by other religious groups as well as "the fact the executive branch has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

ABC’s "20/20" last month attempted to rewrite history, portraying the sadistic murderers of Matthew Shepard as ordinary American kids tricked by lawyers into pursuing a "gay panic" defense at their trial.

A recent episode of the hit CBS show "Survivor" featured the castaways reuniting with loved ones on their remote island. While the straight contestants were shown embracing and kissing their significant others, the camera quickly panned away from any scenes of lesbian contestants Ami and Scout greeting their same-sex partners.

When asked about the editing out of the lesbian kisses, producer Mark Burnett told Entertainment Weekly magazine, "I'd be an idiot not to notice both the way the country voted and the backlash from the FCC that came off of Janet Jackson’s [Super Bowl debacle]. I wanted to protect my franchise and didn’t think it was right to show both lesbian kisses at 8 o'clock."

To which all I have to say is, where the hell is GLADD? (I’ve known for years better then to wonder where the hell HRC is…) The fascist religious right sees now an opening to push for a sweeping clean of gay presence in popular media. Never mind that our presence there is at best, sterile and stereotypical. Even that is too much for the religious right, which wants to completely isolate us from the rest of society. Gay people, our families and friends, and anyone with a sense of the horror that happens when minority groups are systematically isolated from everyone else need to fight the right on this, and fight it hard. Part of waging that fight, is not to cooperate with it.

Ersatz straight-but-not-narrow media personalities, who talk gay equality while keeping a hand on the closet door, need to be told clearly and loudly that if they enable the closet, they are no friends of ours. The mere presence of gay people on a TV show does nothing to help the status of gay people in America, if they have to act straight whenever the camera is on them.

Invisibility is deadly to gay people. The thugs that brutally killed Matthew Shepard, Nicolas West, and Scotty Joe Weaver, killed not human beings, but the less then human monsters the religious right taught them homosexuals are. If you enable the closet, you are enabling the hate that is killing us. Never mind all your fine words about what a bunch of swell people we are. We are dying, because people can’t see human beings when they look at us. If you’re afraid to let them see us as the whole human beings we are…then what is it you see, when you look at us?

David Neiwert over at Orcinus, wrote recently that the “gays are the new Jews” warnings he’s heard since the election struck him as a bit of hyperbole at first. But now maybe not. He quotes this bit from Salon’s Right Hook:

...A pro-family activist from Virginia says voters who put Republicans in office should demand that politicians not employ key personnel who don't hold the conservative views that the party promotes. That activist says the Capitol Hill office of Virginia Senator George Allen is a good example. Senator Allen is head of the Republican Senatorial Committee and was a key figure in the GOP's big victories in November. But Joe Glover, president of the Virginia-based Family Policy Network, says something is very wrong. Glover says homosexual publications have outed at least six members of the senator's office as homosexuals. He says one homosexual activist even went so far as to say Allen had the "gayest office on Capitol Hill." Pro-family conservatives, he says, need to make sure Senator Allen hears their voices. "If someone is going to run the day-to-day operations for the Republican apparatus to elect U.S. senators across the country, then dog-gone-it, it better not be somebody who practices a lifestyle that is diametrically opposed to the evangelical Christian base that delivered George W. Bush and the Republicans in the Senate the victory they saw in November," he says. Glover says Allen's executive director recently resigned because he was outed as a homosexual.

Some of you may have noticed that David Carter’s history of the Stonewall riots has stayed in my book tab for some time now. It’s a must read not just for the history of the event itself, but for a glimpse into what the religious right remembers fondly as the good old days, when a homosexual could be legally denied a professional license just because they were homosexual. Another good read would be Neil Miller’s Sex Crime Panic, which documents how, after the killing of an eight year old boy 20 middle class gay men who had absolutely nothing to do with it, were locked up in a state mental institution, literally for no other reason then that they were homosexuals.

That is where the religious right wants to take this country to again. If you’re helping them put us back into the closet, you are helping them to bring all of that back down on us, and you are no friend of ours.

Let alone everyone who ever said “I have some gay friends myself” and then turned around and voted for Bush. They’re not your friends. They’re your lavender lawn jockeys.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Why Batman Is A Gay Icon

Andrew Wheeler writes a few really good words over at Ninth Art, which you should read, on the question of Batman’s sexuality:

...Bruce Wayne is largely celibate, rejecting the comforts of heterosexual 'normality'. He lives a closeted secret life and is racked by torment. His dark mirror, The Joker, is an outrÈ, flamboyant character who wears make up and lacks Batman's self-discipline, while the quizzing Riddler, the conflicted Two Face and the liberated Catwoman all present challenges to his 'lifestyle choice'. As gay role models go, Batman's not a man to emulate, but confused gay fans will find plenty to identify with.

So is Batman really gay? Of course not. He's a DC trademark, and DC's not going to dilute the marketability of one of its biggest licenses. DC is so adamant about the character's heterosexuality that even as recently as 2000, the publisher was rejecting requests by academics to use copyrighted materials in articles that discussed the character's sexuality.

DC seemingly also wouldn't allow Green Arrow's son Connor Hawke - a low grade second generation superhero - to be written as gay, despite the best efforts of some of his writers. And here's the real root of the problem. The reason people look for gay subtext is because it isn't there in the text.

Homosexuality remains largely invisible even in today's entertainment media, and if no characters are explicitly gay, they all become potentially gay, and every panel and line of dialogue is subject to scrutiny.

For many gay readers, Batman must be gay, because the way he's written makes him the closest thing they have to a hero of their own.

There you have it. Those of us who are gay are so used to having to read between the lines to see images of ourselves in popular art forms, like TV, movies, comic books, that we find ourselves, time and again, investing our pop art fantasies on any even remotely ambiguous character. The issue of this or that comic icon’s sexuality only exists, because real gay and lesbian characters are not allowed to exist. Nowadays, in some pop culture media such as TV or film, we can be foils or villains or comic relief…but even there not the heros. Let it be said that gay people are not alone among American minorities in that regard. Pop culture, being so relentlessly focused on the largest common denominator, has no room for heros from any minority. It wouldn’t sell. But for comics in particular, a medium which in America is seen as largely a format for children and adolescents, any sexual content, let alone a gay one, is especially threatening.

It is a fitting irony that after the comics code authority was created, and comics purged of any trace of sexuality back in the 50s, it became even easier for gay readers to identify with the sexless heros. Perhaps though, this is also why it’s all too easy for some of us now, as adults, to accept sexless representations of ourselves on TV, and in American films. The undergrounds of the sixties and seventies reintroduced sex to the comics, and by the nineties, even mainstream comic heros were allowed to be sexual beings again, and have opposite sex love interests. But as far as gay and lesbian readers are concerned, mainstream pop culture comics are still back in the 1950s. We exist, at best, only between the lines.

So as we grow up, we learn to see ourselves indirectly, between the lines. It’s a bad habit, that makes it all to easy to tacitly accept the lie that our existence is best kept in the closet, our lives unfit for public view. We see ourselves and our lives not so much as subject matter for stories, as for gossip. And when our speculations about certain pop culture icons reach the heterosexual majority, the reaction can range from a dirty laugh, to cries of outrage. He’s Not Gay!

Well, no. None of them are. They were created, and exist, in a world where gay people don’t exist. For all our love of pop culture, it has never loved us back.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Not Reporters, Not Journalists…The Word Is Liars…

Via Atrios, this Washington Post story about a Boston Herald smear campaign against judge Ernest Murphy, who had imposed a sentence prosecutors didn’t like. The case involved the statutory rape of a 14 year old girl by a 17 year old boy…

The prosecutor had hoped to put McSweeney in prison for five years -- for the robbery. The charges against him already had been reduced to statutory rape because no force was involved. Even the prosecutor said Murphy wanted to give McSweeney some prison time, maybe a couple of years. But sentencing guidelines allowed a choice only between a full five years for the charge of "masked" robbery, or no prison time at all.

In court, Murphy said: "I myself have five daughters. . . . I understand what a daughter is. . . . I'm not oblivious to these considerations. . . . [But] I know what happens in state's prison when people like Mr. McSweeney show up at 17 years old."

Murphy sentenced McSweeney to eight years' probation.

Prosecutors were incensed and ratcheted up their media campaign. On Feb. 11, the Boston Globe ran a story under the headline "Bristol DA slams judge's bail rulings."

So the prosecutors went to some friendly reporters to whip up a smear campaign against the judge. What they got was, perhaps, a bit more then they bargained for. One of the Herald reporters, Dave Wedge, had the judge saying of the girl, “Tell her to get over it”, a quote that looks now to have pulled utterly out of thin air. Within days the judge’s own daughters were being threatened with rape.

The way libel works now, you can tell outright lies about public figures such as judges, and get away with it until you cross this nebulous line marked “reckless disregard for the truth”. This was how the right, hand in glove with the major news media outlets, waged its campaign to bring down the Clinton presidency:

Perhaps ABC's most egregious journalistic misstep while chasing the Whitewater story came during a December 1995 Nightline broadcast, which cast an extraordinarily damning light on Hillary Rodham Clinton's explanation about previous Little Rock billings her law firm did on behalf of Jim McDougal's Madison Guaranty. Did Clinton, or a young lawyer named Rick Massey, do the work? After ABC's crude bit of editing of a 1994 press conference held by Clinton, Nightline viewers saw Clinton tell reporters: "The young attorney, the young bank officer, did all the work." Next the screen showed handwritten notes taken by Hillary Clinton's aides during the 1992 campaign: "She [Hillary] did all the billing," the notes indicated. The Nightlight telecast all but labeled the first lady a liar.

What viewers did not know was that ABC not only had taken Clinton's response out of context but had edited out 39 words from Clinton's 1994 press conference response to create a damning scenario. As Conason and Gene Lyons noted in their book The Hunting of the President, "ABC News had taken a video clip out of context, and then accused the first lady of prevaricating about the very material it had removed."

Dig it. ABC doctored the evidence it broadcast. That’s a “journalistic misstep” like robbing a bank is a financial misstep. What makes the campaign against judge Murphy different, is that Murphy is fighting back. What makes it a delicious fight, is that he’s using Dave Wedge’s own appearance on The O’Reilly Factor to prove his reckless disregard for the truth:

But Murphy's attorneys seized on Wedge's comments on "The O'Reilly Factor" on March 7, 2002. O'Reilly asked Wedge, "Are you absolutely 100 percent sure that Judge Murphy said that the rape victim should get over it?" Wedge answered, "Yes. He made this comment to three lawyers. He knows he said it, and everybody else that knows this judge knows that he said it." Murphy's attorneys contrasted these statements to Wedge's statements under oath, when he repeatedly answered "I don't know" or "I don't recall" to questions about the reporting and writing of his story.

Wedge also "upped the ante" by suggesting that Murphy had made disparaging remarks not only about a victim but "to victims," and by telling Fox viewers that Murphy was "coddling defendants," they claim in their briefs.

It’s about time. You can make a strong prima facie case for the proposition that by simply agreeing to appear on one of these right wing howler shows, a reporter has demonstrated a reckless disregard for the truth. I hope Murphy gets him for every last penny he has, or ever will have.

Lost in all of this, are two things. First, the effect of all those all or nothing sentencing laws right wingers have been busy passing. Had Murphy some discretion, the 17 year old boy who started this whole thing might have spent some time in jail after all. The mandatory sentencing rules backfired in their faces. But you can count on the right not to learn anything when their pat notions fail the reality test.

Second, the smear campaign was started by the prosecutors, who went to the reporters with the clear intent of getting something done about Murphy. Of course what they’d like, ideally, is to dispense with all this nonsense about a trial in the first place. I mean…they don’t go to all the trouble to charge somebody with a crime, just to have someone in a robe, maybe along with twelve common citizen dweebs, tell them they’ve made a mistake. The prosecutors who went to the Herald didn’t just attack Murphy, they attacked the rule of law itself. When they didn’t get the decision they wanted, they tried to incite the mob. If any of them still have a shred of conscience left in them, what happened afterward should have scared the hell out of them. But maybe not.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday December 12, 2004

Not Dead…

Nor hibernating. The sudden inactivity here has more to do with a sudden burst of home improvement energy then lack of interest in the blog.

When I bought the Macintosh I set it up in my basement art room on a makeshift table made of plywood propped up by a couple of my bar chairs. Obviously I never intended that to be its final home. I have a mental outline of a plan to build a nice drafting/computer table, with a couple of flat files at either end for storing paper and finished artwork, and some shelves and such for storing tools. But the more I fine tune that plan, the bigger the project gets (that ever happen to you other guys?). In the meantime, one ad-hoc arrangement usually begets another, and another, until you have a mess. Which was what saw when I looked around my basement at the beginning of the week.

I’m not a tidiness freak, my home is never completely organized because I’m busy living in it. But a big enough mess will make me cranky. So I started fixing up my basement space, and in the process decided I needed a better temporary solution (if that’s not a self contradicting concept) for the Mac.

The basement was half finished when I bought the house (Left to myself, I would never have built a bar in the basement). The front of what was once the club room had this odd bench built into the wall, which I took the top off of and started using as an art storage rack. I took the panelling off of one side of the bench and extended the frame upwards to just about the height of my drafting table. The front of the bench angled out about 78 degrees (an odd angle). I added four pine boards the bench frame, with the two at the front cut with a bevel at the top. I tacked and glued cross bracing to the four boards, and let it sit overnight. I had this real nice two and a half by four by half inch piece of what I think is birch, that I snatched from a junk pile that I used as a table top. Its previous owner had given it a real nice urethane finish. straightening out the basement took most of the week, and the table project took me most of yesterday. But my art room is a lot nicer to work in now, then it was a few days ago.

And the damn temporary table looks so nice now, that I’m re-thinking my master plan for the artroom…yet again.

So that’s why I haven’t posted here for the past several days. Sorry. There’s a new cartoon though.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Lies, That Become Fists, That Become Clubs, That Became…

Signorile has a great column in this week’s New York Press:

...Last week we learned that under Thompson, the government told kids in 69 abstinence-only programs in 25 states...programs that reached millions of teenagers...that HIV is spread through tears and sweat, a vicious untruth and a misconception that harkens back to the darkest days of AIDS in the early 80s. The programs, flagged by an analysis by Rep. Henry Waxman that was made public last week, also taught students that half of all gay male teens are infected with HIV, a number that has no basis in fact. The effect of telling kids in elementary and high school...where students are rarely taught anything positive and accepting about homosexuality...that they can get HIV from the sweat dripping from half the homos in gym class is a recipe for gay-bashing. The idea that we're spending millions to expose gay teens to being ostracized and bashed in the name of HIV prevention is revolting. But that's what happens when morality masks as science, as had been allowed to happen in Tommy Thompson's HHS.

And that’s exactly how it works. The lies incite violence. The lies are intended to incite violence. This is what makes ABC News’ whitewashing of the murder of Matthew Shepard so ugly. They’re giving the religious right a free pass to turn the heat up even more, and in fact, one of the major players in anti-gay hate, Focus on the Family, has now demanded that NBC apologize for suggesting that their lies about homosexuals had anything whatsoever to do with Matthew Shepard’s death. Their position is that ABC has now proved that Shepard’s death wasn’t a hate crime.

In his history of anti-semitism and the church, Constantine’s Sword, James Carroll wrote:

We shall see how defenders of the Church take pains to distinguish between "anti-Judaism" and "antisemitism"; between Christian Jew-hatred as a "necessary but insufficient" cause of the Holocaust; between the "sins of the children" and the sinlessness of the Church as such. These distinctions become meaningless before the core truth of this history: Because the hatred of Jews had been made holy, it became lethal.

Sound familiar? The anti-gay right wants, as usual, to have it both ways. If they actually thought that words have no effect on behavior, then they’d have shut up long ago. If they actually thought that words have no effect on behavior, then they wouldn’t give a damn what Howard Stern says on the radio. But on the other hand, when their words begat anti-gay violence, they insist that there is no connection between words and acts.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday December 7, 2004

As Good A Reason As Any To Skip The New Alexander Movie

Well…the critic’s reviews are in…

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek lawyers are giving up efforts to have a new Hollywood film banned and its makers sued for depicting Alexander the Great as a bisexual.

The lawyers, who saw a preview just ahead of "Alexander's" release in Greece on Friday, said it did not have the explicit scenes they had feared, though they were still unhappy it dealt with this aspect of their national hero's life.

...

After Thursday night's viewing, a day before the movie's Greek premiere, the 25 lawyers said the film's content was far less controversial than expected.

"The scenes we had expected to see are not there but there are many sexual innuendos regarding Alexander's sexual activity," lawyer Costas Koutsoulelos said.

...

The movie, hailed by gay and lesbian groups for openly showing Alexander's love for his male friend Hephaestion, includes several references to the lead character's bisexuality.

Reuters - Greek Lawyers Drop Legal Threat to 'Alexander' Film

If Oliver Stone had any backbone, any shred of honesty and decency toward the gay and lesbian audience whose history he took upon himself to put on the screen, then those lawyers should have been furious. Instead they were, barely, satisfied that their line in the sand hadn’t been crossed. That says it all.

Here it is in a nutshell: The movie, hailed by gay and lesbian groups for openly showing Alexander’s love for his male friend Hephaestion, includes several references to the lead character’s bisexuality.

His male friend. His male friend. Well…that’s certainly being open about it, isn’t it? Okay…I’m being sarcastic. But this is the kind of thing that really pisses me off about both the gay press and straight Hollywood film makers. If straight Hollywood film makers are too fidgety to want to deal with same sex love in an honest and straightforward manner then they should just leave the fucking material alone…okay? Treating same sex love like it’s some kind of radioactive waste for the entertainment of mostly heterosexual audiences isn’t helping the condition of gay and lesbian people in this country, or anywhere else at all. It just re-enforces the notion that our lives are ugly, shameful, and best kept out of sight or at most, just whispered about. If re-enforces gay-straight alienation. It keeps our lives in the closet.

And yet, of course, our helpful gay press is lapping it up. Oh…what an important breakthrough gay movie this is. Even bigger then Party Monster or Monster Ever notice how, the only time same sex love is actually allowed to be visible on screen, is when at least one party to it is a homicidal maniac? Our love is still being used, all these years after Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet as touchstones for depravity and decadence.

Many years ago, on a Usenet forum devoted to Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest comic books, I had an argument with Richard Pini that began when I wondered with another user there where, in a world that was so sexually liberated, the gay elves were. His immediate response were words to the effect that there would never be any gay sex in his comic books. But we hadn’t asked for sex. Romance, on the order of that between their opposite sex couples would have been fine. But he just couldn’t seem to grasp that concept. Space traveling aliens mating with wolves to produce a race of elves he could get. A pair of same sex elves intimately in love with each other he couldn’t. For him it was just about graphical images of sex. Later, in a comics journal, during an interview with the two of them the subject came up, and Wendy referenced a scene where two same sex elves were, for the space of a single panel, holding hands affectionately, and cheerfully told the interviewer how great it was, because people could interpret that gesture any way they wanted to.

Yeah. Heaven forfend same sex lovers are actually visible. Keeping same sex love down to a level where it can only been seen in the innuendo is neither healthy for a culture, nor progress for its gay and lesbian members. It is walking up to the line drawn in the sand by prejudice and hate, but never crossing it, never saying out loud, where it needs to be said, that same sex love is beautiful, righteous, sacred, and as essential to the wholeness of gay and lesbian people as heterosexual love is to heterosexuals. It is keeping gay and lesbian people in the closet. I’m told the only same sex kiss in the Oliver Stone Alexander movie is the one between Alexander and Bagoas after the Gedrosian desert disaster. To the one great love of his life, Hephaestion, Alexander is only allowed some meaningful eye contact. That is not progress, that is a slap in the face. It is a slap in the face of gay and lesbian people. It is spitting in the face of love.

Like this world needs more of that. Great job Oliver. Do this world a favor…next time you get an itch to get near a movie set…don’t.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday December 5, 2004

Your Executive Branch At Work

Via Atrios…did you know that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson resigned on Friday…?

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do.

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out Tommy…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Why Is It So Damn Hard To Find A Good Gay…Book.

Jim at The Rittenhouse Review, has a complaint I share in spades. Where the hell is the good gay fiction? I could sure use something good to read now. For the next four years I just know I’m going to be starving for some good books to open and read. Something, please, that reminds me that the human status, and the lives of gay people, are more then the right wing gutter says they are. Yet all I have right now is some manga, and a few gay comics.

Jim read these books so we don’t have to. Say, thank you.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The 20/20 Whitewash…(continued)

Via Atrios Laramie’s Former Police Chief Is Angry…:

...He was, however, surprised that "a production as popular as 20/20 would hinge all of their support for their theory on meth addicts, Doc O'Connor and two convicted murderers...it did not surprise me the way the thing came out."

O'Malley said that he did find out what the focus of the show was shortly after the interview was over and the crew left Laramie. Someone with the crew had left copies of e-mails on his dining room table ó 10 pages of information discussing the overall focus of the program and "their pre-conceived focus that this was not a hate crime. This was a drug crime. That's what they went with," he said.

When he was approached by the producers of this particular segment, O'Malley said he had a weird feeling. "After 30 years, you learn to trust your gut instinct. I asked them specifically if they were coming to do something from a particular angle...I wanted to be able to answer intelligently, think things out."

In the conversation with the producers, O'Malley was assured that the report would be objective, six years after the actual event.

Prior to the arrival of the 20/20 crew, he had heard that the show might be more about the methamphetamine issue. When they arrived at his home, O'Malley asked a few questions of his own.

"I was trying to be comfortable...and I felt comfortable. But when Elizabeth Vargas got into the methamphetamine portion of it, it surprised me," he said. "Actually, it made me extremely angry and, in my opinion, these guys lied to me."

Well…yeah. They lied to everyone who tuned into 20/20 that night too. They have no more conscience then the two murderers they were excusing. It wasn’t enough for them to question hate crime laws. They had to smear the victim of one. And this they did, with the gusto of Aaron McKinney swinging his pistol.

In the Boomerang article, O’Malley notes that after they were arrested, the murderers exhibited no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. “A person who has been on a meth binge, there will be withdrawal symptoms apparent.” It would have taken ABC all of a couple minutes talking with the people who actually had contact with the murderers after they were arrested to figure out that this was no meth driven crime. O’Malley thinks it started out as a robbery, but the condition of Shepard’s body afterwards leaves him with no doubt that Shepard was killed because he was gay.

They burned his body with their cigarettes. They pistol whipped his head until they broke his skull. He was 5 foot 2 inches tall and 105 pounds. ABC says hate had nothing to do with it. ABC could not care less if it did, save that acknowledging hate, might lead to some real tangible steps to combat it. But fearful homosexuals, are good homosexuals. They keep out of sight. They don’t demand equal rights. That’s why the murder of Matthew Shepard has to be whitewashed. That’s why ABC News had to call Matthew Shepard a drug addict, who participated in his own murder. There is no hate. And if there is, it’s only because homosexuals bring it on themselves.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday December 4, 2004

Tea With Marx And Lenin, In The Trashcan Of History

Sounds like Howard Dean gave a pretty good speech at Stanford the other day

"History is on our side, and we will prevail," Dean said, adding that any policy "based on ideology, not facts" will inevitably "end up in the trash can of history."

Yeah. Reality has its little ways of making you pay its dues…

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

-Richard Feynman

Ask the children of Marx and Lenin. Ask the shades that walk at night at Shiloh and Gettysburg. Jefferson Davis once said that if the Confederacy fell, there should be written on its tombstone the words, Died of a Theory. There’s a lot of tombstones in that cemetery with that same epitaph. And along the way, a lot of innocent people, and otherwise noble hopes and dreams and aspirations died too. The human waste of tyrannical regimes is incalculable, and unforgivable. America’s greatness was always that it aspired to be a place where hopes and dreams and aspirations had the freedom to become real. To the degree that we’ve been a strong nation, it was because of the strength of millions of individual dreams of freedom.

Hitler thought it was all about race, and by turns he worried that Aryan immigration to the United States was sapping the strength of Europe, and contemptuously dismissed us as a once strong nation degenerated by mixing with subhuman races. When he rose to power, the people he regarded as subhuman fled Europe in droves, many coming here, where they could be free. So that should have made us even weaker…right. But among the immigrants was Albert Einstein, who was jewish, and Leo Szilard, who was a Hungarian. It was Einstein who made the connection between matter and energy. Szilard figured out how nuclear chain reactions could work, and got a patent on the idea. He wrote the letter which Einstein signed, convincing Roosevelt to begin work on the atom bomb to counter the threat from Hitler. It was a letter both men later came to profoundly regret, but so much for Hitler’s theories on race.

Hitler thought it was all about race. It isn’t. It’s about freedom. But that is as much anathema to theocrats, as it was to Hitler. Like Hitler, the American theocracy believes that freedom and democracy lead to degeneracy. And like Hitler, they see war, religious war, as the natural progression of history. Hitler thought that all war was the struggle between races. American fundamentalists believe that war is the struggle between the forces of god and satan, leading to the climax of history, the final war for good over evil, Armageddon. Listen carefully sometime, to the military language of American fundamentalism. If I could highlight one distinct feature of American fundamentalism over all the other strains of Christianity, their relentlessly militaristic language would be where I would point my light. There it is. You can see it all right there. Listen to them hail victory.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

A He Said, She Said Education

I was thinking about one of the many Abstinence Education illiteracies reported on the other day by Waxman – the one about how, according to one program, the number of human chromosomes is twenty-four.

That’s not true, but then who cares what a fact is. Not the press. All through the two presidential campaigns of George Bush, the corporate news media treated facts in a detached, He Said, She Said fashion, where no lie the republicans put forward was ever called a lie. To call one of their lies a lie would have been, by the new rules, partisan. That turned out to be especially true, the more the facts supported the democrats over the republicans.

So why not teach kids that human beings have twenty-four chromosomes? By the standards of the presidential campaign that was just waged, that it isn’t true isn’t any reason not to teach it. Science says one thing, the Bush administration says something else…He Said, She Said. Pointing out that one view is true and one isn’t is partisan. The religious right is already issuing a barrage of junk science to bolster some of the other bogus claims the Waxman report noted, such as that abortion leads to sterility. But they have another, more powerful option: they can just accuse educators of taking sides against them, if they teach that humans have twenty-three chromosomes. They don’t have to admit their figure is wrong. In point of fact, I expect any day now that some crackpot somewhere is going to produce a study proving that humans actually do have twenty-four chromosomes. Perhaps Paul Cameron or Judith Reisman can author it. Drudge could headline it. 20/20 could do an investigative report on it. They’ll be citing it on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal within days, as proof that abstinence-only curricula should be given equal time in the classroom.

Jacob Bronowski wrote in Science and Human Values that when we discard the test of fact in what a star is, we discard in it what we are. He wrote that society holds together when we respect our human identity, or it falls apart into competing groups of fear and power when it’s concept of what we are is false. Well…here we are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tales From George Bush’s America…(continued)

Via Atrios this morning, Creators Syndicate, the people who bring you columnists and cartoons for your daily paper, some of which include good ones like Molly Ivins, and Deb Price, also seems to feel that racisim is a good way to make money too. Here’s a previous column from one of their talents, Samuel Francis:

Like the Jackson-Timberlake performance, the Owens-Sheridan ad was interracial and brazenly so. If only morals and taste had been the targets, the producers could easily have found white actresses who are less obviously Nordic than the golden-locked Sheridan, but Nordic is what the ad's producers no doubt wanted. For that matter, if you only wanted to take a swipe at morals and taste, you could find a black woman to rip her towel off or replace Owens with a famous white athlete (there are still a few).

But that wasn't the point, was it? The point was not just to hurl a pie in the face of morals and good taste, but also of white racial and cultural identity. The message of the ad was that white women are eager to have sex with black men, that they should be eager and that black men should take them up on it.

So far, only one voice has mentioned the ad's racial meaning and denounced its "insensitivity" (to blacks) -- that of black Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. Blacks are permitted to notice race. Whites aren't.

But the ad's message also was that interracial sex is normal and legitimate, a fairly radical concept for both the dominant media as well as its audience. Nevertheless, for decades, interracial couples of different sexes have been sneaked into advertising, movies and television series, and almost certainly not because of popular demand from either race. The Owens-Sheridan match is only the most notorious to date.

In the minds of those who produced the ad, race is at least as important as the moral and aesthetic norms their ad subverts. To them, the race as well as the religion, the morality, and the culture of the host society are all equally hostile and oppressive forces that need to be discredited, debunked and destroyed. If the destruction can't happen at the polls or through the courts, they can always use the long march through the culture that control of the mass media allows.

Breaking down the sexual barriers between the races is a major weapon of cultural destruction because it means the dissolution of the cultural boundaries that define breeding and the family, and ultimately, the transmission and survival of the culture itself.

His current column is titled Why Immigrants Kill. Go ahead…guess the answer.

Hitler’s recently discovered sequel to Mein Kampf in which he further expounds on his theory that all war is a contest among races, that the white aryan race is genetically superior and will eventually conquer the world, and that racial purity alone keeps a nation strong, should be a big hit in the heartland. How much you want to bet his “talking points” aren’t already hitting the hate radio airwaves out there? Uncredited of course. Mostly.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

We Have Met The Communists, And They Are Us…

I woke up this morning with an image out of my childhood, stuck in my head. Maybe some of you reading this can help me.

My tender years were the Duck and Cover years. I was born, and had my first years of schooling, just as the cold war was peaking. The communist menace was everywhere, threatening our very existence. There were communist subversives within, and communist nuclear weapons without. When you’re that age, you’re not sure what to make of it all. But I’ve often wondered what our grade school teachers were thinking, as they led us in our Duck and Cover drills.

Anti-Communist PSAs were everyone. There is one in particular that I’m thinking about. It is of a young russian school child, looking wanly back at the camera, the top of his head wrapped in heavy chains and padlocks. I forget the details of the voice-over message that went with it (and there was a print ad that was identical), but the gist of the message was See…this is what the communists are doing to their children…imprisoning their minds…and that’s why America is better…

Right now, in the wake of the waxman committee revelations about Bush administration abstinence programs, the steady stream of news stories I hear about Bush administration attacks on science, and their fundamentalist allies attacks on school textbooks, I would love to be able to locate a copy of that ad. Know what I mean?

I know anyone from my generation reading this knows, instantly, the ad that I’m talking about. For a period of time you saw it everywhere. But I’ve googled and googled and just can’t find it, or any reference to it. And I’m sure there were other ads just like it, darkly warning Americans about the evils of communist mind control.

I think they need taking out of America’s attic, dusting off, and being put back into service, if for no other reason then to remind people, that this nation once thought that teaching young kids propaganda was an evil thing, an UnAmerican thing.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday December 3, 2004

Tales From George Bush’s America…(continued)

From Digby, here’s a wee treat to all my republican (ex) friends:

US distributors of the film Merchant of Venice, which premiered in London this week, have asked the director to cut out a background fresco by a Venetian old master so it is fit for American television viewers.

US networks have been embroiled in controversy over naked flesh since Janet Jackson exposed a breast during a half-time performance during the Superbowl. A lesser fuss has blown up about a trailer for the hit television series Desperate Housewives on Monday Night football, in which an actress with her back to the camera drops her towel in a locker room.

Distributors regularly ask for cuts in films so that they can be shown on US tele-vision and by airlines. The request to "paint-box the wallpaper" - cover over the fresco - was contained in a letter from the US distrib-utors, Sony, to Michael Radford.

The director had already anticipated one request by shooting extra scenes for television in which bare-breasted prostitutes are fully clothed.

No sex please…we’re Americans… But to continue:

He was also asked to remove scenes of male kissing, a brief female kissing scene - and simulated slaughtering of goats.

The fifth request was to cut out footage showing meat carcasses.

Finally, according to Mr Radford, there was "a very curious request which said 'Could you please paint-box out the wallpaper?'. I said wallpaper, what wallpaper? This is the 16th century, people didn't have wall-paper."

When he examined the scenes, he realised the letter was referring to frescoes by Paolo Veronese, the acclaimed Venetian 16th-century artist, which, when examined closely, showed a naked cupid.

"A billion dollars worth of Veronese great master's frescoes they want paint-boxed out because of this cupid's willy. It is absolutely absurd," he said.

Here’s some more filth by the artist in question:

Nice huh. This is what you drooling jackasses have helped bring down on the nation that once sent men to the moon. Our television networks are censoring cupids, cupids so they don’t attract the ire of George Bush’s FCC. That about sums it up in a nutshell don’t you think? The same computer imaging technology that’s made humanity’s amazing reach into the far corners of the universe in this century possible, we’re now using to cover up cupids painted by 16th century masters. That’s what you voted for on 9-2. You voted to subtract about fifty points from the national IQ, and Christ knows how much of America’s future potential into the gutter, because you’d rather have had a bunch of barnyard human hating ignoramuses in control of the government then democrats. The word ‘moron’ ennobles all of you.

Say…check out Bush’s abstinence education programs. Now there’s some republican education for you. So half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, have they? So touching a person’s genitals can result in pregnancy, can it?

Never mind your gay and lesbian neighbors…what did America ever do to you, to make you want to piss all over it like this?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Technical Difficulties

You may have had trouble trying to access this site yesterday and today. One of the Internet feeds downstream of my web host (MCI) was having technical difficulties, and unfortunately they were just one or two hops away from my web host itself, which meant that almost no traffic was getting through to them. I think we’re back on line now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday December 2, 2004

In Defending Myself Against The Gays, I Am Doing The Work Of The Lord

Regarding the post below, about the Alabama republican who wants to ban books with gay characters in them, Steve Gilliard, who has been posting some great history lessons on colonialism for the past several days on his site, reminds us that one of the first things the Nazis did was burn the library of Magnus Hirshorn, the first person to study homosexuality in Germany. The more fascists change, the more they stay the same.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Choose The Blue

Another good red state boycott website. I expect to see more and more of this kind of thing as the republican/religious right machine rolls on. I was disappointed for example, to learn that Dell Computer is very much a red company, giving over seventy percent of its political donations to republicans. But then I heard recently that they’re building a new factory in or near Virginia too…so maybe that isn’t surprising after all. I was considering making my next laptop a Dell. Not anymore.

Gay Americans take note: American Express gives 61 percent of it’s political money to republicans. This, after all the very nice gay targeted advertising from them we’ve been seeing in recent years. I’d always thought of them as a gay friendly company. Now their ad on 20/20s whitewash of Matthew Shepard’s murder makes a tad more sense. We obviously can’t trust companies anymore, just because they buy ads in The Advocate, Out, or any of our other community magazines and newspapers.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday December 1, 2004

We Wouldn’t Be Abusing Your Children, If You Faggots Weren’t Raising Any In The First Place

Terry L. Bethea, the Louisiana school teacher who forced the son of a lesbian couple to repeatedly write “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again” after he told his classmates his mother is gay, is now suing the boy’s mother for defamation. Her story, and that of her employers, is now that the boy wasn’t humiliated in front of his classmates because his mothers are lesbians, but for “discipline” problems. Here’s what the teacher wrote on the “Student Behavior Contract” she sent home with him:

A full PDF version is available from the ACLU here.

Bethea is accusing the boys mother of lying about what happened.

Mind you, I don’t think the facts of this case are going to matter to a southern jury any more then the facts of the murders of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney mattered. But what’s different about this case, and all the cases like it to come in the near future, is that the heartland bigots not only have the statehouses, now they have the federal government too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

As An Alternative, We Could Just Not Teach Them To Read

A republican (surprise, surprise) politician in Alabama (surprise, surprise) wants to ban all books with gay characters from public schools:

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

"Our culture, how we know it today, is under attack from every angle," Allen said in a press conference Tuesday.

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

That would be one way to get rid of them. Here’s another:

Remember, 9-2 was the values election. In addition to going thoroughly for Bush in the last election, Alabama voters also rejected an attempt to remove from their state constitution, an amendment requiring segregated schools and poll taxes. The Alabama Christian Coalition opposed removing the amendment. Values.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

CBS and NBC Don’t Want You To Know That Not All Christians Hate Gays.

The United Church of Christ recently began an advertising campaign designed to attract disaffected gay and lesbian christians to its churches:

In stark contrast to prevailing rhetoric about moral values, the United Church of Christ's message offers an edgy allegory in a campaign targeted to Americans who feel alienated from church.

The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound "bouncers" standing guard outside a fabled, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ's commitment to Jesus' extravagant welcome: "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

But this is post 9-2 America, and now only one message about homosexuals and Christianity is welcome on the airwaves. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to run the ad. The reason?

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Similarly, a rejection by NBC declared the spot "too controversial."

Dig it. CBS is saying because George Bush wants a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, they’re not going to run any adds touting gay friendly Christian churches.

For what its worth, here’s the CBS’ own statement on Diversity:

As broadcasters, we aim to ensure that our national viewing audience is reflected in our programming and our people.

We recognize that a work force comprised of a wide variety of perspectives, viewpoints and backgrounds is integral to our continued success.

This is not a campaign, but rather a fundamental way of doing business at CBS, and we continue to be steadfast in our goal to become more diverse and more representative of the public we serve.

-Leslie Moonves
Co-President & Co-Chief Operating Officer of Viacom
and Chairman, Chief Executive Officer of CBS

You may want to (politely) ask them if the above statement is worth more then the paper it was written on:

51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
Fax: 212-975-9174
Email: Diversity@cbs.com

On TV gays can be non-threatening hair stylists, and fashion consultants. We can be bitchy celebrity gossip mongers. We can be soulless sexless situation comedy clowns. What we can’t be, is real people. Diversity.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday November 30, 2004

Franklin Graham Comes Out For Theocracy

As if that’s a surprise. From the latest fundraising letter from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

Moral leadership is imperative to the well-being of any nation. In the Old Testament, Israel and Judah were led by a series of kings. Good kings like Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah set the moral tone for the rest of the nation to follow, doing what "was right in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Kings 18:3). [emphasis in the original] Evil kings, like Jeroboam and Ahaz, brought trouble and instability to their citizenry, through their immoral rule.

Leaders who have a moral value system base on the principles of God's Word are a crucial component for effective government. A strong moral leader will ensure that those who are the most vulnerable and helpless - including the unborn - are protected by society.

The Bible says that the institution of government has been ordained by God Himself. "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established" (Romans 13:1). [emphasis in the original]

Compare this to the words of another Baptist in another age, long, long ago…

God requireth not an uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state; which enforced uniformity, sooner or later, is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls.

-Roger Williams - founder of the
first Baptist Church on American soil

The first Baptists, who were passionately against church/state entanglements, would be frog marched out of the Southern Baptist Convention were they alive today. Franklin Graham has said; “The God of Islam is not the same God of the Christian or the Judeo-Christian faith. It is a different God, and I believe a very evil and a very wicked religion.” But Graham’s god and Osama bin Laden’s are one and the same.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Truth

Via Tom Tomorrow, David Brooks tries to put friendly face on Fundamentalism. Brooks, he of Bobos In Paradise notoriety, has a track record of talking authoritatively about things he has utterly no clue about, which when you think about it, gives him a lot more in common with the fundamentalists then he may think. In this case, Brooks bemoans what he thinks of as a simplistic liberal media view of fundamentalists:

There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored.

Actually, no, there isn’t. The difference is one of style, not substance, a thing that reliably goes over Brooks’ head. He sees it here, and yet does not see:

Stott is so embracing it's always a bit of a shock - especially if you're a Jew like me - when you come across something on which he will not compromise. It's like being in "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," except he has a backbone of steel. He does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and of course he believes in evangelizing among nonbelievers. He is pro-life and pro-death penalty, even though he is not a political conservative on most issues. Most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed.

Truth has been revealed… This is the fundamentalist mindset, and it is categorically not about Truth, but about Authority. In his book, The Ascent of Man Jacob Bronowski had this to say about the likes of Stott:

Karl Friedrich Gauss's observatory at Gottingen was built about 1807. Throughout his lifetime and ever since (the best part of two hundred years) astronomical instruments have been improved. We look at the position of a star as it was determined then and now, and it seems to us that we are closer and closer to finding it precisely. But when we actually compare our individual observations today, we are astonished and chagrined to find them as scattered within themselves as ever. We had hoped that the human errors would disappear, and that we would ourselves have God's view. But it turns out that the errors cannot be taken out of the observations. And that is true of stars, or atoms, or just looking at somebody's picture, or hearing the report of somebody's speech.

Gauss recognized this with that marvelous, boyish genius that he had right up to the age of nearly eighty at which he died. When he was only eighteen years old, when he came to Gˆttingen to enter the University in 1795, he had already solved the problem of the best estimate of a series of observations which have internal errors. He reasoned then as statistical reasoning still goes today.

When an observer looks at a star, he knows that there is a multitude of causes for error. So he takes several readings, and he hopes, naturally, that the best estimate of the star's position is the average - the centre of the scatter. So far, so obvious. But Gauss pushed on to ask what the scatter of the errors tells us. He devised the Gaussian curve in which the scatter is summarized by the deviation, or spread, of the curve. And from this came a far-reaching idea: the scatter marks an area of uncertainty. We are not sure that the true position is the centre. All we can say is that it lies in the area of uncertainty, and the area is calculable from the observed scatter of the individual observations.

Having this subtle view of human knowledge, Gauss was particularly bitter about philosophers who claimed that they had a road to knowledge more perfect than that of observation. Of many examples I will choose one.

It happens that there is a philosopher called Friedrich Hegel, whom I must confess I specifically detest. And I am happy to share that profound feeling with a far greater man, Gauss. In 1800 Hegel presented a thesis, if you please, proving that although the definition of planets had changed since the Ancients, there still could only be, philosophically, seven planets. Well, not only Gauss knew how to answer that: Shakespeare had answered that long before. There is a marvelous passage in King Lear, in which who else but the Fool says to the King: "The reason why the seuen Starres are no mo then seuen, is a pretty reason". And the King wags sagely and says: "Because they are not eight". And the Fool says: "Yes indeed, thou woulds't make a good Foole". And so did Hegel. On 1 January 1801, punctually, before the ink was dry on Hegel's dissertation, an eighth planet was discovered - the minor planet Ceres.

And later…in the book’s most moving passage:

It is said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken".

I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.

Knowledge or certainty. Reason and faith, which is trust in the face of the unknown, stand on one side of the question. Dogma and arrogant ignorance on the other. Elmer Gantry is not a good caricature of the fundamentalist, because he knew he was a fraud. The fundamentalist believes he has the eyesight of God, and with that comes, inevitably, the arrogance, and the brutality, of the tyrant. See it here:

One leading evangelist recently warned, "God's patience runs out."

Dr. James Kennedy delivers sermons at Coral Ridge which are broadcast to 3 million homes. He said he knows of no timetable for God's wrath, but wants results fast.

He dismissed the concerns of people who worried about the impact of Christian conservatives on the U.S. government.

"Repent," he said with a laugh. "Repent. That's what I'd say."

People who are concerned about the influence of Christianity "have never really surrendered their life to God and submitted themselves to his commandments ó and if they did that they wouldn't have so much concern about some court saying again that it's wrong," he said.

Asked about the millions of Americans who are not Christian, or have a different interpretation of Christianity, Kennedy said with another laugh: "I couldn't care less. It's true."

ABCNews.Com - Evangelicals to Bush: Payback Time

Brooks says of Stott that he writes with a voice that is “friendly, courteous and natural. It is humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic. Stott’s mission is to pierce through all the encrustations and share direct contact with Jesus.” No. Stott’s mission, like that of all fundamentalists, is to constrain people’s spirituality, to force them to their view of God, and theirs alone. By persuasion if possible, by force of law if necessary. If your heart calls out to God in a way different from theirs, well, too bad. With what they regard as love and compassion, they will break your heart, utterly shatter your inner life, and then pray over the wreckage. And they are not responsible for the damage they cause. They are forgiven.

Brooks titled his column on Stott Who is John Stott, an oh god am I a clever bastard reference, I’m certain, to the Ayn Rand character in Atlas Shrugged who stopped the motor of the world. It’s an apt comparison in one sense: worldwide radical fundamentalism is certainly trying like hell to do just that. We call the last time it succeeded, the Dark Ages.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday November 29, 2004

The Moral Values Of Pigs

A constant theme after the election is that the democrats need to listen to the “heartland” more. Fine. Let’s. Here’s a little of what the “heartland” calls entertainment, courtesy of Media Matters For America, which you should read on a regular basis:

From the November 12 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:

DON IMUS, host: They're [Palestinians] eating dirt and that fat pig wife [Suha Arafat] of his is living in Paris.

ROSENBERG: They're all brainwashed, though. That's what it is. And they're stupid to begin with, but they're brainwashed now. Stinking animals. They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill 'em all right now.

Poor Sid was a tad miffed that MSNBC had the temerity to apologize afterward for his genocidal racism. I honestly wonder why. It’s not as though MSNBC doesn’t know it’s paying a bunch of gutter crawling bigots to attract an audience. Why act like you have a sense of shame when neither you nor your target audience does? Seriously. Who do they think they’re kidding?

I’ve driven cross-country four times in the last five years and this is the kind of thing you hear constantly on the radio when you get out into the “heartland”. It’s a steady stream of hate, hate, and more hate. Hatred toward foreigners, particularly arabs, but not exclusively by any means. Hatred toward gays and lesbians. Hatred toward “elites” and “liberals”. Hatred toward New Englanders. Hatred toward Californians. Hate. Hate. And more hate. But I agree, the democrats need to go out and listen to it. If nothing else, maybe they’ll realize that they’re in a knife fight with people who hate their guts, and stop trying to reach a goddamned hand out to them. What they need to do, is reach a hand out to those lonely, alienated believers in the American dream that are still out there, stranded in the midst of that sea of hate.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Lessons Learned

From Crooks And Liars:

We've learned a lot from this election. We've learned that Jerry Springer airs on PBS in Oklahoma. We learned that we should post signs on the side of the highway when you cross the Mason/Dixon line that say, 'Caution: Minds Narrow'. We learned that we must never forget that there is a large section of the country where the terms "cousins once removed" and "coitus interruptus" are pretty much the same thing. We learned that "compassionate conservatives" are most conservative with their compassion. We learned that the reason they call it America's Heartland is because clearly the brain is not there. But mostly we have learned that if we're not extra special very careful, America is going to hang itself with it's Bible Belt.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Go Ahead…Give Me A Reason To Skip Christmas This Year…

Via Sadly, No:


The Official George W. Bush Christmas Tree Ornament

Actually…I’ve already got a pair of these on order…

[UPDATE] They came today. So now I have to do the Christmas tree thing…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

We Don’t Need No Steekin Rule Of Law…

Great post up at Steve Sanders Reason And Liberty blog on the hypocrisy of people who say that gay and lesbian Americans are trying to circumvent the democratic process by taking our fight for equal rights to the courts

:

What Caddell really hates is the idea of a court deciding a question like gay marriage. As he complained last week to Hannity and Colmes, "People feel they're not being heard on this. It's blacks. It's Catholics. It's Protestants. And we need to have a debate about this."

Well, let's consider the perspective of the people Caddell claims to speak for: people who apparently prefer to see controversial social issues decided through the democratic process, which reflects the preferences of citizen majorities, rather than by judges.

I mean, as Caddell apparently sees it, it's not like blacks or Catholics have ever turned to the courts to plead for relief from discriminatory laws passed by bigoted, fearful majorities.

It's not like Protestants have ever gone to court to challenge laws or government policies they thought infringed on their free exercise of religion.

It's not like white people, who control virtually every elected body at every level of government, have ever gone all the way to the Supreme Court to plead some nutball grievance like "reverse discrimination."

Of course in truth, racial, ethnic, and religious minorities and majorities alike have all sought refuge in the courts when they believed that policies promulgated through the democratic process violated a constitutional guarantee. (The Massachusetts gay marriage case was decided under the Massachusetts, not the federal, constitution, but the point is the same: constitutions protect rights and liberties, and are superior to laws or policies that reflect the preferences of transitory majorities.) Why is going to court seeking to vindicate your rights suddenly disreputable just because gay people are doing it?

Sanders goes on to list instances where Catholics, African-Americans, and protestants have gone to court to protect their rights as they saw them.

My take on it is this: Yes, it’s hypocrisy…but the people engaging in it know that. The internal calculation they’re making is a devastatingly simple one: We don’t like homosexuals. What we’re doing to them breaks the social contract our rights depend on too, but in this one case the people who hate us actually share our hatred of homosexuals too. So we’re going to do this to the homosexuals anyway, because we can…

And so the social contract is broken. Now your enemies are free to gang up on you. First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew… The hated stranger’s face is actually your own. You just don’t know it. Yet.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Turducken News

Jesse at Pandagon gives us a good example of why network news (including cable) isn’t worth a damn:

I'm watching the Chris Matthews show (the local lead-in to Meet The Press), and what I'm going to be most annoyed with over the next four years is the continued proliferation of Turducken Panels. (For those of you who don't know where the Turducken thing comes from, a brief explanation: in today's media, if there was a debate over whether or not we should eat so much turkey at Thanksgiving, the guests would be the chairman of Butterball, a guy who likes turkey, and for balance, Monday Night Football announcer John Madden with his signature turducken combo-bird for a "different take on the turkey issue.")

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday November 28, 2004

Words…

From SullyWatch:

We also see, as others did, the hidden hand of the insufferable John Stossel in much of this. Is it possible that he intended originally to report the segment himself, but then adroitly realized that he was too much of a lightning rod (or, more likely, someone more senior than himself realized it for him and his ego) and fobbed it off on Vargas and the Thanskgiving break.

Let us also note that this instance of journalistic manipulation seems to have escaped The Blog Queen's eagle eyes:

And now, Shepard's parents have accused ABC of "selective editing" to make it appear they agreed with the program's theses -- deliberately leaving out facts that contradicted the Vargas version, and similarly distorting interviews with two local law enforcement officials.

Doubtless, though, the same right wing that jumped all over Dan Rather will excuse this on the grounds that the segment suggested Mrs. Shepard would say that ... see, she's running a non-profit. It figures.

Also, that move at the end -- showing those interviewed clinging to their earlier conclusions as if to make them look fools for not having been persuaded by what you just saw; then saying, in effect, "But does it matter? Good things happened anyway" is vintage Stossel.

From Judy and Dennis Shepard:

One of the most glaring omissions in the piece was the transcript of Aaron McKinney's in-custody interview which took place a few days after the murder. This occurred before any 'line of defense' had been established by legal counsel for the two defendants. Had that document been included, it would have shown an un-rehearsed and unemotional anti-gay account of the events before, during, and after leaving Matt tied to the fence.

Words…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Beyond Despicable

I’m really outraged beyond my capacity for words over ABC’s whitewashing of the murder of Matthew Shepard. Since I took off for the holiday weekend, I hadn’t planned on doing a cartoon this week. I was visiting family out of state for most of the time. But after watching last Friday’s 20/20 whitewash, I was so angry that it was pretty much either get it out at the drafting table, or explode. As soon as I got home I just threw my luggage in the door and went right downstairs and went right to work. The cartoon just about drew itself. I don’t think I’ve ever produced a finished cartoon in so little time. If it looks a little rough around the edges, that’s why.

For now, I have no words, just that cartoon. Maybe later in the week I’ll have words. Right now, I have no words. David Ehrenstein has words. SullyWatch has words. Pam’s House Blend has words. Roger Ailies has words. Doug Ireland has words. For now, I have only wordless anger.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday November 24, 2004

A Thanksgiving Middle Finger From The Religious Right

Just in case your family Thanksgiving contains a helping of religious fundamentalism…you may want to be on the lookout for this topic at the dinner table…or after. From Seeing The Forest:

I don't have much time right now but I want to bring attention to this "news" story Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School:

A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

Summary (inferred) - the teacher was forcing his students to listen to and read "Christian Nation" propaganda. The school asked him to stop. The teacher is suing the school with the help of a right-wing "Christian Law" organization, the Alliance Defense Fund. (Also see this.)

The school did not "ban the Declaration of Independence" -- that is just a lie. This story is like when you hear that a man was "arrested for praying" and you find out he was kneeling in the middle of a busy intersection at rush hour and refused to move.

This is the BIG STORY today, on Rush, and Drudge, and the rest of the Usual Suspects. And it is a carefully planned and carefully timed lie.

The story is timed for this afternoon so that it cannot be refuted until Monday.

It is timed to cause fights and hatred at family Thanksgiving dinners across the country.

It is part of a strategy to reinforce a "conventional wisdom" notion that "liberals" are "going too far" with their demands of separation of church and state.

People For the American Way has a web page about the Alliance Defense Fund.

Dig it. They timed this story not only so that it probably wouldn’t be refuted until after the holidays, but so that Thanksgiving celebrations all over America would be torn apart by bitter religious arguments. Swell folks. And naturally, our media whores just go along for the ride. Maybe for the next Macy’s Parade, they’ll have a jolly old witch burning…

Try to enjoy your holiday weekend anyway. Right now, for just the next few days, holding on to your sense of holiday spirit is about the best way I can think of to defeat that bitter pit of hate that is American fundamentalism. Give the ones who love you a little extra love this season. They probably need it as much as you do.

Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends
a little better.

-Edgar W. Howe

Okay…Now I’m off for the weekend…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Happy Thanksgiving…

…To all my readers. I put up my Holiday Cartoon just a while ago, and now I’m taking off for the weekend. See you all Monday. Have a great Thanksgiving. Eat recklessly.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Hello Sullywatch Readers…

…and many, many thanks to the blogger behind Sullywatch. Whoever you are, you have far more stamina then most, and it is greatly appreciated. Here’s hoping your holidays are full of better, nobler stuff then you find at the blog queen’s page.

So…Eric Alterman gets a Sontag Award for comparing the Bush team to the old soviet politburo…about two days after Sullivan himself calls neocon Bill Kristol the “Politburo head”. How…unsurprising…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday November 23, 2004

Cameras Don’t Play It Straight Down The Middle

The cameraman who recorded the images of the shooting in the Iraqi mosque last week has, as it turns out, a blog. I haven’t been following the story all that closely, because frankly since Abu Ghraib I saw all I needed to see of the gutter Iraq has become for the United States. Somewhere in the back of my head, when I saw the latest video of the latest atrocity, I reckoned the cameraman was going to get the usual treatment from the Chickenhawk brigades. So much, so obvious. What I didn’t reckon on, because I’ve witnessed so goddamn little of it, was hearing a voice from the old days reply:

Since the shooting in the Mosque, I've been haunted that I have not been able to tell you directly what I saw or explain the process by which the world came to see it as well. As you know, I'm not some war zone tourist with a camera who doesn't understand that ugly things happen in combat. I've spent most of the last five years covering global conflict. But I have never in my career been a 'gotcha' reporter -- hoping for people to commit wrongdoings so I can catch them at it.

This week I've even been shocked to see myself painted as some kind of anti-war activist. Anyone who has seen my reporting on television or has read the dispatches on this website is fully aware of the lengths I've gone to play it straight down the middle -- not to become a tool of propaganda for the left or the right.

Of course, to play it straight down the middle when the facts don’t go straight down the middle, is to let yourself become a tool. A tool for whichever party it is that benefits, from soft peddling the facts. But sometimes when people are kicked around enough, they remember who they are…

But I find myself a lightning rod for controversy in reporting what I saw occur in front of me, camera rolling.

It's time you to have the facts from me, in my own words, about what I saw -- without imposing on that Marine -- guilt or innocence or anything in between. I want you to read my account and make up your own minds about whether you think what I did was right or wrong. All the other armchair analysts don't mean a damn to me.

Here it goes...

Read this. Read the whole thing. It is as powerful a document on this war, and the gutter it taking this nation into, as any you will ever read. But it is more then that. Read it for a sense of what American journalism used to be like, before it started kissing the republican party’s ass:

So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility.

The burdens of war, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us.

His problem was that he was carrying a camera, and cameras don’t play it straight down the middle.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday November 22, 2004

Child, God May Have Given You A Brain, But We’ll Make Sure That You Can’t Do Anything With It…

Good post at Orcinus about the right’s continuing assault on science in the schools. I hadn’t known that one of the big propaganda mills for the so-called “Intelligent Design” theory, the Discovery Institute, is a tool of Christian Reconstructionist Howard Ahmanson…

One of the chief funders of Discovery (and the first entity on its Board of Directors) is a fellow named Howard Ahmanson. Ahmanson is a major figure in the Christian Reconstructionist movement, whose agenda is to convert American government to a theocratic system as a "Christian nation".

Ahmanson is nothing if not diverse. Among Ahmanson's other projects has been the directorship of the Rutherford Institute, which gained some notoriety as the providers of Paula Jones' legal team in her harassment suit against Bill Clinton; and his connection to the controversy over electronic voting systems by virtue of his ownership of a major touch-screen system provider.

But Discovery has been a major recipient of Ahmanson's funds, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer explained a couple of years ago:

Ahmanson, whose family made billions in the savings and loan business, was associated at times with Christian Reconstruction, a radical faction of the Religious Right that sought to replace American democracy with a theocracy based on biblical law and under the "dominion" of Christians. For years, the Orange County multimillionaire served on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, the movement's think tank.

Ahmanson gave Discovery $1.5 million to help start its Center for Science and Culture. Fieldstead & Co., which is owned by Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, has pledged $2.8 million through 2003 to support the institute's work.

The prospect of slowing down this campaign appears dim -- especially considering that George Bush has a long history of pandering to the Reconstructionists.

No Duh. At some level you have to wonder how the right expects to maintain an American Empire all around the world with a work force that can’t think critically. Oh…wait…the world is coming to an end soon anyway. No need to worry about the future…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Liberal (sic) Argument Against Same Sex Marriage

Shorter Susan M. Shell:

Heterosexual copulation can result in babies, so homosexuals should not be allowed to marry.

No…that’s really it. That’s all there is to her argument.

The rest is decorator bullshit, a Louis XIV garden surrounding an outhouse. Society, she claims, must recognize “that human generation and its claims are an irreducible feature of the human experience”…:

A society could abolish "funerals" as heretofore understood and simply call them "parties," or allow individuals to define them as they wish. Were the "liberationist" exaltation of individual choice pushed to its logical conclusion, would not a public definition of "funeral" as a rite in honor of the dead appear just as invidious as a public definition of "marriage" as an enduring sexual partnership between a man and woman? If it is discriminatory to deny gay couples the right to "marry," is it not equally unfair to deny living individuals the right to attend their own "funerals"? If it makes individuals happy, some would reply, what is the harm? Only that a society without the means of formally acknowledging, through marriage, the fact of generation, like one without the means of formally acknowledging, through funeral rites, the fact of death, seems impoverished in the most basic of human terms.

Let’s leave aside for the moment, the fact that even a body is not a requirement for a death certificate, let alone a funeral. And while a church may decide who gets buried in its cemetery, no democracy I am aware of states that certain classes of dead people cannot have funerals, while others can. Let’s leave aside for the moment, the fact that in most societies, civilized and otherwise, the usual rite of acknowledgement and celebration of “generation” is called a birthday. Put all that aside and let’s stipulate that you have to be dead to have a funeral. Fine. What do you have to be in order to have a marriage? The answer is: an opposite sex couple.

That’s really it. You don’t have to be capable of bearing, let alone raising children. You don’t even have to be in love. Age of consent varies from state to state, as do the laws on what constitutes incest. You don’t have to be of good moral character, or even capable of even living together to get married. Convicted murderers are allowed to marry. Same sex couples are not.

This is invidious discrimination on its face…there is no other explanation for it. Decades of right wing rhetoric on the subject has provided not one iota of logical, consistent, honest, good faith explanation for excluding homosexuals from marriage, other then that homosexuals are homosexuals. What’s increasingly apparent, and the Shell essay is an example of this, is that even the intelligentsia of the anti-gay agenda, the ones that know better then to wave God Hates Fags signs in public, know it too.

When you’ve arrived at the point that you know your own arguments are completely wrong, your premises are faulty, the evidence is against you, your conclusions utterly mistaken, there are only one of two places you can go from there: you can admit your mistake and learn from it, or you can do a Bart Simpson, dig in your heels, deny everything, and dare your opponents to budge you from your bitter little ball of dogma. Shell, is digging in her heels:

No heterosexual couples have such freedom from the facts of generation, which they can limit and control in a variety of ways but can never altogether ignore.

You heard it right. There are no sterile heterosexual couples.

No Heterosexual Couples Have Such Freedom From The Facts Of Generation. The statement is false on its face. Some heterosexual couples Do, because either one or both parties are sterile for some reason. Age is one, but not the only reason why this can be so.

This is why, rightly, gay rights advocates ridicule the argument Shell is making here; that The Heterosexual Prerogative is necessary because of child bearing. It isn’t. The fact that exceptions are made, But Only To Heterosexual Couples, is proof that it isn’t. Shell deals with this inconvenient fact, by denying it ever happens. So which soul is the more rotten, the one that makes a cheap rationalization, or the one that can look you in the face, and tell you an outright lie?

Below the surface of this kind of rhetoric is always…Always…homophobia. And Shell is no exception, all her protestations to the contrary. Here and there in the essay, Shell allows her essential contempt for homosexual couples to break the surface, such as where she argues vaguely that same sex relationships have “a plasticity of form, an independence from natural generation, for which they are sometimes praised, but which, in any case, also differentiates them from their heterosexual counterparts.” This is a delicate way of raising the flag of homosexual promiscuity. But Heterosexual relationships have spanned forms throughout history from polygamy and polyandry to serial monogamy. There have been communes and arranged marriages, elopements and in the case of certain pop stars, 24 hour marriages. “Plasticity of form” is not a homosexual thing, but a human thing. But where you really see Shell’s contempt is right here:

The requirement that homosexual attachments be publicly recognized as no different from, and equally necessary to society as, heterosexual attachments is a fundamentally illiberal demand.

Homosexual relationships are unnecessary to society. We are, in other words, disposable. This is exactly what eliminationists say, and what, in totalitarian societies, they do. But what person in their right mind, in an age of international terrorism, war and violence, says that love is unnecessary for civilized societies? And what person argues that equality under the law is unnecessary in a democracy? If anything is fundamentally illiberal, it is the notion that “some animals are more equal then others” and what Shell is saying here, isn’t so much that homosexual relationships are unnecessary to society, but that equal rights are. That is not only illiberal, it is antidemocratic.

To insist otherwise is not only psychologically and culturally implausible; it imposes a sectarian moral view on fellow citizens who disagree and who may hold moral beliefs that are diametrically opposed to it.

Shell calls sectarian, a thing that was once the simple bedrock of America, before the rise of fundamentalism: that all citizens are equal before the law. That is not sectarianism, it is the essence of a pluralistic democracy: even a passionate majority cannot take away the rights of the few, without cause, without due process, with only their passion as justification. That Shell can reject this concept of American democracy, and at the same call her view a liberal one, shows both her contempt for her readers, and for liberalism, and for the American concept of liberty and justice for all that was the hope of oppressed people all over the world.

So the anti-gay rights movement ratchets itself down another step into the gutter. But that’s always where it had to end up. In the end, Moritz Goldstien was absolutely right:

We can easily reduce our detractors to absurdity and show them that their accusations are groundless. But what does this prove? That their hatred is real. When every slander has been rebutted, every misconception cleared up, every false opinion about us overcome, intolerance itself will remain finally irrefutable.

He was speaking about antisemitism, but he could have just as well been talking about any prejudice, any irrational hatred of innocent human beings. The hardest thing to bear about being a part of the gay rights movement, is watching so many otherwise good people, hurling themselves into the gutter, and realizing the sickening truth: that they did it with their eyes open. With pause and deliberation, they murdered the human status within themselves rather then see, and so have to acknowledge, the human status of their gay and lesbian neighbors.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday November 21, 2004

Buy Blue

This is the web site I’ve been expecting to see. Good.

Buyblue.Com, wouldn’t you know it, is owned by a red state (Staunton Virginia) company. Go to buyblue.org instead.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Cartoons…

If you don’t get the first of this weeks’ cartoons, you’re probably living outside of the Washington metro area. The Washington Post yesterday included a nakedly vitriolic anti-gay “magazine” insert, from a local D.C. church. It is basically one big finger in the eye to gay and lesbian Washingtonians, pushing many outright lies about homosexuals and homosexuality (including the long discredited Paul Cameron stats for how much shorter the average gay person’s lifespan is). Had it been a similar screed directed against jews or blacks the Post would never have run it. Apparently inciting hate toward gay Americans for money is still not beyond the bounds of decency at the Post. You can read the screed for yourself here (PDF Format).

That it’s ostensibly produced by a black church is, I think, more evidence that the right sees value in playing the gay wedge issue between blacks and other democrats. There internal polling may be telling them that it worked better then the rest of the nation credits. You can read more about this at The Blue Lemur.

[UPDATE] I just noticed this comment from Rob at The Blue Lemur:

Another thing: I looked at the insert and it claims to be funded and written by a church in Leesburg, Virginia (not far from Washington DC). But the design firm credited with the layout is in Texas. There are design firms all over Virginia and DC, now I wonder why a church would use a firm on the other side of the country?

Texas. Why isn’t that surprising…

Wired Magazine has the story that is the basis for the other cartoon. Senator Sam Brownback (republican…surprise, surprise…) chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee (!) turned his committee room into a comedy stage for junk science quacks this week. No…the following is not copied from The Onion…

Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the "most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today."

"The internet is a perfect drug delivery system because you are anonymous, aroused and have role models for these behaviors," Layden said. "To have drug pumped into your house 24/7, free, and children know how to use it better than grown-ups know how to use it -- it's a perfect delivery system if we want to have a whole generation of young addicts who will never have the drug out of their mind."

Pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever, Layden said.

Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist and advisor to the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality echoed Layden's concern about the internet and the somatic effects of pornography.

"Pornography really does, unlike other addictions, biologically cause direct release of the most perfect addictive substance," Satinover said. "That is, it causes masturbation, which causes release of the naturally occurring opioids. It does what heroin can't do, in effect."

That’s, National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, as in NARTH, the reparative therapy quack bin. The chairman of the Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee, might as well have invited folks from the Flat Mars Society to testify. They even have a name for that “most perfect addictive substance”. No…seriously:

Judith Reisman of the California Protective Parents Association suggested that more study of "erototoxins" could show how pornography is not speech-protected under the First Amendment.

Erototoxins… Just in case you missed it, this was the Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee. Now you know why the Federal Government is selling books to tourists at the Grand Canyon telling them that the Canyon was created just a few thousand years ago during Noah’s Flood. Next they’ll be hearing testimony on how UFOs are really angels here to warn us that the world will soon come to an end. Give them enough time, and we’ll be closing down the airplane factories, on the grounds that if god had wanted us to fly he’d have given us wings.

BTW… If you’re wondering about the large gent standing next to Uncle Sam in the cartoon, he’s John Bull… Sam’s British counterpart.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Living Large On Other People’s Money Is The Story Of His Life…

Via Atrios, this from Reuters:

The Senate voted 65-30 for the legislation late on Saturday that sets aside funds for a range of priorities including a presidential yacht, foreign aid and energy. It is one of the final pieces of work for the 108th Congress and they may return to finish a spy agency overhaul before the end of the year.

Meanwhile over at Oliver Willis, they’re busy creating The Democrat Brand (as in advertising…) I particularly liked this one:

Here’s a few other good ones…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

We Have Met The Enemy, And It Is Us…

Good column by Gary Wills, written just after the election, which you should read. The Day the Enlightenment Went Out:

This election confirms the brilliance of Karl Rove as a political strategist. He calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor. The success of the plan was registered not only in the presidential results but also in all 11 of the state votes to ban same-sex marriage. Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution.

This might be called Bryan's revenge for the Scopes trial of 1925, in which William Jennings Bryan's fundamentalist assault on the concept of evolution was discredited. Disillusionment with that decision led many evangelicals to withdraw from direct engagement in politics. But they came roaring back into the arena out of anger at other court decisions...

...

America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed "a candid world," as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday November 18, 2004

The McKinney And Henderson Award…(runner up)

The Executive Producer of 20/20, which is going to air a broadcast on the 26th claiming that Matthew Shepard’s murder wasn’t a hate crime (I’m hearing that they’re going to say it was drug related and that Shepard was a druggie who knew his killers), David Sloan gained some status at ABC News by playing “the gay card” (his words) to get Dorothy Hajdys, the mother of murdered navy sailor Allen Schindler to talk with him on 20/20.

Sloan is a gay man. In the Advocate article, he says of Schindler’s mother, Hajdys:

We bonded because I was gay. I understood things intuitively that she responded to.

Like how it feels to watch your son’s killers defame him on Network TV? At the sentencing of Arron McKinney, Shepard’s father said:

Mr. McKinney, I'm going to grant you life, as hard as that is for me to do, because of Matthew. Every time you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, or the Fourth of July, remember that Matt isn't. Every time that you wake up in that prison cell, remember that you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. Every time that you see your cell mate, remember that you had a choice, and now you are living that choice. You robbed me of something very precious, and I will never forgive you for that. Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.

A decent man in anguish over what happened to his son, tries to take the higher road for the sake of his dead son’s memory. You can read the whole statement here. Behind every bitter betrayal of human nobility and decency, there is at least one “good” person who sold out. McKinney and Henderson are now going to spend the rest of their lives in prison, taunting and tormenting Matthew Shepard’s parents, and everyone who knew and loved him, and David Sloan has shown them how to do it. Perhaps Sloan didn’t bond all that well with Judy Shepard. On the other hand, he’s a powerful guy at ABC news now, so maybe he just doesn’t need to do that sort of thing anymore.

I wonder how Dorothy Hajdys feels watching Sloan help another gay man’s killers whitewash the hate that drove them to kill? She would know what Shepard’s face looked like after McKinney and Henderson were through with him.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday November 17, 2004

A Life To Live

Before November 2, 2004, I’d counted the fact that many in my close circle of friends were straight, as well as gay, with some pride. Maybe we can’t all just get along, but some of us can.

I can tell from reading the other gay blogs that I’m not the only gay man in America who has been forced by November 2, into some serious re-thinking of who my friends really are. I can’t find it now, but I recall one blogger observing the fact that every single one of his straight buddies from his school years has either dropped out of his life, or holds him at a friendly, but arms length. They were cool about it when he came out to them, but now he wonders how cool about it they really were, since they seldom get together with him anymore.

I know the feeling. The straight friends who made my life seem so happy when I was in my early twenties have almost without exception, vanished from it completely. Others mostly take care to keep me at arm’s length. I’ve excused it in a variety of ways. They’re busy. They have career pressures. I’m living in Baltimore now. But lurking just below the surface of all our encounters, whether in person or on the phone, was their discomfort with my sexual orientation.

They could expect me to listen to their stories about their problems with their girlfriends, their wives, their private lives. They could expect me to chuckle along with them at their sex jokes, or their observations about what made a girl good looking. Nice ass… I do the same and they would make their discomfort subtly, but clearly known. Over the years I think we fell into what software engineers call a deadly embrace: I would think I was coaxing them into being more comfortable being around gay people, and they would think they were training me to just shut up about it when I was around them. I should have brought all this out into the open with them, but I figured these were my friends, I should let them handle it at their own pace. It was a mistake.

Ironically enough, it was only the republicans among my straight friends who kept in closest contact with me over the years. These were not flaming Kultar Kampf warriors, but libertarian-esq Leave Me Alone republicans…or so I thought. As the republican party more and more embraced a strategy of gay bashing to win the fundamentalist vote, I believed they’d have to get fed up with it before long, and while not liking democrats all that better, stand by their friend in the voting booth. Besides…you could call President Smirking Fratboy a lot of things, but a fiscally conservative, small government republican isn’t one of them. But when it came time to take a stand, they voted Bush.

As Digby says, it’s all about tribalism. Bush threw away…no, he laughed at, every conservative value my republican friends ever stood for, in favor of establishing his own cult of personality, and nakedly grabbing for absolute political power. He spent money like it was just his to print, stuffing it by the fistful into the pockets of his political cronies. He grew government size and power like it could never be big enough for him. He made government more intrusive, more ubiquitous, more omnipotent. He flung our soldiers into war, without regard for necessity or consequence, like the world was his game board, and the lives of America’s young were his play pieces. There is utterly nothing conservative about Bush. What then, is left? One thing only: the tribe. My republican friends voted for their tribe. There was simply nothing else for them to cast a vote for George Bush for. And since their tribe includes the likes of James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer and the rest of the anti-gay religious right…it obviously cannot also include me. I am the cancer on their society, I am their sign that civilization is about to collapse, and my republican friends have delivered me into their tender mercies. If, at long last, I cannot see this for what it is, then what self respect can I honestly say that I have? Can I say that even I think I have a right to exist?

Had I enough courage, I could have seen this moment coming years ago. But loosing a friend was always a completely devastating emotional event for me. Since mom died a couple years ago, the part of my heart that bleeds profusely when people exit my life has hardened a bit. I should be careful that it doesn’t harden too much. But I’m also old enough now to acknowledge the difference between friendship and condescension, between love and patronization. Robert Frost was wrong:

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

To have as my last sight on earth the empty smiles of a pack of sycophants watching while I die is not my idea of a dignified end. Better to die alone, with a good conscience.

Now there’s only my brother, who lives on the other coast, and a small group of straight friends who I speak to seldomly anymore, but who at least didn’t vote to throw my citizenship into the gutter. My brother and I get along so well it is one of the great regrets of my life that we lost touch with each other for so many years. I’ll keep in touch with the others for as long as they want to stay in touch. The rest can go to hell.

I’ve had my phones turned off for a while here at Casa del Garrett, including my cell phone which I usually keep on. A gay friend recently said he couldn’t blame me, but that there is no hope of reaching people if you don’t even talk to them. Fair enough, but as I said in reply:

I spent literally decades talking to these people. We didn't just sit around and discuss politics. I shared my life with them. I've shared a thanksgiving meal with them all at least once. They still don't see me as an equal. They're still completely comfortable with voting my rights out of existence. They still think I shouldn't hold it against them. I think the calculation here is that I should excuse their political gay bashing, if they can excuse my homosexuality. I am tired of making internal excuses for them. I'm tired of waiting for them to get over their ignorance and cheap shit prejudices. This was one knife in my heart too many. Its over. I don't know these people.

I'm finally willing to admit now, after all these years, that what I'd thought was friendship was, in fact, patronization. Think of Truman Capote's quote about how a faggot is the homosexual gentleman who just left the room. I was a faggot to those people. We got along well enough, but all that time they thought of me as some kind of defective, one of Dr. Laura's mistakes of nature. Some of them, probably, felt sorry for me. I was the cripple in their midst. A decent fellow, but tragic. Probably made them feel very enlightened to have me around. The signs were all there, I just kept not wanting to see them.

I always had this idealistic streak in me, and now I see how badly it played me:

I knew the moment I discovered it, that my sexual orientation would matter to people, in ways it just shouldn't. I had that if I just lived my life as if it didn't matter, even though I wouldn't be able to single-handedly change the world, I could at least create a bubble around myself, where it really didn't matter. It seemed so obvious. The people that hated faggots would leave me alone. I would be left with the people who didn't care. From those, I could make myself a world in which it didn't matter, and their company would be my nest apart from the world in which it did. But prejudice, and human duplicity are two awesome things to behold. The Fred Phelps' of the world will throw their contempt for you in your face. Others aren't so loud about it, but they'll still avoid you whenever possible, simply because they just don't like your kind. What I'd never fully appreciated until now, is how some people can hold a prejudice, hold onto it ferociously, and still make an exception for You.

Duplicity. Hypocrisy. People with a prejudice toward homosexuals can make an exception for you, and still feel perfectly right in all their hostility toward other homosexuals. And despite that exception they make for you, that hostility still translates into votes that assault your existence. So ultimately their exception means nothing. You become the 'some' in 'some of my best friends are'. You exist, merely to enable their prejudices.

I'm not saying you should refuse to talk to anyone who harbors anti-gay prejudice, but friendship requires not just faith, but trust. I am inviting someone into my life. I am opening a door to my heart for them. After three decades of voting to strip me of my basic civil rights, notwithstanding their declarations of good will to me Personally, I see myself being abused one more time. Enough then. I Don't Want Them In My Life Anymore.

I’m going to take a brief vacation in December. Maybe go to South Beach and gawk at the beautiful guys for a while, and try to remember why life is good. Then come back home and try to socialize a little more in the gay community. There will come a day that gay folk are just another part of the community of citizens, no more or less remarkable then any others, but that day is not now, and I have a life to live.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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