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Archives, January 1 to April 7, 2004

Friday April 2, 2004

Nice Tent. Maybe Someday They’ll Let You In…

Often, but since president defender of sodomy laws announced his support for the anti-gay marriage amendment more then ever, I’ve heard people, gay and straight, wonder how the hell anyone can identify as gay and republican. Gay and conservative…maybe. But the republican party is to homosexuals as the Ku Klux Klan is to non-whites and jews. How does any self respecting gay declare membership in a political party that hates their guts.

Well, thanks to Boi From Troy I think I now know the answer: They have a problem seeing things that are right in front of their faces.

It was reading about Wonkette’s Gayest Seeming Bushie Contest that I saw the link to Boi. He describes himself as “…a 6’1″, 167 lb., 28 year-old, gay male, republican, sports fan living in West Hollywood, California and sharing my thoughts on politics, sports and gayness with the world.” Okay. Swell. This world certainly needs a 6’1″, 167 lb., 28 year-old, gay male, republican, sports fan living in West Hollywood, California, whose thoughts on gayness include the observation that most “so-called” gay activists are more interested in abortion, labor unions and raising your taxes than they care about “with whom I can engage in buggery.” Lest we all fear that Andrew Sullivan might suddenly grow a conscience, re-read all the political hackery he’s done for a president who would as soon see him locked up for sodomy as look at him, and crawl shame faced away from public view. We need a spare…just in case.

But what really caught my attention was this:

In this post below, I linked to a New York Times photo of John Kerry on the slopes in Ketchum. Now Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds, Bill Hobbs and others are blogging about the mysterious daisy Kerry was wearing that day...suggesting at first that it was either a ski ticket or photoshopped. Their conclusion...it was neither a lift ticket nor photoshopped.

But then I went back to look at the New York Times photo where Kerry was wearing the same ski outfit that day...here are the two photos side-by-side (NYT on the left, AP on right):

Notice anything missing from the New York Times photo? My local Times is no stranger to doctoring images...could it be contagious among major newspapers to selectively edit their pictures to project the images they want?

No…he’s serious. He thinks (or thought) that they’re the same image, only one’s been slightly doctored to remove the daisy on Kerry’s jacket. Now…he actually went to the trouble to grab and post both pictures, so you know the half-wit had to at least glance at them once before he posted. And he really thought he saw two versions of the same image.

He later updates his entry to note that a “careful reader” has alerted him to the fact that the jacket is different in both pictures. Gosh that was careful. Then he makes the discovery all by himself that Kerry’s “undershirt” is different too. Way careful.

Hey Sherlock…the snow board’s different too. And the background. And the curl of snow under the board. And the angle of his head. Oh hell…never mind…

So if you’ve ever wondered how a gay republican can act like they just don’t see how much their party hates them…well…they may really have trouble seeing what’s right in front of their noses after all.

[Edited a tad...]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday April 1, 2004

Well…As Long As He’s Not A Homosexual…

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, continues to squander the future of this nation’s best and brightest…

BOULDER - Touched by the story of a University of Colorado student who was kicked out of the Air Force ROTC for admitting she is a lesbian, a professor and an alumna are trying to help.

Mara Boyd had her military scholarship revoked after coming out to her commander in September 2002 in violation of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Told she would have to pay back the $30,990 for failing to complete her service, Boyd left school and started working as a gardener.

"It's pretty daunting to take on that kind of debt," said Boyd, now 22.

Journalism professor Jan Whitt and Susan Schmidt, a member of the Alumni Association, hope to make it less so. They've set up a fund to raise money toward Boyd's debt, with the ultimate goal of seeing her return to the university.

"I want Mara back in school," Whitt said. "She is bright, articulate, courageous and honest. She will succeed at whatever she does, and I want her to graduate and represent the university well."

After hearing about the story, CU leaders, including Chancellor Richard Byyny, requested that the Air Force excuse her debt. They argued in a letter that she had been an exemplary cadet who didn't realize she was a lesbian until after her sophomore year.

Their request was denied...

Ousted gay ROTC student at CU gets help with debt

They said the presence of homosexuals in the ranks was too disturbing to other soldiers. So the courage, energy and ability of literally tens of thousands of American citizens like Mara Boyd would be sacrificed, so that others could feel more comfortable in their barracks.

Others like Max Rodriguez…

DENVER -- A former Air Force Academy cadet accused of rape will be commissioned as an officer after he successfully appealed a separate disciplinary case, the man's accuser said.

Military officials informed 2nd Lt. Lisa Ballas that Max Rodriguez will become a commissioned officer, Ballas told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

Rodriguez was never charged with sexual assault but was expelled for other reasons that were not disclosed. He appealed to Air Force Secretary James Roche, who ruled in his favor, said Air Force spokesman Col. Jay DeFrank.

"During the course of an extensive review, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing and that Rodriguez should be reinstated and commissioned," DeFrank said.

"I feel this is a personal attack against me," said Ballas, who has agreed to have her name used. "The thing I have wanted the most from all of this is for Max Rodriguez not to wear a uniform. Now that he will I can't stay quiet."

...

Rodriguez has denied assaulting Ballas. His lawyers said she had been drinking heavily with Rodriguez and others the night of the alleged assault and had been involved in a game of strip poker before the alleged attack on Oct. 13, 2001.

"My parents were told by prosecutors that there was no way he would be charged with rape, but they would do their best to get him removed because they knew of other improper behavior," said Ballas, now a second lieutenant in flight training in Pensacola, Fla.

The alleged improper behavior was never specified. DeFrank said he had no information on what had been alleged against Rodriguez.

Ballas' case was one of several that led to sweeping changes at the academy, including the ouster of the top four commanders.

Remarks by Brig. Gen. Taco S. Gilbert, then commandant of the academy, were interpreted as partially blaming her for the events.

Cadet Accused of Rape to Become Officer

There is a nexus in the contempt of the homophobe and the misogynist, and you never see it more clearly then in the U.S. military’s treatment of women and homosexuals. They both bring their troubles on themselves for not knowing their place. They are both guilty until proven innocent.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Somebody Tell Me Again About How Republicans And Conservatives Are In Favor Of Smaller, Less Intrusive Government…

Via Matthew Yglesias…

NEWPORT NEWS [Virginia] - A Newport News woman charged with a felony for receiving oral sex in a car is challenging a state law that prohibits certain types of sex between consenting adults.

A police officer says he found the 21-year-old woman in a parked car receiving oral sex from a man about 3 a.m. Jan. 29. Both were charged with a felony under the statute for crimes against nature.

...

Virginia's statute on crimes against nature says people can't have oral or anal sex, whether homosexual or heterosexual. But the law doesn't specify whether the sex is illegal in public or in private.

State's law on sex act challenged

I hear so many people these days talk in tones of amazed wonderment about how republicans and conservatives have been so quick to abandon their core principles, such as states rights, with things like the anti-gay marriage amendment or over things like Bush’s steel tariffs and big spending ways. But it was always easy for them to posture when they weren’t actually in a position to dictate policy. Now they are, and lo and behold the truth comes out. They never had core principles. What they had was rhetoric. Different things.

If liberals are people who believe in less personal freedom, big spending and big government with no accountability, then republicans are liberals.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Gutter Crawlers

Well…I thought I was going to take a hiatus…and I still might. But I had to post about this: It looks like the Bush gang are going to play the queer card on Richard Clarke. I have no idea at this point whether the man is actually gay or not, but thems apparently the rumors the Bush gang is now spreading, in their ongoing smear campaign against him.

Atrios alludes to it, Wonkette discusses it openly, wondering aloud in the process about a president that keeps telling men what beautiful faces they have. Paul Krugman alludes to it in his column today, which begins incisively:

Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack."

So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power...

I reckon there aren’t too many people left on this good earth who are still deluding themselves about the inner squalor of the man occupying the white house and his gang. Anyone with half a brain saw it during the primary, and even a dead pig on a stick could have seen it after Florida. The people still proclaiming his virtues in office now are his fellow residents in the American gutter. They know what he is, and they’re fine with it, because they know what they are.

On Atrios’ comment boards, they’re talking about mutually assured destruction, as in what happened to Pete Williams during the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell fight. Personally, I’m all for it, but it’s worth bearing in mind that mutually assured destruction is still destruction and that’s fine with the thugs in power now. The ashes of our democracy is where they hope to do their victory dance.

This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics - even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power - to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics.

Paul Krugman

Getting these goons out of the seats of power is going to be painful. Fine. Bring it on.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Remind Me…It Was Going To Be A Cakewalk…Right…?

Between conference sessions, I wander around the Foggy Bottom area, and back and forth to my hotel, which I paid for out of my own pocket, rather then hassle with Washington traffic, which is a nightmare. The hotel has a nice little kitchenette, which allows me to eat reasonably well without further damaging my budget for the month. Around noon I begin the walk back to my hotel for lunch, stopping to examine a decrepit building right next to the conference hall, that I assume is one of the student dorms. It is, and I see by the bronze plaque by the door that this one is named Lafayette Hall. I read the inscription, which briefly describes the history of Marquis de Lafayette, who fought beside George Washington, taking a bullet in the process, for the freedom of a nation that was not his own, and who later attended the first commencement ceremonies of the university that bore his friend's name, shaking the hand of each of those first graduates. While I am reading, a snarky voice in the back of my mind is saying Freedom Fries...Freedom Toast... An old friend of mine I'd had breakfast with that morning, told me a joke he'd heard about a man who, while visiting France recently, asked a random Frenchman, "Sir, can you speak German?" When the Frenchman replied that he couldn't, the American said, "You're welcome." I told my friend the Frenchman could just as easily have asked the American, "Sir, do you have a king?"

My hotel is somewhat oldish. My room is on the sixth floor and the elevators are small and slow. I press the button and when one finally appears, I see that there are already two businessmen inside. It's a tight fit for three. As we go up I feel the hair on the back of my neck rise. There are some who you would never know from the look of them, to be of the right wing thuggish persuasion, and there are others who hit you with it in waves, in the cut of the clothes, the bullying posture that is as second nature as breathing, and the coldness of the face, particularly when smiling at nothing in particular. I tune them both out, pulling out from a space within me I'd almost forgotten about, a "Yes I'm a longhair, yes I know you hate my guts, and no mister establishment person sir, I really don't give a flying fuck" attitude, close my eyes, and listen to the elevator floor counter click off the floors to mine. I toy briefly about writing a book, "Everything I know about living under Bush II, I learned from Nixon". The old elevator rises slowly. I hear one of my companions say, "I hope they don't cancel our flight out Thursday." The other chuckles and says, "The war will be over by then."

Flashback...Washington D.C...March 18, 2003

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Heterosexual Prerogative

The New York Times has an article up today about real estate law as it applies to same sex couples. Anyone who has heard the argument that same sex couples don’t need marriage, because they can make private contracts to secure their rights if they want (and who hasn’t heard that argument), might want to read this.

Another form of title to real estate, Ms. Bluth said, is known as a tenancy by the entirety. "This form of ownership is only available to persons who are legally married when they acquire the property," she said, adding that while tenancy by the entirety historically applied only to real property - like houses and condominiums - on Jan. 1, 1996, the law in New York was changed to allow co-op apartments to be owned as a tenancy by the entirety.

With this form of ownership, Ms. Bluth said, the spouses do not hold partial ownership interests in the property. "Instead, each spouse owns 100 percent of the property and the right to possess the entire premises, subject to the parallel right of the other spouse," she said. And when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the sole owner of the property, not because of any right of survivorship, but because he or she has always had a 100 percent ownership interest.

"In essence, upon the death of the first tenant by the entirety, his or her interest in the property merely disappears," Ms. Bluth said, adding that the law makes certain assumptions about how title to property will be held in the absence of a specific election by the parties to hold title in another way.

"The law assumes that a married couple acquiring real property or a co-op apartment take title as tenants by the entirety," she said. "And when unmarried people acquire real property or a co-op apartment, the law assumes that they take title as tenants in common."

I’m sure this varies state by state…but not by much in any fundamental way. Marriage confers rights automatically, that couples who cannot legally marry cannot attain in any other way, even if they tried. A same sex couple cannot make a contract with each other for “tenancy by the entirety”, because that form of ownership is reserved for legally married couples only.

One thing that bears keeping in mind is that people who are familiar with how the law works, and that would include lawyers, real estate agents, any number of people who deal with matters of law on a day to day basis, would know perfectly well the degree to which unmarried couples cannot avail themselves of the rights married couples can. When the lobbyists for various anti-gay political organizations yap for the TV that gay couples don’t need marriage, because they can always write a contract, they almost certainly know from first hand experience that what they’re saying isn’t true.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Satire Is Officially Dead

It wasn’t the Successories graphic of Christ on the cross, there below the menu of the website of official licensed products for Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. No. It wasn’t the empty cross coffee mugs. No. It wasn’t the Passion Nail (as in nailed to a cross) necklaces, available in 1 7/8 and 2 5/8 sizes for men and women. No. T’was the Passion Nail keyrings that marked the official end of satire.

There. You’ve lived to see it. Remember this moment well. Future generations will ask you what it was like.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

As Civil As A National Dialogue On How Much To Persecute A Minority Gets

They’re busy fighting evil in gulfport. evil incarnate being homosexuals, naturally…

GULFPORT - The City Council passed a resolution Tuesday supporting President Bush's proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Councilman Billy Hewes introduced the resolution, saying it would help to protect the country's moral character from the forces of evil.

"To me, folks, things like (same-sex marriage) is the devil at work," Hewes said. "I think it is one of the most irresponsible things that people in government could allow to happen."

The resolution states the acceptance of same-sex marriage would "have a devastating effect on moral traditions and on the laws and legal system of the country."

Mayor Ken Combs endorsed the resolution.

"About 54 years ago when I got married to my wife, it was perfectly legal for us to get married and illegal for people of same sex to marry one another and that's the way I stand today," Combs said. "I don't move a bit from that stance."

Councilman Chuck Teston said same-sex marriage defies the intentions of Jesus Christ.

"I wouldn't be sitting here today if we condoned men marrying men and women marrying women," Teston said. "I don't think that's what the Lord Jesus Christ meant for us."

The Biloxi Sun-Herald - Gulfport supports ban on gay union

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.

-James Carroll, “Constantine’s Sword”

by Bruce Garrett | Link

And While We’re At It…Let’s Make Sure They Can’t Buy A House Either…

RACINE - Marilyn Riedel, 61, a disabled Army veteran, has trouble moving, drinking and eating. It's difficult for her to talk because her worsening Parkinson's disease makes her tongue quiver.

But she's so lucky. She's lucky because a woman named Connie Guardino, 58, loves her with her whole heart. Whatever the future may offer, this couple will face it together, and they'd like to do it in a cute little two-bedroom home on Illinois Street.

If they were married, they could have it. But because they are a same-sex couple, they've been rejected for a loan by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Politicians and citizens may debate what rights are appropriate for same-sex couples, but it's up to Riedel and Guardino to live with the results.

...

In the 1960s, this Army captain had 130 soldiers under her as she struggled to hide her sexual orientation. Her unit at Fort Ritchie in Maryland helped to operate a communications center for the president near the Camp David presidential retreat. Meanwhile, she feared she'd be transferred to some undesirable spot in Europe if her sexual orientation was discovered.

Later, as a pastor at Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church, 1700 S. Green Bay Road, she struggled to reconcile her faith with her sexual orientation. Soon after leaving the church in the mid-1980s, she noticed her left hand quivering. At first she thought it was some sort of inherited trait.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

100 percent disabled Now, retired Capt. Marilyn Riedel has served her country, and she is labeled 100 percent disabled by the government, but she may not apply for a veterans loan with her same-sex partner.

The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs offers sweetheart deals on loans to veterans. But without much of an income, Riedel can't qualify for a loan. With Guardino as a co-applicant, she'd be able to qualify, but a co-applicant must be a spouse under Wisconsin law.

"A spouse is an individual who enters a valid marriage contract. Unless the law is changed, there is no way that we can change that," Wisconsin DVA spokesman Andrew Schuster said in an interview. "We go directly by the statutes. We don't have any authority to vary that."

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Division Administrator William Kloster sent Riedel an e-mail on March 12 that explains her same-sex partner cannot be a co-applicant. He adds: "I know this may not help you but we are bound by the law and the rules that apply to the bonds we buy to make loans."

The Journal Times (Wisconsin) - No loan for disabled vet, same-sex partner

Of course, if the federal anti same-sex marriage amendment passes, this will become the law of the land in every state, regardless of how much its people may be offended at the knuckle dragging bigotries of other states. Meanwhile, states that are passing anti same sex marriage amendments, are nowadays taking care to spell out the fact that any civil recognition of same sex couples will be against the law, no matter how small. In states that have already passed them, republicans are busy closing what they see as the domestic partners loop hole. If the republicans have their way, discrimination against homosexual Americans will become as deeply engrained in American law, as racial apartheid was once in South Africa. Homosexuals will have to live under a set of laws crafted specifically to exclude us from as many aspects of civil life as the republicans can think of. We will become non-citizens, in our own country.

For years I’ve heard gay republicans and gay conservatives argue that there are more important matters for them to consider when voting, then their sexuality. Economic matters. Matters of national, and personal defense. But if you allow the pink triangle to be sewn into the constitution, none of these will matter. You’ll have no economic rights. Your country will have no interest in defending you, and you’ll have no right to defend yourself. When that day comes, all that will matter is survival, and the odds won’t be in your favor.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

And While We’re At It…Let’s Take Away Their Ability To Hold Down A Job Too…

Via 365Gay.Com… Bush Office Of Special Counsel appointee Scott Bloch, says that while gay and lesbian federal employees cannot be fired for attending a gay pride event, they can on the other hand, be fired simply for being homosexual

"People confuse conduct and sexual orientation as the same thing, and I don't think they are," Bloch said in an interview with Federal Times, a publication for government employees.

Bloch said gays, lesbians and bisexuals cannot be covered as a protected class because they are not protected under the nation's civil rights laws.

"When you're interpreting a statute, you have to be very careful to interpret strictly according to how it's written and not get into loose interpretations," Bloch said. "Someone may have jumped to the conclusion that conduct equals sexual orientation, but they are essentially very different. One is a class . . . and one is behavior."

This is almost a complete reverse of the tack I hear most homophobes take when it comes to workplace discrimination. The usual rhetoric you hear is more along the lines that nobody is ever fired just for being gay, they’re fired for some sort of homosexual conduct. If you don’t act on your unnatural urges, how is anyone going to know that you’re a homosexual…? Bloch, since he is apparently unable to justify letting federal gay employees be fired for conduct, such as going to a pride day event, without a doubt at the behest of his master in the white house, deftly turns it on its head. Okay…we can’t fire you for acting gay, but we can still fire you for being gay. And speaking of complete reversals, this renounces federal policy on discrimination due to sexual orientation going back to 1973.

You have to figure they’ve nothing to lose now, when it comes to prejudice toward gay and lesbian Americans. They’ve waved the bloody flag over same sex marriage, the few naive (okay…blind as bats) gay supporters they managed to hold onto up until then are livid, nobody can seriously claim anymore that Bush isn’t actively hostile toward homosexual Americans, so…what the hell…let’s go all out for the gay bashing vote. Might as well.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Another Reason To Go Open Source…

USA Today: Tech titans give more to GOP

Once upon a time they were at the cutting edge of a new technology, that brought power to everyday people in a way the world hadn’t seen since Gutenberg. Now they’re falling over each other to sell that promise out for a seat at the feast of thugs and tyrants.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Moronsexuals

Okay…now they’re yapping that not only don’t we love, homosexuals don’t have sex either. In L.A. Times letters to the editor page the other day was this fragrant little gem:

Kmiec's column explained the legal issues of gay marriage quite well. Sex is a union of male with female. As such, gays do not have sex. They can only engage in sex play. If the polarity is missing, the act is not sex; and a union between like genetic material is impossible.

I might want, with all my heart, to play center for the Lakers. But I'm too old, too short, female and a terrible athlete. It would be ridiculous for me to suggest I am entitled to play with the Lakers because I have the same rights as any human.

Gays are entitled to form unions that meet their needs and give them full protection under the law. But they need to do so without trying to redefine sex and marriage.

Rosemary Patterson, Los Angeles

Well…okay…if Rosemary to-old-to-play-football is old enough, there won’t be any “union between like genetic material” in her bed either, which means she doesn’t have sex, nor do a lot of heterosexual couples.

I know…I know…people who dispense this crap are morons. So what’s being proven here isn’t that a lot of people only think they’re having sex, but that some people only think they can think.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, March 15, 2004

Theocracy Rising

God loves you and I love you and you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about the future can hear.
George W. Bush - in a speech before the "Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Conference" in Los Angles On March 3, 2004
As Quoted in Slate.Com

by Bruce Garrett | Link

…is not strained.

Great Leonard Pitts Jr. column the other day on the black response to the gay civil rights movement. He begins by saying, “Call it an object lesson in the quality of equality.”

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, March 14, 2004

Change Of Schedule

Every weekend now since I started working back in September to finish my degree, I’ve felt the pressure of two colliding deadlines. My classes almost always have had Sunday at midnight as the deadline for submitting work for grading. But for two years now, that’s also been my self imposed deadline for getting a new cartoon up. This weekend, I finally had to accept the fact that I can’t keep doing both, without ending the weekend too stressed for work the following Monday. That work pays my bills, and it’s the one pure joy of my life currently, so I need to adjust things around here.

Starting this week, new cartoons will appear on Wednesday, instead of Monday. I think that’ll work out better, because evenings during the first few days of the week are generally my least stressful, and that’ll allow me to finish up a cartoon gracefully, without rushing anything onto my scanner.

I know, because a few of you have told me, how much having your Monday “fix” of one of my cartoons is to you. And I always wanted it to be a start the week kinda thing for my readers. But the programming assignments I’m getting now are intense, and I just can’t do both over the weekend anymore. So think of them now, as more a middle of the week breather. Something to remind you in the middle of yet another week of republican right wing homophobic babbling why you’re still fighting the good fight.

Stay tuned…I may have something else for you sometime in April. (I hope…)

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Home Front

Every time I hear a black conservative bellyaching that gays have never had to face prejudice and discrimination and hate the way blacks have, I am reminded of a line I heard somewhere, that yes, our struggle is a different one: for one thing black kids don’t have to tell their parents they’re black. The fight for justice and equal rights, brands our consciousness in a different way. If it seems sometimes as if our struggle is more personal and emotional and heart embittering, there’s a reason. The knife strikes us first from those we are the most vulnerable to, and at a time when we are already busy struggling our way though adolescence. Family. Mothers and Fathers. Childhood friends and peers. Dealing with the hatred of strangers is trivial by comparison. Strangers can wound your body, they can take your life, they can make you afraid, but only family can eat your heart and spit it back out.

I had it good. My own parents simply refused to talk about the matter, and right to the end of their lives maintained a don’t ask, don’t tell policy regarding it. They never nagged me to get a girlfriend, never forced me into church or therapy, always, in every other way possible, showed me that they loved me. But the subject of my sexuality was utterly off limits. Even when I brought boyfriends into our apartment, they would doggedly refuse to see the obvious. Smiles all around, but I never got the discussion of the dating and mating game others did while growing up. Yet, I consider myself blessed. One boyfriend told me, in hushed words as we lay together one night, how after he came out to his own parents, how after they both reassured him of their undying love, the next morning his father printed up several hundred brochures listing every biblical damnation of homosexuality he could find, and added a few of his own for good measure, and then placed one in the front door of every house in their neighborhood.

You hear people complaining about the apolitical mindset of many gays. I think the reason isn’t self centeredness, so much as that the family battle looms so large by comparison, and wounds so deeply, that there is almost no room left for political activism. Many deal with the family matter by moving far away, cocooning, dropping out as some in my generation used to advise. The fear is that opening the lid on politics, getting into the political battle, will reopen deep, and always tender wounds.

But for Gays and Lesbians, there is almost nothing about the act of making a life for ourselves, that isn’t political, that doesn’t require a degree of bravery, a willingness to endure once more, the old wound:

David Knight, son of the state senator who was the author of the California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage, defied his father's law and wed his partner of 10 years Tuesday in a quiet ceremony attended by just two friends in San Francisco City Hall.

Atop the grand staircase of City Hall's rotunda, Knight and Joe Lazzaro of Baltimore exchanged rings and were pronounced spouses for life one month after Sen. William "Pete" Knight, R-Palmdale, proclaimed San Francisco's same- sex marriages "nothing more than a sideshow."

The younger Knight and Lazzaro joined the growing ranks of couples -- more than 3,700 -- who have wed in San Francisco since Mayor Gavin Newsom on Feb. 12 ordered the city to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Knight and Lazzaro said the ceremony Tuesday reaffirmed the commitment they had made two years ago in a civil union ceremony in Vermont. "Vermont was the big deal," Knight said. "That was our real commitment. This is to be part of what's happening across the country."

Civil unions, such as those adopted by the state of Vermont in 2000, are legal partnerships recognized by the state and conferring most of the legal benefits of marriage including the right to share title on a house, file joint state tax returns, sue for wrongful death and make decisions on behalf of their partner in the event of a medical emergency.

The difference between the Vermont civil union and the San Francisco marriage, Knight said, is that "although Vermont recognizes the 400 or so rights granted by that state, if we lived in Vermont, we'd have those, but we'd still lack the thousand or so rights a married couple, a heterosexual couple, receives from the federal government."

Knight's father did not attend either ceremony in Vermont or San Francisco. He did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

...

...When Bird, the volunteer who performed Tuesday's ceremony, learned afterward who he had just wed, he gasped.

"You are giving me goosebumps," he said. "I just married Pete Knight's son."

Son of gay marriage foe weds in San Francisco
The San Francisco Chronicle

There is our struggle in a nutshell. Wish them luck. Wish them all the best. Wish for the day to come soon, very soon, when Gay and Lesbian children won’t have to walk through life, with a knife in their heart.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Never Again?

James Carrol, in a remarkable column in today’s Boston Globe, gets to the heart of the matter:

POLITICIANS who spark a culture war for the sake of their own power are playing with fire, and journalists who exploit a culture war for the sake of its unleashed furies are throwing gasoline on the flames. At the beginning of the presidential election contest, that is history's warning to America.

...

...When quasi-hysterical fearmongering replaces reasonable debate, dark forces can be set in motion that outrun anyone's intentions, and that is especially true when the question involves a segment of society that has long been subject to irrational bigotry. To define the wish of homosexuals for equal access to marriage rites and rights as a mortal threat to the social order, as Bush does, is to put gay people themselves in an unprecedented position of jeopardy. Bush and a conservative punditry, out of crude self-interest, are working hard to reverse the evolution of attitudes that has blurred the boundary between blue America and red. Bush wants that boundary bright. In an election year, it may work. But it is dangerous.

The phrase "culture war" comes from "Kulturkampf." That word was coined in the 1870s when Germany's George W. Bush, Otto von Bismarck, launched a "values" campaign as a way of shoring up his political power. Distracting from issues of war and economic stress, the "Kulturkampf" ran from 1871 to about 1887. Bismarck's strategy was to unite his base by inciting hatred of those who were not part of it.

His first target was the sizable Catholic minority in the new, mostly Protestant German state, but soon enough, especially after an economic depression in 1873, Jews were defined as the main threat to social order. This was a surprising turn because Jewish emancipation had been a feature of German culture as recently as the 1860s. By 1879, the anti-Jewish campaign was in full swing: It was in that year that the word "anti-Semitism" was coined, defining not a prejudice but a public virtue. The Kulturkampf was explicitly understood as a struggle against decadence, of which the liberal emancipated Jew became a symbol. What that culture war's self-anointed defenders of a moral order could not anticipate was what would happen when the new "virtue" of anti-Semitism was reinforced by the then burgeoning pseudo-science of the eugenics movement. Bismarck's defense of expressly German values was a precondition of Hitler's anti-Jewish genocide.

One need not predict equivalence between the eventual outcome of Bismarck's culture war and the threat of what Bush's could lead to. For our purposes, the thing to emphasize is that a leader's exploitation of subterranean fears and prejudices for the sake of political advantage is a dangerous ploy, even if done in the name of virtue. No, make that especially if done in the name of virtue.

Meanwhile, back at the Rhino Times, Orson Scott Card is answering some of the angry mail his column on same sex marriage provoked:

To Mr. Lee, I can only say that you are the reason some of us are terrified about what is about to happen to the First Amendment. When a carefully reasoned essay is published in opposition to the current political innovation of gay "marriage," which is being forced on an unwilling public by judicial fiat, instead of answering a single idea in the essay, you immediately label it "hate literature."

Those of you who have read The Hypocrites Of Homosexuality, may recall that Card advocates the use of sodomy laws, not so much as an excuse to witch hunt homosexuals, but as an effective means of punishing those who defy social mores, and flaunt their homosexuality openly. And calling his attacks on homosexuals hate literature is a terrifying threat to his first amendment rights. Oh…I get it now…the hypocrites he was referring to, were homophobes like him.

No use to suggest that he talk to the few remaining survivors of the German Kulturkampf, who were forced to wear the pink triangle, about what it means to be terrified. He thinks terrorizing homosexuals is a social necessity.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, March 6, 2004

Bigot Pornography

After a while I stopped being shocked to discover that someone I had known well, or whose talent I admired, was either moving into or already a part of the not-so-clandestine network of gay relationships. I learned that being homosexual does not destroy a person's talent or deny those aspects of their character that I had already come to love and admire. I did learn that for most of them their highest allegiance was to their membership in the community that gave them access to sex.
-Orson Scott Card

The tragedy of people who loved Ender’s Game, is in discovering that the author of their beloved novel is a lot less decent and humane then the book he produced, that he is in fact a moral runt with the conscience of a lynch mob leader. I can relate in a small way, having once loved some of the music of Ricard Wagner, only to discover that it’s inextricably entwined with his passionate antisemitism. You allow the artist’s work to enter a very private, and intimate part of your heart, and then you learn that all that time it was a smarmy sleezebag that you were letting press your buttons. Not as bad as discovering that the prince charming you’ve been sleeping with was burning crosses and robbing convenience stores nights he wasn’t with you…but close.

For fans of Orson Scott Card, the shock usually comes while reading The Hypocrites of Homosexuality for the first time, although for Donna Minkowitz, it came while interviewing him. Back in the early 90s, his tune was that The Hypocrites of Homosexuality was only his statement of belief as a Mormon, and wasn’t intended as an attack on gays who weren’t part of his faith. That was then, and this is now, and now, provoked by the recent outpouring of support for same sex marriage, Orson Scott Card has written another rant about homosexuality, and it’s something we can all welcome as the end of pretense with him. It’s worth reading, not just as a textbook example of the unflinching dishonesty of homophobes, but to see for yourself what an addiction to hate can do to someone, who might once have become a decent man.

Card is there, for all to see, one of a rapidly shrinking wing of American hatemongering; the otherwise respected public figure, who is perfectly willing to let the world see how utterly incapable they are of seeing the humanity of homosexual people. Once upon a time it would have been unremarkable. But now that we gays and lesbians are living our lives openly, insisting to anyone who will listen that homosexuals are sub human deviates, malformed monstrosities incapable of experiencing the richness of life at best, and hell bent on destroying that richness for others, is no longer a sure fire line of persuasion. In fact it is political death and they know it. The problem the homophobic right faces today, is how to affect anti-gay public policies without appearing to be motivated by nothing more noble then an irreducible hatred of homosexuals. So just the other day on Capital Hill, you heard a minister arguing that even though same sex couples can be both decent and loving, marriage isn’t about love. That’s how desperate they are. Card on the other hand, makes the purer case: homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. Homosexuals are incapable of experiencing the joy and wonder of romantic love. Homosexuals are separated from the cycle of life. Homosexuals are damaged, deformed consciousness, twisted, alien to the fundamental nature of human existence. You could just picture him patiently, earnestly, saying all this to a group of young science-fiction fans, most of whom these days have friends who are gay, if not openly gay themselves, utterly clueless as to what he’s telling them, not about homosexuals, but about himself.

Now, you could call that brave in its own way, but it’s more like the stupidity that happens when you let a festering hate rot your brain for a few decades. Hate like that wages war on every other part of your consciousness, because it will not endure questioning, will not accept anything other then being the central focus of your life. It must rule over all. Your intellect. Your conscience. Your sense of honor and justice, and any capacity you might have had for sympathy and human decency. All of it has to step aside. And right away in Card’s latest rant, you can see that his base moral instincts are completely gone:

In the first place, no law in any state in the United States, now or ever, has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.

Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.

Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.

So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage.

To just write this off as sophistry misses it. Yes, it’s sophistry. It’s also dishonest in a particularly totalitarian doublespeak way, which makes it striking coming from a man who claims to be defending democracy over the rule of activist judges. In the former Soviet Union, the laws made it difficult to impossible for Christians to worship freely. But those laws, the Soviets insisted, were not discriminatory, since everyone, atheists included, had to obey them. And of course, in some parts of the United States, particularly the south, race segregation was justified as being applied equally to all races. This is the kind of argument you make, when you don’t want to defend the morality of an act, so much as confuse and naturalize the moral judgments of others. It is the technique of a Stalinist, not a defender of morality. An honest person would acknowledge and justify the discrimination, but Card’s first act in making his case, is to reach for mendacity, and then wave it in his reader’s faces. Right away he is telling us, that he has no use for the moral argument, and it’s a safe bet that he tells us this because he knows the moral argument is not his friend.

When you see yourself lying to your audience like this, it ought to ring your alarm bells, it ought to wake you up. A truly moral man would see this for what it is; a warning to oneself. But when hate is the monkey on your back, the warnings just get ignored. You throw everything away, your conscience, your honor, your good name, your sense of right and wrong, all of it becomes so much excess baggage, because in the end all that matters, is the hate.

And it’s fitting, that immediately after declaring his intention to deceive his readers, he shows them, in all its sickening glory, why he must:

However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were.

However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… Not, “however much in love a homosexual couple may be”, but “however emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be.” Homosexual love is not real love at all, but a fake, a fraud, a pale and pathetic imitation. Later, he makes it even more clear:

They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won't be married. They'll just be playing dress-up in their parents' clothes.

How does he know this? How can he, or anyone else say with certainty, that anyone else’s love for their mate is not real, is not deep and profound? During Karen Thompson’s decade long legal fight to be reunited with her beloved Sharon Kowalski, kept isolated by her parents in a nursing home after a motorcycle accident that left her severely incapacitated, Kowalski’s father once asked plaintively, “What does this woman want with my daughter? She’s in diapers.” For Card, for any homophobe, to acknowledge that homosexuals couples love each another, is necessarily to acknowledge the humanity in homosexuals, and this is the critical line that the homophobe is incapable of crossing. They complain that people call them bigots as a tool to shut down discussion, but if the word has any meaning at all, then it is describing them exactly, and here in passages like that is where you see it. Hello…my name is Orson Scott Card….I cannot see the people for the homosexuals…and here is a little essay to prove it to you… People see this, and shrink away, and the homophobes complain about political correctness, when what’s happening is they’re colliding head-on with other people’s conscience, and having little to none of their own, they don’t understand it.

I’ve no intention here to do a detailed analysis of Card’s latest. I’ve got school work to do this weekend. Most of the rest of the article, which is larger then his Hypocrites of Homosexuality article of some years back, just waves the usual homosexual bogeyman. Homosexuals don’t want equal rights, they want to destroy heterosexual families. Homosexuals aren’t born, they’re made, usually by being abused as children. If we allow same sex marriage, America will be destroyed. No…I’m not exaggerating what Card is saying. What’s striking isn’t the content, so much as its pornographic indifference to shame. But I can’t end this post, without noting this:

If America becomes a place where the laws of the nation declare that marriage no longer exists - which is what the Massachusetts decision actually does - then our allegiance to America will become zero. We will transfer our allegiance to a society that does protect marriage.

Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender’s Game is knocking on the door to Eric Rudolph and Timothy McVey land. Don’t be surprised if he walks in. The America of the golden door is as foreign, and as vile a place to his kind, as it was to the islamic radicals who murdered several thousand Americans on September 11, 2001.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

I Was Pushed Into It. Okay…I Pushed Myself, But I Was Still Pushed.

A common refrain we’re hearing now, is that Bush was pushed into supporting a constitutional amendment, banning same sex marriage. He didn’t choose this fight, we’re being told, by the same crowd in fact, that said Bush didn’t want to go to war with Saddam. Yeah…he was pushed into that war too. But now it is activist judges and militant homosexuals who are pushing Bush to take this step. He didn’t choose this fight, they keep saying.

Let’s review a few little snippets of recent gay history…

When Sharon Kowalski was injured in an automobile accident in November 1983, her partner, Karen Thompson had to fight a nightmarish legal battle with Kowalski’s parents lasting ten years. During that time, Kowalski’s parents placed her in a nursing home where they could insure that Thompson would be kept away. The nursing home was unequipped to give Kowalski the physical therapy she needed, and which might have made a difference in the extent of her recovery had it been given to her early on. When Kowalski was given a typewriter to communicate, she instantly began typing out calls for Karen. The typewriter was taken from her.

When Juan Navarrete came home in 1989 and found his partner LeRoy Tranton lying bloody on the concrete driveway to their house, it marked the beginning of a bitter fight with Tranton’s brother who prevented Navarrete from seeing his beloved in the hospital. Despite Tranton’s persistent calling for his lover Juan, he was kept away. When Tranton later died, Navarrete was unable even to visit the grave.

In 1993, a Virginia judge ruled that Sharon Bottoms was an unfit mother because she was a lesbian, and awarded custody of her 20-month-old son, to her mother, who had sought custody of the boy when she learned her daughter was a lesbian, and in love with another woman.

In 2000, a court in Tacoma Washington ruled that Frank Vasques could be denied his lover of 28 years’ estate because the two where in a homosexual relationship. They had shared a house, business and financial assets for 28 years.

After NBC news cameraman Rob Pierce died in a helicopter crash, his family visited his partner Frank Gagliano, in the Miami condominium the two had shared. After mourning together, they told Gagliano he should take a walk on the beach. Then Pierce’s family changed the locks on the condo, and when Gagliano returned, told him he was no longer welcome there. Gagliano had to go to court just to get his belongings.

And in Massachusetts, after Ken Kirkey’s partner Mark died of cancer, Mark’s family removed his ashes from the home the two shared. Kirkey discovered he had no legal right to Mark’s ashes, though they were among the first to take advantage of Vermont’s new Civil Unions law.

In 2001 Sharon Smith was told she had no legal standing to file a wrongful death suit against Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, after two of their dogs mauled her partner Diane Whipple to death in the hallway of her apartment.

In 2002 Officials at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center barred William Robert Flanigan Jr. from his dying partner’s bedside, saying he was not “family”, and that ‘partners’ did not qualify. Though Flanigan had legal power of attorney for his partner, Robert Lee Daniel, officials at the Shock Trauma Center insisted he would not be allowed his partner’s bedside. Only when Daniel’s mother arrived from New Mexico, was Flanigan allowed into Daniel’s room. By that time, Daniel had lost consciousness. He would die two days later. Because Flanigan was not present during Daniel’s final four hours of consciousness, Flanigan was unable to tell Shock Trauma that Daniel did not want breathing tubes or a respirator. When Daniel tried to rip the tubes out of his throat, staff members put his arms in restraints

People who say that George Bush wasn’t spoiling for this fight, but had it forced upon him, are not merely blaming the victims of prejudice for fighting back, they are erasing a long and heartbreaking history of discrimination, as if it never happened. It is gay and lesbian Americans who were never spoiling for this fight, who have had it forced upon us time and time again.

In the past, we simply fought for our rights as couples piecemeal. Please give us hospital visitation rights. Please give us the right to share property. Please don’t take everything away from one, when the other dies. Please. And every time we have asked for these meager portions of the vast estate that heterosexual couples regard as their natural right, we have been accused of trying to impose homosexual marriage on the rest of the country. Hospital visitation? No, that would amount to homosexual marriage. Inheritance rights, shared property rights? No, that would amount to homosexual marriage. The right to mourn at our partners’ graveside? No, that would amount to homosexual marriage. No matter how small the shred of human dignity we have asked for, always the answer has been the same: you can’t have it, because that would amount to legitimizing homosexual marriage.

Fine. So now we are fighting for the right to marry. And I’m laughing in the face of every drooling moron who’s saying that we forced this fight on the rest of America. For years, for decades, you’ve told us that the only way to secure any right for our households, was to fight for the whole, for the right to marry. Now we are. This is the fight you told us we had to wage. You wouldn’t accept anything else. Fine. Then accept this as tribute: You were right all along. We were too timid. We were beggars, when we should have been fighters. We were chumps, we were rubes, timidly entreating swindlers and thieves to please not steal quite so much of the wonder and joy from our lives. You were right to force us to this place, to demand that we either fight for the legitimacy and righteousness of our love, or shut the hell up. Now fight for your hate or shut the hell up. Don’t tell us the second class citizenship you’ve been saying for decades was too much, is now suddenly good enough…for you. Don’t lecture us about civility and respect for one another out of one side of your mouth, while calling us and our households a threat to civilization out of the other. Don’t tell us we started this fight. You demanded this fight. Fine. Now you have it. Here we are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Next I Suppose You’ll Be Saying Witches Should Be Left Alone Too…

Of course, the powers that be at Baylor couldn’t just leave it at that…

Baylor Chief Decries Gay Marriage Defense
The Associated Press

WACO, Texas -- The president of Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist school, said Tuesday he is "justifiably outraged" over an editorial in the student newspaper that defended same-sex marriages.

The editorial last week in the Baylor Lariat supported San Francisco's lawsuit against the state of California seeking to continue performing gay marriages.

"Taking into account equal protection under the law, gay couples should be granted the same equal rights to legal marriage as heterosexual couples," the editorial said. It also likened discrimination against gays to racial or religious intolerance.

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. denounced the editorial in a strongly worded statement that appeared in the newspaper Tuesday.

"We have already heard from a number of students, alumni and parents who are, as am I, justifiably outraged over this editorial," Sloan wrote.

"Espousing in a Baylor publication a view that is so out of touch with traditional Christian teachings is not only unwelcome, it comes dangerously close to violating university policy, as published in the student handbook, prohibiting the advocacy of any understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching," Sloan wrote.

The paper also published a statement Tuesday by the student publications board, a group of faculty and administrators overseeing the newspaper, calling Friday's editorial a violation of student publications policy. The policy says student publications should not "attack the basic tenets of Christian theology or of Christian morality."

To: Robert_Sloan@baylor.edu
From: Bruce Garrett <bruce@brucegarrett.com>
Subject: Justifiable outrage

When I read the Baylor Lariat editorial in support of same-sex marriage I was thrilled to see that the tradition of Roger Williams had not completely died out in the faith. Were there more Baptists like the students who wrote and published that editorial, I might still be one today.

But thanks to theocrats like you, Baptist Popes as I once heard your kind described, the faith looks more like that of the Taliban now, then the faith of Roger Williams, who doggedly defended the rights of Catholics, Jews and even Pagans in the new world, which is why I keep my distance from it. I will admit to a measure of justifiable outrage though, whenever I see theocratic louts like you making a mockery of it, making the word “Baptist” something one would utter in the same breath as “Theocrat” or “Stalinist” or “Mullah”. Once upon a time, Baptists stood for freedom of conscience. Once upon a time, Baptists stood with Jefferson, and fought against religious litmus tests for public office holders. Once upon a time, a Baptist named Roger Williams said that 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.” He wouldn’t last a minute in your school, would he? But then, neither would Jesus.

Homosexuals are to you, as witches were to your brethren in Salem, and government to you, is nothing more then a forum for trying witches. If the students did in fact violate your policy, that student publications should not attack the basic tenets of Christian theology or morality, as your publications board recently stated, then the next time I hear someone complain about Christians being ridiculed as nothing more then a bunch of ignorant witch burners, I’ll simply point them to Baylor University, and tell them that your official position is that any student who thinks Christians aren’t a bunch of ignorant witch burners, is attacking the basic tenets of Christian theology and morality.

All the hungry souls. All the hungry souls of this world. And all you could do for them was take the fish, and the loaves, and the wine, and turn them back into nothing.

Bruce Garrett
Baltimore, Maryland.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Baptist != Bigot

Via Atrios, the student newspaper at Baylor university has come out in support, not of domestic partnerships, not of civil unions, but of same sex marriage:

The editorial board supports San Francisco's lawsuit against the state. Taking into account equal protection under the law, gay couples should be granted the same equal rights to legal marriage as heterosexual couples. Without such recognition, gay couples, even those who have co-habitated long enough to qualify as common law spouses under many state laws, often aren't granted the same protection when it comes to shared finances, health insurance and other employee benefits, and property or power of attorney rights.

Like many heterosexual couples, many gay couples share deep bonds of love, some so strong they've persevered years of discrimination for their choice to co-habitate with and date one another. Just as it isn't fair to discriminate against someone for their skin color, heritage or religious beliefs, it isn't fair to discriminate against someone for their sexual orientation. Shouldn't gay couples be allowed to enjoy the benefits and happiness of marriage, too?

There was a time, way back when, that Baptists were adamantly opposed to any church/state entanglements. The faith is, at its roots, highly anti-authoritarian, and profoundly individualistic. The first Baptists, if they would be shocked at anything, would be shocked that such a statement of principal would even be necessary. The knuckle-draggers who have co-opted the faith today of course, are going to be apoplectic that these kids have said what they said in a Baptist university newspaper.

Thank you folks, from the bottom of my heart, for this little echo of a past time, when Baptists regularly stood up to theocrats, in the name of conscience.

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

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, February 25, 2004

The Proof Texters

One useful thing about the current blow up over same sex marriage is that many heterosexuals are now getting a chance to see how slimy the other side is when it comes to presenting its case. Joshua Marshall does a pretty good take down of professional hate monger Gary Bauer’s latest attempt to pervert science to the service of hate…in this case, a paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on gay and bisexual life expectancy in Vancouver in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Focusing on the average lifespans of urban gay and bisexual men during the height of the AIDS crisis is like focusing on the average number of sex partners urban gay members of sex clubs and bathhouses in the late 1970s have (another tactic of Bauer and his kind), which the authors of the Vancouver study point out:

Under even the most liberal assumptions, gay and bisexual men in this urban centre were experiencing a life expectancy similar to that experienced by men in Canada in the year 1871. In contrast, if we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996. As we have previously reported there has been a threefold decrease in mortality in Vancouver as well as in other parts of British Columbia.

Marshall goes on to ridicule Bauer’s logic:

Given the fact (controversial, but generally considered to be true) that lesbians have a lower incidence of sexually trasmitted diseases than either gay men or heterosexuals, by this logic, Bauer should be pushing to ban straight marriages too and only allow lesbian marriages. Perhaps he already is. He certainly wouldn't be the first straight-laced middle-aged man to have a thing for lesbians.

However that may be, this little reductio ad absurdum leads to the big absurdum at the center of Bauer's silly argument: namely, that if you're really serious about reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among gay men -- rather than just bashing them -- presumeably you'd want to encourage monogamy, and thus marriage, rather than fight against it.

In fact, when you try to wrestle Bauer's foolishness and sexual authoritarianism down to some measure of reality, you realize that what he should really be calling for is something like mandatory gay marriage, ambivalence about straight marriage and more or less letting the lesbians just run wild.

That’s perfectly true. But the what’s telling here isn’t Bauer’s irrationality, but his grim single-minded determination that the lives of homosexuals must be miserable, and brief. Never mind what the reality actually is. Bauer isn’t concerned with what the reality actually is. Bauer knows what the reality must be, knows what it has to be.

To say that Bauer and his kind manufacture evidence that the lives of homosexuals are miserable and brief, not to generate sympathy and concern, but to generate disgust, is to state the obvious. But look at it. Bauer isn’t making an argument about the dangers of homosexuality to homosexuals, but of the threat homosexuals are to heterosexuals. Joshua Marshall above, gives the perfect response of a rational man to Bauer’s absurd argument, that since promiscuity makes the lives of homosexuals so short, they should be prevented from forming monogamous pair bonds and settling down. Yes it’s ridiculous, but only in the sense that any rational person wants to relieve human suffering, wants to make life better for themselves and their neighbors. But the furthest thing from Bauer’s mind is to make the lives of homosexuals better. Consider his one and only solution to homosexuals is conversion therapy. Bauer’s solution is for homosexuals to not exist.

But of course, conversion therapy doesn’t cure homosexuality, any more then denying marriage to same sex couples discourages homosexual promiscuity. Conversion therapy is a sham, and what is more, Bauer and his kind know it. Look at how much time and energy they spend on supporting conversion therapy ministries, compared to how much they spend on anti-gay political campaigning. They couldn’t be less interested in saving homosexuals from lives that are miserable and short, and they couldn’t be more interested then they already are, in making our lives miserable and short.

So safe sex education is wrong, not because it is imperfect, but precisely because it would save lives…lives that, by his reckoning, ought not to be lived in the first place. So hate crime laws are wrong, not because they amount to thought crimes, but precisely because they might prevent attacks on homosexuals…people who, in his judgement, deserve it simply for existing. So making schools safe for lesbian and gay kids is wrong, not because it interferes with the right of Christians to denounce homosexuality, but precisely because some gay kids might not decide to kill themselves, and thereby spare everyone else the need to suffer another homosexual in their midst.

What you need to bear in mind when Bauer or one of his kind wave around some distorted fact that claims that our lives are miserable and short, their solution to same is that homosexuals should not exist. They proof text science the same way they proof text the bible: not for truth, but for ammunition.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

“Do You Know What This Is?” “A Sack.” “Well If It’s A Sack, Then Get In It!”

My copy of the complete Jim Henson’s The Storyteller came today from Amazon. It’s a bittersweet treat. The Storyteller was Jim Henson at his absolute best and it’s a pure pleasure to watch. But after the stories are done, and the DVD put back in its case, and the usual crap takes its place on the TV screen, you really realize what the world lost when Jim Henson died.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Clarity

“The president believes it is important to have clarity,” – White House Press Secratary Scott McClellan

Clarity. All the gay republicans, all the gay conservatives, all the gay average Joes, who have been saying for years that their sexuality isn’t the center of their universe, who insist that those homosexual militants, those sexual extremists, those flaming queers have been giving gays a bad name, who voted republican because there are more important things in life then your sexuality, should now be able to see with perfect clarity just what their votes have bought them.

Clarity. It doesn’t matter how normal your lives otherwise are. It doesn’t matter how stable and monogamous your unions are. It doesn’t matter how much you agree with the republicans on economic issues, or national security issues. The man you voted for just put a knife into your heart. The people in his big tent are calling you a faggot to your face. Clarity.

Clarity. All your hopes of winning hearts and minds by setting an example of how normal homosexuals are. All your proud suit and tie notions of how sexuality has nothing to do with whether someone is liberal or conservative. But normal people of any political persuasion don’t passively accept a kick in the face. Normal people fight back when they, their families and their loved ones are threatened. Normal people know the difference between turning the other cheek, and groveling. All you’ve shown them is that they can piss all over you, and you’ll still shake their hands afterwards. All you’ve been teaching them, is that you don’t think you deserve to be treated like a normal person either. Clarity.

Forget the friendly face of the man who just told you that in his America you can be separate, but not equal. Find a mirror and look deeply into your own. Is that a faggot you see in there? No? Ask yourself if you could, even now, shake George Bush’s hand. All these years you’ve been shaking their hands…what did they see when you did that. Clarity.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, February 23, 2004

We Don’t Want Any Activist Judges…And That Means Especially Any Judge Who Might Throw Us In Jail…

A little something to remember, the next time you hear republicans yap, yap, yapping about out of control judges who don’t follow the law, and anarchy in San Francisco…

Washington's conservative activists have found a traitor in their midst, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch. The occasion is Memogate, the internal Senate investigation into whether Republican aides unethically (and perhaps illegally) tapped into Democratic computer files containing private judicial-nomination strategy memos and leaked them to the press. The more the story balloons in the media, embarrassing Republicans and distracting them from trying to confirm more judges, the more right-wing activists savage Hatch, the man they hold responsible for it. To them, the Utah Republican has done something "acutely damaging to the struggle to get conservative judges onto the federal bench," as one National Review writer put it this week, in a column widely e-mailed among disgusted activists. Another activist ominously warned in the Washington Post of a "thermonuclear" punishment for Hatch. Also in the Post, Gary Bauer fumed over a "demoralized Republican base around the country" and sounded about ready to stage a public hanging on Capitol Hill.

No matter that Hatch has spent the past three years fighting nonstop to confirm George Bush's judicial nominees. After Hatch declared himself "mortified" by the file-stealing allegations and said he supported a formal investigation, angry GOP activists?who want to downplay down the scandal?accused him of being a weak-kneed appeaser of Democrats. The National Review's Timothy P. Carney even likened him to Neville Chamberlain.

That's madness, of course. Under Bush, Hatch has fought bitterly with Democrats over judicial nominations, to the point of shattering an emerging reputation he'd gained for moderation and spoiling some of his old bipartisan friendships. If anything, the real story of Orrin Hatch's recent career is the way the Bush administration took a senator who had been growing mellower and more independent with age and reduced him to a crude partisan attack dog. Yet even Hatch's partisanship isn't enough for the Savonarolas of the right. The right-wing bile over Hatch's Memogate burst of conscience only shows how frighteningly militant Washington's church of conservatism has become.

If this conservative senator isn't safe from conservative attacks, is anyone?
Slate.com

Dig it. The feral republicans are angry that a fellow republican called for an investigation into the breaking of some fairly non-trivial federal laws against computer hacking…because that investigation is getting in the way of their stacking the federal courts. And they’re so angry at him that they’re going to go “thermonuclear” on him as punishment. Swell. So what kind of people do people who retaliate against squealers nominate as judges?

George Bush, in less the a single term, has given the republican party completely over to thugs, whose leaders have the moral character of organized crime bosses. They are no different from the inner city drug lords who put the hit out on anyone who rats to the police, except their houses are bigger, their contempt for the law vastly bigger, and their conscience several orders of magnitude smaller. Oh…and they get to pick the judges. When these republicans say that a judge is out of control, what they mean is that they aren’t owned by the party.

[Edited]

[UPDATE] Just so we understand that what those Republican aides are accused of is a crime…this just in from CNet:

Ex-ViewSonic employee sentenced to one year

A U.S. federal court sentenced Andrew Garcia, a former employee of monitor maker ViewSonic, to a one-year prison term for using other employees' passwords to break into the company's system, after he had been fired. The 39-year-old network administrator pleaded guilty in October to a single count of accessing a protected computer and causing damage.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

That Was Then, This Is Now

Some senators apparently still aren’t with the program…

Four senators have expressed concern that the actions of a new Republican appointee, who pulled references to discrimination based on sexual orientation off an agency's Internet site, are at odds with statements he made as part of his confirmation hearing.

...

During his confirmation, Bloch was asked to respond in writing to a series of questions from Akaka.

At one point, Bloch said that "sexual conduct can clearly fall within the definition of conduct that is not adverse to the on-the-job performance of an employee, applicant or performance of others. I will not be selective in enforcement based on the orientation of an individual whose personal sexual conduct is at issue, and assure you that I will enforce the law as passed by Congress and interpreted by the Courts with complete impartiality."

Akaka asked, "Do you agree with the advice provided by OSC that, if 'Supervisor Joe fires Employee Jack because he saw Employee Jack at a local Gay Pride Day event,' such firing constitutes an example of discrimination against the employee that is unlawful?"

Bloch said cases must be judged on specific facts, but added that he agreed such a firing would be prohibited by the law.

Special Counsel Under Scrutiny - The Washington Post (registration required)

Oh…did I forget to mention that the positions I hold right now, won’t necessarily be the ones I hold while in office, and weren’t necessarily the ones I held the moment before I walked into this committee room…? My bad…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Upcoming Issues Will Feature Jack Chick As Our Guest Artist

To: Tim Fish
Subject: Cavalcade Of Boys – issue six

My grandmother on my mother’s side used to live with us when I was a kid. She was a sour Yankee Baptist lady who burned my comic books and scolded me whenever I used words like “darn” or “gosh darn”. The only times I ever saw her happy was when she was listening to her radio preachers tell her how sinful and god forsaken humanity was, and when she was watching her soap operas.

She’d watch “As The World Turns” and “General Hospital” and god knows what else during the afternoon while I was in school, and if it had been anyone else but her I’d have wondered what the hell the fascination was in watching your average everyday ordinary people being relentlessly cruel and miserable to each other. But this was the lady who taught me what a misanthrope is.

Which brings me to Cavalcade of Boys six. “I mean, this is a romance comic, isn’t it?” Uh, no. For it to be a romance, its author would have to actually believe in romance, and let’s face it, you don’t. This is soap opera. Degrading yes…but what the heck…heterosexuals have been spitting on themselves in their soap operas for just about forever, so why should they have all the fun.

That gay morality barometer should have clued me in, but I swear I thought it was tongue in cheek. Heh…no it wasn’t. You had me going with issue five, particularly those flashbacks where even Gordon, your standard issue pathetic ugly older gay guy troll (ewww…he’s got a tooth missing and everything…) can actually be seen as something somewhat resembling a human. I thought for a moment that you were going to actually start saying something worth hearing about the struggle to love and be loved, and how to hold on to your humanity even when your family hates your guts, and everyone you ever took into your arms has taken advantage of you and laughed while they did it. But no. You don’t believe in it. The scenes where your characters are being cheap to each other are full of energy. The scenes where you make a few gestures toward love are halfhearted and that’s being generous. At the end of issue six, the guy who did the right thing is in therapy.

I know…I know…life isn’t just blue sky and roses. But a comic book isn’t life, it’s art. It’s a statement, trivial though it may be, about life and existence and how much you reckon either one is worth. Not all that much, huh? Oscar Wilde said once that we’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. No. We are not all in the gutter. But those who are, who keep their eyes on the stars, will eventually find their way out. The rest never will. What you’re saying to your readers is the gutter is real, the stars aren’t. Nice work.

Young Bottoms in Love is an absolutely great title. And I realized after putting down issue six of Cavalcade, that everything in Young Bottoms In Love that ever spoke to me, wasn’t done by you. Some of the artists in that title believe. Enough to make it really shine. Enough to make you feel after you put it down, that you can take any crap the world wants to throw at homosexuals, because loving and being loved, and all the awe and wonder of loving and being loved, are worth it. Are you sure you want to keep producing it?

-Bruce Garrett

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, February 20, 2004

George Bush Isn’t A Gay Basher…Just The People He Appoints

Remind me again why some gays identify as republican…

A newly arrived Republican appointee has pulled references to sexual orientation discrimination off an agency Internet site where government employees can learn about their rights in the workplace.

The Web pages at the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency whose mission is to protect whistleblowers and other federal employees from retribution, has removed references to sexual orientation from a discrimination complaint form, training slides, a brochure titled "Your Rights as a Federal Employee" and other documents.

Scott J. Bloch, the agency head, said he ordered the material removed because of uncertainty over whether a provision of civil service law applies to federal workers who claim unfair treatment because they are gay, bisexual or heterosexual.

"It is wrong to discriminate against any federal employee, or any employee, based on discrimination," Bloch said. But, he added, "it is wrong for me, as a federal government official, to extend my jurisdiction beyond what Congress gives me in the actual interpretation of the statutes."

Gay Rights Information Taken Off Site - The Washington Post (registration required)

Sorry…but my hands are tied. And if they aren’t, then they ought to be…

Elaine Kaplan, who served as the Clinton administration's special counsel, said references were added to complaint forms and training materials as part of an overhaul of the agency's information and outreach efforts.

"It seemed to us that this was well-established law," she said. "Part of the job of the agency is to educate employees about their rights."

Kaplan said the old Civil Service Commission issued a bulletin to agencies in 1973 stating that agencies could not declare a person unsuitable for employment merely because the person was gay or engaged in homosexual acts. Ten years later, she said, the assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel at the Justice Department concluded federal employees, even those in law enforcement, could not be fired solely for being gay.

Does anyone…I mean besides kooks like Steve Miller…still seriously believe that republicans are no worse then democrats on gay rights issues..or even better? Oh I know…I know…there are more important things in life besides sex. Economic things. Like…having a job and being able to pay your bills for instance…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

In Defiance Of The Law

I hear a lot of right wingers and their useful idiots in the punditry yap, yap, yapping about how San Francisco is defying the rule of law by issuing same sex marriage licenses. Funny how I don’t hear them bellyaching about this:

A Virginia Beach man has been sentenced to six months in jail for trying to pick up an undercover police officer in the restroom of a department store

Joel D. Singson was sentenced under Virginia's sodomy law. Even though the US Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws last year (story) Virginia interprets the ruling to exclude sex in a public place.

Circuit Judge Frederick B. Lowe Tuesday sentenced Singson to three years in prison for one count of solicitation to commit a felony. The judge suspended all but six months of the sentence and set an appeal bond of $5,000. The maximum sentence in Virginia for approaching someone for sex in public place is five years in prison.

The case has gained national attention because of the state's continued use of its sodomy law and allegations it is only applied to gay men.

Virginia Man Sentenced To Six Months In Jail For Soliciting Sodomy

You could argue that there is a distinction to be drawn between sex in public and in private, but that’s also beside the point. What Virginia is doing is continuing to prosecuting sodomy law offenses, despite the fact that those laws were ruled unconstitutional, in part because they singled out gay people for unequal treatment under the law. Virginia state republicans insist, defiantly, that they have the right, regardless, to specifically penalize homosexual sex differently, and more harshly, then heterosexual sex, and are not only still enforcing Virginia’s sodomy laws, they are handing out jail sentences. I’ll bet a lot of them used to chant “massive resistance” too, once upon a time…

So don’t talk at me about San Francisco’s act of defiance.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Just Don’t Expect Him To Give You A Refund

Via TBogg, the spectacle of Lileks bellyaching about how violent films just don’t treat their audiences very nice:

If I go to hell I intend to look up Quentin Tarantino and have a few words about how he used that song in "Reservoir Dogs." Jerk. Who gave him permission to take this song and make us think of someone splashing gasoline on a bloody ear?

Okay…let me get this straight… Lileks actually watched Reservoir Dogs and now he’s upset about some of the violent content of it? Well if Tarantino’s a jerk then you’re a drooling moron Lileks because that’s like complaining about how flaming hot the food got after you doused it with a spoonful of what was in that tiny little bottle of Uncle Beelzebub’s New Orleans Make The Devil Cry sauce.

I’ve never watched Reservoir Dogs. I still get misty-eyed at the end of Casablanca, a film I’ve watched I don’t know how many times, so I sorta figured when it was first released, that Reservoir Dogs wasn’t my kind of film. I watched The Godfather, and while I admired the film maker’s art, I didn’t much care for the story. Gangster films can be an interesting look into the world of human low-lifes, but anyone who thinks they’re actually looking into the dark side of the human soul in a gangster film, is just a tourist in Disneyland.

You want to look into the Pit, try making sense of this:

Man says he killed son to spite wife
The Associated Press, June 28, 1999

FRANKLIN, Ind. - On Father's Day, Amy Shanabarger found her chubby-cheeked infant son, Tyler, face-down and dead in his crib.Two days later - just hours after the tot's funeral - her husband gave police a confession saying that not only did he kill his son, he planned the crime even before the child was conceived as a way of exacting revenge against his wife.

Shanabarger said he planned to make Amy feel the way he did when his father died. He married her, got her pregnant, allowed time for her to bond with the child, and then took his (boy's) life.

He said it was revenge because Amy, before they were married, had refused to cut short a vacation trip to comfort him when his father died in 1996.

"Shanabarger said he planned to make Amy feel the way he did when his father died. He married her, got her pregnant, allowed time for her to bond with the child, and then took his (boy's) life," according to an affidavit prosecutors filed to support a murder charge.

What kind of person does a thing like that? Or this:

Father Who Killed Sons Finds Way to Deepen Their Mother's Grief
By Rick Bragg
The New York Times
February 4, 2001

MEMPHIS - First, the killer took her two children and now, prosecutors say, he teases her with the hope that she could have one back.

Alex Ware murdered his two toddler sons by leaving them to die in a landscape of swamp, levees and lonely gravel roads, an Arkansas jury decided last month, a crime that sickened veteran police officers and prosecutors.

Mr. Ware killed them, Arkansas prosecutors said, to take revenge on the boys' mother, Chantilly Harrell, 21, after she said she did not want to be with him.

As revenge goes, it seemed complete. It seemed there was little else that the 35-year-old Mr. Ware could do to hurt the mother of his children.

But in his trial in Forrest City, Ark., prosecutors said, he found a way. He teased her with hope, saying that one of the children, the one whose body was never found, was alive in a city far away, being kept by a woman no one has found.

Ms. Harrell, who said she hated him for what he did to her, says she has to believe.

"If I give up on that, what do I have?"

Gangster films hold no special appeal to me. Gangsters just want your money…or maybe your life if they feel like that too. But there are people walking this earth who will put a different kind of knife in your heart, for the pleasure of watching all the joy and wonder that was possible to you drain slowly from your face, and leave you empty. Consider Ohio, which recently (see below) not only passed a redundant ban on same sex marriage, but whose republican lawmakers couldn’t just leave it at that, but went further, prohibiting even hospital visitation and bereavement leave for same sex couples. So, now in Ohio, if one half of a gay couple dies, the state’s offical position is that the other’s grief does not exist. This is what the republicans in Ohio are calling a statement of “strong public policy”.

The republicans who did this, they knew exactly what knife they were putting in some nameless gay person’s heart, and that was their purpose, never mind the self serving rhetoric about the sanctity of marriage. This was about putting the knife in someone’s heart, and right at the moment when that heart is already wounded and grieving, and twisting it, just because they are homosexual. If you think a little time spent watching gangster flicks is telling you anything about the struggle between good and evil, you are drinking from the bottle marked ‘lite’. Reservoir Dogs, Sopranos and Godfathers aren’t shit.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Slouching Toward The Stone Age…

Associated Press, February 6, 2004
Ohio Gov. Signs Bill Banning Gay Marriage [Excerpts]

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft approved one of the country's most-far reaching gay-marriage bans on Friday, saying its adoption was urgent because the nation's first legally sanctioned same-sex weddings could take place as early as this spring in Massachusetts.

Taft, a Republican, denied assertions that the law promotes intolerance. He said the new law would send a strong positive message to children and families.

And speaking sending messages to children…

Associated Press, February 11, 2004
Ohio Board OKs Evolution Lesson Plans [Excerpts]

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Opponents of the state school board's new lesson plans on evolution expect to lobby heavily for changes before a final board vote.

The state school board voted 13-4 on Tuesday in favor of lesson plans that some scientists say continue to contain inaccurate information about evolution. Proponents say the plans are some of the country's most rigorous in favor of evolution.

Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, wrote board president Jennifer Sheets on Monday to express concerns that parts of the alternative concept of "intelligent design" were being incorporated into the plans.

Intelligent design is the idea that life is so complex that it was designed by a non-specified power.

Taft, a Republican, will not get involved in the board's decision, spokesman Orest Holubec said Tuesday. Governors appoint six of the board's 18 members.

Homophobia and Fundamentalism. Homophobia and Fundamentalism. Cut from one cloth…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Things that make you feel a whole hell of a lot lonelier…

“Just because you sent me an e-mail, doesn’t mean I read it.”

I know…you’re busy. And it’s only me.

I have this other friend, who wonders how the hell I can stand driving through the southwestern deserts all by myself in a little compact car year after year. It would drive him crazy he says. But…you see…out there, being alone isn’t as hard to understand. Of course I’m alone…I’m in the fucking desert

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I’m Not A Bigot, You Menace To Little Children Everywhere You…

Letter To The Editor, The Chicago Tribune.

Subject: The Way Marriage Ought To Be (Registration Required)

Mr. Byrne “declines” to accept studies that show that kids raised by same sex couples are in general, no different from kids raised by opposite sex couples. He tells us that his reasoning and experience, which I take to mean his gut level feelings on the matter, tell him otherwise. He goes on to say at the end of his column that “in the interest of civil debate” we should agree that a person defending traditional marriage shouldn’t be called a bigot.

Let me say that, “in the interest of civil debate”, people shouldn’t accuse homosexuals of being a threat to children without any evidence to back that up.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, February 9, 2004

Alive, But Not At All Well…

Sorry for the lack of activity here. I’m back in one piece from California, but I seem to have brought with me a nasty little flu. It’s been kicking me in the head for the past several days now.

This is why I get the shot every year. Not that I’m at any particular risk of complications, I just don’t like getting socked in for a week at a time or more with fevers and aches and that draining of all your energy from your body like it was wrung out sponge feeling. I hate it. I suppose I should count my blessings that at fifty flu is the worst thing I’ve ever had to hate (I had the Scarlet Fever when I was a very wee lad, but I don’t remember much of it). The actual symptoms aren’t really that unendurable (unless nausea is part of the mix anyway), but the damn things just drag on and on. And of course the yearly flu shot only protects you from one of several possible strains, so of course you’re still as likely as ever to pick up any of the others.

I’ll post more later, when I can look at a crt for longer periods of time without that burning eyeball sensation…

[UPDATE] Getting a ten out of ten on your first homework assignment of the semester can make you feel a lot better…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

If Al Capone Were Alive Today, He’d Probably Call For An Investigation Into Organized Crime.

I see that president stonewalling the 9-11 commission is calling for an inquiry into that little gosh no weapons of mass destruction after all situation.

To Repeat: The same man who still employs someone who leaked the identity of a CIA agent in revenge for her husband’s telling the world that yellowcake is a synonym for crock of shit is calling for an inquiry into what went wrong with intelligence on Iraq.

To Repeat: The same man whose underlings routinely re-write the findings of various government science committees to suit their political agendas is calling for an inquiry into what went wrong with intelligence on Iraq.

To Repeat: The same man whose press secretary said that 92 million Americans will receive an average tax cut of $1,083, is calling for an inquiry into what went wrong with intelligence on Iraq.

To Repeat: The same man whose Park Service appointee is stocking the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center with creationist literature that claims the canyon was created by Noah’s flood, is calling for an inquiry into what went wrong with intelligence on Iraq.

To Repeat: The same man whose vice president is still claiming that those Iraqi trailers were for making biological weapons, is calling for an inquiry into what went wrong with intelligence on Iraq.

To Repeat: The same man who just said the other day that the war was justified because Sadam wouldn’t let the weapons inspectors in, is calling for an inquiry into what went wrong with intelligence on Iraq.

I’m sure he’ll leave no stone turned. Congress should just appropriate the money for Republican National Committee press releases and be done with it. I’m sure DeLay and Frist would vote for it. And I’ll bet quite a few capital hill democrats would too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, February 2, 2004

Light Blogging This Week.

I’m at a software developer’s conference at Redondo Beach, California and will be pretty busy with it for most of this week. We’re trying to figure out how to live in a world where managers want software engineers to use more off the shelf stuff as a way to cut software development expenses. From what I’ve been able to tell so far, the cost of making various third party components work together in peace love and understanding almost completely negates any savings you get from not developing the software yourself.

In the meantime, I’m back in the land of my birth, and every time I come out here I go away longing to live here even more. I’m not sure that’ll ever happen though, since the job market for software engineers here can’t be all that great since the Bush Bust, and housing costs are as unbelievable as D.C.’s. I don’t want to go back to renting. And as long as I have a job with the Space Telescope Science Institute, I’m not leaving Baltimore.

When I arrived at the hotel, I discovered that Rodondo Beach was hosting a Super Bowl 10k run…the start and finish lines of which were right in front of the hotel. The conference I am attending wasn’t to start until after the run was over, probably due to the fact that the streets around it were all blocked off (side note: a friend of mine expressed amazement that my conference was starting on Super Bowl Sunday. “We’re computer geeks,” was my response.) Here’s a few shots of what I saw.

Sponge Bob runner

Sponge Bob Runner

Martha Stewart Running Team

Martha Stewart Running Team

Washboard Lady

Washboard Lady

Starting Line

Starting Line

Four Runners

Four Runners

Three Runners

Three Runners

Buggy Runners

Buggy Runners

Dog Buggy

Dog Buggy

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, January 30, 2004

The Coming Brain Drain

Good article in the current issue of The Washington Monthly, titled Creative Class War, it takes a look at the whole “red state” verses “blue state” political split from a point of view that is almost universally ignored, but which I think strikes right at the root of it. The author, Richard Florida, begins by talking about a visit to Peter Jackson’s new film complex, where he filmed his Lord of the Rings trilogy:

When I visited, I met dozens of Americans from places like Berkeley and MIT working alongside talented filmmakers from Europe and Asia, the Americans asserting that they were ready to relinquish their citizenship. Many had begun the process of establishing residency in New Zealand.

Think about this. In the industry most symbolic of America's international economic and cultural might, film, the greatest single project in recent cinematic history was internationally funded and crafted by the best filmmakers from around the world, but not in Hollywood...

Florida goes on to write about two looming problems on America’s horizon that are not the destruction of decades long friendships and alliances and the good will of the rest of the industrial world brought about by president AWOL, and not the trillions of dollars of future debt brought about by president smirking fratboy jackass, but the flight of creative talent from America to other more hospitable lands, and worse, the near complete halt of talent coming into America, in search not simply of the freedom to create, but of a place where creativity is valued.

Roger Pederson is one of the leading researchers in the field of stem cells. But in 2001, he left his position at the University of California, San Francisco, to take up residency at the Centre for Stem Cell Biology Medicine at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. His departure illustrates how the creative economy is being reshaped--by our competitors growing savvy and by our own cluelessness. Pederson bolted because the British government aggressively recruited him, but also because the Bush administration put heavy restrictions on stem-cell research. "I have a soft spot in my heart for America," he recently told Wired magazine. "But the U.K. is much better for this research.... more working capital." And, he continued, "they haven't made such a political football out of stem cells."

Stem cells are vital to the body because of their ability to develop any kind of tissue. Scientists play a similar role in the economy; their discoveries (silicon circuitry, gene splicing) are the source of most big new industries (personal computers, biotechnology). Unfortunately, Roger Pederson's departure may be among the first of many. "Over the last few years, as the conservative movement in the U.S. has become more entrenched, many people I know are looking for better lives in Canada, Europe, and Australia," a noted entymologist at the University of Illinois emailed me recently. "From bloggers and programmers to members of the National Academy I have spoken with, all find the Zeitgeist alien and even threatening. My friend says it is like trying to research and do business in the 21st century in a culture that wants to live in the 19th, empires, bibles and all. There is an E.U. fellowship through the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Amsterdam that everyone and their mother is trying to get."

The contempt for art and artists among the reactionaries and fundamentalists that are now the aggregate bedrock of the feral republican party is well known. What is not perhaps as well understood, is that not all art is dance, and paint on canvas and bronze statuary, and not all artists work in media that is purely expressive. There is a subtle but profound likeness in the practice of both art and science. In science and technology, as well as purely artistic expressionism, the creative mind restlessly explores, investigates, and outrages entrenched dogmas, and for generations America was a place where the creative mind was not only welcome, but enshrined as part of our folklore. In it’s war on elites, intellectual and artistic, the American right is systematically fouling the environment that sustains and nurtures the practices of art and science. There are consequences.

For several years now, my colleagues and I have been measuring the underlying factors common to those American cities and regions with the highest level of creative economic growth. The chief factors we've found are: large numbers of talented individuals, a high degree of technological innovation, and a tolerance of diverse lifestyles. Recently my colleague Irene Tinagli of Carnegie Mellon and I have applied the same analysis to northern Europe, and the findings are startling. The playing field is much more level than you might think. Sweden tops the United States on this measure, with Finland, the Netherlands, and Denmark close behind. The United Kingdom and Belgium are also doing well. And most of these countries, especially Ireland, are becoming more creatively competitive at a faster rate than the United States.

It’s a global economy, as they’re fond of saying. But what happens when it’s not just jobs, but talent, that starts going abroad?

Thanks to the GOP takeover of Washington, and the harsh realities of the Big Sort [migrations of the creative class to the more tolerant blue states, while cultural conservatives migrate to the red states], economically lagging parts of the country now wield ultimate political power, while the creative centers--source of most of America's economic growth--have virtually none. Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer speak for Silicon Valley and Hollywood. New York's Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, also Democrats, represent New York's finance and publishing industries. Washington State, home to Starbucks and Microsoft, has two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Boston's Route 128 and Washington's high-tech Maryland suburbs are also represented by Democratic senators. It's hard to understate how little influence these senators have with the Bush White House and in the GOP-controlled Congress.

You don't have to be a Democrat to recognize that the political polarization of America and GOP dominance of Washington are not necessarily good news for America's economic future.

To which the American right would say, “so what?” For the same reason poor white racists will reliably vote into power politicians, who they know will keep them poor and their children illiterate, so long as they share their racist views, the American right will cheerfully accept a banana republic America, that lowers their standard of living year after year after year, so long as their government keeps the faces of anyone with a shred of creativity and intellectual curiosity shoved firmly in the dirt.

As long as the elites are held down, or driven out, they’re happy. The elites, the intellectuals, the scientists, the artists, and anyone who loves life, and existence.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Things To Be Thankful For…

Telecommuting and Linux. With my work being what it is, I can do most of it from home, and thankfully the Institute allows that, particularly on days when the driving is hazardous. So for the past couple days I’ve been plinking away at home, on machines running Linux.

Linux works well for the telecommuting I do, since most of it involves sessions on various Unix servers at work, and Unix talks to Linux a lot better then it talks to Windows. Linux also does one other thing which has come in handy the past few days: it doesn’t run Windows viruses. I’ve been getting swarmed by the latest one, and just deleting them as they come in.

You could argue that it’s only because Linux isn’t as widely used as Windows, that I don’t have to worry much about viruses. And that’s true to a point. But Windows evolved from little single application running on single machine DOS, and the DOS point of view is still painfully rooted in the way Windows looks at the world. The usual way people run Windows, even on NT, is to give their account all the super user privileges, which the applications you run often expect that you have while you’re running them. On Linux, as well as Unix, you don’t log in as root unless you have to do some specific thing as root. Otherwise you’re logged in as a user who can’t do things like edit the password file, or write to sensitive areas of the directory tree.

The thing you struggle with most while learning to do things on Linux, if you’re coming from Windows, is the fact that you aren’t god when you’re logged in, unless you’re logged in as root. So many things you just assume you can do you can’t until you give the system that magic password. What the hell do you mean I can’t just install that program? What do you mean I can’t edit that file? Why won’t this damn thing let me change my network configuration? Where the hell is my traceroute!? Oh…right…I need to be root to do that… For a while it just drives you nuts. But you get used to it, and after a while the new worldview starts taking root, so to speak, and you start doing things the Unix way. Then you sit back and watch the Windows virus-of-the-week unable to accomplish anything, like you at first, and you kinda start liking it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, January 26, 2004

Asay Revised

Grow A Brain Chuck, You Pathetic Drooling Moron!

And the original that just ticked me off enough to spend a few moments rewriting its text. (Sorry, but this Send-A-Card page was the only place I could find with anything that looked like a perma link…)

by Bruce Garrett | Link

A Little Tweaking

I reworked some of the text in this week’s cartoon a tad. Serves me right for trying to hand letter everything late yesterday evening. After I scanned it in and looked at it on the screen I remembered why I don’t hand letter my drawings. I was up very late re-doing almost all the text the way I usually do. This morning when I looked at it again, I wasn’t quite satisfied with it, so when I got home today I fixed a few things.

I’m still not completely happy, but that’s mostly because I was experimenting this week with a technique I hope works better for printing processes that can’t quite reproduce the various shading and texturing things I do in charcoal. If you noticed a slight difference in the style this week, that’s why. The cartoon turned out pretty much as I expected, but the greese crayon technique I used is one I am not comfortible with. Maybe if I had more time to practice I could get better at cross-hatching, but my hand just doesn’t seem to want to do that. (For a sample of really awesome cross-hatching, try Ben Sargent’s Cartoons at the Universal Cartoon site) Why I’m experimenting with this I’ll reveal at a later date. In the meantime, don’t worry, I’ll be back to my usual tricks week after next.

Week After Next…you say? Yeah. I’ll be going to a software engineer’s conference at the end of the week and between deadlines at work and getting ready for it I won’t have time to do next week’s cartoon. Cartoons will resume the week after.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sudden Death On The Streets Of Baltimore

I put out bird feeders, not so much because I think I’m necessary to their survival, as that I just like watching birds. But when there is snowfall, like today for instance, I make an extra effort to get something out there for them. Sometimes I forget how high up the food chain I’m feeding.

Last night the forecasters were calling for between 4 and six inches of snow here in Baltimore, so I put food out before I went to bed. When I got up this morning I glanced outside and saw my neighborhood was covered in snow, and my feeders were covered with birds, which were zooming every which way around the tree in my front yard where I hang them.

I decided to shovel my sidewalk before I left for work, since it’s best to get the stuff when it’s still soft and fluffy. As I stepped outside, I noticed that there were no birds anywhere, but I was too busy thinking about the work I have to do today to pay attention. I shovelled my way down my front steps, and turned slightly to begin shovelling my sidewalk. I caught a movement from the corner of my eye. Suddenly this large winged shadow pounced down on a snowbank, no further then three feet from me, and I heard this pitiful little squeal. By the time I’d turned my head to look, the hawk was already about five feet back into the air and climbing, with one of my little house finches in its talons.

Oh…so that was why it was so quiet out here… It was a pretty audacious move for the hawk, since I was right there whipping around this big metal snow shovel, well within reach of where it landed. Not that I would have swung at it, I admire raptors. But it took a chance. On the other hand, had I wanted to smack it I probably couldn’t have anyway, since it was already well out of my reach again, by the time I turned to look at it. I never knew it was there, but you can be sure it was watching both me and its intended target before it made its move. Maybe it saw its chance when I turned my back.

And human with a shovel or no, I’m sure the sight of food sticking out like a sore thumb on that snowbank was irresistible. House finches look about like sparrows with their heads dipped in raspberry sauce. Most months of the year, like sparrows, they’re hard to see while they’re on the ground. A hawk would have to watch for movement. Thinking it over while I walked in to work, I realized that snow probably doesn’t make life difficult for hawks. Just the opposite I think. Anything moving around in the snow might as well have a bulls-eye painted on it.

City life isn’t all rats and pigeons. We’ve got pidgeons all right, but I’ve only seen one rat since I moved here. I’ve seen two different kinds of hawk and one falcon in my yard in just a tad over two years. That’s not counting the big, red shouldered hawks we have in the woods by the Institute.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, January 25, 2004

American Astronomical Society Supports Review of Hubble Servicing Mission Cancellation

The AAS issued a press release supporting the congressional call to review the cacellation of Hubble servicing mission 4. They don’t seem to have the press release on their web site yet, but a PDF version was circulated to all staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute late yesterday. You can read it here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, January 23, 2004

Better…

Some sembalance of contact with Spirit has reestablished. At least, now it’s not gibbering:

NEWS RELEASE: 2004-30

Mars Exploration Rover Updated Mission Status

The flight team for NASA's Spirit received data from the rover in a communication session that began at 13:26 Universal Time (5:26 a.m. PST) and lasted 20 minutes at a data rate of 120 bits per second.

"The spacecraft sent limted data in a proper response to a ground command, and we're planning for commanding further communication sessions later today," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager Pete Theisinger at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The flight team at JPL had sent a command to Spirit at 13:02 Universal Time (5:02 PST) via the NASA Deep Space Network antenna complex near Madrid, Spain, telling Spirit to begin transmitting.

Meanwhile, the other Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity is on course to land halfway around Mars from Spirit, in a region called Meridiani Planum, on Jan. 25 (Universal Time and EST; Jan. 24 at 9:05 p.m. PST).

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Not Good

I do not like the reports I’m hearing, that Spirit (the Mars rover) hasn’t communicated with Earth in 24 hours.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Hubblewatch…

Dr. Beckwith sent a new email to all staff today, outlining some of the initiatives now going on regarding the future of the Hubble Space Telescope. I’m not going to quote it verbatim here, but I’ll give you some of what struck me as important and interesting in it.

Interest now is in making sure that nothing irrevocable is done regarding our ability to support a future servicing mission, should NASA, for whatever reason, decide to revisit this decision. I’ve said before that I don’t think there is any possibility that this white house will change it’s mind, for reasons I’ve somewhat elaborated on previously, and will again soon. But this is a wise move nonetheless. No point in starting to dismantle our infrastructure until we have no choice.

A team of our best engineers is being assembled to work on technical ideas assuming no SM4. There will be communications channels into and out of the committee established, so that ideas can be suggested, and regular reports about the brain storming and the technical viability of possible courses of action can be shared. At one end of the spectrum, they are looking at possible: robotic servicing, remote manipulator servicing, human servicing by countries such as Russia) to extend the life of HST as originally planned. On the other end of the spectrum, assuming no more visits before a de-orbiting mission, they will look at the ways and means of extending the life of the observatory (e.g. cycling the power off at night to conserve batteries, going immediately to 2-gyro mode to preserve the gyros…and so forth)

We will be looking into other possible work to bridge the gap between the end of Hubble and the launch of the Next Generation Space Telescope. Some near term opportunities will be revisited and their feasibility reassessed in light of no SM4.

Near term staff reductions will not see a big increase. This is because our budget had already assumed that SM4 would have happened by fiscal year 05 (it had slipped). There are some planned staff reductions which will take place this spring or summer and again the following year. This is because our current budget called for putting Hubble systems development into maintenance mode after SM4. As I said, a few months ago we were still holding out hope for an SM5, but it didn’t seem likely, given that SM4 had slipped and by the time it happened the work would likely make Hubble usable for science for a bit into the next decade anyway. But now that SM4 is not going to happen, in three years the Institute will probably have to reduce staff by fifty percent. What remains will maintain the Hubble archive, and do the startup work for NGST.

They will look into ways to optimize the science program under the assumption that Hubble will no longer be able to do science in three years (more about that in a moment). This needs wide community involvement and will probably begin during an already scheduled May symposium.

Bearing on the expected lifespan of Hubble, I reckon you’ll be interested in this abstract that made the rounds at work today

ACS Instrument Science Report 04-03 is now available via the ACS web site (pdf)

Title: Best Gyroscope Usage to Maximize the HST Mission Lifetime

Author: Roeland P. van der Marel
21 January 2004

ABSTRACT

Without SM4, gyroscope survival is a critical factor for the HST Mission lifetime. I present a simple Monte-Carlo model to calculate the survival probabilities for various scenarios. I calibrate the model to reproduce and update more accurate, but somewhat outdated, calculations by Aerospace Corporation. Continued three-gyroscope guiding will become impossible by late January 2006. Subsequent two-gyroscope guiding will further extend the mission to late May 2007 (if no other hardware fails). I discuss the importance of alternative strategies. We can extend the HST Mission if we switch to two-gyroscope guiding sooner; this extends the lifetime of the gyroscope that is powered off. Starting two-gyroscope guiding by January 2005 could extend the HST Mission by another 10 months, to April 2008. Any 6-month implementation delay beyond January 2005 decreases the mission by 3 months. The 1-sigma uncertainty in all the aforementioned 50% probability (median) dates ranges between 11-16 months. To achieve maximum lifetime it is important to guide with the gyroscopes that have the lowest failure probabilities. This strategy is important during three-gyroscope guiding as well. I recommend that: (a) More detailed gyroscope survival models should be calculated to validate these results; (b) With knowledge of the individual gyroscope failure probabilities, an effort should be made guide with the gyroscopes for which these probabilities are lowest; (c) Implementation and testing of the two-gyroscope guiding capability should be expedited as much as possible; (d) A study should be undertaken of the (net) trade-off between 13 months of three-gyroscope observations and 23 months of two-gyroscope observations; (e) any remote possibility of one-gyroscope guiding should be actively investigated, since it is expected that one functional gyroscope will be available into 2009 or beyond.

I have to say that the last time I attended a discussion of their thinking on two-gyro mode, it looked like only a very limited amount of science could be done in that mode. Because of the orbital mechanics they laid out for us (and I don’t do that sort of thing for a living…I’m an applications programmer Jim, not a rocket scientist), it looked to me that while there would be times when Hubble could do everything it otherwise could with three gyros, most of the time they wouldn’t be able to get the kind of pointing they needed to get the kind of data they want, and at some times they wouldn’t be able to do anything. But of course they’re still working on it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

No They Won’t

Good editorial about the demise of Hubble in yesterday’s USA Today

Two days after President Bush announced a push to send a man to Mars, NASA doomed the Hubble Space Telescope by scrubbing a shuttle mission to upgrade the venerable instrument.

The result is an inadvertent irony. In the name of sending more humans into space, NASA has pulled the plug on its strongest real-world argument for doing so. Though Hubble is Earth's most powerful eye in space, it might shut down within a few years.

...

As a research instrument, Hubble has been a staggering success. Launched in 1991, it has helped astronomers confirm black holes, document the life cycle of stars and age-date the universe.

As a call to space, Hubble has been even more triumphant. The spectacular images it sent back of galaxies and our neighboring planets pique the human imagination. Hubble's accomplishments convey the awesomeness of space and render space exploration immediate, meaningful and captivating. The telescope may be getting old and creaky, but it still serves admirably as the public's collective presence in space.

... As politicians and technocrats try to drum up the enthusiasm necessary to fulfill the president's immensely costly vision, they are bound to regret having closed the public's one good eye

No they won’t. During our townhall meeting at the Institute last Friday, after we were informed of the decision, the question was asked if NASA director Sean O’Keefe understood that NASA was going to loose one of, if not its biggest, public relations successes. O’Keefe we were told, knew that “he would take a hit”, but he thought it would be manageable. NASA, we were told, would have other things to show the public, like the current pictures from the Mars rover Spirit for example.

This white house is nothing, if not well versed in the ways and means of manipulating public opinion. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED anyone? My thinking is that we’re going to be well down the road to dismantling space science, and well on the way to the complete militarization of space, before the costs of the decisions made by this white house this month start dawning on the general public. Then, as in Iraq, the argument will become, well…we’ve gone this far…now we can’t go back.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, January 19, 2004

No…Daddy’s Not A Prisoner…He’s An Associate…

A little something to think about, whenever you see on of those new “Community Friendly” WalMart ads on your TV…

"My ankle was crushed," Mr. Rodriguez said, explaining he had been struck by an electronic cart driven by an employee moving stacks of merchandise. "I was yelling and running around like a hurt dog that had been hit by a car. Another worker made some phone calls to reach a manager, and it took an hour for someone to get there and unlock the door."

The reason for Mr. Rodriguez's delayed trip to the hospital was a little-known Wal-Mart policy: the lock-in. For more than 15 years, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, has locked in overnight employees at some of its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. It is a policy that many employees say has created disconcerting situations, such as when a worker in Indiana suffered a heart attack, when hurricanes hit in Florida and when workers' wives have gone into labor.

...

Janet Anderson, who was a night supervisor at a Sam's Club in Colorado from 1996 to 2002, said that many of her employees were also airmen stationed at a nearby Air Force base. Their commanders sometimes called the store to order them to report to duty immediately, but she said they often had to wait until a manager arrived around 6 a.m. She said one airman received a reprimand from management for leaving by the fire door to report for duty.

Ms. Anderson also told of a worker who had broken his foot one night while using a cardboard box baler and had to wait four hours for someone to open the door. She said the store's managers had lied to her and the overnight crew, telling them the fire doors could not be physically opened by the workers and that the doors would open automatically when the fire alarm was triggered.

Only after several years as night supervisor did she learn that she could open the fire door from inside, she said, but she was told she faced dismissal if she opened it when there was no fire. One night, she said, she cut her finger badly with a box cutter but dared not go out the fire exit ó waiting until morning to get 13 stitches at a hospital.

The federal government and almost all states do not bar locking in workers so long as they have access to an emergency exit. But several longtime Wal-Mart workers recalled that in the late 1980's and early 1990's, the fire doors of some Wal-Marts were chained shut.

Wal-Mart officials said they cracked down on that practice after an overnight stocker at a store in Savannah, Ga., collapsed and died in 1988. Paramedics could not get into the store soon enough because the employees inside could not open the fire door or front door, and there was no manager with a key.

"We certainly do not do that now," Ms. Williams said. "It's not been that way for a long time."

The New York Times - Workers Assail Night Lock-Ins by Wal-Mart

“We certainly do not do that now…” Well that’s really swell. It’s staringly obvious that people who set policies like this, do so without ever once considering how they would like working under those kinds of conditions themselves. People you feel perfectly free to physically lock up inside your stores aren’t your associates, they’re your inmates.

This is why we have labor laws. I have never considered myself a socialist, but my dalliance with libertarianism ended on precisely this note during the Reagan years, when I saw scores of decent, hard working, struggling people beaten down like pack animals by corporations, not so much from runaway greed as complete and utter indifference to their humanity. I believe in the marketplace. But if you make your money by exploiting helpless people at the edge of survival, then you’re no businessman, you’re a leach, and your money is poison. Any company that so obviously treats its employees like chattel, can only be managed by a bunch of goons who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. Think about that, the next time you see a WalMart commercial touting how much they care about the communities they serve.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Space…The Final Battlefield…

"I think the new initiative is driven by a desire to beat the Chinese to the moon," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense and space policy research group.

Among companies that could cash in on Bush's space plans are Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp., which do big business with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as well as with the Pentagon.

The moon, scientists have said, is a source of potentially unlimited energy in the form of the helium 3 isotope -- a near perfect fuel source: potent, non-polluting and causing virtually no radioactive by-product in a fusion reactor.

"And if we could get a monopoly on that, we wouldn't have to worry about the Saudis and we could basically tell everybody what the price of energy was going to be," said Pike.

Gerald Kulcinski of the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison estimated the moon's helium 3 would have a cash value of perhaps $4 billion (2.23 billion pounds) a ton in terms of its energy equivalent in oil.

Scientists reckon there are about one million tons of helium 3 on the moon, enough to power the earth for thousands of years. The equivalent of a single space shuttle load or roughly 30 tons could meet all U.S. electric power needs for a year, Kulcinski said by e-mail.

Bush's schedule for a U.S. return to the moon matches what experts say may be a dramatic militarisation of space over the next two decades, even if the current ban on weapons holds.

Reuters - U.S. Eyes Space As Possible Battleground

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, January 18, 2004

In Other News, Many Americans Suspect Harvey Fierstein Is Gay…

Headline at The San Francisco Chronicle: Auditors seek Halliburton fuel deal probe – Decision suggests agency suspects laws were broken

by Bruce Garrett | Link

More Later…

I fixed the dates on the last couple entries. My fault. I do this all by hand and sometimes I get a date wrong, and then it creeps into the following posts.

I’ll have my say on the cancellation of the Hubble servicing mission later in the week. Just so you know, nobody at the Institute is being muzzled about this. We’re all free to speak our minds about it, although obviously the Director and upper management are in more delicate positions. I just want to make sure I say my piece about it clearly and coherently. On the web sites I’ve visited where this is being discussed, I saw a fairly immediate presupposition that this was the usual anti-science crap that comes constantly out of this white house, followed by a smaller wave of folks saying no, no…this was planned all along, and Bush really had nothing to do with it, and saying he did amounts to tinfoil hat territory.

I think the former impression is entirely correct. I’ll make my case for it here in a couple of days.

The hope among some, not just at the Institute, but all over the world as I’m reading it, is that this decision on the part of NASA can be changed with enough public outcry. I really doubt that, but I don’t want to discourage people from trying. By all means, contact your elected officials about it, if you think that will be helpful. Don’t sit on your hands…we as citizens, should never just sit on our hands when our government takes a course we disagree with. Maybe I’m just becoming a gloomy old cuss in my middle age…but I don’t think this white house gives a good goddamn about what the public thinks. Not when money and power are at stake.

In the meantime, I have a cartoon to finish for Monday and one to work on which…well…if everything goes as planned I’ll tell you about later. Oh…and my Terror Alert cartoons to work on. So no more blogging now until Monday.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Well…It Turned Out The Leopard Didn’t Change His Spots After All…

The Maryland Log Cabin Quislings aren’t saying anything about governor Ehrlich’s recent rant opposing everything from civil unions to hate crime laws. How…unsurprising. According to The Washington Blade, when a Maryland resident sent letters to various local, state and federal officials about gay issues, Ehrlich, responded with a diatribe that, among other things, called hate crime laws discriminatory, called civil unions vague and non-binding, referred obliquely to such unions as the result of choices individuals make in life, and said he was opposed to “Promulgating homosexuality”.

Thing is…Ehrlich’s hard right credentials were well known, even before his race for the Maryland governorship. He is from the Ellen Sauerbrey wing of the republican party here, and while in congress, representing one of Maryland’s most reactionary districts, he voted with the right wing American Conservative Union, over 80 percent of the time. It was a record he ran from during his race for governor, by presenting himself to Marylanders as a whole as a moderate, chiefly on the issues of abortion, guns and the environment. This despite the fact that, for example, his score on conservation issues was the lowest in the Maryland house delegation for seven years.

When Ehrlich won the governorship in 2002, his chief of staff told the Blade after his victory that while the governor-elect was not supportive of gay marriage, he would be open to hearing proposals about domestic partnership registries and civil unions.

In 2002, Steve Kreseski, Ehrlich's chief of staff, said, "Some of the other ideas -- domestic partner registries or, perhaps, civil unions -- he would be open-minded to hearing those proposals." Kreseski did not respond to Blade inquiries this week.

Gosh…he changed his mind pretty quickly didn’t he? You have to figure that the Log Cabiners are practicing a kind of political bug chasing, because lately the candidates they’ve been endorsing have had a pretty good record of relentlessly attacking gay and lesbian Americans once they get into office. Deep thinker Dale Carpenter at the Independent (sic) Gay Forum once accused Richard Goldstein of having a nostalgia for alienation. Maybe he reckons that nostalgia is for wimps, whereas it takes real guts to actually fight to bring the bad old days back. If the Bush years have taught us anything so far, it’s that when a right winger offers up a few token statements of political moderation, they’re bullshitting, and probably laughing at you while they’re doing it. And as long as people are willing to passively accept the bullshit, they have every right to laugh at them. All the Log Cabiners needed to see through Ehrlich’s bullshit, was the pride in themselves just as they are, that Log Cabiners keep insisting that they actually have more of, then all those left wing militant homosexual activists. A militant homosexual is a homosexual who doesn’t think there is anything wrong with being a homosexual. A militant homosexual activist, is a homosexual who acts like they don’t think there is anything wrong with being a homosexual.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, January 16, 2004

More On The Cancellation Of Hubble Servicing Mission 4 (SM4)

I just got back from a town hall meeting at the Space Telescope Science Institute, with our director Dr. Steven Beckwith. Here’s some brief notes on what we were told.

Dr. Beckwith, along with several other project leaders met with NASA director Sean O’Keefe at Goddard this morning, where they were informed that SM4 had been cancelled. In explaining his decision to cancel, O’Keefe said that it was a close decision, and that he could have made it either way, but this was the way he decided to go. He said that the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, (CAIB), played a major role in his decision. CAIB lists several requirements for a return to flight for the space shuttle, and the essential points were that if the shuttle can’t reach the space station, then it must have the ability to inspect and repair itself in orbit. Hubble is in a different orbit from the space station (the space station orbit is more polar), and if a shuttle goes to Hubble, it cannot reach the space station if it is in trouble. Meeting the requirments laid down by CAIB, would require new technology (such as a redesigned robotic arm), which would have only been used to support Hubble servicing missions, since they have decided now, that only Hubble and the space station are possible missions for the space shuttles.

Finishing the space station is now a top priority in the new direction Bush has turned NASA toward. O’Keefe said he weighed fulfilling the requirements of CAIB in the balance against Hubble’s usefulness to science, and decided it wasn’t worth it. On the one hand, there are many astronauts who have expressed a willingness to go up and service Hubble, even accounting for the risks. Hubble has been something the astronauts especially, have taken great pride in working on (I’ve seen this pride for myself when they’ve come to the institute to talk to us about the missions with Hubble). Then there is the money already spent on SM4…about 200-250 million dollars. Two new instruments were scheduled to be installed on Hubble, each at about 100 million a piece to develop and build, in addition to some maintenance work. O’Keefe estimated about 45 million would be saved, although he insisted that the savings weren’t primarily why he cancelled the mission. Indeed, we were told, NASA had already budgeted the money for the servicing mission, and the safety upgrades to the shuttle fleet to service Hubble.

O’Keefe said that consideration was given to the fact that the people working on Hubble now, represent a talent pool that should not be lost, and could be useful in the new missions in planning, and he suggested that other interim projects may come on line to insure that our talent pool is not lost to NASA. He said that the decision to cancel was his alone, and that he made it now, rather then waiting for a return to flight, because he didn’t think that the factors he was considering would change after shuttle flights are resumed.

During our town hall meeting, Dr. Beckwith told us that for now, Hubble was still operational and we still had a few more years of science left in it. Our concerns now are primarily the gyros, the batteries, and orbit decay.

The gyros, as I’ve said, fail in a regular and predictable pattern. Hubble has six on board. It currently needs three to do science. When it became clear that SM4 would likely not happen before we were down to two gyros, the engineers began work on a scheme to do science with only two gyros. That’s still in the planning stages, and obviously will get a lot more attention now that there will be no more servicing missions. Desperation is the mother of invention.

The batteries are a new concern. Hubble is still working on the original batteries, and they are somewhat past their predicted life span. Dr. Beckwith said we are in uncharted territory regarding them. We have no useful model of how they may behave so far past their designed life. So this is another area the engineers will look at, to see how much additional life we can wring out of them. Dr. Beckwith discussed the possibility of only doing science while the spacecraft was in the sunlit side of its orbit. But constantly powering up and down the instruments might only make matters worse.

Then there is the matter of the orbit. At every servicing mission, Hubble is boosted back up a notch by the shuttle. With this no longer a possibility, it is a certainty that the spacecraft will enter the atmosphere before 2010, Hubble’s original end of life date. There are plans in the works to design and launch a robotically attached retro rocket, to allow NASA to deorbit Hubble in a controlled way. The talk I’ve heard around the Institute is that the primary mirror will almost certainly survive reentry, and depending on how it enters the atmosphere, some of the guidance system too. Hubble uses reaction wheels for positioning, not gas jets.

Beyond Hubble, there is the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST, or as it is now called, the James Webb Space Telescope), which is currently scheduled for launch sometime in 2011. O’Keefe said that he will look into ways to accelerate development of NGST a tad, but that would only bring it forward by a year at best. Then there is the archive, which will require work past the end of Hubble. Dr. Beckwith said he is committed to doing what he could to keeping as much of the Hubble talent pool together for NGST. There may be other projects we can work on in the interim. For now, he said he wanted to make sure that our fiscal year 04 would run its course as planned. But we do not have our offical budget yet. There have been no stop work orders given. Yet.

That’s all I have for now. I’m at home, and through the miracle of modern computing technology, I will be working on the projects I am responsible for at the Institute, probably for the rest of the evening. More on what I think of all this tomorrow.

Oh…and one other thing. I don’t speak for the Space Telescope Science Institute. I only work here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The End Of An Era

No more servicing missions to Hubble, as per the directive of the current head of NASA, Sean O’Keefe.

Hubble has six guidance gyros. But they fail at fairly regular and now predictable rates. Nearly every servicing mission to Hubble has replaced gyros as part of the work done. It needs three to do most of the science it now does, although there is a scheme in the works to do a greatly attenuated kind of science with two. We currently have four working gyros. Expectations were that we would almost certainly be down to two by the time the next servicing mission occurred, and possibly even down to one. So, figure, at around the time of what would have been the next servicing mission, Hubble will probably be no more, or soon, very soon, to expire.

Haven’t heard yet about their final plans to control dump it. Last I heard, the talk was that some sort of small retro would be fitted to it via a shuttle mission, so it’s re-entry into earth’s atmosphere could be controlled.

This is of a piece with Bush’s directive, that anything that doesn’t support his new moon and mars missions is to be cut. So likely Hubble won’t be the only thing that does deep space science that goes, and quite possibly some of the stuff that does near earth science will also be trashcanned (like for instance, all the stuff that provides data about that pesky global warming that isn’t supposed to be really happening…)

The end of an era in deep space exploration draws to a close. The era of the total militarization of space dawns.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Of Course, He’ll Tell Us If There’s Anything We Need To Know…Won’t He…?

WASHINGTON - Under a new proposal, the White House would decide what and when the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis.

...

Federal agencies have until Thursday to submit comments on what they think about having their authority stripped.

There is wide concern among those in the science offices at the EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration that their agencies' responses will be based more on political realities than on the genuine merits of the OMB's proposal.

Even those critical of the OMB's plan agree with the need for peer review. The practice, which has been accepted for decades, demands that before scientific, medical or technical findings can be determined to be effective and safe for use or published in professional journals, they must be evaluated for merit by other specialists in the same field.

Industry has not been shy about denouncing government's system of peer review as unfair, especially when regulators determined that their pharmaceutical product, chemical or process must be tightly controlled because of possible danger to the public or environment. And the White House has been equally open about its desire to reduce the regulatory burden on industry.

Graham said revising peer review "is a major priority for this administration."

...

There were headlines across the country when the EPA's inspector general confirmed that the White House's Council on Environmental Quality had forced downplaying of actual hazards from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. And the OMB was faulted in congressional hearings for preventing the EPA from declaring a public health emergency regarding asbestos contamination in Libby, Mont.

"Incredibly, OMB's response to this widespread criticism about political interference in public health decisions is to come right out and explicitly propose to take authority over release of emergency information away from health, safety and environmental officials and transfer it into the hands" of John Graham, said Winifred De Palma, regulatory affairs counsel for Public Citizen.

...

Before joining the Bush administration, Graham headed the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Its research, funded mostly by corporations, is often widely praised by industry and denounced by some public interest groups. Graham has written or edited books on the problems of government peer review.

Two of Graham's own studies on the safety of cell phones and driving and the value of automotive air bags for children are called scientific whitewash by some critics and praised as an unbiased evaluation by those in the automotive and cell phone industry.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch "White House seeks control on health, safety"

Think about it. The George Bush white house is giving itself the power to decide whether or not you know that the meat one of his Texas cattleman pals sells is safe to eat or not.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

If We Asked Our Guests Tough Questions, They Wouldn’t Come Back.

How our sell-out press has surrendered to the image makers.

For $4,000 to $10,000 a day, trainers who are as ethically and intellectually diverse as journalists themselves teach the art of performing for the press. Thirty years ago many members of Congress did not have press secretaries, let alone coaches to show them how to behave in front of a camera. Today it's a rare public soul who has not been media trained. The risks are higher for the untrained person, says Joyce Newman, who heads The Newman Group, a New York training firm: "Anything seen or said tracks you forever, and can come back to smack you in the face." So politicians, government bureaucrats, and as many as 70 percent of corporate CEOs are taught how to parry reporters' questions and deliver predetermined messages. Even flower sellers coached by the Society of American Florists know they should talk about the color of roses when reporters call about price gouging on Valentine's Day.

As journalism has morphed into a cog in a great public relations machine, the fundamental relationship between journalists and their subjects has changed, turning the craft of the interview on its head. Where once journalists took the lead, prepared in depth for interviews, zeroed in on specifics, and connected the dots for their audience, those being questioned now lead the way, coached precisely on how to wrest control. Never assume knowledge on the part of the reporter, trainers counsel, and think of the interview as a collaboration, not a confrontation. To that end, The CommCore Observer, a monthly e-mail sent to clients by The CommCore Consulting Group, one of the country's largest media training firms, advises clients "to prepare for media interviews as if they are educating the reporter. Much like a teacher develops a lesson plan, the interviewee can set context, provide perspective and control the direction of the interview."

At a time when the audience makes decisions based on perceptions rather than facts, the goal is to create positive perceptions of companies and their products, politicians and their policies. The techniques, however, are the same, and the effect on the audience is the same as well: the control of information.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Cut From A Single Cloth

He looked a reporter in the eye and casually lied that it was the crew of the aircraft carrier, and not his staff, that made the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner. During the primaries he flinched from no lie about his opponants that he thought would gain him even the slightest advantage. He fought tooth and nail to prevent the will of the voters in Florida from ever being known. To this day he and his supporters lie about what has been learned about Florida since. He allowed a covert CIA agent’s identity to be made public, endangering her life and those of the people in foreign lands she worked with, when her husband went public with the truth about the allegations that Saddam was trying to buy nuclear material from Africa.

If the following shocks or surprises you, then you just aren’t paying attention:

In March 2002, the Institute of Medicine found "overwhelming" evidence that racial and ethnic minorities suffer disparities in healthcare and concluded that "the real challenge lies not in debating whether disparities exist . . . but in developing and implementing strategies to reduce and eliminate them." In the months that followed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was faulted for not pursuing many of the strategies recommended by the Institute of Medicine to counter healthcare disparities.

On December 23, 2003, HHS released its own long-awaited National Healthcare Disparities Report. Unlike the Institute of Medicine, however, HHS did not describe healthcare disparities as a national problem. In fact, the HHS report emphasized that in some ways racial and ethnic minorities are in better health than the general population.

At the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez, Rep. Michael M. Honda, Del. Donna M. Christensen, Rep. Hilda L. Solis, Rep. Danny K. Davis, and Rep. Dale E. Kildee, this report investigates why HHS reached conclusions on healthcare disparities that differ from those of the Institute of Medicine. The investigation is based on a comparison of two versions of the healthcare disparities report: (1) the final version that was released by HHS on December 23 after review by political appointees in the Department; and (2) the draft executive summary that was prepared by HHS scientists and widely circulated in the Department.

The investigation finds that HHS substantially altered the conclusions of its scientists on healthcare disparities. In the June draft, the Department's scientists found "significant inequality" in health care in the United States, called healthcare disparities "national problems," emphasized that these disparities are "pervasive in our health care system," and found that the disparities carry a significant "personal and societal price." The final version of the report, however, contains none of these conclusions.

This investigation finds:

  • The final version of the National Healthcare Disparities Report deletes most uses of the word "disparity." The scientists' draft defined "disparity" as "the condition or fact of being unequal, as in age, rank, or degree" and included the term over 30 times in the "key findings" section of the executive summary. By contrast, the final version leaves "disparity" undefined and includes it in the "key findings" section just twice.

  • The final version eliminates the conclusion that healthcare disparities are "national problems." The scientists' draft found that "racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities are national problems that affect health care at all points in the process, at all sites of care, and for all medical conditions - in fact, disparities are pervasive in our health care system." The final version states only that "some socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and geographic differences exist."
  • The final version drops findings on the social costs of disparities and replaces them with a discussion of "successes." The scientists' draft concluded that "disparities come at a personal and societal price," including lost productivity, needless disability, and early death. The final version drops this conclusion and replaces it with the finding that "some priority populations' do as well or better than the general population in some aspects of health care." As an example, the executive summary highlights that "American Indians/Alaska Natives have a lower death rate from all cancers." The executive summary does not mention that overall life expectancies for American Indians and Alaska Natives are significantly shorter than for other Americans or that their infant mortality rates are substantially higher.
  • The final version omits key examples of healthcare disparities. The scientists' draft concluded that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, die of HIV, be subjected to physical restraints in nursing homes, and receive suboptimal cardiac care for heart attacks. The final version drops these examples. The report instead highlights milder examples of healthcare disparities, such as the finding that "Hispanics and American Indians or Alaska Natives are less likely to have their cholesterol checked."

Read more here and here (pdf file).

They say that theirs is a moral crusade. But there is no morality that exalts power over truth.

Truth is accepting the facts for what they are, and honestly representing those facts to others. 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, and 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.

Theory and experiment alike become meaningless unless the scientist brings to them, and his fellows can assume in him, the respect of a lucid honesty with himself. The mathematician and philosopher W. K. Clifford said this forcibly at the end of his short life, nearly a hundred years ago.
If I steal money from any person, there may be no harm done by the mere transfer of possession; he may not feel the loss, or it may even prevent him from using the money badly. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself dishonest. What hurts society is not that it should loose it's property, but that it should become a den of thieves; for then it must cease to be a society. This is why we ought not to do evil that good may come; for at any rate this great evil has come, that we have done evil and are made wicked thereby.

This is the scientist's moral: that there is no distinction between ends and means. Clifford goes on to put this in terms of the scientist's practice:

In like manner, if I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous.

And the passion in Clifford's tone shows that to him the word credulous had the same emotional force as 'a den of thieves'

The fulcrum of Clifford's ethic here, and mine, is the phrase 'it may be true after all.' Others may allow this to justify their conduct; the practice of science wholly rejects it. It does not admit the word 'true' can have this meaning. The test of truth is the known factual evidence, and no glib expediency nor reason of state can justify the smallest self-deception in that. Our work is of a piece, in the large and in the detail; so that if we silence one scruple about our means, we infect ourselves and our ends together.

-Jacob Bronowski "Science and Human Values" 1956

This is exactly why they hate science. Lies are what brought them to power. Lies are what hope will keep them in power. Lies, and whatever fear of their power they can manage to instill in others. Theirs is the morality of thugs and criminals. The practice of science represents everything they loath and fear and resent about the human status, that they themselves have long since renounced. It empowers, because knowledge is power, whereas in their zero sum view of life and existance, any power gained by others, is less for themselves. Science proceeds from the evidence, not the dictates of authority. Science is a noble endevor, encouraging and rewarding the best within us, curiosity, thoughtfulness, a desire to learn, a courage to follow knowledge wherever it leads, a habit of truth. More then the contradictions to their cherished dogmas, it is the vision of the nobility which is possible to the human race, reminding the thugs and cheats of the world of what they sold out, of the empty void they’ve made of their inner selves, that they hate about the practice of science. It’s not just that they want the facts bent to suit their policies, it’s that they want practice of science to be finally regarded as the heresy they have always regarded it as being: the heresy that says there is more to life, and to what it is to be human, then the gutter they live in.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Well…They Sure Got Right On The Case Didn’t They…

From Joshua Marshall:

Number of days between Novak column outing Valerie Plame and announcement of investigation: 74 days.

Number of days between O'Neill 60 Minutes interview and announcement of investigation: 1 day.

Having the administration reveal itself as a gaggle of hypocritical goons ... priceless.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Funny…I Didn’t Hear Anything About This On Meet The Press

The scene, behind the scene.

The CPA is a total mess, as should be pretty clear. It's actually kind of shocking. It's hard to even know where to start. You probably know all of this: the CPA is locked inside the Green Zone, this massive area in the heart of Baghdad that's protected by armed guards, tanks, and lots of big concrete walls. Most of the people in the Green Zone never leave, or only leave with massive army escort and then only to go directly to meetings in ministries. They call the area outside of the Green Zone, the Red Zone. In other words: all of Iraq is the Red Zone. So, very few people in the CPA have the slightest idea what's going through the minds of Iraqis. They either have brief conversations with people on the street, when they're surrounded by armed troops. Inevitably, the Iraqis tell them they are very happy with the US occupation. What else would they say? I never, ever meet Iraqis who are happy with the US occupation. Or they meet with their own Iraqi staff or staff at the ministries, who are similarly positive--sycophantic to their bosses. The ignorance is so great that I generally find when I meet with CPA officials they start interviewing me, because I know far more about Iraq than they do.

...

The people of the CPA are a diverse group. Some are quite smart and well meaning and are depressed about the way things are going. Morale is extremely low. Some are Bush true-believers who refuse to hear a word against the occupation, as if everything is going well. There is open hostility between the career civil servants and the political appointees. The political types tend to have no experience in the Arab world, know no Arabic, have no experience outside of the US. The CPA people who have experience in the Arab world and have a better feel for what is going on in the street (only a vague idea because of their limited contact) are sidelined and don't have any power to affect CPA decisions. Those people tend to leave quickly out of frustration.

On top of all this, there is a shocking lack of communication within the CPA and between the CPA and the ministries they are supposed to oversee. Nobody knows what anyone else is doing, nobody knows what is happening in the ministries they are advising. It's total chaos.

There are good stories happening. There are good things being done, as Bush tries to constantly tell us. But they're not effective. They don't affect the lives of Iraqis. For example, the sewage system is being seriously overhauled, but it will be years before an Iraqi can turn a tap and drink healthy water in their homes. There is serious work being done (some good, some bad) on revamping Iraqi laws, but nobody can see that happening. I see virtually nothing that would tell an average Iraqi that the US occupation is working hard to make their lives better. There are good people working hard, but it's all invisible for now. Who cares about revamping securities oversight laws when you're scared to go out at night.

Also, press relations are really bad. It's extremely difficult to find information, get interviews, make it through the press phalanx of true believers. It's almost impossible to get a usable quote other than "everything's going great."

So…let me get this straight…nobody goes outside of the green zone, the people in charge haven’t a clue about what they’re doing or the people they’re doing it to, the press has to fight a phalanx of true believers to get any information from the occupation government and if they step out of line (see the post of what’s been happening to Reuters employees below), they’re likely to wind up in a prison camp if not dead…and we’re supposed to believe we’re getting an accurate picture of what’s been going on over there.

Right.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wait For It…

The thinking seems to be that my Terror Alert Status cartoons are going to be just a series of twinks in skimpy swim suits of various colors. Well…not exactly

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Meanwhile…Back In The Occupied Territories…

The plan for a New American Century is going swimmingly.

The good will of Iraq's Shiite majority, so crucial to the success of U.S. policy, may be eroding. Strong opposition by a top Shiite cleric to key parts of a U.S. political blueprint for Iraq and the spread of violent protests in Shiite areas suggest a dangerous trend.

Very swimmingly.

An Army Apache attack helicopter was shot down Tuesday, the third downed in less than two weeks, though the crew escaped unharmed. Witnesses said Tuesday that U.S. troops killed four civilians in two incidents in which soldiers opened fire wildly after coming under attack.

And just to make sure everyone knows it is going swimmingly…

The international news agency Reuters has made a formal complaint to the Pentagon following the "wrongful" arrest and apparent "brutalisation" of three of its staff this month by US troops in Iraq.

The complaint followed an incident in the town of Falluja when American soldiers fired at two Iraqi cameramen and a driver from the agency while they were filming the scene of a helicopter crash.

The US military initially claimed that the Reuters journalists were "enemy personnel" who had opened fire on US troops and refused to release them for 72 hours.

Although Reuters has not commented publicly, it is understood that the journalists were "brutalised and intimidated" by US soldiers, who put bags over their heads, told them they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay, and whispered: "Let's have sex."

...

The US military has so far refused to apologise and has bluntly told Reuters to "drop" its complaint. Major General Charles Swannack, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, claimed that two US soldiers had provided sworn evidence that they had come under fire. He admitted, however, that soldiers sometimes had to make "snap judgments".

"More often than not they are right," he said.

On January 2 Reuters' Baghdad-based cameraman Salem Ureibi, Falluja stringer Ahmed Mohammed Hussein al-Badrani and driver Sattar Jabar al-Badrani turned up at the crash site where a US Kiowa Warrior helicopter had just been shot down, killing one soldier.

The journalists were all wearing bulletproof jackets clearly marked "press". They drove off after US soldiers who were securing the scene opened fire on their Mercedes, but were arrested shortly afterwards.

The soldiers also detained a fourth Iraqi, working for the American network NBC. No weapons were found, the US military admitted.

Last night the nephew of veteran Reuters driver and latterly cameraman Mr Ureibi said that US troops had forced his uncle to strip naked and had ordered him to put his shoe in his mouth.

"He protested that he was a journalist but they stuck a shoe in his mouth anyway. They also hurt his leg. One of the soldiers told him: 'If you don't shut up we'll fuck you.'"

...

Last August a US soldier shot dead another Reuters cameraman, Mazen Dana, after mistaking his camera for a rocket launcher while he filmed outside a Baghdad prison.

An internal US investigation later cleared him of wrongdoing. During the war last April another of the agency's cameramen, Ukrainian Taras Protswuk, was killed after a US tank fired a shell directly into his room in the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, from where he had been filming.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, January 12, 2004

End Of Transmission

Sandra Fuhr, creator of the Boy Meets Boy comic strip, has decided to pull the plug on it after a couple years run, so I’ve delinked the site, since probably from now on it will just have the same last strip of the series posted to it.

The good news is that all the old strips will continue to be available on Keenspot. But I could have wished for more. There just aren’t that many good romantic stories about same sex couples. But there is goodness at PopImage. Check out the entries in the Young Bottoms In Love series. The artwork is first rate, and the stories are, mostly, very good.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

To Infinity And Beyond

So. We’re going to the moon are we? Oh…and Mars too. And George Bush is going to get us there.

Well, I could talk your ear off about that, but here’s my problem: I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute. We operate the Hubble Space Telescope under contract for NASA. Now I can sit here and write out the usual disclaimers, about how, you know, the opinions expressed here do not represent the Institute, and so on. But these days, somewhat more discretion is called for. If it were just a matter of consequences falling on me that would be one thing. But I care deeply about our mission, about the work we do in the name of science and humanity. Even if we had an administration in power now, that was a tad less preoccupied with payback (Valerie Plame), I’d want to be careful about even remotely appearing to speak on the politics of space, for anyone but myself here. So I have, generally kept my mouth shut about that one topic, in case you haven’t noticed. Save for the occasional blurb about how much I love the work I do, I don’t say much about it.

That said, I’ll say this: I think there is very little of more importance to the future of the human race then the work we, as a species, are doing now in space. From the pure science regarding the origin and fundamental nature of the universe, to the slow, painful process of learning how to live and work in space, this is where, I strongly believe, humanity finally begins to take its destiny into its own hands. I find it at least a little heartening to see that many of those who remain opposed to manned space exploration, now seem to feel that the unmanned science we do out there is very much worthwhile. Hubble has been very much a part of that science…but so too have the spacecraft we operate close to our good earth, that study it, and the sun. We are still completely dependent on both for our survival as a species, and probably will be for hundreds of years to come. Because of the space born instruments we operate that study the earth and the sun, we now have a far, far better understanding of climate, and weather, and how the processes of nature, and the activities of humans, affect them.

My prayer is that when it comes to our priorities in space, science will always come first. Knowledge is power. It is also survival.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Cult Of W

Being conservative isn’t enough. Being a hard core right wing Pat Buchanan republican isn’t enough. You have to love big brother.

See how corporate consolidation of the media makes the Bush propaganda machine awesomely powerful. Everywhere you turn, everyone is always on message, because the message is all that you’re ever allowed to hear. The fact that Clear Channel is run by a bunch of Texans with ties to the Smirking Fratboy doesn’t mean they’re in collusion or anything…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Cartoon’s Up…

Color’s getting to be a habit around here. Just don’t expect it all the time. I like the old black and white style of editorial cartooning. And it happens to fit my temperment. But from now on all the Mark and Josh cartoons will be color.

I’m going to create a new page for the Terror Alert Level cartoons, when I get a second one done (soon) and add the rest as I finish them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

We Accept No Advertising…

Well, actually, it’s more like, I’m trying to keep things simple here. A friend asked me the other day why I wasn’t providing links to the books, music and so on that I’m listing in the rightmost column. And I’ve received queries about setting up comments here. The answer is that I hand roll all my HTML pages for this web site, in my programmer’s editor. I enter the text you read here straight into the HTML file as I compose it, not via a web tool. Same for the images I’ve placed here and there. I fiddle with the image tags and table layouts a bit, then open the file with a browser to see how it looks, and if necessary, repeat the process until I have everything looking the way I want.

It isn’t difficult for someone who got his first computer back in the days of WordStar, when all you had to work with was a character based display, and you did your formatting by placing special formatting instructions right in the text as you typed. Start bold text here…stop it there…that kinda thing. Once I cracked open a book on HTML, and discovered that it is remarkably similar to a bunch of the old word processors I used to work with, I never had any inclination to use a web authoring tool. And I write program code for a living, and my head is just used to visualizing how code will work as it is executed. HTML is a kind of very simplistic code; instructions that tell a browser how to render a page. I can deal with that. You go with what you know.

Those of us who write code, if we’re any good, place a high value on its elegance and symmetry. The more third party code I add to my blog pages, the less elegant and symmetric it becomes, and the less control I have over it. Also, I’d probably have to spend more time in maintaining the code, as opposed to creating content. What is more, some makers of third party blog goodies assume that you’re using a tool such as Blogger or Movable Type, to create your blog, and they give you instructions for how to plug their goodie into one of these tools, but not how they actually work down at the level of the HTML itself. And I have very little time to spare in my day for reverse engineering that stuff. So for now, I just don’t use them. When I see a way to add a feature here that maintains the look and feel of my code, I probably will. But I don’t want a lot of third party code laying scattered all around my code.

As for the book, music and etcetera list: some of the stuff you will see over there is as likely to come from second hand book stores, which I browse often for treasures, as an Amazon or Borders. The comics, which I added recently, might come from anywhere. An Amazon blog account, or something like it, wouldn’t give me the flexibility I want. That list is just stuff that I’m tossing out as things I’ve read or listened to or seen recently that I liked. It’s part recommendation, and part this is where Bruce’s head is at these days. I reckon most web surfers these days are smart enough to know how to dig anything on my list up for themselves if they are interested.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, January 10, 2004

If we Americans stop putting JPEGs of cute guys wearing just about nothing on our web sites, then the terrorists have won.

Actually, I take the prospect of domestic terrorism pretty seriously. And I bet if Bush ever stopped thinking of ways to line his crony pal’s pockets with treasury money, he’d take it seriously too.

My mistake in thinking the Iraq war was all about oil was that I was being too naive. I hadn’t reckoned on the war profiteering. They’ll probably get richer on the war profiteering then on any of the oil they manage to loot.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Following Is A Test Of The Emergency Alert System…

You gotta love the way Jim at Rittenhouse Review keeps his readers informed as to the current terror alert status. I see we’re now at status “Bert”. Cool.

I need to put something like that up here. Gotta do my part too, don’t ya know…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Our State Run Media

Via Atrios, this charming little exchange between Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s campaign manager, and Media Whore Paula Zahn, proving once again, that cable news isn’t merely biased, but actively working for the RNC, to get republicans elected.

You have to read the transcript. It’s a hoot. Zahn lies through her teeth about what Howard Dean said. She get’s the lie pointed out to her, and she lies again. This goes on, back and forth, a few times, and then Zahn just cuts Trippi off.

Here’s what I think: since 9-11 the cable news networks have so completely alienated everyone who isn’t a right wing kook, that huge segments of the voting population don’t even watch their broadcasts anymore. But instead of reading this as a warning that they’re loosing touch, they’ve taken it as a license to get more and more brazen about it. They hardly even try to hide the fact that they loath democrats and democratic voters anymore.

But now the blogs are stepping in, and even though people don’t bother with the cable news broadcasts anymore, their brazen lies are reaching the other half of the voting population, and they are becoming more and more outraged by it, and letting the news networks know about it. Now the same news organizations that routinely broadcast bullshit to the voters are all bellyaching about democratic anger. Well, if you spit in someone’s face and laugh often enough, yeah, they’re going to get angry.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Secrecy Is The Beginning Of…What Was That Again…?

If you thought the secret courts were just a thing of Guantanamo Bay, think again.

"In recent months, it has become evident that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida maintains a dual, separate docket of public and non-public cases," Dalglish wrote in a brief filed late last month in the 11th Circuit appeal of convicted Colombian drug lord Fabio Ochoa Vasquez.

In its Supreme Court brief, the media group called the secret jailing of an Algerian-born waiter "perhaps the most egregious recent example of an alarming trend toward excessive secrecy in the federal courts, particularly in cases that bear even a tangential connection to the events of Sept. 11."

Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel, 34, of Deerfield Beach, was arrested for a violating his student visa a month after the terror attacks. Although he sought his release in the District Court and appealed to the 11th Circuit, no public record of his case existed until his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The media group last week asked to join the case as a party, a request the high court rarely grants.

In Ochoa's 11th Circuit appeal, the media group is challenging a secret plea bargain and sentencing involving Nicolas Bergonzoli, a Colombian drug smuggler who had business dealings with Ochoa. The case suggests the secret docketing system predates the Sept. 11 attacks.

...

Neither case appeared on the court's public docket, where it would have been assigned a number and scanned into a computer file. As a result, the public had no way of knowing they existed. Hearings were conducted behind closed doors, and all documents and legal motions were filed under seal. The sensitive court papers were kept separately in a vault at the court clerk's office in Miami, according to attorneys familiar with the practice.

...

Ochoa's lawyers, G. Richard Strafer and Roy Black, had heard rumors about Bergonzoli, ran a name search and discovered a federal case filed in Connecticut. The file included a letter to the court clerk, transferring the case, and a new Miami docket number. But when Strafer plugged the number into the court's computer system, he found nothing. The court clerk told him no such case existed, he said.

He found Bergonzoli in a federal prison, serving 37 months.

Strafer and Black have long argued that government secrecy hampered Ochoa's defense.

Remind me again…which side was it that won the cold war?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, January 8, 2004

The universe is beautiful beyond measure, but you have to understand…it doesn’t give a damn about you…

…that’s our task. To give a damn. About each other. About the welfare of our kind. To care whether or not we survive. You hear the question occasionally, regarding intelligent life on other planets: if it exists, why haven’t we already been visited? Here’s one possible reason.

Maybe the problem isn’t that life in the universe is rare. Maybe the problem is surviving to the point where it can achieve space flight, and migrate to other worlds as necessary. Any one of the catastrophes mentioned in the sidebar article, as possible reasons for the five great mass extinctions here on earth, would probably, if they occurred right now, wipe us clean out. I reckon we’ll need several hundred years more to get ourselves fully established as a species on other worlds of our solar system, never mind the nearby stars. And that assumes a serious commitment to actually do it.

Which, from some of the disparaging comments around the web I’ve been reading regarding the current Mars probes, and NASA, we may not really have. Maybe it’s just the usual human short sightedness. Life on earth is good now, so of course it always will be. Sure, history has recorded horrific natural disasters…floods, famine, pestilence…but it wasn’t like the earth was ever in any danger of being destroyed or anything. We have survived badness before. But the entire span of human existence on this earth is way shorter then the time between mass extinctions. Whatever caused the Permian-Triassic extinction, about 250 million years ago, killed 90 percent of all life on earth. The oldest known modern human fossils, recently found in Ethiopia, are only about 160 thousand years old.

So I suppose on the one hand you can argue that it probably isn’t going to happen again any time soon. On the other, it happens! Humanity has made it this far. The more I learn about the raging violence that goes on in the cosmos, the more I have to wonder how many intelligent species had the chance we do now. So what if your primary sun is one of the average stable ones like ours is, that live for ten billion years or so, and then slowly and gracefully die? If that super giant twenty light years away decides it’s time for the big light show, or some other super massive star lots further away, but with poles that just happen to be facing you pops, well, too bad. Back to square one we go. Or maybe it’s some piece of space rock that just happens to careen into your planet’s path. There are so many ways for a planet with life taking hold on it to have a really bad day. Earth has had at least five of them before we came along. Six, if you count the one that resulted in our now having a moon. If there was any form of rudimentary life taking hold on that ancient earth, we have no way of even knowing it now.

But now we’ve made it to point where we can take the leap into space. We can act now to preserve our kind, if we have the collective foresight and will to do so. Or not. Maybe the ultimate disaster happens again tomorrow. Maybe it doesn’t happen for another hundred thousand years or so. Maybe it happens in another hundred years or so, with our great-great-great grandchildren staring at its approach in wonder, that nothing was done to make survival a possibility, when it could have mattered. We’re not playing dice with the future of humanity here. We’re just not caring enough.

I guess you have to believe that the human race is worth preserving. I believe it, but also have to admit that I know quite a few people who don’t. I just don’t understand that. How does someone get up in the morning, and go about their day, bearing with them the belief that the species they are is unfit to survive and endure? How do you go about your day not caring whether it does or does not? Isn’t the act of earning a living every day, doing whatever it is that you do, in what ever trade or art you practice, isn’t taking care of your family, your loved ones, an affirmation that life is not only worth living, but worth preserving?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Mysterious Ways Of White People With Little Slips Of Paper

The comments sections of a lot of blogs are almost as much fun to read as the blogs hosting them. Case in point being this grin worthy exchange on Matthew Yglesias’ blog. First, Matthew posts the following:

If anyone knows what was responsible for the mass of white people invading the Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant area this afternoon, do let me know. Many of the people in question seemed to be trying to walk while reading some sort of piece of paper, but efforts to steal a glance and figure out what they were doing proved futile.

To which a perfectly adorable wag named seedub in the comments section replied:

Is this why you're an opinion journalist? Because you're afraid to ask a stranger what they're doing?

That’s the risk you run hosting a comments board I suppose. But not everyone who watches silently, is afraid to ask. Some of us just like to speculate on our own. Asking, is like peeking at the answers in the back of the book.

Some possibilities that crossed my mind:

  • The directions to Mr. P’s that were passed around at this week’s Exodus support group meeting, were written on the back of Mount Pleasant farmer’s market flyers.

  • An evil neuroscientist living in Georgetown has written a short poem that causes people reading it to walk to Mount Pleasant without their being aware that their feet are moving.
  • A printing accident resulted in directions to Mount Pleasant being printed on Chevy Chase Weight Watchers’ recipe cards for that day.
  • In an effort to reduce bulging conservative lobbyist waistlines, the K street offices of the Jefferson Davis Foundation have scattered pages from Hannity’s Let Freedom Ring all over Washington DC. Each page has directions to where to find the next page printed at the bottom.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

The Big Government Party

A friend of mine (who really should start a blog of his own), sent me a link to a Capital Gang transcript. This part is kinda cute:

O'BEIRNE: Mark, I think Maine has joined blue state America, Al Gore's America, to crack down, use the power of the government to crack down on personal behavior that liberals disapprove of. Although, having said that, I do think it is beginning in blue state America, but it's going to spread. I mean, it began with movie theaters and planes. Now, you can see how in the case of both, you couldn't sort of leave it up to the market to determine whether or not people wanted to smoke or not smoke.

But that's not true of bars and restaurants. So it strikes me that the impulse is more totalitarian, than wanting to protect either customers or staff, because, presumably, the majority of bars and restaurants would outlaw smoking, and people who wanted that atmosphere would go there, but a bar or a restaurant owner would have the option of allowing smoking and let the market dictate how well he does. But they won't permit that. It has to be a total ban, because, as I said, it's a totalitarian impulse.

SHIELDS: It's OK to use the power of the federal government or government to ban behavior that conservatives don't like?

O'BEIRNE: Like what?

SHIELDS: Well, gay marriage.

O'BEIRNE: The federal government is not banning gay marriage. States don't recognize gay marriage.

SHIELDS: The constitutional amendment was one of the things being...

O'BEIRNE: A constitutional amendment will prohibit a judge from imposing gay marriage, which is the only way it's happened any place...

My friend points out the usual republican hypocrisy here in opposing big brother government on one issue, while willingly employing it elsewhere. But there is another. Consider how O’Beirne lies through his teeth about the nature of the anti same sex marriage amendment now being proposed. No, it will not simply prevent the courts from “imposing” same sex marriage. It prohibits the courts from giving same sex couples any legal rights whatsoever. Everything from hospital visitation rights to the right to mutual heath care benefits and joint property, to the right to make funeral arrangements. And if a state government passes laws that give same sex couples these rights, anti gay political action groups, businesses and individuals can challenge them in court as violations of the constitution (as they are doing now in California). There is no way O’Beirne doesn’t know this.

Calling republicans hypocrites ennobles them. They’re thugs. And it isn’t just the liberties of gay and lesbian Americans that they’re trying to erase.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Just When You Start Thinking He’s Got A Brain And Knows How To Use It…

…Matthew Yglesias, who I recently added to my blog roll, comes up with crap like this:

Brian Leiter quotes from a new anti-Bush song by Willie Nelson including, inter alia, the question "How much oil is one human life worth?" We all understand the point of including the line, though I think this is a misguided critique as it is, in fact, highly unlikely that the Iraq venture will net the US much of anything in the way of oil-related benefits (US-based oil companies on the other hand might benefit, but that's a different issue).

Nevertheless, I think this is actually a legitimate (i.e., non-rhetorical) question. If the price of crude oil were to suddenly double Monday morning the result would be widespread human suffering as waves of economic destruction wending their way through the developed world. "Blood for oil" makes a mighty bad slogan compared to, say, "blood for freedom" or something, but expending a few lives to prevent global economic collapse seems like a legitimate thing to do. So I don't know how much oil a human life is worth, but I'm confident that a human life is, in fact, worth some finite quantity of oil.

Does he think this has never happened? Okay…he looks a little youngish in that picture of himself on his web site, so maybe he didn’t live through the oil embargo in the 1970s, and the first of the big spikes in the price of crude. I, on the other hand, sat through the gas lines. Did your license plate end on an even or odd number? How far could Your car go on ten gallons of gas? Oh…look…it isn’t just things made of oil by-products, but everything delivered by truck to the stores is more expensive. Yes it was a bad time all around. But would throwing the world into complete chaos by invading the oil producing nations, as some of the right wing kooks back then were advocating, have made matters better? If a human life is worth so many barrels of oil, how many lives does a global oil war cost? Let’s look at it another way: how many human lives is peace worth?

What happened back in the 70s was the economies of the developed world adapted to the new reality. Oil wasn’t cheap anymore. Cars became more fuel efficient. New standards for weatherproofing buildings came on line. Here in North America, we looked to better ways to utilize our huge coal reserves. An economy that didn’t care how much it wasted the oil products it used started rethinking efficiency. We got better at using the oil we used. We had to.

At least for a while. Eventually the price of oil came back down again because we reduced our need of it, and surprise, surprise, when the price came back down we fell back into our old ways, and started using more. Now we’re back into the cheap oil economy again, but if the price doubled we would once again rethink all the ways we use oil. Here’s the real worry: that CEOs who make their money in the cheap oil economy, whether it’s off of oil directly or one of its many by-products, would have to worry about what happens when alternative businesses become competitive, and start taking their customers away. No doubt they’d rather keep the status quo. Oh…and everyone who bought a Hummer for the shear macho thrill of it and damn the future consequences would get a chance to play that other Big Boy’s game called Grow Up.

Keep this in mind: it isn’t that We’re dependent on cheap oil, but that the guys in the white house right now are dependent, on our continued dependency on oil. Sure, if the price goes up then so do their profits, but if it goes up enough then oil and oil by-product consumers start looking for alternatives. Then, as far as the old guard is concerned, the worst could happen: new opportunities and new people start appearing on the scene and pull the business rug out from under them.

The Bush white house is at its core a big business protectionist white house. They have elevated big business cronyism to the status of federal policy. They have waged war, costing many American lives, to secure their friends’ profits. That is not a misguided critique, it is letting the facts of this war speak for themselves. Willie Nelson asks a good question, but it is not the only one. How many barrels of oil is American Democracy worth would be another.

One other thing:

Once again I'm driven to wonder why the government is exploring outer space.

Here’s why

We all live in space. All of us. Yes, we live on earth, but earth takes its yearly orbits around a pretty average star, in a not too terribly unique part of the universe that we damn well better get to know as well as we are capable of knowing it, for the sake of securing our long term future in it.

This kind of research won’t generate profits for any CEOs bottom line, yet it’s as necessary as any inquiry into earthquakes or climate or disease. That’s why government does it. If you think it’s an unnecessary waste of taxpayer money, take a look at those little blackish splotches on the face of Jupiter. Some of them are the size of the planet whose air you’re now breathing.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Fight To Protect Marriage…(continued)

I’m sure there’s something on the American Family Association’s website that explains how this is all the fault of homosexuals.

Pop superstar Britney Spears has married a childhood friend in Las Vegas, according to news reports.

The 22-year-old singer got hitched to friend Jason Allen Alexander, 22, on Saturday, reports said.

But the marriage was a joke that went too far, celebrity news web site People.com says, and is already in the process of being annulled.

In July, Spears admitted losing her viriginity after years of speculation about her self-proclaimed chastity.

BBC News - Britney 'marries' in Las Vegas

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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