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Archives, April 7 to July 15, 2004

Thursday July 15, 2004

Slouching Toward My Lai…(continued)

Brad DeLong says today that Seymour Hersh has either gone completely insane, or the House needs to vote to impeach George W. Bush tonight. That’s about right if any part of of this is true:

Seymour Hersh says the US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."

(I transcribed some of his speech from this streaming site. Hersh starts at about 1:07:50.)

He called the prison scene "a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the president and the vice president, by this administration anywayÖwar crimes."

The outrages have cost us the support of moderate Arabs, says Hersh. "They see us as a sexually perverse society."

Hersh describes a Pentagon in crisis. The defense department budget is ìin incredible chaos,î he says, with large sums of cash missing, including something like $1 billion that was supposed to be in Iraq.

"The disaffection inside the Pentagon is extremely accute," Hersh says. He tells the story of an officer telling Rumsfeld how bad things are, and Rummy turning to a ranking general yes-man who reassured him that things are just fine. Says Hersh, "The Secretary of Defense is simply incapable of hearing what he doesnít want to hear."

The Iraqi insurgency, he says,was operating in 1-to-3 man cells a year ago, now in 10-15 man cells, and despite the harsh questioning, "we still know nothing about them...we have no tactical information."

He says the foreign element among insurgents is overstated, and that bogeyman Zarqawi is "a composite figure" hyped by our government.

You can listen to the speech at Sadly, No! if you don’t have the bandwidth for the video. As to the moderate Arabs seeing us as a sexually perverse society, I’d really like to see some figures on rape in the Arab world before they start pointing their fingers at the west’s sexual liberalism as being responsible for this. Rape is not a consequence of sexual freedom but the conflation of sex with power and status, a thing cultures that treat women as chattle are hardly immune to. It is not personal sexual freedom that leads to rape, but a predatory culture that regards the lives of others as only a means to the ends of the strong. The subjugation of women, the persecution of homosexuals, and a culture that regards rape as the perogative of the strong, are all pieces cut from the same cloth, the same depraved contempt for the human status.

But that is a hard lesson for the United States to teach the world right at the moment. And for that reason alone George Bush should not only be impeached, but convicted in the Senate, and the White House fumigated after he is removed from office. He has not just damaged the credibiliy of America, but the democratic ideal itself. He has set the cause of Liberty and Justice for all back for generations to come. He has taken Liberty’s torch, and sodomized Liberty with it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Gay Staff Members, And Their Tolerant Republican Bosses

A potential Republican candidate for the open Senate seat from Illinois--where the party's former nominee, Jack Ryan, withdrew over allegations of sex club improprieties--engaged in "lewd and abusive behavior" while she served as a top official in the White House drug policy office under President Bush, an internal inquiry found last year. In front of her staff Andrea Grubb Barthwell made repeated comments suggesting a staff member was gay and used a kaleidoscope to make sexually offensive gestures, according to the findings of a March 19, 2003, "hostile workplace memorandum" prepared by drug policy office staff and obtained by the Associated Press.

In an interview Wednesday, Barthwell said the memorandum overstates what happened, but she said she was wrong for participating in "inappropriate banter" at a staff birthday party. "As the senior person there it was my job to stop it before it got started and I didn't. I, in fact, joined in," she said. Barthwell said she has not decided whether to pursue the Senate seat, but she said the complaint should not be a factor in her candidacy. "I think it's something that was in the past, something we dealt with, and it was resolved to everyone's satisfaction," she said.

...

The lewd and abusive behavior finding against Barthwell stemmed from a December 19, 2002, staff gathering. Barthwell made comments about a staff member's sexual orientation after the staff member misspoke in an earlier conversation, the memorandum said. "Dr. Barthwell made reference to this staff member sitting on men's laps. A kaleidoscope pointed upward was placed on a chair by Dr. Barthwell as the staff member was about to sit down," it said. "Dr. Barthwell suggested that the staff member would want to cut the cake available for the gathering because the knife was 'long and hard' and he might 'enjoy handling it.' When the cake was cut, Dr. Barthwell referred to the pieces as 'most' or 'beefy' and she said to the staff member, 'I know you like it big and meaty."' The staff member was not identified.

In the interview, Barthwell said the staff member was engaged in the banter and didn't seem uncomfortable. "Had he been the least bit uncomfortable at the time, I would have brought it to a stop," she said. "Because he was an active participant, I didn't." The memorandum, though, said the staff member and at least one other person objected to her comments. It said the staff member felt the comments were "lewd, derogatory, and called into question his heterosexuality." The staff member didn't file the complaint; another colleague did. John Fluharty, a gay Republican serving as an adviser to Barthwell, rejected any suggestion that she is insensitive. "She is a decent, honorable woman who would be an asset in the United States Senate," he said.

The Advocate - Alleged homophobic comments haunt Republican candidate

If there is anything more completely clueless then the gay people who work for republican politicians I can’t imagine what it would be. A cinder block can make more use of a brain then one of these.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday July 14, 2004

Pills

I’m 50 going on 51, and I consider myself lucky that, so far, my only significant health issue is a chronic insomnia. According to my doctor my cholesterol levels are fine, even by the new standards; a fact which I find amazing considering how much of my diet is deep fried. I have no other chronic illnesses or infections, no malfunctioning major organs (not counting whatever piece of my brain it is that regulates sleep) or joints. My eyes are slowly going far-sighted, but I’m told that is a pretty common event in middle age.

I’ve had a problem with insomnia for nearly a decade now, and I’m here to tell you that not getting sleep is neither good for your health, or your disposition. And if you need to concentrate deeply on the job, as a software developer must, no sleep usually translates into no productivity. My doctor recently prescribed a new sleep medication for me that works a wonder I haven’t experienced in years…a good night sleep on a regular basis. It’s done wonders for me. The problem is, now I need a pill. Welcome to the American health care system.

This week, I needed a refill. The bottle however, said No Refills Left. Okay…fine…call the doctor’s office, get the voice mail system, select the I Need A Refill number, and at the tone leave my name, date of birth, insurance, prescription, and pharmacy telephone number. That was Monday morning. Three days later, I was still fighting with them to get my prescription refilled…my doctor being on vacation, and his partner and staff were cheerfully unconcerned about whether or not his patients got the medications he’d prescribed for them. First they told me my pharmacy had been sent my prescription. The pharmacy said not. That went on for two days. It only stopped, when I actually handed the phone to the pharmacist while I had one of them on the line. Then the story changed. Now it was that the other doctor had my prescription on his desk…but he would get it in the system any moment now. That went on all day today. Finally, this evening, after they’d promised for the nth time to send my prescription to the pharmacy, and failed to do so before their office closed for the evening, I called the emergency after hours line, and got one of the on-call doctors to dig into the prescription refill system, only to find that my prescription had apparently been all ready to send all along. They just hadn’t actually sent it. So she did. Moments later the pharmacy called to say they’d filled it. So tonight I can get some sleep. Well that was simple enough.

I walked over to the pharmacy and there was a line and at the head of it was a young man with the same desperate look on his face I must have had while talking to the staff at my doctor’s office. The clerk behind the pharmacy counter was looking at his insurance card and shaking his head. The young man’s prescription was in the bag waiting for him to pick it up, but something on his insurance card wasn’t matching up with something on the bag. The clerk told him he’d have to pay the full price. The young man didn’t have the money.

“I come here all the time. It’s always twenty dollars.”

The pharmacy clerk shrugged, and looked at him like he was a moron.

“I’m an epileptic. I need this medication.”

“You have to straighten this out with your insurance company. Maybe they have a 24 hour number.”

The pills he needed to control his condition were right there in front of him and they might as well have been locked in a safe at the bottom of the ocean. The clerk, who I’d never seen there before, was looking at him like he was a pathetic beggar. I thought of all the Harry and Louise ads I saw back in the 1990s, and wondered if either of the actors, Harry Johnson and Louise Caire Clark, ever had a problem getting a prescription filled. I wondered how anyone with a conscience could work at a job where they had to dangle an epileptic’s medications in front of him, and tell him he couldn’t have it. But the clerk looked like he was enjoying it.

The young man left, his eyes angry and desperate. Eventually I got my insomnia medication. As I walked out I looked around to see if I could spot the young man. I thought maybe I’d tell him I’d pay for his pills to get him through the time he’d have to spend fixing the problem with his insurance. But I didn’t see him, and you never know how people will take it when a stranger walks up to them tries to butt into something as personal as that. I should be able to get my sleep tonight, and my irritability factor should be back to its usual level tomorrow morning. I’ll still want to smack the first drooling moron who tells me that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world though.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Not Even A Majority

Even though the vote in favor of moving the Federal Marriage Amendment was only slightly less then half, and the votes against half exactly, hate lost in a big way today, and I am amazed and grateful. I thought the republicans would manage to get at least a majority, but when it came down to counting votes they could not. While it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, it’s at least evidence that the passion that motivates anti-gay bigots is not shared by a majority, even on capital hill. They’re saying that if the vote had been on the amendment itself, it would have lost by even more.

Some, I am certain, voted against out of a plain and simple belief in equal justice for all Americans. For others, writing anti-gay prejudice into the constitution was a tangible step further then they were willing to go. They may not like homosexuals, but a hate that intense is more then they can walk with. The bigots were literally claiming this week on capital hill, that fighting same sex marriage was as important, if not more important, then fighting terrorism. To the bigots that may be self evident. What it makes self evident to everyone else however, is how hate can make a ruin of your conscience. I’m sure the spectacle of senators comparing same sex marriage to 9-11 made many people more uncomfortable this week, then ever they were made uncomfortable by homosexuals, or homosexuality.

We’re still a way from equality here in America, but a skirmish was won today, that we all may well look back on as marking the beginning of the end of the war.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Interim Report Of The Committee on the Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope

When NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe cancelled Hubble Servicing Mission 4, thereby condemning Hubble to an early demise, the worldwide criticism was deafening. To placate his critics, O’Keefe formed a committee to study the options for extending the life of Hubble (beyond the life it is expected to have without a forth servicing mission). The worry I had at the time was that O’Keefe’s committee would be deferential enough that none of its recommendations would greatly challenge O’Keefe’s decision to send Hubble to an early grave.

I was wrong. The committee’s interim report was just released, and sent around the Institute a few hours ago. It is a ringing statement of support for continuing the mission of the Hubble Space Telescope.

“The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is arguably the most important telescope in history. Much of Hubble’s extraordinary impact was foreseen when the telescope was being planned…but the list of unforeseen Hubble accomplishments may prove even greater…” That really says it all. Hubble has been ranked by astronomers as second only to Galileo’s own telescope in importance, and just ahead of the one used by the astronomer whose name it bears, Edwin Hubble. Its loss will be a tremendous blow to science. There are no new telescopes planned, not even on the drawing boards, that can fully match, let alone exceed, the combined capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble is at this moment in time, literally, irreplaceable..

Spread this around as far and as wide as possible, if you feel as I do, that the work of the Hubble Space Telescope is vital, and important and should continue. This is probably not the post to go into how I feel about the Bush administration’s approach to science, though anyone regularly reading this blog knows how I feel in that regard. You also know that I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute, which manages the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. I don’t speak for the Institute, but obviously I have an interest here. But that interest predates my association with the Institute by decades, and began when I was a kid in the 60s, raptly watching the Mercury astronauts go into space. I would not be working for STScI now, if I did not believe in the importance of space exploration for the future of the human race. I had a decent living as a software professional. When my time at the Institute is past (there are impending layoffs that have nothing to do with the cancellation of SM4), I will go on to other things. But Hubble has peered into the heart of distant galaxies, examined bands of dust circling nearby stars much like our own, has gathered light from near the beginning of time, and because of this our knowledge of our universe, and of ourselves, has grown immensely. If you think that to question, and to learn, is what makes us human, is what makes life sweet, if you think that the work Hubble does is important, not only for its beautiful imagery of the cosmos, but for the enrichment of the human spirit, then please help this interim report to get as much attention as possible.

July 13, 2004
The Honorable Sean O'Keefe
Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546-0001

Dear Mr. O'Keefe:

At the request of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Research Council recently established the Committee on the Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope.1 The committee's statement of task charges it to assess the viability of a shuttle servicing mission, evaluate robotic and ground operations to extend the life of the telescope as a valuable scientific tool, assess telescope component failures and their impact, and provide an overall risk-benefit assessment of servicing options.2 The statement of task includes the possibility of transmitting an interim report to NASA prior to the submission of a final report.

The committee thanks you very much for your generous allocation of time in meeting with it on June 22, 2004. The information that you conveyed on the decision-making process that you and NASA followed when arriving at the Hubble-related decisions in January and in March 2004 was very important for us to hear directly from you. The additional information that you provided on NASA activities related to the shuttle return-to-flight program and robotic engineering in the broader context of long-term human space exploration was very useful, as was the extensive question-and-answer dialog that you enthusiastically engaged in with the committee.

Because you and your NASA colleagues have made clear to the committee that there is some urgency in issuing any recommendations related to Hubble, we are providing you with this interim report.3 It offers three principal findings and recommendations. These are based on the committee's collective knowledge as well as input from other experts, both internal and external to NASA. This interim report does not address any one request in the statement of task in its entirety, but rather touches on aspects of task components 1, 2, and 4. Here the committee considers the degree of importance that a Hubble servicing mission would have for science, as well as some of the key factors involved in selecting a servicing mission option. Its aim is to provide useful guidance to NASA that can be utilized during the time that the committee (as well as NASA) continues to investigate the servicing options in greater detail. The work of the committee will continue during the coming weeks, and we expect to finish drafting a final report

by late summer or early fall. The final report will address in detail all four of the requests in the study's statement of task.

Importance of a Hubble Servicing Mission

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is arguably the most important telescope in history. Much of Hubble's extraordinary impact was foreseen when the telescope was being planned. It was predicted, for example, that the space telescope would reveal massive black holes at the centers of nearby galaxies, measure the size and age of the observable universe, probe far enough back in time to capture galaxies soon after their formation, and provide crucial keys to the evolution of chemical elements within stars.

All of these predicted advances have been realized, but the list of unforeseen Hubble accomplishments may prove even greater. Hubble did discover "adolescent" galaxies, but it also saw much farther back in time to capture galaxies on the very threshold of formation. Einstein's theory of general relativity was bolstered by the detection of myriad gravitational lenses, each one probing the mysterious dark matter that pervades galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Gamma-ray bursts had puzzled astronomers for more than 20 years; in concert with ground and X-ray telescopes, Hubble placed them near the edge of the visible universe and established them as the universe's brightest beacons, outshining whole galaxies for brief moments. Perhaps most spectacularly, Hubble confirmed and strengthened preliminary evidence from other telescopes for the existence of "dark energy," a new constituent of the universe that generates a repulsive gravity whose effect is to drive galaxies apart faster over time. The resulting acceleration of universal expansion is a new development in physics, possibly as important as the landmark discoveries of quantum mechanics and general relativity near the beginning of the 20th century.

Closer to home, Hubble has zeroed in on our own cosmic past by uncovering virtual carbon copies of how the Sun and solar system formed. Dozens of protoplanetary disks have been found encircling young stars in nearby star-forming regions of the Milky Way. The sizes and densities of these disks show how surplus dust and gas collect near infant stars to form the raw material of planets. Dozens of large, Jupiter-like planets have been discovered, initially by other telescopes but recently by Hubble using a new and more precise method. Measuring the tiny drop in light as a planet transits the disk of its parent star, the new technique could lead to a method for discovering Earth-like planetsóa discovery with tremendous long-term implications for the human race.

Riveting as they are, these scientific returns from Hubble are far from their natural end. With its present instruments the telescope could continue probing star formation and evolution, gathering more data on planetary systems, revealing planetary and cometary phenomena in our own solar system, and exploring the nature of the universe at much earlier times. However, two new instruments, already built for NASA's next planned servicing mission (SM-4), would amplify the telescope's capabilities by allowing qualitatively new observations in two underexploited spectral regions. Such rejuvenation via new instruments has occurred after every Hubble servicing mission, and the next one promises to be no different. Wide Field Camera-3 (WFC3) would increase Hubble's discovery efficiency 4 for ultraviolet and near-infrared imaging by factors of 10 to 30. The UV channel coupled with the camera's wide field of view will image the final assembly of galaxies still taking place in the universe. The near-infrared channel of WFC3 favors discovery of the very youngest galaxies, whose light is maximally red-shifted. The available UV, visible, and near-IR channels will combine to give a sweeping, panchromatic view of objects as diverse as star clusters, interstellar gas clouds, galaxies, and planets in our own solar system.

The second new instrument, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), will increase Hubble's observing speed for typical medium-resolution ultraviolet spectroscopy by at least a factor of 10 to 30, and in some cases by nearly two orders of magnitude. Ultraviolet spectra carry vital clues to the nature of both the oldest and the youngest stars, yet UV rays are totally invisible from Earth's surface. COS will fill important gaps in our understanding of the birth and death of stars in nearby galaxies. Even more impressive, COS will use the light of distant quasars to spotlight hitherto undetectable clouds of dispersed gas between nearby galaxies, thereby mapping in unprecedented detail the properties of the so-called "cosmic web."

FINDING. Compelling scientific returns will result from a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope that accomplishes the scientific objectives of the originally planned NASA servicing mission SM-4.

RECOMMENDATION. The committee urges that NASA commit to a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope that accomplishes the objectives of the originally planned SM-4 mission, including both the replacement of the present instruments with the two instruments already developed for flightóthe Wide Field Camera-3 and the Cosmic Origins Spectrographó and the engineering objectives, such as gyroscope and battery replacements. Such a servicing mission would extend the life of this unique telescope and maximize its productivity.

Other potential options to extend the useful life of Hubbleófor example, by servicing components such as batteries and gyroscopes but without replacing instrumentsówill be studied by the committee as part of its charge. However, such a reduced level of servicing has not been featured in the repair strategies that the committee has heard about to date. The scientific impacts of reduced levels of servicing below that envisioned in SM-4 will be considered in the committee's final report.

Servicing Mission Options

A wide range of factors must be considered when assessing the risk and effectiveness of HST servicing and deorbiting options. These options range from robotically attaching a deorbit module to Hubble to performing a mission (human or robotic) that replaces both scientific instruments and also services or repairs a number of engineering components. You discussed many of these options with us on June 22. One essential task is to enable the ultimate safe deorbiting of the spacecraft so that humans on Earth will not be at risk during its reentry. The present plan is to launch and robotically attach a deorbit module to the telescope around the year 2013.5 Consistent with this plan, NASA issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on June 1, 2004, for a Hubble disposal vehicle.6

Another risk concerns robotic servicing and possible replacement of telescope instruments. You told the committee that a robotic mission "will be really tough." NASA has proposed that a deorbit module might be attached to the spacecraft at the time of robotic servicing, although the recently issued RFP does not specifically require either servicing or instrument replacement.7

The committee has been given detailed information on the plans for robotic servicing currently under consideration by NASA at its Goddard Space Flight Center. A subgroup of the committee visited Goddard and examined the current activities. The robotic servicing development effort at Goddard was officially initiated in 2004 and is a very recent undertaking. While considerable advances have been made in just a few months, there has been little time for NASA to evaluate and understand the technical and schedule limitations of robotic servicing.

The committee was gratified by your assurance that the robotic efforts will be adequately supported by the required resources in a timely manner. During the next year the robotic servicing mission project will have to achieve key milestones (including a critical design review in the summer of 2005) that will clarify the feasibility of a robotic servicing mission. Substantial resources will be required in Fiscal Year 2005 to accomplish this.

The committee finds the proposed robotic mission to be highly complex due to the inherent difficulties with supervised autonomy in the presence of time delays; the integration of vision and force feedback in six-degree-of-freedom assembly and disassembly tasks with high-degree-of-freedom, dexterous manipulators; and the coordinated control of the high-inertia HRV 8 with a long-reach robotic arm grappling with a high-inertia payload. Robotic emplacement of a deorbit module and replacement of instruments and subsystems on Hubble will require a rendezvous with a non-cooperative vehicle 9 together with a human in a telerobotic loop that has a substantial (on the order of 2-second) time delay.

The committee was informed about several current U.S. and foreign space programs that involve various concepts for robotic spacecraft rendezvous, capture, and servicing. Related U.S. experimental programs are currently scheduled for November 2004 (U.S. Air Force) and September 2006 (DARPA 10 ). The committee has been informed that NASA is participating in some aspects of the DARPA program but this does not yet include a commitment to Hubble robotics servicing mission demonstrations. To the best of the committee's current understanding, difficult challenges of the Hubble robotic scenario (such as the time delay and a non-cooperative target) are not currently covered explicitly in either the Air Force or the DARPA programs. Based on information provided to the committee and the knowledge of members who have deep experience with shuttle flights and spacecraft servicing, the committee believes that the proposed robotic mission to Hubble will essentially be an experimental test program that is expected to accomplish specific programmatic objectives at the same time.

FINDING. The proposed Hubble robotic servicing mission involves a level of complexity, sophistication, and technology maturity that requires significant development, integration, and demonstration to reach flight readiness.

RECOMMENDATION. As an early step, NASA should begin immediately to take an active partnership role that includes HST-related demonstrations in the robotics space experiments that are now under way in other agencies in order to ensure that the returns from these experiments can be beneficial to a potential robotic Hubble servicing mission.

The four HST shuttle servicing missions already completed have demonstrated that crew servicing and instrument replacement can be highly successful. Of course, there is risk to the astronaut crew in any human flight mission. As you informed the committee, some 25 to 30 additional shuttle missions are planned to complete the International Space Station (ISS). Based on its current assessment of the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report 11 and the Stafford-Covey reports (latest dated May 19, 2004),12 the committee concludes that a shuttle flight to the HST is not precluded by or inconsistent with the recommendations from these two NASA advisory groups.

The committee finds that the CAIB report makes clear distinctions between missions to the ISS and non-ISS missions. The CAIB report notes that the degree of difficulty is somewhat greater when conducting a non-ISS shuttle mission.13 This is partially due to the fact that a non-ISS mission such as one to Hubble would not have as long a "safe haven" opportunity as would a mission docking with the space station. The shuttle repair capabilities at a non-ISS location would also be less robust than at the ISS itself. Even so, the CAIB report does not prescribe operational constraints on how to conduct a non-ISS mission, but rather only general risk mitigation steps that should be followed. The CAIB consciously accepted lower risk mitigation efforts for non-ISS missions (such as a mission to Hubble).14

The committee was cognizant and most appreciative of your extensive discussions with us related to the ownership that you, and NASA, have for the shuttle return-to-flight and for astronaut safety in the nation's civil space program. You stressed that total elimination of risk in crewed space flight is "impossible" and that you and NASA are "not risk averse." From information it has received, including the risk information to date, the committee concludes that there would be little additional investment in time and resources required over the next year for NASA to keep open an option for a human servicing mission to Hubble.

According to briefings received by the committee, the risk assessments for viable Hubble servicing alternatives, both human and robotic, have not yet been completed or reported by NASA. The Hubble project office is currently investigating risks associated with robotic mission scenarios. Additionally, the committee was told that probabilistic risk assessment results for shuttle flights should be available in the fall or winter of this year. Such a study will be important in improving the comparisons between the risks of human flights to the ISS and to Hubble.

FINDING. Because of inherent uncertainties in the early stages of development of a robotic mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the uncertain current status of the shuttle return-to-flight program, the key technical decision points for committing to a specific service scenario are at least a year in the future.

RECOMMENDATION. At the same time that NASA is vigorously pursuing development of robotic servicing capabilities, and until the agency has completed a more comprehensive examination of the engineering and technology issues, including risk assessments related to both robotic and human servicing options, NASA should take no actions that would preclude a space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

We would be pleased to brief you and your staff regarding the views expressed in this letter. We remain committed to completing our final report in an expedited fashion.

Sincerely, Louis J. Lanzerotti, Chair

Committee on the Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope

----
1 The committee roster is provided in enclosure A. Additional background material on the motivation for the study can be found in enclosure B.

2 See the statement of task in enclosure B.

3 Information about the independent review of the committee's report under the supervision of the NRC's Report Review Committee is provided in enclosure C.

4 Throughput multiplied by the area of the field of view.

5 This is the earliest date at which Hubble would be expected to reenter the atmosphere without intervention.

6 The RFP can be found at the following URL: http://www2.eps.gov/spg/NASA/GSFC/OPDC20220/HST%2DDM%2D0002%2DGDJ/listing.html.

7 The RFP requires only submissions for a vehicle to provide end-of-life controlled reentry or other safe disposal of the HST; the RFP invites but does not require that submissions include life extension or servicing capabilities.

8 Hubble Robotic Vehicle.

9 A non-cooperative vehicle is a vehicle that is not equipped with transponders or active sensors, meaning that it cannot respond to electronic interrogation from other spacecraft or emit signals enabling its identification or localization.

10 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

11 Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report, Volume 1, August 2003, NASA and the Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

12 Return to Flight Task Group Interim Report, January 20, 2004, and Return to Flight Task Group Second Interim Report, May 19, 2004.

13 CAIB Report Recommendation R6.4-1, p. 174.

14 Ibid.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Still A Few Liberal Voices Left In This Country…

I’m going to hand the talking feather to Amy Isaacs, national director of Americans for Democratic Action, because she says it so well…

The self-proclaimed "uniter" and his congressional cohorts are doing it again: dividing the country in time for the fall election season.

The issue this time is gay marriage. The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment is a willful attempt to play politics with the U.S. Constitution. The amendment would invoke a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, thus inserting bigotry into history's most inclusive and democratic document.

President Bush said: "Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all."

A ban on same-sex marriage fails miserably in serving the common welfare. It simply creates a subclass of individuals. Not only are same-sex couples denied the right to marry, thousands of benefits that other couples enjoy, ranging from pensions, health insurance and hospital visitation to inheritance, are not available to same-sex couples.

The intent of our Constitution has been to protect and expand the rights and protections of individuals. This proposed amendment seeks to limit and restrict individual liberty by discrimination.

The Federal Marriage Amendment is an unnecessary and counterproductive approach to the debate on same-sex marriage. Most important, it is inconsistent with the history and tradition of our Constitution.

Marriage is a union of two people and traditionally has involved a man and woman. Opponents of same-sex marriage often cite tradition as a reason to ban same-sex marriage. However, traditions change and tradition is not an adequate rationale for preserving bigotry and injustice.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I am certainly not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

The Federal Marriage Amendment does not represent "the progress of the human mind" but rather the fear and hatred of progress so prevalent in those who would have us mirror our "barbarous ancestors."

Chief Justice Earl Warren, in delivering an opinion declaring Virginia's "tradition" of banning interracial marriage unconstitutional, said, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival." The statement is equally valid for heterosexual and homosexual couples alike.

Even Vice President Dick Cheney feels this sort of discrimination is bad. "The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard. . . . I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area," Cheney said during the 2000 election campaign.

"Traditions" evolve or dissolve; however, there is certainly one tradition we should embrace: the American tradition of equality and progress.

America should follow the tradition of progress by allowing gay couples the same rights and protections as others. America should follow the tradition of protecting rights and promoting equality rather than that of discrimination.

Amy Isaacs is the national director of Americans for Democratic Action, the nation’s oldest liberal political association.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday July 12, 2004

A Friend Isn’t Someone Who Steals Your Wedding Ring And Sells It For Money To Finance His Political Career

Gordon Smith is a republican. Imagine my surprise.

"I intend to be your champion on many issues in the future, if you want me," Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, a leader in efforts to make attacks against gays a federal hate crime, said while addressing his comments to gay and lesbian voters.

"But on this one, I have to be able to get up in the morning and look in the mirror and be true to myself," he said.

His conscience is clean. An empty conscience usually is.

We’ll be hearing a lot of talk this week, from people who claim that they have nothing against gay and lesbian Americans, they just want to protect marriage. In fact, by voting for the Federal Marriage Amendment, they are saying that they regard our intimate relationships as fraudulent imitations of the real thing, that they honestly believe we are not capable of the kind of spiritual body and soul love that heterosexual couples experience, that as far as they are concerned the truth is that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

Smith is not, and cannot be our champion in any actual sense, because he does not respect us as his fellow human beings, does not acknowledge our shared humanity at its most fundamental level; our human need, and our human capacity, to love. He either does not see that kind of intimate romantic love as possible to homosexuals, in which case he is a bigot, regardless of whether or not he thinks beating the crap out of us ought to be discouraged, or he knows we experience intimate love the way heterosexuals do, and yet is willing to throw acid on our relationships in order to further his political career, in which case he is a gutter crawling thug posing as a decent man. Which is the worse I leave as an intellectual exercise to the reader.

Remember, this amendment not only prohibits the states from enacting same sex marriage, even if a state government want to for its citizens, it also prohibits any sort of civil unions or domestic partnerships that carry with them any of the rights of marriage. It is a broad attack on the rights of same sex couples. Any statements to the contrary are false on their face. Anyone who claims this amendment does not eradicate all the rights of same sex couples are lying through their teeth. That is exactly what it does. Here is the text:

SECTION 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

“…the legal incidents thereof…” Right there is the bullet the republicans want to put through the hearts of gay and lesbian Americans. Repeated attempts to remove that language, and leave in the rest about marriage consisting only of the union of a man and a woman have been doggedly resisted, which proves if nothing else does the intent of this amendment’s authors, despite their protestations to the contrary. To support this amendment, you must believe that same sex couples ought to have no legal rights whatever. There is no other honest way of reading this text. So when you hear someone claiming that this amendment doesn’t prevent the states from enacting civil unions, you know two things about that person: one, they are bigots…two, they are liars. And if they start talking about the moral decline of American society in the next breath, laugh in their face.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Errata…

On review, I had to make one small change to the caption of this week’s cartoon. What passed the senate a couple of weeks ago wasn’t a hate crime law, but a hate crime bill. Big difference. A bill is not a law, until both houses of congress pass it, and the president signs it. The chances of this republican government actually including gay and lesbian Americans in its hate crime laws is nil squared. As has been observed elsewhere, the senate most likely passed that bill to give the ersatz republican moderates cover to gay bash all week this week on the Federal Marriage Amendment. We don’t hate gays, we just treat them like human garbage.

Ironic, since as the republicans have decided on political gay bashing as a vote getting strategy, the incidents of actual anti-gay violence are, unsurprisingly, on the rise. It isn’t only homosexuals who are at risk in this climate:

The Independence man seriously injured while helping a victim of gay-bashing has a long road ahead to recovery, his friends say.

Matthew Ashcraft, 19, came home from University Hospital on June 28, two days after he was hit on the head with a baseball bat outside Woolly's on Monmouth.

But he might headed back to the hospital because he can't keep any food down and still suffers migraine headaches, said a friend from Alexandria, Brian, who declined to give his last name.

Ashcraft suffered serious damage to his left ear, Brian said, and will probably need several surgeries to repair shattered bones. A police report said Ashcraft's injuries included a fractured skull, cranial bleeding and a blood clot on his brain.

Doctors have estimated his chances for full recovery at 50 percent, Brian said, but any recovery will take three to six months.

"He's a very, very sweet guy," Brian said. "All he wants is for people to realize that violence is not the answer."

His friends were expecting Ashcraft to attend a benefit at the bar late Wednesday night, but didn't know how long he would be able to stay.

Another friend, Danny, who lives in Deer Park, Ohio, said he organized the benefit - a drag show and auction - to help cover Ashcraft's medical expenses, because the teen has no medical insurance.

"He's our hero," Danny said. "He went beyond the call of duty to help a person out when he really didn't have to."

The three men were on their way into Woolly's just before 11 p.m. on June 26 when they came upon two men taunting Leon Hughes, who was walking the bar's dog. "They said, 'Come here, faggot! Why don't you and your little faggot dog come here?'" Hughes said.

Ashcraft is not gay, Brian said, but feels very protective of Brian and other gay men. Brian said he begged Ashcraft not to get involved, just to call the police, but Ashcraft replied that he knew if he didn't, Hughes would get beaten up. Ashcraft stepped in, and the fight moved across the street, where he was hit with a baseball bat.

The sound of the blow sounded like someone had shattered a beer bottle on the ground, Danny said. It has caused him nightmares for several days, he added.

Gay bashed because of the republican fueled climate of hostility toward homosexuals and no health insurance, something else you can lay at the feet of the republican party, after it deliberately and cynically opposed any health care reform during the Clinton years on the grounds that it would benefit the democrats with the voters more then it would them. That kid’s fractured skull and the massive debt his medical bills are going to drive him into are the exhaust from the tailpipe of the republican political engine.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday July 11, 2004

The Don’t Question Authority Party.

The joke of the ages, the propaganda coup of all eternity, is that the republicans have managed to make liberalism a synonym for totalitarianism in popular culture. Somewhere beyond the grave, Hitler is laughing his ass off, while Orwell just cries.

I came across a link to this New York Times editorial, regarding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the prewar assessment of Iraqi weapons, and found it strangely familiar…

The report was heavily censored by the administration and is too narrowly focused on the bungling of just the Central Intelligence Agency. But what comes through is thoroughly damning. Put simply, the Bush administration's intelligence analysts cooked the books to give Congress and the public the impression that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear arms, that he was plotting to give such weapons to terrorists, and that he was an imminent threat.

These assertions formed the basis of Mr. Bush's justifications for war. But the report said that they were wrong and were not a true picture of the intelligence, and that the intelligence itself was not worth much. The freshest information from human sources was more than four years old. The committee said the analysts who had produced that false apocalyptic vision had fallen into a "collective groupthink" in which evidence was hammered into a preconceived pattern...

Ask any gay or lesbian American what this sounds like, and the answer you’ll get is decades of right wing anti-gay hate mongering. Facts? Facts? We don’t need no stinking facts. From Irving Bieber’s study in the 1950s, purporting to show that homosexuals were sick, by studying only homosexuals who were in therapy (almost a quarter of his subjects had already been diagnosed as schizophrenic) to his protege Joseph Nicolosi’s reparative therapy quackery, to Jerry Falwell getting up on a podium with Anita Bryant, looking a roomful of reporters in the face and telling them that “A homosexual will kill you as soon as look at you”, to Paul Cameron’s junk science pamphlets purporting to prove that, among other things, the average lifespan of a homosexual is 43 years, to Stanley Kurtz’ recent machine gun lying about the effect of same sex marriage in Scandinavia, the history of the right wing assault on gay Americans is paved with lies. And when confronted with irrefutable evidence of falsehood, they reliably dig their heels in deeper, and refute it anyway. Usually with another barrage of different lies, but often enough, and astoundingly, with a barrage of the exact same lies all over again.

Sound familiar? Dick Cheney, rushing to tell the press that there was a solid connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, immediately after the 9-11 commission announces there was no such connection. Can’t find those weapons of mass destruction? Saddam had them, it’s been proven. No it hasn’t. What about those three metric tons of growth material? There wasn’t any. And how about that vial of botulism they found in that refrigerator? One vial isn’t a weapons program. No, but three metric tons of growth material is. But that growth material doesn’t exist. And what about those documents proving Saddam tried to buy nuclear material from Niger. Those were forgeries. I suppose you think those three metric tons of growth material were forgeries too. There was no growth material. You should support the president, not the terrorists.

And so on. This is a pattern of relentless machine gun lying to try and bury a truth that doesn’t suit them, that anyone who has engaged the fight for Gay and Lesbian equality knows all too well. This is the right’s, and for the past decade and a half at least, the republican party’s standard operating procedure. When in doubt, lie. When not in doubt, lie some more. They get away with it, because our mainstream news media regards balance as telling both sides of the story uncritically, even if they know one side is lying through its teeth.

We, your gay and lesbian neighbors, are going to be enduring this republican pattern of lie-repeat, all week this week as Bill (R: Dead Cat) Frist and the republicans wave their anti-gay marriage amendment. They’ll be spending much of this week inciting passions against innocent Americans, in the hope that it’ll get them some votes they’ll be badly needing come November. And never mind that anti-gay violence is hitting record levels all across the country. We’ll be hearing over and over again, every filthy lie in their play book about homosexuals and homosexuality, every blatant falsehood about what marriage is, what it has meant over the ages, what it means to a free people, and what extending it to same sex couples means. Expect the republicans to insist that their amendment won’t take any rights away from gay and lesbian Americans. Expect them to say that same sex couples can protect their unions in other ways, besides marriage. Expect the news media to forget to mention the fact that this amendment will deny gay and lesbian Americans the ability to do precisely that, in addition to denying us the right to marry. In Virginia, the republican author of a recently passed law that denies same sex couples the right to even hold a joint checking account, looked reporters in the face and swore that his law doesn’t do, and wasn’t intended to do, what it does, what it was intended to do, with the same confidence that Dick Cheney could look reporters in the face and still insist that Saddam and Al Qaeda were working together on 9-11, and never mind that this claim has been called categorically false by the 9-11 commission twice now. Facts? Facts?

The panel's investigation into how President Bush handled the intelligence has been postponed until after the election. But the bottom line already seems pretty clear. No one had to pressure analysts to change their findings because the findings were determined before the work started.

By late 2002, you'd have had to have been vacationing on Mars not to know what answer Mr. Bush wanted. The planning for war had begun. The C.I.A. was under enormous pressure over getting it wrong before 9/11. And the hawkish defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, wanted to set up his own intelligence agency to get the goods on Iraq that the wishy-washy C.I.A. couldn't seem to deliver.

Both political parties see all this as an election issue, and the international community will see the committee report as another reason to decry Mr. Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy. But the report also speaks to a critical long-term security threat. We cannot afford to have the public become too cynical about the government's assessment of danger.

There may well come a time when Mr. Bush, or another president, will have to ask the nation and its allies to back a pre-emptive military strike against terrorists, or a country that poses a real threat. And he's probably going to have to rely on intelligence that is hardly the "slam dunk" that George Tenet reportedly called these shoddy reports on Iraq. The public will have to believe that the president is acting against a real threat, not one manufactured to justify a political agenda.

This administration has not made it easier for people to have that confidence...

But why would they want to? Listen to them call anyone who questions president Junior’s policies, anyone that is, exercising the basic right of the free citizen of a free country to question their government, a traitor. Look at that for a minute. Really look at it. Questions are things that preoccupy independent minds, and with the Bush gang and the republicans it is: you are either with us or against us. You are either part of the herd, or you are a danger to it. All a herd needs are a few slogans to keep it together. Anyone who tells us a fact, is telling us that they have wandered away from the herd. The proper response to that isn’t to dispute their facts, but enforce herd discipline.

This is the republican view of how government works, of how society works, how religion works, and it is a categorical denial of everything this country ever stood for, everything the first American revolutionaries laid down their lives for. If a modern day republican had been standing within earshot of Patrick Henry’s declaration, he’d have shot him dead. Liberty, by their reckoning, is anti-god, anti-family, and anti-American. And the mark of the beast, is a preoccupation with facts.

When you get into an argument with one of these, and find yourself amazed at how doggedly they dispense one lie after another, in the face of one irrefutable fact after another, realize you are not having the argument with them you might think you are. They are not arguing the point at hand, but renouncing, utterly denying, the right of the human mind to question. They are demanding that you shut up, return to the herd, and do as you’re told. You are not supposed to ask questions, just obey. Repeat the slogans until you have them memorized. Repeat the slogans. Repeat the slogans. Repeat the slogans. If you repeat a fact instead, well, that just means you’ve been asking questions…haven’t you…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday June 28, 2004

No Talking Feather…

Yeah…I haven’t posted here for a while. This has been a busy couple of weeks where I work (The Space Telescope Science Institute) and with layoffs coming down the pike at the end of July, we’re all trying hard to make ourselves indispensable.

This round of downsizing at the Institute by the way, was always in the cards. After the forth servicing mission, which has been canceled, which was among other things, to install some new instruments on Hubble have already been built, new development on Hubble was to come to an end. The spacecraft was to continue on with its existing software and hardware until the scheduled end of mission, in 2010. Time was we were hoping for a fifth servicing mission, which would have extended Hubble’s lifespan even longer. Now we’re looking at an early end to the mission. But in any case, the coming layoffs were planned before the cancellation of SM4, because there was to be no new development work done on Hubble. Staff that did new development on Hubble systems, would need to be trimmed, and only maintenance work would be done thereafter.

There will be layoffs this year, and next, and the year after that, and then they reckon the workforce at the Institute will be at a sustainable level. But if we don’t get some sort of SM4, be it manned or unmanned, Hubble will probably stop being usable for science in just a few years, and then that last year of staff reductions at the Institute would have to be severe. But that’s still a few years in the future.

So my thoughts for the next several weeks are going to be mostly consumed with work related issues, and that’s why my posting here is probably going to be a tad thin for a while.

I couldn’t let this pass without comment though…

Of particular concern even for the nonreligious is the effect gay marriage could have on two of our founding principles ñ religious freedom and freedom of speech. Once the courts recognize gay marriage as equal in all ways to heterosexual marriage, then everyone else - including churches - has to recognize gay marriage as equal, too.

Any opposition will be deemed hateful by definition, and anyone who opposes gay marriage will be a hatemonger. Given that many religions and denominations teach that homosexuality is a sin, church attendance alone could suggest you're homophobic. To the extent that one believes or preaches scripture, one is a bigot.

Hence some of the deep concern among legal professionals, as well as theologians. A secular world that ratifies homosexual marriage would provide a legal foundation that would open the floodgates to civil litigation against religious leaders, institutions and worshipers.

In such an environment, churches might be sued for declining to provide their sanctuaries for gay marriages, for example. Ministers could be sued for hate speech for giving a sermon on moral behavior. Churches that protest homosexual unions could face revocation of their tax-exemption status.

The delicate balance between church and state, in other words, is teetering on a high ledge at this moment. It's ironic that those who oppose churches' involvement in state concerns nonetheless have no compunction when it comes to the state dictating what churches can do. Even nonreligious folk should be concerned.
Kathleen Parker - Gay marriage places church and state in historic clash

Gotta love it. President Smirking Fratboy Jackass goes to see the pope and complains to him that “Not all the American bishops are with me” on cultural issues, anti gay political action committees organize hundreds of fundamentalist church congregations to support the federal anti same sex marriage amendment, the catholic church is threatening to withhold communion to any politician who doesn’t oppose same sex marriage, and Kathleen Parker says that same sex marriage is a threat to church-state separation. I’m sorry…since when did her kind believe in church-state separation…?

Laws against mixed race marriages were thrown out by the Supreme Court years ago and yet there is no law, and thanks to the first amendment, and that separation of church and state that Parker and her right wing gang think does not exist, there can be no law, forcing any church to marry a mixed race couple. Parker is well aware of that, but like others of her kind she shrinks from no lie she thinks can incite religious passions against homosexual Americans. She has the morals, the same easy contempt for humanity, of a concentration camp guard. From the American political gutter, Parker and her kind use the human gift of language to piss on the human race.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday June 23, 2004

Our Feckless News Media

Brad DeLong sees the unintentional self parody in what he calls, rightly, our “feckless” news media. He quotes an entry in The Volokh Conspiracy blog, which I’ll quote myself, because it’s a good example of that self parody:

The Volokh Conspiracy - Archives 2004-06-15 - 2004-06-21: Huh? Kerry was asked:

Is the support for Roe v. Wade a critical point, a litmus test, for any court appointee you would make?

Kerry answered:

To the Supreme Court of the United States, yes.

The Kerryism edited version, which I assume is supposed to be equivalent to Kerryism's original point but better put (remember their original charter, which is "translat[ing]" Kerry's words "into plain English," by removing "caveats and pointless embellishments") is:

Yes.

But that's not what Kerry wanted to say! It would be a stupid thing to say, both from a policy perspective (even if he firmly supports constitutional abortion rights, why should he turn it into a litmus test for district court judges?) and from a political perspective (if he does set up such a broad litmus test even for district court judges, he'd look like a fanatic).

What exactly is the point of the Kerryisms? At first, I thought -- based on the column's introductory installment -- the Kerryisms were meant to show that Kerry throws in lots of unnecessary verbiage. But here, this was a necessary proviso.

Another possibility is that "Kerryisms" has evolved into an attempt to show simply that Kerry uses a lot of qualifiers, instead of giving very simple answers. But often, as in this case, the right answer isn't simple. It's actually not terribly complex, but it's not one-word simple. Is it really good to fault a politician for refusing to oversimplify? Should we want supposedly smart media outlets mocking politicians for trying to be precise?

The only other option that I see is that the column has descended into self-parody. ("Question: What's the ratio of a circle's circumference to the diameter? Kerry's real answer: 3.1415926. Our answer, shorn of caveats and pointless embellishments: 3.") But surely it can't be intentional self-parody. So I ask again, what's the point?

DeLong goes on to lambaste two reviews of Bill Clinton’s new book that are so completely inept you have to just about believe that newspaper publishers and editors don’t think there are any adults left in the United States. This one in particular, from the ostensibly liberal New York Times, is telling:

The second comes from another review of Clinton's My Life: Michiko Kakutani's. She sneers at Clinton's "messy pastiche of everything that [he] ever remembered and wanted to set down in print; he even describes the time he got up at 4 a.m. to watch the inaugural ceremonies for Nigeria's new president on TV." That, to her, is the low point: Clinton thinking that an audience might possibly be interested in a place like Nigeria! And--she is clearly thinking--could there be anything more a total boring and uninteresting waste of time than getting up at 4 A.M. to watch a broadcast from Lagos?

Well, here's the sum total of what Clinton has to say about Nigeria (that I could find, at least) in his book. It's two paragraphs:

p. 856: I got up at four in the morning to watch the inaugural ceremonies for Nigeria's new president, former general Olusegun Obasanjo, on TV. Ever since gaining independence, Nigeria had been riddled by corruption, regional and religious strife, and deteriorating social conditions. Despite its large oil production, the country suffered periodic power outages and fuel shortages. Obasanjo had taken power briefly in a military coup in the 1970s, then had kept his promise to step aside as soon as new elections could be held. Later, he had been imprisoned for his political views and, while incarcerated, had become a devout Christian and had written books about his faith. It was hard to imagine a bright future for sub-Saharan Africa without a more successful Nigeria, by far its most populous nation. After listening to his compelling inaugural address, I hoped Obasanjo would be able to succeed where others had failed.

pp. 920-921: I flew to Nigeria to see President Olusegun Obasanjo. I wanted to support his efforts to curb AIDS before Nigeria's infection rate reached the levels of southern African nations, and to highlight the recent passage of the African trade bill, which I hoped would help Africa's struggling economy. Obasanjo and I attended a gathering on AIDS at which a young girl spoke of her efforts to educate her schoolmates about the disease, and a man named John Ibekwe told the gripping story of his marriage to a woman who was HIV-positive, his becoming infected, and his frantic search to get the medicine for his wife that would enable their child to be born without the virus. Eventually John succeeded, and little Maria was born HIV-free. President Obasanjo asked Mrs. Ibekwe to come up onstage, where he embraced her. It was a touching gesture and sent a clear signal that Nigeria would not fall into the trap of denial that had contributed so much to the spread of AIDS in other countries.

Plague, coups, famine, revolution, and--we hope--steps toward development and democracy. For Nigerians, the stuff of life and death. For President Clinton, the potentially most important country in Africa that he needs to know about as he tries to use his policy levers to make a better world. For an elite journalist like Michiko Kakutani, it's boring--and it is a gross violation of etiquette for Clinton to use two paragraphs in his book to try to teach Americans a little about Nigeria and give them a President's eye view of this piece of Africa.

It is self parody and it’s damming. If you’ve ever wondered why so many Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11, here it is. Too many people calling themselves journalists, don’t give a good goddamn about anything that wouldn’t make the top story on Entertainment Tonight.

And that indifference is killing our democracy. Go…now…read this essay at The Washington Monthly, about how our news media doggedly refuse to acknowledge why the nation is becoming more and more polarized:

There's something similar about the way the national press has been describing the polarization of our political culture over the last few years. It is a clichÈ to observe that the parties have drawn further apart, the center no longer holds, and partisans on both sides have withdrawn further into mutual loathing and ever more-homogenous and antagonistic groupings. Where the analysis goes wrong is in its assumption, either explicit or implicit, that both parties bear equal responsibility for this state of affairs. While partisanship may now be deeply entrenched among their voters and their elites, the truth is that the growing polarization of American politics results primarily from the growing radicalism of the Republican Party.

This is the sort of reality that most journalists know perfectly well to be true but cannot bring themselves to say, though this increased polarization drives them crazy. Almost without exception, mainstream reporters in Washington see moderation and bipartisanship as inherently virtuous. (Indeed, reverence for these qualities is essentially the defining belief of the Washington establishment.) Read almost any account of bills becoming law, and you'll notice the reporter's obvious affection for centrists who work both sides of the aisle. Yet they are unable to honestly explain to readers what's causing the decline of bipartisanship, thanks to another form of press bias: The desire not to seem biased. As practiced by the modern press, "objective" journalism requires avoiding the appearance of favoring one party over the other--even when the facts merit such a treatment. That's why, when news stories discuss polarization, they bend over backward to avoid laying the "blame" on the political right.

The republicans have been waging a scorched earth war on American democracy for decades. They want nothing less then a one party government, no different in style from the way the communist party once ran the Soviet Union. They have no use whatever for democracy, they have in fact, nothing but contempt for democracy: they are the right hand of god, if not gods themselves in their own estimation, and gods do not count votes. There is no way to report that story with any sort of equanimity without accepting the morally reprehensible position that totalitarianism is no different then democracy. But if the press has its way, by the time the average American realizes the threat the republicans pose to our democracy, it will be gone.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday June 21, 2004

Quiet

Deathly quiet, you might say. Brood X class of 2004 is gone, at least around here. Literally. The streets are quiet. What was a din of cicada song just a couple weeks ago, has returned now to normal. The usual birds, the occasional insect buzz, and the background city noise. Cicadas brood X is gone.

Literally. All that is left of them now, right at this moment, are the eggs, waiting to hatch. You can see where, in the tips of tree branches dying off where the females cut slits to lay their eggs. It’s almost like autumn came early to some trees, and just at the tips of their branches.

Of brood X there is nothing but the eggs now. It is the silence between worlds. This is the thing I find most remarkable about the little red-eyed flyers. The whole population dies off. For the species to continue, it has to make this one last leap across the endless silence. In a few weeks the eggs hatch, and tiny ant sized nymphs make their way back into the earth to start it all over again. Presumably there are zillions of eggs in trees across the Ohio valley to West Virginia and Maryland, waiting to hatch, so the danger isn’t very great. But there it is. They are all gone. Now, there is just the Silence. In a few weeks, they’ll make their return from extinction. And most of us humans won’t notice that fact for seventeen years.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tales Of The Liberal Media

The headline reads: WICS anchor under fire for criticizing gay activist, but calling it ‘criticizing’ doesn’t quite capture the moment…

"I've been an activist for a long time, nearly 30 years. I deal constantly with reporters, and this is the first time I've ever seen someone with such unprofessional behavior," [Rick] Garcia said, adding that he's never complained about a reporter before.

Garcia said he was at the Capitol when he saw [WICS-Channel 20 anchor Julie] Staley and Channel 20 cameraman Curt Claycomb standing near a man and two children who were signing the book. Staley was working on a story about the book being at the Statehouse.

"There was no one around, so I got in line and signed the book with my memory of Ronald Reagan," Garcia said.

His entry was, "My memory of President Ronald Reagan: Thousands of American men, women and children were dying from HIV and AIDS during his administration. The president did nothing. The president said nothing. Not until the very end of his second term was he even able to utter the word AIDS. Reagan's silence and his administration's policies contributed to the suffering and dying of thousands of men, women and children. I mourn the president the way he mourned these men, women and children - with silence. May God forgive him, I can't. Rick Garcia."

Garcia said he then left to run errands at the Statehouse.

Staley told the Chicago Reader the tape in her camera had run out and she was on a break. She said she decided to sign the book herself - she told the weekly that she, her family and her husband's family were all Reagan supporters - but when she saw what Garcia had written, she thought it was cruel.

"I was very incensed," she told the magazine. "I loved Ronald Reagan."

She also told the Reader that WICS's cameraman told a security guard about Garcia's remarks.

Garcia said he rounded a corner to see Staley, Claycomb and the security guard standing together.

"'There he is,' she screeches at me. She is livid. And she starts saying, 'You're tasteless. You're classless.' She was clearly upset. I told her that speaking the truth is not tasteless. The guard asked me, 'Why don't you show some respect?' Then she started saying, 'You're a loser, a big loser.'"

Staley told the Chicago Reader she wouldn't deny making the comments.

Well, that’s what happens when you put a remembrance book out where people can write their remembrances in it. People will write their remembrances in it. And people remember a lot of about Ronald Reagan. And his followers. Their turning their backs on people with AIDS was of a piece with the rest of their bar stool prejudices. And if Julie “loved Ronald Reagan”, there was probably a reason for that.

Look under a rock…find the maggots. Julie’s employer, WICS-TV in Springfield, Illinois, is owned by Sinclar Broadcast, one of the top GOP contributors among TV/Radio and stations.

Hey…even a TV anchor has a right to an opinion…right. Well…yeah. Now try to imagine that anchor dispassionately reading a news story that didn’t follow the republican party line in some way. Hell…try to imagine her employer broadcasting it. As of March 29, 2004, Sinclar had made $65,434 worth of campaign donations, with 98 percent of that going to the GOP.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday June 18, 2004

Culture Of Rape

I watch very little network television these days, but last night I found myself flipping channels before bed, and watched a scene from the last half hour of the CBS series Without A Trace. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a series about some FBI agents who specialize in missing persons cases. Maybe (well, not maybe…) what got my attention was the cute young guy that two of the FBI agents were questioning. Cute was being questioned about the disappearance of his father. Cute had been involved in drugs, and the FBI agents figured he knew something about what had happened to his father, so in order to make him talk, they threatened him with rape.

Well…not in so many words. But it’s the kind of scene you see all the time nowadays on cop tv shows. Suspect won’t talk…suspect needs a little encouraging…suspect is told what’ll happen to him in prison if he doesn’t cooperate. Last night in Without A Trace, our clean cut FBI agent heros told their cute young suspect, I forget the exact lines of dialogue right now, that guys like him were prime targets of prison rapists, and that if he knew what was good for him, he’d start talking.

Now whether or not this is actually standard interrogation procedure for the FBI is something I can’t say, although I recall that it wasn’t too long ago that Canada refused to extradite someone to the United States on the grounds that our criminal justice system not only turns a blind eye to prison rape, but in fact uses it as a tool to keep prisoners under control. Whether that’s true or not, prison rape here in the U.S. is common enough that the fact of it can be readily used as a plot device in popular entertainment, a fact which you’d think would be profoundly shameful to any civilized nation, but apparently not us. The hero may not be a rapist himself, but he can be perfectly willing to let others do it on his behalf, and still be the hero.

And that’s something worth thinking about while this and that new bit of evidence of our conduct in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq comes to light. Popular culture here in the United States not only accepts rape as a punishment, it expects the hero to use it as a tool when necessary. I watched it last night. Two FBI agents, as portrayed on television, threatened a cute young guy with rape if he didn’t talk, and the only discomfort either one of them showed with that conversation, was when the lead character restrained his partner from actually taking a swing at him. Cute later turned out to be innocent. Oh…Never mind…

The Whole World Is Watching… In Iraq, a fifteen year old boy was raped by translators while American soldiers took pictures. The teenaged son of a member of Saddam’s military was taken by American soldiers, stripped and driven around in the back of a truck until, mud caked and trembling, he was displayed to the father, along with the threat that he’d be thrown in with the other prisoners to be raped if the father didn’t start talking. In Iraq now they’re saying that the student is gone and the master has arrived. Here in America we’re busy telling ourselves that it was just a few bad apples, while we entertain ourselves by watching tv police use rape as a tool to fight crime.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday June 15, 2004

Why We Fight…

Two books came in the mail today, Jonathan Rauch’s Gay Marriage, and David Carter’s Stonewall – The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution. I was going to read Rauch’s book first, but began flipping the pages of Carter’s and became mesmerized:

While McCarthyism encouraged the toughening of laws toward homosexuals because they were believed to be security risks, America's Puritan tradition was producing hysteria over child molestation. Homosexuals were believed to be the main culprits. As right-wing demonization of homosexuals proceeded apace, the negative qualities attributed to them overlapped until it became a common assumption that any homosexual man or woman was so beyond the pale the he or she must also partake of the most forbidden ideological fruit of all: communism. Homosexuals thus became handy scapegoats for both of these postwar obsessions. Antihomosexual laws were correspondingly made more severe.

States passed new laws that either stiffened the penalties for homosexual sex or created new categories to criminalize. For example, California governor Earl Warren thought the sex offender problem so serious the in 1949 he convened a special session of the state legislature to deal with issue. That session passed laws that increased the penalties for sodomy and invented a new crime: loitering in a public toilet. The name of anyone convicted of spending too much time in a toilet was registered with the state. Twenty-nine states enacted new sexual psychopath laws and/or revised existing ones, and homosexuals were commonly the laws' primary targets. In almost all states, professional licenses could be revoked or denied on the basis of homosexuality, so that professionals could loose their livelihoods.

By 1961 the laws in America were harsher on homosexuals then those in Cuba, Russia, or East Germany countries that the United States criticized for their despotic ways. An adult convicted of the crime of having sex with another consenting adult in the privacy of his or her home could get anywhere from a light fine to five, ten, or twenty years - or even life - in prison. In 1971 twenty states had "sex psychopath" laws that permitted the detaining of homosexuals for that reason alone. In Pennsylvania and California sex offenders could be locked in a mental institution for life, and in seven states they could be castrated. At California's Atascadero State Hospital, known soon after its opening as "Dachau for Queers", men convicted of consensual sodomy were, as authorized by a 1941 law, given electrical and pharmacological shock therapy, castrated, and lobotomized. Gay Law author William N. Eskridge Jr. summed up the legal status of homosexuals at the beginning of the 1960s: "The homosexual...was smothered by law".

-David Carter, Stonewall - The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution: pg 15

Something to say to the next blathering idiot who demands to know why homosexuals are marching during Father’s Day weekend. On the one hand you can look at that and take some comfort in how far we’ve come. On the other hand you can look at it and see right there why we have to keep fighting, why our enemies are still so vehement in their opposition. That “before Stonewall” period is the good old days for them; a time when the police and the courts knew how to treat homosexuals. Many of them can remember it as though it were yesterday; a halcyon time, before the long haired hippies came along and ruined America for everyone. When it was a man’s world, provided the man was both white, protestant and heterosexual, and women submitted gracefully to their husbands. Movies, books and magazines were censored to keep indecency out of view, bastard children were born somewhere discreetly out of sight and put up for adoption, and perverts were routinely rounded up locked away. America was the most powerful nation on earth, a land of freedom and opportunity, as long as the freedom and opportunity you wanted, was the freedom and opportunity America was willing to let you have. Nowadays they rant in the newspapers about the “anything goes” culture, and vow to take America back from radical individualists. They want to bring it all back, not just the sodomy laws, but the constant fear of discovery, and the knowledge, branded into the consciousness of gay America, that discovery could mean a cascading loss of everything…your family…your home…your job…at the end of which could easily be prison, and maybe the surgeon’s knife.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Why Even Gay Radicals Have To Fight For Same Sex Marriage

The struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights has always been about the dignity and legitimacy of our intimate relationships. That dignity, that legitimacy, that sanctity, has always been the ground our enemies will fight to the bitter end, to deny. Every fight since Stonewall, for even the smallest of basic civil rights, from the right to care for our loved ones, and be with them in the hospital, to the right to hold a job, or have a roof over our heads, has been, ultimately, about this fight.

We could have been forgiven if, once upon a time, we thought we could win our rights piecemeal. So conditioned for generations to believe that homosexuality was a sickness, the news from Hooker and Kinsey that we were as human as anyone left us both liberated, and uncertain. We thought we could walk step by step to equality. First this right, then that, and soon, with enough of us out and visible, people would see the humanity in us, and take down the rest of the barriers to our hopes and dreams and joys. But the ones open to this kind of steady, persistent persuasion were never the problem, had never built the barriers to confine us, to exclude us, had never made monsters out of us to begin with. Mostly, they didn’t care. Yes, they could be roused against us with lies, but they had no personal investment in those lies. For them, lies could always be replaced by truth. Increasingly now, those who were always open to the truth about their gay and lesbian neighbors, are standing with us in our struggle, leaving only that bitter enemy that has always known the truth. You can say the fight is about treating a minority with fairness and compassion. You can say it’s about the right of adults to make their own choices in their intimate affairs. You can say it’s about liberty and justice for all. But at its irreducible core, it’s about the dignity and legitimacy of the love between same sex couples.

And this is why our enemies have made every step in our struggle for equality, a fight over same sex marriage:

Doug Kilgore has heard the complaints resonating from people throughout York County [PA] for about a month.

The overwhelming majority of those complaints question whether a proposed countywide human relations commission should expand discrimination laws to include sexual orientation.

"This issue is pretty emotional for people," Kilgore said.

At their weekly board meeting last week, Kilgore and his fellow county commissioners were reminded of the opposition when they were asked by Roy C. Jones of Dover to pledge not to expand protection to include homosexuals.

Jones, chairman of the York Area American Family Association, asked the commissioners to protect the sanctity of marriage as a union between "one man and one woman." He said he is not alone in his beliefs; that most people in conservative York County support his values.

"Make no mistake about it, radical homosexual activists are ignoring the rule of law and using local human relations governing bodies and subsequently local courts to cloud the original intent and go after the institution of marriage and dismantle it piece by piece," Jones said.

Gay rights focus of concerns - The Evening Sun (Hannover, PA)

This has always been the pattern. We fight for the right to hold a job, our enemies say we’ll use that as a tool to get same sex marriage. We fight for hospital visitation rights, our enemies say it is tantamount to condoning same sex marriage. We fight for the right to own or rent a home, our enemies accuse us of trying to force society to accept same sex marriage. And when the Supreme Court finally eliminated the sodomy laws that were long the core of legalized anti-gay persecution in America, our enemies shout that what the court really did was pave the way for legalized same sex marriage.

Every small step along the way to equality, has been a fight over same sex marriage, which is to say, a fight about the dignity and legitimacy of our love. Whether you believe, as I do, that same sex marriage is a completely logical thing, or you think marriage is a purely heterosexual construct that has nothing to do with gay liberation, you are still forced to deal with it. Our enemies say we cannot be equal in the eyes of the law, because we are not equal in fact, because our intimate relationships are a sterile, pale imitation of their’s, because our feelings of love and devotion are not real, but perverted, empty mockeries of the real thing. As Orson Scott Card once averred, we are only playing house. Our enemies have been right all along about one thing: the fight to win job protections, or equal housing opportunities, or hospital visitation, is also a fight for same sex marriage. And that’s because you can’t fight any of those battles, without standing for, and fiercely defending, the honor and the dignity and the legitimacy of our love.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday June 13, 2004

There You Go Again…

It is truly pathetic watching Deep Thinker Steve Miller, over at the Independent (sic) Gay Forum, accuse gay activists of distorting history regarding Ronald Reagan. Never mind that once again he turns to that September 18, 1985 press conference and this time excerpts just the bit where he claims to be willing to spend billions on AIDS research. Never mind that, just a year later, in 1986, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science produced a 390 page report that called the Reagan administration’s response on the epidermic “woefully inadequate”. Never mind that it wasn’t until C. Everett Koop’s own “Surgeon General’s Report on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” was published – without letting the Reagan White House see an advance copy, did the issue of serious AIDS research funding get traction in Washington. Koop’s report, with its explicit no-nonsense language and calls for sex education and condom use was vilified by conservatives and…

President Reagan observed his ritualistic silence, though the PHS officials who had approved the report's printing without White House clearance quickly found themselves exiled to bureaucratic Siberia.
-Randy Shilts, "And The Band Played On", pg 588

Never mind all that. Let’s turn to Miller’s other pathetic exercise in Ronald Reagan whitewashing: The Briggs Initiative.

Miller, like a lot of other excuse makers, claims Reagan’s public opposition to the initiative which would have banned homosexuals from teaching in California’s public schools, was key to its defeat, and proves he was no gay basher, and quotes columnist John Nichols:

Convinced by activists David Mixner and Peter Scott that the initiative represented an unwarranted threat to free speech rights and individual liberties, Reagan declared that the initiative "is not needed to protect our children -- we have the legal protection now."

That’s not just a sloppy reading of history, its a deliberately dishonest one. Here’s how Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney tell it in Out For Good:

As soon as Mixner and Scott arrived at Reagan's office, it was clear that Reagan had been briefed on the topic and was curious to hear what they had to say. The meeting dragged on beyond the scheduled fifteen minutes to more then an hour. Mixner and Scott made all the points they had discussed at dinner with Bennet and Abbitt: the bill would allow students to blackmail teachers, it would destroy school discipline, and it would waste taxpayer money in pointless litigation. As Mixner recounted it, Reagan stirred in his chair when they talked about school discipline. He and Peter Scott exchanged glances, so they returned to the point again and again.
-Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney, "Out For Good", pg 387.

Mixner and Scott later heard from Reagan’s office that he would almost certainly not support the initiative, but could not guarantee that he would come out against it. Then in August Reagan issued a statement of opposition, which did indeed say that the initiative “has the potential of infringing on basic rights of privacy and perhaps even constitutional rights.” But whose was he talking about?

"What if an overwrought youngster disappointed by bad grades imagined it was the teacher's fault and struck out by accusing the teacher of advocating homosexuality?" Reagan's statement asked. "Innocent lives could be ruined..."

As opposed to not innocent lives of course. You hear time and again about some sort of libertarian streak that was supposed to exist in Ronald Reagan, but it’s a myth. I was an active libertarian myself during the first years of his presidency (which in the end, helped to cure me of it) and it often frustrated me back then how he would borrow this and that from the political language of libertarians, like a bag lady tossing random stuff she picked up off the street into her shopping cart, without a care as to what any of it really meant. He was an actor-president, and the libertarians had good lines, so he stole them. (Like he stole that “I’ve paid for this microphone” line from Spencer Tracy.) Reagan was a died in the wool right wing extremist, who played the part of a jovial, humane, down-to-earth moderate conservative. People bought it, because he was good at it. But it was a hoax. His opposition to the Briggs initiative being a case in point. It wasn’t the treat to individual liberties that moved Reagan, it was the threat to school discipline.

And Reagan wasn’t the only public figure who saw it. If anything defeated the Briggs initiative, it was the growing realization that it threatened heterosexuals too. Grassroots gay activists, knowing from the Anita Bryant campaign that they couldn’t win by appealing to fairness and the rights of gays and lesbians, hammered on this one point.

Briggs had crafted what he thought was a simple law that could ride the wave of anti-gay initiatives, begun just a year before with Anita Bryant’s Dade County Florida crusade, and lift him to higher office. But like others of his kind, he overreached. “Public Homosexual Conduct” was sweepingly defined in the initiative as “advocating, imposing, encouraging or promoting of private or public homosexual activity directed at, or likely to come to the attention of school children and/or other [school] employees”. In his zeal to go after any and all traces of homosexuality in the public schools, Briggs went too far, even for his own party. But even before the initiative, his own party had a dislike for him.

Bigger guns came into fight the Briggs Initiative as well. Republicans had long been embarrassed by Briggs's antics in the state senate, so G.O.P. legislators lined up against Prop 6 in the hope that defeat might finally shut the senator up. Former Governor Ronald Reagan - who had promised to veto any decriminalization of gay sex during his eight year term as governor - went on record against Prop 6. observing "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like measles." Briggs brushed off the rebuff, saying Reagan was part of "the whole Hollywood crowd." Gay insiders however, credited Reagan's help to the fact that he had no small number of gays among his top staff. [it was one of these deeply closeted gays who set up the meeting that is recorded in Out For Good] Former President Ford came out against the measure, saying it represented an unconservative expansion of state power. The Catholic and Episcopal Bishops of San Francisco took firm stands against the measure. Boards of Education throughout the state also voted opposition to the initiative, fretting over the considerable sums - an estimated $12,000 per teacher - it would take to hold the hearings the would determine whether teachers were guilty as charged. Many heterosexual teachers, meanwhile, promised to clog the school boards with hundreds of confessions that the had violated the "public homosexual conduct" clause...
-Randy Shilts, "The Mayor Of Castro Street", pg 243

Saying Reagan single handedly defeated the Briggs Initiative with a public declaration of his opposition, is of a piece with the claims that he single handedly won the cold war. It’s bullshit. Saying that he did it out of a libertarian concern for individual rights and privacy is only piling it higher and deeper. It was nothing of the kind. You can say a lot of things about the man who vowed to veto any attempt to repeal California’s sodomy laws while he was governor, but that he had the slightest concern with the rights and privacy of gay and lesbian Americans isn’t one of them.

And what other governor who became president can we say that of?

It’s often said of Reagan that he lived in his own fantasy world, and behaved as if the fantasy world was real, and the real one wasn’t. True of the man…perhaps. But without a doubt it’s true of his idolaters. Miller for one. And if Miller and his kind are pissed that those of us who aren’t living in their fantasy world aren’t paying their silver screen idol more respect, the reason is that the rest of us are fucking sick and tired of jackasses who think facts don’t matter. Yeah, they do. You throw your support to a man who vows to keep the sodomy laws of his state on the books, and what do you know, he becomes president and he keeps right on swinging at gay and lesbian Americans. Next thing you know he’s trying to add an amendment to the constitution prohibiting same sex couples from legally marrying. Even in states that say it’s okay. Conservative principles? States rights? He’s such a nice man…a good man…a friendly, decent man…he’s no bigot…we can trust him…

Facts matter. Tens of thousands died under Ronald Reagan, who might not have under a president who really was the kind, decent, optimistic man he seemed. The legacy of decent man of the people George W. Bush may be the exile of gay and lesbian couples from the protections of the law for generations to come. None of that should be a surprise to anyone who looks…really looks…at their careers. Facts matter.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday June 12, 2004

By Our Standards He Was A Great Man

Nebraska, the first state to write into its constitution, not only a ban on same sex marriage, but a ban on any legal recognition of same sex couples, civil unions, domestic partners or otherwise, whose governor, Mike Johanns, vetoed real estate reform legislation because it included language aimed at protecting gays from discrimination, may soon induct a leader in the “pervert purge” in the early 1950s who, along with McCarthy, cost thousands of homosexuals their government jobs, into its Hall of Fame.

Senator Kenneth Wherry was co-chair of a Senate subcommittee in 1950 that investigated the “employment of homosexuals and other sex perverts in government.” There, during the McCarthy hysteria, he led the charge to purge homosexuals from the government. According to an article in Nebraska History magazine, titled ‘Homo-Hunting’ in the Early Cold War: Senator Kenneth Wherry and the Homophobic Side of McCarthyism, between seven to ten-thousand real or suspected homosexuals lost their jobs during the 1950s because of Wherry’s crusade. This of course, makes Wherry Nebraska hall of fame material:

In a secret ballot, that turned out to be probably illegal, the Nebraska Hall of Fame commission voted to add Wherry to the Hall of Fame. The only public comment that was allowed on the Wherry nomination, was that of Wherry’s nephew, Dan Wherry, who had nominated his uncle. Though there were people present who wanted to oppose the nomination the committed closed the meeting before they were allowed to speak.

The law is that at public meetings, votes must be conducted in public. So now the Hall of Fame committee is voting again. But of course, no public comments will be allowed.

At public meetings - including those of the commission - voting must be done in a roll call in open session, and a record of votes must be kept, the attorney general's opinion states. That's why the commission must vote again publicly, but it won't allow public comment again, [commission member] Sommer said Monday.

Public comment was allowed at the commission's April meeting, he said before declining to answer further questions.

Well…yeah…if you count only allowing the man who made the nomination in the first place to speak. Naturally all this fussing over a few thousand homosexuals who had their careers, and possibly their lives destroyed by the witch hunt, is distressing some of the commission members…

Commission member Mildred Curtis voted for Wherry. She is the widow of Nebraska Sen. Carl Curtis, a good friend of Wherry's. She says she is upset people in the homosexual community are upset.

"Considering it's been over 50 years," she said, "they should stop and think about the times and the culture that he was living.

Heaven forfend that she should. No point after all, in thinking about what those times were like for homosexuals, while she and her fellow Nebraskans are busy trying to bring them back. What the hell is so wrong with protecting gays from discrimination in home ownership, that an entire bill to reform the real estate laws had to be vetoed when a line protecting gay people from discrimination was added to it? Ah, for those good old days, when homosexuals didn’t even think they had rights, let alone demand them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday June 11, 2004

Drug Addiction Destroys Another Marriage…

Or maybe it was just being married to a loudmouthed bigot just got to be too much. Whatever. Rush Limbaugh’s third try at that which he thinks same sex couples are unworthy, has crashed and burned. But rest assured his next marriage won’t devalue the institution like letting same sex couples who’ve been together for decades marry would.

Try to imagine Rush Limbaugh waiting patiently in the rain…like these people…to get married. Try to imagine George Bush doing that.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday June 9, 2004

Larry Kramer Has The Conscience You Don’t Steve…That’s All…

Deep Thinker Steve Miller over at the Independent (sic) Gay Forum is all appalled and everything because Larry Kramer is comparing Reagan (unfavorably) to Hitler. Oh no, says Steve, and as an example of the liberal vitriol surrounding Reagan he points to a New York Times September 18, 1985 article titled “Reagan Defends Financing for AIDS”, as evidence that Reagan did indeed address the plague well before his critics are charging that he did.

But if liberals are full of ‘vitriol’, Miller is full of shit. You can see it right away, in the fact that he’s so careful about what he lets his readers know about that Times article. In fact, it is another example of how Reagan knowingly, callously, and reliably failed to act to defend the people suffering under the onslaught of the disease from the prejudices and hysteria surrounding it.

Here’s the part of that September 1985 press conference Miller doesn’t show his readers:

Q. Mr. President, the Nation's best-known AIDS scientist says the time has come now to boost existing research into what he called a minor moonshot program to attack this AIDS epidemic that has struck fear into the Nation's health workers and even its school children. Would you support a massive government research program against AIDS like the one that President Nixon launched against cancer?

The President. I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It's been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.

…and later:

School Attendance of Children With AIDS Q. Mr. President, returning to something that Mike [Mike Putzel, Associated Press] said, if you had younger children, would you send them to a school with a child who had AIDS?

The President. I'm glad I'm not faced with that problem today. And I can well understand the plight of the parents and how they feel about it. I also have compassion, as I think we all do, for the child that has this and doesn't know and can't have it explained to him why somehow he is now an outcast and can no longer associate with his playmates and schoolmates. On the other hand, I can understand the problem with the parents. It is true that some medical sources had said that this cannot be communicated in any way other than the ones we already know and which would not involve a child being in the school. And yet medicine has not come forth unequivocally and said, "This we know for a fact, that it is safe." And until they do, I think we just have to do the best we can with this problem. I can understand both sides of it.

So Reagan did use the word ‘AIDS’ in public sooner then he is generally credited for. Swell. But look at it. Does the name Ryan White ring any bells out there? White was a kid who got AIDS by way of the clotting factor he needed to control his hemophilia. From the Ryan White Story Website:

He was determined to continue at his school and live life normally. But in 1985, not many people knew the truth about AIDS. Not very much was known about AIDS. Ryan faced a lot of discrimination, mostly based on the unknown. His school tried to keep him from attending and the town in which he lived was not very supportive, to say the least.

After legal battles, Ryan and his mother settled with the school to have separate restrooms and disposable silverware from the cafeteria. But that didn't stop much. Students vandalized his locker with the word "FAG" and restaurants threw his dishes away after he left. A bullet was even fired into his home.

That’s putting what happened to this innocent kid mildly. And after he passed away, his gravesite was vandalized repeatedly.

So here comes Reagan, with this opportunity to do what the goddamn leader of the free world is supposed to do, speak up for the innocent, appeal to our better nature, quell the passions of the mob …and the pusillanimous Bastard says he sympathizes with the mob instead!

“I can understand both sides of it.”

Both sides? I’m sorry…Both Sides??? Like…the side that would fire a gun into a boy’s home, because the kid had AIDS? That side?

Eat Shit And Die Miller. Rot in hell.

Meanwhile, via John Aravosis, comes these little Reagan era press conference nuggets, researched by Rex Wockner. From Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine by Jon Cohen:

By November of 1983 the United States had 3,064 known cases of AIDS from which 1292 people had died. And Reagan’s press secretary, and the white house press corps, were laughing about it.

But Reagan was such a nice man… No. He was a fucking actor. He knew how to make you see a nice man, when you looked at him. For years that was how he earned a living. And he was not, as some like to say, just a ‘B’ movie actor. He may not have made it to the superstar class, but he played in the ‘A’ list films of his time. He was good at it then, and the talent stayed with him until Alzheimer’s finally took everything. You want to know Ronald Reagan? Never mind the killing fields of South America, and South Africa. Never mind the tens of thousands of “disappeareds”. If you want to see the man, listen to him making excuses for people who were terrorizing small kids who had what was then a universally terminal illness. There’s the man.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Waking Up To What’s In The White House

The Washington Post gets a clue:

There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments. Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of "national security." For decades the U.S. government has waged diplomatic campaigns against such outlaw governments -- from the military juntas in Argentina and Chile to the current autocracies in Islamic countries such as Algeria and Uzbekistan -- that claim torture is justified when used to combat terrorism. The news that serving U.S. officials have officially endorsed principles once advanced by Augusto Pinochet brings shame on American democracy...

That’s not quite good enough though. There was a decade when America not only coddled such outlaw governments as the one in Chile…it helped put them in power and actively encouraged them to torture their own people…in the name of national security. Tens of thousands of people simply disappeared. Their mass graves now dot the jungles and countrysides of South America. We call that decade, the Reagan years.

If, at the end of all this, the media elites decide that the problem is, after all, George Bush, they’ll have once again failed America, and failed democracy. Bush is not the problem. Bush is merely the current face of the American political gutter. Time was, after the defeat of fascism in europe, it had only a few isolated cranks to keep it alive. Now it has a vast talk radio organ, billionaire funded “think tanks”, a cable news network all its own, and incontestable control of the republican party. When John Ashcroft stuck his thumb in the face of congress yesterday, refusing to turn over the memo and other documents related to the executive’s legal justifications for the use of torture, he knew he could do it with impunity. The same people who think authority to set aside the laws is “inherent in the president”, control congress.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday June 8, 2004

In Its Own Way, Fitting

The New York Times four page obituary of Ronald Reagan, managed to not once mention the word ‘AIDS’. It discusses everything from the Iran/Contra scandal, and “the deception and disdain for the law invited comparisons to Watergate”, to his “voodoo economics”, to his rape of the nation’s parklands for timber and oil companies…but not once does it mention AIDS.

A fitting tribute, to the man who could not even bring himself to utter the word in public, until years after it had started killing thousands of Americans.

It’s worth noting too, that the New York Times still holds a grudge against the AIDS activists of that time, who fought ferociously to make the government, and the media, including the Times, do their jobs, when they would have preferred, like Reagan, to turn their backs. The Times officially blacklists former members of those organizations from its employ. The Times was ostentatious among newspapers for insisting that homosexuals be referred to in its pages as ‘homosexual’ long after most other big newspapers had started using ‘gay’. Had they been paying attention to the devastating effect AIDS was having on the gay community then, and how loss and grief became, unsurprisingly, rage and activism, they might have figured out why we didn’t like being defined a word that has only room in it for sex, and not all the rest of what it is to be human. It’s taken them all this time to understand why we raged in the streets back then, and if remembering themselves in that time when they couldn’t see the people for the homosexuals makes them uncomfortable, well that’s too bad.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Let’s See…The Right To Set Aside Law Is Inherent In The President…Now Where Have I Heard That Before…

From Billmon, the definition of Fuehrerprinzip:

A concept outlined by Hitler in his book Mein Kampf. According to this concept the new German State must be an authoritarian State with power emanating from the leader at the top. Already in 1921 Hitler insisted that the Fuehrerprinzip be the law of the Nazi party. He denounced democracy as nonsense, and argued that parliamentarism would be succeeded by the absolute responsibility of a leader and an elite of assistant leaders.

There’s a saying around the net, that whenever a comparison to the Nazis is raised, then the discussion at hand is automatically over, because it has presumably jumped the shark, gone off the deep end, become nothing more then a shouting match. But that rule does not account for a man like George Bush…

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

-The Wall Street Journal Pentagon Report Sought to Justify Use of Torture

Try to imagine the howls from the republicans if someone on Bill Clinton’s staff had written this. Anyone who thinks I am being too hard, too shrill, about the republican party on this web log, listen to their silence now. It says it all. They are fascists. There is no other word for them. No. Other. Word. And they are systematically tearing down American democracy, in exactly the same way the Nazis once did to Germany, using the tools of democracy to destroy democracy. Because, like Hitler, they have nothing but contempt for the very concept of democracy.

Brad DeLong has called for impeachment, quoting Phil Carter on Intel Dump:

I am not aware of any legal authority which supports the proposition that the President has inherent power to set aside the laws when he deems it necessary. If anything, the opposite is true, according to Supreme Court precedent and treatises on Constitutional Law by scholars such as Joseph Story. Even in wartime, the President's authority to act is limited by the Constitution, and where Congress has specifically proscribed activity. Advice to the contrary is wrong, and any actions which follow this advice are probably unlawful as well.

Our democracy is in more danger then it has ever been. No election has ever been more critical then the upcoming one. Anyone who cares in the slightest about the dream of government of the people, by the people, and for the people, anyone who cares at all about the fate of the dream of liberty and justice for all, had better vote this year like the existence of those dreams depends upon their one vote. Because it sure as hell Can happen here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday June 7, 2004

I Think It Was George Will Who Once Said That Gay Culture Was Based On Brief Barren Assignations…

J-Lo gets married again for the third time in…remind me again…how many years? And they’re taking odds in London from what I hear, that she’ll be divorced again before the year is out.

Meanwhile, in the belly of the Beast, the Texas GOP has approved a platform that calls for making it a felony for a clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If they thought they could get a law passed making it a felony to sell a homosexual food they’d probably put a plank in for that too.

[Edited Slightly for Clarity]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I’m Buying The First Graphics Editor With A Built In Spell Checker I Can Find…

Okay…this week’s Mark and Josh cartoon needed a wee spelling correction. And while I was at it I fixed a small detail that I didn’t like upon seeing the cartoon on another computer screen this morning. No…I won’t tell you what it was, if you didn’t see it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Why Some Of Us Won’t Forget, And Won’t Forgive

Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for reminding me of this.

The Reagan administrationís reaction to AIDS is complex and goes far beyond Reaganís refusal to speak out about the epidemic. A great deal of his power base was born-again Christian Republican conservatives who embraced a reactionary social agenda that included a virulent, demonizing homophobia. In the media, people like Reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell portrayed gay people as diseased sinners and promoted the idea that AIDS was a punishment from God and that the gay rights movement had to be stopped. In the Republican Party, zealous right-wingers, such as Representative William Dannenmeyer (CA) and Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), hammered home this same message. In the Reagan White House, people such as Secretary of Education William Bennett and Gary Bauer, his chief domestic advisor, worked to enact it in the Administrationís policies.

In practical terms this meant AIDS research was chronically underfunded. When doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Health asked for more funding for their work on AIDS, they were routinely denied it. Between June 1981 and May 1982, the CDC spent less than $1 million on AIDS, but $9 million on Legionnaireís Disease. At that point over 1,000 of the 2,000 AIDS cases reported resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaireís Disease. This drastic lack of funding would continue through the Reagan years.

When health and support groups in the gay community instigated education and prevention programs, they were denied federal funding. In October 1987 Jesse Helms amended a federal appropriation bill that prohibited AIDS education efforts that ìencourage or promoted homosexual activityî(that is, tell gay men how to have safe sex).

When almost all medical opinion spoke out against mandatory HIV testing (since it would drive those at risk away from being tested) and the ACLU and Lambda Legal Defense were fighting discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, Republicans such as Vice President George Bush in 1987 and William Dannenmeyer (in a California state referendum in 1988) called for mandatory HIV testing.

Throughout all of this Ronald Reagan did nothing. When Rock Hudson, a friend and colleague of the Reaganís, was diagnosed and died in 1985 (one of the 20,740 cases reported that year), Reagan still did not speak out. When family friend William F. Buckley, in a March 18, 1986 New York Times article, called for mandatory testing of HIV and said that HIV+ gay men should have this information forcibly tattooed on their buttocks (and IV drug users on their arms), Reagan said nothing. In 1986 (after five years of complete silence) when Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report calling for AIDS education in schools, Bennett and Bauer did everything possible to undercut and prevent funding for Koopís too-little too-late initiative. By the end of 1986, 37,061 AIDS cases had been reported; 16,301 people had died.

The most memorable Reagan AIDS moment was at the 1986 centenary rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reaganís were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, Francois and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, ìI just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesnít know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.î As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrands looked appalled. The Reagans were laughing. By the end of 1989, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United Statesómore then 70,000 of them had died.

Ronald Reagan was a big smile, and a small heart. But give him that anyway, because now we’re living under a president who governs with a smirk, from a heart as black as coal. Reagan lifted the gutter into the halls of power. Bush turned the halls of power, into a gutter.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday June 6, 2004

The Little Things In Life That Cheer You Up…

Between household chores and getting my cartoons done, I decide to take a wee trip down to my local gay bookstore, Lambda Rising. I browse for a bit, buy a couple magazines, then start walking back to my car. I notice a thirty-something-ish guy who’d just left the bookstore with his own bag of merchandise, kinda loitering around in front of the art supply store next to Lambda. I walk past him and, I swear, I got a whistle and a shout of “Nice Ass!” as I did.

And no…I didn’t let him pick me up either. I don’t do casual sex. But I’ll gladly accept whistles wherever I can get them. Damn…I’ve been feeling great ever since.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Shadow Of The Man Will Live On For Generations…

Steve Gillard isn’t having any of it…and for good reason:

We need to ask what hath Reagan wrought. His economic policies crippled this country, preventing the kind of long term structural changes which are still needed. How long will American businesses have to foot the bill for health insurance? How long will unequal funding for schools exist? How long will the right of women to control their bodies be subject to restrictions? This is the real, domestic legacy of Ronald Reagan. His breaking of the PATCO strike began the road to anti-Union policies across business. Once, businesses wanted labor peace, after Reagan, strike breaking was permitted, hell encouraged.

Reagan began the road of crippling America's ability to care for Americans. Now we have this failed trickle down economic policy pushed by yet another President. One that leaves Americans in record debt and record bankruptcies. Instead of tax rates which fairly distribute the burden of funding America, the rich have been encouraged to avoid their fair share. Ronald Reagan began the bankrupting of America and the creation of a super wealthy CEO class, one where their great grandchildren will never have to work, an aristocracy of trustifarians. Under Reagan hypocracy and selfishness became the rule of the road. Not just in public life, where his staff routinely lied, eventually leading to Iran-Contra.

But if Reagan started to ruin America, his foreign policy left the dead around like fallen leaves. His foreign policy was a disater by any standard. Dead nuns in El Salvador, murdered school teachers in Nicaragua, the tortured in Argentina, the seizure of Grenade, the failed intervention in Lebanon, the aerial assasination attempt on Khaddafi, which led to the bombing of Pam Am flight 103. Reagan's policies left a trail of failure and disaster at every turn.

How to explain funding the deeply corrupt Contras? Former Somocista generals who funded their war by the drug trade? Who murdered the innoncent. Or the war in Guatemala and the genocide of the indian population. Or the war in El Salvador, where American nuns, among many others, were raped and murdered. A government so callous that it murdered an archbishop in his church.

Reagan's foreign policy left a trail of death and fear wherever it touched.

As to the Contras, I’d like to add that one of the very first things those freedom loving people did when the Sandinistas were finally removed from power, was pass a sodomy law. One that has a jail time penalty attached to it, for anyone convicted of advocating the repeal of the law. Let’s hear it for freedom.

Go read the rest of Steve’s post…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday June 5, 2004

Serendipity

I’m flipping through the channels before bed. They’re all busy with the apotheosis of Ronald Reagan. I keep flipping, and eventually the channels rotate their way to Sundance. There I see that Sundance is playing Longtime Companion. Yes.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

So Why Did He Give You Alzheimer’s? So You Wouldn’t Have To Remember All The Innocent People You Turned Your Back On, And Left To Die?

Ronald Reagan is dead. The flags fly at half mast, to honor the man who brought modern American conservatives out of the wilderness, and into power. Let us pause, and give the man his due.

Maybe the Lord brought down this plague [because] illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.
-Ronald Reagan, as quoted in Dutch, by Edmund Morris

What God abandoned, these defended.
-A.E. Housman

by Bruce Garrett | Link

No…An Editorial Cartoonist Is Not Merely An Equal Opportunity Offender…

Thank Doug Marlette for the fact that you’ll get two new cartoons next week instead of one as a comeback. If you’ve been checking in here lately you know I’ve not been paying much attention to my website here. That’s for a variety of reasons I won’t go into, but part of it was just plain old tiredness. Marlette reminded me why I started putting a gay themed editorial cartoon in this space in the first place.

William Hazlitt once said that an honest man speaks the truth, though it may give offence, and a vain man, in order that it may. Far too many editorial cartoonists Marlette for one, seem to think their job is merely to provoke. But if that’s all you’re doing, then you really don’t stand for anything do you? An editorial cartoon should take a position, and take it passionately. If it angers some people well then so be it. But you’re not trying merely to anger. You’re waving the bloody flag, you’re rallying the troops, you’re fucking taking a stand for something or you’re just wasting everyone’s time. The term for someone who gets satisfaction just by pissing people off isn’t editorial cartoonist…it’s asshole.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

We’re Not Self Hating Homosexuals. We Just Hate The Rest Of You…

Seems the Hawaii Log Cabin club is disbanding. No, no…it’s not what you think. They’re not disbanding because of Bush’s push to embed anti-gay apartheid into the constitution of the United States. Nope. They’re disbanding because the national Log Cabin club is against it and…yes… they’re for it…[scroll down for story…]

Jeffrey Bingham Mead, head of the Log Cabin Republicans in Hawai`i for the past four years, says he and his members are calling it quits. The Hawai`i group is affiliated with the national Log Cabin Republicans made up of conservative gay Republicans.

...

Mead says he made his decision after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rendered a decision earlier this year on the legality of gay marriage in that state, and was subsequently asked by the national headquarters to spearhead local efforts to overturn the state Defense of Marriage act throughout the country.

"None of us have any desire to go into this rocky and controversial territory," Mead says.

At the direction of Executive Director Patrick Guerriero, marriage equality has become the number one issue for Log Cabin Republicans \x{2013} a decision made without the consent or input of local chapters, including the Hawai`i chapter, Mead says.

"All of us, including me, believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. I offer no apologies to anyone," Mead says.

Mead says the group has had their share of successes and disappointments...

You have to figure that legal same sex marriage in Massachusetts is one of those disappointments. Why bother publicly identifying as gay, or even homosexual, if you think that you don’t deserve fair and equal treatment by your neighbors? To beg their forgiveness for existing?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday May 28, 2004

Carter Had His Rabbit…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday May 23, 2004

Unbridled Lust In Plain View Of Children

Cicada Love

They’re doing it right in the streets for everyone to see, shameless little dickens. It’s worse then a plague of locusts. Locusts only eat all your crops and cause mass starvation. Cicadas have sex where children can see them doing it. Well..okay…it may look like they’re covering up the naughty bits with those wings of theirs. But you know what’s going on behind them. Meanwhile, the rest of them are all up in the treetops, whooping it up.

Further evidence, of the moral decay of society…

Hey…fun and games for all you guys living somewhere else. Next time you see someone getting interviewed on network TV news, somewhere on the streets of Washington D.C….that whirring, B movie alien spaceship landing sound you can hear in the background is our annual seventeen year visitors. They make a loud buzzing noise too, which I’d forgotten, usually starting a few hours before noon, and continuing throughout the rest of the day. The newspaper articles were right: cicada are a tad less noisy then jet engines…

If you live around here, tell your uptight conservative reactionary friends and neighbors that strange demonic noise coming from the treetops is the sound of an orgy, the likes of which not even the biblical cities of Sodom and DeMille ever witnessed. They might lock their doors and not come out again until July.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday May 19, 2004

Like Something Out Of A “B” Bug Movie

I keep waiting for this cicada emergence to peak and it still isn’t. Last night while walking through the neighborhood, I saw another nymph crawling along the street, coaxed it into my hand and walked it to a nearby tree. It was dark on that stretch of 42nd street, and as I lifted the nymph to the tree trunk I had to strain to see if there were any others already on it. Suddenly I realized the tree trunk was crawling with nymphs. For a moment I just stared. Cicada nymphs are a reddish-brown color, probably so they blend to tree bark while they’re in that vulnerable state, and there in the darkness it seemed like the bark on the tree was undulating. I looked at the ground around me, saw a swarm of nymphs all crawling toward the tree.

When I walked out the door this morning, I saw two cicadas just emerging from their shells, white as ghosts, on my Japanese oak. Several new empty shells were on nearby branches, and one on a tall stalk of grass near the base of the tree. As I looked around, I saw a fully formed cicada struggling through the new grass on the other side of my sidewalk, picked it up and put it on a branch. Two of my neighbors had cicada shells on their car’s tires. The little dickens are everywhere now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday May 17, 2004

Skin.

I often use this space to blast anti-Gay hate and discrimination. I’ve experienced it in my life, even if not to the horrific degree others have. But on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, I’d like to tell a wee story about the day hate and discrimination looked favorably upon me.

I was a young college student, trying to make ends meet and go to Montgomery Community College at the same time. I was desperate for work, but it had to be work I could fit into my college schedule. I had a car, and thought doing part time courier would work. Problem was, all the ads for couriers said that you had to know how to get around on the streets of downtown Washington D.C. which I really didn’t know all that well. Oh…I knew the mall and the area around Georgetown and the Federal Triangle. But that was pretty much it. All the tourist spots I had down pat, but very little else.

Then one day I saw an ad that seemed like it was tailored specifically to me. COURIERS WANTED – Must be familiar with Montgomery County Area. I was elated. I called the number, and the man who answered asked me if I knew Montgomery County. Sure, says I. I live here. I’ve grown up here. Fine, says he. Come on down and fill out an application.

When I got there, they asked me to take a test. Fine, I thinks. I’ll ace this. But when I got the test I was appalled. They were all questions about how would I get from one part of D.C. to another. So I muddled through it, and handed back the test, thinking for sure they’d tell me I wasn’t up to it. But the elderly man who sat me down at a chair beside his desk to interview me, told me it wasn’t really all that important. If I get lost says he kindly, I can just radio in for directions.

Whew! But I had to know. Why, I asks, did you advertise for someone who knew Montgomery County? And this kindly elderly man chuckles, and pats my knee like I’m his damn grandson and says, I swear, “Oh..we just wrote the ad that way so we wouldn’t get any of those colored boys from downtown out here looking for work.”

Swell. I needed the work. And I could just see some spineless version of myself thinking, Well far be it from me to want to compete for a job with those colored boys from downtown, who probably know their city’s streets better then I know my own face…

So I coughed up some pathetic excuse about how I really didn’t want to drive downtown, too much traffic, too dangerous, and the parking is just awful really, but hey…if you guys ever really need a courier out here in the county just give me a ring…and got the hell out of there. This was in 1974. Twenty years after Brown v. Board of Education.

And every time I’ve heard some right wing goofball yap, yap, yapping since, about how them colored boys from downtown have all the opportunities they need to advance themselves, and that segregation is a thing of the past, and that the only thing holding blacks down nowadays is themselves, is their addiction to affirmative action, I remember that kindly old man. I have seen for myself how the game works.

The color of your skin. On my last road trip through the southwest, I noticed a few “We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone” signs posted in some restaurants. There was one in a place in Taos, and one in a restaurant next to the San Juan Inn and Trading Post in Mexican Hat, Utah. At first I thought some sort of ironic statement was being made by the proprietors. You just don’t see very many black people in the southwest, compared to the east. I remember staring at the sign in Mexican Hat, wondering what possible race problems the people there could have. It must be some kind of tourist joke. Then as I drove into Arizona, and entered the Navaho reservation, it hit me. Oh…right…not black people, but red people…indians…

Good fences they say, make good neighbors. But you can’t build a nation out of fences.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Ouch.

As much credit as Sullivan may deserve for helping to bring today about, we do wonder why he stuck to a book-tour schedule that has him well outside of Massachusetts this morning. Yíknow, wouldnít it be kind of neat to give your blog readers a first-person report from one of the first legal gay weddings? Isnít there at least one gay/lesbian couple out there that either shares or doesnít mind Sullivanís other politics to invite him to their wedding?

Oh ... wait a minute ... maybe we just answered our own question.

Sullywatch

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Phasers On Stun…

Brood X, class of 2004, is singing now. I heard it for the first time in seventeen years yesterday, while walking to the neighborhood Super Fresh to get some breakfast fixings. There’s a clutch of trees behind the Super Fresh, and as I walked by I heard their whirring song. But the rest of the neighborhood was still quiet. This morning as I walked to work the sound was everywhere. They’re not very loud yet. This is just warming up.

It’s an eerie thing too. Here in the city, you get used to the ever present sound of traffic for instance. You hear a truck going down Falls Road. At a nearby traffic light someone leans on their horn. You hear the steady hum of I-83. But you can fix the direction these sounds are coming from. The phaser like whir of the seventeen year cicadas seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. It is up in the trees, but that’s about as directional as it gets. Walking into work this morning, I could hear the sound wax and wane a tad, presumably as a passed beneath large clusters of the little dickens. But the sound of their song seemed omnipresent. It was as if the morning air was singing.

Saturday night I thought I’d seen the last of the emergent nymphs, save for a few stragglers. Not. They came out in force Sunday, and remarkably were still coming out this morning. I don’t recall ever seeing the nymphs come out during the daylight hours. One tree I passed by was festooned with them, some still cracking free of their shells, some still in that ghostly white phase of newness, wings only just then becoming stiff and transparent. The ground around the tree looked like it had been blasted by machine gun fire, so full of holes was it.

Only yesterday I could approach a newly formed cicada sitting on the sidewalk, coax it into my hand, and watch it climb single mindedly up my arm. I can still get them to climb on my hand, but now once I lift them up they fly away. They seem like they’re still getting used to the idea. On the way to work I watched several ricochet off objects in their flight path before landing on the side of a tree or on a branch.

It’s about three or four days before the newly winged ones start singing. That means the song I’m hearing now is only from the first wave. There have been four days of it so far, with each night’s batch more numerous then the last. When they reach their full strength, it’s going to be an awesome song. A helpful graphic in today’s Sun explains that cicadas are louder then motorcycles, but not as loud as a rock concert. That agrees with my memory of the last emergence. Then as I recall, I could hear them clearly while driving in my car, with the windows up and the air conditioning on.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday May 16, 2004

Clueless Liberals

In case we needed another example of middle of the road liberalism’s utter inability to cope with the right wing’s ideological assault on American pluralism, normally sane bloggers Brad DeLong and Mark Kleiman, and occasionally sane bloggers Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum have a discussion running about liberal hypocrisy, or more specifically, liberalism’s failure to tolerate…well…intolerance.

There is a certain kind of Berkeley professor who I am losing my tolerance for...

You know (or maybe you don't): the kind who believes that your first duty is to sympathetically understand where people are coming from. Unless they're Republicans. You have a duty to enter into the thought processes and sympathetically entertain the understanding of the world of a guy in Nigeria who as a picture of Osama bin Laden in his car, or a bureaucratic functionary working for Fidel Castro, or somebody who thinks that Bangladeshis should not be allowed to work in the textile industry. But Republicans? They are Blue Meanies. They are one dimensional. They are baaaaad.
Brad DeLong - Getting Cranky

I had a hard time believing I was reading this crap on DeLong’s site. This is a dumb shit sophistry for dumb shit liberals who, even after four years of Bush, still can’t get their heads around the fact that the right not only hates their guts, but yes, really wants to bury the American dream of liberty and justice for all so deep nobody will remember its having ever existed. It’s one thing to try and understand, and even sympathize with the guy in Nigeria who as a picture of Osama bin Laden in his car, and another to sympathize with bin Laden. It’s one thing to try and understand, and even sympathize with someone who voted for Bush and another to try and sympathize with to try and understand, and even sympathize with the republicans who are, among many other assaults on American values of liberty and justice for all, trying to pass laws that allow doctors to refuse treatment to homosexuals without fear of being sued. Furthermore, it would be one thing to try and understand, and even sympathize with the guy in Nigeria who as a picture of Osama bin Laden in his car, and another to try and understand, and even sympathize with the Hutu who as a Tutsi skill in his car. Red State True Blue Patriots aren’t just putting pictures of president smirking fratboy jackass in their cars, they’re using the political process to kick their neighbors in the gut, and then bellyache afterward that they’re the ones being persecuted. And if you think comparing them to the genocidal Hutu’s is “going over the top” then take another goddamn look at what their heros are doing to homosexuals in Minnesota, where one state representative said it was a lie that homosexuals had been put in Hitler’s concentration camps. Genocide doesn’t just happen out of nowhere.

I woke up from my delusion that there was any such thing as a moderate republican the day Connie Morella voted for DOMA. For decades I have watched the republicans use the language of liberty dishonestly, tactically, to destroy liberty, and right here is the classic case. Tolerance has been deftly, skillfully, artfully turned upside down by the right, in a way that would have amazed even Orwell, into an embracing of intolerance. Tolerance according to the right, is either self defeating, embracing its opposite to the point of handing it a loaded gun and begging to be killed on the spot, or it is false, hypocritical, empty posturing. Tolerance not only accepts the concentration camps, it is willing sell them Zyklon B. Tolerance is directing a Ku Klux Klan mob to the best tree in the neighborhood for lynching. Tolerance is helping McKinney and Henderson tie Matthew Shepard to the fence. See how these boobs buy into it:

Matt Yglesias asks, "Is it okay if I'm universally intolerant of people who don't share my point-of-view, or am I supposed to be nice to everyone?" To which I answer, "Yes, it's okay, but then your fundamental principle must not be tolerance and niceness."
Mark Kleiman - Where is Tom Lehrer now that we really need him?

Of course, Lehrer was satirizing liberals who talked brotherhood with minorities but didn’t actually practice it. What Kleiman is saying is that if you believe in brotherhood with minorities, then you must also believe in it with white supremacists. If you can’t tolerate, no, embrace hatemongering, you aren’t really tolerant at all. If your sympathy doesn’t extend to people who burn crosses and paint swastikas on synagogues then you’re a hypocrite. Tolerance is something only radical out of touch Berkely liberals go on about. Real world liberals know that working for tolerance isn’t real, unless it works for intolerance too.

And they complain how the right is able to dominate political discourse in this country. Well yeah. If the best you can do is swallow their double speak hook line and sinker then you might as well just sit back and let them talk, because you sure as hell have nothing to say, do you? Tolerance is intolerance. War is peace. Black is white. Looks like the best your moderate middle of the road liberals can do is agree. This is why the right is dancing a jig on decades of civil rights and civil liberties progress.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday May 14, 2004

Gay Computer Geeks Probably Don’t Score Very High On This One Anyway…

How Gay Are You?

I had a really hard time answering the question, “Is it better to be smart and ugly or beautiful and stupid. I finally decided that if I was stupid I probably wouldn’t know it, but I’d know I was beautiful.

Better of course, to be smart and beautiful. But smart and beautiful had better have a real good conscience…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Good Morning, Red Eyed…

I saw seven cicada nymphs on my japanese oak last night before I went to bed. I only found two shells this morning. Not sure if the others are simply lost in the grass below, blown off in the wind, or picked off by the neighborhood sparrows, mistaking them for the real thing. I hope the adults are still up there somewhere. Of course, by the time this thing gets really going, the sparrows can eat their fill daily, and there’ll still be thousands and thousands more flying around.

I took a short stroll along my street, and saw dozens and dozens of empty shells. The cicadas favored some trees and not others for some unknown reason. One tree would have dozens of shells along each lower branch. Another tree of the same kind, right next to it, would have none. While looking around for shells, some of my neighbors and I found a few live ones crawling about on the ground. I haven’t seen any flying yet. Maybe their wings and bodies still need a little hardening yet. I’m not hearing any cicada singing either. The chorus is still assembling. All is quiet for now.

Brood X Cicada

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday May 13, 2004

Now When We Saw You Last, You Were Still Mowing Lawns To Make Ends Meet…

Walking home from the grocery store a few moments ago, I saw a brood X nymph slowly making its way down the middle of 42nd street near my home. I knelt down and put out a finger, and it dutifully began climbing up onto my hand, which I then placed on a nearby tree. Thus transplanted, the nymph began climbing, and after a while was out of my reach somewhere in the leafy green above. Grow your wings. Fly.

Brood X is making itself visible to the Baltimore/Washington region again after seventeen years. I began seeing the empty shells yesterday. Some tacked to the sides of trees, some under leafs high up, some clinging to tall grass stalks. Somewhere in the trees above, the winged critters they’d transformed into were staging, getting ready for the big sing.

I’d forgotten how much smaller they are, then the yearly late summer cicadas. But I remember the whirring sound of a zillion of the little dickens all singing at once in the trees of my neighborhood in Rockville. The sound is something like the phaser sound effect from the 60s Star Trek shows. Very unlike the warbling buzzer sound of the bigger annuals. But this bunch ought to sound exotic. They have the strangest life cycle of anything I know. Seventeen years under the soil, attached to a root. Then one day they emerge. For a few short weeks they can fly, and have sex. Then they die. Were I a primitive, would I wonder that they were being punished for some cosmic crime, or that the gods took pity on them, and blessed them with one final glorious fling before the end?

Seventeen years. Seventeen years ago I was watching my model making business sink under the weight of the savings and loan scandals. Seventeen years ago I was certain I’d never own a new car again in my life, let alone a house of my own. Seventeen years ago I swore I’d find someone to love, and settle down with, before I turned forty.

Seventeen years underground, attached to a root. A co-worker nearly had a heart attack when I showed her some cicada shells I’d found on the campus grounds. Some people just have a visceral reaction to bugs. I’m not much of a bug lover myself, but these little red-eyed flyers don’t hurt anything. And this is their one big moment. Any stuck or trapped ones I see, I’m going to set free. Everyone should have their chance to fly.

Brood X Cicada And Shell

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday May 12, 2004

We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone, Here In The Cafeteria Of The Lord…

A Catholic gay couple in northern Minnesota have been told to stay away from communion and stop singing in their church choir, after one of them sent a letter to the editor of the Grand Forks Herald, saying that his homosexuality was not a choice, and that God had made him the way he is.

Dale Sand and Tom Pepera, who have been together for five years, say their priest has asked them to restrict their participation in church activities after a letter Sand wrote was printed in the Grand Forks Herald on Easter Sunday.

In the letter, Sand responded to previous letters warning against gay marriage and homosexuality in general. He wrote that being gay wasn't a choice and said God had made him that way.

The Rev. Larry Wieseler, who serves at St. Mary's parishes in Baudette, Williams and Falun, telephoned Sand and told him he and Pepera should no longer come up to receive Eucharist during Mass nor serve communion to others or sing in the choir. That led the couple to quit the church in Baudette.

The Duluth News Tribune - Priest denies gay couple communion

The priest says he tried not to be hard nosed about it. No word yet on the fate of Catholics who write letters to the editor in support of the war in Iraq, or the death penalty.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday May 6, 2004

Loosing Count Of All The Lies…

"Iraq is free of rape rooms and torture chambers."

President Bush
remarks to 2003 Republican National Committee Presidential Gala, Oct. 8, 2003

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday May 5, 2004

Stanley Kurtz Insists He Wasn’t Singling Gay Marriage As The Only Cause Of The Decline Of Marriage In Scandinavia.

...gay marriage is undermining marriage...I've never said that marriage has been undermined by gay marriage alone...gay marriage undermines marriage...gay marriage reinforces marital decline...Gay marriage is part and parcel of a whole new stage of marital decline...gay marriage helps to break apart the ideas of marriage and parenthood...gay marriage has played a key role in Swedish marital decline...in the Netherlands, the causal impact of gay marriage on marital decline has been decisive...gay marriage is undermining marriage...gay marriage is reinforcing the movement away from the traditional family...

Stanley Kurtz - The National Review Excerpted

When you’re a homosexual living in America, you get used to being regarded as a living cause of everything that is wrong with the world. You are a signpost of impending armageddon. You’re the cause of the fall of civilizations. You’re a threat to children, a threat to families, a threat to America. You’re the cause of every social ill the fundamentalists and the republicans can name, except perhaps spam, and telemarketing. Better to have a scapegoat you can point to, and blame for everything, instead of having to admit that all your failures belong to you.

You get used to the finger pointing, but never to the deadly danger it represents. The Holocaust didn’t start with the concentration camps. It started with years of relentless antisemitism, blaming the jews for everything from the killing of Christ to syphilis. The concentration camps were only possible, because decades of anti jewish laws separated jews from the rest of society. Its easier to think of your neighbor as something less then human, when you don’t know them, when you can’t see them.

Stanley Kurtz seems to want to be to homosexuals, what Charles Murray is to race, and what Paul Cameron failed to become, because he lacked the deft touch of the right’s professional propagandists. But already he is digging in his heals…

To my detailed rebuttal of his use of marriage and divorce statistics, Spedale offers no arguments. He simply repeats his claims.

But Kurtz’ rebuttal to Spedale, was neither detailed nor a rebuttal. To Spedale’s figures showing that marriage is not in decline, Kurtz merely says actual data isn’t reliable.

Norway's marriage rate over the past decade has more to do with the institution's decline than with any renaissance [!]. Much of the increase in Norway's marriage rate is driven by older couples "catching up."

In other words, marriage is in decline in Norway, because more Norwegians are getting married. Paul Cameron was never this good.

But Kurtz has a far, far more serious problem with his Scandinavia thesis then that the actual figures on divorce don’t support him. A central part of his argument, is that marriage can be seen to be in decline in Scandinavia, because of the explosive growth in co-habitation among heterosexuals, even for the purposes of child rearing. This, Kurtz and his fellow travelers insist, is a problem, because marriage is about raising children, about providing them with a stable, healthy environment to grow up in.

But if that’s their argument, you have to wonder what on earth is possessing the Right to latch on to Scandinavia for proof that marriage is in trouble whenever you give same sex couples access to it. Even Kurtz seems to realize the danger:

Also note that the export of the Scandinavian system to America would have serious consequences. There's no underclass in Scandinavia. In America, Scandinavian-style cohabitation among the middle classes would encourage more out-of-wedlock births among poor single mothers. It's already happened as the Scandinavian system of parental cohabitation has spread to Britain, which has a substantial urban underclass.

There’s no underclass in Scandinavia. There’s the problem. The social safety net over there is so comprehensive, that most, if not all the problems the Right blames on co-habitation, divorce and single parenting, simply disappear. Children are not thrown into the garbage heap, like they are here in America, because their parents decide not to marry, or when they decide to divorce. Women who become divorced, don’t fall into severe poverty. Their children don’t go to bed hungry, they can still get all the medical attention they need, aren’t forced to drop out of school to find work, are much less likely to fall into a life of crime. There is no economic penalty for not being married in Scandinavia, like there is in the U.S. But that penalty is vigorously defended by the Right as necessary, to promote marriage. Why? Because children who don’t grow up in married households suffer, as Kurtz says, “serious consequences.”

What the boobs are doing here is showing everyone that their case for marriage rests upon a foundation of circular logic. Marriage is good for children. Why? Because when parents don’t marry, children suffer, and eventually society suffers. Why? Because most children of divorce, or who are born out of wedlock, grow up in poverty, or are severely disadvantaged in other ways, such as lack of health care, and a good education? Why? Well…because of the Right’s social policies, that’s why. Polices let it be said, that put America way behind the rest of the western world with regard to taking care of its children. And why does the right promote those polices…? Because they make married families strong. And why should policy be to make married families strong? Because they’re good for children.

They’re good for children in other words, because we’ve deliberately chosen to penalize all the other kinds of families kids might find themselves growing up in. In Scandinavia they haven’t done this, and low and behold a number of Scandinavians aren’t getting married. This, Kurtz insists, is bad for children. Why? Because…

...the export of the Scandinavian system to America would have serious consequences.

It would be bad for children, because here in America, we deliberately make it bad for children.

Still buying into the premise that the Right, and the Fundamentalists are fighting against same sex marriage because they’re really afraid something bad will happen to society? Not hardly. They’re fighting for one thing only: power. The power to dictate even the most intimate choices we make in this life, of who to love, who to bring into our lives, whether or not to bear children, and how to raise them. They are not interested in what is good for anyone. They are only interested in power. The wedding ring is to them, what the one ring was to Sauron.

A vow coerced out of someone by force or trickery is no vow at all, but a lie. At the bottom of all the Right’s rhetoric on marriage is the simple unambiguous fact that they do not believe in vows. A vow given under pressure, or tricked out of someone, is equal in their measure, to one given whole heartedly. They see no difference between them. So a couple who marries because they feel compelled to, who give each other vows of love and honor they don’t really mean deep in their hearts, who say the words to each other by rote, for the sole sake of being in the good graces of their society, or for the economic benefits to be gained by doing so, are only doing to each other what the Right does to God every time they pray for forgiveness of their sins. They don’t really mean it, but they’re saying the words so that’s good enough. Their god, is a god who is as willing to accept lies, as they are to tell them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday May 4, 2004

Power Corrupts…Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely…

Here, is what America has made of itself in Iraq:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added - "detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence." Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their "extremely sensitive nature."

The photographs - several of which were broadcast on CBS's "60 Minutes 2" last week - show leering G.I.s taunting naked Iraqi prisoners who are forced to assume humiliating poses. Six suspects - Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II, known as Chip, who was the senior enlisted man; Specialist Charles A. Graner; Sergeant Javal Davis; Specialist Megan Ambuhl; Specialist Sabrina Harman; and Private Jeremy Sivits - are now facing prosecution in Iraq, on charges that include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty toward prisoners, maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts. A seventh suspect, Private Lynndie England, was reassigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after becoming pregnant.

The photographs tell it all. In one, Private England, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, is giving a jaunty thumbs-up sign and pointing at the genitals of a young Iraqi, who is naked except for a sandbag over his head, as he masturbates. Three other hooded and naked Iraqi prisoners are shown, hands reflexively crossed over their genitals. A fifth prisoner has his hands at his sides. In another, England stands arm in arm with Specialist Graner; both are grinning and giving the thumbs-up behind a cluster of perhaps seven naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled clumsily on top of each other in a pyramid. There is another photograph of a cluster of naked prisoners, again piled in a pyramid. Near them stands Graner, smiling, his arms crossed; a woman soldier stands in front of him, bending over, and she, too, is smiling. Then, there is another cluster of hooded bodies, with a female soldier standing in front, taking photographs. Yet another photograph shows a kneeling, naked, unhooded male prisoner, head momentarily turned away from the camera, posed to make it appear that he is performing oral sex on another male prisoner, who is naked and hooded.

Such dehumanization is unacceptable in any culture, but it is especially so in the Arab world. Homosexual acts are against Islamic law and it is humiliating for men to be naked in front of other men, Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at New York University, explained. "Being put on top of each other and forced to masturbate, being naked in front of each other - it's all a form of torture," Haykel said.

Two Iraqi faces that do appear in the photographs are those of dead men. There is the battered face of prisoner No. 153399, and the bloodied body of another prisoner, wrapped in cellophane and packed in ice. There is a photograph of an empty room, splattered with blood.

The New Yorker - Torture At Abu Ghraib

Via Tom Tomorrow, these words from The Wiskey Bar:

I've had that same feeling about Abu Ghraib since I first heard that the coalition had reopened it as a prison last summer. Anyone who knows anything about the history of Saddam's regime can't help but wonder what that particular decision was intended to symbolize. I mean, they didn't even change the name. Saddam International Airport became Baghdad International, Saddam City metamorphosed into Sadr City. But Abu Ghraib Prison remained Abu Ghraib Prison.

Did anyone stop to think what kind of message that sent to the Iraqis about the nature of their "liberation"?

It's as if the allies had captured Buchenwald or Dachau, slapped new coats of paint on them, then turned around and reopened them as occupation prison camps -- not just for Nazis, but for ordinary people grabbed off the street or pulled out of their beds in the middle of the night, often on no more evidence than what the Gestapo would have required.

That’s about right. And let it be said that there probably aren’t many Americans who, after learning that we were setting ourselves up as the new masters of Abu Ghraib, didn’t see all this coming. The only question was how much of it would ever come to light. That’s still a question. Already, the American national news media is sanitizing much of it for their viewers. And already, the propagandists of the Bush gang are busy telling their supporters that what was happening at Abu Ghraib, was no worse then a fraternity hazing, or possibly even faked. Propaganda, said Eric Hoffer, does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.

Here’s to the new boss…same as the old boss. Except this is America. So what the hell is it that we stand for any more? Is the American cause still civilization, still the rule of law over the tyrant’s will, still liberty and justice for all? Or is our cause now to bury that shining dream in the ashcan of history, along with all the other bright utopias doomed to failure. Except ours was a possible dream. Can we look at each other and say at long last, that we’re not worthy to bear it? Is that where we’ve come to now? Look at the grinning, cheerful faces of the prison guards as they revel in the sexual degradation of utterly helpless captives. Look at their faces. Is that America? Is that who we are? Well…for now at least, in the eyes of the rest of the world, it is.

Don’t tell me…don’t even try to tell me…that we as a people didn’t see this coming. And the sorry fact is that a lot of us were all too eager to see it happen. The dehumanization of arab and islamic people has been going full tilt in this country for years before Junior said the word, and the bombs started dropping on Iraq. Did you believe that as long as you didn’t acknowledge it, you could evade responsibility for it? We heard the rumors…but we did not believe them… We thought we was a great leader…we didn’t know he was crazy… We only knew what we were told… Bullshit.

With great power comes great responsibility. But there is more to it. We embraced an ideal. A great and noble ideal. A profoundly moral ideal. …our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor… It is not just America that Bush, his gang, and his voter base of babbling knuckle-draggers have degraded, though that is bad enough. They have taken the American Dream, the dream of liberty and justice for all, the dream of freedom, of freedom to live our lives in our own way, each according to our own conscience, and government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and told the world, and all the desperate oppressed people who looked to us for hope, that it was all a lie. There is no freedom, there is no liberty and justice for all. There is only power. This is unforgivable. Murder is not the only crime against humanity. There is also the killing of hope, the death of a dream of freedom.

How did it happen? Well, look who’s in the White House. Look at the people he surrounds himself with. Look at the people whose votes he courts. Look at their faces. See the shadows of Abu Ghraib in their eyes.

Is that America? Is it you? When the future looks upon this moment in American history, what will it say about you?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday April 30, 2004

In A Free Iraq, Soldiers Will No Longer Rape Iraqi Prisoners. We’ll Use Contractors Instead.

Via Atrios, this little nugget of truth about Iraq, from The Guardian:

The US army confirmed that the general in charge of Abu Ghraib jail is facing disciplinary measures and that six low-ranking soldiers have been charged with abusing and sexually humiliating detainees.

Lawyers for the soldiers argue they are being made scapegoats for a rogue military prison system in which mercenaries give orders without legal accountability.

…which was pretty much what Lieutenant Calley and his supporters said after My Lai. But Iraq isn’t Vietnam. Right?

A military report into the Abu Ghraib case - parts of which were made available to the Guardian - makes it clear that private contractors were supervising interrogations in the prison, which was notorious for torture and executions under Saddam Hussein.

One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young male prisoner but has not been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him.

Hired guns from a wide array of private security firms are playing a central role in the US-led occupation of Iraq.

If that contractor had gone on a “sex vacation” overseas and picked up an underaged kid and the authorities here found out about it, he’d be facing criminal charges here at home. But they can’t charge an American contractor in Iraq accused of raping a young male prisoner because the military has no jurisdiction? No. No. Not can’t. Won’t.

Can’t you just hear the Bush gang explaining how rape is something private business can do more efficiently then big government? Behold the lesson we’re teaching the world about free markets, about America, about American moral values. The difference between Saddam Hussein and George Bush is that Bush contracts out the rape. No detail of this operation is so small, that some crony of his can’t get a piece of the action.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday April 28, 2004

Desecrating The Grave Of Edward R. Murrow…(Continued)

CBS News/60 Minutes are showing us images of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, systematically torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners. Such news hounds they are. Such hard hitting investigative reporters they are. What you might miss, unless you happen to scroll down to the very bottom of the CBS news site story, is this:

Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes II received an appeal from the Defense Department, and eventually from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to delay this broadcast -- given the danger and tension on the ground in Iraq.

60 Minutes II decided to honor that request, while pressing for the Defense Department to add its perspective to the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. This week, with the photos beginning to circulate elsewhere, and with other journalists about to publish their versions of the story, the Defense Department agreed to cooperate in our report.

CBS has had the pictures for months. They’re only coming to light now, because other news organizations got them too. CBS says it was merely cooperating with the Pentagon. Time was, you’d call helping someone hide evidence of a crime, a cover-up.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Slouching Toward The Stone Age

More from that Nation article I pointed to yesterday

As Jesuit schoolboys studying world history we learned that Copernicus and Galileo self-censored for many decades their proofs that the earth revolved around the sun and that a less restrained heliocentrist, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive in 1600 for the crime of sound science. With the encouragement of our professor, Father Joyce, we marveled at the capacity of human leaders to corrupt noble institutions. Lust for power had caused the Catholic hierarchy to subvert the church's most central purpose--the search for existential truths.

Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration--aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals--are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition. Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is purging, censoring and blacklisting scientists and engineers whose work threatens the profits of the Administration's corporate paymasters or challenges the ideological underpinnings of their radical anti-environmental agenda. Indeed, so extreme is this campaign that more than sixty scientists, including Nobel laureates and medical experts, released a statement on February 18 that accuses the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact "for partisan political ends."

They lie in the large (weapons of mass destruction), and in the small (who made the Mission Accomplished banner?). They lie about the smirking fratboy coke head’s military service, and about John Kerry’s. Their gut level knee jerk reaction to truth is to hate it.

And why hasn’t this attack on science been a concern of the national news organizations? Because they stopped caring about facts themselves, many years ago. Whitewater. The quality of the air in New York after 9-11. What are facts, when you’ve placed yourself in the service of power. Facts are what power tells you they are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday April 27, 2004

“This is the most lawless administration I’ve encountered.”

From The Nation: The Junk Science Of George Bush:

Now Congress and this White House have used federal power for the same purpose. Led by the President, the Republicans have gutted scientific research budgets and politicized science within the federal agencies. The very leaders who so often condemn the trend toward moral relativism are fostering and encouraging the trend toward scientific relativism. The very ideologues who derided Bill Clinton as a liar have now institutionalized dishonesty and made it the reigning culture of America's federal agencies.

The moral crusade rhetoric that’s been coming from the right wing all these years was fake. They never meant any of it. We can say that for certain now, because they’re in power, and instead of using that power to uphold the moral values they’ve been wrapping themselves in all these years, they’re using it to destroy them utterly. Like Nazis in the 1930s, using the tools of democracy to destroy democracy, today’s republicans are using the tools of morality, to destroy morality.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saddam Had Weapons Of Mass Destruction. My Tax Cut Will Create Jobs. I Have A Ranch In Crawford. No…Really.

One measure of a person’s respect for truth telling is the respect they give to the practice of science. Science does not proceed from the dictates of authority, but from the observable evidence. Science is about what is, not what we wish to be. Science is a noble endeavor, 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.

But of course, for some people, fundamentalists, tyrants, crooks, truth is an enemy that must be put down wherever it exists:

In February his White House received failing marks in a statement signed by 62 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and advisers to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. It begins, "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences.... The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle."

Doubters of that judgment should read the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that accompanies the statement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making" (available at www.ucsusa.org). Among the affronts that it details: The administration misrepresented the findings of the National Academy of Sciences and other experts on climate change. It meddled with the discussion of climate change in an Environmental Protection Agency report until the EPA eliminated that section. It suppressed another EPA study that showed that the administration's proposed Clear Skies Act would do less than current law to reduce air pollution and mercury contamination of fish. It even dropped independent scientists from advisory committees on lead poisoning and drug abuse in favor of ones with ties to industry.

Let us offer more examples of our own....

Go read the rest. And while you read it, keep in mind that Bush came to Washington promising to restore integrity to the white house. Remember that he and his supporters see themselves as soldiers in a moral battle between the forces of good and evil. But there is no morality that shuns truth.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Yes Senator…They Are Working For The RNC. Welcome To Campaign 2004.

So the other day Kerry gets caught on tape complaining that the press is acting like they’re working for the Republican National Committee. No fooling. If there’s anything disappointing about that, it’s that Kerry still seems to be amazed by it. Check blogs like The Daily Howler out from time to time and you won’t. Howler is an…uhm…incomparable source for examples of outright mendacity on the part of the mainstream press. If you still believe that the press is liberal, you need a few wake up and smell the coffee pills. They are shills for the republican party, and the reason is obvious: the big names in the news business are millionaires. From Today’s Howler:

Yes, mainstream journalists occasionally make their Millionaire Pundit Values quite clear. Last Wednesday, President Bush addressed 1,500 newspaper editors and publishers at their annual convention in Washington. According to Elisabeth Bumiller , the titans were moved to applause one time:

BUMILLER: Mr. Bush spoke for 44 minutes to the editors in off-the-cuff remarks that drew on familiar phrases from his speeches of the last two and a half years...Mr. Bush's substantive remarks were interrupted only once with applause, when he called for the end of the "death tax," or the estate tax.

Gaze on the soul of your millionaire press corps! They're moved to cheer for only one thing - the repeal of Teddy Roosevelt's tax on multimillion-dollar estates.

The Howler article also takes apart Associated Press RNC operative, Nedra Pickler’s latest attack on John Kerry. It’s sickening how blatant the anti-democratic bias is in the press…and I mean that in regard to both the party, and the concept. A democracy cannot function if it’s people do not know the facts. Over half of Americans, according to a recent poll, still think that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein was working hand in glove with Al Qaeda. Yes, the Bush gang has been busy trying to convince the public of this, but how could so many people believe it if the press wasn’t perfectly willing to give Bush a free pass to tell whatever lies he wants to the voters, without fear that any of them might be contradicted by the evidence. The press is betraying American democracy, for a tax break on their trophy homes.

There was a time I believed that it was all the years of being bullied by the right wing propaganda machine, bellyaching about liberal bias every time their bull shit was held up to a little critical scrutiny. There was a time I thought all this passive transmission of Republican propaganda was just the laziness you get when journalists become high priced celebrities, who care more about their ratings then their jobs. There was a time when I figured the lot of them were too dependent on the favors of the people in government they cover, to risk making them angry, to risk their income by falling out of favor. But no. You can’t keep reading about this shit, this gleeful pissing on the grave of Edward R. Murrow, without realizing that they’re laughing in our faces, right along with Bush.

We need a new media. They won’t tell us the truth. They won’t give us the facts. We have to go find them for ourselves now, and use this technology to let others know.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Another Reason To Hate Spam (As If I Needed Another Reason)

Mom passed away suddenly, in April of 2001. I used to send her flowers every mother’s day, which at first she protested, saying the flowers would die, and could I just send some artificial ones instead. But I was not about to send fake anything to mom on mother’s day, and when I stopped sending flowers, but this and that little gift thing, she said I could go ahead and send her flowers too. I used to order things for her on the net, and flowers via FTD. There was a flower shop just down the street from where she lived that was on the florist’s network.

Apparently, that was good enough to get my name sent around as someone who buys mother’s day gifts. Now, every mothers day, I get a ton of spam, helpfully suggesting all sorts of really nice gifts my mom would probably like.

If she were still alive anyway. Now it’s just salt in the wound. I’d send them all email, cluing them into the reason why I’m not buying mothers day gifts anymore, but that would just tell the spammers my email address is a good one to send spam too. I’d like to throttle them all.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday April 22, 2004

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 Acting Like They Don’t Think There Is Anything Wrong With Being A Homosexual.

A few days ago, the Iowa state senate’s GOP majority (remind me again, why are there gay republicans?) blocked the appointment of Jonathan Wilson, a former Des Moines school board member, to the Iowa Board of Education because he’s gay. The Des Moines Register printed several blistering editorials condemning the action.

From what I’m able to read, a lot of Iowans seem to agree with the Des Moines Register. But not all, not the good people of Iowa, the salt of the earth, the common clay of the new west (“You know…morons.” – The Waco Kid). So the paper got some negative feedback. According to one reader:

When Jonathan Wilson decided to make public his sexuality, he also declared his activism to the homosexual lifestyle. I do not feel that it would have been appropriate for him to be on the state Board of Education when he has made this commitment.

I’ve been saying for years, that when anti-gay bigots throw around phrases like ‘militant homosexual’ and ‘homosexual activist’, what they really mean is ‘comfortable with their sexual orientation’.

Which is something they’re not. The screaming anti-gay nutcases, almost always have other unresolved issues regarding sex and sexuality. They can’t cope with that part of themselves. It disgusts and shames them. Then here comes along someone who’s not only not ashamed or disgusted by sex, they’re also comfortable with being homosexual too. It drives them crazy. They’re pod people, screaming and pointing their fingers at the well adjusted humans.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday April 20, 2004

America…Not All That Hard To Understand

It seems like a few people overseas are finally catching on…

To understand what is happening in the Middle East, you must first understand what is happening in Texas. To understand what is happening there, you should read the resolutions passed at the state's Republican party conventions last month...

...

In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel's occupation of the rest of its "biblical lands" (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.

What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (ie those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.

The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.

The believers are convinced that they will soon be rewarded for their efforts. The antichrist is apparently walking among us, in the guise of Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, Yasser Arafat or, more plausibly, Silvio Berlusconi. The Wal-Mart corporation is also a candidate (in my view a very good one), because it wants to radio-tag its stock, thereby exposing humankind to the Mark of the Beast.

...

We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them. That their beliefs are bonkers does not mean they are marginal. American pollsters believe that 15-18% of US voters belong to churches or movements which subscribe to these teachings. A survey in 1999 suggested that this figure included 33% of Republicans. The best-selling contemporary books in the US are the 12 volumes of the Left Behind series, which provide what is usually described as a "fictionalised" account of the Rapture (this, apparently, distinguishes it from the other one), with plenty of dripping details about what will happen to the rest of us. The people who believe all this don't believe it just a little; for them it is a matter of life eternal and death.

And among them are some of the most powerful men in America. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, is a true believer, so are several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Mr DeLay (who is also the co-author of the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms) travelled to Israel last year to tell the Knesset that "there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking".

So here we have a major political constituency - representing much of the current president's core vote - in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act, as Revelation (9:14-15) maintains that four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates" will be released "to slay the third part of men". They batter down the doors of the White House as soon as its support for Israel wavers: when Bush asked Ariel Sharon to pull his tanks out of Jenin in 2002, he received 100,000 angry emails from Christian fundamentalists, and never mentioned the matter again.

The electoral calculation, crazy as it appears, works like this. Governments stand or fall on domestic issues. For 85% of the US electorate, the Middle East is a foreign issue, and therefore of secondary interest when they enter the polling booth. For 15% of the electorate, the Middle East is not just a domestic matter, it's a personal one: if the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don't get to sit at the right hand of God...

That pretty much sums it up. Just this afternoon my department manager was morosely considering the very real likelihood that the United States would casually allow what astronomers have called the second most important telescope in the history of astronomy to die. But the people in charge now are from that branch of Americana who once put a teacher on trial for teaching Darwin, who are busy right now still, after all these years, trying to get Darwin booted from the classroom. Science? Science? On November 7th 2000, the Bank of England issued a new £10 note, featuring a portrait of Charles Darwin on the back. Try to imagine Darwin’s image gracing any form of American currency, and you see what the problem is here in America.

It’s easy to laugh at Bush’s goofy religiosity, until you realize that the thread of Christianity he is a part of thinks that the world is going to end in a fiery conflagration, and the sooner the better, because then they’ll get to sit at the right hand of god and watch everyone and everything they’ve ever hated, the elites, the intellectuals, the bleeding hearts, the ones who loved this earth, loved their neighbors, loved life, and could face its pain and heartache without flinching, do the work of civilization with pride, not resentment, and receive life’s exuberant joys without guilt or shame, burn…burn…burn…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday April 15, 2004

Cartoons will return Monday.

I’m getting my act back together here, and I have to say all the inquiries about when the cartoons would get back on a regular schedule have been heartening. A lot of you really do care. So I’m going back to a Monday schedule, which I hope not to break again in the foreseeable future.

To those of you who who’ve told me you’ve been missing the cartoons…a very big thank you!

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I Detect A Pattern Here…

Why is it that nearly every raving anti-gay nutcase in the forefront of the culture war over gay and lesbian civil rights nowadays, seems to have gay son or daughter?

Just wondering. I mean, is it that the parents are taking their anger out on the rest of the gay community, or is a wise god really trying to knock some sense into the senseless? Well, what do you know…that was your child you were talking about all this time. Idiot.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday April 14, 2004

Why Let Wolf Blitzer Have All The Fun?

Jim at Rittenhouse Review is starting a weekly poll, and it’s no puff poll of the kind you see on the establishment news sites.

Some people who would qualify for “least dishonest member of the administration”, were they eligible for inclusion:

  • Senator Palpatine
  • Baron Munchausen
  • Joe Isuzu
  • Harry Mudd
  • Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Salesman

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday April 8, 2004

What The World Will Lose When Hubble Is Gone.

Space.Com has an amazing comparison of two images of a nearby galaxy as it’s image of the day today. One from a ground based telescope taken as part of the Digitized Sky Survey. The other just a portion of the galaxy, taken by Hubble. In the Hubble image you can distinctly see thousands of individual stars…and another spiral galaxy in the distance, visible through the first galaxy’s star field.

There is talk in the global science community of putting up another space based observatory, independent from the United States. In theory Hubble is a joint venture between us and the European Space Agency…but NASA has the final say and from what I hear, the decision to cancel Hubble’s last servicing mission was made entirely without consulting them. So they have every reason now, to keep us at a distance when it comes to space science. But even this, so far paper observatory, won’t do the visible light part of spectrum. Neither will the new James Webb space telescope, planned as the replacement for Hubble in 2011.

The Bush legacy…the heavens, grown smaller.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Mistaken For Spam

Tim Fish sent me back a very short, but very civil reply, to the effect that he’s taken down the insult from his blog, and that he took down his mail links because of spam. So I reckon he may have lost my first email to him in the waves and waves of spam we’re all getting these days. I’ve lost incoming mail myself for that reason. (Eddie…I’m still sorry about that…okay…?)

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Well You Had To Know This Was Coming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A man sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard is seeking a lesser term.

Russell Henderson's attorney alleges the state's lawyers failed to properly inform Henderson of his options after he pleaded guilty in 1999 to felony murder and kidnapping in order to avoid a possible death sentence.

Attorney Tim Newcomb said in a petition filed Friday that, if properly advised, Henderson could have sought a lesser sentence. He also argued the sentence didn't fit Henderson's role in Shepard's death.

The New York Times - Gay Student's Killer Seeks Shorter Term

My one and only problem with the death penalty is that it’s certain that the state is going to execute innocent people in the process. I can’t accept that as a cost of justice. But there is no doubt about Henderson. Even if we accept his pathetic excuse that he only helped in the kidnapping, drove the truck, and helped tie Shepard to the fence, but didn’t actually swing the fatal blow, that alone is damming enough. He was an active participant. So what if he didn’t actually swing the fatal blow. What’s being left out here is that it was a gun being swung at Shepard’s head. That gun was a shadow of death hanging over everything they did that night. Henderson knew it was going to be part of things, and still he went willingly along.

Here’s why the death penalty is so popular in America. It’s not that people are generally callous and blood thirsty. It’s that sentences don’t mean anything. It’s that a cold blooded killer’s trial just goes on and on and on and on, for years after a so-called sentence is pronounced, until finally they manage to wiggle out of prison. It’s because the death penalty is certain and final.

I could never accept the execution of some innocent person in the future, in exchange for seeing Henderson get the justice he so richly deserves now. But if brutal killers can get out of a life sentence with lame excuses like this there isn’t going to be much hope of putting an end to the death penalty any time soon.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday April 7, 2004

Tim Fish to Bruce Garrett: Fuck You.

Well there went my Cyber Sitter rating…

One of the fun things about using a service like Site Meter is seeing all the strange search terms people used that got them to your site. There are the searches you might expect, like:

sodomy in cartoon

I get dozens a month similar to this now. Alas, I don’t do sex cartoons…just political ones. Once again politics rears its ugly head, when people just want to have fun.

bookshelf plans

Very popular. When I bought my first house a couple of years ago, in my happy new homeowner rush of glee I put up some pages to show it off to the world. I get a constant stream of hits on the pages where I talk about bookcases.

…and then I get very weird one hit stuff like this:

Maryland pottery fire balance initiation

strom thurmond rock roll bible devil

I have no idea…

The other day I noticed that I was getting several searches a day on “Bruce Garrett” plus “Cavalcade Of Boys”. I figured somebody had a post up somewhere about my rant on Tim Fish, mentioning me by name but not actually linking to me.

On a hunch, I checked Fish’s site. Sure enough, he’s got a blog post up that kinda sorta takes a swing back at me, except he doesn’t name me, only quotes a passage here and there from my post. So I’m still not sure why people are searching on my name plus Cavalcade. Maybe some of Fish’s readers are asking him who the bastard was.

Well…I didn’t expect roses from the guy. Actually, what I expected was to be ignored. Or at best, I get a some generic form response back in the mail, like I got recently from the President of Baylor University… something along the lines of the one I occasionally send back to my critics, usually raving homophobes who just gotta tell me I’m going to burn for all eternity in hell, as if they’re the first ones ever to let me in on that fact.

We here at BruceGarrett.Com wish to thank you for your concern regarding this matter. Please be assured that we are giving it our complete attention. The ability to share our thoughts and opinions with each other on the serious issues of our time, is one of the things that makes America great. We look forward to hearing from you again in the future on other matters of interest.

On the other hand, since I did email my post to him at the same time I put it up here, I didn’t expect this:

The same blogger (who didn't have the balls to email me his feedback directly, but addressed his entry "To Tim Fish")...

Maybe my mistake was emailing him at comments@timfishworks.com, but that’s the feedback link I see at the bottom of his pages. Maybe I needed to know the secret handshake to get the real contact address. But I actually did mail him, at the same time I posted that entry, and I didn’t get a bounce. Regulars here will know that I do that all the time with letters to the editor and such like that I send out. Shortly after Matthew Shepard’s murder, an acquaintance from years back, David Morrison, who I’d known from a local gay BBS system, got a despicable column into the New York Post essentially blaming the gay community and Shepard himself for his own murder. I sent the Post an angry response and, naturally, they butchered it when they printed it on their letters page. Okay…it was kinda long…par for the course, right? Yet I ran across a slightly more complete version of the text on a conservative Catholic web site a few years later, in an essay defending Morrison, and the Catholic church’s exaltation of dogma over experienced fact regarding homosexuality. So somebody, Morrison probably, was passing the original around, a fact I noted in my reply to them. I’ve been posting these little rants I send out to various publications online ever since, so that what I actually said can be out there.

And…pot, kettle, Fish. He didn’t have the balls to email me either. Not that I would necessarily expect him to, as he seems to imply in his blog that I’m not the only one who takes exception to his cheap soap opera view of the love lives of gay men.

And…really…you have to assume that someone who puts so much gusto into it, really believes the crap he’s dispensing. So who needs a critic, especially one who’s telling you they’re pissed off that you’re accomplishing what you set out to do? There’s a story I like to tell about a painting I did once, a landscape that I did after getting dumped by a guy I was deeply in love with. That was my period when I was doing a lot of large imaginary landscapes in oil on canvas. When I’d finished that one, I invited some friends over to see my latest. They mostly liked it, but the girlfriend of one surprised me by saying outright that she hated it. Well you can’t please everyone. For the rest of the night my friends and I partied. As they were leaving I asked her what specifically, she didn’t like about my painting. She looked at it again, scowled, and said, “It’s so lonely.”

Not every negative review is a bad review. I had to figure that when Fish got my email, he’d likely write me off as one of those pathetic arrested adolescent romantics who still believe in love and who just need to grow up, wake up and smell the coffee. But I’ll freely admit I was hoping to prick some lingering thread of conscience in him, by yelling at him to give a flying fuck about what he was telling his readers. Art should add to a soul, not subtract from it, and especially not subtract from its ability to know love. Yeah, you can argue that art shouldn’t necessarily express a preference for either the beauty or darkness of the human soul. And if you really believe it, you could argue that love is a fairy tale for suckers, and only by staring the essential greed and cheapness of the human soul in the eye, can you hope to deal realistically with life. I disagree, but at the end of the day not with the artist’s right, and obligation in fact, to say it if that’s what they see when they look at the human soul. Be honest. Be relentlessly honest.

If Fish really believes in the stories he’s telling, then that’s all there is to say. Best to just move on. But I had to complain at least once. In 1977, during Antia Bryant’s scorched earth war on homosexuals in Dade County Florida, George Will wrote a column, “How Far Out Of The Closet”, in which he said that the homosexual sub culture was based on “brief, barren assignations.” I am romantic and monogamous in temperament; I don’t do casual sex. But I realize that not all casual or recreational sex is barren, soulless, or empty, even though it may be a one time thing for the individuals involved. They’ll never cross paths again, yet they gave each other a little love and joy. Who gets bent out of shape over that? Casual sex can be exuberant, friendly, playful, and passionate. But what Fish reliably gravitates to, again and again, are sexual relationships that are manipulative, dishonest and utterly contemptuous of any thought more noble then Pavlovian self gratification. His characters don’t give sex, they take it. They don’t dance with each other, they use one another. This is what offends me about Fish. I know…I know… There are, if you believe much of what you read, a lot of people these days, whose sex life is exactly that. But this isn’t life we’re talking about here. It’s art. We have not come so far, fought so hard, endured so much hatred, just to be fed the cheapshit view of same sex love and romance that Fish is dishing out. It is not all that different from what you hear in the kook pews about the love lives of homosexuals. Homosexuals don’t love…they just have sex…

Obviously one reader with a bad attitude out of many isn’t going to have much of an impact. And a zillion readers with bad attitude shouldn’t shut you up if you believe in what you’re doing. But I guess I struck a nerve. Or maybe I was just the one out of many who happened to get the honor of being the hook for his post about why he’s really doing a romance comic, despite all the lack of actual romance in the comic. Anyway…here’s my response. Where you see the centered text in bold is where I’m quoting passages from Cavalcade of Boys. Otherwise, the centered text quotes Fish’s blog post.


To: Tim Fish
Subject: What is NO BALLS, anyway?

The same blogger (who didn't have the balls to email me his feedback directly, but addressed his entry "To Tim Fish")

That would be me. And well Tim…maybe it’s your mail client that doesn’t have balls. Or maybe it’s just you. But I mailed the text of my blog entry to comment@timfishworks.com the same day as I posted that blog entry. Is there a another address I should have sent it too? If so, you need to take that one off the bottom of your pages. (I’ll assume if you’re reading this in that case, that it’s getting to you the same way the previous one did…however that was…) A mailto link would also be helpful. And just so you know, (if you don’t already) I’m blogging this one too. Look around my archives and you’ll see I do that with letters to the editor I send out. Ain’t it grand how this technology lets readers have their say, regardless of what the editor wants to put in the letters page? And again, just so you know, I prefaced it with more text then is here, but that’s just me talking to my readers about how I came across your post about mine (gosh, I didn’t see yours in My mailbox either…), and about why I wrote to you in the first place. I figured talking past you, in an email To you, wasn’t appropriate. But I wouldnít want you to think I’m talking about you behind your back either. And I’ve even linked to your blog in my post, so my readers can see for themselves what I’m talking about. By the way, permalinks on your site would be helpful too. Here’s mine.

So you’re going to argue semantics on me on the word ‘romance’. Fine. When you said in Cavalcade seven that you were going to start a story arc about Tommy and whether or not he can find love working as an escort (“I mean, this is a romance comic, isn’t it?”) I figured you were talking romance as in “find love” (and if finding love while working as an escort doesn’t qualify as soap opera, then I don’t know what does. Finding love while working as an escort for your mother’s escort service?). But yeah…you can maybe say that Cavalcade qualifies under definition 1c, “a strong, sometimes short-lived attachment, fascination, or enthusiasm for something…”, probably in the sense of having a short lived attachment, fascination, or enthusiasm for having sex with some really hot guy, preferably someone else’s lover, and even more preferably right in front of them. Yeah…that would be it. Otherwise, I don’t see where it fits any of the other definitions you cite. Maybe you could explain how a story can be about a love affair, when its author seems to think anyone who believes in love needs to grow up.

"I just want one to love."

"Ha! Ha! I did too. Then I turned 20."

What was that step in the Gay Cycle again. Oh yah…the “Idealistic Phase: Not really in the scene yet, you hope to achieve the homo version of the hetero ideal…find the man of your dreams and live happily ever after.”

Romance? No. You don’t do romance. You do contempt for romance. Or worse, contempt for gays who think romance is a possibility for them. Since when did finding someone to love, to be loved by, and making a life together become a hetero ideal? As I read the literature, modern and ancient, it seems to have been the ideal of quite a few homosexuals too. Are you saying it’s all just crap, or only that it’s crap when a homosexual wants it?

The same sex romances in Mary Renault’s novels were seldom ideal either, often her lovers were imperfectly matched, struggling to find their balance with one another, and often having to accept less then the perfect ideal, to find their happiness together. But there’s no doubt she believed in love. The lovers in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Catch Trap” go down a hard road together, full of angry fights, breakup, and a little sleeping around, to get to the point where they can find peace and contentment in each other’s arms. But you never doubt she believes in it. The main character in John Fox’s “The Boys On The Rock” eventually comes to realize that his first boyfriend is a closet case who probably only loved him for the hot sex they were having, and it sure doesn’t have a happy ending, yet you don’t close the book thinking Billy’s future is a hopeless “spiral of bitterness and depression.” Al’s maybe, because Al couldn’t find himself willing or able to break out of his comfortable cocoon for the sake of Billy’s love. But at the end Billy, wounded as he is, is clearly stronger, and as he comforts a friend in his own loss, you can see he still believes.

There’s your romance. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be sweetness and light. It just has to believe in the righteousness of love.

And you don’t believe. Now that’s your prerogative, but you’re peddling cynicism and hopelessness to your readers, and if you think anything of them other then the bucks they may be good for, you need to think about that.

To the blogger who says I don't believe in romance, and that I'm telling my readers that we all live in the gutter and there is no hope, I guess I have to say "fuck you."

And ya know Tim…most of the fucking going on in your stories is cheap, manipulative and cynical:

"Best I've had this week..."

"Best I've had in ages..."

You’re good at it. And they’re hot scenes for sure. But fucking is how your characters beat up on each other, and themselves. And the problem is, as I said before, those are the scenes with real energy in them. You are a good story teller. You have a good eye for the little details of behavior, a first rate hand for evoking feeling in a character’s face. But you’re saying to your readers that actual romance is for fools and suckers. No…not just that it’s a hard road sometimes. No, not just that there are a lot of smarmy predators out there who will take advantage of your every weakness. No, not just that you have to have both feet on the ground. Your couples don’t love each other, they just fuck each other. Love just does not win with you. Is that because it doesn’t rate with you?

Did you see those pictures of all the couples camped out in the rain in San Francisco, waiting for a marriage license? How did it make you feel? Did you read the pundits bellyaching that it was all just a political gimmick, a publicity stunt, that the people in line just wanted the approval of society? How did that make you feel? When people like Orson Scott Card say that homosexual love is a cheap imitation of the real thing, that homosexual couples are just playing dress-up and make-believe, how does that make you feel? Is that what you believe too, and if not, why do your stories reliably treat the possibility of love between same sex couples with the same disbelief?

...of the 300 pages of YBIL posted, I am responsible for 175 of them. Looking at the remaining stories, I count 7 that are idealized or even end happily. I'm not sure what's speaking to you.

Well I’m sure you’re not. Never mind. You know…a guy can be willing to pan through a lot of mud to find the gold if he knows the gold is there. Time was I’d take a long ride into the city just to get the latest copy of Gay Comix, knowing that only one or maybe two stories in it would really appeal to me. But that one or two would lift my spirits for weeks on end. I still have those comic books, and those stories still have that power.

Ever read Howard Cruse’s Billy Goes Out? A young gay guy hits the sex clubs, while memories of his lover’s death during a Pride march float through his mind. But Cruse doesn’t put down love. We watch Billy go from bar to sex club, and one anonymous encounter after another, and throughout it all you never doubt that Billy’s and Brad’s love for each other was real, was good for both of them, and that the way prejudice and hate work to destroy the happiness of gay couples is profoundly destructive. Cruse isn’t saying that only the bars and sex clubs are real, and that same sex love is a hopeless fiction. In Cabbage Patch Clone Cruse pokes fun at a gay man’s search for that perfect, no complications, no muss no fuss romance. It’s hilarious. But it’s not a put down of a gay guy looking for the love of his life. Dexter wants a doll, so he doesnít have to deal with the needs of a real adult lover. It’s the playful moralist you sense beneath the story, that Cruse believes that the effort it takes to make an adult romance work is inevitable and worthwhile, that makes Cabbage Patch Clone sharp and funny. Otherwise it would just be another cheap shot at lonely gay guys looking for love. I’ve never seen Cruse take that cheap shot. I don’t think it’s in him. Have you read Stuck Rubber Baby?

Seven, did you say there were? I’ll have to go look for the others then…

Are you sure you want to keep reading it?

Sure, if you keep letting people who believe that finding love makes the struggle worth it, into it.

-Bruce Garrett

[Update] See the entry, Mistaken For Spam/b> above. Tim Fish removed the part of his post where he said I didn’t have balls for not emailing him my post directly. He was getting enough spam that he took down his mailto link.


by Bruce Garrett | Link

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