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Archives, February 19 to March 29, 2005

Tuesday March 29, 2005

Housekeeping

I’ve been meaning for a while to update the blogrolls at left. Here’s a start at it. Jeanne D’Arc’s Body And Soul. Hullabalooo by Digby. And Daily Kos. You should add these to your daily dose of bloggy goodness.

Monday March 28, 2005

Notes From The Culture Of Life

Your culture of life at work:

Michigan Preparing To Let Doctors Refuse To Treat Gays

(Lansing, Michigan) Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.

The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.

The Conscientious Objector Policy Act would allow health care providers to assert their objection within 24 hours of when they receive notice of a patient or procedure with which they don’t agree. However, it would prohibit emergency treatment to be refused.

Three other three bills that could affect LGBT health care were also passed by the House Wednesday which would exempt a health insurer or health facility from providing or covering a health care procedure that violated ethical, moral or religious principles reflected in their bylaws or mission statement.

Opponents of the bills said they’re worried they would allow providers to refuse service for any reason. For example, they said an emergency medical technicians could refuse to answer a call from the residence of gay couple because they don’t approve of homosexuality.

Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) the first openly gay legislator in Michigan, pointed out that while the legislation prohibits racial discrimination by health care providers, it doesn’t ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.

"Are you telling me that a health care provider can deny me medical treatment because of my sexual orientation? I hope not," he said.

"I think it’s a terrible slippery slope upon which we embark," said Rep. Jack Minore (D-Flint) before voting against the bill.

Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the bills promote the constitutional right to religious freedom.

"Individual and institutional health care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising faith-based teaching," he said in a written statement.

They tried this last year too. Looks like they may succeed this year. Culture of life.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Ha..Ha..

So I generated my Wu-Name:

Bruce Garrett from this day forward you will also be known as Bitter Desperado

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday March 27, 2005

Confused? You’re Damn Right I Was Confused…

I’ve put up the first two pages of my high school slice of life story in the cartoon section. There are three more pages to go. When it’s done, if I haven’t busted the bank on my storage space here, I’ll move it to it’s own page.

This represents a break for now, from the political cartoon. I’ve said I’m not giving that up and I mean it, but it will be an occasional thing for the foreseeable future. I can only sustain so much outrage for so long. Just this morning, I come to find out via Atrios, that Tom Culture Of Life DeLay actually pulled the plug on his own terminally ill father some years back. This is the guy who was smearing Michael Schiavo on the floor of the United States Congress, without a doubt just and only just to keep the news focus on Schiavo, and not on the many criminal investigations slowly closing in on him. Words like Creep and Thug do not even remotely begin to describe this man. And this is what we’ll all be swimming in for the foreseeable future. I need to back off from politics for a while. I just can’t stay this angry all the time.

And truth is, I’ve wanted to do some cartooning like this for ages. I think it’s important that gay folk tell our stories, not only to each other, but to the world at large. Each story is unique, and every unique story helps break down the stereotypes. I grew up in a time of nearly pure ignorance about homosexuality, but I wonder sometimes how much better off high schoolers are today. Right wing religious cranks are putting stickers in biology textbooks telling students that evolution is "only a theory" (god if any string of words screams at you "I am a knuckle dragging dumbass" more then "it’s only a theory" I’d like to know what it could be). Now I read that IMAX movie theaters aren’t screening some science films, because the facts in them might offend fundamentalists. So how much better off nowadays, can gay kids really be?

I only know how it was for me. I can be thankful that all these years later I can laugh at a lot of it. I had good friends, and a supporting mother. And I came of age in a time when it was good to question authority, and when science and reason still had some claim to power over ignorance. But for all that, I still had to fumble and flounder my way into adulthood. There were few resources for a gay kid, and most of those were incredibly ignorant. The popular culture stereotype of the lisping faggot was everywhere, and when he wasn’t mincing and swishing he was evil and predatory and psycho. Seeing none of that in me, I just assumed that I was as heterosexual as anyone else, a perfectly logical assumption that led me down all sorts of wrong paths. As I said, I can look back on most of it and laugh now, but some of it wasn’t funny at all, particularly how brutal it was, having that one magical part of life, the discovery of love and desire, all fucked over. I still have scars. Deep ones. I want to document some of all that while I can. And partly, I am still trying to make sense of some of it.

I have a whole story arc about growing up gay in the 70s, and falling in love for the first time, mostly planned out. This five pager is a first installment. Think of it as the pilot.

Check it out here, and tell me what you think.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday March 18, 2005

Friday Baltimore Blogging

Apartments - Roland Park Avenue
Apartments – Roland Park Avenue

Power Plant - Johns Hopkins
Power Plant – Johns Hopkins

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday March 24, 2005

It Could Happen To You

To my heterosexual readers:

Have you been watching the Terri Schiavo debacle with a kind of numb horror? Does it prick a fear somewhere deep inside, somewhere you don’t want to go, because you really, really don’t want to look it in the face? Have you shaken your head, disgusted, and wondered what you would do when faced with such a massive assault on your relationship, in the courts, in the statehouse, in congress…all the while trying to keep the door closed on the fear inside by thinking that it probably won’t ever happen to me…?

Welcome to the reality of your gay and lesbian neighbors.

But you knew that…right? The Defense of Marriage Act. The Federal Marriage Amendment. All the various state amendments to outlaw same sex marriage, written explicitly to prevent the courts from giving your gay and lesbian neighbors the justice that Terri and Michael Schiavo have found, time and again all these years in the courts. Many of those anti same sex marriage amendments actually go much further then taking away marriage rights from gay and lesbian Americans. They outlaw not only civil unions, but forbid the courts from giving same sex couples any right a legally married couple has. In Virginia, they may have made it impossible for a same sex couple to even hold a joint checking account.

You can imagine, right, what would have happened in the Schiavo case, had it been a gay or lesbian couple instead of a legally married heterosexual couple, can’t you? Nothing. The nation would never have heard of the case, because right away the brain dead partner would have been taken away from the healthy one, and that would have been that. It would have been over almost at once. And afterward, the brain dead one would be kept on life support indefinitely, while their parents told themselves that every drooling brainstem smile they saw was real, and their child’s lover would live in constant anguish for their beloved. It happens all the time. You just don’t hear about it, because the news media doesn’t consider what happens to our households important enough for you to know.

I know for a fact that a lot of you are supportive of my rights. I have family and friends reading this who frequently express outrage at what the republicans are doing to the lives of gay and lesbian Americans. Straight folks I wouldn’t know from Adam have written me telling me how angry they get at this or that outrage toward their gay and lesbian neighbors, and how determined they are to fight for our rights. I very much appreciate all of that. What I’m telling you now, is that you can be outraged for yourselves too. Now you know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that they’ll kick their way into your intimate lives too, that they’ll take a crowbar to your household, your family lives, the most intimate decisions you make as a couple, whenever, however, and destroy everything about your relationship that you cherish, everything in it nourishes and sustains you. They’ll do it because they believe they have more right to control your life then you, because they are the righteous, because they are the right hand of God. They’ll do it because they can.

Next time one of them starts yap, yap, yapping about the sanctity of marriage, and how marriage is the bedrock of a healthy society, think of Terri and Michael Schiavo. Think of what they did to them. You’ve always known what they’ll do to my household. Now you know what they’ll do to yours.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday March 23, 2005

Well, What A Surprise Seeing You Here

Via MyDD:

The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix, famously identified by Rob Stein and David Brock, is the source of almost all funding behind the wingnut Schiavo push. A two-week old article from Jon Eisberg identifies how the Philanthropy Roundtable is involved with the case, among other familiar faces of uber-rich conservative donor fame…

If you read nothing else today you Have to read the Jon Eisberg post.

For the past 12 years, Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo, and her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, have been locked in a bitter dispute over whether to withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration from Terri, whom the courts have determined is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery. The Schindlers want the doctors to keep Terri alive; Michael does not. Late last year, in Bush v. Schiavo, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush violated the constitutional separation of powers when he attempted to overturn a court order to remove Terri’s feeding tube. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

I filed an amicus curiae brief in the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of 55 bioethicists and a disability rights organization opposing the governor’s action. Two months later I participated in a public debate on the case at Florida State University. Among the participants supporting Gov. Bush’s position were Pat Anderson, one of multiple attorneys who have represented the Schindlers, and Wesley Smith and Rita Marker, two activists whose specialty is opposing surrogate removal of life-support from comatose and persistent vegetative state patients. I found myself wondering: "I’m doing this pro bono; are they?"

So he did a little digging. The kind of digging anyone who can google can do. The kind of digging that reporters once upon a time in America did, before they were all bought by big corporations. And what he found, surprise, surprise, was that matrix of right wing billionares, Scaife, Olin, Bradley, Coors, et al, who’ve been pumping their money into the American political process like drug dealers pumping crack into slums for decades now. This right wing money matrix is a large part of the reason why we have Smirking George in the white house, and American kids dying in Iraq for no damn reason other then a war what what the right wing wanted.

And they’ve been funding the political war against Schiavo’s husband for years, buying his wife’s parents their high powered right wing lawyers, putting cash into the pockets of their bought politicians, and directing the usual right wing smear machines against the husband. That’s why this thing has gone as long as it has, but more tellingly, that’s why the entire fucking republcan party seemed to jump like lemmings off a cliff this week, getting involved in something almost nobody wants them involved in, and scaring the bejesus out of more Americans then they can afford to in the process.

They had to pass that law. President Smirking jackass had get out of bed to sign it. The daddy warbucks who own the republican party demanded it.

Meanwhile, Tom DeLay is just full of complaints:

And so it’s bigger than any one of us, and we have to do everything that is in our power to save Terri Schiavo and anybody else that may be in this kind of position.

And let me just finish with this: This is exactly the issue that’s going on in America. That attacks against the conservative movement, against me, and against many others. The point is, it’s, the other side has figured out how to win and defeat the conservative movement. And that is to go after people, personally charge them with frivolous charges, and link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros, and then, and then get the national media on their side. That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only and that’s to destroy the conservative movement. It’s to destroy conservative leaders and it’s, uh, not just in elected office but leading. I mean Ed Feulner, today at the Heritage Foundation, was under attack in the National Journal. I mean they, they, this is a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in…

[Emphasis mine] That’s Do-Gooder organizations funded by George Soros, as opposed to Do-Evil organizations funded by Scaife, Olin, Bradley, Coors and so on. And what is being done to Terri Schiavo and her husband is evil beyond question.

Here’s another piece of this puzzle you may not have been aware of, thanks in no small measure to our whorish mainstream news media. After Terri Schiavo became incapacitated, her husband went to school to become a nurse, so he could take care of her. It was while he was studying to become a nurse, that he learned his wife would never recover.

And now you know why the American Right wants to destroy education in America.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday March 21, 2005

Feeding Tube

I glance at the network news just to see how horrible the coverage of the Terry Schiavo case is. And I see that it’s every bit as bad as I’m hearing it is. The republicans are allowed to claim they’re standing up for a culture of life, and the opposition is shown as being merely intransigent. I watched while one Maryland democrat called the republican politics vicious and brutal, but without the context for making that claim, that democrat just looked churlish.

Via Mark Kleiman, here’s a little context:

Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday after a Texas hospital, over his mother’s objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keeping the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed, during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law, to find another institution willing to take the child.

Next time you hear Tom DeLay puffing about saving Terry Schiavo’s life, think of Sun Hudson’s. DeLay would have pulled that kid’s feeding tube himself.

Matthew Yglesias adds:

The double-dealing here is vile, but not entirely unexpected. Somewhat more noteworthy is the decision of the organized Christian Right in the United States to willingly play their part as hack partisans rather than genuine advocates for the culture of life.

Why is that noteworthy? Hey Matt…you’re looking right into the heart and soul of the American Religious Right there. Go on….look at it. They call themselves a cluture of life, but they hate life. They want to throttle it. What they are, is a culture that’s power hungry. They want the power to direct our lives in every way, great and small. They want to tell us what kind of music we can and cannot listen to. They want to tell us what kind of clothes we can and cannot wear. They want to direct the most intimate aspects of our love lives, from who we can marry, to what kinds of sex are allowed within our relationships. They want to tell us how to live, and naturally they want complete control over how we die. They are not the culture of life, but of its opposite. They are the culture of stifling life. They’re not trying to save Terry Schiavo. They’re trying to stick their feeding tube into her, because helpless suffering people, and all their families’ pain and tears, make them hungry.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday March 20, 2005

Pissing On The Grave Of Edward R. Murrow…(continued)

This is exactly why I don’t bother with the mainstream news media, and you shouldn’t either. Check this Digby post, via Atrios:

By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient’s family’s wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother’s wishes in Texas just this week. A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are also aware that Republicans have voted en masse to pull the plug (no pun intended) on medicaid funding that pays for the kind of care that someone like Terry Schiavo and many others who are not so severely brain damaged need all across this country.

Those of us who read liberal blogs also understand that that the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo’s care thus far.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are aware that the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schivos because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.

Those who don’t read liberal blogs, on the other hand, are seeing a spectacle on television in which the news anchors repeatedly say that the congress is "stepping in to save Terry Schiavo" mimicking the unctuous words of Tom Delay as they grovel and leer at the family and nod sympathetically at the sanctimonious phonies who are using this issue for their political gain.

Dig it. Bush, while Governor of Texas, signed a law that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient’s family’s wishes. Then there is the tort reform and bankruptcy legislation that the republicans favor, that would make it nearly impossible for families who suffer these kinds of catastrophic illnesses to cope. But do you hear about any of that in the mainstream news media. Nope. They don’t think any of that is important. What’s important is that the republicans are "stepping in to save Terry Schiavo". Only…well…they’re not actually. They’re using this brain dead woman, her suffering husband and family as stooges for political gain, with no shred of concern for any of them. But to see how monstrous their playing with other people’s lives really is, you have to know the whole story, including the part the mainstream news media doesn’t think is important. The part where the republicans, when the camera lights go off, set about actually kicking that family, and thousands like them, in the teeth.

There is just no reason to pay any attention to the mainstream news media anymore. They’re taking all of you for rubes. They’re laughing in your face, along with Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Smirking George.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday March 19, 2005

How To Piss Off A Bishop

In San Diego, a gay catholic was refused a catholic funeral by the Bishop of San Diego’s Roman Catholic diocese. Ostensibly it was because he ran a gay bar. But dig a little deeper:

The 31 year old businessman owned two clubs in San Diego. Club Montage, attracts a mixed crowd. On Friday nights it is mostly heterosexual and on Saturdays is primarily gay. The other club, ReBar, is gay.

"To avoid public scandal Mr. McCusker can’t be granted a funeral in a Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego," a statement from Brom’s office said.

On Saturday the bishop’s office said that Club Montage had been used as a location where a gay porno film was shot and that ReBar used advertising slogans that included, "Real Men, No Rules!" and "Tired of Playing With Boys? Come Play With Men!"

Tired of Playing With Boys? Come Play With Men! That had to hurt.

They’ve held funerals for organized crime figures, and they can’t hold one for a gay man who runs a couple of gay bars? Right. Ask the good Bishop how many pedophiles he’s covered up for, how many he’s Still covering up for, and if that scandal means He, and a few of his fellow Bishops, won’t get catholic funerals. I bet they’ll be buried with their hands clutching their Indulgences.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday March 18, 2005

Friday Baltimore Blogging

[Update] Images for this week have been removed. Check this week’s postings for new images.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday March 17, 2005

The Difference Between Fundamentalism And Science

Fundamentalists like to think they’re putting science in its place by waving its many unknowns around like a bloody flag. Ha! You See? They don’t know nothin’… That is, in essence all Intelligent Design theory is…a theory of how life came to be that is not so much a theory as a catalogue of evolution’s question marks. But imagine for a moment, a fundamentalist publication printing an essay titled, Thirteen things in the bible that do not make sense, and you see the right away the difference between science and dogma.

Here, from New Scientist, are Thirteen Things That Do Not Make Sense. If stuff like this does not make you feel threatened, but rather curious and intrigued, then you are probably a witch.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Comrade Horowitz Says Report Political Deviancy At Your College To Party Headquarters

For those of us who think the GOP intellgencia is looking more Stalinist every day, particularly in its ferocious attacks on scientific and academic integrity, Billmon provides us with these contrasts of the current attacks on academia of the American right, with similar attacks by communists of days gone by. It is brilliant. You should read it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Scritch…scritch…scritch…scritch…scritch…scritch…scritch…

Still no cartoon for the week…sorry. I’ll have two for next Monday probably. I’m prepping for my midterms, and my free time is mostly all about that now, although I do try to take a drafting table break when I can.

I’ve aluded to this before; I’m working on developing a new cartoon series for this site. Something different from my editorial cartoons, a little more personal, and hopefully a little more light hearted. I want to do some slice of life cartoons about my high school years, and growing up gay in the early 1970s. It was a whole different scene back then, and not just because of how deeply ingrained systematic discrimination against homosexuals was back then. It was a whole different world to grow up in. No home video, no cable TV (at least not as we know it today), no cell phones, no video games, no personal computers, let alone computers in cars. The pocket calculator was a slide rule. Instant Messaging was you passed a note. It was a time of mimeograph machines, dial telephones, 33 1/3 high fidelity LPs, vacuum tube testors at the local drug store, the Soviet menace and Apollo astronauts. I lived through all the changes since, and it amazes me sometimes how much even I take the new technologies for granted nowadays. But they changed our way of looking at the world, changed how we interact with it, and with each other. I want to get down on paper some of what it was like to be a gay teen back then. Maybe as the series goes on (if I have enough steam for it) I’ll get into what it was like to ride into gay adulthood on the wave of emerging technology, and the bitter crash of the Reagan years into our hopes and dreams.

It’ll all start with a five pager I’m working on now, when I can squeeze the time out for it. Here’s a peek at part of the first page:

[Update] You can start reading it here.

As you can see (those of you who read my editorial cartoons anyway) I’m trying a different technique with it, that is all pen and ink. I’m hoping this will make a positive difference in time and reproduction. The charcoal and ink style I use for my editorial cartoons doesn’t reproduce well unless I keep the image resolution high. It is also a bit messy and sometimes requires several stages of masking and spray fixitive to pull off. I was hoping a simple cross-hatching technique would save me some time, but that’s not happening. I’ve never committed myself to a fully sequential art cartoon before. It’s always been single panel, one-off stuff. Partly that’s because I love the old single panel editorial cartoon form. But Ted Rall once said that cartoonists work around their limitations, and my big one is I’m a kind of wired, nervous energy type that gets distracted quickly. A multi-panel cartoon means I have to maintain focus on a single cartoon for longer then I’m often able to manage. Ironically what I’m finding out now, is that taking longer to do a cartoon is actually calming. It’s kinda weird.

Cross-hatching, which has always struck me as horrifically monotonous, is actually a somewhat soothing thing to do, if you just make yourself do it. I work on small masonite drawing boards that I tape a piece of Bristol board to. This allows me to turn my drawing this way and that while I’m working on it, and keeps my wrist from cramping. I’m finding I can cross-hatch for hours and not get fatigued. Howard Cruse once told me he found cross-hatching to be a soothing, almost trance like kind of thing and I just couldn’t see it. I just couldn’t see myself having the patients for it. But last night after days of studying for mid-terms, I developed a serious case of nerves and remembered what Howard said. I went down to my drafting table and worked on some panels that needed a lot of cross-hatching (and which I’d been putting off because of that) and damned if I wasn’t feeling Much better afterward. The trick is not to get impatient with it. I played some music and just let it zone me out a bit, and got oodles of work done on that board (not the one above).

So hopefully I can have the whole thing ready for you to see in a few weeks. After that, I plan to do a weekly, based on a story arc I’ve scripted out on what it was like for me coming to terms with my life as a gay teen in the 1970s. It’ll be something different. Not sure if I’ll post it right here in the blog or give it it’s own page like the editorial cartoon yet. And no, I don’t plan on quitting the editorial cartoon. I really need that one as a vent on current affairs. It keeps my head from exploding.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday March 15, 2005

Fox News Democrats

Atrios uses the term this morning, and I think it’s perfect. They’re not conservative democrats, they’re not independently minded democrats. They’re democrats who echo republican talking points about democrats. They’re democrats who use republican tools to attack other democrats, without a shred of conscience or concern for the good of the party, or defeating the republicans. The Nation has an article about the iconic group of Fox News Democrats, the so-called Democratic Leadership Council, which seems some days to be nothing but a Fox News outlet. And Steve Gilliard has written righteous fire and brimstone down on them here, and here. It’s perfect. It says it all. Fox News Democrats. That’s exactly what they are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday March 14, 2005

Fag

Blogs are wonderful things. We get to share this and that about ourselves with the world, and in turn get to see a portion of the rest of the world for ourselves, one to one, first hand. So Iraqi bloggers can tell their own stories of their lives under U.S. occupation. So we Americans can read for ourselves what it’s like for them. We can hear each other’s stories, and each of us tell our own, in our own words, for ourselves.

I’ve written before about the power the computer revolution gave to the Gay rights movement, and the breathtaking liberation it has been for us, as a people, to at last be able to see ourselves, for ourselves. We no longer have to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes. I knew how profound the implications of this were the moment I saw it.

Back before the Internet became commonly accessible to everyone with a PC, there were amateur computer bulletin boards, or BBSs. These ran the simple MS-DOS operating system, which was never intended to be run on networked computers. But through an ingenious mechanism of message forwarding, the amateur BBS operators developed their own networks, such as Fidonet. BBS software programs, such as Opus and RBBS, were developed to utilize these early primitive networks. Eventually, there evolved many topical "echo" message boards, most dedicated to various aspects of PC computing, some merely social. Echo boards sprang into being for fans of Star Trek, and fans of Marilyn Chambers. One day, I happened across an echo board for gays, called Gaylink.

It was being distributed all over the world, or at any rate, as much of it as had modems and PCs in those days. There were posters from all over the United States, some from various parts of Europe, and Australia. I still remember vividly the moment I saw how this technology was going to change the lives of gay people forever. It happened on the day a young poster from the Netherlands left a message for the group.

He said he was fourteen, and that he thought he might be gay. But he wasn’t sure. How, he asked us, did we know about ourselves? What, he asked us, was it like?

And from literally all over the world, this kid got stories, not coming out stories, but self acceptance stories. Some stories were full of pain and hard to read. Some related a slow, but growing awareness of difference. Some people had an easy time of it, others painfully hard. Some parents and friends were accepting, others not. I posted my story along with the others, and later developed it into an essay.

It went on for two weeks. Then one day the kid posted another brief message. He thanked us, and said we’d all given him a lot to think about. We never heard from him again.

Now, he may or may not have been what he claimed to be. But sure as hell there were hundreds of others reading that exchange on that primitive BBS echo board those two weeks in his same position, some older, maybe a lot older even, and hungry for those same answers.

And I saw it then. I saw what this technology meant to us as a people. I came of age in a time when the only things I knew about homosexuals and homosexuality, and about the life I’d have to live as a Gay man, were what heterosexuals had told me. Some well meaning, some not. And in a little more then a decade I saw a time come when we no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes. Once upon a time it was fairly easy to teach us to hate ourselves. Those days are over. If you understand nothing else about our struggle, and why we keep fighting despite all the odds against us, understand that one thing.

Now we have web sites and online chat rooms. Now we have blogs. A few weeks ago I chanced across one by a gay teen, just in the process of coming out to family and friends. He seems together and articulate, and a completely decent kid, and reading his blog has driven home for me, how in many ways things are much better then when I was his age, and in some ways they are worse. When I was his age, a lot of stuff went right over my peer’s heads, that never would today. Even if you want to hide until you’re out of school now, it’s going to be hard. And adults who should know the hell better, are telling the bullies now, that they won’t mind a bit if they pick on the gay ones. Maybe I’m just getting old, but they all seem so vulnerable nowadays. So bright and hopeful and so terribly, terribly vulnerable.

Lets see what is new? I got to school today and found someone had written FAG onto my locker. That was nice. I know who did it. One of my friends saw the guy do it and had told me about it, but apparently they didn’t stop him before he wrote the word on my locker. What’s up with that?! I mean if I had seen somebody hanging around my friends locker and wrote something derogatory on it, I would have stopped him. I don’t know. Sometimes people suck I guess. So anyway, I ended up having to leave it up all day since it was written in black permanent magic marker and couldn’t be scrubbed off. I was pissed off! I still am. The vice principal said the janitor would paint over it once all the kids left after school and by the morning it would be off. I guess we’ll see. I knew once word got around school about me being gay and all that, things like this were bound to happen. It just isn’t right, you know? I’m a good kid. I don’t do this sort of thing to other people, so why do they do this to me or anyone else for that matter. I haven’t told my parents yet.

Some days you just want to punch your fist through a wall.

Hey…George…Smirking Boy…yeah, you. You wrote that word on that kid’s locker. And you Dick. Bill. Tom. Rush. Mike. Cal. Jacoby. Krauthammer. Sowell. And you Rowan Williams. You too Karol. Jerry. Pat. Billy. Franklin. Fred. You Iowa State Senator Paul McKinley, and your fellow senate republicans. And you…you reading this right now…the one who voted for Bush last November. Yeah…you. Especially you. You wrote that word on that kid’s locker too. The next time you open your trap about morals and values, somebody should spit in your face.

[Edited a tad]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Go Ahead. Make It Official. Far As I’m Concerned You Killed It Years Ago.

You read the sycophant Microsoft IT press, and you think that Basic developers everywhere think that VB.Net is the Greatest Basic Microsoft Ever Produced. I didn’t believe it when .Net was first introduced, and I especially don’t believe it now when even the sycophants are having to admit that it’s still having a hard time winning popular acceptance among Basic developers. Once upon a time you had computer book shelves packed with various VB titles. Now it’s down to a thin trickle. VB.Net may be winning adherents, but compared to the stunning popularity of Visual Basic at its height, VB.Net is a colossal flop. People hate it. It is costing Microsoft developers.

And Microsoft couldn’t care less because, well, it doesn’t think it has to. What are you poor dweebs going to do…write software for some other platforms? Use some other non-Microsoft tool when we’re so obviously the best there is?

Well…yes…as a matter of fact

Developers slam Microsoft’s Visual Basic plan

More than 100 influential developers using Microsoft products have signed a petition demanding the software company reconsider plans to end support for Visual Basic in its "classic" form.

The developers, members of Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional program which recognizes influential members of the developer community, claim the move could kill development on millions of Visual Basic 6 (VB6) applications and "strand" programmers that have not been trained in newer languages.

Microsoft said it will end standard support for Visual Basic 6 at the end of this month, ending free incident support and critical updates. Both services will be available for a fee for another three years.

But MVPs hope Microsoft will reconsider not just VB6’s support options, but will continue to develop the language alongside its newer Visual Basic.Net.

Fat chance. The people Bill put in charge of his .Net tools hate the Basic language. They have nothing but contempt for it, and for those of us who have used it all these years. That’s been staringly obvious to many of us since we first took a look at VB.Net, and saw what Bruce McKinney rightly described as its many gratuitous insults to the language and its culture. They don’t merely misunderstand us. They have nothing but contempt for us. But that blind, idiotic contempt is a blessing to Microsoft’s competition.

The problem, say the dissenting developers, is that when Microsoft made Visual Basic.Net (or Visual Basic 7) the successor to VB6, it actually killed one language and replaced it with a fundamentally different one. It’s effectively impossible to migrate VB6 applications to VB.Net, and for VB6 developers, learning VB.Net is as complex as learning a completely new programming language, critics say.

"The .Net version of Visual Basic is Visual Basic in name only," wrote developer and author Rich Levin in a recent blog entry. "Any organization with an investment in Visual Basic code–consultants, ISVs, IT departments, businesses, schools, governments–are forced to freeze development of their existing VB code base, or reinvest virtually all the time, effort, intellectual property, and expense to rewrite their applications from scratch."

And if you’re going to have to start over from scratch, if you’re going to have to learn a completely new language anyway, Why Stay With Microsoft? Because they make better tools? So Fucking What If They Won’t Stand By Them, And The Developers Who Use Them? Seriously. So Fucking What? I’ll use Java and NetBeans, or Eclipse and know that I’m using tools created by developers who actually believe in them, thank you.

Microsoft continues to develop C++ alongside C#, the language’s .Net counterpart, and the company should do the same with "classic" Visual Basic and VB.Net, the petition argues. Microsoft introduced VB.Net in 2000, and since then, developer use of VB6 and older versions has declined steadily. Many of those leaving the language behind are migrating not to VB.Net but to non-Microsoft languages such as Java, according to some surveys. For example, a November 2004 survey of developers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa by Evans Data found that Visual Basic had lost 25 percent of its developer base in those areas since 2003.

(Emphasis mine).

No shit Sherlock. I reckon Microsoft thinks it’s so big now, that it doesn’t need all those developers who helped make its platforms and office products so ubiquitous. There were years when all I ever did was write custom office applications, integrating various MS Office applications with this and that corporate back end, to automate some process and improve someone’s workflow. That’s what killed off all the great stand alones of years gone by…WordPerfect, WordStar, XyWrite, Lotus 123, dBase… With an amazingly small amount of effort, I could write custom applications that read from a database, stuffed data into a spreadsheet, generated charts and graphs and put them into documents which could be printed or emailed, with no user intervention save double clicking on a desktop icon…but only if all the applications were Microsoft’s. Oh…you could do it using the stand alones…but it was a hell of a lot more work, and developer time is expensive. VB made integrating various office applications a simple, straightforward process, and in doing that made Microsoft’s office applications a business standard. It was more then just owning the OS, it was more then just integrating all their office applications with a single language, it was VB. VB made the concept of Rapid Application Development a reality, in a way no other language, and especially no other C style language, could have.

But everyone who shakes hands with Microsoft gets stabbed in the back sooner or later. Its developers are no exception. We served our purpose and now its eat shit or die. But I’m not eating, and I’m not dying. I’m one of many, who are working elsewhere. If Bill had simply made improvements to the language, I’d have had years of experience as a reason to stick with Microsoft. But those years don’t count for spit in Visual Studio .Net, so I have no reason to stick with Microsoft, and plenty of reason to stay the hell away.

"The future of programming is clear, and object-oriented languages designed from the get-go for Web and Internet-enabled functionality are the future," wrote one developer in response to Levin’s post. "No amount of romanticizing VB6 is going to change that."

I remember sitting in a Structured Analysis and Design seminar in 1991, where our instructor solemnly warned us that if we didn’t learn Case Tools now, by the year 2000 we would be unemployable. So the above quoted developer can just contemplate his object oriented navel and screw off for all anyone should care about his take on the future. I don’t have anything against the object model. In some ways I like it, and in others I don’t. But that’s neither here nor there. The future is whatever makes the bottom line for businesses work. I’ve earned my living freelancing often enough to understand this in a way some Computer Science folk don’t really seem to, or care to. If you spend X squared to develop software that only gains you X in return, you’re in the hole. So what if it’s a technologically sweet application. You can’t afford to keep doing that and stay in business.

That VB gave Windows application developers more bang for the buck is beyond question, and that’s why it was so successful, despite how deeply CS wizards and gurus everywhere loathed it. "Basic? Basic? Why no serious programmer uses Basic…" Bullshit. So I wasn’t a serious programmer. I was a productive one. And I was hardly alone in that. At the first Basic developer’s conference in San Francisco in 1993, we heard from a couple of developers who worked for a company that made hydraulic cartridges for industrial applications. They put their entire catalogue on a CD-ROM, complete with ordering software that allowed customers to call up blueprints, exploded machanical drawings, and images of the products. They’d won an award for it, and at the presentation amazed their audience by telling them that they’d written the entire ordering system in two weeks. They told us that they gave the two week figure because they reckoned no one would believe how long it actually took: one week.

Microsoft’s Basic IDEs had always made writing clean solid code easy, by among other things checking your syntax as you wrote it. I could run and test my code in the IDE before compiling it. I could edit code while debugging it at the same time. Then came VB and we could create graphical user interfaces graphically, dragging, dropping and sizing buttons, lists, text windows, whatever, onto our forms and moving things around on the fly until we got something everyone, developers and users liked. These innovations streamlined the development process in a way the CS guys never thought necessary, let alone desirable. But just as importantly the language itself was clean and elegant and readable in a way that reduced development and maintenance headaches. Good well designed and written Basic code reads almost like pseudo code. No language is self documenting, but Basic can come damn close.

No amount of romanticizing your favorite computer science religion is going to change the bottom line of business, which is the bottom line. Case tools once upon a time probably made a lot of theological sense. They just didn’t work on the real world desktop. VB did. That’s the fact everyone who hated the language because of it’s CS heresies just couldn’t bring themselves to look at. It did the job. It did it Better.

And in giving the language over to the very people who had always hated it, Microsoft has cut themselves. Now they’re loosing developers. Worse, they’ve turned what was a clean, fast, rapid integrated Windows application development tool into another Microsoft bloated pig (those of us who complained once upon a time, that the changes to VB6 made it too big and clumsy, may never forgive ourselves for not considering the alternative). It could be they’re just big enough now that it won’t bother them for years to come. But some day it’s going to bite them royally in the ass. It wasn’t just owning the operating system. It wasn’t simply integrating everything with everything else. It was the tool that made the integration useful. It was VB. Microsoft might well have won the Office Suite wars without it, but it would have taken them a hell of a lot longer.

Now Microsoft’s front line business development tool is one that is essentially Java in look and feel, and it’s one big claim to superiority is that it is more tightly integrated with Microsoft platforms then Java is or ever will be. But is that a selling point anymore? Basic on Windows isn’t dead, there’s always PowerBasic. But RAD is no better or worse in .Net then in Java. So it comes down to, do I learn a new tool that chains me even more tightly to Redmond, and which lets me write applications that chain my customers ever more tightly to Redmond, or one that does not?

Ooh…hard one.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I Am…I Said…Malware

Fair warning… There’s Spy/Ad ware out there now that installs with any browser that runs the Sun Java plugin. For all that this still seems to be a Windows specific issue. But what makes this one particularly obnoxious is that it infects and runs IE, even if you’re not using it. It adds a bunch of malware sites to your trusted sites list, and to add insult to injury, it adds a bunch of bogus malware removal sites to your favorites list. Of course, and what the article doesn’t make completely clear, is that you still have to accept a certificate from an unknown and untrusted source for this to work.

But as we know, some people will just blithely click ‘yes’ to anything. The article tells us that this initial attack seems to be targeting Neil Diamond fans. So some dark genius working for a malware outfit figured out that Neil Diamond fans would say yes to just about anything that pops up on their computer screens.

This could lead to a disturbing trend in the malware wars. In the future, to keep home and business computers secure, login screens may start asking people random pop culture questions. If you answer certain ones correctly (What band performed the song "White Bird"?) they won’t let you log on.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Housekeeping

The media sidebar on the right, where I post stuff I’ve been reading/ viewing/ listening to/ hasn’t been updated in a while, so I took a few moments this morning to do that (and make sure I had my office scanner configured correctly for Mandrake). Stonewall is still up as the book, because I want to wave it around for a while longer. Seriously, if you haven’t read it yet you should.

"I’m Hans Canried, Baltimore’s answer to Richard Burton…" I stumbled across the Fractured Flickers DVD set while browsing Amazon and had to have it. It’s such a stab from the past. I was just a kid in elementary school when it came on the air in the early 60s, and thought it was the most hilarious thing on TV. Not all childhood TV joys age so well, but I found I still liked Fractured Flickers. The humor straight Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle), with lots of visual puns and cheap gags. Hans Conried makes it shine as host, and it’s still a lot of fun hearing the voice actors from the Jay Ward cartoons adding dialogue to old silent films.

I’ll try to get Monday’s cartoon up by the end of the day today. It was another long night working on a class project. I have midterms this week, but then a short break, which will hopefully let me get caught back up with my life.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday March 13, 2005

Yes, Freedom Of Religion Actually Does Mean Freedom From Religion Too…

Some notes on the struggle against religious totalitarianism from a guy named Salman Rushdie, who knows a thing or two about the subject:

I never thought of myself as a writer about religion until a religion came after me. Religion was a part of my subject, of course; for a novelist from the Indian subcontinent, how could it not have been? But in my opinion I also had many other, larger, tastier fish to fry. Nevertheless, when the attack came, I had to confront what was confronting me, and to decide what I wanted to stand up for in the face of what so vociferously, repressively and violently stood against me. Now, 16 years later, religion is coming after us all, and even though most of us probably feel, as I once did, that we have other, more important concerns, we are all going to have to confront the challenge. If we fail, this particular fish may end up frying us.

For those of us who grew up in India in the aftermath of the partition riots in 1947, the shadow of that slaughter has remained as a dreadful warning of what men will do in the name of God. And there have been too many recurrences of such violence, in Meerut, in Assam, most recently in Gujarat. European history, too, is littered with proofs of the dangers of politicised religion: the French wars of religion, the bitter Irish troubles, the "Catholic nationalism" of the fascistic Spanish dictator Franco, and the rival armies in the English civil war going into battle, both singing the same hymns.

It’s a good essay. As to his ultimate stand on the question of God, I’m with Frank Lloyd Wright, who once said "I believe in God, but I spell it Nature." When the bird, and the bird book disagree, believe the bird.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday March 12, 2005

Another Busy Weekend

Lite posting for now. I’m preoccupied with Schoolwork mostly, but also with miscellaneous work here at Casa del Garrett.

[Geek Alert] I got fed up with SuSE 9.2 the other day and wiped it from its hard drive pack. I’d bought a copy of 9.2 after I upgraded Mowgli, my main workstation, to a 64 bit AMD motherboard. I wanted to try running a 64 bit Linux on it. But SuSE does things just differently enough from the standard Linux form, that fooling with its quirks while setting it up gets frustrating. We run mostly Red Hat on our Linux boxes at the Institute, and SuSE puts things in different directories, and its boot routine is somewhat different. You keep having to work around the differences and it you find yourself spinning your wheels over things that should be simple.

The final straw came yesterday while I tried to set up my Palm organizer. I use JPilot, which acts a lot like the software that came with my SmartPhone. But it just crashed every time I tried to synchronize. So I tried the others (I really don’t like Evolution, precisely because it imitates Outlook so well and I don’t like Outlook one bit). Then I ran into conduit issues that JPilot had long ago fixed.

For weeks SuSE had been giving me a funky problem with my Fat32 data drive. That’s the drive I share between my Windows and Linux systems. SuSE would run for a while, then throw a file system panic on that drive, claiming that it got a bad cluster computation. It would then (sensibly) mark the drive read only, which meant my mail client (Thunderbird) would stop fetching mail because it couldn’t write it to the mailbox files. After many weeks of fussing with it, I discovered that the fstab file entries SuSE had created for that drive were wrong. After I fixed it, I had no problems. But that shouldn’t have happened in the first place

So when I ran into problems with jPilot I just threw up my hands and gave up. I tried downloading Fedora Core 3 for the AMD 64 and it would install just fine but then hang on reboot, while it tried to initialize my LAN card. I suspected some issues with 32 to 64 bit recompilation, but I was in no mood by then to fuss with it. 64 bit Mandrake 10.1 is only available to it’s paying customers it would seem, so I ended up installing from my Mandrake 10.0 32 bit disks.

Mandrake is nice, because it does things pretty much the way Redhat does, but with a much more ease of use grace. I’ve always noticed this about Mandrake. I had Firefox and Thunderbird up in no time, and the Sun Java SDK and Netbeans. I had some initial trouble getting Firefox to run with the Java SDK plugin, then I remembered that you have to use the one compiled with gcc 3.2. Everything I usually run installed without a hitch including jPilot which syncs just nicely now, and I am nearly 100 percent back and running again with Linux.

VB.NOT

I ran across this Dr. Dobbs article on Slashdot, which gave me a moment of intense pleasure.

While I am on the subject of Visual Basic, I may as well give my opinion about that language. It has to be said that Visual Basic (classic) was getting rather tired. The language was inherently single threaded and had serious problems with COM (certainly as far as creating COM servers). In fact, when I had finished writing my book on MTS (published in 1999), I came to the conclusion that MTS had been designed to allow Visual Basic developers to write objects that could benefit from threading and security, and COM+ took this a step further. Visual Basic could call Win32 functions, but it often had to use dirty hacks to use them effectively. But with COM, and COM security, it had gone as far as it could and could not provide what C++ could do in a few lines of code. Any situation where C++ can provide a facility in a few lines and VB cannot is embarrassing to VB. However, most of the problems are so inherent in the language and the runtime that the solution had to be radical. And that lead to VB.NET.

Well, a search of the Internet will give you most of the details of the furor that the release of VB.NET caused. The best site is Karl E. Peterson’s (http://www.mvps.org/vb/rants/vfred.htm). VB.NET simply isn’t VB: As Karl’s site shows, there are multiple incompatibilities between the language of VB and VB.NET. Further, VB is single threaded, does not have exceptions, and was typically used to write non-OOP code. VB.NET was provided with a ìportingî tool, but most people I know who have used it (including me) have found that the tool simply comments out large amounts of the incompatible code. My advice early on was that VB developers should not port their code, and instead they should convert it to VB classes that could be called by .NET code through COM interop. That way, the VB code remained in the environment where it was designed to work. Microsoft, of course, perpetuated the myth that VB.NET was VB and promoted the porting tool.

Some people regard VB.NET as wonderful. I really don’t see the reason for the language. There are a few features that other languages do not have (exception filters and renaming interface methods are two), but these are not good enough reasons for a new language. There is the argument that VB developers would be more comfortable with VB.NET, but as I’ve said, VB.NET is not VB, and since a developer would have to learn principles of OOP and .NET principles like threading, exceptions, and delegates, the developer may as well learn a new language. C# is the natural language to use for .NET and there was no need for VB.NET. Semicolons and braces are not so difficult to get used to! Instead, we have a language that’s .NET, but not quite all there. In my opinion, the Common Language Specification (CLS) was created simply to make sure that other languages could create code that would work specifically with VB.NET code, rather than making all languages work with each other. I understand that signed integers are useful, but so are unsigned integers! I do not understand why VB.NET cannot have unsigned integers as part of the language. I think that case insensitivity is juvenile, there is no excuse for using Option Strict Off (ìlate bindingî is a synonym for ìhard to find run time bugsî), and itís easy to lose track of your variables if you don’t explicitly declare them. VB.NET has serious flaws that are not counteracted by the few benefits it gives.

I have written a column on VB.NET and I have spoken at VB.NET conferences, so I know the language well. However, it’s not a language I am comfortable with: I find that whenever I use the language, I tend to swear a lot. It just doesn’t work the way I expect it to, and I am not the only one. This is the most common complaint I have heard from people who moved from VB (classic) to VB.NET and this backs up Karl E. Peterson’s statement that VB.NET is just not VB. So why did Microsoft create VB.NET? The answer is that in 2000, the number of VB developers exceeded the number of users of Microsoft’s other principle language, C++, by at least a factor of 10 (these were figures I saw at an internal Microsoft meeting). Microsoft made a big point in announcing that C# was another language "from the C++ family" and the marketers judged that they could not get all of those VB programmers to use a C++-like language. Instead, they judged that they would be more likely to get a fair proportion of those VB programmers to move over to .NET if Microsoft generated a VB-like language. In other words, the reason for VB.NET was marketing and not technological

I’d say I hate to say I told you so, but I’d be lying through my teeth. All my longtime friends will tell you that I love to say I told you so. So…ahem…to all you docile sheep who have followed Microsoft’s line about VB.Net being the next generation of Visual Basic…I Told You So! It is not Basic, let alone Visual Basic. I could vent for hours on this one subject alone, but Bruce McKinney, MS Basic master, author of Hardcore Visual Basic has done it so much better then I ever could, so I won’t bother. But. Well. Just so you know. I Told You So!

And while I’m on the subject. We Basic programmers had been asking Microsoft for years to give us unsigned integers. PowerBasic has them. It also does threading. And it has structured Try Catch Finally error handling. There is no earthly reason why Microsoft couldn’t have put those features in the language, they just choose not to. And yes, you should never write code without Option Explicit turned on…but I’m sorry…a language that thinks mycat, MyCat and Mycat are three different variables is one that’s asking for maintenance and debugging problems. And yes, semicolons and braces are not so difficult to get used to. I know, because I’ve been getting used to them ever since Microsoft stabbed VB developers in the back. But they are inane. Seriously. Inane. Semicolons I could figure out. They’re what a compiler that doesn’t know what a line end is uses. But for years when looking at C code I was stumped by those damn braces. I couldn’t figure out the rule for using them (I could have just looked it up, but I get on these kicks sometimes where I get determined to figure a thing out from the outside looking in. I’ve been trying to figure out the game of Cricket this way for years now…). When I started learning Java I learned what the damn brackets where for. All this time I thought it was some big important deal that only the real big boy languages that all true code warriors used needed. Come to find out it’s a goddamn kludge. That’s right. You use brackets because the damn language flow structures, the if statements and for-next statements and while statements and such like, only accept single statements. So for example, this conditional in Basic:

IF condition THEN
statement one
statement two
statement three

ELSE
statement four
statement five
statement six

END IF

…wouldn’t work in a C kinda language, because in C (and Java and presumably C#) the if then else structure can only accept one statement:

if (condition) statement one; else statement two;

…is all you get.

Sweet. So what the hell do you do if you need to execute more then a single statement if your condition is true (or not)? Well you could just bundle them all up into a function and make the statement a call to that function. But then your code starts becoming a rats nest of calls here and yon, and functions that just exist because the language can’t handle simple things that even toy languages like Basic have been able to handle for decades now. But instead of fixing their damn compilers, the inventors of C gave us those damn brackets as a work around. That’s right. That’s all they are. A goddamned work around. All the brackets do is bundle a number of statements together, which the compiler then treats as a single statement. Thus:

if (condition){
statement one;
statement two;
statement three;
} else {
statement four;
statement five;
statement six;
}

Note that even though the brackets form a single statement out of many statements, they are themselves immune from the rule that statements have to end with semicolons.

However, class definitions are enclosed by brackets which are required to have semicolons after them. Even if the class definition is empty. The following is perfectly valid:

class EmptyList {};

Screw that. I’m sorry…but screw that. It’s pathetic. But now I have to live with all this crap I suppose, because McKinney is right, Visual Basic is dead.

Yes…I’m still pissed off at Microsoft. Developers…Developers…Developers… Feh.

In other words, the reason for VB.NET was marketing and not technological.

They told us we had to throw away everything fine and good about Basic so we could move on to the next generation of object oriented programming languages. Goodby clear, concise, readable code. Hello brackets. Hello string buffers. Hello

if((String)((UseList)numComponents[components]).getObject().equals(((String) ((sentList)vList.itemAt(selection.getIndex()))).toString))

(Hey…don’t look at me, I didn’t write it)

They said we had to embrace the changes, so we could continue to grow and expand our horizons. So…I embraced change. Wholeheartedly. I figured if I had to throw everything I knew away and go learn a Java-esq language, it might as well Be Java. Where once I had five Windows machines on my household LAN, now I have one Windows XP box, a Win2K laptop, three Linux distributions and an Apple Macintosh G5 tower. Where once I could only write software for Microsoft platforms, now I write software that runs on a variety of platforms. Where once I only used Microsoft tools to develop software, now I use a variety of commercial and open source software tools. Thanks Bill, for expanding my horizons.

A Java Editor

So I was talking about this Dr. Dobbs column with a co-worker and we began discussing how Visual Studio.Net isn’t written in C#, whereas there are a number of good Java development tools, like Netbeans, that are themselves written in Java. Which for one thing means they run on Linux and Windows and Mac OSX. It got me to thinking about my hassles finding a good multi platform general purpose programmer’s editor. So I did a little hunting and found JEdit. Dammed if it isn’t just about perfect. I wish I’d found it sooner. Just download the current jar file and (assuming you have Java installed) just run "java -jar [jar file name]" to install. It has oodles of plugins to give it all sorts of functionality. The plugins are all Java jar files, and you install them simply by putting the plugin jar in the JEdit jar directory. Simple.

A nice, multi-platform editor has been my holy grail now for years, and I think I’ve finally found it. It’s not as comprehensive an IDE as NetBeans, but it’s a great general purpose editor. It handles all the line end formats gracefully, which is critical for a multi platform editor; something even the ubiquitous emacs doesn’t do well at all.

And thanks once again Bill. If it wasn’t for .Net, I might not ever have discovered how nice a real multi-platform language is.

New Car Love

A final note, and then I have to get back to my schoolwork. My car turned its first thousand miles today. It’s been a great ride so far, and I’m still feeling amazed every time I open the door and step in. I’m sure part of it is spending most of my life behind the wheel of subcompact economy cars. I went from the basic Geo Prism to a dressed up Accord. I just never expected it to be that much of a step up. It was one of my better decisions I think, to spend the extra to get the dressed up version. Except now I’m beginning to feel like I really need to get the car it’s own parking pad in my backyard. Maybe on with a little frame roof to protect it a tad. There are others in my neighborhood like that. Shouldn’t cost much, but I don’t have much of a back yard so that would basically eliminate it. I haven’t had a back yard long enough to want to pave it over.

The car has track lighting! Well…kind of. I was driving home from visiting friends last weekend, and noticed a pale amber glow around my shifter, which I thought was just the streetlights shining down from my open moonroof. But it never moved. So I put my hand over it and followed the beam of light to a little glowing dot of light near where my dome lights live. It’s a dot about the size of a small LED, and it seems its only purpose in life is to softly illuminate my stick, and the seat heater buttons on either side of it. Wow.

And don’t get me started on the little door lights on the bottom of my doors that light up when you open them.

I sound like such a bumpkin. You grow up in a Baptist home and it gives you a thoroughly ingrained suspicion of materialism. And it’s good to have that wariness of the material life. But it’s not all a striving for status. Some things we buy, we buy them because they embody for us the exuberance of life, the joy of motion and creation. I’m told you can tell in the old caves where the first humans began to appear, because their tools were unnecessarily beautiful.

So many hands made my car. I wish I could thank them all.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday March 10, 2005

A Crazy World

As I said in another post, fundamentalists all across the nation are going to be assaulting our Pride festivals more this year, and in the coming years, then ever before. Expect it. Agape Press is now marketing what they call a "new resource…for Christians who want to be bolder in their witnessing efforts":

Last summer, Mark Cahill headed to the annual "Gay Pride" festival in Atlanta and spoke to hundreds of people about their beliefs regarding heaven and hell, God, and the afterlife. Cahill released the DVD of his conversations titled "Pride Goes Before Destruction: Witnessing on the Streets of Atlanta."

You really have to hand it to him, to have someone follow him around with a video camera while haranguing gay folk at a Pride Festival, and then market DVDs of it to people with the title Pride Goes Before Destruction. Uhm…present company exempted I take it Mark?

The evangelist explains another of his techniques. "One of the things we try to do is kind of go to an extreme place, so to speak, so [others] can watch and then ask: ‘If those guys can go a gay and lesbian festival in Atlanta, who can’t I share my faith with?’

"So we try to do this so people can be encouraged and know that if they’ll talk with us there, who won’t really challenge us in a crazy world with tsunami waves and Johnny Carson dying and an Iraq war."

Tsunami waves. And Johnny Carson dying. And an Iraq war. Mark, you need to use the word ‘crazy’ with a bit more care then this.

But the video camera thing is a good idea. We should all pack our own video cameras with us to Pride Day, from now on, and follow any of them we find at our Pride Festivals around with cameras of our own, so everyone else can see for themselves the resentful little balls of vitriol and prejudice these people are made of. We should videotape them wherever they go in public, get their relentless incitement of religious passions toward gay people on record, so the world can see for itself why we’re dying at the hands of gay bashers.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

It’s Not Only Hubble

If there’s any space science that survives the Bush years it will be a miracle It isn’t just Hubble that they’re trying to kill:

Interstellar Pioneers Facing Termination

Launched in 1977, Voyagers 1 and 2 are now more than 14 billion and 11 billion kilometres from Earth, respectively. Having visited all the outer planets except Pluto, they are on their final quest – to locate the shifting boundary between the Sun’s domain and the realm where interstellar space begins.

A little over 13 hours out from Sol, a veteran of the first space age – Voyager 1 – is working quietly in the depths of space as it travels away from our Sun at 17.163 kilometers per second. But now, NASA has told scientists working on these and other older missions that their missions may be terminated in October to save money, reports Nature.

The decision – which NASA officials say is not yet final – has angered space scientists, who are calling the moves penny-wise and pound-foolish, and that it is being done without a usual formal science review.

According to Nature, NASA officials told seven mission managers (Voyager, Ulysses, Polar, Wind, Geotail, FAST (Fast Auroral SnapshoT) and TRACE (Transition Region and Coronal Explorer)) that there is now no money to keep their projects operating after the current fiscal year ends in October.

Nature quoted Lennard Fisk, a University of Michigan space scientist who chairs the National Academy of Sciences Space Studies Board and is a former head of NASA space science, as saying the cuts were "an extremely foolish thing to do".

Voyager, he says, is entering one of the most interesting scientific phases of its long life as its particle detectors approach the edge of the Solar System. "It doesn’t make sense‚Äù to turn off Ulysses just as the Sun comes to the end of a 22-year magnetic cycle.

For now, project scientists say they have no choice but to take the threat seriously. Having been told by NASA that there is no money available after October, Stone says, "we are currently developing a plan for shutdown".

The Voyager spacecraft were launched on a grand tour of the solar system made possible by a once in 176 year alignment of the planets. We loose this data and it will be generations before it comes within our reach again.

But if there is one thing that marks every aspect, every decision made by the gang in power now, it is their utter disconcern for the future. Some, surely, are just cheerfully waiting for Armageddon and the end of the world. But for others it’s a simple smash and grab operation. Power…money…to the victor belong the spoils, as Dick Army once said. Their fundamentalist enablers are busy cutting science out of the textbooks, but they themselves could not care less. They couldn’t care less what’s in it for future generations, if there’s nothing in it for them, now, right now. This is why we’re going to spend billions of dollars flying paper rocketships to the moon and mars for the next several years, while spacecraft that are already at the edges of our solar system are being shut down.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Why We Fight For Hate Crime Laws

Attention…Richard Cohen… the clue department is on the line…

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Chad Allen Conyers, convicted killer of Joseph Camber, is free after the State of Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in Knoxville overturned his probation violation.

Conyers, who previously plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the April 2002 death of Camber, local gay activist and employee at the Carousel II, had been sentenced to a term of four years in split-confinement in the custody of the Knox County Sheriff.

In a ruling by Appeals Court Judge David H. Welles, the previous ruling by Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was overturned, and Conyers will be placed on judicial diversion as originally ordered.

In the decision filed today, the Welles remanded Conyers back to the jurisdiction of Baumgartner’s court and the originally planned judicial diversion. Under that stipulation, Conyers will be allowed to return home to Virginia and continue his probation with no supervision from either Tennessee or Virginia courts.

Virginia does not recognize judicial diversion from out-of-state courts. Combined with the inability of Tennessee courts to order supervision in another state, the net effect is that Conyers is free to continue living in Virginia with no legal constraints as long as he does not travel to Tennessee and commit a crime.

Camber was strangled to death by Conyers. DNA from Conyers skin under Camber’s fingernails ID’d him as the killer. Lucky for him his victim was a homosexual, and it was Tennessee.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Moral Crusade

Gay and Lesbian Americans, even those who don’t place themselves on the left side of the political scales, can sympathize with liberals and progressives, when they complain nowadays that republicans, Right Wingers and their propaganda organs just make stuff up about them. We’ve known how that’s worked for decades now:

ST. PETERSBURG – A member of the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board has provoked the anger of national gay and lesbian advocacy groups for saying the groups endorse sex between underage youth and adults.

Cecilia Burke, who was appointed to the JWB’s board of directors by Gov. Jeb Bush, made her statements in a memo Feb. 7 asking the board to sever ties with the support groups Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Burke said she based some of her statements on the work of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuals.

Joseph Nicolosi, one of that group’s psychotherapists, told the St. Petersburg Times that PFLAG was in fact a "very damaging group," but not one that officially encouraged pedophilia.

Heh. Even NARTH knows better then to sign onto her smear campaign. Note that Jeb Bush thinks someone like this belongs on a juvenile welfare board. Surprised? Give yourself a star for the day if you noticed the rich irony in gay bashing right wing republicans accusing groups that defend gay youth of advocating child abuse.

[Update] If you still don’t see the irony… perhaps this will help:

(Des Moines, Iowa) A group of Republican lawmakers is holding up legislation that would help curb bullying and harassment in Iowa schools because the bill would include protections for gay and lesbian students.

The issue was scheduled to be debated in the Senate Education Committee on Monday, but Sen. Paul McKinley, (R-Chariton), a head of the panel, struck it from the list of measures to be considered.

Because the 50 member Senate is tied with 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats each committee has two chairs, and both must sign off on which measures will be debated.

McKinley said he’s all for safe schools, but said he doesn’t agree with including a list of specific groups to be protected.

Right. So long as that list of specific groups includes gay and lesbian kids. Fat lot of concern for their welfare republicans have, don’t they?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Hedonist Within

Remember Michael Bowers, the one time Georgia state attorney general whose enthusiastic prosecution of Michael Hardwick for sodomy led to the infamous supreme court decision in Hardwick v Bowers? Remember how he was once referred to in Georgia politics as "Mr. Clean", how he fought against Atlanta attempts to establish benefits for same sex couples, how he prevented attorney from joining the attorney general’s office after he found out she was a lesbian? Remember how he later had to withdraw from his race for governor of Georgia when it was found out that all that time he’d been cheating on his wife? You’ve seen this pattern of behavior before…right?

He was also the Air Force’s top lawyer, a take-no-prisoners people-eater with a reputation as a hanging judge…ì especially when it came to adultery, sexual harassment or any boys and girls in blue caught doing the naughty, nonreg deed.

"Fiscus was known as the Darth Vader of the Air Force’s legal establishment for his zealous pursuit of sexual misconduct,"ù says retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Roger Charles, who recently completed an exhaustive investigation of the former general’s formerly secret life.

Charles notes that several years ago, when a married female lieutenant colonel with an impeccable military record was nailed for adultery and her commander wanted to slap her on the wrist with an Article 15 nonjudicial punishment and let her retire, Fiscus fought for a general court-martial…ì at which she was found guilty and sentenced to be dismissed from the service. She committed suicide before the sentence was approved to preserve her retirement benefits for her family.

Last September, Jekyll was revealed as Hyde when the double life of the very-married, by-the-book senior enforcer caught up with him via an anonymous letter to the Air Force chief of staff. The investigation that ensued literally caught Fiscus with his pants down: He had almost as many uniformed playmates as the Air Force has B-2 bombers. He had sweet young things stashed everywhere, including on his Pentagon legal team…ì which allowed for quickies with the chosen, whom he also was kind enough to counsel about their careers and cook for while buck-naked.

Fiscus’ sexual inner circle included eager Air Force lawyers and enlisted paralegals, as well as Pentagon civilian employees. Preying primarily on the super-career-motivated Air Force femmes who figured getting especially close to the boss wouldn’t hurt their climb to the top, he managed to maintain a harem of more than a dozen girlfriends for at least a 10-year period while rocketing up the promotion ranks and somehow still remaining "a good family man"ù And all his affairs were consensual.

Go read the whole thing to see how the Air Force treated him after they found out about the behavior behind the "zealous pursuit of sexual misconduct". The heathen libertine degenerate that the sexual puritan wages war against, is themselves. They are not the polar opposite of sexual degeneracy, they are the other side of the coin. If you’ve ever noticed that they seem to hate people who have accepted joyfully their own human sexuality, and who deal with it honorably, more then those who do not, here’s why.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday March 8, 2005

Quick…Find Me A Reason For Making The Decision I’m Making

Now why is this not surprising?

NASA officials have claimed they performed a risk analysis before deciding to cancel the last space-shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, but no such analysis was ever done.

Worse, sources told UPI’s Space Watch that NASA also has ignored at least one proposal to reduce the risk of sending a shuttle crew to Hubble – in order to justify its decision.

Over the past few weeks, several NASA officials have stated publicly the agency’s decision to cancel further servicing to Hubble was made on safety issues alone, not cost.

As [acting NASA administrator Fred] Gregory told Congress, "Administrator O’Keefe made a very conscious, deliberate and well-informed decision that the shuttle would not service the Hubble."

When asked by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., chairman of the science committee, and Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., for a copy of that risk analysis report, Gregory agreed to provide it.

Yet, one day later, NASA historian Steven Dick gave a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, in which he described the process by which that decision was made and revealed that, in fact, no formal risk analysis had been completed.

Dick had interviewed all of the NASA officials who had been involved in the decision to cancel the shuttle mission to the Hubble, a discussion that came to a head in December 2003 when those officials had been working on NASA’s fiscal year 2005 budget.

According to Dick’s interviews, risk was the major factor in the discussion, but the officials decided a formal risk analysis was unnecessary. Instead, Dick noted, "The decision was made (by O’Keefe) based on what he perceived was the risk."

In other words, O’Keefe canceled the Hubble mission solely on his gut feeling of the situation. So, the only way NASA can provide the House Science Committee’s requested copy of that risk analysis from December 2003 is to recreate it after the fact.

[emphasis mine]

This is eminently typical of the way the Bush gang operates. They have their agenda, but they don’t want to tell anyone what it really is, so they make things up on the fly that they hope will put it over on the public. And when later events prove they’re making things up on they fly, they just make up more things on the fly to cover up the cover up. And they know they can get away with it, because the mainstream news media won’t call them on it.

Disclaimer…yes, I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute. I don’t speak for it, I just work for it. I’m an American and I don’t speak for America either. And someday I’d like to live in an America that has a government that thinks science and the pursuit of knowledge are good for a nation and a people. We used to have one of those once. As I recall it was after the Soviets scared the hell out of us with Sputnik.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday March 6, 2005

No Cartoon For Monday

Much, Much too busy with school work this week…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday March 5, 2005

If Gays Did Not Exist, Republicans Would Have To Invent Us.

Homosexuals are to Bush Republicans, as Jews were to Nazis. That’s not hyperbole, it’s the plain truth. There were the vitiriolic haters, and there were those who knew the political uses of hate. Those last didn’t necessarily share the hatred of the others, but with deliberation they enabled it, inflamed it, and turned it loose on a nation, on their families, friends and neighbors, the better to destroy every vestage of the democratic institutions they despised. That was antisemitism in 1930s Germany, and it’s homophobia in George Bush’s America.

Let it be said that the stench of it is starting to really disturb those Americans who still believe in America, and in the American Dream. Tom Tomorrow breaks his short hiatus to post about something he saw on Hannity & Colmes the other day, because he just couldn’t keep his silence:

…while hunkered down in the Fortress of Solitude, I have continued to sporadically monitor Fox News broadcasts–oh! the things I do for you people–and as a consequence of this regrettable habit of mine, I am compelled to break radio silence.

Hannity & Colmes had a story last night about a high school teacher in Brick Township, New Jersey, who lost his cool and yelled at some students who would not stand when the National Anthem was–for reasons which were never made clear–played in his class…

Our guest pontificator on the subject was one Bill Cunningham, a second- or third-tier radio guy out of Cincinnatti who would mostly not be worth the pixels required to acknowledge his existence–except for one throwaway line, used to set up a contrast between our sinful modern era and the conservatively correct paradise of his youth:

"In the good old days, back when AIDS was an appetite suppressant and "gay" meant you were happy…"

Now, understand, this was a totally gratuitous remark. The story they were discussing had nothing whatsoever to do with AIDS or gay issues. This was just shorthand, the way Bill Cunningham indicates the deliniation between his ideal world and the cesspool of sin and liberal corruption and disrespectful high school students in which he finds himself today: you didn’t have any gay people, or any of their nasty diseases.

You should read the whole post (for one thing, if you’re a tad younger then me you won’t understand the pathetic reference there to AIDS (actually Ayds) as an appitite suppressor). This is what the republicans legitimized with the last election. This is what Education Secretary Margaret Spellings legitimized when she told PBS that caring, loving same sex households were unfit to be shown to the nation’s children. This is what George Bush’s Health And Human Services Department legitimized, when it demanded that references to gays be eliminated from the title of a program on preventing suicide among gays. We are the offical national scapegoats, bearing within us the burden of every social evil anyone can name, so that republicans, conservatives, right wingers, can remain themselves, forever blameless. And here’s what happens to scapegoats:

Man beaten in gay bashing clings to life

The 21-year-old Santa Fe man who police say was savagely beaten in a gay-bashing incident last weekend is clinging to life in critical condition, a family spokeswoman said Wednesday.

"We’re not out of the woods yet," Rachel Rosen said. "The doctors say he will be getting worse before he gets better."

At least four young Santa Fe men beat James Maestas early Sunday morning in a Cerrillos Road motel parking lot, police said.

An Albuquerque man with Maestas suffered minor injuries during the assault, in which police say the attackers repeatedly called the two men "faggots."

Maestas apparently was kicked so hard the food in his stomach came up his throat and went into his lungs, Rosen said. Stomach acid badly burned his lungs, she said, and he is breathing with the help of a respirator.

He has been running a fever and must be monitored closely, because the risk of infection is high, Rosen said.

Maestas’ face and mouth are bruised and swollen, she said. "They haven’t even been able to see if he has all his lower teeth because his lower lip is so mangled."

Two gay men were assaulted in the parking lot of a Denny’s in Santa Fe, where they had just eaten. One of their attackers was a teenager who worked at the Denny’s, and overheard them talking about where they were staying. When the gay men fled the Denny’s their attackers were directed to their hotel by the Denny’s employee. There they were able to continue their attack, nearly killing one of them. Maybe ABC news will call this one nothing more then a robbery gone bad too.

And I wonder some days, whether or not this is how it felt to be a Jew in 1930s Germany, in the days before the terror engulfed everyone. I ask myself some nights, if I would know when it was time to get the hell out.

American Spectator Ad

Burt…Quit Calling Me! You, and Mark and Lynn and Webb and Craig and all the others who voted to unleash this darkness on me and thousands like me and our friends and our families…you have no right to even think of yourselves as ever having been friends of mine. It never was. I do not know you.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday March 4, 2005

Friday Baltimore Blogging

[Update] Images for this week have been removed. Check this week’s postings for new images.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday March 3, 2005

Update…Gay Is Okay…But Only Because It’s Really A Name

The NFL has reversed itself and decided that "Gay" isn’t a dirty word after all. "Lesbian" however, still is. The rational? "Gay" is actually a family name. One of the players on the Super Bowl winning team last season was named Gay, which made their banning the word more then a tad pathetic. Now the NFL is saying that their custom jersey’s are for personalization only, not political expression, which is a nice excuse, but they can’t really believe that customer’s won’t use them for exactly that too, and expecially if they think they’re getting something past an NFL censor (sounds like a FARK contest).

As always, it seems to have started with some management dweebs who don’t understand that just because a computer can do something automatically, that doesn’t mean it should:

In response to my original article (see below), I spoke with a technology consultant who helped the NFL set up its online shop in about 1997.

"I did technology strategy at IBM while we were building the custom jersey ordering system for the NFL," said the consultant, who asked that his name not be used. "We tried to tell them that a naughty word filter was a bad idea because it was impossible to catch everything and you’d keep people from ordering legitimate names (like Gay). We had learned this lesson the hard way in trying to automate profanity filtering in online forums instead of hiring people to screen comments, but the NFL was insistent that they had to have it and it needed to be automated instead of a human approval process.

"The project manager was showing off the functionality when it was first developed and I bet him I could get an offensive jersey order through in less than two minutes. I won the bet and it’s the reason ‘smegma’ is on the list."

Jackasses. You can understand them not wanting to have truly offensive language on their products, but sweepingly defining any references to sexual orientation as innately offensive is bigotry. If they’re going to let customers write their own "names" on those jerseys then they have to know they can’t stop people from getting in political messages. So they either make people choose from a pre-defined list of names, which will necessarily leave some people’s names off it, or they stop being a bunch of arrested adolescent dweebs who are terrified there might be queers in the locker room. What is wrong with this picture, when you can be GAY and you can be STRAIGHT but you can’t be LESBIAN? Why don’t jocks ever grow the fuck up?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Imagine…

I’m posting Prime Minister Paul Martin’s entire speech in the House Of Commons, in defense of the Civil Marriage Act, not to just take up some space here, but because I was dazzled by the whole thing. Read it, and imagine someone making a speech like it in the Senate. Martin touches on every important point in the debate over same sex marriage and he gets it right. It made me wistful for an America that could have been. Try to imagine, without laughing yourself to tears, anything like this being said by George Bush, or Bill Frist:

I rise today in support of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. I rise in support of a Canada in which liberties are safeguarded, rights are protected and the people of this land are treated as equals under the law.

This is an important day. The attention of our nation is focused on this chamber, in which John Diefenbaker introduced the Bill of Rights, in which Pierre Trudeau fought to establish the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our deliberations will be not merely about a piece of legislation or sections of legal text – more deeply, they will be about the kind of nation we are today, and the nation we want to be.

This bill protects minority rights. This bill affirms the Charter guarantee of religious freedom. It is that straightforward, Mr. Speaker, and it is that important.

And that is why I stand today before members here and before the people of this country to say: I believe in, and I will fight for, the Charter of Rights. I believe in, and I will fight for, a Canada that respects the foresight and vision of those who created and entrenched the Charter. I believe in, and I will fight for, a future in which generations of Canadians to come, Canadians born here and abroad, will have the opportunity to value the Charter as we do today – as an essential pillar of our democratic freedoms.

There have been a number of arguments put forward by those who do not support this bill. It’s important and respectful to examine them and to assess them.

First, some have claimed that, once this bill becomes law, religious freedoms will be less than fully protected. This is demonstrably untrue. As it pertains to marriage, the government’s legislation affirms the Charter guarantee: that religious officials are free to perform such ceremonies in accordance with the beliefs of their faith.

In this, we are guided by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, which makes clear that in no church, no synagogue, no mosque, no temple – in no religious house will those who disagree with same-sex unions be compelled to perform them. Period. That is why this legislation is about civil marriage, not religious marriage.

Moreover — and this is crucially important – the Supreme Court has declared unanimously, and I quote: "The guarantee of religious freedom in section 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs."

The facts are plain: Religious leaders who preside over marriage ceremonies must and will be guided by what they believe. If they do not wish to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples, that is their right. The Supreme Court says so. And the Charter says so.

One final observation on this aspect of the issue: Religious leaders have strong views both for and against this legislation. They should express them. Certainly, many of us in this House, myself included, have a strong faith, and we value that faith and its influence on the decisions we make. But all of us have been elected to serve here as Parliamentarians. And as public legislators, we are responsible for serving all Canadians and protecting the rights of all Canadians.

We will be influenced by our faith but we also have an obligation to take the widest perspective — to recognize that one of the great strengths of Canada is its respect for the rights of each and every individual, to understand that we must not shrink from the need to reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of Canadians in an evolving society.

The second argument ventured by opponents of the bill is that government ought to hold a national referendum on this issue. I reject this – not out of a disregard for the view of the people, but because it offends the very purpose of the Charter.

The Charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority.

We embrace freedom and equality in theory, Mr. Speaker. We must also embrace them in fact.

Third, some have counseled the government to extend to gays and lesbians the right to "civil union." This would give same-sex couples many of the rights of a wedded couple, but their relationships would not legally be considered marriage. In other words, they would be equal, but not quite as equal as the rest of Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, the courts have clearly and consistently ruled that this option would offend the equality provisions of the Charter. For instance, the British Columbia Court of Appeal stated that, and I quote: "Marriage is the only road to true equality for same-sex couples. Any other form of recognition of same-sex relationships…falls short of true equality."

Put simply, we must always remember that "separate but equal" is not equal. What’s more, those who call for the establishment of civil unions fail to understand that the Government of Canada does not have the constitutional jurisdiction to do so. Only the provinces have that. Only the provinces could define such a regime – and they could define it in 10 different ways, and some jurisdictions might not bother to define it at all. There would be uncertainty. There would be confusion. There would certainly not be equality.

Fourth, some are urging the government to respond to the decisions of the courts by getting out of the marriage business altogether. That would mean no more civil weddings for any couples.

It is worth noting that this idea was rejected by the major religions themselves when their representatives appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2003. Moreover, it would be an extreme and counterproductive response for the government to deny civil marriage to opposite-sex couples simply so it can keep it from same-sex couples. To do so would simply be to replace one form of discrimination with another.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, there are some who oppose this legislation who would have the government use the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights to override the courts and reinstate the traditional definition of marriage. And really, this is the fundamental issue here.

Understand that in seven provinces and one territory, the lawful union of two people of the same sex in civil marriage is already the law of the land. The debate here today is not about whether to change the definition of marriage – it’s been changed. The debate comes down to whether we should override a right that is now in place. The debate comes down to the Charter, the protection of minority rights, and whether the federal government should invoke the notwithstanding clause.

I know that some think we should use the clause. For example, some religious leaders feel this way. I respect their candor in publicly recognizing that because same-sex marriage is already legal in most of the country, the only way – the only way – to again make civil marriage the exclusive domain of opposite-sex couples is to use the notwithstanding clause.

Ultimately Mr. Speaker, there is only one issue before this House in this debate. For most Canadians, in most parts of our country, same-sex marriage is already the law of the land. Thus, the issue is not whether rights are to be granted. The issue is whether rights that have been granted are to be taken away.

Some are frank and straightforward and say yes. Others have not been so candid. Despite being confronted with clear facts, despite being confronted with the unanimous opinion of 134 legal scholars, experts in their field, intimately familiar with the Constitution, some have chosen to not be forthright with Canadians. They have eschewed the honest approach in favour of the political approach. They have attempted to cajole the public into believing that we can return to the past with a simple snap of the fingers, that we can revert to traditional definition of marriage without consequence and without overriding the Charter. They’re insincere. They’re disingenuous. And they’re wrong.

There is one question that demands an answer – a straight answer – from those who would seek to lead this nation and its people. It is a simple question: Will you use the notwithstanding clause to overturn the definition of civil marriage and deny to Canadians a right guaranteed under the Charter?

This question does not demand rhetoric. It demands clarity. There are only two legitimate answers – yes or no. Not the demagoguery we have heard, not the dodging, the flawed reasoning, the false options. Just yes or no.

Will you take away a right as guaranteed under the Charter? I, for one, will answer that question, Mr. Speaker. I will answer it clearly. I will say no.

The notwithstanding clause is part of the Charter of Rights. But there’s a reason that no prime minister has ever used it. For a prime minister to use the powers of his office to explicitly deny rather than affirm a right enshrined under the Charter would serve as a signal to all minorities that no longer can they look to the nation’s leader and to the nation’s Constitution for protection, for security, for the guarantee of their freedoms. We would risk becoming a country in which the defence of rights is weighed, calculated and debated based on electoral or other considerations.

That would set us back decades as a nation. It would be wrong for the minorities of this country. It would be wrong for Canada.

The Charter is a living document, the heartbeat of our Constitution. It is also a proclamation. It declares that as Canadians, we live under a progressive and inclusive set of fundamental beliefs about the value of the individual. It declares that we all are lessened when any one of us is denied a fundamental right.

We cannot exalt the Charter as a fundamental aspect of our national character and then use the notwithstanding clause to reject the protections that it would extend. Our rights must be eternal, not subject to political whim.

To those who value the Charter yet oppose the protection of rights for same-sex couples, I ask you: If a prime minister and a national government are willing to take away the rights of one group, what is to say they will stop at that? If the Charter is not there today to protect the rights of one minority, then how can we as a nation of minorities ever hope, ever believe, ever trust that it will be there to protect us tomorrow?

My responsibility as Prime Minister, my duty to Canada and to Canadians, is to defend the Charter in its entirety. Not to pick and choose the rights that our laws shall protect and those that are to be ignored. Not to decree those who shall be equal and those who shall not. My duty is to protect the Charter, as some in this House will not.

Let us never forget that one of the reasons that Canada is such a vibrant nation, so diverse, so rich in the many cultures and races of the world, is that immigrants who come here – as was the case with the ancestors of many of us in this chamber – feel free and are free to practice their religion, follow their faith, live as they want to live. No homogenous system of beliefs is imposed on them.

When we as a nation protect minority rights, we are protecting our multicultural nature. We are reinforcing the Canada we value. We are saying, proudly and unflinchingly, that defending rights – not just those that happen to apply to us, not just that everyone approves of, but all fundamental rights – is at the very soul of what it means to be a Canadian.

This is a vital aspect of the values we hold dear and strive to pass on to others in the world who are embattled, who endure tyranny, whose freedoms are curtailed, whose rights are violated.

Why is the Charter so important, Mr. Speaker? We have only to look at our own history. Unfortunately, Canada’s story is one in which not everyone’s rights were protected under the law. We have not been free from discrimination, bias, unfairness. There have been blatant inequalities.

Remember that it was once thought perfectly acceptable to deny women "personhood" and the right to vote. There was a time, not that long ago, that if you wore a turban, you couldn’t serve in the RCMP. The examples are many, but what’s important now is that they are part of our past, not our present.

Over time, perspectives changed. We evolved, we grew, and our laws evolved and grew with us. That is as it should be. Our laws must reflect equality not as we understood it a century or even a decade ago, but as we understand it today.

For gays and lesbians, evolving social attitudes have, over the years, prompted a number of important changes in the law. Recall that, until the late 1960s, the state believed it had the right to peek into our bedrooms. Until 1977, homosexuality was still sufficient grounds for deportation. Until 1992, gay people were prohibited from serving in the military. In many parts of the country, gays and lesbians could not designate their partners as beneficiaries under employee medical and dental benefits, insurance policies or private pensions. Until very recently, people were being fired merely for being gay.

Today, we rightly see discrimination based on sexual orientation as arbitrary, inappropriate and unfair. Looking back, we can hardly believe that such rights were ever a matter for debate. It is my hope that we will ultimately see the current debate in a similar light; realizing that nothing has been lost or sacrificed by the majority in extending full rights to the minority.

Without our relentless, inviolable commitment to equality and minority rights, Canada would not be at the forefront in accepting newcomers from all over the world, in making a virtue of our multicultural nature – the complexity of ethnicities and beliefs that make up Canada, that make us proud that we are where our world is going, not where it’s been.

Four years ago, I stood in this House and voted to support the traditional definition of marriage. Many of us did. My misgivings about extending the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples were a function of my faith, my perspective on the world around us.

But much has changed since that day. We’ve heard from courts across the country, including the Supreme Court. We’ve come to the realization that instituting civil unions – adopting a "separate but equal" approach – would violate the equality provisions of the Charter. We’ve confirmed that extending the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians will not in any way infringe on religious freedoms.

And so where does that leave us? It leaves us staring in the face of the Charter of Rights with but a single decision to make: Do we abide by the Charter and protect minority rights, or do we not?

To those who would oppose this bill, I urge you to consider that the core of the issue before us today is whether the rights of all Canadians are to be respected. I believe they must be. Justice demands it. Fairness demands it. The Canada we love demands it.

Mr. Speaker: In the 1960s, the government of Lester Pearson faced opposition as it moved to entrench official bilingualism. But it persevered, and it won the day. Its members believed it was the right thing to do, and it was. In the 1980s, the government of Pierre Trudeau faced opposition as it attempted to repatriate the Constitution and enshrine a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But it persevered, and it won the day. Its members believed it was the right thing to do, and it was.

There are times, Mr. Speaker, when we as Parliamentarians can feel the gaze of history upon us. They felt it in the days of Pearson. They felt it in the days of Trudeau. And we, the 308 men and women elected to represent one of the most inclusive, just and respectful countries on the face of this earth, feel it today.

There are few nations whose citizens cannot look to Canada and see their own reflection. For generations, men and women and families from the four corners of the globe have made the decision to chose Canada to be their home. Many have come here seeking freedom — of thought, religion and belief. Seeking the freedom simply to be.

The people of Canada have worked hard to build a country that opens its doors to include all, regardless of their differences; a country that respects all, regardless of their differences; a country that demands equality for all, regardless of their differences.

If we do not step forward, then we step back. If we do not protect a right, then we deny it. Mr. Speaker, together as a nation, together as Canadians: Let us step forward.

There’s what America was before Reagan. It’s what it still could have been before last November. What it is now: John Negroponte. Alberto Gonzalez. James Guckert. USA Next.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday March 1, 2005

Any Excuse Will Do

There was much snow on the ground this morning here in Baltimore, and the Institute gave us liberal leave, which I took. I spent most of the day working on classwork, and a few odds and ends around the house, occasionally glancing forlornly out the window at my new car. There was no way I was taking it anywhere while the streets were a mess.

But the temperatures stayed above freezing all afternoon, and by evening the gods of the open road were smiling on me again. The streets had pretty much completely cleared of snow by sundown. Even the sidewalks were clear. Time to go fill up the tank, and maybe try a wee test of power. I was about five miles past the break-in period of 600 miles.

Well past Baltimore rush hour I took a drive up I-83. There was practically no traffic. As I drove down the on ramp I gave the car a little more pedal then I was willing to do during break-in. Not a lot more…I just wanted to get a feel for what might be out there at the higher revs. There were no other cars in the merge lane, but I imagined myself trying to get on the highway with traffic at my heels. On the straightway, I let the tach climb a bit.

Oh! This car’s got go.

I drove it sensibly out to Cockeysville, and filled up the tank for the second time. A quick rough calculation of milage gave me thirty-one mpg. Not bad for a bigger car and engine, and during break-in at that. The Prism got 35 mpg during its break-in, and peaked at 42 mpg after about another thousand miles. From thereafter it fluctuated between 39 and the low forties. We’ll see what the Accord is doing in another thousand.

Getting back on I-83 on the way home, I let the revs climb once again. This time I was competing with a big Chevy SUV trying to get ahead of me as the road we were on funneled into the on ramp. During break-in I’d have just let it go by. Now I let the revs climb a bit to see if I’d really felt what I’d felt a while before. Oh! What I got was the same very smooth and emphatic acceleration. It just walked away from the SUV and I wasn’t really pushing things because I’m not that far past the break-in period that I feel comfortable doing that. I felt not the slightest bit of strain. Just smoothness and go. Nice. The car’s got go. I’m going to have to be careful driving this thing or I could zoom past some speed traps without realizing how fast I’m going. I don’t want to be chasing after speeding tickets.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sport

Well… isn’t this par for the course:

To the NFL it’s naughty to be "GAY" but OK to be "BIN LADEN." You can be a "NAZI" but not a "LESBIAN."

This rather bizarre conclusion is reached when trying to order a personalized jersey from the NFL Shop, the online merchandise site run by the league. Anyone trying to buy a jersey with the single word "GAY" or "LESBIAN" on the back gets a rejection message that states: "This field should not contain a naughty word."

Someone running the NFL’s website decided certain terms were "naughty," including a declaration of sexual orientation. But "BIN LADEN," "TERRORIST," or "AL QAEDA" are all accepted; just have your credit card handy (personalized jerseys start at $79.99).

GAY is out, but you can buy a STRAIGHT one. HOMO is out, but you can buy a HETERO one. Interestingly, SEXY is out, but you can buy a SEXLESS one. There is no problem buying a HITLER.

You might suppose that in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t much of an issue, that there are more important things to worry about, like what happened to a gay college kid at The University of North Carolina recently. But contempt for homosexual people, that becomes violent, doesn’t spring up out of nowhere. And now it’s the NFL joining in the republican dog pile. One of their players on the team that won the Super Bowl is named Gay and they’re still telling their customers that Gay is a dirty word. For months before the last election, the republicans and Bush stoked anti-gay hatred for votes. Since then, they’ve begun a scorched earth policy toward gay and lesbian Americans, attacking gay households, attacking anti discrimination laws, even attacking medical professionals who dare to treat homosexuals as something other then human garbage. Of course this offical state animus would begin filtering into pop culture. It had to. And from there, to the bloody streets.

MVP - 2005
MVP – 2005

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday February 28, 2005

Family Man. Church Going Man. Torture-Rapist.

So they finally caught BTK. Oh…look…

He is married, has two children, is active in the Boy Scouts and is president of the church council at Christ Lutheran Church near Heights High.

He worked for a home alarm company. He worked as a census taker.

Among his activities over the previous 25 years, Rader listed "raising kids, scouting, family outings — garden, a lot."

There’s a story about horror film maker Alfred Hitchcock, about the time a woman came up to him and demanded to know why he made his monstors all such nice, dashing, well dressed likeable men. "Madam," Hitchcock is said to have replied, "If they looked like monsters they’d never be able to get close enough to anyone to do any harm."

In Bobo’s morality plays, you can always tell who the evil ones are, by their long hair, their tattered blue jeans, and their disrespect for social mores. It’s always the outsider who is the threat. When the only way you can tell right from wrong is by the way a person wears their hair, or the clothes they wear, or the church they go to, or the sex of the person they love, then the wolf in the fold has an easy time of it. They can kill for years before they’re finally caught, because nobody can tell that their heart is a bottomless pit. In Bobo’s world, the heart doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter in Rader’s dark world either. Conformity in a world that regards the human heart with suspicion would have been easy for him.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Eating The Elderly Is A Family Value

Raw Story has the goods on yet another developing Tom Delay scandal. This one, as it happens, involves yet another republican sock puppet group lobbying against social security. But there’s more here, then just another republican taking thousands from a favored lobbying group.

A think tank which raised money by targeting elderly Americans with Social Security scare letters paid for more than $130,000 in travel expenses for the House Republican leader, his wife and his staff, RAW STORY has learned.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a highly controversial and little-known conservative think tank which has been sending Social Security "fright mail" for years, paid for two posh trips for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) in 1996 and 2000, each at the cost of at least $64,000.

NCPPR also gave $1,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund in 2004.

While another conservative group stole the limelight for an ad linking the AARP to gay marriage, NCPPR has operated below the radar on controversial issues since its founding in the early 1980s.

The group’s letters target seniors of both parties, aiming to convince them their Social Security benefits are in jeopardy and thereby induce them to donate money. The mailings also encourage seniors to keep the mailing secret from others, perhaps even from family members.

"Inside your sealed envelope is information regarding the potential collapse of the Social Security system ñ and how it can endanger you and the entire United States senior citizen population," NCPPR president Amy Ridenour writes in one such letter obtained by RAW STORY (Read the letter here). "It is also critical that you share this pertinent information ONLY [sic] with other trustworthy individuals."

"Should we put most of our time and effort into fighting to prevent liberal big-spenders from draining an estimated $100 billion from the trust fund?" Ridenour asks. "Or should I go head to head against the left-wing’s reckless use of $70 billion tax surplus when they promised to put our Social Security first?"

"The liberal monster is primed to rip your Social Security to shreds," reads another hyperbolic letter reported on by the San Francisco Examiner in 1998.

The group uses at least four different letterheads to solicit money; all of the money is funneled into the same organization.

Nice. Go read the whole thing. Try not to get angry. I dare you. All this claptrap about how the republicans only want to replace a liberal nanny state retirement system with a marketplace one that will be more efficient and give more money to seniors…it’s all a load of horseshit. They just want to eat the poor, and the elderly because like any common criminal, like any pack of gangsters, they feel like if you’re weak and vulnerable, you’re fair game. In their moral reckoning, they have a natural, god given right to prey on the weak. If you think otherwise, well, you must be some kind of communist then…

NCCPR is unapologetic about its mailings.

"We assume most people are capable of taking care of themselves, and if there is something they have a desire about, they will let us know," NCPPR president Ridenour told the San Francisco Examiner.

In 1998, The Examiner profiled an 86-year-old Oakland resident Faye Shelby who had been deluged by direct mail scams seeking money on issues including Social Security. The letters so distressed the nursing home resident that she lay awake at night worrying about what crisis most deserved her help.

"I didn’t know that I could just turn them down," Shelby told the Examiner. "I was thinking it was something I had to do….I thought if I didn’t correspond about Social Security, I wouldn’t get my checks."

This is who was paying for Tom Delay’s travel junkets. Frightened old people lining his wallet with the last of their money. Values. Family Values. Republican Family Values.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Those Wacky Heterosexuals

Is this for real?

Baconwhores
BACONWHORES – Because the only thing better than bacon, is someone to cook it for you

There’s a picture of a family, Dad, Mom, and boy, sitting down to eat with one of these Baconwhore servers bending down to place a tray of bacon on the table, and it would seem, show everyone at the table, and particularly the boy, loads of cleavage. There’s another picture of Mom smilingly greeting a Baconwhore server at the door. And another of Mom seated at the family computer, with Dad peering over her shoulder, while they both shop at the Baconwhore website. I can just picture it. Honey…the Baconwhore is here…

Right. More like …oh…honey…you’re back so soon. Uh…I just thought I’d order up a little food while you were out…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Terminal Man’s Orgasm

"The survival value of human intelligence has never been satisfactorily demonstrated." -Jeremy Stone

This quote, from one of the fictional characters of Michael Crichton’s book, The Andromeda Strain, tells you everything you need to know, about the path his writing career has followed ever since that first best seller.

It hardly surprised me some years ago to learn that Michael Crichton, author of The Andromeda Strain didn’t want to be thought of as a science fiction writer. I’d read The Andromeda Strain raptly when it came out in paperback, and at the time thought it was one of the best hard science fiction novels I’d ever read. But it was just a shiny veneer. I picked up his next book, the utterly forgettable Terminal Man and the next, and the next, and it became abundantly clear that the air of hard science in them was only his gimmick, his hook with which to surf a trend. He had no belly for the real thing, had in fact, a not so subtle contempt for actual science, that became more pronounced as time went on. That, and his xenophobic yokelism. He has a mind that doesn’t particularly care to wander far from the safety of its provisional conceits, and their suspicions of everything having to do with outsiders. During the 1980s, when America faced stiff economic competition from Japan, Crichton wrote the japanese bashing Rising Sun, whose over the top polemics, one web reviewer compared to Robert Ludlum interspersed with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. People accused him at the time of making a buck on middle class economic fears and racism, but the xenophobia in it was genuine.

Ironic now, that Crichton’s latest trend surfing cash cow, State Of Fear is peddling the claim that environmentalists prey on people’s anxieties. This the novel claims, is because they have no science to back them up. But if any writer has less claim to pose as a defender of science I can’t imagine who it would be. Crichton is a trend surfer, who both plys the yokels for dollars, and shares their deep distrust of outsiders, and intelligent people. In red state America, George Bush’s America, there is nothing worse then to be an elitist. Crichton is more then willing to stroke that red state hatred of elitism, as he was to stroke its racism in Rising Sun. And just as in Rising Sun, it is not a completely cynical ploy for bucks.

In State Of Fear Crichton waves every right wing junk science attack on environmentalism and global warming he can get his hands on, every hoary bar stool stereotype of environmentalists and liberal elitists in the right wing play book, and in the process plays squarely to the red state tribalism that defines George Bush’s America. Yes, he knows how to make a buck all right. But it is not all that. To seek knowledge, to be an independent thinker, is treason against the tribe. And in the American Kultur Kampf, those who fight that treason give themselves complete license to lie, cheat, fake whatever evidence they need to fake, for the cause of the tribe. Thoughout the book, Crichton accuses environmentalists of cherry picking their facts. In their essay for Harvard Magazine, Overheated Rhetoric, Michael B. McElroy and Daniel P. Schrag show us how Crichton does it himself:

Crichton’s main character, the ubiquitous Professor Kenner, singles out James E. Hansen, long-time director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), a scientist with many years of distinguished contributions to earth and planetary science, for particular attack. In testimony to Congress in 1988, Hansen offered projections of how global temperature might increase through the end of the twentieth century, while expressing the view that the signature of the human influence should soon be unambiguously clear in the climate record.

To project climate’s future requires an assumption about future economic growth — in particular, of the pattern for future emissions of key greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Following the conventional approach, Hansen considered three possible scenarios for future emissions (rapid growth, business as usual, and significant curtailment) and evaluated the consequences of each for future climate change. Crichton has Kenner focus exclusively on results from the high-growth model, concluding that Hansen’s projections for future global climate change turned out to be "wrong by 300 percent." Had he opted to talk about the intermediate growth scenario, Crichton would have been forced to conclude that Hansen’s projections were right on. But that would have spoiled the story.

But that’s okay, it’s not about global warming anyway, it’s about clear cutting America’s intellectual environment. In the American Kultur Kampf the ends justify the means. Jeremy Stone would have understood completely.

Yet, there was a sort of logical consequence to Stone’s ideas. If you really feared and hated your brain, you would attempt to destroy it. Destroy your own, and others.

Michael Crichton – The Andromeda Strain

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday February 27, 2005

Two Cartoons This Week

Ideology of evil is it? Why not call us all Christ Killers too while you’re at it?

One cartoon on the ideology of evil, and one on Phill Kline, who seems to think he has an unalienable right to put his nose where it doesn’t belong.

Hey…and I got my homework done too! I should go take my car for a drive now…before it gets snowed in. I’m just one mile short of the end of the break-in period…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Like A Bad Car Advertisment

I’m sitting here working on homework, and suddenly I have a craving for a cheeseburger. There’s a Mcdonald’s just down Falls Road from me, within walking distance. But my stomach is telling me that, no, what I crave is a big juicy Checkers cheeseburger. And the nearest Checkers location I that can recall, is up I-83 and a quarter of the way around the beltway from here.

Actually, what I’m craving is a drive in my new car. I did this last night too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday February 26, 2005

Quick…Someone Alert The Unity Coalition

Stefen Styrsky at Gay City News has a good summary up, of Bush Administration efforts to push gay and lesbian Americans to the margins of society.

It’s about more then the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment. The Bush gang assault on gay and lesbian Americans is broad and sweeping, almost breathtaking in its scope, and its shear contempt for homosexual people. From demanding that any reference to gays, bisexuals lesbians and transgendered be removed from a suicide prevention conference, about preventing suicide among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals, to Office of Special Counsel director Scott Bloch, first denying that laws against discrimination protected gay government employees (even going so far as to remove references to cases the OSC had successfully fought on that basis) to his firing of OSC staffers for expressing disagreement over the sexual orientation policy, two of whom were themselves gay, the Bush administration has at every turn, attacked and undermined what had been well established practices within the federal government, of treating gay and lesbian Americans with dignity, and with respect.

Any homosexual who still after all this, supports Bush has no excuse to be angry when other gays call them self hating, because that’s what you pretty much have to be at this point. All this claptrap since Bush was heard on tape talking about how he had nothing against homosexuals…well so what? Seriously. A Difference That Makes No Difference Is No Difference. If his stomping for the FMA wasn’t the last straw, then that demand to remove references to gays from a suicide prevention conference should sure as hell have been. And if that wasn’t enough, then you really are self hating, and I don’t give a flying fuck if calling you that pisses you off, because in the grand scheme of things your getting pissed off at me and not a president who doesn’t even want people talking about ways to deal with the causes of suicide among homosexuals is beyond pathetic. Grow a fucking spine.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Light Of Other Days

I was digging through some old negatives, to gently harass an old friend I hadn’t heard from in ages. I was looking for the contact sheet with images I’d taken when he gave me a look at the University of Maryland’s campus radio station, then called WUMC. I have no idea if it’s still in existence or not. Back then it was a simple carrier current station you couldn’t pick up off campus. It was, I think, 1973. The second semester of his freshman year, and my first year looking for work, and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t start with college until 1974, and then at my local community college. There wasn’t much money in my family to send me to school, and back then I had an idea that I’d like to be a newspaper photographer. So I was working this and that odd job to make some money, while I tried to get my pictures in the local newspapers.

To make a very long story with that short, I discovered two things about myself that derailed me on my first career track. First, that newspaper photography was a lot more competitive then I had a temperament for. Second, that I really wasn’t so much interested in photography as journalism, but as art. If that seems pretentious, here’s the practical side of it: I was given an assignment to take some shots at a news conference where a developer had agreed to restore some delapidated art deco buildings. There was a small gathering of politicians and businessmen on a street that day in front of this old building that on that cloudy afternoon, seemed to be leering brutally over them. I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of that ghastly 1930s concrete facade, and all those the suit and tie powerbrokers in that cloudy overcast day light. All my shots of that event reflected it. The editor I presented them too had a fit. To her I’d made a group of businessmen trying to do a good thing, rejuvenate a run down part of her town, look ridiculous. Which I hadn’t meant at all to do. Later that night I sat down and looked hard at my work, and it finally started getting through to me. I was really really pleased with the way those shots had turned out. But as journalism they failed miserably. They were not about what the story was about. Not at all. What was worse, I didn’t know if I could have paid enough attention to the story, to get it in pictures. The thing I kept seeing in that old concrete facade just kept yanking my collar. By my late twenties I had pretty much given up on being a photojournalist.

But back in ’73, I was still keen on the idea. My cameras went with me everywhere. One consequence of that is that I have a lot of pictures from that time, that I can bother old friends with. Another I hadn’t reckoned on until lately, is that scattered infrequently here and there among them, is me.

Sometimes I let a friend borrow my camera for a few shots, and there I am among the images, a teenager, a twenty-something, back in a time before personal computers, before compact discs and dvds, before Ronald Reagan and AIDS. A young, longhaired, wirey gay guy, trying to find his fit in the world, trying to figure out how to find love and romance in a world where seedy bars seemed to be the only gay community there was. Sometimes I would see myself in a mirror, and try to take a shot of the person I saw in it. I never did this often though, because I never really found myself beautiful.

Self Portrait In Campus Radio Mirror, 1973
Self Portrait In Campus Radio Mirror, 1973

When I found the image of my old friend that I’d been looking for, I saw this one on the contact sheet too, and decided to give it a closer look. God. What I’d give to be able to go back to that kid and tell him he’s beautiful as well as decent, and he could find the love he’s looking for if he just believed in himself.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday February 25, 2005

Friday Baltimore Blogging

[Update] Images for this week have been removed. Check this week’s postings for new images.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday February 23, 2005

Will The Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up. Oh…You All Are…

A friend of mine, who should really start his own blog, sent me a few pointers regarding the previous post on the two faces of Mitt.

The year is 2002, and Mitt Romney is running for governor of Massachusetts:

"I view him as a moderate Republican," said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s deputy campaign manager. "He’s fiscally conservative, of course, but he’s pro-gay rights, pro-choice and he supports the assault-weapon ban."

Fehrnstrom said that while Romney "believes marriage is a union between a man and a woman" he also supports domestic partner benefits and would not move to outlaw them.

Link

Now on to 2003:

Bay Windows is the "big" gay newspaper in Massachusetts ("The Bay State").

MLCR == Massachusetts Log Closet Republicans

MLCR endorsed Romney’s gubernatorial bid last fall, in part because of his stated support for granting gay and lesbian couples a limited set of legal protections he called domestic partnership benefits.

Link

Link

Now move on to 2004, and Romney’s Presidential campaign is already in full swing:

Schiz Romney
Do national aspirations explain the governor’s switch from nice guy to anti-gay-marriage activist?
BY KRISTEN LOMBARDI

FLASH BACK for a moment to the 2002 gubernatorial race, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney was doing everything in his power to woo the state’s gay community. At the annual Gay Pride parade, Romney passed out fliers declaring, "All citizens deserve equal rights." He told the local gay newspaper Bay Windows that he would do all he could "as governor to educate the public on the need to fight discrimination of any form." He trumpeted his support for "benefits for domestic partners," by which he meant not just health insurance but also hospital-visitation and survivorship rights. And while Romney made clear his opposition to gay marriage, he indicated a certain degree of flexibility on the issue.

Link

Link

P.S. Romney was also a life-long pro choicer, starting in 2002. Prior to that he was a pro-lifer.

P.P.S. Romney insists that he’s a tax cheat. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Massachusetts law requires that a governor reside in the state for seven years prior to taking office. For three of those seven years (prior to his run in 2002), Romney was claiming permanent-residence status in Utah, which netted him a cool $50,000 in savings off his property taxes. He also filed at least one of his Massachusetts state tax returns (for income earned in Massachusetts) as a non-resident, netting even more cash savings. In order to run for governor, Romney insisted that he was in fact a resident of Massachusetts the whole time, that he cheated on his Massachusetts state income taxes & his Utah property taxes.

He re-filed his Massachusetts return for that year as a resident, rather belatedly I might add. I don’t know if he ever made good on the money he says he cheated out of Utah.

Swear to god John, I’m going to start another more overtly political blog that we, and perhaps a few others, can all post to…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Well, I Had A Little More To Say…

If you read the Love, In The Time Of War post you might want to revisit it because I’ve almost completely re-written it. It was my last post before bedtime, and as I went to sleep I saw that I hadn’t really made the point I wanted to make, about what was so stunning, and frightening, about that spontaneous gesture of love right smack in the middle of Huckabee’s covenant marriage orgy.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday February 22, 2005

Love, In The Time Of War

From Salon, which I’ll link to now that equivocating David Talbot is gone, comes this Valentine’s Day dispatch from the frontlines of the war on love:

Holding on to her husband’s arm, a middle-aged woman in a white wedding veil and sparkly makeup beamed as she walked past a cluster of protesters outside the Alltel Arena in Little Rock, Ark. The couple joined thousands of others, all streaming into the stadium for a Valentine’s Day "Celebration of Marriage" hosted by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet. Those who weren’t welcome at the governor’s celebration — gay couples like Robert Loyd and John Schenck, together for 30 years and recently wed in Toronto — took the event as a personal rebuke. After all, just a few months ago, Arkansas voted overwhelmingly to ban both gay marriage and domestic partnerships — all in the name of preserving the institution of marriage.

"I can’t marry my Valentine," said one sign. "Get a new Valentine," one woman, a celebrant, shouted as she walked in.

The highlight of the night was the Huckabees’ conversion of their marriage and restatement of their vows, including Janet’s pledge to "submit" to Mike. When they were done, they invited the audience to repeat their promises. Thousands of wives stood up and vowed to submit to thousands of husbands, and then thousands of people kissed and cheered.

There was only one interruption. During Huckabee’s speech, a group of young activists unfurled banners saying "Queer Rights Now." As security guards moved in to hustle them out, two young men embraced. They stayed put as the rest of their group moved into the aisles, looking a little scared as they clung to each other as people jeered them and called for their arrest.

It was the most romantic thing I saw all night.

That simple spontaneous gesture of affection, far more then the protest banner, was more dangerous then you may realize. Especially in the context of a grandiose rite of covenant marriage.

As the Salon article points out, covenant marriages, offered supposedly as a solution to the divorce rate (of which Arkansas’ is third highest in the nation), are marriages that are much harder to then the usual no fault divorce. As with all religious right social engineering, it is a strategy of authority over human empowerment. Instead of making marriage stronger, by taking steps to make married couples stronger, they simply make the state stronger and married couples more subservient. Instead of providing supports that help couples in love to secure and nurture their relationships, the religious right offers a cage couples can lock themselves in, on the theory that turning marriage into a prison, will make it stronger. It is not for us to be strong ourselves.

What’s missing here? Only any shred of acknowledgement, let alone respect for, the human status. The more autonomy a state takes from its people, the weaker it makes them. That is the basic premise of democracy, and it is why the religious right hates it, and the modern world it created together.

It seems obvious that marriage is a contract between a couple and the state, which to the degree both honor it, both benefit from it. Neither party to a contract can just casually walk away from it, without the benefit of that contract being lost. But a contract for what? If marriage is about anything, it is about couples in love, about human pair bonding, about a part of our nature older then the primates, older then the mammals, which human societies deny or distort at their peril. Couples in love need the recognition and support of the societies they live in, for reasons that are obvious to anyone, except a religious right nutcase. For example:

A gay man dies alone in an unfamiliar hospital while his longtime partner tries fruitlessly to get permission to be by his side. It’s a too-common scenario that documents such as living wills, powers of attorney, and domestic-partnership registration are supposed to prevent. But in the death of Robert Lee "Bobby" Daniel, 34, at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in October 2000, none of that mattered, according to a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund on February 27. San Franciscan Bill Robert Flanigan Jr., 34, had power of attorney for Daniel, his registered domestic partner, but was barred from his room and from consulting with physicians because Flanigan was not considered "family" by the hospital, charges the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.

The couple had been driving to meet family in northern Virginia when Daniel became ill. He died without being able to say goodbye to his partner. "I have a huge hole in my heart, and my soul, because I wasn’t allowed to be with Bobby when he needed me most," Flanigan said in a statement.

The decent, sane society, understands that love, and the human need to be loved by another, is not only at the heart of a marriage, but the thing that makes human civilizations possible. For without that capacity to love and accept love from another, and all the better angels of our nature that makes possible, trust, honor, kindness, compassion, sympathy, commitment, only the dog eat dog jungle is possible to us. The decent, sane society, acts in every way it can to support and strengthen that bond between couples. In return it gets peace and stability, a culture of mutual respect, where trust and mutual concern are possible, a decent environment for children to be raised in, citizens whose most basic emotional needs are met and who can thereby realize their human potential.

But it is precisely that human potential that the religious right loathes the most. They want to snuff it out utterly, wherever it raises its head above the gutter, so they won’t have to see by comparison the barren wasteland they’ve made of their own lives. No fault divorce was created precisely to give people trapped in barren, abusive, toxic relationships a better way out, so they wouldn’t be forced into fighting an abusive spouse in court, so they, and their children if they had any, wouldn’t have to suffer the agony of a scorched earth divorce trial. The religious right denies that any of this matters, as only people who cannot comprehend why anyone would care about human pain and suffering could, as only people who despise anyone who thinks that love matters could. Women are supposed to submit to their spouses they say. Men are supposed to rule over their households they say. Couples don’t have to love each other they say. Couples don’t need to love each other they say. And if some couples do love each other, fondly, wholeheartedly, then what does that make of their lives, their households, their marriages?

Same sex marriage won’t degrade their own marriages, so much as show how degraded marriage becomes when you are incapable of bringing into it, the one thing that is central to it: love. Same sex marriage is a bright pure light shining onto the cesspool of their lives. If you want to piss off a wing nut, go ahead and raise a Queer Rights Now banner in front of them. But if you want to make them dangerous, make them feel ashamed. That banner raised at Huckabee’s ball and chain party only gave the wing nuts there an excuse to puff themselves up into little balls of self sanctimonious outrage. But catching sight of actual love and affection, all the more genuine and beautiful for its spontaneity in the face of danger, had to remind every wing nut there who saw it of everything possible to a human being, that they will never be. Those two kids could have been killed for showing them that.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Trolling In The Sewer Of Virtue

Some guys…they cross a state line, and suddenly they become different people…

Speculation is growing that Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is considering a run for the White House in 2008 but he is not winning any supporters from gay Republicans.

In a speech Monday night in South Carolina Romney went on the attack against same-sex marriage to thunderous applause. If Romney does seek the GOP nomination he would have to win the South Carolina primary.

The conservative Mormon from the nation’s most liberal state told Spartanburg Republicans that he has not only opposed gay marriage but also civil unions "from day one.”

The remark left some people stunned in his home state. Romney is supporting an amendment to the Mass. constitution that would ban gay marriage but allow civil unions.

So…who did Romney lie to? The people of Massachusetts when he presented himself to them as a moderate, or the people of South Carolina when he told them he was a conservative? Or is he, like George Bush, simply lying to everyone every time he opens his mouth, because lying is the only way is the only way he knows how to deal with life? Values. Moral Values. Republican Moral Values.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Typical

Joshua Marshall’s Talking Points Memo blog is a valuable resource, for keeping up on the story behind the story in the social security privatization fight. Today he posts this, on republican sock puppet group USA Next:

GOP front groups like USANext (the folks now working to uncover the AARP-homosexual world conspiracy) usually change their names every couple years or hive off other outfits just to keep everyone guessing. So USANext is actually part of the United Seniors Association, or as they put it: "USA United Generations and USA NEXT are grassroots projects of United Seniors Association (USA) which is celebrating its 13th anniversary as the non-partisan, 1.5 million-plus nationwide grassroots network Uniting the Generations for Americaís Future."

They share the same website now. So really it’s all the same outfit.

In any case, despite claiming this vast membership, this article from last year in The Washington Monthtly makes clear that United Seniors Association is basically a slush fund through which pharmaceutical companies make huge donations to the Republican party.

Says the article …

Then there’s the benignly-named United Seniors Association (USA), which serves as a soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry: pharmaceuticals. USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists, but, just like Progress for America, listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return. USA does, however, have plenty of money on its hands. During the 2002 elections, with an "unrestricted educational grant" from the drug industry burning a hole in its pocket, the group spent roughly $14 million–the lion’s share of its budget–on ads defending Republican members of Congress for their votes on a Medicare prescription-drug bill.

You can pick up the story on the United Seniors money mill from this July 2003 consumer bulletin from, of all places, the dreaded AARP.

One thing we learn from the AARP bulletin is that they apparently picked up USANext chief Charlie Jarvis from that notorious Spongebob-basher radical cleric James Dobson. Before he got the USANext gig, Jarvis was an executive vice president of Dobson’s group Focus on the Family. And in the interests of bringing you all the information, it seems that it is not 100% accurate to say that USANext is a slush fund purely for the drug industry, seeing as how Jarvis was willing to bring the group out in favor of the rights of seniors to drill in ANWR after an Anchorage-based company called Arctic Power cut a check for $181,000. And if all that weren’t enough, it seems that as of the summer of 2003 the Social Security Administration itself had secured a ‘cease and desist’ order against Jarvis’s group for sending out mailings that "mislead the public into believing the mail is officially sent or approved by the Social Security Administration."

Charlie Jarvis, quite a piece a’ work.

A fake plan to save social security, whose purpose in reality is to destroy it, so the republicans can finally claim victory over FDR’s New Deal, supported by a fake seniors group, which smears a real seniors group with phony mailings and lies which will, undoubtedly, be reported as truths by republican sock puppet journalists. Democracy, republican style.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Amen

Some more thoughts on the passing of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson…shamelessly stolen from the comments section in this Daily Kos post.

"Whatever they want the answer is no. Now is not the time to fold, now is the time to up the ante."
-Charles Pierce

"If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so, of course, it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break, it kills. It kills the very good, and the very gentle, and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry."
Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms

And then there’s this, which if it doesn’t disturb you, then you need to check your pulse…

I think what a lot of people forget, and what the WashPost surely didn’t get by describing gonzo journalism as "the ambiguous zones between fact and fiction" is that Thompson was writing from a place of great pain.

Pain that the American dream was so obviously not the reality of what it was reported to be, pain that people and policians could be as stupid and as venal as he perceived them, pain and despair because the reality fell so far short of the possibility. Which sounds not unlike many of us here.

Posted by Mnemosyne

If you want to know why he took his own life, just read these great quotes, and remember that they were written before the election.

If he could see back in 9/12 what was coming down the pike, imagine what he sees after another 4 years of Bush.

For a guy who looked into the most vile heart of his own nation and survived to tell the tale, it turned out to be too much after all.

Posted by Deep Dark

Yeah. He saw it coming all right. Whether that was what finally killed him or not, who can say? James Wolcott addresses the ache some of us are feeling now best in his post The Big Out:

Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide is Hemingwayesque in the shock waves it sends, the inner dimensions of darkness that it rips open. A peaceful death rounds off the narrative of one’s life, completes the circle. A violent, self-inflicted death leaves an unfillable, unpatchable hole.

It does. After Kennedy’s assassination, Thompson wrote:

The savage nuts have shattered the great myth of American decency. They can count me in – I feel ready for a dirty game.

He wrote from a place of great pain and it took its toll. It’ll take its toll on all of us. Is it any wonder that the most favored writers nowadays, the most favored journalists, are so superficial? Who really wants to watch their nation, their culture, belly flopping into the trash can of history? But if you give a good goddamn about it, about everything fine and noble and decent that is possible to us as a species, then you can’t turn away. Whatever it was that made Thompson decide to take the Big Out, was his business. I can’t and won’t pass judgement on him for it. If you stare into the Pit, the Pit also stares back into you. Hemingway, who would have known it well himself, was right. This world kills the very good, and the very gentle, and the very brave impartially. But Pierce is right too. Whatever they want the answer is no.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Belly Flopping Into The Fascism Pool

Remember how, when it was a democrat in the white house, the republicans kept bellyaching about something called liberal fascism? Ever notice how, even when they control all three branches of the federal government, and most of the statehouses in America, they still bellyache about this thing called liberal fascism? Well… here’s their tonic to all of that:

ATTORNEYS FOR the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another’s arguments. [emphasis mine]

Ahmed Abu Ali was arrested in June 2003 in Saudi Arabia. He and his family claim the arrest took place at the behest of U.S. officials who, though unable to bring a case against him, have encouraged the Saudis to keep him locked up. The facts are murky, and Judge John D. Bates refused in December to dismiss the case, writing that he needed more information before he could decide whether a U.S. court has jurisdiction.

Since then, the U.S. government has acted to frustrate all reasonable searches for answers. It has moved to stay discovery based on secret evidence. It has proposed adding to the facts at Judge Bates’s disposal by submitting secret evidence that Mr. Abu Ali’s attorneys would have no opportunity to challenge. Most recently, it urged that the case be dismissed on the basis, yet again, of secret evidence — this time supplemented with what a Justice Department lawyer termed "legal argument [that] itself cannot be made public without disclosing the classified information that underlies it."

Judge Bates is cautious and generally deferential to government concerns. Yet he was evidently disturbed by this argument, at one point asking whether the government could identify "any case in which . . . even the legal theory for dismissal is not known to the other side?" The government could not.

In this case, the liberty of a U.S. citizen is at stake. It is not clear what role the U.S. government played in his arrest, nor that he is innocent. What is clear is that Mr. Abu Ali has been held for 20 months without being charged and that, as Judge Bates wrote in December, his lawyers "have presented some unrebutted evidence that [his] detention is at the behest and ongoing direction of United States officials." It should be unthinkable that the courts would resolve this matter without hearing from both sides on key legal questions. It should have been unthinkable for the government to propose such a step.

Should have been? It should have been unthinkable that George Bush would have gotten 51 percent of the vote last November. Nothing is unthinkable now. Understand this if you understand nothing else about the next four years. Nothing is unthinkable now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday February 21, 2005

Republicans Say The Darndest Things

The people who worked on the Swift Vets smear campaign have a new job: smearing American Association of Retired People (AARP). Ironically, or maybe it’s just sweet Schadenfreude, AARP was a key player in getting Junior’s Drug Benefit scam through congress. Apparently having sold out their membership once, and getting an earful of it afterwards, was more then enough. AARP is digging in its heels over Social Security. But in Junior’s America, dissent is not allowed, it must be crushed. And the more squalid the means of doing that, the better:

Taking its cues from the success of last year’s Swift boat veterans’ campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush’s toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.

The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush’s plan.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."

USA Next is another Republican Party sock puppet. It is a front organization of retired people, whose main purpose in life is to attack AARP, to, by any means necessary, neutralize it:

USA Next has been portraying AARP as a liberal organization out of step with Republican values, and is now trying to discredit its stance on Social Security. USA Next’s campaign has involved appearances by its leaders, including Art Linkletter, its national chairman, on Fox News and various television programs. Its commercials are to be broadcast around the country in coming weeks.

Mr. Jarvis said the group’s goal is to peel off one million members from AARP, by presenting itself as a conservative, free-market alternative. He says USA Next surveys show that more than 37 percent of AARP members call themselves Republicans.

"We are going to take them on in hand-to-hand combat," said Mr. Jarvis, who is biting in his remarks about AARP, calling the group "stodgy, overweight, bureaucratic and out of touch."

Formerly known as the United Seniors Association, USA Next was founded in 1991 by Richard Viguerie, a Republican pioneer and mastermind of direct mailings, who raised millions of dollars from older Americans using solicitations that sent alarming messages about Social Security. In 1992, there were allegations that the group was used as a device to enrich other companies owned by Mr. Viguerie, drawing criticism from watchdog groups and Democratic lawmakers.

So Art Linkletter is on board as their spokesman. Gosh…don’t we all (of my generation anyway) remember loveable old People Are Funny Kids Say The Darndest Things Art?

Republicans Say The Darndest Things

Oh…by the way…here’s the first shot in USA Next’s Campaign against AARP:

American Spectator Ad

Hey Art…this kind of crap what you want to be remembered for? Like having your face next to crap like that? You’d better, because that’s what you signed up for.

No…that ad is no joke. It’s all too sickeningly real. And who can honestly say it’s a surprise or a shock. In the last election, the Bush Gang relentlessly demonized Gay Americans for votes. It worked. You think they won’t keep on using it? You think any of them give a crap that this kind of thing gets gay people killed in the process? Get Real!

This post is dedicated to all those former friends of mine, who still think I’m an asshole for not speaking to them after they voted for Bush last November. Hey…gang…pals…your names are all on that advertisement. You told USA Next that even our friends don’t really give a shit about us. You, each of you, gave them your personal permission to keep kicking Bruce, and people like him, in the face for votes. Go. To. Hell!

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Outlaw Journalism

Steve Gilliard has the best commentary I’ve seen so far, on the death of Hunter S. Thompson. And he raises a point we should all ponder in his passing, that it isn’t just journalism that is failing us, but our fiction too:

Because of two different trends in writing.

One is the coopting of journalists. The insiders beat back the challenges from the Sheehans, Halberstams and Arnetts. Those who played the game won, those who didn’t became heroes and authors, and exiled from the newsroom. Arnett hung on longer than most, but most were gone from the daily papers by 1975. Or they became enamored of celebrity, like Bob Woodward. Some like Sydney Schamberg and Ray Bonner, following in their tradition, were booted from newsrooms the minute their bosses felt uncomfortable. Or exiled to "alternative" papers. The newsroom became the home of the tame dissident and the complient office holder. Carl Hiaasen saves his most brutal critques of Florida life for his crime fiction. Bob Greene wrote drivel for years, finally canned, not for a lack of talent, but an excess of hunting teenaged trim. The best writing in the Washington Post is Tom Boswell’s sports columns.

If people are disheartened by this, they shouldn’t be. Ernie Pyle died 60 years ago this week, because he loved soldiers and the stories of their lives. Edward R. Murrow was forced out of CBS. Thompson was lucky in that since he was never inside the tent, they could never kick him out. But most of the great heroes of journalism were and will be forced from the newsroom, because that is not a place for uncomfortable truths. There has never been a national columnist like Jack Newfield or Mike Royko or Jimmy Breslin, and never will be. Because they will never play the game, or even recognize it.

The other is the irrevelant nature of modern fiction writing. The worst thing to ever happen to writing was the writing program. Because it allowed people to focus on the trivia in their lives. The greatness of Heller and Mailer escapes these mindless twits nattering about their cheating dads and pill popping moms. It’s not even a world of clever craftsmen like Thomas Pynchon, but of navel gazers like Dave Eggers. Eggers, a silly, irrelevant man in a serious time, draws only my contempt and scorn. I mean, his idea of struggle was living off inherentences. Not that his personal story wasn’t tragic, but it’s not Sophie’s Choice. The problem is that Eggers and his little group of confederates are trivial people in a not trivial time.

So you have journalists, Washington journalists, who report but do not question, getting squeamish when people do, like Helen Thomas, seeking to live off the handouts of their "sources", and get the hand-fed "scoop" which will sell papers. And fiction writers more concerned with apartments and cheating mates than the world around them.

Seriously…go read the rest of his article. Then try to imagine a book like The Grapes Of Wrath, or Silent Spring being promoted, given a prominant space on the mega bookstore shelves if it were written today. Steve posts four excerpts from current fiction on Amazon, that are instantly recognizable, not for the specific writers, but precisely because they could have been written about any of a zillion books you’ll find on the shelves today. It’s like elevator music, a part of the background you don’t really notice, don’t really want to notice, because noticing it means seeing how utterly empty and soulless it is. It’s time we paid attention to how empty the written words in our everyday environment are. The soul of a nation is dying in them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday February 20, 2005

Department Of Free Advice.

Hey. George. Just tell them you didn’t inhale.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

New Car Love

I had a homework assignment I had to get in by the end of the day. I could have had it in first thing in the morning, but I had to take the Accord out for an afternoon drive, and then an evening one.

It handles the road really well, rides over rough pavement much better then anything I’ve ever owned before, and hugs sharp curves very impressively. I’m still in the break-in period, so I’m not pushing it, but I took a curve a tad faster then I’d intended this afternoon…it was tighter then I’d reckoned going into it, and the car just grabbed into it like it was no big deal. Very smooth. I love my new car.

One thing I regret, is the satellite radio. It’s XM, and I wanted Sirius, because Sirius has a Gay channel, OutQ. Times I was driving though the great plains last September, I could have really liked having OutQ to listen to, instead of the constant barrage of hate radio that’s out there. But the Honda I wanted came with XM, like it or not. I couldn’t get the trim level I wanted, without the satellite radio too.

I get the first three months of XM free. Now that I’ve had it for a couple of days, I’m starting to like it a lot, which is good/bad. Good, because I haven’t really listened to radio in ages, because of the no good crap that’s always on it, and the barrage of advertising on top of that. Satellite radio is nice. No commercials, but more importantly, a real choice of music to listen to. I’m finding myself growing addicted to its channel 80 underground dance music channel. While on the road, my Paul van Dyk cds have been a constant companion, and I’ve always felt that if I could just hear more of this kind of music, I’d have a much bigger collection of it. But I hate commercial radio anymore, and I doubt you can even find this stuff anywhere on that dial. And I am not a dance club kinda guy. It may seem counter intuitive that dance music would be good for the road, but for me the exuberant beat just seems to match how I feel about eating up the miles as I go, and watching the landscape unfold all around me. I just wish I was getting to love a Sirius radio, instead of an XM one. I want my OutQ too. In a couple of months I’m going to have to decide whether or not I want to keep the XM radio alive. Damn, I wish it was Sirius.

I’ve had some requests for pictures, so here are a few for starters:

Front View

Engine Compartment

Interior View

The engine is a 2.5 liter four. About half again as big as the four in my Prism. Surprisingly, it’s not as quiet as the Prism’s engine, though it is as smooth at idle. Sound deadening materials, I guess, keep the noise out of the passenger compartment. And it’s got pep. The car wants to go at highway speeds. I’m having to watch myself carefully during the break-in period, to keep the revs and the speed down. After break-in, I’ll have to be careful about my speed. It may only be a four, but it wants to go.

I wanted my new car to have a nicely done, comfortable passenger compartment, and the Accord, in my opinion, does it much better then the Camry. It is not a luxury car, but in this shot it almost looks like one. I’m discovering little tricks they’ve pulled here and there to keep the cost down, that they wouldn’t have in an actual luxury car. The seats are leather, as well as the armrests and a few other spots you’re likely to touch often, but all the places you aren’t, and the dashboard, are either vinyl or a leather looking hard plastic. And while it’s a power driver’s seat, the passenger has to adjust theirs manually. However both front seats are heated. Somebody was thinking there. Your significant other might not mind adjusting their own seat, but sitting on a cold one while you sit in your own nicely heated one probably isn’t good for a relationship.

And the car spoils you in a lot of little ways that with microprocessor electronics, probably don’t cost very much to build into a car, but which add nice touches. The interior lights come on when you unlock the doors, but then only when its dark, and when you get in and turn the engine on, they don’t just blink off automatically, they fade out. And then there’s the multi-function key that I’m still learning how to use. I’m starting to like being able to open the trunk without having to put all my grocery bags down first. The car is spoiling me, and it’s not even a luxury car. It’s a mid price compact car, just a few thousand more then the base model. I remember when luxury in a compact car was you got the air conditioning option.

No, the steering wheel was not installed upside down, that’s just how I park it, so I can put the Club bar hanging off the bottom of the wheel instead of the top. The car has several built-in security devices, it’s not just a simple alarm system you get anymore, and the Club bar may not be as useful these days, but I know for a fact that thing saved my Prism once, and so I reckon I’ll keep using it. I park with the wheel upside down because if I hang the Club bar across the top, it turns on my cruse control button. I’m not sure how cruse control works on a stick, and I’ve been told not to use the cruse control until after the break-in period, so we’ll see. I’m not a cruse control kinda guy, but that was something else that just came with the rest of the package.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Pissing On The Grave Of Edward R. Murrow…(continued)

Leonard Pitts Jr.:

These are the folks who pay pundits to say nice things about them. The ones who pressure scientists to change science that conflicts with political goals. The ones who ignore their own experts when confronted with information they’d rather not believe. And this is a president whose news conferences occur with only slightly more frequency than ice storms do in Key West, who ducks hard questions posed by actual reporters, preferring to bat slow pitches tossed by average citizens pre-screened for their support.

So planting a party stooge among the real reporters hardly seems out of character.

The thing is, a government that is not scrutinized by an energetic and adversarial press is a government that is not accountable for its actions. A government that is allowed to create its own reality is a government that can get away with anything.

So where is our outrage?

Frankly, the only thing more galling than the brazenness with which the White House abrogates the public’s right to know is the sheeplike docility with which we accept it, with which we become complicit in our own hoodwinking.

When the history of this era is written, people will wonder why we didn’t challenge its excesses, why we didn’t know the things we should have. If you’re still around, remember the uproar you do not hear right this moment and tell them the truth.

Ignorance was easier.

Go read the whole thing. Let me ask it again: Which is the more morally reprehensible…a nation with no freedom of the press, or one with a free press that sells out?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday February 19, 2005

A Wee Drive In The Country

I took the Accord out for its first drive, a little jaunt down to Gaithersburg and back to check out a computer show at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. Some months back I promised a family member who’s off to college, that I’d find him an inexpensive refurbished laptop, since he lives in the sticks of southern Virginia and they don’t have much in the way of computer dealers, or shows there. It was a good enough reason to give the Accord its first little drive, start breaking it in, and getting to know its ways.

I’m still in the break-in period, so I’m being careful not to push the engine into high revs. What I’m discovering is that the new car is so quiet that I can’t depend on the sound of the engine revving for shifting cues. I have to watch the tach more carefully then I did my Prism. Man, they’re making compact cars a lot quieter now then they did thirteen years ago. The Accord, while nicely equipped, is not a luxury car. But it is so quiet, and handles rough patches of road so well, it feels like luxury car. Or at least, it does to me. I, who have spent the last thirteen years in a Geo Prism. But that Prism was a damn good car.

In the 70s I watched automobile quality going down the tubes and thought I’d be lucky to ever own a decent car. Then the Japanese car invasion hit the U.S. and everyone started predicting the demise of the automobile industry in a wave of cheap imports. What’s happened is that cars, affordable cars, are now vastly better designed and built then they were when I bought my first one. My first car, a 1973 Ford Pinto, had a 1.6 liter overhead valve four banger with a single barrel carburator. It huffed and puffed at speeds greater then 53 mph. When I drove it through the Rocky Mountains in August of ’74, it lugged and gasped for air at the high altitudes. Driving above the tree line, it refused to go into any gear higher then first. My Prism also had a 1.6 liter engine, but with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and electronic fuel injection. It loved doing 80 mph on those long stretches of desert highway in the four corners, and when I first took it though the Rockies it just purred contentedly the whole way. The Accord, I am certain now, will do the same. I loved that Pinto, got 135k miles out of it, but the Prism had a far more solid substantial feel to it at day one, despite its vinyl seats and plastic window cranks. You can tell, even when you’re just sitting at idle, when a car has a good, tight design, and is solidly made. The Prism had it. And the Accord has that solid feel squared. Its going to eat up the great plains and the western deserts, I just know it.

I watched its odometer go from double, to triple digits today. I drove with the moon roof open for the first time, and imagined myself driving through New Mexico at night with the desert stars overhead. I must have grabbed for the window crank about a dozen times today, before remembering.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Well…It’s Certainly Not My Pinto

You know the world has changed when, in addition to an owner’s manual, cars also come with a Quick Start Guide.

I have a key with three buttons on it. Playing with it last night, I discovered that one of them rolls down all the windows if you hold it long enough. Okay. What I couldn’t figure out, was how to make the key roll them back up again. So I had to get back in the car, put the key in the ignition, and roll each of them back up one at a time, since I couldn’t figure out how to make the driver’s side arm rest controls do them all at once either. I’ll probably need to keep the Quick Start Guide handy.

Since they’re electric, I guess saying that I’m rolling the car windows up, doesn’t make sense. I raise the windows. I lower the windows. I don’t roll them in either direction. I can remember when power windows were something only luxury cars had. For a little extra, I could have had power windows on a Geo Prism in ’93. Now some subcompact economy cars have them standard. The parts are probably lots cheaper now, and automakers probably don’t want to have to fuss with dual mechanical systems like that on an assembly line anymore. Some day, just using the phrase "rolling up the windows" will date me. If it doesn’t already.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

That New Car Smell

Ohmygod. I did it.

The little green car had 187 thousand miles on it, and though mostly trouble free, I began to worry about its ability to go much further, and in particular, to take me on the long road trips I love. Thirteen years is a long time to own a car, but I do that. I held onto my first car, a 1973 Ford Pinto, for ten years, and when I finally gave it up, everything but the motor was coming apart on it. The motor I took care of fanatically, and it never gave me any major problems (well…once the water pump started leaking, but that was a fairly straightforward fix). The rest of the car simply started falling apart, and pretty much all at once. The dashboard vinyl was split wide open in several places. The steering wheel was cracked in two places. The seats were full of holes. The shift lever kept popping out, its plastic retaining nut stripped from all the times I had to drop the transmission to replace the clutch.

The Prism wasn’t in nearly as bad shape. There was some rust here and there where road rocks had dinged it. The front seat upholstery was worn through in spots. A few knobs had come off. Some under the dashboard panels were hanging loose because their retaining knobs had snapped off – due to age I guess since I’d never touched them. The power steering pump rattled loudly when the engine was cold. The rear axle was starting to make a disturbing sound. It was getting close to time again to replace the cam belt, which is expensive. So I’d started thinking about getting a new one, but it wasn’t exactly a pressing issue either. Then came the cancellation of Hubble servicing mission 4.

We may still get one…or not. I’m not counting on it. I hope we do, for the sake of the science Hubble is still capable of doing, and the discoveries that only Hubble is capable of making. But if I have to look for other work, I’ve got a pretty good resume, and even in this economy I shouldn’t have to sell the house and go live in a flop somewhere. But I’d still need a reliable car, first to go job hunt, then, almost certainly, to be back in the commuter grind.

And that’s what it came down to. If I buy a new car now, I can probably have it paid off before Hubble stops working altogether. If we get the servicing mission, the fine. If not, then at least I won’t have car worries, on top of everything else.

I wanted something a little bigger then my Geo Prism, and a little nicer. And it had to have the same reliability stats that the Prism had when I bought it, which were excellent. But my budget was not huge. After hemming and hawing about it for nearly a year, I decided against getting a small pickup truck, which could come in handy, but wouldn’t be fun, and a small two seater roadster, which could be fun, but not handy. I’m a four door sedan kinda guy. But it had to have a stick.

If you drive a stick you understand. There is just no other driving. Everything else is riding. Some people want that. They just want to point the car and go without a fuss. I’ve found that very few of these like driving for its own sake. They look at me like I’m a tad nuts when I tell them I’d rather spend a couple weeks on the road then at the beach. Maybe some day I’ll be too old for a stick, but by then I might be too old for a driver’s license too, so I’m going to enjoy the road while I can. A stick is required.

But the car makers don’t seem to think people like me are much of a market. Oh, you can reliably get a nice two seater with a stick. But a nice four door sedan with a stick? Years ago I fell absolutely in love with the Infiniti j-30. I could have managed it, but there was no stick available. I could, barely, squeeze a Lexus ES out of my budget, but you can’t get one in a stick. You can still, I think, get the Mercedes c-240 in a stick, but that car is small for a Mercedes sedan, and Mercedes reliability is definitely not what it was when I was a teenager, ogling them in showrooms. If I’m spending that much money on a car, it damn well better be as reliable as my Geo Prism was.

It came down to the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. I think Honda’s corporate culture made the difference. Mr. Honda loved to race, and I hear that he made his way to CEO of a big world wide auto company with his name on it, on pure love of automobiles. I could get a nicely equipped Accord in a stick. And by nice I mean leather interior, leather wrapped steering wheel, wood trim, heated front seats, CD changer, satellite radio, moon roof, alarm system nice. Toyota only offered the nicely equipped Camrys in an automatic. I’d have bought the Toyota without much more thought, on the basis of my experience with the Prism. But a stick is required.

The test drive cinched it. I have never driven a stick so fine, that didn’t come with a pricetag way in the stratosphere. This car rocks.

Last night I brought one home. At fifty-one I guess I’m doing okay. Twice before in my life I’ve owned second hand cars that were hand me downs from friends. I took what I could get because I had almost no money and I needed a car. I was willing then to endure an automatic, because the alternative was no car at all. Twice I was able to buy a new car, but only barely, and took the cheapest car with a stick on the lot. I got whatever color and options it had. This time, for the first time in my life, I got exactly the car I wanted, with exactly the features I wanted. I drove it home and watched its odometer go from single, to double digits. It’s sitting out there as I type this, telling me it’s time to go for a drive now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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