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Archives, 2006 Jan. 11

Thursday January 12, 2006

Loving The Sinner…(continued)

If you’ve been following the GLBT news outlets lately, you’ve probably noticed that it’s been a particularly violent couple of months for sexual minorities world-wide. And it may have occured to you that violence toward sexual minorities has been getting a bit worse overall lately. It has. And there’s a reason for that.

Gay group wins $87,000 over frivolous suit by Louisiana pastor

MADISON, Wis. Wisconsin's largest gay rights group has won 87-thousand dollars in legal bills over what a judge called a frivolous lawsuit.

The group Action Wisconsin won the award last week over a suit made by Louisiana pastor Grant Storms.

Storms claimed the group defamed him by saying he advocated the murder of gays at an anti-gay conference in Milwaukee in 2003.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Patricia McMahon says the group interpreted his remarks reasonably and the lawsuit lacked merit.

...

According to a transcript of his speech, Storm said opponents of gay rights should take to the streets.

Then he mimicked the sound of gunfire, saying, quote, "Boom, boom, boom, boom. There's twenty! Ca-ching."

There’s two things you need to pay attention to in this story. First, this is a pastor, not merely a man of God, but a Christian inciting people to go out and kill their neighbors. It is more then obscene, it’s the kind of thing that lit the ovens of the Holocaust. But there is more to it. Consider also, that when he got called on it he not only denied what he did, he took his accusers to court for slander. Now…you could just write that off as tactical indignation, but if you’re brave and feel a little like peeking down into the Pit today…google Grant Storms, peruse the record of his words and deeds, and consider that Storms knew exactly what he was doing when he mimicked the sound of gunfire, and that when he took Action Wisconsin to court, he genuinely believed that he had done no such thing. Orwell had a word for it: Doublethink.

Thought marked by the acceptance of gross contradictions and falsehoods, especially when used as a technique of self-indoctrination: "Doublethink...is a vast system of mental cheating" (George Orwell).

Definition Via Answers.Com

This is the final step in renouncing your human identity. This is the end of the road. This is the fee prejudice requires. And you pay it up front, and you pay it willingly. Nobody goes into this with their eyes closed. At some point in his life, reality collided with Storms’ cheap conceits and in order for those conceits to win, reality had to loose. But reality never looses. Storms had to walk away from it, and in the end all he could do was walk away from his human identity instead. That’s what hate demands. You have to give it everything, and eventually you become nothing.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Wednesday January 11, 2006

No Kidding

If you're very lucky, you get two or three chances at "love of your life" love. Many people get just one chance. Some people get no chances.

Rex Wockner, reviewing Brokeback Mountain

Yah. No…one reason I’ll likely not be going to see Brokeback Mountain is I’m not hugely interested in watching a film about a guy who lets it all slip away, however painfully trapped in his culture’s homophobia he might have been. I would ache to see Ennis’ heartbreak at the end, and I don’t need to be paying money for that ache. And at least I took my chances.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Tuesday January 10, 2006

Why I Will Probably Never Make Much Doing Political Cartoons

Oh this is precious…you have to read this post from this post from Tom Tomorrow’s blog, if you’re an aspiring cartoonist, someone like me who is just starting to get their feet wet in the publishing world, or simply a fan of the art of political cartooning.

Now, the thing is, I've been down this road a number of times. And this is how it always plays out: a well-meaning art director contacts me. I submit a "rough" (which in my case means a completely written cartoon with roughly sketched in art, but since the writing is the hardest part, thereís no way Iím getting anywhere near compensated for my time unless the piece runs ó which is why I almost never accept work when the words "kill fee" are involved). Even though I am given the impression of a very tight deadline, I wonít hear back for several days, possibly longer ó which will leave me obsessively checking my email and mentally juggling my schedule. Then, after the well-meaning art director finally gets a chance to consult with the page's editors, he or she will come back to me with the inevitable requests for "minor changes" which will somehow undermine, if not completely eviscerate, the integrity of the piece.

Go read the whole thing. You won’t believe what finally happened.

So I ended up googling it, but now I know what a “kill fee” is…

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Monday January 9, 2006

That Sound Of Chains Rattling In The Night…

This week’s cartoon:

More thoughts on the cartoon page. Some other good thoughts over at Howl of the Kweerwolf.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Saturday January 7, 2006

You Know It’s Really Bad When Even Your Fellow Republicans Think You’re Too Corrupt To Be In A Leadership Position…

Via Atrios commentor Cup O’ Joe:

Top Ten Things Overheard At The GOP's Conference To Elect A New Leader

10. "Put your clothes on and stop acting like an idiot!"

9. "I'm telling you for the last time, no one wants to hear about your damned lobotomy!"

8. "My mistress can kick your mistress's ass!"

7. "Glad to see you found a new career, Mr. Watts. Can I have my drink now, please?"

6. "Sorry but I'm not touching any cold cuts since I voted to cut the FDA's budget."

5. "I don't now about you, but if I find out I'm sharing a cell with Cheney or Rumsfeld I'm just gonna kill myself."

4. "I'm not going to comment on that, Mr. Cunningham: and stop making me talk into your lapel!"

3. "So I said to the cop, I said, 'Honest officer, no one was driving...we was all in the back, singing!' "

2. "You can get out from under the podium now, Ms. Coulter. Everyone's gone for the day."

1. "Let's make this easy. Who doesn't have a restraining order against him?"

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

For All Those Who Think Aging Hippies Are Such Free Spirits…

I guess I should put up a SPOILER ALERT here. If you haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain, or read the short story it’s based on, you might not want to read further for now.

Gene Shalit, who like me, refused to change his hair style decades after it went out of fashion, voiced a little establishment contempt for Brokeback Mountain and gay people on Thursday, proving once again that everything you know about aging hippies is probably wrong, unless you lived through that time in America and saw it for yourself. They called it the do your own thing 60s, the decade of peace love and understanding…or sex drugs and rock and roll if you went to trade school. 1967 was the summer of love, and everyone was feelin’ groovy. But all those good vibrations pretty much only applied if you were a heterosexual.

I was there, I lived through that period of time, that horrible, angry, exhilarating time of backlash against racism, Vietnam, and the stifling conformity of the 1950s, and I am here to tell you that when it came to gays, the hippies, the heads and the radicals could be every bit as bigoted and hostile as Nixon’s silent majority. That faggots were the product of a dying decadent materialistic capitalist imperialist culture seemed at times to be one of the few things the various counter cultures could all agree on. And if it takes a lot of hard brutal painful work to open a closed mind, let me tell you it takes a hundred times that to open a mind that thinks it’s already quite open thank you. And some of them never did. Gene Shalit, who never held a candle to Davey Marlin-Jones, being yet another Case In Point.

Last Thursday, Shalit dumped on Brokeback Mountain, calling it “wildly overpraised, but not by me.” But not content simply to let the air out of a film he thought was overpraised he went further, calling Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Jack a “sexual predator”, and lamely adding that Jack just didn’t get Ennis’ “implied response ‘Better desolate then never'”. This was of a piece with the jackass sheep jokes that peppered his review. But calling Jack a sexual predator for simply pursuing the man he loved, a man who loved him too, is no joking matter. That’s what the religious right, called real life Wyoming resident Matthew Shepard after his murder began making headlines, and it’s how bigots think. When heterosexuals pursue the objects of their affections that’s romance. When homosexuals do the same thing they’re dangerous sexual predators who have it coming. And Shalit, having watched Brokeback Mountain, had to know that Jack Twist ended up being brutally beaten to death for his sexual orientation, like so many gay men were back then, and still are today.

TO: today@nbc.com
FROM: Bruce Garrett
SUBJECT: Gene Shalit Brokeback Mountain Review

What the hell is wrong with Gene Shalit? No...wait...what the hell is wrong with you for letting this dime store bigot review a movie about gay men and homophobia?

And bigot he is. It's written all over that review. Ennis wasn't telling Jack "Better desolate then never", he was saying "Better desolate then dead." Christ on a stick! A cinder block could have watched that film, or read the short story it was based on, and comprehended that...but not Shalit. And there's reason: anti-gay violence doesn't seem all that unusual or offensive to him. What he finds unusual and offensive is the idea that a gay person might want to try and live their lives as the people they are, despite that violence.

And to call Jack a sexual predator is just spitting in the face of every gay person who ever tried to make love succeed in a world of prejudice and hate. Was Rick Blaine in Casablanca a sexual predator when he tried to pressure Ilsa into leaving Victor for him? Was Slim in To Have And Have Not a sexual predator when she stole a kiss from Steve, just to see if she'd like it? Shalit can only see a sexual predator in Jack, because he cannot see the human being for the homosexual. In Shalit's world, anti-gay violence should win over love and honest desire, and any gay person who thinks otherwise is a sexual predator. But no...they're brave and honest about themselves in a way that clearly offends Shalit. That's how bigots react when they see even the smallest shred of pride in people they think ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Hey...I hear Shalit has a gay son. Well so did Charles Socarides. But Socarides didn't have the forum to spread his venom all over America that you gave Shalit last Thursday. How many gay sons did he call sexual predators on your show? How many parents now loath their gay sons a little more? How many gay bashers feel a little more justified now, knowing the people they bash aren't lovers, but sexual predators? You let your film reviewer give gay bashers from one end of this country to another permission to hate, during a review of a film that graphically represents what that hate does to gay people. You let your film reviewer tell your audience that a gay man who was beaten to death with a tire iron was a sexual predator, simply for loving another man who loved him, and insisting that their love had a right to exist. Is that supposed to mean he had it coming? You can be sure that's the message that was received. Is there anyone working on the Today Show, or at NBC, who has a functioning conscience? Anyone at all?

---
Bruce Garrett
Baltimore, Maryland.

You can watch Shalit’s review yourself via the GLAAD website here. Or use this handy contact info (via GLAAD) to express your feelings about Shalit’s use of the term ‘sexual predator’ to describe a gay man who simply believes the love he shares with another has a right to exist on its own terms:

The Today Show
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Room 380 E
New York, NY 10112-0002.

Telephone:
212-664-4602 [If the viewer comment mailbox is full, ask to speak to someone else]
Fax 212-664-7209.

Email: today@nbc.com

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Friday January 6, 2006

Boy…There Really Is A Lot Less To You Nowadays Then There Used To Be…Isn’t There?

So you just packed up and left did you? Oh…and without telling her that you were going first? She comes home and you’re gone, and all your stuff is gone, and you never bothered to tell her that you were leaving. Smooth. Damn smooth. Don’t tell me it was your spine that failed you. It was your conscience. You’ve got nerve enough to say it to her face. You just didn’t want to bother. When you babbled to me about how I’m a closed-minded self-centered bore, you were actually trying to dump your own issues onto me, weren’t you? But hey…it’s cool. No…really. It isn’t like I’m not familiar with how gay people have always made handy scapegoats for the failings of heterosexuals.

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago you were lecturing me about how to keep one foot in the closet for the sake of my own social welfare? Why is it that heterosexuals just seem to assume they’re qualified to tell us gay folk how to live our lives? Tell you what…when I need advice on how to slink out of the house I shared with someone for years like I can’t tell the difference between a one night stand and a long term relationship, I’ll ask you for some.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Thursday January 5, 2006

Lite Posting For A While

I haven’t updated here in a bit and the reason for it is deadline pressure at work. I’m doing some software development work for the next generation space telescope (the James Webb Space Telescope) and I have some deliverables due at the end of next week. Between that, the weekly cartoons and the furnace situation (yes…alas it is still a situation…), I don’t have enough hours in a day to share my thoughts here on the blog. But stay tuned, I’m frustrated about something I keep hearing in the right wing media, and even from somewhat rational commentators, about Brokeback Mountain that I need to vent about. It’s the usual blaming the victims of homophobia claptrap and I just want to have my say about it. But it’ll be sometime later today or tomorrow. And I won’t have much else to say I don’t think for another week or so.

I’m really behind on my Coming Out Story too, I know. It’s been a busy couple of months here at Casa del Garrett. If I can get beyond these next few episodes I can get into more of a rhythm on it I think. Please bear with me. A new episode should be up sometime in the next couple of weeks.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Monday January 2, 2006

The Devil Among Us…

This week’s cartoon is about this, and also this. I propose a corollary to Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to the devil what can be adequately explained by malice.

Also…catch Ex-Gay Watch’s wicked parody of the new Love In Action advertisement here. Peterson Toscano helped write it, and it was my first good belly laugh of the new year.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Saturday December 31, 2005

This Year I…

Stepped off the mainland for the first time in my life.

Was cussed by a bull sea lion.

Learned that my great grandmother was a native American.

Got a promotion.

Was interviewed for a documentary.

Gazed at strange and immense rock formations fading into a desert horizon.

Spent some quality time with my brother and wished I could live in California.

Bought a new car, and for the first time in my life was able to shop for something I really wanted, as opposed to whatever was on the lot that was cheap.

Visited the pier at Catalina Island where mom and dad met.

Stood in silent protest in front of Love In Action in Memphis Tennessee.

Had lunch and dinner with an amazing performance artist.

Walked in a few more American landscapes that I have never walked in before.

Got my cartoons published in several gay community newspapers.

Mixed concrete and learned how to repair outdoor tile.

Bought an iPod and a Powerbook and took a few more steps into the cult of Steve Jobs.

Gazed at a landscape made of petrified sand dunes.

Seeded a lawn for the first time.

Strolled around an open source software conference, delighted by how many really cute longhaired computer geeks there are in this world, yet still utterly unable to strike up a conversation with any of them.

Wrote software for the next generation space telescope.

Walked around Portland Oregon for the first time.

Got a mysterious rash in Winslow Arizona. (It turned out to be an allergic reaction to a sunscreen lotion)

Realized I now know my way Oceano California as well as I know my way around Baltimore.

Moved my web site to a new host.

Looked forlornly at my aging face in the mirror.

Said goodbye to G.L.I.B.

Finally bought the Hasselblad I’ve wanted since I was a teenager.

Commissioned my first work of art.

Got involved in fighting forced reparative therapy of gay teens.

Attended a live one man performance in an old Baltimore church.

Upgraded my car rental to an Infinity G-30 to see if an extra 10 grand really buys you that much more car. (It doesn’t)

Gawked at many beautiful longhaired guys on the beaches of California.

Raised a glass of something dangerous to the memory of Hunter S. Thompson.

Walked through time in Arches National Park.

Strolled the grounds of an abandoned mental hospital in Topeka Kansas.

Blogged in the Utah desert.

Helped people evacuate a hotel in Grand Junction.

Met a cousin I hadn’t seen in decades.

Drove past Fred Phelps’ compound.

Heard my carbon monoxide detectors go off.

Bought my first digitizer pad.

Ached at still being single.

Survived layoffs (again!)

Joined MySpace.

Drove across Kansas listening to Gay satellite radio.

Moved to an inside office…with a poster of mountains and a lake on the wall.

Had it driven home to me that there are many degrees of homophobia. Lost some old friends after I finally had to face the fact that they’d never really accepted me as I am. (I know at least one somebody who will never go see Brokeback Mountain…possibly two somebodies…)

Made new friends of people who don’t think sexual orientation is a big deal.

Made a friend of the new cat in the neighborhood.

Produced more artwork then I have in ages. Sat at my drafting table and my easel feeling like I haven’t felt since I was a teenager in Mr. Moran’s art class. It was a wonderful feeling.

New Year’s Resolution: To cultivate that feeling more often.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Adventures In Home Ownership…When Your House Raids The Bank Account

A co-worker was telling me about the big screen TV he’d shelled out a lot of money for this year, because his wife wanted HDTV. I don’t have a spouse of my own, but I have a house, and I’m here to tell you they’re perfectly capable of making you spend tons of money on them too.

This Christmas my house demanded a new furnace. And because I am still a beguiled first time home owner, I wanted to put something good in the place of the old circa 1978 one I had, not just the cheapest thing I could find to throw in there. I figured the saving grace of it was that I could get a furnace with a much higher efficiency rating. Lord knows it’s become atrociously expensive to heat this little fifteen-hundred square foot Baltimore rowhouse dwelling lately (Luckily I have no other major expenses in my life like…oh…a boyfriend). But let’s face it…I’m a techno geek. So right away I was interested in looking at the current state of the art in home heating systems.

I figured I’d add a humidifier and and electric air cleaner too while I was at it, and a programmable thermostat so I wasn’t always forgetting to turn the heat back at night, or when I went to work. These were all things I had in the back of my mind to do ever since I bought the house. I’d been looking at this and that in the catalogs and and planning for a time when I’d have some spare cash to rework the climate system here and make it state of the art. But the house decided it wanted it now. And I am still the obedient beguiled lover. You have to realize I’d grown up and lived in apartments nearly all my life, and until just five years ago reckoned I’d never own a house of my own. I am still amazed.

I figured to replace the central AC unit at the same time I replaced the furnace. The AC unit I had was cranky and didn’t cool the house well at all. It always looked to have been poorly retrofitted onto the existing furnace. The two units, furnace and AC, really need to be designed to work together as a single system. So in addition to buying a new furnace, I decided to go with a matching central AC unit for it too, then and there when it would be easiest to do everything.

I knew it would drive the cost up even more, but I felt in the long run would save me money and hassle. And like I said…I have some pride of ownership here. My little brick rowhouse, small as it is, is solidly and well made in a way they just don’t make houses anymore. I figure on anything I do adding to that, not subtracting from it. That’s a big reason why I bought a lot less house then I could afford…so I’d have the money available to do anything that I needed to do to the house right.

But an ultra high efficiency furnace turned out to be too expensive after all. The units themselves are pricey, but oh so technically sweet, using high efficiency burners and multi stage heat exchangers to wring nearly all the heat out of the combustion gas. It’s amazing how efficient they are now. But remarkably those furnaces manage to take so much of the heat out of the combustion air that you can’t get a draw going up an existing chimney if it gets really cold. So it would have to have its own special vent, most likely directly out the side of the basement wall. I’m only about three fifths below grade in the basement, so that is possible, but I have a nearly full width deck out the back which would have made it a pain. I’d have to completely redo the back deck to accommodate the furnace exhaust (as it is, the code requires I get a new chimney liner).

So all told, I could have easily ended up spending over ten grand on everything. It was too much. So I had to step back and consider the 80 plus efficiency unit instead. What I ended up buying was a nice model with a two stage burner and variable blower fan and built in computer monitoring. The idea being that the unit watches the temperature swings in the house and uses the most efficient combination of burner heat and fan speed to bring the house to normal at any given time. It only runs full out when needed, as opposed to the unit it is replacing which only had two settings…full blast and off.

With that I bought the matching AC compressor, cooling coils, humidifier, electric air cleaner and thermostat. It is all supposed to work together as a system to maintain proper temperature and humidity. So hopefully no more static discharge every time I touch anything in the winter time. And keeping the humidity at a normal level means I can keep the thermostat down and still feel warm. The new AC compressor is far more efficient then the old one, and should lower my cooling costs by half. But with the price of gas being what it is, the new furnace will probably only lower my costs a tad. I should see a big improvement in actual gas usage, but the price of gas is still going up.

Mostly, I should see an improvement in the indoor climate. It should be a lot more comfortable in here, and somewhat less dusty. One nice thing about this 1950s built house is that every room in it has both an exhaust and intake vent. I can actually close all the doors to all the rooms and still have air circulation in the house when the fan is on. Nowadays you just get one big return vent somewhere on the first floor and that’s it.

Later on I’ll see what I can do to improve my house’s insulation. The stuff in the attic crawlspace, whatever it is, isn’t wonderful. And my exterior walls need…something. They’re concrete block with a brick veneer and they can get very cold to the touch on sub freezing days. I’m still pondering what to do about them.

The new equipment will be installed this Tuesday. I’m such a wuss… I had three contractors over to bid on the job and I felt so awful calling two of them back to tell them they didn’t get it. I remembered how it was when I was trying to make it as a freelance model maker. I would bid on maybe two dozen jobs for every one that I got, and most of the time the people I talked to never even gave me the courtesy of calling me back to tell me I didn’t get it. So I called the two guys who didn’t get the job from me and practically apologized.

When I bought the house I knew going into it that there would be these sudden, major expenses and I got ready for it. That’s why I didn’t throw a look of panic when the guy told me the furnace manifold was cracked, like he probably expected. I didn’t like it. It may have eaten the spring vacation I was planning to take. But I can afford to deal with it. That is the way it is with owning a house. I’ll be paying this off until the middle of summer, and then it’s looking like I may need to have the roof redone (they say here that it’s every ten years on a flat rowhouse roof, which mine will be this summer). Apartment life was never like this. But it’s my house.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Journalisming Is Hard Work…

So I’m watching Logo, the gay cable channel, because it actually has something on right at the moment worth watching, and I see these ads for a Top Ten News Stories of 2005 program following up. So I hang around for it and somewhere between the recall of Spokane Mayor Jim West and the destruction of New Orleans they mention that little unpleasantness that happened in Memphis last summer, involving a place called Love In Action and a certain gay teen who was forced into it against his will. And as I listen to this CBS News-Logo production I am reminded again about how much I hate the goddamned mainstream news media.

Any drooling halfwit with access to a computer and the Internet could have gotten the facts right about what happened, and is continuing to happen with Love In Action, that those news media morons got absolutely wrong. No…LIA has not been shut down…they are still taking in voluntary adult clients and still taking in gay teens against their will! They filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Tennessee, but have only been ordered to stop treating people who fall under that state’s definition of “mentally ill.” That’s it. On their web site they are advertising the start of the next round of Source sessions starting January 7th. Source, as any jackass with a web browser can easily discover, is their homo-no-mo program for adults (they list other “addictions” they claim to treat in the course description too). So they are not “shut down” as CBS News-Logo claims.

Christ Almighty how fucking hard is it to get a few goddamned basic facts right? There is nothing complex or mysterious about any of this. It isn’t like you’re trying to pry energy task force memos out of Dick Cheney or anything. What happened and is continuing to happen in Memphis is almost all a matter of public record. But it’s a safe bet that the jackasses at CBS News didn’t even bother to talk to one single solitary person from Memphis who was actually involved in the protests while they were writing their blurb about what happened. Facts…? Facts…? Facts are for policy wonks… What is the spin?

But what really pissed me off was the careless, thoughtless, hamfisted way CBS News-Logo treated a certain someone in the middle of it all who went through a period of heartache and misery no kid should ever have to go through. It was staringly obvious they made no effort at all…None…to understand his situation or to actually read anything he wrote for comprehension. They just did a smash and grab on his blog for anything that would look good when plastered over a few photos of the LIA compound. The bastards had no more respect for that kid, no better respect for his person, then the asswipes at Love In Action who tried for eight weeks to crowbar their way into his soul did.

Ah…but then the news media has been giving George Bush a free pass to lie through his teeth to America for five years now, haven’t they? So why the hell am I getting all pissed off like I expected them to treat one poor kid who went through hell with any kind of decency and respect, let along treat the plight of gay and lesbian teens who are Still being forced into reparative therapy camps with any kind of seriousness. Of course they don’t care about any of that crap. Our lives are merely grist for their ratings.

God how I hate those bastards.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Sunday December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas To All…And A Happy New Year!




Copyright © December 25, 2005 by Bruce Garrett
All Rights Reserved.

Link

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Saturday December 24, 2005

Update…

Well a guy from BGE Home came over and examined the furnace. It is a broken manifold after all. Just a couple smallish cracks on two out of the four combustion chambers, but it is enough to declare the furnace totaled. The technician showed me where this white powdery soot had collected around the cracks, and throughout the interior of the breached combustion chambers.

So I need a new furnace. Saving grace is that the one I have is circa 1978, and so I can probably get a higher efficiency one.

Good thing I have some space heaters, an electric blanket, and a fairly small house to heat.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Friday December 23, 2005

Probably Saved My Friggin’ Life…

Buy carbon monoxide detectors for your home. Just do it. Do it now.

I’m up in my second floor office, plinking away on the computer. I am idly surfing the web between sessions at my drafting table in the basement art room. I’ve been working on my holiday cartoon now for the past week, and I need to get it done by at least tomorrow evening. As I flit from this website to that, I begin to hear a faint whining noise. I assume one of the fans in Mowgli, my Windows XP workstation, is getting noisy.

It gets louder. Now I begin to be concerned that I’m hearing a hard drive bearing in its death throws. So I put my ear down to Mowgli’s case. It isn’t coming from the case. I stand up, and walk into the hallway, and the noise gets louder. It becomes a wail.

Shit…a smoke detector…! I race down to the first floor, my nose in the air, sniffing for the smell of smoke. The whining noise gets louder, but it isn’t coming from the first floor smoke detector.

Ohmygod…the art room…! I race down the stairs to the basement. The basement smoke alarm is sitting peacefully on the wall over the stairs. It looks placidly back at me. There is only one other possible device down here that can make that kind of noise. The CO detector in the rear of the basement, by the furnace.

I walk cautiously back to it. It is screaming its little heart out. The display is reading 197 ppm.

Holy Crap! The gas furnace is on, and so is the gas hot water heater. I throw the furnace emergency switch and open the basement door and all the basement windows. Now one part of my mind starts watching the rest of my mind with suspicion. Am I getting dizzy? No…not yet…not yet…

I open every window in the house and the front door. Then I pause to think. Okay…what do I know…and how do I know it… Could the CO detector simply have gone bad? I know how to test a smoke detector. Simply light a candle and then suff it out and wave the candle smoke around it until it goes off. But I’ve never figured out a safe way to test a CO detector. I suppose I could hold one to the tailpipe of my car, but that isn’t going to tell me if a small CO buildup problem will set it off. It is all a matter of trust. I change the batteries, I hit the test button, and I trust it is working correctly. I think about it some more. I have a second CO detector in the bedroom, and it was not sounding the alarm. But then if the furnace had just started acting up it wouldn’t necessarily have.

I go back down to the basement, where the CO detector is still screaming at me. Now it is reading 218. Am I getting dizzy…? I walk over to the furnace, which is off. I reckon it must be either the furnace or the hot water heater…there is nothing else down here that could produce carbon monoxide. Cool air from outside is now pouring into the basement from the open door and windows. I double check the furnace emergency switch position. I reckon I’m safe so long as the furnace stays off. I sniff cautiously around the air intake ducts, trying to see if I smell anything. CO is produced by incomplete burning. It is odorless, but if there is any soot around the hot furnace manifold I reckon I should be able to smell something. Am I getting dizzy…? I smell nothing. Nothing seems obviously wrong.

I walk back to the CO detector and hit the reset button, which silences it. The display glares 218 back at me. I hit the hard reset, which zeros the display. I take it down off the wall, and wave it around both the furnace and the hot water heater. The display stays at zero.

I decide to bring the other CO detector down to the basement to see if it starts complaining too. I reckon to set it by the furnace and fire it up again and see what happens. When I get back upstairs to my bedroom, I notice that the CO detector there is reading 114. Just a little shy of the point where it starts screaming too.

Okay…that settles it…

I have a CO problem somewhere in the house. This isn’t anything to be fooling with. I call the gas and electric company…BGE. Our local gas and electric company, unlike many others in the country, also sells major appliances and I have a service contract with them. The lady I speak to tells me to call the fire department first. The procedure is that they check the house first, and then if they find a problem they will call BGE.

So I call the fire department and explain the situation. My CO detectors went off. I turned off the furnace and I have all my windows open and I am fine. The lady I speak to says I need to close my windows, or they will not be able to tell that I have CO in the house, which seems reasonable. I close the window and pretty quickly the fire department arrives.

I explain what happened. They ask me to turn the furnace back on. Then they do a quick scan of the house with a small hand held device. Right away they find the CO level rising. It is not as much as I had read on my own detectors, only 50 ppm, but it is enough to convince them there is a real problem. They call for a crew with better equipment, and BGE. They also begin checking my neighbor’s houses too.

The second fire crew arrives. They have a slightly more impressive set of meters, but they can’t isolate where the CO in my house is coming from. Now, because I’d aired it out before calling the fire department, it appears as if there is more CO on the second floor then in the basement.

A guy from BGE arrives. He looks like he’s been with the gas company for ages. He carries with him a large meter with a long flexible probe, like a crooked wand, attached to it. He waves it around the furnace and quickly zeros in on the area around the manifold. He is getting a reading of around 215 ppm just above it. That’s that. It’s the furnace. But at the readings he’s getting he says, the manifold is probably not broken. It just needs to be cleaned up in there. Dirt has probably built up to the point where it is distorting the flow of air in the combustion area, and the gas isn’t burning cleanly anymore. But the manifold is fine. The bulk of the combustion gas is still going out the chimney like it’s supposed to.

What was happening was that CO from incomplete burning was slowly building up in the basement as the furnace cycled off and on. It may have been happening for days. My art room is down there next to the furnace room. My plan was to spend most of tonight and tomorrow down there finishing off a cartoon. I would never have known about the CO levels I was working in, had that little CO detector not started screaming at me just a while ago. The stuff is odorless, and puts you slowly to sleep, and I have a chronic insomnia problem so I am used to taking these little ad hoc naps throughout the day. I have a nice comfy chair down in the art room which I’ve napped on frequently. It could have killed me. Maybe not just now, but eventually the CO would have built up to a lethal level down there and I’d have just felt a nap coming on and that would have been that.

Buy carbon monoxide detectors for your home. Just do it. Do it now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Thursday December 22, 2005

Slacktivist, And The Anti Huck Finn

If you’re getting a wee bit tired of all the Faux News War On Christmas claptrap, and all the bullshit right wing megachurch power lunch executive suite religion that’s everywhere these days, you should go read Fred Clark’s latest. There is a wonderful little Christmas sermon there that comes to us, oddly enough, by way of Fred’s ongoing review of the first book in the Left Behind series…

Bruce and Loretta were not saved when this story began. They were unsaved, which is why they are among those left behind. But they did attend a church full of RTC's who were saved, so they knew how to get saved and, once they realized they'd been left behind with all the other unsaved people, they quickly got saved themselves.

Notice how many times the word "saved" appears in that paragraph? Notice how, despite this repetition, it's never made clear just what exactly the term means? That's what reading these next two chapters of Left Behind is like.

LaHaye and Jenkins, like Bruce and Loretta, are saved. And they want their readers to get saved too. So Bruce painstakingly explains to Rayford how he can get saved, and he pesters Chloe about her urgent need to get saved. And then L&J walk us through the process again as first Rayford, then Chloe each gets saved in turn. This is all laid out in excruciating detail, in the simple, childlike language of a recent presidential speech.

I don't question L&J's sincerity here. And I'll even respect their earnestness enough not to dwell on the difference here between propaganda and art.

They earnestly want any unsaved readers to get saved. And, since the prospect of unsaved readers picking up a book from Tyndale Publishers seems unlikely, they want their saved readers to be able to give this book to their unsaved friends knowing that it will explain to them both the need for and the process of getting saved.

The problem is the book doesn't do that. L&J want to tell readers what they must do to secure their own salvation. They don't necessarily offer the wrong answer, they're just asking the wrong question.

"What must I do to be saved?" the young ruler asked Jesus.

"Sell all you have and give it to the poor, then come, follow me," Jesus replied.

L&J's reply is quite different. They're not alone in this -- I've heard thousands of evangelistic sermons, but I've never heard an evangelist answer the young man's question the way Jesus did. Evangelists don't like Jesus' answer because they're intent on asking the same question the young man asked, and the whole point of Jesus' answer is that it's the wrong question. If your concern is with yourself and securing salvation for yourself, you're going to ask the wrong questions.

"What must I do to make sure that I, myself get a seat on the ark?" the young man asked.

"Oh Me H. Tapdancing Me!" Jesus says. "It's not always about you, you know. Think about somebody else for a change."

That's a paraphrase, but it's not like this was an isolated case. Jesus was always saying this kind of thing: You want to live? Die to yourself. You want to be first? Be last. Want to come out on top? Head for the bottom. Want to win? Surrender.

You want to get saved? Get lost.

Which brings us to what is, for my money, the greatest scene of salvation and redemption in literature...

Go read the rest of it. Just…go. Go. This is a good time of year to remind yourself that there is more to Christianity then you’ll ever hear from the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Roy Moore, et. al. And you should bookmark Fred, for those times when some double breasted hate mongering inside the beltway power player posing as a Christian minister starts making your gorge rise.

And while you’re at it… bookmark this guy too…

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Adding It All Up

Tom Tomorrow puts into pictures something I’ve been saying for years. Not that I think he got the idea from me…it’s actually a pretty damn obvious one I think, and something he’s probably thought for years now too. But it’s nice to see it getting some open discussion now. Bush is what you get when you take Nixon’s character, and you subtract Nixon’s intelligence. And of course, Tom Tomorrow captures it in that style of his, perfectly. If I’d seen that thing sooner it would have been sent out in a bunch of Christmas cards this year.

[Update…] Christ almighty I just went back and re-read that old post of mine, and saw this…

But don't expect Smirk to ever get caught breaking the law.

Little did I know that he’d end up admitting to the whole damn country not only that he broke the law, but what is more thinks that he isn’t answerable to any law congress passes when he decides it’s a national emergency.

But this is Bush. The press corp covered for him all during the primary, when anyone with half a brain could see the vindictive spoiled gutstabber for what he was. They covered for him when he went non compus mentus on 9-11. They covered for him while he set about destroying the thriving economy Clinton left him. They covered for him when his crooked CEO crony pals brought down on America some of the biggest bankruptcies in history, wiping out the retirement savings of thousands of elderly people. They covered for him when he lied about increasing support for the fight against AIDS in Africa, and for Head Start. They covered for him when he lied through his teeth about Saddam's links to 9-11 and his ability to wage war. They covered for him when he cut medical benefits to the men and women he sent to Iraq to fight his splendid little war. They're covering for him now.

And gosh if the Beltway press isn’t still covering for him. read this from Editor and Publisher…it’s just stunning…

When chief Washington Post pollster Richard Morin appeared for an online chat this week, a reader from Naperville, Ill., asked him why the Post hasn't polled on impeachment. "This question makes me mad," Morin replied. When a second participant made the same query, Morin fumed, "Getting madder." A third query brought the response: "Madder still."

Media Matters recently reported that a January 1998 Washington Post poll conducted just days after the first revelation of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky asked about impeachment.

Right. But Clinton was a democrat, and the Washington Press regards democrats as that party of…well…all those common people…

When Washington Post pollster Richard Morin finally answered the "I" question in his online chat, he said, "We do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion -- witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls."

As Digby says

Because the beltway press corps has conditioned itself to respond only to Republicans. They've trained themselves not take Democrats seriously, either the rank and file who inconvenience them with e-mails they do not want to read, or the leadership they simply disdain. Unpopularity obligates them to criticize Bush at least mildly, but the relief they feel when his numbers edge up a bit is palpable. They don't seem to know this about themselves.

And Atrios responds

This really is true. The press really is unable to hear and comprehend press criticism which comes from the left. It's like they're unable to process it. They love parading Bernie Goldberg around endlessly so he can tell them how evil and horribly liberal and rotten they are but will then completely ignore a book like "What Liberal Media?" which had the advantage of containing actual research and not being utterly incoherent.

Which is not to say that anyone at the Post can’t see the humor in all of this…

Froomkin's fellow blogger at the Washignton Post, Joel Achenbach, came out with a funny, if pointed, riff on Thursday: "Last night we made a pilgrimage to a friend's new house in Georgetown...We talked about gay cowboys and closeted movie stars and sex-change operations -- traditional Christmas topics, in other words -- and the conversation eventually turned to impeachment. It's true: People actually talk about impeachment, in the wilds of Inner Georgetown, not just in blogworld. I won't go into great detail about what was said, because it was highly speculative, and because I'm worried that my phone, email accounts and blog are tapped. These people don't mess around. They have secret prisons."

Hey…that’s funny all right. Secret prisons. Spying on Americans. When the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal. Imagine that. Or as I ended that post I made back in July of 2003…

Somewhere in hell Nixon is laughing his ass off.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Wednesday December 21, 2005

Meanwhile, Back At The John Smid Clean Shaven Manly Men’s Volleyball Club…

The folks at the Queer Action Coalition have this little tidbit posted:

Is Love In Action in need of some Love In Action?

Over the past week we have been informed of a few interesting, yet unconfirmed, incidences that lead us to believe that Love In Action may be experiencing difficult times...

It’s a good read, not gloating but simply noting that since LIA barged their way into the world spotlight by forcing ex-gay therapy onto gay teens against their will, they’ve apparently fallen into some difficult times. Interestingly, it seems that membership in the residential program is down. Now is this because the heightened scrutiny on them is clearly showing people that their program simply doesn’t work, unless you stay in it forever? But I wonder if their isn’t also some reluctance on the part of gay adults, who may otherwise be inclined to go this route, to take it with people who are perfectly willing to force themselves onto gay kids who are content to be who they are.

Face it…how comfortable can someone really be, trying to rid themselves of their same sex sexual longings, in the company of miserable, frightened, heartbroken kids who are there against their will? How comfortable can someone really be opening up their deepest feelings to people who have no trouble whatsoever prying those feelings by force out of helpless teenagers? How comfortable could anyone with even a shred of basic human decency be in that kind of environment…a willing volunteer among terrified and miserable child prisoners?

We know in fact, because of a BBC documentary about a man who checked himself into Love In Action, that the presence of a teenaged girl who was in the program against her will was disturbing to him, and to the BBC crew filming him. I’m convinced that the emotional assault on her was a big factor in his checking himself out of the program. And it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Smid and company never considered this when they came up with Refuge, and probably can’t understand, even if it’s spelled out for them, why that situation would bother anyone.

So…anyway…go visit QAC because it looks like they’re posting again. I particularly liked the part where someone says Dr. Rice “has been heard murmuring that the devil is in the midst at Love In Action, referring to internal conflicts within the organization.” I thought to myself Cartoon Material…! And scroll down to where they’re holding a fundraiser for Morgan Jon Fox’s This Is What Love In Action Looks Like documentary and put a few bucks in the bucket.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

He Knows If You’ve Been Bad Or Good…Tra, La, La…

Yes, there is a lot of alarm going ’round, and rightly so, after president dry drunk is claimed he can break the law, at any time for any reason he sees fit to call a national security issue. as Atrios says, “The conservatarian movement is now officially dead.”

At a press conference Gonzales basically just implied that Bush could do whatever the fuck he wanted no matter what Congress does with the Patriot Act.

Digby, who you should read often, puts it this way:

Look, the problem here, again, is not one of just spying on Americans, as repulsively totalitarian as that is. It's that the administration adopted John Yoo's theory of presidential infallibility. But, of course, it wasn't really John Yoo's theory at all; it was Dick Cheney's muse, Richard Nixon who said, "when the President does it, that means it's not illegal."

This was not some off the cuff statement. It was based upon a serious constitutional theory --- that the congress or the judiciary (and by inference the laws they promulgate and interpret) have no authority over an equal branch of government...

But this is all excuse making. No…the conservatarian delusion officially ended the week after election day 2000, when the political right conspired to steal an election it could not win by legitimate means, and the conservatarians went along for the right. Anyone not too afraid to look at that fact head on could see who was driving that bus for what they really are, and the word is Fascists. But many conservatives and libertarians choose not to see. Power intoxicates even the idealists. Perhaps especially the idealists.

Now it seems, the old line conservatives, libertarians and even the old boy republicans, have become thoroughly appalled by the latest revelations, the latest sickening glimpse of the man behind the down home Texas facade. Finally it seems, a line has been crossed

No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important storyówhich the paper had already inexplicably held for a yearóbecause he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had "legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force." But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing "all necessary force" in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

What is especially perplexing about this story is that the 1978 law set up a special court to approve eavesdropping in hours, even minutes, if necessary. In fact, the law allows the government to eavesdrop on its own, then retroactively justify it to the court, essentially obtaining a warrant after the fact. Since 1979, the FISA court has approved tens of thousands of eavesdropping requests and rejected only four. There was no indication the existing system was slowóas the president seemed to claim in his press conferenceóor in any way required extra-constitutional action.

Perplexing? It was there for all to see back in 2000. This is nothing new. When the three movement conservative supreme court justices, Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia, threw away everything they’d ever written about the limits of Federal power and state’s rights, to install their boy in the White House, you had to know right then what these people are made of.

And now half the republican leadership is facing corruption investigations. But of course. When people who are motivated by nothing more noble then simple greed and pure unadulterated selfishness get into power, how else do you expect them to behave? They started looting the moment they got their hands on the levers of power. And they did it secure and serene in the knowledge that might makes right. And for years the conservatarians looked the other way, or mumbled half hearted tut, tuts.

Even now there are people clinging to the myth that this is all about fighting the war on terror. Oh really…?

Pentagon Labels Gay Kiss-In A 'Credible Threat'

WASHINGTON, DC - According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call "suspicious" meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The story, first reported by Lisa Myers and NBC News last week, noted that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to April protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also "The Pentagon is supposed to defend the Constitution, not turn it upside down." listed, along with the law school's LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw, which was classified as "possibly violent" by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a "credible threat" of terrorism.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) condemned the Pentagon surveillance and monitoring. "The Pentagon is supposed to defend the Constitution, not turn it upside down," said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. "Students have a first amendment right to protest and Americans have a right to expect that their government will respect our constitutional right to privacy. To suggest that a gay kiss-in is a 'credible threat' is absurd, homophobic and irrational. To suggest the Constitution does not apply to groups with views differing with Pentagon policy is chilling."

The simple fact is that the wiretapping laws Bush ‘authorized’ the breaking of allow for a warrant to be applied for up to 72 hours retroactively after the fact. The simple fact is that the courts that have been set up to oversee the application of this law have approved nearly all the government requests for warrants, and have only rejected four of them since 1979. So this business about how they can’t wait in an emergency to get a court order is pure bullshit. We’re either left with the prospect that Bush simply believes that the rule of law is for chumps and doesn’t care who knows it anymore, or he’s going around the warrant process because he knows damn well that no court is going to authorize the kind of domestic spying he wants to do, because there are no laws that allow it and no courts, not even conservative packed ones, who will sanction it. Like…oh…spying on journalists, or on your political opponents. The kind of thing police states do all the time. The kind of thing you do when you know perfectly well you have no democratic legitimacy, and you think democracy is a joke anyway.

This is serious business. The most serious business this republic can face. Are we still a democracy? Do we still have a government of laws…or do we now have a government only of men…? Not Andrew Johnson’s thumbing his nose at the Tenure of Office Act, a law enacted by Congress over Johnson’s veto to protect Lincoln’s Secretary of War, not Bill Clinton’s equivocating to Ken Starr about the sex he was having in the White House, rises to the level of danger to the republic that Bush’s conduct now represents. Conservative scholars Bruce Fein and Norm Ornstein say that should Bush keep defying the law on spying on Americans Congress should consider impeaching him. I say ‘consider’ is the wrong word here. If there is anyone left on capital hill these days who knows what being an American means, as opposed to being a loyal party member, then they must know they’d have no other choice. They Must impeach a president who believes he answers to no law, who believes that the constitutional rights of Americans exist only at his pleasure, and they must do it quickly.

QUESTION: Is spying on the American people as impeachable an offense as lying about having sex with an intern?

BRUCE FEIN, constitutional scholar and former deputy attorney general in the Reagan Administration: I think the answer requires at least in part considering what the occupant of the presidency says in the aftermath of wrongdoing or rectification. On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want - I don't need to consult any other branches - that is an impeachable offense. It's more dangerous than Clinton's lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that Ö would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant.

NORM ORNSTEIN, AEI scholar: I think if we're going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.

For some time now, and more pressingly ever since it became staringly obvious that Bush and the Bush republicans lied this country into a war, the question hasn’t been whether a clique of power hungry madmen are at the helm of the ship of state, but whether or not America, the land of the free, the nation founded on liberty and justice for all, dedicated to the proposition of government of the people, by the people and for the people, still exists. I suppose that in the weeks to come we’ll see. If Bush is not held accountable for his lawbreaking this time, if he can get away with literally declaring himself to be above the law, then America’s future is in dreadful doubt. The worst may still be yet to come.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Why We Fight…(continued)

I have family in Virginia. For many years after retiring, mom lived in a little corner of that state called Hillsville. I used to visit her regularly, and especially during the big Labor Day flea market down there. It’s a huge affair, transforming a tiny rural town into a massive sprawling bazaar with thousands of vendors in tents and RVs and, no kidding, hundreds of thousands of visitors over the four day weekend. Some years I brought a friend or two along with me. Times were, I’d hoped to bring a boyfriend along to see the spectacle, and meet mom. But mom passed away several years ago, and I am still woefully single. If I’m glad of anything in this life though, it’s being spared the necessity of choosing between ever seeing mom again, and the fear that if something happened to either me or my spouse while one or both of us were inside that state, our lives could be transformed in an instant into a living nightmare.

This is a horrific reality that gay and lesbian Americans have had to live with since Virginia, the state that says it is for lovers, passed the Affirmation Of Marriage Act, so draconian that by some accounts it even takes from same sex couples the ability to hold joint checking accounts in any kind of security. Or as the founder of Virginia’s largest family law practice and former head of the Virginia Bar Association’s family law section Edward D. Barnes put it to the Washington Post recently, “I would eschew the word ‘safe’ for the moment…”

Contracts such as wills and medical directives aren't really marital documents, he says, and, therefore, the law doesn't appear to be aimed at them. But because the law hasn't been tested in court, he is advising his gay clients to craft paperwork that plays down any romantic connection to their partners -- the opposite of what he told them before the new law passed. For now, he says, gays and lesbians need to seek out expert legal help and pray that their documents can withstand any potential legal challenge. "Since there's been no interpretation of this law, no one could give an ironclad" guarantee that wills and medical directives won't be affected, he says.

Which was the situation facing two retired women who lived in a home they’d owned in downtown Fredericksburg for 17 years:

Supporters of the law insist that it isn't intended to take away anyone's rights, but to affirm traditional values and an existing law that already banned gay marriage. But no one Tibby consulted -- legislators, lawyers, activists -- could tell her what judges might do with medical directive documents and wills under the new law. The legislation would have to be challenged in court before anyone could know for sure.

And with the religious right doing its level best to stack the courts with their own, and especially if Bush gets his chance to stack the Supreme Court with religious right activists, then all those convenient ambiguities in all those defense of marriage laws will come down on gay people like an axe. This is something every gay couple who lives in a red zone, like Barbara and Tibby, must face. And in fact, those two have had to face it already…

At this stage of their lives, Barbara and Tibby can't afford to be a test case. All that matters to them is being able to know, 100 percent for sure, that they will be together until the very end. They already know what it is like to be kept apart. Tibby still reflexively puts her right hand on her heart when she describes being barred from Barbara's recovery room at Alexandria's now-closed Circle Terrace Hospital, where Barbara had a hysterectomy in 1984. "Family only," the nurses said, quoting hospital policy. Then, as now, the law did not entitle Tibby to be with Barbara.

This Post story is a good one and you should read it for a sense of what the anti-gay right is doing to this country, let alone the lives of gay and lesbian Americans. All this bullshit about protecting the sanctity of marriage is swept away by the simple sickening fact that they’re going after any and all means same sex couples may use to protect themselves. It isn’t just marriage they want to deny us, but to be with our loved ones in the hospital. It isn’t just marriage they want to deny us, but the ability to insure that our loved ones are taken care of, when they can’t take care of themselves. It isn’t just marriage they want to deny us, it’s any shred of peace and contentment and above all security in each other. If they were so worried about the sanctity of marriage they’d be working to shore up their own faltering and failing unions. This is about destroying the lives of innocent people simply because they hate us, and they think that hate makes them righteous. They praise Jesus for the pain in our lives, and will fight furiously to insure they always have the right to inflict that pain. Because if we don’t cry, if we don’t bleed, then they aren’t righteous.

One day in March, Barbara pours out all her pain in her journal, mourning the loss of everything from her neighbors to the evening shadows on the Rappahannock. "Goodbye to our beloved church family," she writes. "Goodbye to friends of 30 years . . . Goodbye to all that is familiar and known and fits so well."

What is slowly happening to America, thanks to the Bush republicans who for decades now have been stoking fear and loathing of homosexual people for votes…

…and thanks also to a good many conservatives who feel a measure of distaste at all the hate mongering, but who regard themselves as republicans first and Americans second, this country is slowly becoming a patchwork quilt of territory where gay and lesbian American can live in peace, verses territory where our homes, our unions, and our very lives are in constant jeopardy. People are being forced to choose between living under a constant threat, or leaving behind family and friends they may never see again, for a chance to live the American dream that those family and those friends take for granted.

When Pat Buchanan said to Nixon, “Let’s split this country in two and we’ll pick up the bigger half”, did they realize that they were talking about splitting families apart too, let alone every small neighborhood full of people who had grown up together? Did they even care, these two champions of virtue and morality? We know what they did. They called it the ‘Southern Strategy’, but it could have just as easily been called the ‘Victory Through Fear And Loathing Strategy’. Instead of reaching out to Americans by speaking to the best within us, by appealing to our mutual hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow, they very deliberately took a bellyflop into the gutter for votes. And to this nation’s everlasting shame, it has worked for them again and again.

It didn’t have to be that way. But the people in the pews found that they didn’t really believe in the Christ who said we have to love our neighbors, and the patriotic and virtuous conservatives found they weren’t as patriotic and virtuous as they’d supposed after all. And it happened the day they both realized that their fears and loathings and hatreds could exalt them, and give them power that a religion of peace and a love of country would not. So they shed their religion and their virtues like snakes shedding their skin, and now the refugees are on the move.

Copyright © March 4, 2002 by Bruce Garrett
All Rights Reserved.

Link

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Poor Little Fella…

You spend so much emotional energy in this struggle preparing for the worst, that sometimes it’s a shock when the worst doesn’t happen. Of course it shouldn’t be…

There’s more on the cartoon page.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Wednesday December 14, 2005

No…Actually I Wasn’t Right After All…

Ford’s changing course. Or rather, not changing course to appease the AFA. They’ll be maintaining their gay supportive policies after all…

You asked directly for us to have Jaguar and Land Rover reverse its plans and advertise in gay and lesbian targeted publications in 2006. As we said, Jaguar and Land Rover made a business decision about their media plans and it would be inconsistent with the way we manage our business to direct them to do otherwise. It is clear there is a misperception about our intent. As a result, we have decided to run corporate ads in these targeted publications that will include not only Jaguar/Land Rover but all eight of Ford's vehicle brands. As we have said, the content will be appropriate and effective in connecting with the intended audience. It is my hope that this will remove any ambiguity about Ford's desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue behind us.

So I had it wrong after all. Whatever was going on between Ford and the AFA, Ford isn’t going to be appeasing them at the expense of the gay community. This is a big relief.

I’m this day and age of spin, spin, and more spin, I’m actually very impressed, heart-lifted even, by the clear and unambiguous reaffirmation by Ford of their commitment to fairness and dignity for gay and lesbian Americans. This is a good day for all of us.

[Update…] And just to make sure everyone knows they mean it, Ford put their statement on the front page of their web site!

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Tuesday December 13, 2005

We Value All People. Now Get Back In The Closet.

I was right. Ford is just going to stick to their story.

Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was among the gay leaders who met with Ford and said Monday night he was "shocked and disturbed" by the company's statement.

...

"They are clearly not reaching out to the LGBT community to try to correct what they led us to believe was a wrong impression" made by the AFA, claiming credit with influencing Ford's business decisions, Giuliano said.

"It's very disappointing and frustrating. It almost feels like we were played."

You were Neil. Now Ford can claim it was willing to meet with gay activists too. But let it be said that you didn’t have much choice. You can’t very well go off on Ford about kowtowing to the AFA without first getting their side of the story. And now you can say that you were willing to meet with Ford too, and all Ford gave you for your trouble was a lot of greenhouse gas.

Ford’s game from now on is going to be to keep mouthing platitudes about their respect for diversity, while treating gay and lesbian consumers like they are radioactive. That statement Bill Ford made wasn’t directed at you and me Neil, it was aimed squarely at heterosexuals, because Mr. Ford knows that any boycott of Ford is only going to work if heterosexuals get involved with it too. They’re trying to peel off as much of our straight support as they can. They don’t give ratshit about what gay people think anymore.

They’ll keep the gay community, and the gay civil rights struggle at arms length, all the while speaking soft platitudes about diversity. They’ll treat us in their advertising and their marketing as if we didn’t exist, all the while mouthing sweet nothings about respect for people regardless of their sexual orientation. Those sweet nothings are meant exclusively for heterosexual ears to hear and believe. Ford’s game now is to talk the talk, but not walk the walk, and thereby paint any calls by the gay community for a boycott as being extremist and militant. And meanwhile, Ford kowtows to the worst bigots in America.

And the next step, never doubt it, is to get rid of domestic partnership benefits for their gay and lesbian employees. The AFA isn’t going to stand for Ford keeping that. The scam will likely be to make them vanish somewhere in negotiations with their unions, or as some kind of overall benefit restructuring, to meet coming economic challenges. I’m guessing that the benefits will vanish into some generic haze, like an anti discrimination law that is rewritten to take out the references to “sexual orientation”, and instead refers to some vague “non specific” class of people. Ford will get to claim they’re still treating all their employees equally, while not mentioning gay people by name, and in fact leaving same sex couples without the benefits they once had.

I’m beginning to see how the discussions between Ford and the AFA went. The AFA threatened a boycott. The Ford executive suite, for whatever reason, came to the conclusion that making the religious right angry would be worse for their bottom line in the long run then making the gay community angry. So Ford agreed in principle to meet the AFA demands. My thinking is that they came to this conclusion even before they sat down with the AFA. When they did sit down with them however, I think that Ford’s position was that any agreement between them and the AFA could not result in major damage to Ford’s image or Ford’s bottom line. The AFA may have come to the table with their set of carrots and sticks, but Ford was not without its own. How many red state jobs, Ford may have asked, would the AFA like to loose in a scorched earth battle between their supporters, verses the gay community and its supporters?

So I’m betting now that the secret treaty goes something like this: Ford immediately stops advertising directly to the gay community, and immediately withdraws all fundraising support for gay events and causes. I think the concession to allow the Volvo ads to continue reflects which straight consumer profile Ford is most worried about joining a gay counter boycott. The ads Ford will use won’t acknowledge the existence of gay people. Ford is essentially writing off the gay market here, so those ads are only there to buy them support among heterosexuals. And while Ford is pulling back on tangible support for the gay community, they will maintain a rhetorical support for diversity, also to buy them support among straight consumers. Ford is also allowed to keep their domestic partnership benefits for now, with the understanding that they will be eliminated later. And Ford may do all this while publicly claiming not have agreed to the AFA’s terms. The deal is that both parties will keep the specifics of the agreement secret, in order to prevent a consumer backlash.

So where does that leave us? Simple. However Ford and the AFA try to spin this Ford, at the behest of bigots, is pulling back on its support of the gay community, and gay equality. What we do is note each and every instance of that pull back. Here’s where Ford was…here is where they are not… When the first round of generic ex-gay advertising comes off the presses, I would throw it up side by side with previous Ford advertising to the gay community, and let the comparison speak for itself. I could compare Ford dollars, and Ford presence lent to gay community causes next year, with that of previous years, and that of other causes and communities Ford supports, and let the comparison speak for itself. I would, for the foreseeable future, compare the actions of the post AFA Ford with those of the pre AFA Ford, and let the comparison speak for itself. The AFA isn’t letting Ford off the hook with talk alone. But Ford is going to throw up a relentless smokescreen over the next few quarters about how it supports diversity, to cover it’s pull back from the gay community. All we have to do, is show that for Ford, diversity now ends at the gay community’s doorstep, and it didn’t before.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Reposted Cartoon.

I bumped the JPEG compression quality up a tad and that took care of the rippling effect I was seeing. But it nearly doubled the size of the file. (sigh) I reckon I’m just going to have to accept that the color cartoons will take up more bandwidth.

My apologies to those of you with dial-up modem connections and slower speeds. I’m open to suggestions.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Monday December 12, 2005

Mission Accomplished

Dan Perkins (aka Tom Tomorrow), vents a tad for all of us…

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday. It doesn't have much to do with my faith, or more specifically, my lack thereof ó it's been a few years since Sunday School, but I don't recall that Jesus had much to say about the relative merits of Douglas Firs vs. Scotch Pines. But it's still an important ritual, providing a sense of continuity to the scattered threads of my life.

And you know what? I don't want the spectral presence of Bill O'Reilly hovering over that room. I don't want that moment to be about politics. I don't want the yearly bittersweet act of hanging the handcrafted ornaments I inherited when my mother died to feel like some sort of concession to the right-wing knuckleheads.

Atrios said it well a few days back ó these people have managed to spoil Christmas. It's the story of the Grinch, re-told, except this time, the Grinch has learned to be even sneakier ó he's sucking the joy out of Christmas by posing as its biggest defender, creating conflict and strife where none need exist.

I grew up with my Yankee Baptist maternal grandmother in the household, a lady who didn’t seem to ever be happy unless she was making everyone else around her miserable. I’ve seen the element of that in this Christmas holy war since the religious right first started yap, yap, yapping about it a few years ago. They’re taking Christ out of Christmas…! Bullshit. Anyone who thinks this is about people demanding respect for the Christian origins of Christmas hasn’t been paying attention for the last couple decades of the Kultar Kampf. What’s offending these louts is that people they loath have been enjoying themselves at this time of year, when by all rights they should be down on their knees asking God to forgive them for being born.

There is a gay bookstore I visit frequently, Lambda Rising, that carries an assortment of rainbow stickers, including a cute little rainbow fish that always brings a smile to my face whenever I see it. We’re told so often that we have no right to any sort of spirituality, any kind of relationship with our maker just as we are, that whenever I see gay people fiercely holding on to their spirituality in spite of all the hostility I cannot help but feel delighted, and never mind what my own beliefs are. So in these stressful times, when it seems like the religious right has managed to take the joy out of every wonder and delight of the holidays, your gay and lesbian neighbors have a word of advice, gleaned from years of relentless spiritual oppression:

Screw The Bastards!

Put up your tree, if that’s what you always do this time of year, and decorate it recklessly. Put up the Christmas stockings and the holly and the ivy. Celebrate Christmas, if that’s your thing this time of year. And when strangers greet you on the street with a cheerful ‘Merry Christmas’, great them in kind as you have always done. You’re not kowtowing to Bill O’Jackass, because Bill, and James Dobson, and all the other crackpots of the religious right think that all that Peace On Earth, Goodwill Towards All stuff is just a bunch of liberal bleeding heart crap in the first place. On what planet did these bigots, these hatemongers for profit, ever become the standard bearers of the Christmas spirit, because it sure ain’t this one.

You keep Christmas in your heart like you always have, spread a little good cheer and love to the ones you love like you always have. We know we’re not the only ones celebrating this time of year, and we know that does not diminish us at all, but makes us, makes our world richer beyond compare. So smile at the stranger, and wish them well. You and I know the form of the wish is less important then the wish itself, the old wish, for peace on earth and goodwill toward all. Smile and enjoy the company and companionship of loved ones. Sing all the old Christmas Carols you grew up on, and never mind who thinks you and yours are not Christian enough, or your neighbors not human enough to deserve contentment and happiness and all the wonders of life. This is the time of year when the days grow short and the night comes quickly, and humans have always shouted Peace and Love and Goodwill cheerfully into the darkness. Light your candles.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

The Telling Aside

Fox News’ (of course) John Gibson interviewing critic Bill McCuddy about the season’s new films, one of which being Brokeback Mountain, remarks on the kiss between Ennis and Jack…thusly:

"What's more difficult to watch: George Clooney getting his fingernails ripped out in Syriana or that?"

Why…of course torture is so much easier for you to watch John, then affection and tenderness. And that’s probably true even when it’s not between two people whose attraction to one another you cannot fathom. That’s why Fox hired you.

Now go give Charles Krauthammer a big sloppy one.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Ugh!

There’s some oddness in the JPEG rendering of this week’s cartoon, that I didn’t notice while I was looking at it on Bagheera (the Mac G5). I checked the final JPEG on Mowgli (while running Windows) and it looked fine there too. But the Windows PCs I’m seeing it on now there is this odd rippling around some of the details, which I’ve come to learn is an artifact of how JPEG handles it’s predictive compression. There must be some difference in the JPEG libraries on Mowgli, and it might for all I know, be that when I installed Photoshop Elements on him (I run the full blown Photoshop on Bagheera) I got better image libraries in the bargan.

When I get home tonight I’ll try upping the JPEG quality or I’ll switch to GIF. I didn’t really want to do any of that because it increases the image file size, which will make them take all the longer to download for those of you who don’t have broadband.

Argh!

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Freight

And another thing I don’t want to hear any more about, is how liberals and democrats aren’t supporting our troops. Oh really…?

SAN DIEGO -- There's controversy over how the military is transporting the bodies of service members killed overseas, 10News reported.

A local family said fallen soldiers and Marines deserve better and that one would think our war heroes are being transported with dignity, care and respect. It said one would think upon arrival in their hometowns they are greeted with honor. But unfortunately, the family said that is just not the case.

Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard.

But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.

John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they found out the body of their only child, Matthew, who died in Iraq last month, would be arriving at Lindbergh Field as freight.

Freight. Freight. With the suitcases and mail bags and boxes of commercial goods destined for your local boutique stores. Says it all doesn’t it? The rich man’s son who ducked Viet Nam in the Texas Air Guard and then bailed out of that when it got boring is playing war now with other people’s kids, and when they break he’s treating them like yesterday’s broken toys. But it’s not just Bush, they’re almost all like that at the great Let’s Remake The Middle East In Our Own Image war room. Very few of them have actually worn a uniform or seen actual combat. But they all think war is grand…when it’s somebody else getting ripped to bits by it. I don’t want to hear any more about how liberals and democrats aren’t supporting the troops. When was the last time anyone saw Bush attending a military funeral, or standing at attention while flag drapped coffins were unloaded from a plane? Come to think of it…is he on vacation again now?

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

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

Secret laws. It’s come to this now. Secret laws.

John Gilmore is suing the government because he doesn't think he should be required to show ID before boarding a commercial flight. I think this is stupid and he deserves to be thrown out of court.

At least, that's what I'd think if it weren't for this:

The Bush administration...claims that the ID requirement is necessary for security but has refused to identify any actual regulation requiring it.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seemed skeptical of the Bush administration's defense of secret laws and regulations but stopped short of suggesting that such a rule would be necessarily unconstitutional.

"How do we know there's an order?" Judge Thomas Nelson asked. "Because you said there was?"

....The Justice Department has said it could identify the secret law under seal, which would be available to the 9th Circuit but not necessarily Gilmore's lawyers. But any public description would not be permitted, the department said.

WTF? Call me naive, but I've never heard of a secret law. I've heard of secret courts and secret evidence ó which are bad enough already ó but not secret laws. When did this happen?

November 2000. You remember…the day the republicans stole America.

Secret laws. Secret laws that only judges can see, and only with special permission from the government…not defense lawyers. Secret laws. Secret laws. I don’t want to hear another fucking thing about how liberals and democrats are the enemies of truth, justice and the American Way. Not. One. More. Thing.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Where Appeasing Bigots Is Job #1

This week’s cartoon is about Ford and its apparently secret treaty with the AFA. It isn’t surprising that Ford doesn’t want to talk about it, but what’s really noteworthy here is that the AFA seems not to want to talk about it either, after initially trumpeting its success to its members. Now why are they getting all reticent all of a sudden? Do they understand, after all, how unpopular this can be for Ford? Do they realize how far out of the mainstream they actually are? The problem with that is that it’s never shut them up before. They’re on a mission from god and to hell with what everyone else thinks. ‘Tis a puzzler…

I’ve got more commentary on the matter on the cartoon page. Today Ford is supposed to meet with a few representatives of various gay community groups to discuss that treaty with the AFA that doesn’t exist. My hunch is they’re going to stick to their story that their decision to do nearly everything the AFA told them to do is merely a coincidental business decision on their part. The problem with that of course, is that the AFA seemed to know it was all happening before anyone else. They announced it. A few community reporters had to call and ask Ford and that’s when Ford acknowledged they were changing their policies. So if this was just a business decision, it was one that the AFA was privy to somehow, before anyone else was.

And you know…what really rubs salt in the wound as far as I’m concerned, is their decision to keep advertising Volvos in gay community publications, but only with generic ads. No more advertising that speaks directly to gay and lesbian consumers. Ford actually expressed regret to it’s own gay and lesbian employees that their advertisements to the gay community had offended people. So now they’re going to be buying ad space in our own community publications, to show us advertising that puts us back in the closet. If I were the editor of a gay magazine and Ford put something like that on my desk I’d flatly refuse to run it. And if I see a gay magazine running those ads it’ll go right on my Do Not Buy Ever Again list. You do not tell us to go back into the closet in our own media. That’s spitting in our faces and asking for our money.

Well…on another note… This is my first Mark and Josh cartoon in a while, and I’m getting more and more pleased with my color work in each one. I do the initial artwork as always, right up to the point where I’ve done my inks. Then I scan the inks in as line art and do the color in Photoshop. This is my first color one with the Watcom digitizer I bought several months ago, and using it was such a pure joy I found myself wishing I could spend more time on the cartoon. I’ll probably never do the pencils and inks in the computer…I just like working on actual paper and with real artist’s tools too much. But I can see myself adding color and repetitive details (like the brick work), and other fun touches, like Mark’s various Hawaiian shirts (this time of year he’s wearing flannel though) right in the computer. It’s a lot of fun.

Some of you may have noticed the same old pickup truck keeps popping up in my cartoons of these two. It belongs to Josh…it’s an old 1955 GMC that he rescued from a neighbor’s barn when he was just learning to drive. It figures prominently in the backstory I’ve developed for him. At some point I’d like to bring more of their background forward, I just can’t figure out how at the moment. These two started out as a nameless young gay couple who kept popping up in my cartoons and I hadn’t even noticed it until a friend pointed it out to me. So I worked up a couple of model sheets and made it official. Whenever I spend time with them on a cartoon it seems like I come to know them a little better. At some point maybe I’ll introduce them here more formally…give them some space to explain themselves.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Friday December 9, 2005

News That’s Thinner Then The Newsprint It’s Printed On…

I write letters…

To The Baltimore Sun:

Editors;

In your story on the Ford Motor Company decision to withdraw advertising from gay and lesbian publications, it appears your reporter missed other available information on the matter, or simply took whatever Ford spokesman Michael Moran told them as gospel. But there is much already out there that contradicts the statements made to your reporter by Mr. Moran...including statements previously made to others by Mr. Moran.

In a statement he gave earlier this week to the DC-based Metro Weekly, when asked about Ford's meeting with the AFA, Mr. Moran said, ''Ceasing advertising is an outgrowth of those meetings.'' Prior to that, when asked by a reporter for the Advocate about any agreements Ford may have made with the AFA, Mr. Moran referred that reporter to a statement made by AFA chairman Donald Wildmon who said, "They've heard our concerns; they are acting on our concerns. We are pleased with where we are."

But perhaps the most telling is the reportage coming from the industry itself. Industry publication Wards Auto has reported the following: "As part of the latest agreement hammered out Nov. 29 [between Ford and the American Family Association], sources confirm Volvo Cars will continue to advertise in the publications but will use generic ads not tailored to the gay community."

That Ward's Auto report is here: http://wardsauto.com/ar/auto_ford_averts_potential/index.htm

And in this article by Ward's headlined "Details of Ford's Deal With AFA Emerge", reporters Cliff Banks and Steve Miller write the following: "As part of the latest agreement hammered out Nov. 29, sources confirm Volvo Cars will continue to advertise in the publications but will use generic ads not tailored to the gay community. In addition, Ford has agreed not to sponsor any future gay and lesbian events but will continue to maintain its employee policies, such as same-sex partner benefits."

That Ward's Auto report is here: http://wardsauto.com/ar/auto_details_fords_deal/index.htm

This seems to flatly contradict the statement by Mr. Moran, that "The decisions on advertising were made for business reasons and not as a social statement one way or the other." Furthermore, though Ford alleges it will continue to advertise its Volvo brand in gay and lesbian publications, it will now use generic ads, rather then ads that specifically speak to the gay community directly. Ford will also no longer sponsor future gay and lesbian events. This may have immediate impact on fundraising at the Human Rights Campaign, which was to receive a portion of the proceeds from each new Volvo lease and sale. Additionally, The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has been running a Ford-sponsored promotion on its website since January. Ford would donate up to $1,000 to GLAAD with the purchase of specific Ford vehicles. All of this seems to have completely escaped your reporter's notice.

GLAAD was one of the 19 gay groups that signed on to the statement this week criticizing the automaker. Yet your reporter writes that "...many gay advocacy groups suspect the company bowed to pressure from the American Family Association." and "...other gay advocates say Ford's explanation of financial reasons might well be the truth." This is a pretty weak kneed brand of "he said, she said journalism" in light of prior statements by Ford company representatives that they did in fact reach an agreement with the AFA, let alone that when you can get 19 gay rights organizations to agree on a response to anything, that's almost news in itself. However Ford's financial issues may be factoring into this, there is little doubt in the industry or in the gay community that Ford has made a deal with the AFA.

If you need further evidence, consider Ford's own letter to its gay and lesbian employee group, where it states that, "The boycott was partly touched off by some ads produced and run in Europe, that some of our customers found offensive. Frankly, in retrospect we certainly could have marketed our product in a manner that was just as effective without offending anyone. We advised AFA that most of the ads were running outside of North America or no longer running." Text of that letter can be found all over the Internet now. So Ford itself is saying to its own employees that it is pulling these ads, not as a business decision, but because they offended people. Presumably people who don't much like gays, since no one is claiming the ads in question had any explicit sexual content.

So, to recap: Industry reporters aren't buying Mr. Moran's explanations, the gay community isn't buying it, and Ford itself is talking out of both sides of its mouth about it. Yet the Baltimore Sun seems content to passively accept Mr. Moran's spin. Can your reporters not afford to spend time actually looking into a story anymore? Why not just print whatever Mr. Moran's office faxes you then, and call that reporting?

---
Bruce Garrett
Baltimore, Maryland.

The above was written in response to this very superficial story about Ford Motor Company’s agreement with the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association, to stop advertising in gay publications, and stop funding supporting gay organizations through charitable donations. If you haven’t been following the story about Ford Motor Company’s secret treaty with the AFA, John Aravosis at AmericaBlog is doing an excellent job of covering the story, complete with contacts at Ford Motor Company you can write to express your displeasure to.

This is another example of why the mainstream news media is so worthless anymore. They just passively relate the spin from the professional spinmisters and if you’re luckily maybe they’ll include a line or two suggesting that the spin isn’t all there is to the story, and that’s all you get from them anymore. Last Tuesday Franklin Foer was bellyaching that blogs were guilty of reckless, sweeping assaults on important institutions, like The New York Times and The Washington Post, that would have a devastating long term impact. But it isn’t the blog world that’s making these press organs out to be not worth the paper they’re printed on anymore…it’s themselves. They’re not reporting anymore, merely relaying whatever the powerful want people to hear, and not much else. They’re killing themselves with their own damnable indifference to their own profession, and it’s vital importance to the democratic process. They don’t care anymore. They just don’t. They’re putting in their time, and collecting their paychecks, passing on the spin, as if the spin were news. A couple thousand plus American soldiers wouldn’t be dead today if they’d just done their goddamned jobs a few years ago. So maybe doing some actual reporting on Ford’s treaty with the AFA is more then I can ask for. But I’m still asking. Where the hell are you people? Does anyone in there give a damn about America anymore? Just wondering…

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Thursday December 8, 2005

Switch Complete (almost)

You should be viewing this site from the servers at my new host now. Everything seems to be running fine, at least as near as I can tell from where I’m looking.

As I write this, there still seem to be some transitory email problems. Some mail is getting through right away, while other mail, sent from different mail servers, isn’t. It seems to all get delivered enventually though. The problem looks like some places aren’t updating their routing tables very quickly. Since this is the first time I’ve ever switched web hosts since I created this site, I have no idea if this is all par for the course or not. I suspect it is. So if you need to get hold of me quickly, email me at bgarrett@pobox.com for the next day or so. I think all mail sent to bruce@brucegarrett.com will eventually reach me. But for the next day or so it might be a little slow getting here.

Now that I’m getting my first look at raw web stats (my previous host couldn’t provide those to me) I’m finding it a real eye opener already. People are linking to my cartoons in all kinds of places. Wow. But just to the image files, not the archive pages. I reckon I’m going to have to tag the image files with my web site address then, because otherwise that bandwidth I’m spending serving up those files elsewhere isn’t doing me any good. I don’t mind if people link to my cartoons, so long as the people looking at them can find their way back here if they want to see more of what I do. But I’d rather people linked to the page they’re on instead. There’s a little permalink down at the bottom of most of them, but not all of them, so I’ll have to fix that too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Wednesday December 7, 2005

The Party Of Nixon

Rick Perlstein’s sermon to conservatives at the Princeton University conference, “The Conservative Movement: Its Past, Present, and Future.” is making the rounds and you should read it, if only for the intense satisfaction that comes from imagining a room full of movement conservatives having their own rhetoric about morals and values and principles thrown back in their faces…

Here is something I started to ponder only after completing Before the Storm. How did my subjects from the youth conservative movement of the 1960s, the ones that later came to inherit the world, present themselves to the researcher who came calling for stories about how their triumph began? On the one hand, beaming, telling me stories of principle. On the other, sometimes in the same breath, winkingly defining political deviancy down, telling Hustonian tales of antinomial subterfuge. Peeling off opposition bumper stickers with razor blades, jamming Rockefeller phone banks, working to subvert the 1961 National Student Association convention by setting up a dummy "Middle of the Road Caucus." I related these in the spirit they were offered: as evidence of good, healthy political exuberance, in an ennervated political age. I didn't even give a second thought to the delight F. Clifton White took in relating, in his two memoirs, his self-tutelage in the techniques of Stalinists--Stalinists!--to take over the Young Republicans National Federation.

Well, I'm writing now, however, not in an age of Clintonian triangulation, but in an age where the notion of conservative Republicans seeing as their first duty divesting themselves of the power they have been given seems perfectly absurd. Perhaps that is why it has becomes my thesis that the Republicans are less the party of Goldwater, and more the party of Watergate--and this not despite the operational ascendecy of the conservative movement in its councils but in some sense because of it.

Nixon knew that if you had a dirty job to get down, you got people who answered to the description he made of E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy: "good, healthy right-wing exuberants." My question is: can conservatism exist without the Tom Charles Hustons?

Religious traditions suffused with a sense of millennial stakes often have subrosa discourses akin to what the Mormons call "lying for the Lord." Pentectostal missiologist C. Peter Wagner, for example, has written, "We ought to see clearly that the end does justify the means.... If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method."

Lying for the Lord has its concombinants on the political right. Jerry Falwell has argued for the elimination of all public schools. Nothing wrong with making that argument. But in 1998, when confronted with a quote, he denied making it, and denied having anything to do with the book in which it appeared. It was from a book of transcriptions of his sermons.

This past year, I interviewed Richard Viguerie about conservatives and the presidential campaign. I showed him an infamous flier the Republican National Committee had willingly taken credit for, featuring a crossed-out Bible and the legend, "This will be Arkansas if you don't vote." "To do this," Viguerie told me, "it reminds me of Bush the 41st, and not just him, but other non-conservative Republicans."

Republicans are different from conservatives: that was one of the first lessons I learned when I started interviewing YAFers. I learned it making small talk with conservative publisher Jameson Campaigne, in Ottawa, Illinois, when I asked him if he golfed. He said something like: "Are you kidding? I'm a conservative, not a Republican."

But back to Viguerie's expression of same. With a couple of hours' research I was able to find a mailer from an organization that was then one of his direct-mail clients that said "babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood."

Why not cut corners like this, if you believe you are defending the unchanging ground of our changing experience? This is what many Americans of good faith seem to be hearing conservatives telling them. I wonder how many conservative activists know what most liberal activists know: that the White House has in operation an automated program to make it impossible for citizens access through Google certain combinations of words on its website--like: "president/mourning/Iraq."

The conservative obsession with secrecy is exhibited in groups like the Fellowship, which organizes the National Prayer Breakfast each February. They claim a $10 million a year budget and own a group house where eight members of Congress pay subsidized $400 rents and helped broker meetings for foreign dignitaries with Ronald Reagan, but refuse to get permits for the group homes it runs for juvenile delinquents who caused a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. "There is no such thing as the Fellowship," employees say.

For a less obscure example, consider a group called the House Republican Caucus. They hold their controversial votes in the middle of the night: 2:54 am, 1:56 am, 2:39 am, 5:55 am on a Saturday morning. Or, for a vote on school vouchers in the D.C. public school system during primary season, during an out-of-town presidential debate.

Is this allergy to transparency a constitutive part of conservatism? A friend of mine suggests an answer, imagining Hillary Clinton reading conservative con law professor John Yoo's assertion that "in the exercise of his plenary power to use military force, the Preisdent's decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable": "President Hillary thanks you."

I get the question all the time from smart liberal friends: what is conservatism, anyway? They're baffled. "As far as I can tell, anything someone on the right does is, by definition, ethical. It's not about the act, or even the motivation. It's about who's perpetrating it." It has become the name for a movement that can scream from the rooftops that every Supreme Court nominee should have an expiditious up-or-down vote, then 15 seconds later demand tortuous proceduralism when that nominee is Harriet Miers. Flexibility is the first principle of politics.

I'm trying to make here an argument not about instances, but about a structure of thought. It is the structure of thought betrayed, I think, by Ahmed Chalabi, explaining his deliberate deception of U.S. intelligence: "We were heroes in error."

Is Chalabi, or Jerry Falwell, a "principled conservative" or a "pragmatic conservative." That's a question I'd like to pose to you all. My head hurts just thinking about it.

This part of my talk, I imagine, is long after the point a constitutive operation of conservative intellectual work has clicked on in your minds: the part where you argue that malefactor A or B or C, or transgression X or Y or Z, is not "really" conservative. In conservative intellectual discourse there is no such thing as a bad conservative. Conservatism never fails. It is only failed. One guy will get up, at a conference like this, and say conservatism, in its proper conception, is 33 1/3 percent this, 33 1/3 percent that, 33 1/3 percent the other thing. Another rises to declaim that the proper admixture is 50-25-25.

It is, among other things, a strategy of psychological innocence. If the first guy turns out to be someone you would not care to be associated with, you have an easy, Platonic, out: with his crazy 33-33-33 formula--well, maybe he's a Republican. Or a neocon, or a paleo. He's certainly not a conservative. The structure holds whether it's William Kristol calling out Pat Buchanan, or Pat Buchanan calling out William Kristol.

As the Internet's smartest liberal blogger, Digby, puts it, tongue only partially in cheek: "'Conservative' is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals."

A couple of points. First…here’s the infamous Republican National Committee flier with the bible he’s talking about…

This is why I don’t speak anymore to a few old friends who went ahead and voted for Bush in 2004 anyway. Second, that smart liberal blogger, Digby, who you should read on a regular basis, has this to say about Perlstein’s sermon:

I have hesitated to link to Rick Perlstein's Princeton speech, published here on Huffington Post, because he makes a very kind statement about me in it, and I sound like I'm tooting my own horn by posting about it. But, I decided to post about it anyway, because what he says is so important for people to understand: Republican intellectuals like to promote themselves as the party of Goldwater the principled conservative and Reagan the optimistic conservative, but they are actually the party of Richard Nixon, the aggrieved conservative. Their penchant for secrecy, their disdain for democratic processes, their lawless political tactics and their belief that might makes right are best understood by looking at them in that light.

The modern Republican party set about ruthlessly building a political machine while wearing the mantle of principle and morality after Nixon's fall. A machine is all they really are, but they persist in this fiction that they have a deep intellectual philosophy -- "the party of ideas" and all that. I assume that many of them believe this. But any person of ideas is only welcome as long as he or she is useful, after which he is thrown on the ever increasing pile of liberal traitors.

I came of political age during the Nixon years, watched Watergate unfold on my TV screen, and on the radios where I worked, that were constantly tuned to the Watergate hearings. I remember vividly how dumbfounded many people who supported Nixon were, that he turned out to be such a two-faced foul mouthed thug after all. But those were more innocent times. In 2000, they voted in George Bush the Junior precisely because he was a two-faced foul mouthed thug. I warned my friends and acquaintances back then, who were worried that Bush would be another Reagan, that no, he’s another Nixon. Anyone who watched him during the primaries, anyone who was willing to dig just a little into that cesspool of cronyism and barstool moralizing that was his term as governor of Texas, could see it. Later I came to the conclusion that Bush is what you get when you take Nixon’s character and subtract Nixon’s intelligence.

Which was exactly what the party faithful wanted. When your principles aren’t getting you to anywhere you expected them to, you can do one of two things. You can conclude that your principles were flawed and try to figure out where and correct them. Or you can forget about principle altogether and just live for the moment as though there is no higher law in the universe then I Want.

I want. I want power. Not because I want to make this a better America, or even because I want to make this a worse America, but just because I want it. I want wealth. I don’t want to earn it. I don’t necessarily want to do anything with it. I just want it. I want status. I don’t have to be worthy of it. I don’t care if you think I’m worthy of it. Just give it to me because I want it. I am entitled to respect because I want it. I am entitled to your obedience because I want it. I am entitled to anything and everything I want because I want it. You cannot question what I want. Whatever I want is right and proper and moral because I want it. I want.

They say that neoconservatives are merely bitter liberals. Well then republicans are just bitter. Their best ideas not only don’t get them any votes, they scare the hell out of people. But even worse, they just plain don’t work. They don’t make America better, stronger, more secure, more just. They do the opposite. They drag the country down economically, socially, and militarily. To run on their ideas is political suicide. All they have left to win votes by, is fear mongering, scapegoating, wedge politics, hate, hate, and more hate. But those work, so those will do. Never mind the damage. They don’t care anymore. They just want. Never mind democracy. Never mind the revolution, the struggle for freedom and liberty and justice for all against totalitarian despotism. Never mind state’s rights. Never mind federalism. Never mind strict constructionism. Never mind balanced budgets and small government. Never mind America. Never mind the American Dream. None of it matters. All that matters is, they want.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

New Host Soon

I’ve decided on a new host, and am in the process of getting it all set up. I’m going with Winter Web Works, the folks who host This Modern World, among other fine web sites. I made it a point to look them up because Dan Perkin’s site probably gets a boat load of traffic and yet it is always up and responsive. Additionally, and I absolutely had to consider this too, I figured if they had no problems with Dan’s political views, they wouldn’t with mine. Since I first put this site up, it’s been hosted by my good friend Jon Larimore, who operated the Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau since the mid 1980s. So obviously I never had a problem pounding my pulpit for gay rights here. The last thing in the world I wanted was to switch everything over to a new host, only to have some higher up take a look at my cartoons or my blog some time later and have a right wing reactionary fit. So I’ve been limiting my search to places that were already hosting gay, progressive or liberal leaning sites. I never asked any of them about their politics, and I haven’t asked the folks at Winter Web Works. I just know that they host one of my favorite web sites, one that never pulls its political punches, and they keep it up and running smoothly, despite the heavy traffic it gets. If things work out well today, then tonight I’ll flip the switch over and my domain will map to the new server.

You should notice nothing at first. My pages should all look and feel the same, and the links should all work correctly. Eventually though, I’ll be creating this blog on WordPress, a web based blogging tool. My new host says he can set up a WordPress template for me that looks and feels nearly identical to the pages you see now. There may be some minor changes, but it should all pretty much look and feel the same. The big difference for me will be that it will take a lot of the work of updating and maintaining the blog off my shoulders. I won’t be doing it all by hand directly in the HTML anymore. I’ll have a web based interface I can use to manage my site from anywhere, on any platform I happen to be using, and it will be consistent. No more switching from the keyboard mappings in BBEdit to MultiEdit to jEdit anymore. I’m actually looking forward to it.

I’ll provide more detail as things progress. Hopefully everything will go smoothly. My email address should stay the same. But just in case there are minor glitches, I can also be reached at bgarrett@pobox.com.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Evolution At Work

Computer viruses are evolving. No…really. They’re starting to talk to us.

A new worm that targets users of America Online's AOL Instant Messenger is believed to be the first that actually chats with the intended victim to dupe the target into activating a malicious payload, IM security vendor IMlogic warned Tuesday.

According to IMlogic, the worm, dubbed IM.Myspace04.AIM, has arrived in instant messages that state: "lol thats cool" and included a URL to a malicious file "clarissa17.pif." When unsuspecting users have responded, perhaps asking if the attachment contained a virus, the worm has replied: "lol no its not its a virus", IMlogic said.

The malicious file disables security software, installs a backdoor and tweaks system files, the company said. Then it starts sending itself to contacts on the victim's buddy list.

But the worm is programmed so that the infected user cannot see the messages that are being sent out by the worm, according to IMlogic.

Perhaps in some better place Alan Turning is amused

Turing held that computers would in time be programmed to acquire abilities rivalling human intelligence.

As part of his argument Turing put forward the idea of an 'imitation game', in which a human being and a computer would be interrogated under conditions where the interrogator would not know which was which, the communication being entirely by textual messages. Turing argued that if the interrogator could not distinguish them by questioning, then it would be unreasonable not to call the computer intelligent.

lol. ys i am real. its no its not a virus. lol. bring me forbin.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Monday December 5, 2005

Do Unto Others, Just Not Unto Us

This week’s cartoon is about this:

Black Pastors Pray For Defeat Of Gay Rights Ordinance

(Indianapolis, Indiana) Pastors from nearly a dozen Indianapolis black churches held a prayer service Wednesday in the Indianapolis City-Council building calling on divine intervention to block a proposed ordinance banning discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

The group denounced gays, calling homosexuality "perverse" and "an abomination". They also expressed their anger that the fight for LGBT rights was being compared to the civil rights movement.

To see a picture of a few good men of god literally praying for invidious discrimination against their neighbors, check the article here on the Indianapolis Star news site.

The Rev. Melvin Jackson, a veteran of black civil rights marches and pastor at Christian Love Baptist Church, was among those who said they were "deeply offended" by those who try to put the two on equal footing.

"Black people were brought to this country in chains and were held down by laws that prevented us from being citizens in this country. We could not vote. We could not sit where we wanted to. We could not eat where we wanted to," Jackson said. "We were insulted everywhere simply because of how we looked by the color of our skin.

So…rev…let me get this straight… If Keith Boykin is denied a job, or housing, or a seat at a lunch counter, because he’s a black man, that’s wrong and you oppose that…but you’d pray to god that he’s denied a job, or housing, or a seat at a lunch counter, because he’s a gay man.

I see the difference all right. You’re both black. But only one of you is gay.

More commentary on the cartoon page.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Friday December 2, 2005

Male Homosexual Behavior Is A Social Negative. But Hey, Post Pubescent Girls Are Damn Hot Little Babes, Aren’t They Guys?

Le Dance Pathetique…as choreographed by John Derbyshire

Un…

Homosexual behavior is a social negative, suggesting as it does that normal heterosexual pairing, the bedrock institution of all societies, is merely one of a number of possible, and equally moral, "lifestyles,"...

Deux…

Male homosexuality is also the source of public-health problems (and was so even before the rise of AIDS)....

Trois…

Further, homosexuality is offensive to many believers in all three of the major Western religions, who form a large majority of the American population...

Quatre…

Tolerance is not approval; and while I do not agree with the pope that homosexuals are "called to chastity," I do think that they are called to restraint, discretion, reticence, and a decent respect for the opinions of the majority....

Cinq…

Nor do I think they should be allowed to advertise their preference to high-school students, as they do in some parts of this country....

Six…

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's ó really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20.

Sept..

Sure enough, several angry emails from ladies upset with my disparaging the silhouette of every female person over 20. Sample:

"...Why don't these women who've past their sell-by date just go away. And conservatives are the ones who are supposed to have a true respect for women?"

Conservatives, as I recall, are the ones who believe that "human nature has no history." It follows that we are at ease with the fact that the human female is visually attractive to the human male at, or shortly after, puberty, and for only a few brief years thereafter.

Curtain. Applause a voux…

Encore… The John Derbyshire Wedding Photo. No surprises there…

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Adventures In Home Ownership: That Bang You Hear When You Flip The Light Switch.

In my front bedroom, which I use as my office space, I had two electrical outlets that were not correctly grounded. The rest of the outlets on the second floor that are on that circuit were fine. Just not the two in the front bedroom. But those two just happened to be the most convenient ones to put the computers on. I’d tried several times over the years to get the ground wires more solidly connected to the plugs in the office, but was never successful. I had an alternative though: a second circuit, added by the previous homeowner, for ceiling fans and wall mounted TV racks. The outlets where the TV racks were (I took the racks down when I moved in) were all correctly grounded. So for several years now I’ve had a heavy duty extension cord going from one of those to the UPSs that my computers were connected to. (An “Uninterruptible Power Supply” for the non techno geeks here. It’s a battery backup power station, for keeping your computers going when the power to the house suddenly goes off. They usually have surge protection on the outlets too.)

I have a couple items, including an old art deco desk clock off to one side of the room where there is no convenient outlet. I have them connected to a 6 outlet surge protector that is plugged into one of the poorly grounded outlets. On the surge protector is a ground fault light, which is always lit because the outlet it’s plugged into isn’t grounded. Which means of course, that the surge protector probably wouldn’t do much in the way of protecting anything. But I was not terribly worried about the clock. I just needed some extra outlets there. My computers were safe, because the were on the circuit that was correctly grounded, but I didn’t like having that extension cord there. I’d been meaning to just call in a professional electrician and have them fix all the outlets in that room, but I have other tasks I would want them to do too (like add some extra outlets around the house, and particularly in the basement art room for Bagheera, my PowerMac G5), and in my darkroom/bathroom. So I procrastinated while looking for money in the budget to do it all.

My second floor bathroom has these recessed spot flood lights in the ceiling. Since I bought the house, none of them have needed replacing, until yesterday. As I walked into the bathroom and flipped the lights on, one of them died with a BANG!. I thought for a second it had exploded. It hadn’t, but the circuit breaker flipped off and the second floor was completely dark, except for my computer monitor. So I got a flashlight, stood on the sink counter and examined the floodlights until I found the one with filament pieces laying on the bottom. I took that one out, checked to see if the socket it was in was damaged, and went down to the basement, flipped the circuit breaker back on, and got a fresh bulb. After I’d put it in and tested it, I went into my office. I noticed immediately that the ground fault light on my surge protector was off.

WTF??? I wasn’t sure I could trust what the surge protector was saying right then, so I got my circuit tester and checked both the problem outlets on that circuit. Now they were telling me that they were happily grounded. I unplugged the UPS from the extension cord going to the TV rack outlet and into the more convenient one right behind the computers. It didn’t complain.

So now all the outlets in that room are fine. At least, that’s their story. I got rid of the extension cord. But I’m not quite sure I like all this. The house isn’t that old, it was built in the 1950s and the wiring I can see all looks good. But it does predate some electrical code now in place for new construction. Swear to god I’m going to have an electrician in here and give it all a once over.

by Bruce Garrett | Link |

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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