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March 31st, 2014

Hopefully The Last Time I Ever Have To Draw Fred…

My cartoon for this week’s Baltimore OUTLoud…

I’ve been paying so much attention to my AAEC presence I’ve woefully neglected my own political cartoon pages.  I will be working on bringing them back up to date soon.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
March 28th, 2014

Let’s Talk…Just Not About What We Need To Talk About

I got this link to a blog post from someone working at Mozilla…

What’s Happening Inside Mozilla

I won’t quote from it lest I be accused later of selective editing. Go read it for yourself, the blogger is obviously distraught over the sudden tidal wave of anger being directed at the company for putting a man at the top who gave a thousand bucks to support Proposition 8.  On the other hand, you’d think from reading his links that all the happy gays and gay friendly people at Mozilla have no problems at all with a guy who dropped a grand to cut off the ring fingers of gay couples in California.

PC Magazine wrote the following about the controversy

“Mozilla’s new CEO this week expressed “sorrow” for having caused pain by making a donation in support of California’s Prop. 8, which sought to ban gay marriage. And while he made an “active commitment to equality,” Brendan Eich did not elaborate on his beliefs regarding gay marriage and the LBGT community…”

A thousand bucks might have seemed chump change to this guy but it’s still serious money, and it shows a serious commitment to a belief that homosexuals are at best damaged goods that don’t actually love and aren’t fully human. There is no argument about protecting the institution of marriage as being about one man and one woman that does not have as its bedrock the image of The Homosexual as some sort of defiling pornographic cesspool flung into a sacred ground.  Marriage is about love and family…homosexuals are degenerates that just have sex, molest children and spread disease.  That was what Proposition 8 was about from beginning to end.  It was an attack, not just on the right of same sex couples to marry, but on the humanity of gay people. It was a multi-million dollar hammer brought down against the very idea that there could possibly be anything sacred about the feelings of love and devotion gay couples feel, waged by people who think we are a cancer on human existence.  And Eich bought a thousand dollar share in that campaign.

But at Mozilla according to this blogger, what they’re having is a discussion about freedom of speech verses equality. That’s the argument the religious right wants everyone to have and it’s exactly the wrong argument to be having. You can give your product away but throw your character into the gutter and you’ll be years cleaning it back up. And this man still doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong.

That’s the problem here. If they’re having a discussion about rights at Mozilla they’re having the wrong discussion.They should be talking about character. That PC Magazine article says that he expressed “sorrow” and did not elaborate on his beliefs regarding same sex marriage and LGBT people.  Tell you what…read His Own Words and then tell me with a straight face that this man has any regrets about what he and countless others did to their gay neighbors in California. Everything is sickeningly there in plain sight, to anyone who has fought this battle:

…the donation does not in itself constitute evidence of animosity. Those asserting this are not providing a reasoned argument, rather they are labeling dissenters to cast them out of polite society. To such assertions, I can only respond: “no”.

Hahahahaha…  Where have I heard that before?  You’re just calling me a hateful bigot because I disagree with you!  No Brandan, ‘bigot’ is a perfectly good old fashioned English word and it means something.  And something else that has some meaning is you declaring you won’t discuss your involvement with Proposition 8 at the same time you’re bellyaching about having a rational discussion.  Actually Brandan they had that rational discussion at the trial and David Boies said it best when he said that the witness stand is a lonely place to lie. But it’s not the only lonely place and you are not a mere dissenter. Freedom of speech is one thing. A thousand dollars to a campaign to cut people’s ring fingers off isn’t mere speech.  But let it be said the speech you dropped a grand on is bad enough. That money went to ads that played the Gays Are Coming For Your Children card!  Living with the lies you paid a thousand bucks for come home to roost is another lonely place. You could renounce them, but it seems you won’t, and that makes them your lies too.

Lies are a kind of speech, yes. Hate mongering is a kind of speech, yes. But what kind of speech, and what kind of person utters it? If they are having a free speech verses equal rights discussion at Mozilla they are having the wrong discussion.

[Edited a tad for clarity…]

by Bruce | Link | React! (3)
March 25th, 2014

Fred

Death only closes a man’s reputation and determines it as good or bad. -Joseph Addison

I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.  -Mark Twain

I’ve lived through such terrible times and there are people who live through much worse. But you see them living anyway. When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children – they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don’t know if that’s just the animal. I don’t know if it’s not braver to die, but I recognize the habit; the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough. It’s so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life. -Tony Kushner, “Angels in America”

In his book African Genesis Robert Ardrey wrote one of the more eloquent analogies for the grandeur of time and the curtain death places between us and the past, so often overlooked when pondering the origins of life. He asks the reader to place themselves on a lonely narrow California beach where foggy mountains slope down into the sea…

…let us make two assumptions. The first, not difficult, is that the visible horizon is just ten miles away. And secondly, we must assume that our sea is death, and that it is rising. This is not too difficult an assumption either, thanks to the lonely beach with the muted cries of a few distant gulls, and no other living thing. It is a sea of  death that we face, stretching beyond the visible horizon to the other end of the once-living world. The death-sea rises, slowly and eternally as it has always been rising, covering all things that it touches. It laps now quietly at our narrow beach, the present.

Where the little waves fall back not twenty feet across the shining sand, we see revealed the rotting, moss grown, Spanish hulks of the Great Armanda…A gentle trough between two incoming swells reveals for an instant not a hundred feet from where we stand a cross…Hammurabi’s Babylon is lost beneath the water amidst shifting sands. We cannot see it, for the sea has risen too high. Eighty yards from our little beach, however, what seem to be three rocks break the incoming swells and make white water. They are, of course, the pyramids at Giza.

Nothing breaks the surface of time’s ocean beyond the pyramids…Had we the courage to wade out into this sea of no return, and to swim out a few strokes, we should find a sandbar just below the surface. These are the fields and pastures of those Middle Eastern peoples, nameless and forgotten, who domesticated wheat and barley and cattle and sheep… All that we call civilization stands between the sandbar and the shore…

…the beach we stand on is the precarious present. It will be swallowed before long as other beaches have been swallowed, and a new one will form just behind us…

I think of this image often when confronted by death. In Ardrey’s sea the ten mile horizon becomes a million years, and each one after that another million, and not many horizons do we travel before the short distance between the sandbar at the beginning of civilization and the shore seems almost laughably, terrifyingly small, let alone our lonely little beach.  The joke I heard once is that it isn’t that life is so short but that we’re dead for so long.

I strongly doubt there is an afterlife and the concept seems awkward anyway. If you’re still there then there is no after, only metamorphosis of some sort. And even then the question becomes, of what sort. Do we still have anything left of us that can be thought of as human?  In the end, what Tony Kushner said is true; what we want is not so much an afterlife as more life. But I don’t think there is even that.

But there is something. Our lives are as though little pebbles tossed into Ardrey’s sea of death. At the moment they hit the water and disappear we are gone. But there are ripples that fan out and away from our lives: The reputation we leave behind. The things we did to our neighbors in this life.  The good and the bad.

There is no point in doing unto Fred as he did unto the rest of us because he won’t be bothered by it, he’s gone. You could think of picketing his funeral as a poke at the little tightly wound church of hate he left behind, but the point is without Fred that little ball of bile would not be. Fred was the problem and now Fred’s gone and he won’t care what you have to say about him now. His last chance of earthly redemption is gone. He done passed the Last Chance station and now it’s too late to get off. He will always be Fred God Hates Fags Phelps. Perhaps that was how he wanted it in the end anyway, to be remembered for what he hated, not what he loved.  But at the end, could he even remember anything he had once loved?

There is nothing wrong with being angry at Fred. There is nothing wrong with that feeling of contempt for the man.  He earned it, worked hard for it, and probably right up to the very end was immensely proud of it. But stand quietly at his grave, respectfully because this is your destination too someday, and let the life that once was be a warning. Hate does not share power within a heart. It will systematically kill every other thing you have in there, everything fine and noble you ever were or ever could have been, and take from you all the smiles and all the laughs and all the love you might have shared, until there is nothing left inside of you but hate itself. To picket a grave is pointless, there is nothing there anymore, only the ripples of what once was spreading gently across the sea of death. For all his picketing of the dead, and all the obscene hatred he vented at the mourners, he was powerless to stop or alter the ripples of their lives, and all the smiles and all the laughs and all the love that were shared, gently spreading outward in time.  All Fred had within his power was to change the nature of his own reputation, his own life’s ripples and he did not. He hurt a lot of people, but he destroyed himself.

Stand quietly. Say a prayer if you have one in you. Will this world be better for your having walked in it? Then let him go. Don’t bury yourself along with him.

[Edited a tad for clarity…and some additional thumping…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
February 25th, 2014

Subhuman

This came across my Twitter stream the other day…

No Nugent Is Good Nugent
GOP weeps over Nugent comments, but are these crocodile tears?

There’s been hand-wringing and eye-rolling among the Texas GOP this week over Ted Nugent calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.” The real question is, why now?

Because the rest of the country started taking notice, that’s why.  But as usual the corporate news media only looks at it superficially, lambasting republicans for hitching Ted Nugent to their wagon while focusing almost exclusively on his “subhuman mongrel” crack at the president.  Yes, yes, it’s telling in its in-your-face racism.  They’re not even dog whistling at the base anymore.  But that was hardly all there is to find in the catalog of Nugent’s wit and wisdom.

Christ almighty you’d think the Family Values party never bothered to listen to his music, hear the lyrics, or even just glance a second or two at the album cover for “Love Grenade”?

 

And then there’s this lovely little ditty…

Well, I don’t care if you’re just 13
You look too good to be true
I just know that you’re probably clean…

Jailbait you look fine, fine, fine…
It’s quite alright, I asked your mama
Wait a minute, officer
Don’t put those handcuffs on me
Put them on her, and I’ll share her with you

Now get back to me about how you’re all against the gay agenda because homosexuals prey on children.

What were they thinking you ask?  Oh I know what they were thinking.  They were thinking inside that comfortable cocoon that Fox News and Talk Radio and their right wing billionaire money teats built for them.  That gentleman’s club at the edge of town where they can let the masks come off and say all the things they really mean without decency and humanity getting a word in edgewise.  Sometimes they forget the cocoon they live in is not the world they live in, and then the rest of the country sees them hugging the likes of Ted Nugent like he’s their soul brother.  But that’s only because he Is their soul brother.

Take advantage of a 13 year old girl for her body…take the food out of her mouth because you wanted another yacht…the difference between the Wall Street men and the duck dynasty boys is the cost of their toys…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
January 7th, 2014

Let Us Give Them Comfortable Little Graves…

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

Lawmaker questions including gays in human trafficking anti-discrimination regs

A lawmaker who helped author Kansas’ constitutional amendment banning gay marriage questioned a state official Tuesday about why his agency included sexual orientation in an anti-discrimination clause for safe houses for victims of human trafficking.

Now why on earth, you may be wondering, would anyone object to telling people who are providing services to kids who have been rescued from human trafficking rings to not discriminate against the gay ones?  You may be wondering that is, if you hadn’t been paying attention to the bottomless abyss that is the anti-gay industrial complex…

After rattling off a series of nondiscrimination categories for admission to the secure facilities that included gender and race, Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, asked Smith why sexual orientation was also included.

“I wasn’t sure what your origin was on listing sexual preference,” Pauls said. “Gender covers a lot of the sexual discrimination, potentially. I just wasn’t sure why the sexual preference was added.”

Smith said it was a safeguard to ensure homosexual victims get helped.

And there’s the problem right there.  There are no homosexual victims, there are only victims of homosexuals…

“The issue is, if you have a homosexual child who was prostituted out there, you don’t want a facility denying treatment to that child,” Smith said. “Not that we believe anybody would deny services based on that.”

But then, what do we mean…really…by “denying services?” We give them a place to stay. That doesn’t mean they have to feel comfortable here does it?  Behold:

Pauls also said she didn’t believe any human trafficking victims would be denied access to a safe house on that basis, but she said including it in legal nondiscrimination regulations could pose problems for religious institutions providing help, whether they be Christian, Muslim and other faiths that oppose homosexual activity.

“They might refuse if part of the followup treatment is to make the person comfortable in the alternative lifestyle they may have been forced into,” Pauls said.

You would expect that child services professionals would be making very sure every kid rescued from this sort of thing, not just the gay ones, knows in their heart that they aren’t to blame for what they were made to do.  Every kid was forced into it.  There is no “may have” about it.  But there’s something else going on in this woman’s line of questioning.  Something those of you reading this who haven’t been fighting this fight for so long may be missing here.  Homosexuals you see, don’t reproduce, they recruit.  There are no gay kids, only heterosexual kids that were abused by homosexuals and “turned”.  So really every gay kid was forced into that “alternative lifestyle”.  See how that works?

We are not denying these kids services, we are denying they are gay.  And these children need rescuing too…from the homosexual agenda.  So the religious institutions providing services to exploited children need to be able to tell those kids that Change Is Possible.  For God sakes don’t make them comfortable with being turned into homosexuals. Tell them they are not homosexual, that their homosexuality is only the damage their masters inflicted upon them.  And never mind this might only make them even more suicidal than they already were.

Those men who did this to you…they made you think you’re homosexual…but God can heal you…  And when the healing doesn’t come, when the sexual attraction to their own sex does not go away, because homosexuality is a real thing and some kids after all really are gay, what is that kid supposed to think, except that the men who sold them, and the men who exploited them, damaged them beyond repair.  Raped once by the peddlers of children, raped again by the peddlers of righteousness.  And then what do those kids do? They do what bullied gay kids do year after year after year after heartbreaking year.

And thus the safe house becomes the final nail in a little coffin that didn’t have to be, but for the ignorance, but for the unmitigated unforgivable arrogance of some theoretically devout people, who just knew they knew better than that kid’s maker what that kid was meant to be, whose arms that kid was made to be embraced by, and loved.

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.  We can’t let them just be homosexual.  We can’t just tell them they’re loved just as they are.  Dear Lord don’t tell us we have to let them be comfortable in sin.  Better dead than that…

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)
January 2nd, 2014

That Fine Line Between Love And Hate And How To Cross It

I was approaching the U.S. Supreme Court building across from the Capital, a year after their awful decision in Hardwick v. Bowers upholding the sodomy laws. For the first time I think ever, I was going to a demonstration not to be the detached photojournalist, but to actually count myself as a participant.  And to reenforce that I’d not brought any of my cameras (a decision I now regret, but so it goes).  I’d arrived via the subway, got off at Union Station and was walking across Constitution Avenue when I noticed there was a police presence already forming up.  As I walked past a group of them I heard one policeman, an older black gentleman, saying to his companions, “I don’t have no trouble with the older faggots…”

It struck me as a grim echo from another time and the bitter mockery of it made my head spin.  Yes, yes…nobody has any trouble with the ones that know their place.

This came across my news stream shortly after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah’s anti-gay constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the right to marry…

Utah weighs impact of ruling allowing gay marriage

While Utah’s attorney general strategizes an appeal of the ruling and Mormons take a softer approach in opposing gay marriage, others in the traditionally conservative state predict broader acceptance of the practice nationwide.

A quote in this leaped out at me…

For Hunt, 44, a bellhop at a swank downtown hotel a few blocks from the LDS church’s sacred Temple Square, the days have been spent discussing the ruling’s impact with family and fellow Mormons.

“Is it the end of the world? No,” he said, shivering in the 15-degree cold. “In the end, we have a message to the gay and lesbian people who live among us — we don’t hate you, it’s nothing like that. But we believe what we believe. And our conviction is strong.”

We don’t hate you…  No dear, of course you don’t.  As long as we stay in our place.  Bet you don’t have no trouble with the older faggots either.

How often I heard this crap back when King and Malcolm X were telling white folk they weren’t shining shoes anymore. We don’t hate them coloreds, they’re fine people…happy cotton pickers…dance with a lot of rhythm don’t they? We don’t hate women either.  How could you say I hate women…my god I married a woman…she’s a nice little homemaker…great in the kitchen…wouldn’t want her running a business though…that’s man’s work.

It’s disingenuous self serving sanctimony.  Sure you don’t hate Them.  You don’t hate Them as long as They know Their place and stay in it.  It’s when They won’t stay in Their place that the hate starts happening.  Torrents of it.

Ever wonder at the passions you see suddenly snap out of a bigot when they’re forced to…you know…behave like a bigot?  It is because now they have to see what monsters they really are deep down inside. You made me do this to you…I hate you for making me do this to you…for making me see what kind of person I really am…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
December 10th, 2013

The Persistence Of The Closet…(continued)

Slate today runs an article riffing on the New York Times article I linked to yesterday. They headline theirs The American Closet Is Bigger Than We Thought.  I assume the ‘we’ in that headline is “heterosexuals’, with maybe a side of ‘those of us also in the closet’, because you don’t live in this country as a gay person without seeing or at least glimpsing that vast nation of the closeted first hand. No kidding there’s more of them than you thought…

But if that Times article helps the heterosexual majority to see, really see, the damage that was done, and is still being done, then good.  Seems a lot of folks are noticing that bit in the Times article, about wives in less tolerant states checking Google for advice on whether their husbands are gay. But there was also this…

Craigslist lets us look at this from a different angle. I analyzed ads for males looking for “casual encounters.” The percentage of these ads that are seeking casual encounters with men tends to be larger in less tolerant states. Among the states with the highest percentages are Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama.

Back in the 1980s, what I think of as the BBS days, I did volunteer work for a gay community BBS whose creator intended it not to be a hookup site but a serious information and educational resource for gay people.  He realized back then, as I did when I connected to those first primitive amateur computer networks, what they could do for us as a people.  The BBS advertised in the local gay newspaper, and I think in one of the alternative City Papers, and the ads included a phone number for help getting connected.  He told us he would get desperate phone calls on that number in the middle of the night, from men who’d been caught in police vice stings…trolling the parks or some public lavatory…needing emergency legal advice.  He said without exception, without exception, those men were all married, and none of then identified as gay.  At least, they wouldn’t over the course of that phone call.  That was the 1980s.

It’s still going on…

One could leave these findings angry at all these men for not coming out, but Stephen-Davidowitz’s concluding anecdote—about a retired professor who has been married to a woman for 40 years and “regrets virtually every one of his major life decisions”—articulates my overwhelming emotion: sadness.

That’s fine, but anger is still a good reaction to have and I hope the heterosexual majority cultivates it…not at the closeted, but at the Righteous and the Upstanding who keep teaching young gay people to hate themselves, so that they can have scapegoats, someone to gloat over, so they don’t have to look at their own failures of moral character. Be angry at them. Ask yourselves what kind of person turns anyone’s basic human need for intimate companionship against them, makes them deeply ashamed, even fearful, of their own human heart…

Sometimes even I get tired of looking at aggregate data, so I asked a psychiatrist in Mississippi who specializes in helping closeted gay men if any of his patients might want to talk to me. One man contacted me. He told me he was a retired professor, in his 60s, married to the same woman for more than 40 years.

About 10 years ago, overwhelmed with stress, he saw the therapist and finally acknowledged his sexuality. He has always known he was attracted to men, he says, but thought that that was normal and something that men hid. Shortly after beginning therapy, he had his first, and only, gay sexual encounter, with a student of his in his late 20s, an experience he describes as “wonderful.”

He and his wife do not have sex. He says that he would feel guilty ever ending his marriage or openly dating a man. He regrets virtually every one of his major life decisions.

He regrets virtually every one of his major life decisions… What kind of person does this to another, takes pride in doing it, and can look in a mirror and see a righteous person?  Look at that.  Really look at it.  It’s okay to get angry after looking down into that Pit.  But don’t look into it for too long, because Nietzsche was right about an abyss gazing back into you.  Just remember what you saw the next time you hear one of them yapping about their sincerely held religious beliefs.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
November 5th, 2013

Spitting Into The Mirror

From Politico today, which I will not link to because…Politico…

Reince Priebus: President Obama’s ‘culture of hatred’

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus ripped President Barack Obama for creating a “culture of hatred” in which Democrats are likening the GOP to the Ku Klux Klan.

“It’s the culture that the president’s cultivated here. A culture of dishonesty, a culture of hatred,” Priebus said Monday on Fox News’s “Hannity.”

You don’t say…  A culture of hatred…

Hatred…

Hatred…

like the ku klux klan…

Carefully cultivated…

Carefully…

Carefully…

Carefully…

Carefully…

Cultivated…

And your problem with cultivating hatred for votes is…what exactly?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
October 6th, 2013

The Noble Work Of Public Service

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…a status post from a frustrated federal employee…

I’m really tired of being vilified as a federal worker. I WANT to WORK. I want to support myself. My colleagues do as well. We want to be productive and we don’t deserve to be accused of living off the backs of taxpayers or lazy and worse. I’m truly offended that members of my own family and some that I thought were friends have bought into this crap. I’ve tried to hold my tongue but I’m pissed off! If you truly feel that way, then unfriend me and don’t let the door hit you on the way out of my life!

I remember a time, in the afterglow of the FDR days I guess, when “public service” jobs were considered noble work done for the good of the nation. I have watched the right wing, over time, chip away at that notion, not because they genuinely thought that government workers were lazy but because they hated democratic government and all that liberty and justice for all stuff. It seemed in my lifetime to culminate in that famous Ronald Reagan campaign quote, “”The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Think about what he’s saying there, the next time you call for a policeman or a fireman, or listen to the hurricane track forecast from the national weather service, or you throw away some food in your pantry because it was recalled due to salmonella and you’re glad you heard the warning before you ate any of it. Think about it the next time you drive on the Interstate Highway System, or fly somewhere. Private enterprise wants to help only its bottom line. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a different thing from work that benefits the nation as a whole, and we have seen clearly now since the phrase “trickle-down” became an economic policy how that simply does not work.  The libertarian pipe dream of a society that magically assumes a stable, productive shape solely by the force of the invisible hand of the marketplace is a fantasy held on to by people who want that free lunch of a nation they don’t have to be bothered with the work of maintaining.  When it’s not the carefully crafted propaganda of sociopaths.  A civilized society needs people to work for the government and be here to help us all.

Once upon a time the saying on Wall Street was what’s good for business is good for America, but that has it backwards, tragically, woefully backwards. It’s what’s good for America is good for business. What’s good for democracy is good for business. What’s good for the people is good for business, because without customers no business can prosper. But there are some who don’t give a good goddamn about America…or business. They care only for their own private wealth, their own power and glory. Reagan was half right about those words being the most terrifying words in the English language. To him and others of his kind, second only to the words “Liberty and justice for all.”

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
October 4th, 2013

Belief In Soulmates

@Sherman_Alexie: “#2 reason for divorce: Belief in “soulmates.” #1: shagging someone else’s “soulmate.”"

I guess he hasn’t seen very many long lived couples.  I have.  Soulmates is a real thing.  But not everyone has that temperament for monogamy.  People who don’t should leave people who do alone, and vice-versa.  I would submit that a big cause of divorce is our culture places too much emphasis on monogamy and not enough on trustworthiness.  But before you can be honest with others you need to be honest with yourself.  You need to cultivate that habit of truth telling internally.  The culture that discourages that is cutting its own throat.  Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is innately monogamous.

Some of us are.  And we who are and those who are not seem always to be staring at each other in disbelief and fussing with each other about all the wrong things.  Belief in soulmates isn’t a problem…soulmates are a real thing…belief that only monogamy is moral is a problem.  Cheating is immoral.  Lying just to get inside someone’s pants is immoral.  Sex for its own sake is not in and of itself immoral.  You live long enough and you will see lots of long lived happy couples and lots of thoroughly decent moral trustworthy people who’ve had lots and lots of lovers.  Monogamy is a temperament, not an ideal.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
July 14th, 2013

But This Is Not That World.

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

Scott Spencer-Wolff: “I imagine a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home on a rainy night.”
[Diana Butler Bass]

But this is not that world.  Spare some anger today (assuming you are angry) to think about why that is.  Because that’s the problem.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
July 11th, 2013

The Vigilante Or Civilization…Pick One

Digby:

The facts show that George Zimmerman armed himself with a gun loaded with hollow point bullets and ended up killing an unarmed teenager who was just out buying some snacks. How that happened is disputed but to me it’s obvious that when you strap on a gun, go looking for trouble and end up stalking and killing an unarmed 17 year old, you’ve done something wrong.

Digby goes on to say “To me, the carrying of that gun morally requires that he be held liable in some way for the unarmed Trayvon’s death”, but there is where I often part company with my fellow liberals on the issue of guns: I am fine with the concept that you have a right to own a gun and defend yourself with it. In fact, I consider that right to be a fundamentally democratic thing.

What isn’t are things like vigilantism and racism.  These are poison.  They are poison to the person, they are poison to the nation.  This case is positively dripping with racism that nobody in the corporate news media wants to look closely at, because we’re all supposed to be beyond all that now. Except we’re not. Zimmerman’s suspicion and fear of Martin only makes sense in the context of Martin’s race, his sex, and his age. There is literally nothing else there but those three things. Zimmerman stalked that kid because of those three things, and his rational for killing an unarmed teenage boy who was out buying snacks can only seem plausible due to those three things. Fear the black male, and especially, fear the young black male.  Look, for as long as you can stomach it, at the breathless agreement that Martin posed a threat to Zimmerman’s life, solely on the basis of Zimmerman’s say-so, and the ephemeral signs of a fight on his face and head.  That was no beating.  You want to see what a beating looks like, look at the photos of recent victims of gay bashers.  But it’s simply an accepted fact in certain quarters of the country that Zimmerman’s life was threatened. Were Martin white it would not matter what the race of his stalker would be, other than if his stalker was a black man he’d already have been convicted and on Florida’s death row. Picture it: a white teenaged boy stalked by a strange man, fights back and is found shot to death. Would anyone doubt the adult male had done something horribly wrong?  Why is it never considered, that Martin was standing His ground when Zimmerman confronted him? Well, of course a young black male has no such right.  Racism was always at the rotten core of this.

But if Zimmerman was a racist, he was also a vigilante and if you approve of vigilantism anywhere outside the pages of a comic book you are no friend of civilization let alone democracy.  All those people waving around the second amendment as a defense against tyranny are no defenders of democracy…if anything they are the useful tools of anarchy.  The gun is what you need when the the peace is broken, so the first thing, the basic responsibility of the believers in civilization and democracy is to preserve the peace.  That means the rule of law and the ballot box as the agent of change.  Peaceful disobedience, where the conscience requires disobedience, and responsibility for ones own conduct toward your neighbors.  Responsibility.  What a concept, that.  Zimmerman acted like the gun came with a badge and they don’t. But more than that, he acted as if he had character enough to bear the wearing of a badge and it’s sickeningly obvious he is no such person.

However this trial turns out, if nothing else this case really raises a lot of questions about the kind of nation we are, or should want to be. So many virtuous moral all-American values types cheering on what Zimmerman did. It’s been a while since I’ve been this completely disgusted. Digby’s right, what would be a just punishment for what Zimmerman did isn’t obvious, but what is staringly obvious is that he did something terribly, horribly wrong. A teenage boy went out for snacks and never came back home, because Zimmerman saw a young black man somewhere he thought a young black man didn’t belong, and took that matter into his own hands.

[Edited slightly…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
June 8th, 2013

In Theory You Could Add A Check…

The EFF as usual, gets it right

In response to the recent news reports about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, President Barack Obama said today, “When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls.” Instead, the government was just “sifting through this so-called metadata.” The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made a similar comment last night: “The program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone’s phone calls. The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber.”

What they are trying to say is that disclosure of metadata—the details about phone calls, without the actual voice—isn’t a big deal, not something for Americans to get upset about if the government knows. Let’s take a closer look at what they are saying:

They know you rang a phone sex service at 2:24 am and spoke for 18 minutes. But they don’t know what you talked about.

They know you called the suicide prevention hotline from the Golden Gate Bridge. But the topic of the call remains a secret.

They know you spoke with an HIV testing service, then your doctor, then your health insurance company in the same hour. But they don’t know what was discussed.

“In theory, you could add the check of exposing the system to the light of day, but that means wrecking much of its intelligence value”, they’re saying over at Volokh, exposing to the light of day the usual contempt wingers have for democracy. That would be the Voters you’re talking about there Baker, and why goodness gracious the system Was exposed to the light of day, otherwise known as the Voters, we’re all arguing about it now aren’t we, and if they ever catch the whistleblower who let the voters know what their government was doing to them that person will think Bradley Manning had it easy.

But I am just a computer geek who just happens to be working on a space science program which will itself fling a fucking torrent of data back at planet earth for astronomers to make sense of. Every now and then I get a bit worried when I see the disconnect between my understanding of how electronic information systems work and everyone else’s. Then I see articles like that Forbes Magazine one where they described how Target figured out a teenage girl was pregnant before her parents did and sent her helpful offerings of child care products and I feel a little better. Then I see this. Oh they’re not listening to our phone calls, just capturing the metadata…nothing to worry about citizen.

But never mind the metadata. If the deep secrecy going on here, where not just court orders are secret but the government’s interpretation of the laws its supposed to be following are secret too isn’t scaring the hell out of you then I have to wonder why you even bother following the news or taking the trouble to vote.

I am not an anti-government crank. I am a liberal FDR democrat. I believe in democracy. But for democracy to work you need elections, and for those to work you need voters who know what the fuck is going on. Oliver Willis stupid shit reductio ad absurdums notwithstanding. Nobody is demanding Geraldo Rivera follow CIA agents around with a TV camera while Jerry Springer provides a running commentary. But when oversight itself becomes a state secret, when the governments own interpretations of the laws binding it are kept from the voters, then it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen. I am not an anti-government crank, I am a liberal FDR democrat, and I believe in democratic government. And one reason I believe in democratic government is power corrupts. The light of day is a good thing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
March 21st, 2013

Seeing Your Gay Neighbor Through Prejudiced Colored Glasses

The struggle for gay civil rights is merely homosexuals seeking approval of their lifestyle…

Young Opponents of Gay Marriage Undaunted by Battle Ahead

“The primary challenge that our side faces right now is the intense social pressure,” said Joseph Backholm, 34, the executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “To the extent that the other side is able to frame this as a vote for gay people to be happy, it will be challenging for us.”

The more things change the more they stay the same.  As far back as Anita Bryant’s rampage on Dade County’s anti-discrimination law, the rhetoric has been that all the fuss about gay rights is merely the homosexuals demanding societal approval of their lifestyle.  No matter how you phrase that, (a vote for gay people to be happy) it is ignorant.  All you’re telling us there Joseph, is you can’t see the people for the homosexuals.

Anyone who thinks this struggle is only about approval or some frivolous desire for “happiness” has ether never loved or does not think gay people are capable of love.  Happiness is in your lover’s smile, and the touch of their hand in yours.  All the approval you could ever need is in their eyes when they look into yours.  You would know this if you ever loved Joseph.  You would know why we fight for the honor and the dignity of it if you could see the people for the homosexuals.  We are not asking for approval from the likes of you Joseph, let alone happiness.  What we need from you is to take the damn knife out of our backs.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
March 16th, 2013

The Lost Cause

Ever wonder how so many southerners can claim with a straight face that slavery was a benign, even beneficial institution toward black people?  Ever find yourself chuckling under your breath when you hear one of them refer to the civil war as The War Of Northern Aggression…?

The South still lies about the Civil War

The Civil War is like a mountain range that guards all roads into the South: you can’t go there without encountering it. Specifically, you can’t go there without addressing a question that may seem as if it shouldn’t even be a question—to wit: what caused the war? One hundred and fifty years after the event, Americans—at least the vast majority who toil outside academia—still can’t agree. Evidence of this crops up all the time, often in the form of a legal dispute over a display of the Confederate flag. (As I write, there are two such cases pending—one in Oregon and the other in Florida, making this an average news week.) Another common forum is the classroom. But it’s not always about the Stars and Bars. In 2010, for instance, Texas school officials made the news by insisting that Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address be given equal prominence with Abraham Lincoln’s in that state’s social studies curriculum. The following year, Virginia school officials were chagrined to learn that one of their state-adopted textbooks was teaching fourth graders that thousands of loyal slaves took up arms for the confederacy.

At the bottom of all of these is one basic question: was the Civil War about slavery, or states’ rights?

Read the whole thing and if you’re of a certain age you find yourself remembering how the further south you went, the more ridiculous their version of the civil war became.  And you remember something else…how you just laughed it off and went along, because there was no sense rubbing their noses in it after so long.  The war was a thing of the distant past…a relic of history, a plot device in spaghetti westerns and TV shows.  The union won, slavery was defeated, a new South was born from the ashes.  Well…yes…but so was the Ku Klux Klan.  And almost one-hundred and fifty years after the war the party of Lincoln is now the party of John C. Calhoun, the intellectual godfather of the confederacy.

That has had consequences, among them being continuing and relentless political attacks not only on the rights of minorities, but more basically on the union itself that so many northern soldiers fought and died for.  And since the nation’s first black president was reelected it’s only gotten worse, the outright calls for succession louder.

How did it happen that we seem right back where we started, minus only the slaves in chains but little else. It was the bloodiest war this nation has ever fought and in the spirit of healing and reconciliation the valor and bravery of confederate soldiers was honored, even as we all seemed to agree that the cause of the war, slavery, was a stain on both the southern slave holding states, as well as the northerners who kidnapped black Africans and and sold them into southern slavery.  But almost immediately the south began denying it had any culpability at all in that war, and the victorious north eventually just accepted it as yet another of the south’s peculiar institutions.  It was a mistake.  When I was a kid in the 1960s we treated the lost cause mindset as the source of lighthearted joking…


My boots have touched Yankee soil! Now I’ll
have to burn them!

Yes, yes…war of northern aggression…whatever… But it is no joke. Compare modern Germany’s acknowledgment of its Nazi past, and the horrific crime of the Holocaust with the south’s of its antebellum past and slavery, and then compare the political mindset of even conservative Germans nowadays with that of the southern republican base and you see what cultural denial buys you.

This:

CPAC Participant Defends Slavery At Minority Outreach Panel: It Gave ‘Food And Shelter’ To Blacks

…an audience member from North Carolina, 30-year-old Scott Terry, asked whether Republicans could endorse races remaining separate but equal. After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst.

They cheered. They didn’t look away in embarrassment and discomfort, the way a German audience would if some lout among them defended Hitler for improving the lives of Jews by taking Germany out of economic depression.  They cheered.  They cheered because they grew up in a world where all their comfortable conceits about themselves and their history are never disturbed, lest they find themselves asking troubling questions about whence they came and who they are.

We did not start a war that killed more Americans then all our other wars combined just so we could keep other humans in slavery…we did not kill hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans, our neighbors, for the cause of white supremacy…it’s a lie…we’re good Christian people…

And thus the sins of the fathers became the pride of the children, and all the racism, sexism and homophobia, all the bitter hatred of a democracy that protects the right of black people to vote, let alone drink from a white man’s water fountain, and all the acid resentment toward a world that insists on moving forward to that better tomorrow, despite their best efforts to hold it down so they won’t have to acknowledge what their Heritage actually Is.

After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst…

The lost cause isn’t lost because it was defeated, it is lost because it leads people into an endless darkness from which few ever return.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
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