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Archive for October, 2007

October 31st, 2007

A Small Moment Of Reckoning

Baltimore, I am very proud to say, gave Fred Phelps his due today

BALTIMORE – A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.

Snyder’s attorney, Craig Trebilcock, had urged jurors to determine an amount "that says don’t do this in Maryland again. Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again."

The church and three of its leaders — the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46 — were found liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.

Even the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted.

Yes, but those financial statements are almost certainly bullshit.  I’ve seen Fred’s compound…he and his family own an entire neighborhood block’s worth of property.  And their forays around the country to picket everything from Funerals to high school plays are being paid for with something. 

Their attorneys maintained in closing arguments Tuesday that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

And Fred is still free to spread his message of hate.  Just not at funerals.  The first amendment doesn’t give you the right to come into my house and scream in my face.  Goodness knows telephone solicitors, door to door salesmen and politicians every election year would be in heaven if it did.  There are public and private spaces and if a funeral isn’t a private space I don’t know what is.

Fred’s known all these years what he’s doing isn’t about anything more righteous then how much he hates the world he lives in and how badly he wants to make it suffer for making him hate it.  It’s not that God Hates Fags, but that Fred does.  It’s not that God Hates Fag Enablers, but that Fred does.  It’s not that God Hates America, but that Fred does.  And nothing gets a hater’s goat more then knowing that the objects of their contempt also happen to be a lot smarter then they are.  Fred could out hate anyone, but he couldn’t out think a brick, and he knew it and it must have turned the worm inside of him all the more knowing it.   You need brainpower, you need audacity and nerve, to really destroy your enemies.  But Fred knew the most he could ever manage was pissing people off and he settled for doing that because at least making people angry gave him a small measure of power over them.  It’s the chickenshit’s revenge, as befitting the chickenshit pulpit thumper of a congenital congregation.  When the only people you see in your pews are your own family, that’s a message straight from God Almighty Himself that it’s time to close your book of sermons, walk out the door  and go look for some honest work.  But Fred didn’t have it in him to wield a mighty sword against his enemies, let alone raise a mighty voice to God from his pulpit.  So he settled for mooning the world he hated, and everyone in it possessing that half a brain he himself had never been blessed with, just out of range.  Well, today he got his ass kicked…

Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict, while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles.

That’s how people who are perpetually constipated look.  Fred isn’t a prophet, he’s Kaopectate for the soul. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Small Moment Of Reckoning

Like No Other…

[New Car Love Alert…]

Some years ago I was kicked back on the sofa, idly watching a chase on one of those police video car chase programs. Some thief had stolen a big, hugely expensive four door luxury sedan, and the cops were chasing it all over, I think it was southern California, trying to get it to stop. But this wasn’t just any old rich man’s status tank they were pursuing, it was a Mercedes S class, and I watched with a little guilty pleasure as that thing consistently out ran, out cornered and generally out maneuvered all the souped up Ford police cars trying to catch it. And the cops knew what it was they were chasing that night, and that they were going to have a hard time with it. You heard it on the police radio chatter as the pursuit went on.

It was guilty fun sitting there watching a big stogy luxury sedan blast down the freeway, just walking away from the cop car behind it at speeds well in excess of a hundred, then suddenly seem to just turn on a dime, at speed, and blast off in a completely different direction while its pursuers were skidding around trying to change course. In my defense, I’ll say I was also angry for the owner of the car. It was an outrage that such a fine vehicle was being recklessly manhandled by someone who couldn’t have cared less about its engineering qualities, so much as the money he thought he was going to get for stealing it. I think the cops eventually had to use spikes to get it to stop.

I probably was driving Aya, my 1993 Geo Prism, back then. I was happy with that car. But when that TV chase ended I know my heart probably sighed a little. There’s why I want a Mercedes…

Back when I was a teenager, and first fell in Mercedes love, the company had an advertising slogan that went, Engineered Like No Other Car In The World. Okay, take that apart. Like any ad slogan it seems to say a lot, while actually saying very little. Of course you nitwit it’s engineered like no other car in the world…Every car maker does the engineering their own way. The goddamned Trabant can say it’s engineered like no other car in the world too, and count your blessings for it!

But what you were meant to get from that slogan, was that Mercedes put engineering excellence foremost…that in addition to fine materials and workmanship, you were also buying a work of high automobile engineering art. Here’s a typical Mercedes ad from 1971, around the time I was starting to get Mercedes love bad.

Now most cars these days should be able to perform on the test track pretty much like that Mercedes sedan in that ad did back then. But back in 1971, back when most cars sold in America still had solid rear axles and rear leaf springs, it would have been remarkable to see Any car doing that, let alone a large four door luxury sedan. Put a 1971 Lincoln Continental on that test track and see what you get.

The image of the Mercedes-Benz was that it was a stodgy, boxy looking German luxury car that was way over engineered, over powered, and could out maneuver any American sports car on the road, let alone American full sized sedans. And Mercedes pioneered passenger safety engineering in a day when the U.S. automakers were still dragging their heels on shoulder harnesses and five mile an hour bumpers. You knew the Mercedes would protect you in an accident better then any other car. But you also knew that even the biggest and most luxurious Mercedes were powerful and nimble enough to help you avoid the accident in the first place

That was 1971. It’s a measure of how much trust in their engineering Mercedes lost during the 1990s, that their new slogan is Because We Promised You A Mercedes Benz.

I actually could have bought a Mercedes a couple years ago, when Aya, after driving it more then two hundred thousand miles, began telling me that it was time to get a new car. That was February 2005. And I did look at the C class then, and I didn’t like it, and I wasn’t ready yet to start trusting Mercedes again, especially after they’d decided to merge with Chrysler. I wouldn’t trust a Chrysler motor any further then I could throw it. But then they got rid of Jürgen Schrempp, divorced from Chrysler, and came out with an entirely new from the ground up C class that I thought was drop dead beautiful the moment I laid eyes on one. And when I sat in one, I thought, This is Me.

I’m looking under the hood of my new Mercedes the other day, still drinking it all in, still in new car love, and I’m gawking at these big ass steel struts I see jutting forward along each side of the engine toward the radiators. I’ve seen front end frame members before but nothing like these. They look more like they belong on a small truck then a compact four door sedan. And I’m remembering how Mercedes engineers, who seem to be back in control now, had been rethinking, fine tuning, their crash crumple zone technology. Mercedes invented the crumple zone, where parts of the car are designed to give way in a crash and absorb the forces of impact. They were doing that back in the 1950s. But now with supercomputer modeling technology, they’re managing the forces of impact a tad more precisely now, and a few strategic parts of the car are being beefed up to Not crumple, but withstand impact, and transmit the force elsewhere, more effectively around the passenger compartment and away from the passengers.

And I’m standing there gawking at these honking big steel frame members and my eyes wander around the engine, in its own compartment within a compartment, with gaskets that seal to the hood and keep the engine heat and fumes away from the other under the hood systems, which also have their own little sub compartments, and all the stuff that connects everything together which is more robust then it needs to be, and almost arrogantly precise. And I feel the smile coming back to my face again. This is what I wanted a Mercedes for. I didn’t spend all this money for an empty status symbol.

Over at the LA Times, Dan Neil’s review of the new C class begins thusly

On average, the angriest e-mails I get are from former Mercedes-Benz owners on the occasion of my saying something nice about the company’s products…

Allow me to gloss: "I can’t believe you raved about the [insert gaudy hunk of German schteel here]. I bought a Mercedes a few years ago and it was a total piece of [insert colorful metaphor here]. I took it back to the dealer [exponential figure times] and finally got sick of them looking at me like I was speaking a foreign language [English?]. So, when did you go on the company payroll, you toadying, Hun-loving shill?"

What energizes these missives is a sense of betrayal, and in a perverse way – and wholly unwelcome, I’m sure – the galled, bug-eyed fury of disappointed buyers is a tribute to the expectations attached to the Mercedes-Benz brand…

Just so. And Neil’s initial impression of this new Mercedes is the same as mine…

So, is the new C-class – in the deathless prose of the ad – a Mercedes-Benz? Well, it feels like one. The moment you touch the door handle, you register the lubricated heft, the mantle-of-the-Earth solidity of Mercedes’ biggest and best products. Fall into the stiff, low-bolster seats and the familiar comes at you in waves: The optional COMAND nav/audio/vehicle controller interface is the same as in the S-class, only the central rotary knob is a smaller, knurled aluminum wheel. Much of the switchgear is identical to that of the higher-end vehicles. I was fairly unexcited about the C-class interior until I saw it in person; the grade of materials is richer and more appealing than it looks in photos. This is an organized, serious interior with lots of evident deliberation behind it. Sightlines are excellent, and it’s especially nice to be able to see the hood stretching out with small audacity like the S-class.

I’ve heard complaints about the amount of plastic in the new C class interior. I invite the critics to compare with the Lexus, Acura, and Infinity. A couple years ago I flew into Memphis and rented an Infinity G35 four door and while it was nice, it was more loaded with plastic then the new C, and it also felt cheap to the touch. I could close my eyes and think I was touching the dash of a Chevy. Not so in my C300. The stuff Mercedes is using is a thicker gage and feels on the one hand much more solid and substantial to the touch, and yet on the other soft and supple when you run your fingers across its surface. It’s interesting stuff. I used to work in a custom plastic fabrication shop, and I’m a little familiar with the various kinds of plastics and how their formed and worked. This stuff Mercedes is using isn’t cheap. Just less expensive then all leather sewn upholstery. You want that, go buy an S class. You want more wood and less plastic, buy the E class.

We C class owners are probably mostly folks who can just barely afford the C, let alone the E or S. We’re not rich, we’re middle class Mercedes aficionados and we aren’t spending this kind of money all for nice leather and wood trim. You buy a Mercedes for its engineering as much as anything else. And I think Mercedes is really back on track here with this new C. Again, from Neil…

You can call it lines of force, graviton waves or celestial harmonics, but there is something deeply Benz-like about the C-class’ interior ambiance. It’s not simply the deeply muffled interior and wind noise levels, but the timbre of those sounds. The thing sounds like it should have European air woofling through the air ducts.

The solidness of a thing’s build makes itself felt everywhere. Whether its a house or a car. Some folks just notice that sort of thing more then the surface trimmings. It’s not that all the little details of trim and finish aren’t important, but they’re no substitute for quality engineering. A house should be solidly built because it needs to be a house first, and only then a showpiece. A state of the art kitchen can’t make a house without a good foundation and a roof that won’t last any better then a trailer. You buy a car like a Mercedes-Benz, because first you want the best Car, then you want all the nice trimmings to go with it.

In the C class, because of its price point, some compromises have to be made between trim and engineering. I think I speak for a lot of Mercedes C class owners when I say that I’d rather the engineering came first because that’s what I’m mostly buying. Yes, I adore the 450 watt Harmon-Kardon stereo system. Yes…I really really like the fact that the wood trim in the passenger compartment is Real burled walnut. No..I really don’t mind that there isn’t as much of it in there as in the E class passenger compartment. So long as my C class drives with that same, solid, deeply Benz-like ambiance. So long as it’s really engineered like no other car in the world.

I’m out of the break-in period now, and gradually letting the car go a little faster, corner a little tighter, to see what’s in there. The other day I had it out a stretch of freeway with no other traffic and a good long line of sight. A good place I figured, to give it a little nudge forward and see what happens. Well what happened was the car happily jumped up to a hundred in no time and felt like it was doing about seventy. I quickly backed off. Damn! It was smooth, it was quiet, and unlike a lot of cars I’ve driven way too fast for my own good, it didn’t make my knuckles go white with the sensation I was right on the razor’s edge. In fact the only scary thing about it was it felt like there was a lot more in the car where that came from. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to find where this car runs out of steam.

That’s what buying a car made for the Autobahn gets you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Like No Other…

Now We’re Haggling Over The Price

Today’s Anti-Gay Republican Caught Having Sex With A Male Prostitute is brought to you by Spokane Washington…

Cross-dressing state lawmaker blackmailed following late night tryst

SPOKANE — State Representative Richard Curtis says he’s not gay, but police reports and court records indicate the Republican lawmaker from southwestern Washington dressed up in women’s lingerie and met a Medical Lake man in a local erotic video store which led to consensual sex at a downtown hotel and a threat to expose Curtis’ activities publicly.

A search warrant unsealed Tuesday morning disclosed that State Representative Richard Curtis (R – La Center) had sex in his room at the Davenport Tower with a man identified as Cody Castagna, 26, of Medical Lake, who he met at the Hollywood Erotic Boutique on October 26th.

Curtis, according to a search warrant unsealed Tuesday, went to the Hollywood Erotic Boutique on East Sprague on October 26th at approximately 12:45 a.m. The store clerk, who had talked with Curtis, referred to him as "The Cross-Dresser" and said that during their conversations he confirmed he was gay and was married with children at home.

During his visit to the video store Curtis was observed wearing women’s lingerie while receiving oral sex from an unidentified man in one of the movie viewing booths inside the store.

Afterward he met Cody Castagna, and they talked about getting together at Curtis’ hotel room to have sex. Curtis left Castagna his cellphone number and went to Northern Quest Casino and receiving a call from him around 3 a.m., and planned to get together at the hotel a short while later.

The two met at the Davenport Tower around 3:34 a.m. and police reports confirm Curtis and Castagna had anal intercourse after which Curtis fell asleep. Castagna, according to court records, then allegedly took Curtis’ wallet out of his jacket pocket and left the room.

Around 7 a.m. he called Curtis and told him he knew he was a member of the Washington State House of Representatives and was married, that he had taken pictures of Curtis with a camera on his cellphone and he offered to return the wallet in exchange for $1,000. In police reports it is claimed that Curtis offered Castagna that sum of money in exchange for having unprotected anal intercourse.

A little background on Curtis from Good As You

Richard Curtis, a GOP state rep in Washington, voted this year against domestic partnerships for gay couples. He also opposed a bill that bans nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. So knowing what we know about this generation’s crop of Republican lawmakers, this should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone…

Check out the Giant Closet in the new Republican National Committee HQ.  And…get this…from Dan Savage over at SLOG

UPDATE 2: Anti-gay Washington state representative Richard Curtis is a lying cocksucker.

Detective Mark Burbridge of the Spokane Police Department, in a signed affidavit, concluded that Curtis and Castagna engaged in mutual sexual activities, after which Curtis fell asleep. Burbridge’s affadavit is based on interviews with both men.

The affidavit alleges Castagna left the hotel room with Curtis’ wallet. He later called the state lawmaker and offered to return it in exchange for money, Burbridge said in his affidavit….

Burbridge’s court filing offers a far different account from the brief interview that Curtis gave to Columbian Editor Lou Brancaccio Monday afternoon. During that phone interview, Curtis emphatically said he is not gay and has not had sex with a man. He said he was only “trying to help someone out.”

“Richard Curtis was adamant he never agreed to give Cody Castagna any money for sex, especially $1,000,” the court filing says.

I would never pay for sex…especially not at the prices I was quoted…  The escort says he was only trying to get payment for services rendered.  The republican says it was blackmail.  So who’s the more trustworthy, a prostitute with a rap sheet for assault, theft and burglary…or a republican?  Mmmmm….thinking…thinking…thinking… Here’s Savages’ take:

Closeted gay GOP elected official with an anti-gay voting record and—and I’m putting this charitably—a deeply troubled gay kid with a rap sheet—these two were made for each other.

As cartoonist Ruben Bolling says…the new gay stereotype is a middle aged, married, conservative, "family values" man.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

October 30th, 2007

Clear Channel: Worse For Radio Then Fox Is For TV

At least Fox doesn’t own nearly all the TV stations in most places.  But in many parts of the country, a Clear Channel radio station in one format or another is all you get.

When the republicans set out to abolish FCC media monopoly rules, many people warned that it would lead to a stifling of variety on the airwaves.  Sure enough, only those of us who can afford now to have a satellite radio in the car can get something approximating the breadth that was once there to be found on the radio dial.  Clear Channel has single handedly killed radio for most of us.  But it would be a mistake to think that it’s just about peddling junk music to the lowest common denominator for profit.  Oh, no.  Consider the new Bruce Springsteen album, Magic, which has been a hit just about everywhere…except on radio for some strange reason.  Fox News attempts to spin it thusly…

Bruce: Magic Refused Radio Play

Bruce Springsteen should be very happy. He has the No. 1 album, a possible Grammy for Best Album of the Year for "Magic," an album full of singles and a sold-out concert tour.

Alas, there’s a hitch: Radio will not play "Magic." In fact, sources tell me that Clear Channel has sent an edict to its classic rock stations not to play tracks from "Magic." But it’s OK to play old Springsteen tracks such as "Dancing in the Dark," "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA."

Just no new songs by Springsteen, even though it’s likely many radio listeners already own the album and would like to hear it mixed in with the junk offered on radio.

Why? One theory, says a longtime rock insider, "is that the audience knows those songs. Of course, they’ll never know these songs if no one plays them."

"Magic," by the way, has sold more than 500,000 copies since its release on Oct. 2 and likely will hit the million mark. That’s not a small achievement these days, and one that should be embraced by Clear Channel.

But what a situation: The No. 1 album is not being played on any radio stations, according to Radio & Records, which monitors such things. Nothing. The rock songs aren’t on rock radio, and the two standout "mellow" tracks — "Magic" and "Devil’s Arcade" — aren’t even on "lite" stations.

The singles-kinda hits, "Radio Nowhere" and "Living in the Future" — which would have been hits no questions asked in the ’70s, ’80s and maybe even the ’90s, also are absent from Top 40.

No shit sherlock. Here’s the opening lyrics to Radio Nowhere

I was tryin’ to find my way home
But all I heard was a drone
Bouncing off a satellite
Crushin’ the last lone American night

This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?

I was spinnin’ ’round a dead dial
Just another lost number in a file
Dancin’ down a dark hole
Just searchin’ for a world with some soul

This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

Sound like the sort of thing your friendly neighborhood republican media monopoly wants played on Their Radio Stations???   Here’s Living In The Future…

Woke up Election Day, skies gunpowder and shades of gray
Beneath a dirty sun, I whistled my time away
Then just about sundown
You come walkin’ through town
Your boot heels clickin’
Like the barrel of a pistol spinnin’ ’round

Don’t worry Darlin’, now baby don’t you fret
We’re livin’ in the future and none of this has happened yet
Don’t worry Darlin’, now baby don’t you fret
We’re livin’ in the future and none of this has happened yet

The earth it gave away, the sea rose toward the sun
I opened up my heart to you it got all damaged and undone
My ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon
The groundskeeper opened the gates and let the wild dogs run

I’m rollin’ through town, a lost cowboy at sundown
Got my monkey on a leash, got my ear tuned to the ground
My faith’s been torn asunder, tell me is that rollin’ thunder
Or just the sinkin’ sound of somethin’ righteous goin’ under?

Clear Channel will play this kind of thing when hell freezes over, or President Nice Job Brownie grows a conscience, whichever comes first.  This sort of thing doesn’t fit very well into their format.  For Bruce to get any airplay on Clear Channel, he needs to be more positive.  Give the audience something like this…
The phrase "brought to you by Clear Channel" is partly cut off there, but this is what Clear Channel was splashing all over the nation’s highways after president Junior launched his excellent adventure in Iraq.  Says it all, doesn’t it?

What to do? Columbia Records is said to be readying a remixed version of "The Girls in their Summer Clothes," a poppy Beach Boys-type track that has such a catchy hook fans were singing along to it at live shows before they had the album. Bruce insiders are hopeful that with a push from Sony, "Girls" will triumph.

I’m not so sure.

Clear Channel seems to have sent a clear message to other radio outlets that at age 58, Springsteen simply is too old to be played on rock stations. This completely absurd notion is one of many ways Clear Channel has done more to destroy the music business than downloading over the last 10 years. It’s certainly what’s helped create satellite radio, where Springsteen is a staple and even has his own channel on Sirius.

It’s not just Springsteen. There is no sign at major radio stations of new albums by John Fogerty or Annie Lennox, either. The same stations that should be playing Santana’s new singles with Chad Kroeger or Tina Turner are avoiding them, too.

Like Springsteen, these "older" artists have been relegated to something called Triple A format stations — i.e. either college radio or small artsy stations such as WFUV in the Bronx, N.Y., which are immune from the Clear Channel virus of pre-programming and where the number of plays per song is a fraction of what it is on commercial radio.

But this isn’t just that Springsteen is old.  Down With Tyranny has some more realistic thoughts on it all… 

Republican radio network Clear Channel, a monopoly in many cities and a dominant player in most of the rest, isn’t interested. Is it because Springsteen has been an outspoken campaigner for Democrats and progressives? Clear Channel has taken a political stand with its programming in the past. Just think back to their boycott of the Dixie Chicks. Oh, no… not way back, just back to when they released their most recent album. Despite being one of the top 10 best-selling American albums of the year– across all genres and demographics– radio studiously ignored it. There were maybe half a dozen country stations that even played it at all. What Clear Channel did to the Dixie Chicks is a watertight case for the need to break the media companies up into a thousand pieces. (John Sununu disagrees; he’s pro-censorship.) I spoke with an old friend who heads a record company and preferred to speak off the record.

"When you have artists like the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen who have overtly spoken out against this Administration, they are taken to task in spite the clear and undeniable indications from the marketplace that people want to hear their music. What seems to be happening– if sales are any kind of a barometer of what the marketplace is– is that these politically-connected radio networks like Clear Channel are not looking to succeed as radio stations as much as pushing forward some political agenda.

Another friend of mine distinctly recalls the Senate hearings on radio consolidation in light of the Dixie Chicks boycott where Barbara Boxer and John McCain heard testimony including an internal Clear Channel memo threatening "Just wait and see what happens if Springsteen tries this." I guess we’re seeing that right now.

I guess. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Clear Channel: Worse For Radio Then Fox Is For TV

October 29th, 2007

What Atrios Said…

We pause now, for another edition of What Atrios Said…

The Audacity of Homophobia

I could spend all day unpacking this Obama statement, but I’ll try to stick to my usual terse self.

Part of the reason that we have had a faith outreach in our campaigns is precisely because I don’t think the LGBT community or the Democratic Party is served by being hermetically sealed from the faith community and not in dialogue with a substantial portion of the electorate, even though we may disagree with them.

Aside from the adoption of right wing frames, this kind of statement is incredibly insulting to both the LGBT community who are apparently "hermetically sealed from the faith community" and to the "faith community" which is apparently defined as nothing more than a bunch of anti-gay bigots. Not to mention the Democratic Party, which apparently includes no actual religious people.

Obama gets smaller and smaller every day doesn’t he?  Of course, this statement wasn’t directed at the gay community, but at the so-called ‘faith’ based voters.  You know…the ones who keep insisting that the United States is a Christian Nation.  No.  It’s a nation where everyone, Christians included, have freedom of worship.  And that’s precisely because the government isn’t supposed to take sides in matters of faith.  Which is just what the religious right wants it to.  So the only freedom of worship Americans will have, is the freedom to be a right wing Christian.

I guess Obama thinks he can woo enough of these away from the republican ranks that it won’t matter how many gay voters he slaps.  He did it there again, speaking to the religious right, in the terms it understands.  If we’re talking about people of faith, as opposed to the people who wear the label "People Of FAITH" on their sleeves along with "I’M A GODLY PERSON BOW DOWN BEFORE ME YOU HELLBOUND HEATHEN YOU", then of course a good many, if not most gay people are also people of faith.  Never mind how often and how loudly the religious right bellyaches that homosexuals are anti-Christian.  When I was working the Weekly Community Events board at the Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau BBS (GLIB), about half of all the notices, and there were tons of notices, were for gay accepting, gay friendly, religious worship services.  Every, and I want to emphasize that, Every denomination was represented.  There were Catholics.  There were Baptists.  There were Quakers.  There were various Mennonite sects.  There were Mormons.  There were Unitarians.  There were notices from various gay friendly Synagogues.  In addition to a host of non-Judeo-Christian faith services listed.  Don’t tell me that gay people are not a living part of that all embracing rainbow colored body that compasses people of faith.

And don’t tell me that Obama doesn’t know this.  When he adopts a right wing frame for the issue of religious faith in America, he knows exactly what he’s doing.  And I don’t believe for a second that his taking on an ex-gay gospel singer was an accident either.  My hunch is Obama thought he could dog whistle to black homophobic conservatives.  It didn’t work and now he has to take a stand and he’s Still dog whistling to them.

[Update…] from the New York Times report on the concert…

COLUMBIA, S.C. — At Barack Obama’s gospel concert here last night, more than 2,000 black evangelicals were singing, waving their hands and cramming the aisles _ most enthusiastically when Donnie McClurkin, the superstar black gospel singer, decried the criticism he has generated because of his views that homosexuality is a choice.

He approached the subject gingerly at first. Then, just when the concert had seemed to reach its pitch and about to end, Mr. McClurkin returned to it with a full-blown plea: “Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay when I have suffered the same feelings,” he cried.

“God delivered me from homosexuality,” he added. He then told the audience to believe the Bible over the blogs: “God is the only way.” The crowd sang and clapped along in full support.

And the gay white minister Obama invited to the concert after the controversy errupted…?  Ah…yes…

The Obama campaign had appeared to be caught off guard by the reaction to inviting Mr. McClurkin in the first place, and it may have been surprised tonight by the degree to which the singer focused on himself. The other speakers and singers had avoided referencing the controversy. Even an openly gay minister whom Mr. Obama had invited after the fact to try to appease his gay and lesbian critics spoke so early that few people heard him.

CNN said the white gay preacher, Rev. Andy Sidden, gave a short prayer at the beginning of the concert when the auditorium was less then half full, and then he left.  I wonder if his prayers were answered.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What Atrios Said…

Elections Must Be Coming Up…I See The Republicans Are Dusting Off Their Gay Menace Fliers

Via Pam’s House Blend…  What does a vulnerable republican politician do when a gay challenger threatens to unseat him…?  Why…make him look like he’s a predatory homosexual child molester of course…

In the neighboring state to the north, the District 39 race in Virginia is getting ugly, thanks to Republican State Senator James J. "Jay" O’Brien Jr. In a desperate bid to pander to the wingnut vote, he decided that sending out a flyer that says, among other things, that his Democratic opponent

"George Barker wants to take time away from core academic subjects like math, science, and reading to teach children to accept the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Lifestyle (GLBT)."

It’s no surprise that this flyer (PDF) was paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia.

What would have surprised me is if the republicans hadn’t stooped to it.  This is the party that simply cannot win elections without the bigot vote.

It’s clear that the right wing is ratcheting up the homo-hate as Barker has received the endorsement of the Washington Post.

Republican Sen. James J. "Jay" O’Brien Jr. is an affable incumbent, but his scant command of policy and legislative issues has failed to impress.   His Democratic rival,  George L. Barker, a health-care planner, would make a far more able, detail-oriented and effective senator in this district straddling the Fairfax-Prince William line.

Barker also has strong support from educators (I’m sure O’Brien feels they are part of the Homosexual Agenda anyway).

More from the heinous mailer — he certainly telegraphs his priorities:

George Barker went on to say that he would vote for legislation that would teach Virginia students about the "GLBT" lifestyle during school hours — regardless of their family’s own beliefs. Barker also said he would "guarantee" his support for "GLBT" clubs in public schools.

…George Barker worked very hard in terms of opposing the marriage amendment, and be strongly in favor of gay rights, be [sic] he shouldn’t impose his values on elementary school children.

A question for O’Brien – I suppose that kids in your state don’t need to know about tolerance and families that are different, you know — like that of little Samuel Cheney, a resident of Virginia and son of loyal Republican Mary Cheney.

Here’s what the republican party is sending to voters in Virginia, to make sure they get the message that the homo running against their boy wants to molest their children…

They’re not calling the gay candidate a child molester outright, but look at the imagery in that flier and tell me that they’re not fear mongering a gay man and child sexual abuse there, right there, with that close up image of the back of that small boy and that shirt collar pulled down the back of his neck, right up in the reader’s face.

It’s despicable.  But that’s how republicans win elections these days.  From the gutter.  Problem is, that’s also how they govern.  The party that thinks the only way it can win elections is fear mongering, also seems to think it can eavesdrop on Americans at will, without all that rule of law stuff getting in the way.  The party that thinks the only way it can win elections is to appeal to the lowest prejudices within us, also seems to think that it can govern just fine thank-you, in complete secrecy and without any accountability.  The party that thinks the only way it can win elections is to call gay men child molesters, seems to think George Bush unilaterally drag the country into whatever war he likes, and shovel your kids into it.  You get the government you vote for.  You vote your fears, you get a government that makes sure you have lots to be afraid of.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Elections Must Be Coming Up…I See The Republicans Are Dusting Off Their Gay Menace Fliers

Random Alert Factor

I got my first alert from the Mercedes this morning.  Yes…I’ve been driving it to work, even though I can just walk it.  Put it down to new car love.  In the state I’m in, I’d drive it to the mailbox on the corner to post a letter.

Anyway…I was wondering how the driver alert system worked.  The speedometer has a central digital display and can show the driver all kinds of information about the car, and you can drill through a bunch of menus to tell it what you want it to display while you’re driving.  Right now I just have it set to show me the regular and trip odometers, but it can show me everything from the direction I’m traveling and the name of the street I’m on to how many mile’s per gallon I’m getting.  Supposedly, that’s where all the car’s various system alerts appear too.

It was cold this morning here in Baltimore, and I let the car warm up while I squeegeed the dew off the windows.  I’d tossed my jacket in the back seat but didn’t properly close the door.  When I finished with the windows I tossed the squeegee back in the trunk and got in the car.  As soon as I started driving down the road a "ding" like that sound in an airliner when the Fasten Your Seat Belts sign comes on, came out of all twelve speakers of the stereo system and the entire central display in my speedometer lit up red.  There was an overhead view of the car drawn in the middle of it, with the back driver’s side door open.  I think there may have been a warning too across the bottom that a door had been left ajar, but I didn’t read it because the sight of the graphic was enough.  I pulled right back over and got out and shut the door.

Nice.  It got my attention but it didn’t slap me in the face doing it.  Some cars are just plain rude about that sort of thing, and some are so polite about it you never even notice the little red warning light on the display until way after its too late.  The Mercedes will tell me things like when a light has burned out, or my tire pressure is low, or when and what routine mantainance I need to have done, so I was wondering how much of a nag it might get to being.  But this is good.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Random Alert Factor

October 28th, 2007

I Need A Door

So I was driving my car here and there, and as I sometimes do, I took a few detours down old familiar roads, into old familiar neighborhoods.  I was looking for shades I just knew would be there:  A few kids happily enjoying each other’s company.  I would find them hanging out on a corner, or down a driveway, or walking around the neighborhood streets, chatting idly, laughing, getting ripped, living on small budget, but loving life.  One of them would be a slight young gay guy with my face, probably bearing a smile, or at least a grin.  Happy.  Content in their company.  Completely oblivious to the disaster somewhere over the horizon, that began on election day 2000, in the state of Florida.  I’m torn between wanting to grab him by the shoulders and scream a warning in his face, or just let him go and be happy while he can.

I need a door.  Something I can walk though every now and then when I need it, and it takes me somewhere else.  Back to a place before George Bush and Karl Rove and


…and the Federal Marriage Amendment and Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and gay teens being dragged into ex-gay therapy and the sight of so many Americans willing, eager even, to live in a totalitarian state so long as it promises to keep them safe from every bogymen the republican noise machine waves in their faces.  When I was still certain that somewhere, someday, I would find the love of my life.  When I still believed I could find him without having to immerse myself in the urban gay scene.  When I could still trust most of my straight friends.  When we could all just hang out together, get ripped, go for a walk around the neighborhood together laughing, chatting, and getting more ripped, and I didn’t have to wonder what they’d do if they had to choose between me, and politicians who promise them tax cuts, while vowing to keep gay Americans second class citizens.  Some bright, happy time please, before the day that I found out what I was to them, was the "some", in "some of my best friends are…" 

It wasn’t real.  I know that.  But there was a time when I thought it was.  And I was happy then.  It was a a false security in their company, but I’m 54 years old now, and it gets harder and harder as time goes on, to just kick back, let down and toss your hair and enjoy yourself like you don’t have a care in the world with friends you’ve known since grade school.  I can’t even remember most of those moments now without knowing what I know now…that it wasn’t what I thought it was. 

I wish I could go back and forget that I know what was coming…for just a while.  Christ Almighty I would so much love to have that door to walk through…just every now and then.  Kahlua just isn’t doing it.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Need A Door

October 25th, 2007

Global Warming Much?

Actual time lapse footage from NASA, showing what happened to planet Earth’s north polar icecap this summer…

Republican bill defunding NASA to be introduced on the house floor in…5…4…3…2…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Global Warming Much?

Abe Lincoln On Free Labor And Education

The delight of blogging is when you find someone smart, really smart, whose mind just likes to roam here and there.  Saw this today on Brad DeLong’s blog…

Abraham Lincoln at the 1859 Wisconsin State Fair: A few men own capital; and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital, hire, or buy, another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class — neither work for others, nor have others working for them. Even in all our slave States, except South Carolina, a majority of the whole people of all colors, are neither slaves nor masters. In these Free States, a large majority are neither hirers or hired. Men, with their families — wives, sons and daughters — work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hirelings or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital; that is, labor with their own hands, and also buy slaves or hire freemen to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class. Again, as has already been said, the opponents of the "mud-sill" theory insist that there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. There is demonstration for saying this. Many independent men, in this assembly, doubtless a few years ago were hired laborers. And their case is almost if not quite the general rule.

The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor — the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all — gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. If any continue through life in the condition of the hired laborer, it is not the fault of the system, but because of either a dependent nature which prefers it, or improvidence, folly, or singular misfortune. I have said this much about the elements of labor generally, as introductory to the consideration of a new phase which that element is in process of assuming. The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated — quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small per centage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive. From these premises the problem springs, "How can labor and education be the most satisfactory combined?"

By the "mud-sill" theory it is assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible. According to that theory, a blind horse upon a tread-mill, is a perfect illustration of what a laborer should be — all the better for being blind, that he could not tread out of place, or kick understandingly. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous. In fact, it is, in some sort, deemed a misfortune that laborers should have heads at all. Those same heads are regarded as explosive materials, only to be safely kept in damp places, as far as possible from that peculiar sort of fire which ignites them. A Yankee who could invent strong handed man without a head would receive the everlasting gratitude of the "mud-sill" advocates.

But Free Labor says "no!" Free Labor argues that, as the Author of man makes every individual with one head and one pair of hands, it was probably intended that heads and hands should cooperate as friends; and that that particular head, should direct and control that particular pair of hands. As each man has one mouth to be fed, and one pair of hands to furnish food, it was probably intended that that particular pair of hands should feed that particular mouth — that each head is the natural guardian, director, and protector of the hands and mouth inseparably connected with it; and that being so, every head should be cultivated, and improved, by whatever will add to its capacity for performing its charge. In one word Free Labor insists on universal education…

Thus the first republican president makes a slam-dunk case for universal education.  Stand this man beside the entire republican lineup of presidential hopefuls and you see how far the republican party has declined.  But most of that decline has come about since their moses, Ronald Reagan.  They’d ride Lincoln out of the party on a rail if he was running today.  Re-read that second to last paragraph and tell me that’s not precisely the attitude and policy of the republican party today.

It probably wouldn’t take Lincoln very long to determine the root cause of the republican decline either.  Again, from DeLong’s blog…

Ethnic Balancing and the Rise of the Wingnut Republicans Continued

Paul Krugman writes:

Paul Krugman – Op-Ed Columnist – New York Times Blog: So, people ask why, in The Conscience of a Liberal, I downplay the role of issues other than race in swinging the political balance in favor of the GOP. The answer, basically, is the math: once you take the great southern switch into account, there isn’t much left to explain.

In some correspondence with Larry Bartels, whose “What’s the matter with “What’s the matter with Kansas?”" is must reading for anyone trying to understand modern American political, economy, the issue of how the Democrats lost white males came up. Larry points out that you really need to separate out the South. Here’s what he had to say:

Unless you have a peculiar nostalgia for the racially coercive Democratic monopoly of the Jim Crow era, it makes sense to focus on the rest of the country. There, the Democratic share of the two-party presidential vote among white men was 40% in 1952 and 39% in 2004.

White men didn’t turn against the Democrats; Southern white men turned against the Democrats. End of story.

That pretty much hits it on the head.  There is no abandonment of the democratic party by white males now and never was, except in the south, and Lyndon Johnson saw that coming the day he signed the voting rights act.  When you look at the history of nearly all the right wing moral crusaders, from Jerry Falwell on, it becomes even more clear.  They’re nearly all southerners, and nearly all of them started out as passionate segregationists.  It was loosing their school’s tax except status over racial discrimination, that drove the religious right into politics.  They only picked up on the abortion issue and the homosexual menace when they saw that those issues motivated the rubes and drove wedges into the democrat’s grassroots.  But it wasn’t about those issues.  It was never about those issues.  It was always about race.

Lincoln would probably understand right away what has happened to his party, if not why it happened.  And he’d probably weep for it, and for America.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Abe Lincoln On Free Labor And Education

A Wee Road Trip

So I took a drive in my new car last weekend, up to Stroudsburg PA, to visit an old grade school friend.  It was beautiful weather for it, particularly Sunday morning and afternoon.  The skies were clear and blue and the trees in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains had their autumn colors on.  I went to watch my friend Glenn, who does sound for the Sherman Theater, manage a 34 band show.  Afterward, he invited me up to a mountain resort lodge Sunday, where he does Chef duty, to see his kitchen operation and have lunch.  So I not only got fed well, I got an opportunity to take the Mercedes down some lovely, winding mountain backroads, just as the leaves were turning

The car showed me that it was everything I’d hoped for in a touring sedan. The road’s rough patches were smoothed out nicely, and yet it never once lost that solid Mercedes road feel.  As I was still in the break-in period I didn’t push the car too much up the grades or around the bends, but it behaved nicely and with a sense that there was plenty of power and cornering ability I’d yet to tap. The driver’s seating was firm and comfortable and I drove back to Baltimore from the lodge for four and a half hours straight without feeling any fatigue.  I always had a good sense of the road around me, and traffic, as I drove.  The sideview mirrors on this car are huge compared to the Honda I just had, especially in the vertical axis and adjusted properly there were no blind spots to worry about.  I always felt that I had a complete grasp of the highway conditions around me.  The car hides nothing from you, and yet it smooths everything out and you feel relaxed and alert as you drive.  Every control you might want is handy, every gage and display readable at a quick glance, and the car responds easy and certain to your every touch of the steering wheel and pedal; yet you always have a sure, solid feel for the road.  Best drive I’ve ever owned, hands down.

A few times I had to accelerate quickly to get past some rude drivers.  I didn’t stomp down on the accelerator, but instead manually down shifted by tapping the shift lever sideways.  The car down shifted very smoothly, and without any appreciable motor roar, and though I was still trying to keep the revs down during the break-in period, the car gave me all the power I needed to handle those situations.  The v-6 was smooth and amazingly quiet the whole time.  In part probably because it practically lives in its own little compartment within the hood compartment.  Acceleration just happened.  I’ve heard complaints about the new 7 speed transmission down shifting too aggressively but I never encountered that.  Probably because I was trying to keep my revs down.  But I’ll likely rely more on the shifter for that sort of control when I need it then the accelerator.  I’ve driven sticks for so long it’s almost second nature.  Not having a clutch is what I’m having to adapt to.

The stereo kept me good company all the time, the Sirius satellite signal never dropping out along the mountain roads.  I had the CD changer full and my iPod attached to the connector in the glove compartment.  The 450 watt Harmon-Kardon stereo system sounds really, really nice.  I never appreciated how a high end stereo might actually be worthwhile inside an automobile.  But in a car as quiet inside as the Mercedes, it’s actually worth having.

About the iPod adapter: Connecting an iPod to a high end car stereo like the Harmon-Kardon, you really know that it’s not a high end playback device.  The difference between it and the CD player, and for that matter the Sirius signal, sometimes becomes painfully clear when listening to a song that sounded just fine in the ear buds, only to have the Harmon-Kardon mercilessly expose its every audio flaw.  I have some songs on the iPod that I’d ripped long ago with a low end PC mp3 converter and I could instantly tell which ones those were listening to them played through on the car stereo.  What surprised me was how variable the sound quality on the stuff I’d bought from iTunes was.  Some of it matched the quality of the Sirius signal easily.  Some of it sounded dull and flat.  There were variations in sound level that forced me to turn up the volume on the Harmon-Kardon and then I heard how noisy the iPod’s circuitry was.

The Nav system gave me a good sense of the backroads I was traveling along, neatly augmenting the directions to the Lodge, and then later back to the Interstate, that my friend Glenn gave me.  I have never had a problem finding my way from one end of this country to the other using paper road maps, and until I saw the Nav system on a friend’s Acura in operation, I’d always figured them to be for folks who couldn’t find their way to their own front door without help.  But seeing the Acura’s Nav system, it occurred to me that it could be helpful to have a roadmap display on the dash, showing me exactly where I am, so I’m not always having to pull off the highway and check my road atlas if I get a bit bewildered.  What I discovered last weekend is that a Nav system really helps when you’re driving through a knot of highway interchanges that you’re unfamiliar with.  And on long drives down the highway, it gives you plenty of warning when your next turn or exit is coming up, or when the highway is splitting off up ahead, and you need to be in the left or right lane.  That’s really handy.  

On the way back home from Stroudsburg, the Nav system guided me easily through the highway knots around Harrisburg.  I barely had to pay attention to the highway signs.  I just watched the traffic around me, which was moderately heavy, and listened to my invisible co-pilot’s directions.  It was really nice having it there.

The only irritating downside to the Nav system I found, is that if you decide to pull off the highway for gas or snacks it quickly turns into a nag, frantically telling you to turn around, Now, and get back on course.  It thinks you’ve made a wrong turn and it’s trying to be helpful and get you back on track again.   But it’s really annoying when all you want to do is get gas and take a bladder break.  I learned to quickly flip through the Nav menu to the Cancel Route Guidance menu selection.  There should be a Nav system guide pause button somewhere on the steering wheel.  Of course, I could probably cancel the Nav system guidance with a voice command, but I’m still struggling with the voice command system because…

…There are way too many voice commands to easily remember. What’s good about a well designed menu system is that you don’t have to remember everything, just the top level stuff. Then you drill down to what you want.  The Voice Command system doesn’t work that way, and I’m still trying to figure out how it Does work.  For instance, when I’m in the Nav system, I can say "Radio" and the radio will come on, but I’m always forgetting how to get the satellite music system on. Is the command "Sirius", or "Satellite" or "Satellite Radio"…???  Sitting here writing this without the manuals to look at, I’m still forgetting it.  I’m sure in time I’ll have it all down pat, but for now it’s very annoying to always be giving a voice command that the Command system doesn’t understand, and then trying another one and another one and then just giving up and going through the video screen menus with the joystick instead.

Luckily, with the console joystick, navigating through the on-screen menus is a snap. But what’s useful about the voice command system is that you can theoretically use it without having to take your eyes off the road in a situation where you don’t want to do that. So at some point I need to get better at using the voice commands. There’s an "individualization" system setup menu item that I’ll probably have to go through sometime. It’s supposed to allow you to teach the voice command recognition system your own voice. Maybe that’ll improve things.

But the drive’s the thing…much more then the bells and whistles.  And the Mercedes drives like a dream come true.  It’s no high powered sports car, and it’s no lithe little Lotus or Porche, but I’m a four door sedan kinda guy and it’s everything I ever wanted in a road trip car.  The passenger cabin is plenty roomy enough for me and some friends, and its decadently comfortable.  It’s got a big enough trunk, and it feels and handles great on the highway and the backroads.  And it’s loaded with all those passenger safety features Mercedes-Benz is famous for.  Every little detail of comfort and style in the car, also seems to have been designed with a safety feature in mind.  The wood trim inside the cabin is backed with aluminum so in an accident it won’t splinter.  The Active Body Control System will pre-tension the seatbelts if it detects an emergency maneuver.  The car came with a spare set of windshield wiper blades and a first-aid kit.  I’ll know more about the reliability factor as I go along, but initial reports on the new C300 class seem to be very good.  I could only wish it got better gas mileage and drank regular instead of premium.  But I knew what I was in for there when I bought a luxury car and I’ll just pay the extra cost.  I don’t have to drive to work every day, so the road trips really aren’t all that bad on my budget.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Road Trip

October 24th, 2007

The Museum Of Broken Relationships

No kidding…it really exists…

Museum of Broken Relationships Hits Berlin

On the dusty top floor of a former squat in East Berlin the collection is growing with each passing week. At first glance it looks as if someone had assembled the remnants of a flea market. A bicycle hangs from the wall, while rings, teddy bears, socks, fluffy pink handcuffs and various ornaments are on display.

But the junk, unwanted though it may be, is far from being meaningless detritus. Each of the objects, many of them rather humdrum, were once full of meaning for someone. They are the leftovers of love affairs that didn’t work out.

"We developed the idea of the ‘Museum of Broken Relationships’ where we can put the objects, get rid of them and not stay connected with that energy, but keep them and preserve them from oblivion," co-founder Vistica told Reuters.

And the exhibition is supposed to act as a kind of therapy, so that instead of destroying objects they can be removed to the museum to "convalesce" and participate in a "collective emotional history."

Perhaps the show has snowballed because it reveals just how universal the theme of lost love can be. "The more personal it is, I think, the more successful it is," Vistica told Reuters. "The response of the people really proves that. They recognized it as something sincere."

The cathartic effect is evident in some of the explanations that accompany the displays (see box above). A prosthetic limb from a war veteran who fell in love with his social worker is described as having "endured longer than our love: It was made of better material." A pen is on display which was once used to write "romantic crap he didn’t deserve."…

I have some things I could contribute.  A roll of 35mm film that belongs to my first high school crush.  A ticket stub to see the fuelers race at Capital Raceway.  An LP phono cartridge alignment tool.  A golden clip-on earring.  But probably the saddest one of all is the stuffed bear I bought, about a week before the guy I bought it for told me he was seeing someone else.  Poor little guy has sat on one of my bookcases ever since, waiting for the arms that were supposed to hold him, and only having me.  Problem is, I don’t want to get off of any of these artifacts.  I tend to collect my own history as I go along.  It’s why I’ve been able to unearth tons of stuff from my high school years out of my storage bins…much to the delight of my fellow reunion committee members.  No, I have nothing to donate to such a museum.  But I’d probably go visit the collection if it ever came my way.  Sometimes knowing you’re not alone helps.

Pictures of lost love Here… 



by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Museum Of Broken Relationships

Splash Bar NYC…The Gay Basher’s Friend

Via Peterson Toscano… 

You’d think that the managers of a gay bar would understand that the climate of violence toward gay people can make their establishments seem to gay bashers, as a waterhole to a leopard…somewhere they know their prey will be.  You’d think that they’d keep the safety of their customers (you know…the folks who pay their bills) in mind.  You’d think that, at minimum, when a gay man is bashed right at their doorstep, that they’d give the man shelter inside and not have their bouncers throw him back out to the wolves.  You’d think…

I Was Gay Bashed

Two guys stood in front of us hugging. The usual New York traffic passed without dismay until the white Mercedes C-class appeared. The tall bald guy leaned out of the window yelling and screaming obscenities that no one would be proud of—the usual clichés spit towards gay men. It seemed like an incident that could easily be brushed off until he got out of the car. He came toward us, still yelling. He was angry, as if we had personally offended his entire being.

All I saw was a tall muscular man coming toward my friend and these other unsuspecting guys in the path of what seemed to be a disaster. He continued to yell, the couple broke their hug.

My instinct told me that I was the most beefy of all of the guys standing in the breezeway—a silly notion seeming I only stand 5 foot 6. He came within inches. I tried to ward him off by telling him that no one is trying to mess with him. I pleaded for him just to go away. He spit in my face and I knew that I was no match for him. I immediately ran toward the bouncers of the gay club. I got behind the huge door man. The guy was quickly in pursuit behind me, fired up. Out of nowhere a punch landed on the right side of my face. It was the basher’s friend from the passenger seat. I swung, at which point the basher kicked me in the stomach. The bouncers quickly yelled at me to get in the club.

I tried to keep my composure, but ended up in the bathroom stall, crying, ashamed that I wasn’t able to protect myself, my friend or my fellow gay brothers. And then the worst happened…

To my dismay, one of the bouncers found me and told me I had to leave. Leave, I said. I’ve been gay bashed by a stranger. I was protecting my friends and in turn was socked and kicked in the stomach. He stayed firm to his orders. As I walked up the stairs of Splash Bar NYC, I saw one of the managers. I pleaded with him not to kick me out because I was afraid the guy and his friend were still out there. His response: "I don’t know anything about that!"

Before I knew it I was outside and I started to tremble at the sight of a white Mercedes parked down the street. And then a hand grabbed my back and pushed me toward a cab. "Get in, I’m taking you home," my friend said. I hurried inside trying not to cry before the driver pulled off.

As I write this I don’t know what hurts worse: My stomach or my eye or the fact that a gay bar kicked me out and refused to help me. I’ve spent the past five years trying to empower gay men, hoping with all my heart that we can one day roam the streets without being afraid, and here I sit at my computer, hurting physically and psychologically. If we can’t protect ourselves who will? In five years I’ve managed to post nothing but positive comments about any establishment or gay product. During this time my mindset was that there is enough negativity out there for me not to join in and down other gays. Yet I sit here wondering why I even bother when a gay bar (albeit a tragic one called Splash Bar NYC) threw me out to the wolves.

Dig it.  A gay basher vomits a string of obscenities at  a couple he sees hugging…a thing opposite sex couples do in public every fucking day…and when doing that doesn’t fulfill him enough he and his passenger jump out of their car and one of them proceed to beat the crap out of the a gay guy who tried to protect the couple from being attacked.  The gay guy takes refuge in the Splash Bar, only to be almost immediately thrown out back out the door.  Luckily for him the attackers were gone by then.

The Splash Bar website has an "Under Construction" page up. No word yet on whether or not their conscience is still under construction too, or when it might be completed.  But they have a MySpace profile Here.  This reminds me of the contemptible indifference the bathouses gave to the safety of their customers during the initial AIDS outbreak in the early 1980s.  But more then that, the history of the institution of the gay bar is more one of preying on the gay community, rather then catering to it, and that’s something we all need to keep in mind as we choose which businesses to patronize, where to spend our hard earned 23 percent less income then the average heterosexual makes

Back before Stonewall, before the modern gay rights movement, most gay bars were run by organized crime gangs who payed off the local police in order to stay open and serve alcohol in a day when most states and cities had laws forbidding bars from serving known homosexuals.  Back when any same sex dancing on the premises could get a bar closed down and it’s patrons arrested, the only gay watering holes that could stay open for very long were the ones run by mobsters who knew which hands to grease and when.  Those bars basically treated their gay customers like dogshit, because they knew there were no other places where we could gather, other then back alleys.  They served watered down bathtub booze and charged premium prices for it.  The bars were pest holes, but they were all we had, and their owners couldn’t have cared less about the people who spent their money there.  They didn’t have to.  We had nowhere else to go.

Times have changed.  I’m sure many gay establishments now are operated by people who feel a close connection to the community, and want us all to prosper and have the good life and enjoy ourselves together.  Chasing the Almighty Dollar doesn’t necessarily mean treating your customers like rubes.  In fact, that’s always a short sighted path to nowhere.  Just ask Detroit.  We have come a long way from the days of the seedy mob run bar.  But it’s worth remembering that the people who serve us drinks, don’t necessarily give a rat’s ass about us, about our safety, about our basic human dignity.  Some of them just want our money.  If they could pluck dollar bills off our cold dead gay bashed bodies they would, and spend it the next day on their own cheap thrills without a twinge of remorse or care.  You don’t throw someone who’s just been gay bashed back out the door to face his attackers again if you have a single solitary shred of conscience in you.  However, if you’re afraid that giving refuge to a gay bashing victim inside your establishment might spoil the atmosphere you’ve so carefully worked to create, and maybe make people spend less money, or even worse, go somewhere else where they might feel safer, then out the door he goes like yesterday’s trash, and your conscience before it.

[Update…]  From the comments to Ramone’s blog post…

I am so sorry about the bashing aspect of your story, but the only thing that I wanted to add is that SBNY has a tendency to REMOVE any drama from the bar at first glance. They did it to my partner who slipped on the steps and cut his had on a glass. The wrapped his hand up and told us to get in a cab. In retrospect – they never gave us an apology nor and sympathy or compassion, they just wanted us out. SBNY is lacking compassion and the days where is used to be a good ole neighborhood bar are gone. Now they just want gay dollars for shitty small watered down drinks, and they have no sense of community.

Yeah.  This is pretty much what I expected…

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Splash Bar NYC…The Gay Basher’s Friend

Not So Fabulously Well Off After All

I see in the headlines now, a good follow up to my post a few days ago, on the Gay Glass Ceiling

Gay men can earn 23 pct less than married men: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Gay men, but not lesbians, face discrimination at work, earning up to 23 percent less than married men in some jobs, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Whittemore School of Business and Economics spent two years analyzing labor and wage data from 91,000 heterosexual and homosexual couples collected by a 2004 U.S. census.

They found that gay men working in management and blue-collar jobs make less money than straight men due to discrimination by their employers

"It was surprising to see how consistent it was that gay men tended to be more discriminated against in traditionally heterosexual male dominated professions — blue collar, labor, and management too," researcher Bruce Elmslie, professor of economics at UNH, told Reuters.

The study found that gay men who live together earn 23 percent less than married men, and 9 percent less than unmarried heterosexual men who live with a woman.

They looked at the top 10 occupations that gay men and lesbians tend to be in and found this discrimination showed up most clearly in management and blue-collar, male-dominated occupations such as building and grounds cleaning, maintenance, and construction.

The only thing that surprises me about this are the figures for lesbian households, because when I was doing volunteer work for a gay community service group, the lesbian households pretty consistently made less money then anyone else.  At the time I always put the higher income levels of gay male couples verses lesbian couples down to the combined income of two males verses two females.  Female wage equality back then was worse then it is now, but they’re still not making equal money overall with their male counterparts.

But that gay men are pretty relentlessly discriminated against in the workplace surprises me not one iota.  I lived that myself for most of my life, and particularly at the critical time in my life when I was just starting to make my way in the workforce.  I was ushered out of job after job when my sexual orientation became known to my managers.  Mind you…I was never loud about it.  But I also refused to actively closet myself either.  I mostly just kept quiet about my love life and just tried to get by.  But what you have to realize about that is that heterosexuals, particularly heterosexual males, are always bringing up their love lives at work…whether it’s family matters, this and that about the wife or children, or the weekend they just spent with their girlfriends. 

I used to smirk whenever some homophobic bigot would go on a rant about teh gays keeping their sex lives out of the workplace because that kind of thing is inappropriate there anyway and if teh gays just kept quiet about all that that they’d get along just fine, because my experience is that usually by the end of the first day at a new job I knew exactly what heterosexuals were married, how many kids they had, and which ones that weren’t married had a girlfriend and which were single and looking, because they just talked about their personal lives as a matter of course.  Everyone does.  So you notice when somebody isn’t.  The single guy who never talks about who he’s dating, sticks out like a sore thumb and it doesn’t take long before the gay rumors about him start flying.  Then it’s either you close the closet door on yourself and lie through your teeth about some imaginary girlfriend, or you admit it or just don’t respond to the rumors and either way you’re labellings yourself as gay right there because almost no heterosexual male is going to just let people wonder if he’s gay or not.

So it’s either hide in the closet or let them know one way or another.  And then comes the consequences.  For me, it was never being able to hold down a job for longer then a year.  I eventually gave up trying to find a staff position anywhere, and just began working various jobs on a freelance basis.  I struggled for years, just to be able to pay rent on a room in someone else’s house and take the bus to and from work.

Now I’m working for an employer that takes diversity in the work force very, very seriously and I am finally able to live a nice, middle class life.  I’m good at what I do.  I give 100 percent to The Institute every day I work here.  I earn my paycheck.  I have a nice little Baltimore rowhouse now.  I just bought the car of my dreams.  I am not fabulously well off by any means but I’m living comfortably in a nice house, in a nice city neighborhood within walking distance of work.  I’m able to help out with things in my community, support other folks who need it now.  Life is good.  All I ever needed was a chance.  But for so long, so very very long, I couldn’t have that chance.  Because I am gay.  And that’s why we need laws protecting us from discrimination. 

They won’t work perfectly of course…bigots will always find a way to weasel around them.  But they’ll make a big difference in our lives.  And that means prejudice in America wastes a little less of America’s human capital.  What you have to understand about bigots is that for all the patriotic posturing they really don’t give a good goddamn about their country.  They would rather live in an America that was poorer economically and more vulnerable strategically, then live in an America that was prosperous and secure, if that means they have to get off the backs of the people they hate.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

Disease As Identity

While browsing the SLOG blog the other day, I came across this striking history of the name of syphilis

The name "syphilis" was coined by the Italian physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro in his epic noted poem, written in Latin, entitled Syphilis sive morbus gallicus (Latin for "Syphilis or The French Disease") in 1530. The protagonist of the poem is a shepherd named Syphilus (perhaps a variant spelling of Sipylus, a character in Ovid’s Metamorphoses). Syphilus is presented as the first man to contract the disease, sent by the god Apollo as punishment for the defiance that Syphilus and his followers had showed him. By the addition of the suffix -is to the root of Syphilus, Fracastoro derived a new name for the disease, which he also used in his medical text De Contagionibus ("On Contagious Diseases").

Until that time, as Fracastoro notes, syphilis had been called the "French disease" in Italy and Germany, and the "Italian disease" in France. In addition, the Dutch called it the "Spanish disease," the Russians called it the "Polish disease," the Turks called it the "Christian disease" or "Frank disease" (frengi) and the Tahitians called it the "British disease." It was called "Great pox" in the 16th century to distinguish it from smallpox. In its early stages, the Great pox produced a rash similar to smallpox (also known as variola). However, the name is misleading, as smallpox was a far more deadly disease. The terms "lues" and "Cupid’s Disease" have also been used to refer to syphilis. In Scotland, Syphilis was referred to as the Grandgore. Because of the outbreak in the French army, it was first called morbus gallicus, or the French disease. It was also called The Black Lion.

The French Disease.  The Spanish Disease.  The Italian Disease.  The British Disease.  The Polish Disease.  The Christian Disease.  Sound familiar?  Try this: AIDS is The Gay Disease.  Don’t tell me you haven’t heard that one by now. "The poor homosexuals", said Pat Buchannan back in 1983, "they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution."  "Homosexuals", said Pat Robertson on his 700 Club, "want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers."

Disease is always caused by the people we hate.  It always wears their face.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Disease As Identity

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