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Archive for July, 2011

July 31st, 2011

Waiting For Default…

VLADIMIR: We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause.) Unless Barack comes.

ESTRAGON: And if he comes?

VLADIMIR: We’ll be saved.

(Beckett…slightly altered…)

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Waiting For Default…


Letter To Fred Haitt’s Pathetic Excuse For An Ombudsman…

Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2011 17:12:57 -0400
From: Bruce Garrett
To: ombudsman@washpost.com
Subject: The furor

You write…

Liberals and conservatives don’t talk to each other much anymore; they exist in parallel online universes, only crossing over to grab some explosive anti-matter from the other side to stoke the rage in their own blogosphere.

Followed almost immediately by…

Rubin was hired by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Post, to be an opinion blogger who would appeal to conservatives and people who want to follow conservative politics. She does.

He hired her in other words, to do for the Post readership what you are bellyaching that blogs are doing to their readers.  You’d think that the newspaper of record in the nation’s capital would set a higher standard for itself.  You’d think.

Maybe your publication should consider the possible consequences of enabling political echo chamber vitriol itself.  You are giving it a legitimacy the blogs could never hope to accomplish.


Bruce Garrett
Baltimore, Maryland.

Haitt hired Rubin because he knew she’d stoke right wing vitriol.  And he hired you because he knew you’d make excuses for that.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Letter To Fred Haitt’s Pathetic Excuse For An Ombudsman…


Crisis Of Democracy

A default looms, but not the one everyone has on their minds just now.  I’m glancing at my Twitter feed, and I see Think Progress tweet: “$2.8T in spending cuts is essentially a quadruple reverse-stimulus.” Yes, but it’s more then the stimulus that’s being drawn back.  It’s two-hundred plus years of American democracy that is being drawn back.

The republicans haven’t just screwed our economy, they’ve trashed our democracy by finding and exploiting a fatal weakness in the system of checks and balances our founders created.  They’ve found, to use the metaphors of my trade, a bug in the code, and they created an exploit.  They have discovered that as long as you have enough votes to sustain a filibuster you don’t have to stop at merely blocking certain specific bills you find particularly odious, you can run the entire ship of state simply by threatening to bring everything crashing down unless you get what you want.

If the democrats capitulate on this, and it’s looking like they will, then we are lost.  The American Experiment in democracy will be over.  We have simply stopped living in a democracy at that point, and the grip of a bitter, brutal radical cult unlike anything our history has known will have taken its place.  And that cult is passionately determined to cut the American Dream down to their liking.

It’ll be an America where women and minorities have no rights a straight white protestant male is bound to respect.  Where workers have no right to a safe work environment, let alone the right to organize into unions strong enough to push back against the steady loss of our middle class.  Where once again the elderly die alone and in poverty.  Where factories can once more dump whatever toxic sludge they like into the water you drink and the air you breath.  Where no science that contradicts fundamentalist dogma can be taught to school kids. Where the sale of contraceptives are once again outlawed.  Where your gay neighbors can once again be denied a job, a professional license, a place to live, be thrown in jail simply for being what they are.

None of this is hyperbole.  The so-called tea partiers say these things time and time again.  That they are a movement mostly concerned with small government and not social issues is a convenient fiction of a corporate news media that desperately wants not to be seen taking sides.  Yes the tea party sings a mantra of smaller less intrusive government, but one only has to pay attention to see that is simply the means by which they mean to achieve their hard right ends.  A government big enough to protect minorities is too big.  A government big enough to make the states butt out of people’s private sex lives is too big.  A government big enough to protect the environment, the rights of workers, the economy from corruption, is too big.  Small government is the oligarch’s friend.

I’ve often wondered if this is how it felt to be living in Europe in the 1930s, as another bitter, brutal radical cult methodically undermined the democracies tentatively rising from the ashes of monarchy.  Step by bitterly determined step they smashed what they could, and with every new success came new demands, which were followed by more appeasements that were supposed to finally mollify the radicals.  What it did was convince the radicals they had nothing to fear and everything to gain.  Everything they said they would do, that nobody believed they would actually do, they eventually did.  And afterwards the world wondered at how people could have been so blind to have not seen it coming.

Look around. Now you know.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Crisis Of Democracy

July 27th, 2011

The Many Faces of Joy

Via Twitter, I see that BuzzFeed has 60 Awesome Portraits Of Gay Couples Just Married In New York State posted just now…

See and share the joy in their faces…and then look more closely at the stunning diversity of us. Remember it next time you hear someone speak of a gay lifestyle or a gay agenda.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Many Faces of Joy

July 23rd, 2011

Now You Know The Reason They Seemed So Vulnerable To You

Details of the horrific events in Norway will continue to unfold no doubt for weeks, if not months to come. So it is well that we all just take a deep breath and wait for solid information to come out. I understand the impulse to think it was radical Islamic terrorism when the news first hit; it was my first reaction too. But I remembered Oklahoma City and held my peace and waited. And now it seems from the facts coming to light, that this was indeed more Oklahoma City then 9/11…

UPDATE 2, Saturday, July 23, 11:06 a.m. EDT: Oddmy Estenstad, an employee of agricultural retailer Felleskjøpet, tells CNN that Utoya shooting suspect Anders Behring Breivik bought six tons of fertilizer from the company in May:

She did not think the order was strange at the time because the suspect has a farm, but after Friday’s explosion in Norway’s capital, Oslo, she called police because she knew the material can be used to make bombs.

“We are very shocked that this man was connected to our company,” said Estenstad. “We are very sad about what happened.”

That sounds vaguely familiar. But bear in mind there is still an investigation going on and we really still don’t know much. This passage from the suspect’s postings to an anti-Muslim website struck me though…

I dare not even think of how many Norwegian children who have been suicide because of these experiences (assault, robbery, rape, psychological terror committed by Muslim youths). There are probably several hundred in the last 15 years.

….Non-Muslim youth in Oslo aged 12-18 are in a particularly vulnerable situation in terms of harassment [from] Muslim youth.

This from a man who (it is said) methodically killed 80 kids at a youth camp, some while they were swimming away for their lives. Always, the monster the bigot sees in others is themselves. And they are right to fear that monster.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Now You Know The Reason They Seemed So Vulnerable To You

July 16th, 2011

Chickens. Home. Roost.

In 1997, the state of Florida made it a felony for someone who is HIV positive to have sexual intercourse without telling their partner. Now…what do you think that means in a state that very specifically defines sexual intercourse only as vaginal sex between a man and a woman.

Correct…

Case overturned because of narrow definition of sex

Last month, the court of appeal overturned a Bradenton woman’s conviction for exposing her female partner to HIV because the sexual acts were between two women. The law “does not apply to her actions,” the 2nd District Court of Appeal said.

The ruling applies statewide, meaning gays and lesbians cannot be convicted of hiding their HIV status from their sex partners, at least for now. Neither can anyone who only engages in sexual acts that do not fit the state’s legal definition of intercourse — “the penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.”

So when Sarasota County authorities arrested an HIV-positive man this week on charges he had anal and oral sex with a 14-year-old boy, the sexual battery charge may stick, but the HIV charge will not…

This reminds me of another case, I think it was also in Florida, where it turned out a man could either not be charged by the state or not be sued by his estranged wife for adultery, because his sexual dalliance was committed with another man not another woman. In this case the oversight was, as the article notes, “…a glitch in the statute that nobody noticed before…” I can’t imagine why.

Well…yes I can. The thinking here clearly is that if we’re written out of the law then they don’t have to worry about some activist judge finding that we have these things called “rights”. So as far as the law is concerned in Florida, only heterosexuals have this thing called sex, and for that matter only when one man’s penis is entering one woman’s vagina. At some point they may also want to specify the missionary position for further clarity.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Chickens. Home. Roost.


History Uncloseted

In a previous post I discussed the ramifications of a bill before California governor Jerry Brown that would add the history of gay people to the textbooks and lessons of California schools. He signed it.

Gov. Brown signs bill requiring teaching of gay accomplishments

Brown issued a statement in which he called the legislation an “important step forward for our state.’’

“History should be honest,’’ Brown said. “This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.’’

As I mentioned before, that honestly, not so much about the accomplishments of gay people but more, a factual account of the witch hunts violence and political and social persecution we have endured as a people, is greatly feared by the anti-gay industrial complex. And as expected, they are already moving to do a Proposition 8 on it…

Conservative group to fight gay textbook law

The proponent of the proposed referendum, Paulo Sibaja, filed a request for a title and summary with the attorney general’s office. Sibaja said he acted on behalf of the Capitol Resource Institute, which had officially opposed the bill throughout the legislative process before Gov. Jerry Brown signed it Thursday. Sibaja is the legislative director of that organization.

The Capitol Resource Institute is a hard-line, socially conservative organization that has long opposed efforts in California to expand rights for the LGBT population…

They’ll probably get their signatures too. Whether or not they can wage a successful campaign to erase a minority group from the pages of history in California remains to be seen, but expect more of The Homosexuals Are Coming For Your Children rhetoric in the coming months. And…more anti-gay violence for them to wash, wash their hands of before the multitudes.

One part of that history they never want told is coming to the screen. A documentary based on David K. Johnson’s The Lavender Scare is now in production

The Lavender Scare is the first feature-length documentary film to tell the story of the U.S. government’s ruthless campaign in the 1950s and ’60s to hunt down and fire every Federal employee it suspected was gay.

While the McCarthy Era is remembered as the time of the Red Scare, the headline-grabbing hunt for Communists in the United States, it was the Lavender Scare, a vicious and vehement purge of homosexuals, which lasted longer and ruined many more lives.

There’s more at the documentary website, including a trailer. The book it is based on is available in cloth, paperback and ebook form from the University of Chicago Press. I also highly recommend Neil Miller’s Sex Crime Panic (Alyson Books) and David Carter’s Stonewall (St. Martin’s Press). I would also love to hear gay history book recommendations from the readers here.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on History Uncloseted

July 12th, 2011

Yes, We Exist. And So Does Our Past.

“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
David McCullough

In California bill, SB48, hopefully to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown, seeks to help correct a longstanding and bitter historical wrong. No…not the absence of gay history in the classroom

School textbooks evolve, just like the society the pages describe. The contributions of African Americans, Latinos, Asians and women – all missing or minimized in decades past – are now more fully and accurately portrayed in textbooks and other instructional materials. The role of gays and lesbians also deserves fair treatment in lessons about the development of this state and nation.

That’s the simple and forceful premise behind a bill, SB48, now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. But the idea of highlighting gay people’s contributions still draws controversy in a state where same-sex marriage remains illegal and a political wedge issue. In this case, the opposition is misguided about what’s at stake.

Ostensibly the bill is intended to improve awareness of the contributions of gay people to history. That’s a worthwhile goal in and of itself and as the second paragraph above notes, the usual suspects are raising a ruckus about it. But positive images of gay people are not what the opposition is afraid of. Here, in the Catholic Reporter, the real problem is daintily addressed…

Bishops oppose bill on gays in textbooks

William May, chairman of a California-based group called Catholics for the Common Good, said in a June 16 letter to the head of the state Assembly’s Education Committee, that problems around bullying are not going to be solved by “cosmetically sexualizing social studies” in the state’s public schools.

He said unjust discrimination against gays and lesbians “is an important fact that must be taught and not forgotten, but this bill will not affect that.” He also said the bill’s language was “so vague, and subject to such broad interpretation, that it can only lead to confusion, conflict and the potential for complaints and litigation.”

Note the formulation “unjust discrimination”. There’s the problem. Here’s the naked fear of this bill:

U.S. shifts policy on same-sex bankruptcies

The U.S. Justice Department has dropped its opposition to joint bankruptcy petitions filed by same-sex married couples in a victory for supporters of gay marriage.

The policy change is the latest setback for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has come under increasing pressure since the Obama administration said in February that it would no longer defend its constitutionality.

The filing by the Obama Department of Justice goes beyond simply bowing out of the case…it makes a dazzlingly clear cut case that DOMA is an unconstitutional attack on a suspect minority that has suffered a long history of legal and social persecution:

Justice Dept. brief against DOMA lauded as ‘watershed moment’

LGBT rights supporters are heralding a recently filed legal brief against the Defense of Marriage Act – the first of its kind against the anti-gay law from the Obama administration – as a landmark document that will aid in bringing about the end of DOMA.

Notably, the brief recalls the U.S. government’s role in discriminating against LGBT people in its description of the ways in which LGBT people have received different treatment over the course of history. The Justice Department recalls that former President Eisenhower signed an executive order adding “sexual perversion” as grounds for dismissal for federal employees.

“The federal government enforced Executive Order 10450 zealously, engaging various agencies in intrusive investigatory techniques to purge gays and lesbians from the civilian workforce,” the brief states. “The State Department, for example, charged ‘”skilled” investigators’ with ‘interrogating every potential male applicant to discover if they had any effeminate tendencies or mannerisms,’ used polygraphs on individuals accused of homosexuality who denied it, and sent inspectors to ‘every embassy, consulate and mission’ to uncover homosexuality.’”

The full text of the brief is Here (PDF). It also reads in part:

In order to identify gays and lesbians in the civil service, the FBI “sought out state and local police officers to supply arrest records on morals charges, regardless of whether there were convictions; data on gay bars; lists of other places frequented by homosexuals; and press articles on the largely subterranean gay world”

The United States Postal Service (“USPS”), for its part, aided the FBI by establishing “a watch list on the recipients of physique magazines, subscrib[ing] to pen pal clubs, and initiat[ing] correspondence with men whom [it] believed might be homosexual.” The mail of individuals concluded to be homosexual would then be traced “in order to locate other homosexuals.”

Now consider this, and ask yourself how many times you have heard comparisons of the struggles of gay Americans and black Americans denounced because gays never were sold into slavery, never had to ride the back of the bus, never were denied the right to vote. Or comparisons with antisemitism denounced because gays were never herded into extermination camps. How many times have you heard the struggle for gay equality dismissed as the pastime of privileged rich white men. How often have we heard, and still hear, that laws protecting gay people from discrimination are unnecessary, are really just about seeking social approval.

Below is how Mad Magazine looked at our struggle back in 1971. I include this to show what the popular view of our struggle was so shortly after Stonewall, not to be pointing a finger specifically at Mad. This was how our struggle was commonly viewed back then and Mad like a lot of publications is way, way nicer to their gay readers nowadays.

Mad #145, Sept ‘71, from “Greeting Cards For The
Sexual Revolution” – “To A Gay Liberationist”

Forgive us if we’re more concerned with Indians and Blacks… So easy to say, when the shear brutality of anti-gay persecution was so completely unknown to most Americans. But of course to know that history they would have only had to look…

The Last Police Raid on Gays of Fire Island

…my mind went back to starting as a reporter at the daily Long Island Press in the 1960s covering police and courts when a Suffolk County custom was the annual police raid on the gay communities of Fire Island, a barrier beach on the Atlantic and a diverse summertime haven for New Yorkers.

Boatloads of Suffolk police would make a night-time assault on Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines. Prisoners were dragged off in manacles and charged with morals violations. All would plead guilty, most being from the city and frightened about casting their lot with Long Island locals. And, no question, this was a variant of a witch hunt. Police stressed, in notifying the press about the arrestees, where they worked and what they did. They wanted to get these guys in trouble.

But looking at what was happening to us was exactly the problem. There was no news footage back then of gays being dragged off in manacles because we were considered too disgusting to even talk about in family newspapers, let alone on TV. And when we were talked about, it always had to be in the most reassuringly scary and disgusted terms…

We had to fight just to be seen, before we could fight to have our stories told.

Some years ago I watched a documentary on Logo about the gay history of Fire Island. During a time when same-sex couples risked arrest for dancing together the police would patrol the streets around a club called the Botel and arrest random young men as they left. On those nights the bartenders would get the word somehow and warn people not to leave the club alone, but go out in large groups. Typically the police would arrest at least twenty gays. There was a large telephone pole near the Botel, that had a chain fastened to it, and as the police would randomly arrest gay men as they left the Botel they would cuff them to the chain…one by one…until they had their twenty for that night.

No, we never rode the back of the bus. We rode the boat back to the mainland and to jail. We sat in the cells of all the 50 states where sodomy laws put us. As Neil Miller documented in his book, Sex-Crime Panic in sentences of indefinite length in special wings in mental hospitals created specifically for homosexuals. As David Carter documented in his book Stonewall, bars and restaurants could have their licenses revoked if they served us. And as David K. Johnson documented in his book The Lavender Scare, we were relentlessly witch hunted in the 1950s because even more then the communist threat we were viewed by the republican party as a useful tool to play wedge politics against the democrats with. And as the Obama Justice Department brief states…

State and local law also has been used to prevent gay and lesbian people from associating freely. Liquor licensing laws, both on their face and through discriminatory enforcement, were long used to harass and shut down establishments patronized by gays and lesbians…State and local police also relied on laws prohibiting lewdness, vagrancy, and disorderly conduct to harass gays and lesbians, often when gay and lesbian people congregated in public… Similar practices persist to this day…

Yes…as a matter of fact…

Police disciplined over Eagle bar raid

Ten Atlanta police officers lied about events surrounding a controversial 2009 raid at a Midtown gay bar, according to an investigative report released this week, and the department on Thursday demoted a commander and placed seven others on administrative duty. Two officers previously were fired.

The 343-page report confirmed complaints raised in the lawsuit that officers had deleted call logs, photographs and cell phone text messages, which a federal judge had ordered turned over to the lawyers for men who had filed suit. The report said the officers lied when asked about people being shoved to the floor, city ordinance violations that were witnessed and phone use that night.

Decades since Stonewall and it’s still going on. But at least now there can’t be an expectation that we will endure it quietly. And that has consequences. Bigotry no longer has the free reign it use to have over us. Sometimes we win a few. The closet as it turned out, not only kept us hidden, it kept the crimes against us hidden.

It is the prospect of that history of anti-gay persecution becoming commonly known and understood that terrifies the anti-gay industrial complex. Because then the need for laws protecting us from discrimination becomes crystal clear. Because then the hatred at the root of groups like NOM and the Family Research Council becomes sickeningly obvious. Because then it becomes hard, obscene even, to argue as Maryland Delegate Jay Walker did that,

“I cannot fathom a day in which I will be told which water fountain I can use but at the same time the gay and lesbian community had so many more things that they could participate in that African Americans and immigrants couldn’t.”

We sure did…

Across the country there was an alarming vagueness in legal definitions as to who might be classified as a sexual psychopath. State laws defined a sexual psychopath as someone who had a “propensity” to commit sex offenses (Michigan and Missouri) or who “lacked the power to control his sexual impulses” (Massachusetts and Nebraska). In most states, however, authorities couldn’t just pluck such a person off the street and label him a sexual psychopath. In Alabama, for instance, the suspect had to be convicted of a sex crime first. Under the proposed Iowa legislation, such a person had to be charged with – but not necessarily convicted of – a “public offense.” In Nebraska, on the other hand, a suspect didn’t have to be charged; all that was needed were certain facts showing “good cause” and the process of classification as a sexual psychopath could begin. And in Minnesota, the only requirements were a petition by a county attorney and an examination by “two duly licensed doctors of medicine.”

Whatever their individual wordings, such laws were intended to bring about the indefinite detention of dangerous or socially undesirable people. In all these states, a sexual psychopath could not be released from detention until psychiatrists ruled that he was “cured” or at the very least no longer posed a threat to society.

Despite their good intentions, sexual psychopath laws invariably took a catch-all approach to sexual offenses. The intended targets may have been rapists and murderers, but in almost every state with a sexual psychopath law, little or no distinction was made between violent and non-violent offenses, between consensual and nonconsensual behavior, or between harmless “sexual deviates” and dangerous sex criminals. An adult homosexual man who had sex with his lover in the privacy of his bedroom was as deviant as a child murderer. A person who had a pornographic book or photograph hidden in a night table faced the same punishment as a rapist. All these people were lumped into one category – that of the sexual psychopath – and could be incarcerated in a state hospital indefinitely.

New York lawyer and judge Morris Ploscowe, one of the most prominent critics of sexual psychopath laws at the time, found that these were most often used to punish and isolate minor offenders rather then dangerous predators. In Minnesota, which enacted its sexual psychopath law in the ’30s, some 200 people were committed to state hospitals in the first ten years of the law’s existence, according to Ploscowe. Most were detained for homosexual activity, not for being hard-core sex criminals.

-Neal Miller: Sex-Crime Panic

So many more things we could participate in…

Like the federal government, state and local governments have long discriminated against gays and lesbians in public employment. By the 1950s, may state and local governments had banned gay and lesbian employees, as well as gay and lesbian “employees of state funded schools and colleges, and private individuals in professions requiring state licenses.” … Many states and localities began aggressive campaigns to purge gay and lesbian employees from government services as early as the 1940s.

This employment discrimination was interrelated with longstanding state law prohibitions on sodomy; the discrimination was frequently justified by the assumption that gays and lesbians had engaged in criminalized and immoral sexual conduct…

Defendant’s Brief In Opposition To Motions To Dismiss, Golinski v. Office Of Personnel Management.

At one time all fifty states had sodomy laws but never mind that, homosexuals were never really a persecuted minority. At one time bars and restaurants were forbidden from serving known homosexuals but never mind that, homosexuals were never really a persecuted minority. At one time the Post Office with help from the FBI tracked down suspected homosexuals for government witch hunters but never mind that, homosexuals were never really a persecuted minority. At one time homosexuals were rounded up and held indefinitely in mental hospitals, could have their children taken away from them, could loose their jobs, their homes, their professional licenses, their freedom, but never mind that, homosexuals were never really a persecuted minority.

1777 – A committee works on a revised set of criminal law for Virginia. Thomas Jefferson and other liberals attempt to have the death penalty for sodomy replaced by castration for men and boring a hole through the nose of a woman. The committee rejects their suggestion and retains the death penalty.

Nothing to see here…move along…

That is why our history must never be taught. As long as this history, which is still being uncovered and documented, remains hidden the haters can keep right on posturing as the aggrieved parties whenever we compare our struggle to that of other hated minorities, and their bar stool prejudices toward us to their bar stool prejudices toward others. They can keep insisting that we do not need the protection of the courts because we are not a suspect class and were never really persecuted to begin with. That we are merely a small group of privileged mostly rich white men who are seeking special rights at everyone else’s expense. That they are not bigots whose concern was never about anything more then that their hatreds always have free reign over the lives of those they hate. Forgive us if we’re more concerned with Indians and Blacks. That is why our history must never be taught.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Yes, We Exist. And So Does Our Past.

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