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October 1st, 2022

What Is The Cost Of Lies?

“…It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead…with stories. In these stories it doesn’t matter who the heroes are. All we want to know is who is to blame.”

 

This. All this.

by Bruce | Link | React!

June 18th, 2022

How To Turn Blood Into Votes

Anti-LGBTQ threats, fueled by internet’s far right ‘machine,’ shut down trans rights and drag events

Inundated with threats during Pride Month, LGBTQ+ rights advocates and allies have been forced to cancel events and involve local law enforcement authorities after a group of white nationalists were arrested outside a Pride event in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

You could say this is nothing new because the republican machine has been ginning up fear and hatred of gay people to drive their base to the polls, ever since Anita Bryant showed them back in 1977 how well it worked. I have examples of republican hate pamphlets mailed out in critical races and swing states for almost every election cycle since the 90s.

 

 

What’s different now is the overt threat of violence, coming against a background of multiple mass shootings in recent years, the violent January 6 storming of the United States Capitol, and a president of the United States that didn’t merely condone political violence, but actively employed it. And he had every reason to believe he could get away with it, because he did it all throughout his campaign in 2016 and instead of rejecting him republican voters flocked to him and he won. With Donald Trump a Rubicon was crossed.

Now we have open carry laws in states already deeply hostile toward LGBT Americans. Now we have mass shootings in places of work, churches, grocery stores, elementary schools. Now we have republican state governors and legislators openly inciting religious and social passions against us, and writing laws allegedly to protect children from us, threatening businesses that treat us with respect, calling out everyone who opposes their hate-mongering as “groomers” and pedophiles, all deliberately calculated to incite fear and hatred toward us. For votes. There is no other reason.

Then come the violent street gangs. Our blood on the pavement, their votes on election day.

There is a political machine behind the targeting of Pride events by this element. A right wing political machine. A republican political machine. What you see there in the photo taken in Coeur D’Alene is no more spontaneous than January 6 was. And just like with the Big Lie, the respectable republican cloth coat establishment is fine with it, and with whatever bloodshed it may bring. So long as it stays far enough away from them personally that they can maintain their aura of establishment respectability, and it delivers them more votes from the mob than it costs them with decent Americans.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How To Turn Blood Into Votes

May 5th, 2022

Sam Alito’s Indifference To The Humanity Of Women, Children, And Democracy

I’m surprised this case from his past isn’t getting more attention now. This man has a stunningly congenital indifference to the humanity of women and children, and nowhere was that indifference more evident than in his decision and his behavior in Doe v. Groody, which came out during his confirmation hearing in 2005. From WikiPedia

The Doe v. Groody, 361 F.3d 232 (3d Cir. 2004) lawsuit concerned a strip-search of a 10-year-old girl and her mother despite the fact that neither were criminal suspects nor named in any search warrant. In applying for a search warrant, officers requested the right to search whoever was in the house and were refused that request.

The Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania Drug Task Force suspected the husband and father of the plaintiffs of selling methamphetamines so they procured a search warrant for him, the house, his car and anyone customers that were present. The wife and daughter were not listed as suspects. When the police were executing the warrant, they had a female parking enforcement officer take the wife and daughter to the bathroom and perform a strip search but no drugs were found on them. When the pair sued, the police officers claimed qualified immunity.

They had no warrant to search the mother and daughter, but they strip searched them anyway. The district court and the appeals court held that under “…any reasonable reading, the warrant in this case did not authorize the search of the mother and daughter, and that the search was not otherwise justified.” 

But the appeals court decision would have been unanimous save for one judge who didn’t think the cops had done anything wrong. Guess who. 

Judge Samuel Alito wrote a dissenting opinion saying that police officers did not violate the Constitution when they strip-searched the mother and her ten-year-old daughter. Alito stated in section I of his dissent that the affidavit accompanying the warrant “…seeks permission to search all occupants of the residence…” and argues, again in section I, that “The warrant indisputably incorporated the affidavit…”

Judge Michael Chertoff’s majority opinion asserted that Alito’s position would effectively nullify the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement and “transform the judicial officer into little more than the cliché rubber stamp.”

But there’s more the Wiki article doesn’t mention. During arguments Alito peevishly asked the lawyer for the girl “Why do you keep bringing up the fact that this case involves the strip search of a 10-year-old child?” His defenders at his confirmation hearing said that simply reflected his strict approach to law and order issues, and giving the police the widest possible (and then some) latitude. But the fact is the case Did involve strip searching a 10 year old girl, and it plainly irritated him to be reminded of that fact, as if it should have had any bearing on what happens when police take the law into their own hands.

And it is probably the exact moment when right wing culture warriors knew they had a winner in Sam Alito. He eventually replaced Sandra Day O’Connor. 

Let me repeat: the man who was irritated over being reminded that the case before him involved strip searching a 10 year old girl, wrote the draft opinion we are now seeing that says Roe was “egregiously wrong from the start,” and that also quotes approvingly from a 17th century English jurist who had two women executed for witchcraft, wrote that it isn’t rape if a husband forces himself on his wife, and believed capital punishment should extend to kids as young as 14.

Strip search a 10 year old girl…what’s your problem with that…why do you keep bringing that up..?

If all this resurfaces now, in light of Alito’s words in the leaked draft, expect the same chorus now vilifying anyone who objects to DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay law as “groomers” and pedophiles to rush to excuse Alito’s peevish bewilderment as to why, in the context of police abusing their power, it might matter that a 10 year old girl was strip searched. Save Our Children…from anyone who might give a damn about their welfare, and the future of the human race.

During his confirmation hearings in 2005, it was reported that Alito’s wife broke down in tears over how mean some senators were to her husband. I did a cartoon

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sam Alito’s Indifference To The Humanity Of Women, Children, And Democracy

April 21st, 2022

I Want My Future Back.

I was born into a world in the midst of a Cold War. When imminent nuclear annihilation was a fear most of us felt on a daily basis. Black Americans were still living in a state of segregation. Women needed their husband’s permission to have their own credit cards. I’ve been trying to document how it was for a gay kid back then in A Coming Out Story.

And yet…and yet…it was a world that held so much promise. And that was largely because we needed the hard sciences, and a good public school system, to stay economically and militarily secure from Russia. The jet age had arrived. Communication satellites made it possible to see televised news from anywhere in the world (on this side of the Iron Curtain). We were going to the moon. We were being taught science in the classroom, and to read and explore, and ask the difficult questions and seek the truthful answers. Because the future depended on us. There really was a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day.

I was born into a world that was, despite everything, full of promise and hope. I am spending my old age in a world dominated by stupidity and the petty grudges of mean people.

People who like to torment the different kids. Bullies. Creeps. The same ones back when I was a schoolboy, that were always waiting for some smaller kid to let their guard down by looking up at the stars.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Want My Future Back.

January 27th, 2022

What Makes Us Human, Versus What Makes Us Talk Radio Babblers

Some days I just gotta thump my pulpit. But this is why I blog I suppose…

I’m slogging through a New Yorker profile of Dan Bongino, the new extra strength Rush Limbaugh, whose YouTube channel was recently taken down (more of that please!) because Bongino tried to do an end run around a previous YouTube timeout. The New Yorker often goes into deep detail about its subjects and that makes the articles quite long at times, but they’re almost always worth the read. New Yorker and Consumer Reports are the only two magazine subscriptions I’m going to keep when I transition into living on retirement money.

I want to talk…okay, vent…about this exchange with Bongino and the New Yorker reporter that caught my eye the other day:

For Bongino, the policies of the pandemic – mandates for masks and vaccines, admonitions against experimental treatments – have always rested on a dubious expectation of trust. When I asked him why he challenged the science, he cut in: “Time out.” He fed my words back to me: “’You challenge the science’ No! That’s not the way science works! Science is a process of challenges.” He went on, “What are you, a lemming? Just because people tell you to do things doesn’t mean you should automatically do it. Pregnant women took thalidomide for morning sickness. That was the consensus of the time. Look how that worked out.”

This is such a perfect example of how these wingnut talk radio babblers manipulate not just the facts but also, and slyly, the language, that it takes your breath away. It is pure gold. And the reporter, unless he covers it later in the article that I haven’t read yet, does not push back on any of it. But I can cut this reporter some slack for that because without a doubt your typical New Yorker reader can see through this multilayered bullshit. 

But let’s us take it apart…

Science is a process of challenges. Well…yeah. Jacob Bronowski talked in The Ascent of Man, about the newly arrived students at Göttingen University bringing to their studies “…a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.” And in that same episode, titled “Knowledge or Certainty”, he argued passionately against arrogance and dogma, what he called “the despot’s belief that they have absolute certainty.” 

All knowledge he insisted, is confined within an area of uncertainty, or as he preferred to call it, an area of tolerance. Science is what we do to sift out the facts from the fictions, however passionately hoped for. The physicist Richard Feynman once said that science is just a way we have of not fooling ourselves. But there is more to it than that. In Science and Human Values Bronowski wrote that “When you discard the test of fact in what a star is, you discard with it what a man is.” It is the search for knowledge, the habit of truth Bronowski spoke of, that makes us human.

But that is precisely what Bongino discards here. You challenge science, with more and better science. Not with theology, not with strongman politics, not with a lot of half assed goofball conspiracy theories, not by calling anyone who follows the science lemmings. For one thing, lemmings don’t hurl themselves off cliffs in mass suicides. That’s a myth, popularized here in the United States by a Disney nature documentary that was…well…lacking in science.

Just because people tell you to do things doesn’t mean you should automatically do it. See how deftly he shifts the focus from science tells us, to what “people tell you to do”? Now he’s not challenging the science, he’s quite reasonably not blindly letting “people” tell him “to do things”. What people? What things? No need to be specific, the point is to derail the question. If crazy uncle Batsinthebelfry tells you to go jump off a bridge you wouldn’t do that would you? So don’t listen to Dr. Fauci unless you’re a lemming. And as it turns out…unsurprisingly…Bongino doesn’t know any more about Thalidomide than he does about lemmings.

Pregnant women took thalidomide for morning sickness. That was the consensus of the time. Look how that worked out. Notice he doesn’t say it was the consensus of the science of the time. Because the science wasn’t quite all there. And to get the full story on that, you need to look up Frances Oldham Kelsey, who in 1960 was a reviewer at the Food and Drug Administration. It was Kelsey who kept the thalidomide tragedy in Europe from becoming one here in the US. Because…

Kelsey had the power to prevent a drug from going to market if she found the application to be lacking sufficient evidence for safety. After a thorough review, Kelsey rejected the application for thalidomide on the grounds that it lacked sufficient evidence of safety through rigorous clinical trials. -Smithsonian Magazine, May 8, 2017, “The Woman Who Stood Between America And A Generation Of Thalidomide Babies”

That “consensus of the time” Bongilo casually throws out there, was in fact careless marketing of a drug initially as sedative, that was never tested on pregnant women, but was marketed to them for morning sickness after the drug maker discovered it could also be used for that. There was no “consensus of the time”, there was only marketing and tragically superficial approval based on nothing more than the drug maker’s own testing. And Kelsey didn’t think that was entirely honest either.

Reports of the side effect peripheral neuritis—painful inflammation of the peripheral nerves—were published in the December 1960 issue of the British Medical Journal. This raised an even bigger red flag for Kelsey: “the peripheral neuritis did not seem the sort of side effect that should come from a simple sleeping pill.

She asked for more information from Merrell, who responded with another application merely stating that thalidomide was at least safer than barbiturates. Kelsey then sent a letter directly to Merrell saying that she suspected they knew of the neurological toxicity that led to nerve inflammation but chose not to disclose it in their application. Merrell grew increasingly upset that Kelsey would not pass their drug, which had been used in over 40 other countries at this point.

The science was not there. It was only Kelsey demanding to see the science before she’d sign off on it that prevented a bigger tragedy in the US than happened. 

Eventually, after reports of birth deformities began appearing overseas, Merrell withdrew the application. But samples of the drug had been distributed to more than 1200 physicians and from these to tens of thousands of their patients. That resulted in 17 reported cases of congenital deformities here in the US. It could have been thousands “…had the FDA not insisted on the evidence of safety required under the law (despite ongoing pressure from the drug’s sponsor).”

For Bongilo to use this as an example of why not to trust the scientific evidence of the effectiveness of vaccinations is stunning in its brazenness. But these people are nothing if not brazen about it these days. What Trump taught them is not to hold back. Don’t just fudge the facts. Go ahead and brazen it out. Everyone knew thalidomide was safe until it wasn’t. Now they’re telling you the COVID vaccinations are safe. We all know how that’s going to turn out… Bongilo isn’t merely challenging the science, he’s challenging the very thing that makes us human…our rational facility…short circuiting it with tactical rhetoric and disinformation.

So his side can win the culture war. But what, exactly is the prize? Ends and means are not separate and unrelated items. To paraphrase Bronowski, when you discard the test of fact in how effective a vaccine is, you discard with it what it is to be human. Also, you get people killed. People. Not lemmings. People with lives. People with families and friends who loved them.

Is Donald Trump really worth dragging yourself down into that abyss? Is he really worth discarding everything inside of you that could have been noble and decent? If the devil is still out there trying to buy souls, he must be really pissed at the downturn in quality lately.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What Makes Us Human, Versus What Makes Us Talk Radio Babblers

November 20th, 2021

Locked And Loaded And Pointing At Every One Of Us

In the fury to come about the Rittenhouse verdict, and how it gives right wing terrorists license to hunt and kill people protesting racist police violence, spare a moment of thought about the reporters covering those protests.

We have seen since Ferguson how the police actively target reporters on the scene. It got to the point during that unrest, that police would suddenly charge a protest line and drag away a specific person their intelligence thought was an activist leader. They would also arrest and detain news camera crews and reporters. Over time since Ferguson, it escalated to shootings of reporters and video crew with rubber bullets which were later justified as “confusion” as to whether the camera was a gun or not. 

We have seen over and over how police shootings often end up being justified by the cop saying they thought the person they shot had a gun in their hands. “I thought it was a gun”. But it turned out to just be a wallet or a cell phone.  

I thought it was a gun. Now add armed right wing civilians into the mix, lax to non-existent local firearms regulations, and local police affinity with right wing terror groups. The protests that night in Kenosha were about the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake, yet another police shooting of an unarmed black man…in the back three times, and in the side twice…and clearly the Kenosha police that night appreciated the company of that squad of white militia. In fact, as the ACLU reports, they herded the protestors toward them…

“His acquittal comes after our investigation exposed how Kenosha law enforcement used violence against protesters and drove them toward white militia groups, in ways that escalated tensions and almost certainly led to these shootings…”

The white militia were on the side of the police. Against the protestors. Who were there to protest the police shooting, in the back, of an unarmed black man.

I used to go to every news event in DC with my cameras, wander among the crowds and document what was happening. Sometimes I got my photography into a local newspaper. More often it was just to capture the history I was living through for myself. I have quite an archive now of that history. I’ve put some of it up on my website.

But lately I’ve been more hesitant to do that then I ever was, even during the worst of the riots of the 70s. Partly it’s age. My legs just don’t hold up as long as they used to. Partly it’s opportunity. The job I have doesn’t always keep regular business hours. But mostly now, right now, it is this: It’s going to be very easy going forward, for some armed right wing thug to shoot dead anyone with a camera and claim, even laughingly, that it was self defense. They will absolutely do that to commercial news reporters. Street photographers will absolutely be targets too. In Ferguson they were merely arrested and held in jail for doing their jobs. Now they can be shot. Not by the police, but by friendly white militia.  

I thought it was a gun…I thought it was a gun…I thought it was a gun…hahahahaha…I thought it was a gun…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Locked And Loaded And Pointing At Every One Of Us

April 6th, 2021

They Spread Disease Don’t You Know

As a gay man who came of age in the late 1960s, endured every filthy lie the righteous could throw at us, which only got even worse when AIDS began killing so many of us, this is from Digby is…just amazing…to read about…

Conspiracy theories in the pews

…there have always been conspiracy theorists among us and one of the most likely groups to fall down a rabbit hole are conservative evangelicals many of whom are ready to believe that liberals are satan worshippers and that abortions are being used as a form of genocide.

Considering their fealty to Donald Trump, it isn’t surprising that they would be among the most vaccine resistant…

She quotes from this New York Times article

White Evangelical Resistance Is Obstacle in Vaccination Effort

Millions of white evangelical adults in the U.S. do not intend to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Tenets of faith and mistrust of science play a role; so does politics.

As I said…for a gay man of a certain age this Times article is absolutely fascinating reading. Let me just quote this one passage…

The deeply held spiritual convictions or counterfactual arguments may vary. But across white evangelical America, reasons not to get vaccinated have spread as quickly as the virus that public health officials are hoping to overcome through herd immunity.

The opposition is rooted in a mix of religious faith and a longstanding wariness of mainstream science, and it is fueled by broader cultural distrust of institutions and gravitation to online conspiracy theories. The sheer size of the community poses a major problem for the country’s ability to recover from a pandemic that has resulted in the deaths of half a million Americans. And evangelical ideas and instincts have a way of spreading, even internationally.

There are about 41 million white evangelical adults in the U.S. About 45 percent said in late February that they would not get vaccinated against Covid-19, making them among the least likely demographic groups to do so, according to the Pew Research Center.

“If we can’t get a significant number of white evangelicals to come around on this, the pandemic is going to last much longer than it needs to,” said Jamie Aten, founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution in Illinois.

As vaccines become more widely available, and as worrisome virus variants develop, the problem takes on new urgency…

Wariness of mainstream science?? I think the word you’re looking for is hostility. They’ve been waging an all out war on science ever since Darwin at least. And on any form of government and public education that does not bow to their peculiar institution. It makes them perpetually antagonistic toward the rest of the country that isn’t part of the tribe. And indifferent, completely and utterly indifferent, to the harm the practice of their beliefs may cause others. The teenage girl sexually assaulted by an older male. The gay kid thrown into an ex-gay camp. The gay couple beaten by young thugs hopped up on the righteousness coming from the pulpit. Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. They’re the right hand of god almighty, and gods don’t feel shame.

But never mind that. It is an old, very old, anti-gay trope of the religious right propaganda machine, that homosexuals spread disease…often deliberately.When HIV was killing us they not only turned their backs on us, and insisted so should everyone else, they accused us of spreading it willfully, to the rest of the country. We were a threat to the family, to civilization itself. What had come down on us was merely the fruits of our own abominable sin. We had it coming, the bible said so. Their propaganda war on The Homosexual Menace took a darker, and bloodier turn.

I remember those days. I remember how we took care of each other, and made the country take notice, and doing that discovered a strength and dignity within ourselves that we had been told since childhood was not ours to have. I remember.

Now look at who is spreading disease. Deliberately.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on They Spread Disease Don’t You Know

March 25th, 2021

Everything Old Is New Again…(continued…)

Checking my server logs this morning, I find that someone in Colorado dug up via Google my blog post from ages ago about “The Mormon Gulag”, and promptly went down a Google rabbit hole I probably shouldn’t have here in the Happiest Place On Earth. No I won’t link to it here…no sense in getting everyone else miserable and nail splitting angry again. But you can probably find it in that handy search box to the right.

Besides…that’s all in the To Be Forgotten And Let Bygones Be Bygones past. Seriously. Just try to find out what’s in the lawsuit settlement agreements. They’re probably buried so deep even the Angel Moroni couldn’t find them again. And anyway they’ve changed their wicked ways. Or at least their name. What was once the Utah Boys Ranch is now the West Ridge Academy, with an attached charter school that is in No Way a part of the old and infamous residential treatment center (we give your child the treatment), and now they can take in hundreds of kids instead of just a few dozen. And besides look at our new name. We’ve Changed. Yeah, yeah…and so did Comcast when they became xFinity. And so did Clear Channel when they became iHeartRadio. Because nothing fixes the reputation of a poisonous toxic culture, let alone a pack of child abusers, like a name change. Certainly not accountability.

At least Clear Channel was only poisoning our parent’s hearts and minds, not terrorizing and beating the crap out of teenagers while bragging they could do it without leaving a mark. I stopped surfing when I started wondering what the youngest age is in Utah that a kid can go buy an AR-15.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Everything Old Is New Again…(continued…)

September 9th, 2020

Wreckage

Yesterday afternoon I took a wee excursion to a point in time

I had to go see it. I’m staying at Boardwalk for my birthday week, and it’s close enough I could go and see it for myself. He’s not living there in that city anymore, but somewhere further down the coast, and that’s okay because I don’t even know if he wants to see me anymore anyway and I don’t want to freak him out by suddenly appearing on his doorstep. Or rather, that unsettling halfway/shelter home he’s been put into. For a period of time he had a life of his own and a little one bedroom here that looks like it was nice back in its day.

Now it’s a derelict shell of concrete block emptiness and economic despair nestled in a corner of wealth, beach vacation dreams, and Trump 2020 billboards. And my heart is broken. But I knew it would be and I did it anyway. On the way back I pulled over and had a good cry. It’s not that life is unfair…the universe doesn’t hate us, it’s just indifferent…the dice don’t care how they fall. Life is coldly fair…coldly, indifferently fair. It’s that there is way too much darkness here, and so very little light.

You deserved better guy. Maybe if we hadn’t drifted apart I could have made sure it didn’t come to this. I just never thought back when I was a teenager, that this could happen to someone like you. I was the ugly weird kid they heaped low expectations onto. This shouldn’t have happened to you. I don’t think I care about anything now anymore. It all just seems so pointless.

I’m glad you’re still hanging in there. I’m glad you’re staying drug free. I wonder if the people who put you there really understand why people take drugs, or drink themselves into stupors like I did last night.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Wreckage

June 9th, 2020

How To Experience Driving While Black In America Even If You’re Not

Get a standard poodle…

I have not told this story before. I worry how it will be received. I don’t know the right language to express it other than my own thoughts and feelings. This post is not for people of color because they already know it. This is for white people living in suburbs and small towns who think this is a big city problem and “It’s not my town.”

Before moving to New York City, I drove every where. I got pulled over 3 times in 15 years; two speeding tickets and an illegal left hand turn.

The first year I was back in Michigan, I got pulled over 5 times. Each time it was for impeding traffic and I did not get a ticket.

Read her story. She got pulled over five times in one year, for bullshit traffic offences. Sometimes the cop walked up to her car and unbuckled his holster. One cop kept his hand on his gun the entire time, even after he realized she didn’t have a black man in the car with her. It was her poodle, Merlin.

She notes in her blog post that John Steinbeck told of a similar experience of mistaken identity in his travelog, Travels With Charley. I first read Travels when I was a young boy, and it lit a fire in me for the open road. But it also told me a few things about my country that frightened me. Steinbeck drove through the south just as the black civil rights movement was gaining steam. The Warren Supreme Court had ordered schools to desegregate and the outrage in the south was already turning bloody. Occasionally people there would mistake Charley for a black man riding with him…

I went through Beaumont at night, or rather in the dark well after midnight. The blue fingered man who filled my gas tank looked in at Charley and said, “Hey, it’s a dog! I thought you had a nigger in there.” And he laughed delightedly. It was the first of many repetitions. At least twenty times I heard it – “Thought you had a nigger in there.” It was an unusual joke – always fresh – and never Negro or even Nigra, always Nigger or rather Niggah. That word seemed terribly important, a kind of safety word to cling to lest some structure collapse.

-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley In Search Of America

Not all poodles are toy size. I had a neighbor once who had a Standard poodle and I saw him walking it every now and then down our streets. They have a noble, regal poise and walk. Some dogs just know they’re royalty. Like Charley, hers would have been sitting upright in the passenger seat, because to slouch is beneath some dogs. And she got pulled over five times in a year for bullshit traffic violations because the cop thought she was riding with a black man. And sometimes they unsnapped their gun holsters as they approached the car. And one even kept his hand on his gun the entire time, even after he realized her passenger was her dog. And that had never happened to her before.

Since Merlin died, I have not been pulled over once.

If you want to know what it’s like driving while black in the land of the free and the home of the brave, buy yourself a “Standard” poodle (yes, that is the type) and drive around with it in the car. Fair warning though…you might get shot.

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 5th, 2020

Jesus Died For Our Sins, Now You Must Die For Mine

This came across my Facebook news stream this morning. Of course Maryland couldn’t avoid being targeted by the right wing death cult…

Maryland governor sued by state lawmakers, pastors and businesses over stay-at-home orders

In the complaint (there’s a PDF link to it in the article) are two actual businesses, both recreational: Antietam Battlefield KOA and Adventure Park LLC. They have at least a plausible claim to economic damage. The others are preachers, one church member, a couple delegates, and one of those shadowy astroturfing groups that’s probably behind it all. The right wing billionaires behind it could probably afford to pay the preachers for missing their tithing plate money but would rather attack the idea that government has anything to do with securing the safety and welfare of the common man and woman. Government is for securing their prerogative to use the rest of us as they see fit.

The preachers have zero concern for their flocks and don’t seem to care at all if a percentage of them, particularly the older sicker ones die horribly.  That really says it all for their ersatz Christianity. Perhaps they need their collection plate money. But more likely it really is just simple tribal hatred of science and knowledge and those of us able to cope with this pandemic by using our brains. That is after all, the unforgivable sin.

I never really started paying attention to this reflex in the kook pews until I was older and more invested in the gay civil rights struggle. The science that said we were as normal as anyone else was the enemy. They built entire massive artifices of junk science to wave back at us. It took me a while to realize that providing a counter argument, even if it was completely nuts, wasn’t the point. Propaganda doesn’t merely serve to make people question what the facts really are, it exists to make people stop believing in facts altogether. The point was to erase the notion that any of us in the pews let alone the outside world could decide for ourselves what is and is not factual and true. It wasn’t just about Teh Gay, it was everything that challenged their authority over the hearts and minds of the people. This is appalling in any religious denomination, but especially so when it’s coming from a Baptist pulpit. But I suppose, not a Southern Baptist pulpit. If I saw this when I was a teenage boy I’d have turned atheist a lot quicker than I did.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Jesus Died For Our Sins, Now You Must Die For Mine

December 28th, 2019

Deathstyle by Dick Hafer – A Review

 

Possibly the most homophobic comic ever published, apart from Jack Chick’s little tracts. Now a part of the Casa del Garrett library of homophobia. I collect antigay pamphlets, tracts and assorted publications, even or especially when such like appear in the mainstream magazines I grew up with. It isn’t all fringe like this from religious right cartoonist Dick Hafer. Back in the day Everyone threw garbage at us. That was the pop culture environment this gay guy grew up in.

So why would a gay guy want to collect this awful stuff…I hear you asking. Many years ago I read an article about a collection of racist artifacts from the U.S. civil rights struggle gathered by a black gentleman over the years of his life. He kept it all he said, so people would remember what it was like fighting for equality in the days of separate but equal, and to insure that the hatred black Americans faced would not be erased.

That’s one good reason. I have another more personal one. Back in the days when I had my first Internet account, I followed a USENET newsgroup that was basically an unmoderated forum for gays and homophobes to argue with each other. I joined to better learn the methods of the enemy, and test myself against them. What I discovered, like those who would later follow the Proposition 8 trial, is there is no There there. They would lie shamelessly, then deny having lied. They would throw out this or that latest piece of junk science, which was pretty much the old junk science given a fresh coat of paint, demand our respect, then after it was debunked, throw something else equally vapid out…wash rinse repeat…over and over. They would thump the bible, then thump some junk science, then back to the bible. You came to understand pretty quickly that the argument was just an excuse to spit in our faces and remind us that we’re hated.

And yet…and yet…you could also see the gay bystanders being encouraged by the sight of gay people standing up to the bigots. If the bigots were arguing just to spit in our faces, we could call out their myths, lies and superstitions not because we had any hope of changing their minds, but to tell others that these lying conniving runts were nothing to be afraid of…and show them that the moral high ground is ours, and always was.

Why dig up old wounds? Why keep revisiting an unpleasant past? Well for one thing it’s not all in the past. Yes, gay folk have made great progress. But if bigotry and hate have anything going for them it’s persistence. The old beliefs haven’t declined, they’ve dug in for the long war. Resentfully. Bitterly. What’s changed, and it’s only this, is anyone open to the evidence of our lives can see the haters for what they are now. But that’s only because now we’re able to live our lives openly. Thank Lawrence v Texas for that. And because of that, because we can live openly without the sodomy laws hanging over us, people can see the joy and beauty, the honor and the dignity of our love. The Proposition 8 trial, where we fought for the right to marry, all the way to the Supreme Court, opened a lot of eyes; not only to the depth of our commitments, but much more importantly to the utter vacuum of the case hate made against us. There was no there, there. It opened a lot of eyes. But not every eye will be opened.

If you’ve ever wondered how the xenophobic religious right could embrace Putin and his russia screwing with our democratic institutions take a long look at his gay propaganda law. It effectively locks Russian gay people in the closet…but not the voices of prejudice and hate. Now in Russia those voices are free, free at last to throw every filthy lie they can think of at us, at our families, friends, neighbors, while we cannot speak our truths for ourselves without risking prosecution. The Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkins here at home would love to have such a law on the books here. Only that pesky first amendment and the Federal courts stand between their dream and our lives. And given what Trump and McConnell have done to the courts, they may get their wish after all.

The comic book above would be my exhibit 1 in the category of filthy lies about homosexuals…more so than the Chick tracts since, so I’m told, the Hafer comic has been widely passed around among the kook pews. And its essential hate is more polished than Chick’s. Hafer wraps the open sewer of his prejudices with a technique that allows him to present it as though it were the living waters. There’s the usual junk science, but also he employs two foils he can work against…a low class fag baiting bigot and a scarecrow militant homosexual. Between these two he can present what is essentially the same blind hostility toward gay people as the low class bigot as reasoned and measured…and then ultimately as godly and righteous.

Soon after this arrived in the mail, I began flipping through its pages. I’d already seen many of them posted here and there in the Internet tubes, but I was unprepared for the unabridged wholeness of its contempt and hate. If Orson Scott Card was a cartoonist this would probably have been the comic book he’d have produced on homosexuals and homosexuality. It’s deeper in the dark night of the soul than even R. Crumb or S. Clay Wilson ever went. All the feelings of growing up gay while hearing this crap thrown at me over and over and over again came rushing out as I began reading it.

So in the interests of my own sanity, because I just can’t let this crap slide without speaking out about it, and because debunking this stuff is a never-ending chore, and in tribute to Fred Clark’s amazing series review of the Left Behind books, I’m going to do a chapter by chapter series review of this piece of shit comic. 

Fasten your seatbelts and remember…there is no bottom to the human gutter. None.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Deathstyle by Dick Hafer – A Review

November 14th, 2019

Fascists: Even Crazier Than You Thought

Wow…this is just stunning. I was following this post by Fred Clark on his Pathos “Slacktivist” blog…

Erik Loomis visited the American grave of Wernher von Braun, thereby sending me down a Google hole…

And Fred’s post eventually sent me down into Nietzsche’s Abyss.

Fred’s post was Wernher von Braun and his alleged conversion to Christianity, American style. In it Fred notes a passage where von Braun seems to be a supporter of creationism, which has made him a recent favorite of the creationist kook pews. I commented that the fascists of the period had really strange and screwy ideas about nature and physics and noted something I’d read about Himmler and his proposed academy that would teach that the stars are made of ice, which suggested to me that he was a believer in an earth centric universe.

Then another commenter linked me to this Wikipedia article. Wow. It was even crazier than that…

Welteislehre (WEL; “World Ice Theory” or “World Ice Doctrine”), also known as Glazial-Kosmogonie (Glacial Cosmogony), is a discredited cosmological concept proposed by Hanns Hörbiger, an Austrian engineer and inventor.

Hörbiger did not arrive at his ideas through research, but said that he had received it in a “vision” in 1894. According to his ideas, ice was the basic substance of all cosmic processes, and ice moons, ice planets, and the “global ether” (also made of ice) had determined the entire development of the universe.

Oh lord have mercy…

By his own account, Hörbiger was observing the Moon when he was struck by the notion that the brightness and roughness of its surface was due to ice.

Sounds logical…

Shortly after, he experienced a dream in which he was floating in space watching the swinging of a pendulum which grew longer and longer until it broke. “I knew that Newton had been wrong and that the sun’s gravitational pull ceases to exist at three times the distance of Neptune,” he concluded.

Being an efficiently well organized and hardworking German doesn’t automatically mean you are right in the head. But then the entire 1930s is proof of that.

According to the idea, the solar system had its origin in a gigantic star into which a smaller, dead, waterlogged star fell. 

A smaller, dead, waterlogged star. A smaller, dead, waterlogged star. A smaller, dead, waterlogged star. Reading this Wikipedia article makes me want to put a fork in my brain. Apparently the Fascists, including Hitler and Himmler, embraced this intellectual lobotomy because it stood against Jewish influences in science and astronomy. Not to mention everything humanity had accomplished since our line began walking upright. And how did Hanns take criticism of his master work? Pretty much as you would expect…

Hörbiger had various responses to the criticism that he received. If it was pointed out to him that his assertions did not work mathematically, he responded: “Calculation can only lead you astray.” If it was pointed out that there existed photographic evidence that the Milky Way was composed of millions of stars, he responded that the pictures had been faked by “reactionary” astronomers. He responded in a similar way when it was pointed out that the surface temperature of the Moon had been measured in excess of 100 °C in the daytime, writing to rocket expert Willy Ley: “Either you believe in me and learn, or you will be treated as the enemy.”

Calculation can only lead you astray. Yes. Quite. Bronowski was spot on when he said (paraphrasing), When we discard the test of fact in what a star is, we discard it in what a human is. But that is exactly what the fascist mindset demands. It wasn’t so much the Jewish influence in the sciences that the Nazi’s wanted to erase but the human identity, and not just in the sciences but throughout German culture. So they wouldn’t have to see anymore the empty void they’d made of their own souls staring back at them every morning in the bathroom mirror.

The fascists threatening civilization today are much the same as the ones our grandparents faced back then. Same mindset. Same bottomless hatred of the human identity, trying desperately to protect the void inside themselves where a person could have been.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fascists: Even Crazier Than You Thought

August 5th, 2019

Lowest Common Denominator Politics

This came across my Twitter feed today…

Yeah…that. As a gay man having lived through the times I have, I’ve often read these manifestos to try and understand the mindset. But it always comes back to how stunningly alike they all are. You read the manifestos, the pamphlets, the long drawn out posts on various online social forums (I joke that I’ve done my time on USENET…) and such…even on their damn cars and trucks you can sometimes see the brain dump…and the one thing you’re struck by is their disturbing similarity, regardless of the specific target of hate.

Some years ago I was watching a documentary on the history of San Francisco’s Chinatown, beginning with the railroad’s importing large numbers of Chinese men to work on building the first transcontinental line. There was an editorial in one of the city newspapers concerning the “Chinese Problem”, and it recited a litany of things Chinese people did (so it claimed), that degraded city life. Drugs, crime, sexual predation, they were ignorant and lazy, but also clever and sly and took the jobs of decent white folk. What struck me about the editorial was how you could have replaced every usage of “Chinese” with a letter “X” and it could have been about any hated minority, then or now.

It’s as if this sort of blind reflexive hate is what you’re left with when you peel away the higher brain functions and we’re back to being east African plains apes that see everything that isn’t the tribe as either something to kill, something to fuck or something to eat. Australopithecus waving a gun, or a bible, howling into microphones on the TV, or throwing ink like it’s shit on the editorial page.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Lowest Common Denominator Politics

December 31st, 2018

The Gutter Laughs

This is flying across my news feed this morning from every which way…

Parkland Parents Slam Louis C.K. While Club Owner Calls Him a “Genius”

The father of a Parkland shooting victim slammed Louis C.K. as “pathetic, disgusting, vile and gross” after leaked audio revealed the disgraced comedian has been telling jokes about massacre survivors.

But the owner of the club that hosted Louis C.K. said it was an honor to have him on the stage and claimed he got a standing ovation.

I suspect this was the part of the routine that this father is objecting to:

“They testify in front of Congress, these kids? What are they doing?” he said. “You’re young, you should be crazy, you should be unhinged, not in a suit…you’re not interesting. Because you went to a high school where kids got shot? Why does that mean I have to listen to you? You didn’t got shot, you pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I’ve gotta listen to you talking?”

This is what gets a standing ovation in Donald Trump”s America. But it is neither comedy nor satire when it punches down, it is merely uncomplicated straight-up bullying.

So the Parkland survivors and families have become activists for gun control since the shootings. How is that unsurprising? And maybe some of us disagree with the policies they’re advocating, in part or whole. Fine. I’m a gun owner and I disagree with many things I hear from activists on both sides of the issue (and actually it does none of us any good to reduce it to binary positions either). But to mock the horror they went through, and the nightmare they are still living with, and will be for the rest of their lives, is depraved.

You who think this sort of thing is hilarious…you think I have a thin skin? I don’t think so. I’ve endured the homophobic taunts, the catcalls about my appearance, the mud routinely thrown at liberals, atheists, geeks and freaks, and it hasn’t beaten me down yet. But you…what happened to you? What shallow grave did you bury your human status in, because you thought it was making you weak?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Gutter Laughs

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