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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.

April 6th, 2022

The Stupid Matrix

Whenever I start hearing complaints about stupid people, or I start getting the itch myself, I always remember this little moment of dialogue from Plan 9 From Outer Space…

“You see!? You see!? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!”

It’s where the effete alien, attempting to explain why humanity must be stopped from discovering the power to explode the particles that constitute sunlight (yes…I know…), goes on a prissy little rant about how stupid we all are, and gets slugged by the Real Man. Let it be said Ed Wood knew his audience.

The problem with bellyaching about human stupidity is there’s precious little you can do about it. To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, the morons will be with us always…adjust to it. I think he said that right before they killed him. But also, every one of us is stupid in our own way. We have our blind spots. We have our WTF moments. And if you’re like me and skeptical of IQ tests and charts (what is actually being tested here?), then the entire notion of assigning people spots on an intelligence scale seems a little…well…unintelligent. If nothing else, because we all move around on that scale…day by day…moment by moment.

But I was reading this essay on Facebook this morning, that riffs on work by Berkeley professor of economic history, Carlo M. Cipolla concerning stupidity. I found it surprisingly clarifying. And having witnessed the republican belly flop into the stupid pool since McCain chose Palin for a running mate, and MAGA, DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and the QAnon kooks, I’m a little more open to the notion lately, that stupid is, in fact, a label you can stick on a subset of the human family. 

What makes me want to consider his argument seriously is he agrees that the rest of us move around in his matrix. Even the smartest of us can move out of our corner, into one of the others. But the thing is We Move Around. Stupid on the other hand, he says, is grimly consistent. He calls it The Golden Law of stupidity. And it sets the stupid apart from the rest of us.

I found the essay clarifying on a number of points that have constantly befuddled me about people like Boebert and the sort that flock to Trump rallies, and Twitter trolls. Sure, some of them are, as this man categorizes them, “bandits”. They want in on the grift. But the bulk of them are just there to witlessly do damage to everything.  

——
“In 1976, a professor of economic history at the University of California, Berkeley published an essay outlining the fundamental laws of a force he perceived as humanity’s greatest existential threat: Stupidity.

Stupid people, Carlo M. Cipolla explained, share several identifying traits: they are abundant, they are irrational, and they cause problems for others without apparent benefit to themselves, thereby lowering society’s total well-being. There are no defenses against stupidity, argued the Italian-born professor, who died in 2000. The only way a society can avoid being crushed by the burden of its idiots is if the non-stupid work even harder to offset the losses of their stupid brethren.

Let’s take a look at Cipolla’s five basic laws of human stupidity:

Law 1: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

No matter how many idiots you suspect yourself surrounded by, Cipolla wrote, you are invariably lowballing the total. This problem is compounded by biased assumptions that certain people are intelligent based on superficial factors like their job, education level, or other traits we believe to be exclusive of stupidity. They aren’t. Which takes us to:

Law 2: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

Cipolla posits stupidity is a variable that remains constant across all populations. Every category one can imagine—gender, race, nationality, education level, income—possesses a fixed percentage of stupid people. There are stupid college professors. There are stupid people at Davos and at the UN General Assembly. There are stupid people in every nation on earth. How numerous are the stupid amongst us? It’s impossible to say. And any guess would almost certainly violate the first law, anyway.

Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

Cipolla called this one the Golden Law of stupidity. A stupid person, according to the economist, is one who causes problems for others without any clear benefit to himself.

The uncle unable to stop himself from posting fake news articles to Facebook? Stupid. The customer service representative who keeps you on the phone for an hour, hangs up on you twice, and somehow still manages to screw up your account? Stupid.

This law also introduces three other phenotypes that Cipolla says co-exist alongside stupidity. First there is the intelligent person, whose actions benefit both himself and others. Then there is the bandit, who benefits himself at others’ expense. And lastly there is the helpless person, whose actions enrich others at his own expense. Cipolla imagined the four types along a graph, like this:

The non-stupid are a flawed and inconsistent bunch. Sometimes we act intelligently, sometimes we are selfish bandits, sometimes we act helplessly and are taken advantage of by others, and sometimes we’re a bit of both. The stupid, in comparison, are paragons of consistency, acting at all times with unyielding idiocy.

However, consistent stupidity is the only consistent thing about the stupid. This is what makes stupid people so dangerous. Cipolla explains:

Essentially stupid people are dangerous and damaging because reasonable people find it difficult to imagine and understand unreasonable behavior. An intelligent person may understand the logic of a bandit. The bandit’s actions follow a pattern of rationality: nasty rationality, if you like, but still rationality. The bandit wants a plus on his account. Since he is not intelligent enough to devise ways of obtaining the plus as well as providing you with a plus, he will produce his plus by causing a minus to appear on your account. All this is bad, but it is rational and if you are rational you can predict it. You can foresee a bandit’s actions, his nasty maneuvres and ugly aspirations and often can build up your defenses.

With a stupid person all this is absolutely impossible as explained by the Third Basic Law. A stupid creature will harass you for no reason, for no advantage, without any plan or scheme and at the most improbable times and places. You have no rational way of telling if and when and how and why the stupid creature attacks. When confronted with a stupid individual you are completely at his mercy.

All of which leads us to:

Law 4: Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.

We underestimate the stupid, and we do so at our own peril. This brings us to the fifth and final law:

Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

And its corollary:

A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.

We can do nothing about the stupid. The difference between societies that collapse under the weight of their stupid citizens and those who transcend them are the makeup of the non-stupid. Those progressing in spite of their stupid possess a high proportion of people acting intelligently, those who counterbalance the stupid’s losses by bringing about gains for themselves and their fellows.

Declining societies have the same percentage of stupid people as successful ones. But they also have high percentages of helpless people and, Cipolla writes, “an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity.”

“Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the [stupid] fraction and makes decline a certainty,” Cipolla concludes. “And the country goes to Hell.”

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Stupid Matrix

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

January 2nd, 2022

It’s Morning In America…Again…

Who is “Lead America” I ask myself.

I’m insomnia flipping through the Facebook posts and for the third or fourth time this ad comes up again, for what appears to be a new political action committee. They say they want to bring the country back together. They say they want to reinvigorate the American Dream. Sounds vaguely familiar…

LEAD is a new initiative born out of a time-tested idea: that America is good and that the pursuit of the American Dream is as essential today as it has been at each critical juncture in the development of our nation. Oh really? I take note of the carefully curated images of middle class black families. See how inclusive we are? A flag waves on the banner. I dig a little deeper…

“Why am I seeing this ad”? is a function you can get to by clicking on the dots next to a Facebook ad. Occasionally it’s useful. This time it tells me that the advertiser was looking for viewers who had expressed an interest in the CIA and the FBI. Huh? When did I do that? Somewhere deep in my posts over the years and Facebook’s algorithm I suppose. But that’s interesting. I dig a little deeper…

A Google search turns up only their website. That in itself is significant. My browser protectors tell me it’s safe, but with the caveat that there are tracking cookies and I should proceed with caution. Fine. I take a look. I have two questions. Who are these people, and where is their money coming from.

The CIA/FBI links quickly become clear. The leads on this group are Mike Rogers, republican, a former FBI Agent based in Chicago, then a congressman and chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. So there’s that. He’s the chairman of the board. His wife is president of the group. “Kristi Rogers finds those homegrown values driving her work. Family, faith, and freedom are her cornerstones, and they have driven her to spend her life in the service of others and of her country.” Family, faith, and freedom. Yes, the checkboxes are all being ticked.

So I browse the rest of the cast of characters. Board member Laurie Michel “…is retired from a career as a senior government relations professional and advocate. She most recently worked as Director of Federal Affairs for The Port Authority of NY & NJ…” The port authority link tweaks a memory somewhere but I can’t place it now. A Google search turns up thousands in political contributions to republicans in Virginia. So that’s another checkbox checked. The Virginia republican party went off the deep end years ago.

Also on board is Allan Filip, who once served as Roger’s chief of staff. This seems to be a Mike Rogers house party.

It’s the Secretary of the board who is the Most interesting. “Thomas DiNanno is currently an adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington…” Oooohhh The Hudson Institute! Hudson was founded by Herman Kahn and other Rand Corp disaffected when Kahn’s book “On Thermonuclear War” caused some…controversy. Controversy? Think Dr. Strangelove…

Hudson Institute was founded in 1961 by Herman Kahn, Max Singer, and Oscar M. Ruebhausen. In 1960, while employed at the RAND Corporation, Kahn had given a series of lectures at Princeton University on scenarios related to nuclear war. In 1960, Princeton University Press published On Thermonuclear War, a book-length expansion of Kahn’s lecture notes. Major controversies ensued, and in the end, Kahn and RAND had a parting of ways. (From Wikipedia)

Seriously…so I’m told, some of Kahn’s book on nuclear war made it into the dialogue of Dr. Strangelove.

Hudson is like a whos who of presentable establishment rightwing nutcases (as opposed to the MAGA variety). And they make big money contributions to the cause. So now both my questions are answered, at least enough that I can see what’s going on here.

The backlash against the overflowing human cesspool that is Trump and company is worrying the establishment right. It’s turning off all the wrong voters. The well educated middle class white suburbia voters they depend on to keep their gerrymandered districts safely republican. So this is the soft sell response. It’s Reagan’s “Morning In America” all over again. We are good people, who just want the best for our country…

I told Facebook I didn’t want to see any of their ads. But this is instructive. This is an election year and they really want their congress back, especially to keep hold of the Supreme Court while a democrat is in the White House. They can’t control the MAGA, they know those babbling kooks will be out there all year long waving hysterical paranoid fantasies at everyone in earshot. They know that too much of that and they’ll lose congress again. So the right wing establishment will drug us with Morning In America. In Virginia Glen Youngkin showed them it can still work. One of the posts on their website referenced that election. It is very slick…

In the Virginia gubernatorial race, for example, we saw traditional kitchen table issues trump the D.C. narrative, which is becoming increasingly more important to voters. Terry McAuliffe leaned heavily on national messaging, largely reminiscent of the negative contrasts employed during the 2020 presidential election. The campaign focused more on drawing on hate on the other party than it did on what real changes will happen upon their victory. Glenn Youngkin’s message, on the other hand, centered largely on middle-of-the-road issues, which both political parties have often attempted to own for themselves. His voters and supporters were in search of a full and balanced education for their kids, a strong and stable economy, safe communities, and protections for their individual freedoms and choices. Rather than pushing trending topics and federal issues, Youngkin discussed problems that every Virginian family was dealing with, reinforcing his platform and campaign as the solution.

And just never you mind all that stuff about Critical Race Theory. See how neatly Youngkin’s racist appeal to white fright is tucked under a soft blanket of “…a full and balanced education for their kids, a strong and stable economy, safe communities“? It’s not racist to just want a Balanced education for your kids and Safe communities. Voting for the republican doesn’t make you a bad person… 

This is how the game is played. Ask those of us who fought them on Proposition 8.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It’s Morning In America…Again…

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

November 3rd, 2021

The One Thing A Thief Hates Being Called Is A Thief

This came across my Facebook stream today…

The text post enlightened me on details I hadn’t heard regarding the kook pew complaints over CRT, especially the black-supremacist angle. That was a new one to me and it tweaked my interest. This gay man endured decades of seeing our struggle for equality labeled as us wanting “special rights”…in other words, more rights than everyone else. But really the complaint was we wanted more rights than bigots thought we deserved.

It’s really stunning in its way, how equal rights, equal opportunity, equal justice, gets its most venomous pushback from exactly the direction you would, in retrospect, have expected. But there is always a learning curve.

There are those of us who grew up in the culture and simply didn’t question it because it all seemed to perfectly normal. We were born to it. It was our daily lives. But then we began to see the foundations of that normalcy and it shocked us, and it called to our moral sensibilities, the very things we were raised to, all those days in the church pews, all those hours listening to the morality plays of our youth, and we began to work for change, not because we felt guilty, but because we felt a moral obligation once we could see the problem, to fix it. It was simply how we were raised. It’s what you do.

But there were others who seemed to know intuitively that They Were The Problem, and you saw it in how outraged they became at even discussing the problem, and how furiously they denied there even was a problem.

If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, it’s not the mirror’s fault. And I am not so much woke, as still that little Baptist boy sitting in the pews who was told that as you sow, so shall you reap, and though I am an atheist now, I still see the truth of that.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The One Thing A Thief Hates Being Called Is A Thief

August 14th, 2021

Incels

This from Lawyers, Guns & Money, came across my blog reader, Feedly’s feed the other day. (If you aren’t using a blog reader like Feedly you should really give it a try. Think of blog readers as freedom from big social media…)…

A FEW MORE PEOPLE MURDERED BY RIGHT WING MEDIA

A Trump-worshiping Incel murdered five people, including a very young child, in Plymouth England…

“Incel”, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, refers to a male subset of the human gutter that believes they’ve been consigned to “Involuntary Celibacy” because women think they can just pick and chose their men. Or as this complete failure noted on his YouTube channel…

In disturbing YouTube videos posted just weeks before the shooting, Davison appears to be deeply unhappy about his life. Under the username “Professor Waffle,” he refers to people like him as “blackpillers,” incels who believe unattractive men will never be romantically successful regardless of how much effort they put into how they look. In one comment under his video, he wrote that he’d been “consuming the blackpill overdose.”

In one video, he grabs his belly fat and bemoans his lack of motivation to get fit, complains about women being “simple-minded,” and justifies sexual assault by saying women ignore “average men and below average.”

Before I begin unpacking some of this, I want to say emphatically that nobody is involuntarily celibate unless they’ve got a medical condition. Otherwise there is always a way if just having sex is all you want. Go avail yourself of a perfectly legal Nevada brothel. Not classy enough for you? There are high end sex workers who will make your wet dreams come to life. Just expect to pay dearly because those don’t sell their time cheap. A decade ago founding board member of the Family Research Council George Rekers was caught travelling with a stunningly beautiful 20 year old he’d connected with on RentBoy dot com, who as I recall charged a thousand dollars an hour for his time (I like to think some of Dan Cathy’s Chick-fil-A money made it into the kid’s bank account via FRC donations).

The point being, you can find a way if it’s just you’re not getting any sex. But what if it’s something else you’re looking for, something a little more substantial like a girl or boyfriend. I know that kind of loneliness way too intimately. There are times it’s almost killed me. I’m about to turn 68 having lived an entire adult life without having had the kind of soul fulfilling sex life I wanted after I came out to myself, and I don’t consider myself involuntarily celibate though I suppose in a stretch I could. I’m what the kids these days call a demisexual. I’m a gay male and I can sit at a restaurant window and watch the beautiful guys walk past all day long, but the romantic attachment has to be there for the sex to work for me. And romance has been difficult for this boomer child to come by. And because of that, so has sex.

At the end of Paul Campos’ blog post, this caught my attention…

The relationship between incels and right wing media is a subject that needs more attention. As I noted a few months ago, one of the more disturbing ways the Internet radicalizes people is by getting sexually frustrated young men to transform their extremely common experience into the endlessly insidious consequence of a global conspiracy to victimize them.

…and I’m reading this thinking yeah, actually, gay people like me Have been victimized by a vast global conspiracy. But not a secret one, and it’s more of a culture war really than any sort of conspiracy. But when it hasn’t taken our lives outright it’s driven a knife into our hearts and our search for love and that peaceful contented life together heterosexuals regard as a birthright. Every Valentine’s day for years I’ve reposted links to the blog articles here remembering how so many righteous people in my past managed to screw things up for me and whoever it was I was trying to date, because if gay hearts don’t bleed then how could Jesus possibly know that they love him. Yeah we were victimized. 

This hatred of the homosexual Other, fanned by religious passions, cultivated by authoritarian tyrants, took my love life away, and in doing that it also took my sex life away, and so many of the things that are joyful and wonderful about being human and being alive. But no, I am not involuntarily celibate, merely disinclined to lay down with someone I’m not in love with. And I sure don’t want to kill anybody over that. What kind of lover would that make me? What kind of person? I want love. I still believe in love. I think I’ve accepted now that it will never be, but I still want to be worthy of it. Because loving someone made me a better man.

It does that to you, even if it is never fulfilled. Even if they didn’t love you back. Even if you get your face slapped. The fact is, you still loved, and it changed you. You reached for something higher in yourself. Your fire burned brighter. It gave you courage. It gave you vision. It made you grow. You might burn your bridges…I’ve burned a few of mine and danced in the ashes. But anger is chaotic and exhausts itself eventually, and…when it’s over….you see love is still there. And maybe that torments you to see it still there because it will never be, but eventually you see how your life is better for its having been, how you are better person for it, even so. Even so.

Why did these men never learn that? I think it was because they weren’t looking for love to begin with, and not even sex actually. They wanted power, and love is giving not taking. We are no longer our own and in that we become more than we once were. Love is not greedy, not envious, it is generous and joyful and kind. It is life itself. I have honestly tied to listen to some of these men and I have never once heard in them a longing for any of that. What I hear, is that women won’t give themselves to them and so they hate them. I hear nothing about giving of themselves. Love would have grown them inside. Hate made them smaller. Because when you let hate in where love should have been, and leave it there long enough, soon there is nothing in you anymore to give but hate. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Incels

August 5th, 2021

Guess Which Headline Is Fox

My morning Google News page. Can you spot the difference between how these various news sources are covering this story?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Guess Which Headline Is Fox

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…)

March 22nd, 2021

That Joke About The Man Whose Truck Left Him…

Speaking of that joke about how, with the advent of self driving cars, the day is coming when someone writes a country western song about a man whose truck left him…  It seems the gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale Florida has stepped into it…

Antigay Florida Activist: Same-Sex Marriage Like Marrying a Volkswagen

After Fort Lauderdale, Fla.’s gay mayor honored an anti-LGBTQ+ church on its 60th anniversary, an activist who has a relationship with the church has likened same-sex marriage to marrying a Volkswagen.

At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Dean Trantalis presented a proclamation recognizing the 60th anniversary of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the 50th anniversary of its affiliated private school, Westminster Academy. Both were founded by D. James Kennedy, an anti-LGBTQ+ minister, and are located in Fort Lauderdale.

Kennedy died in 2007, but his D. James Kennedy Ministries continues spreading homophobia and transphobia…

You have to wonder what Trantalis was thinking. Well no…we know what he was thinking because he said it when it hit the gay news networks earlier…

It’s time to build a future based on love and not hate. And it’s time for those who still harbor resentment to let go of it. I know I have. And I know our community is better off for it.

And just who would that community be Dean? Anyone who never walked among the Names Project quilt, terrified of spotting one someone made for their high school crush? Someone who doesn’t bother to read the newspaper stories about gay bashings and murders by young heterosexual males all hopped up on the religious hate fed to them by churches like Coral Ridge, because they know it will never happen to respectible and discreet homosexuals such as themselves?

But it gets better. When the wholly predictable torrent of criticism from the rest of the gay community came rushing in, naturally Coral Ridge just couldn’t keep its mouth shut…

Wright claimed that gay activists are pawns in a socialist plot to destroy marriage and the family, and make everyone dependent on government. “I hate to break it to them, but many of our gay and lesbian friends, they’ve just been used by the left to destroy the historic definition of marriage and changed the criteria to only be that of love,” he said. “If two people love each other, or some guy and his Volkswagen, he loves his Volkswagen, he ought to be able to marry his Volkswagen.”

I know how difficult it must have been for you to break it to us Frank. On a scale of 1 to 10 how painful was it? Less than zero?

I swear there are days when you start thinking that everything old is new again. But no…it’s still old. This is such an old trope among the kook pews. If a man can marry another man, why not let him marry a car…or a TV set…or a toaster…or his dog…? You say you love each other? Well I love my dog but it doesn’t mean I can marry it. I’ve been hearing this one ever since my days on USENET. And never mind how it speaks to their total dehumanization of the homosexual Other. Pull it apart and you find that it’s instructive as to how they themselves perceive marriage. If love isn’t critical to marriage, as it turns out neither is consent.

Automobiles can’t consent. They’re not living things, as often as we owners anthropomorphize them all the same. Yes, I’ve even given my car a name. I’ve given names to all my cars. But…hear me out now…they’re cars. Machines. Machines can’t consent. Nor can any other inanimate object or animal or child. And it seems in that subset of American religiosity, neither do wives. What wives do is gracefully submit to their husbands.

Real men take wives…they don’t do something as sissified as ask for their hand in marriage. That is why love cannot be the central fact of marriage. The central fact of marriage is the authority of the man over the woman. Nothing else matters. Certainly not love.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Joke About The Man Whose Truck Left Him…

March 18th, 2021

Of Course It Couldn’t Possibly Be A Hate Crime…Because Then Fingers Might Start Pointing…At Us…

Balloon Juice has a good takedown of the Not Hate chorus…

Atlanta has a very, very large number of strip clubs, gentlemen’s clubs, massage parlors, sex shops and emporiums. That the only three places that the possible sex addict felt the need to target were the ones owned by Asians/Asian Americans and predominantly employing Asians/Asian Americans should have been what is known as a clue…

Every time a Republican elected or appointed official or a conservative movement official or a conservative “news” personality – from the anchors on Fox News to the commenters – refers to COVID-19 with a derogatory slur instead of “COVID-19” or insinuates that immigrants – documented or undocumented – as well as those seeking asylum or refugee status are somehow bringing COVID-19 in and will make things worse, all they’re doing is feeding the fear, grievance, and victimization of their political base, their supporters, and their viewers. If you want to know where Long was radicalized, the answer is simple. Right here in the US, by Trump, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, Kevin McCarthy, at least 2/3rds of McCarthy’s House Republican Caucus, at least 1/2 of the Senate Republican Caucus, by hundreds of elected and appointed Republican officials, by Fox News, OANN, Newsmax, Breitbart, Ben Shapiro and his execrable writers and commenters at the Daily Wire, by right wing talk radio, by right wing social and digital media.

Paul Campos over at Lawyers Guns and Money adds that even if you accept the premise that the killer was motivated by a sex addiction… “….Oddly, killing women because they’re sources of “temptation” (i.e., women) doesn’t count as a hate crime, for reasons. . . Also the odds that these women weren’t murderously fetishized because of their ethnicity seem pretty low.

Ya think? Of course the usual suspects want everyone to believe it couldn’t possibly have been motivated by prejudice and hate. Especially not the torrent of hate they’ve been poisoning the American civic dialogue with for decades now. Maybe the folks at ABC News who did the 20/20 segment whitewashing the murder of Matthew Shepard will do one in a couple years about how the Atlanta murders were really just a drug deal gone bad.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Of Course It Couldn’t Possibly Be A Hate Crime…Because Then Fingers Might Start Pointing…At Us…

August 20th, 2020

Thief

 

There is not an honest person among them. But we knew this. Because racism takes that from you. It has to. If you can take the black man’s humanity from him, then taking someone’s, anyone’s money, regardless of race, becomes trivial. The Rubicon has already been crossed. You became a thief the moment you refused to see a human, a neighbor, in the Other.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Thief

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

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