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July 31st, 2011

Crisis Of Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look around. Now you know.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

July 27th, 2011

The Many Faces of Joy

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

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

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

July 16th, 2011

History Uncloseted

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

Gov. Brown signs bill requiring teaching of gay accomplishments

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

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

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

Conservative group to fight gay textbook law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

July 12th, 2011

Yes, We Exist. And So Does Our Past.

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

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

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

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

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

Bishops oppose bill on gays in textbooks

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

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

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

U.S. shifts policy on same-sex bankruptcies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Police Raid on Gays of Fire Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes…as a matter of fact…

Police disciplined over Eagle bar raid

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

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

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

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

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

We sure did…

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

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

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

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

-Neal Miller: Sex-Crime Panic

So many more things we could participate in…

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing to see here…move along…

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

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

June 20th, 2011

I See Election Campaigning Has Already Begun

So I see the ex-gay movement held it’s annual medicine show down in Orlando earlier this month…

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

June 15th, 2011

The Silence That Speaks For Itself

Andrew Sullivan this morning:

Last night, it struck me that every single statement on gay rights by the GOP candidates, however brutal, could have been leavened by some small concession that gays are serving their country honorably, that gays are a part of many families and indeed the American family, that they should not be demonized by the majority, etc. But none of the candidates could say a single positive thing. Or rather they believed they could not survive a GOP primary by saying anything even vaguely positive about gay Americans. In some ways, that’s more telling.

If in the process of conducting your political campaign you give a silent consent to hate then you are just as much a part of the mob as if you had born one of their torches yourself and screamed for blood.  Anyone who cannot muster the moral backbone to denounce hate is unfit to be director of public parking, let alone president of the United States.  It is that simple.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

June 8th, 2011

From Our Department of It’s Only Wrong When Homosexuals Do It…

[Posted on Truth Wins Out, May 23, 2011...]

So this little nugget from the California Catholic Daily breezes across my news screen this morning…

Predator or hero?

In case you missed it, yesterday was Harvey Milk Day in California…

The Catholic Daily goes on to note the proclamation of Harvey Milk Day issued by Governor Jerry Brown. Of course they couldn’t let all this pass without denouncements of “sexual brainwashing” from the usual gang of bigots and political thugs posing as “Pro-Family” advocates. I’m putting scare quotes around pro-family because…seriously…you really can’t claim to be pro-family while at the same time trying your damnedest to rip to shreds families that don’t conform to the model that’s actually in the minority of family types these days. It’s like saying you love the human race except for all those people who aren’t straight, white and male.

Among those participating in the news conference…were [SaveCalifornia.com] president, Randy Thomasson, several parents and retired teachers, and Dr. Benjamin Kaufman, co-founder of NARTH…[who] called on “mothers and fathers to warn their children’s public school teachers not to honor” Milk.

I see. Randy Thomasson and NARTH want mothers and fathers to warn their children’s teachers about…what was it again…?

“Children are being led down a wrong road by the glorification of Harvey Milk,” Thomasson said in a statement following Gov. Brown’s proclamation. “An official ‘Harvey Milk Day’ promotes the unnatural and unhealthy homosexual, bisexual, and transsexual lifestyle to minors. Just as Harvey Milk ignored the health risks of homosexual behavior, his legacy will be to pull even more young people into this disease-prone lifestyle. Just as he advocated for openly homosexual teachers as role models, ‘Harvey Milk Day’ will train boys and girls to follow a worse role model — Milk, a predator of teens who knew no sexual boundaries or sexual danger.”

Okay…I have a question. Is the Catholic Church really going to go after Harvey Milk day on the basis that he preyed sexually on teenagers? That the game plan?

Sexual boundaries. Yes. Do let us know when you’ve found some.

[Edited a tad to limit quoting...]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

January 12th, 2011

Crazy People, Guns and Gun Control

This is another edition of what Atrios said…  Actually, Rotwang

It is very difficult to get someone committed against their will, unless they have committed violent acts. After all, I’m still at large. In states with big public sectors, aid for the mentally ill — assuming they accept assistance — can be very spotty. There are agencies with phone numbers, but try calling and getting some service. (I have.) In Arizona, forget it.

The icing on the cake is that in some places almost everyone has access to firearms. Efforts to deal with guns or magazines or bullets are doomed, like Prohibition or ‘The War on Drugs.’ There are just too many around, and too many people who want them. Better coverage of mental illness would be worthwhile, but it wouldn’t stop homicidal people from reflecting back the hostilities of extremists with prominent platforms. We know who the extremists are.

P.S. I would concede that some kind of gun control would make it more difficult for incompetent, crazy people like Nutboy to get guns. As crime control, however, forget it.

P.P.S. An attack of this intensity on a Congress person is an exceedingly rare event, so in that sense it’s futile to diddle with ‘how could this have been prevented.’

Glenn Greenwald Tweets somewhat sarcastically, “Remember the 1960s, when 1000s of people were involuntarily locked up in insane asylums and there were no assassinations? http://is.gd/kAbza”

I remember part of the impetus for getting people out of the asylums was far too many were committed who didn’t really need hospitalization, and the ones who did weren’t getting it as long as they were being held safely out of public view.  In far too many cases they were more dumping grounds then hospitals.

It’s tempting to engage in a little sarcasm myself when I hear my fellow liberals start yapping about gun control now.  Hey fellas…I’ve got a Swell idea on how to lower the temperature of the rhetoric in this country…let’s start making noises about gun control…!

Yes…this will certainly lower the temperature of the dialogue in this country.  But then there’s this…

Joe Wilson ‘You Lie’ Slogan Etched Onto Line Of Assault Rifle Components

Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) health care-era “you lie” interruption of President Obama is now reportedly being commemorated with a place on a new, limited edition line of assault rifle components.

The Columbia Free Times reports that the words are being engraved on a series of lower receivers manufactured for popular AR-15 assault rifles. Lower receivers are one of the primary pieces of the firearms.

“Palmetto State Armory would like to honor our esteemed congressman Joe Wilson with the release of our new ‘You Lie’ AR-15 lower receiver,” the weapon manufacturer’s site writes on the product description. “Only 999 of these will be produced, get yours before they are gone!”

I believe the 2nd amendment guarantees the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms.  I believe that freedom is part and parcel of democracy itself.  And I despair.  Never mind the lunatics who are selling the above back handed incitement to kill a president (I sincerely hope the Secret Service is watching where those rifles are going!).  Never mind the NRA’s grotesquely dogmatic stances on gun regulation and crime.  The biggest reason we can’t have a rational discussion about gun control in this country is the gun control crowd was very successful back in the 70s in convincing people that their ultimate aim was to eliminate private gun ownership in this country.  People quite correctly concluded that even the smallest most perfectly rational regulations on gun sales and ownership was just a first step toward total confiscation.  That wasn’t paranoia…it was often stated quite openly by gun control groups.

That seems to have changed on the democratic side of the isle.  Good.  But it isn’t enough to get us to where we need to be regarding guns.  There’s a lot of things I think we could do, including bans on high capacity clips for instance.  But the first step has to be acknowledging Americans, if they are peaceful and law abiding, do in fact have a basic right to own their own guns, which is to say, the means to defend themselves.

How denying that somehow became a staple of democratic politics completely baffles me sometimes.  I understand and share the liberal democratic impulse to hate war, revere life, nurture love and defend liberty, to work for justice and toward the peaceful society where we are all equals in the eyes of the law.  I am completely disgusted by the the republican lock them up and throw away the key approach to crime.  That we incarcerate a higher percentage of our own citizens then any other industrialized nation should be a matter of shame to all of us.  But if democrats represent the interests of the common everyday working people as opposed to the rich and powerful, then they really need to remind themselves from time to time that the lot of the common people is not greatly improved by rendering them defenseless.

I am not going to stand here and argue that had someone in Gifford’s crowd been armed some or all of the killings may not have happened. I’m certainly not going to argue that a state that can’t at least Try to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people isn’t asking for trouble. The argument I often hear that an armed society is a peaceful one seems grotesque on its face.  You need your gun when the peace has broken down, not when its alive and well.  So the first thing is to nurture the peace.

I was bullied horribly during part of my grade school years, the middle school ones, and it left me with a perfect understanding of how it is that your personal safety and security is ultimately on you and you alone.  You need to prepare yourself for the worst.   But having a fire alarm in your house is a pathetic excuse for playing with matches and gasoline.  What…I had a smoke detector…why is my house on fire…?? The bromide is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  But turn that around.  Guns don’t make a peaceful society either.  People do.  And one way you Don’t make a peaceful society is this:

Or this…

Or this…

And this…

And this…

That last is from an ad that was televised in West Virginia as part of the campaign to enact an anti-same-sex marriage amendment in that state.  It’s a family in the crosshairs of an unseen homosexual sniper.  More specifically, the unseen homosexual sniper is targeting their children.  This is what gets people killed.  This is what makes a society violent.  This is creating the climate of hate that can set off a mentally unstable individual.   But also the perfectly, murderously sane gay basher.  Your gay and lesbian neighbors have been on the receiving end of this hate incited violence now for decades.  What’s changed is now the right is doing it more broadly, and more openly, and with even less compunction.  What we’ve been seeing in this country in recent years, your gay and lesbian neighbors have been seeing for decades.  A climate of hate, meticulously, relentlessly cultivated for political and social ends.

There’s your problem.  Not guns.  Hate.  Last Saturday it was a crazy man.  Tomorrow it might be the chillingly sane.  Timothy McVeigh.  Eric Rudolph.  Scott Roeder.  One political party has been ginning up hate as a way to win elections for decades now.   The problem is when the inevitable violence results the other party responds by calling for more gun control, as if that’s even possible in a nation that hates itself as much as this one is starting to.

I understand that first amendment freedoms are sacred to a democracy.  If we can’t talk to each other we can’t govern ourselves.  Speech, even ugly disagreeable speech, is a right government cannot be allowed to trample on without opening the door to tyranny.  Our ability to speak truth to power depends on that freedom.  My hope is the killings in Arizona can finally, finally, enable us to also speak truth to hate without fear that we could sabotage freedom of speech in the process.  If we don’t confront hate we will loose that too.  Hate will silence the democratic dialogue if we let it, and then we Will loose our precious democracy.

All the gun control in the world won’t matter if we hate each other enough.  And if we love and care about each other as neighbors, as fellow Americans, regardless of race, creed or religion, then guns cannot do us any great harm.  Just there in the background, like the fireman’s hose if you need it, but the point is not to.  How much crime could be eliminated if we actually cared about each other as fellow Americans enough to make our schools strong, and the economy work for everyone?  How many gun accidents could be avoided if we cared about each other enough that we held our neighbor’s safety, and their children’s, as if it were our own?  Yes actually, guns do kill people.  When people hate each other enough.  If you’re worrying about the availability of guns in this country you are worrying about the wrong thing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

November 20th, 2010

Hate Does Not Differentiate Between Gay And Transgender

Today is the National Transgender Day Of Remembrance

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality conducted the largest survey of transgender discrimination. Among its findings were one quarter of transgender people lost a job for being transgender and high rates of housing instability and homelessness. The survey also revealed double the rates of poverty for transgender people compared to the general population. The data indicate that transgender people have higher vulnerability to violence. It also found that more than half of transgender and gender non-conforming people who were bullied, harassed or assaulted in school because of their gender identity have attempted suicide.

Gender non-conforming people… A lot of people fall into that category who might mistakenly assume that violence toward transgendered persons isn’t any of their concern. But the gay man casually holding the hand of the man he loves, the uppity straight woman, the insufficiently masculine and aggressive boy, all are regarded as fair prey by thugs, and for exactly the same reason.

“I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings. On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world. Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary. It is a mistake for various interfering, ignorant, and biased busybodies to try to “counsel” the other children into accepting the abnormal. It is very healthy to be able to draw the line between what is healthy and what is sick.
-Joseph Berger, NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee

Many people who read that when it first hit the blogstream were appalled.  What kind of man actually advocates bullying a child?  But it is a vanishingly short distance between aggression toward adults perceived as weak, and children who are by nature vulnerable. The mindset of the adult who would excuse the one, is unlikely to shrink from the other, or even understand that it is wrong.

There are two parts to the gay rights struggle.  There is the freedom to love and be loved in return.  There is the freedom from the closet, to live our lives openly, honestly, as the persons we actually are.  No decent society denies these to its own.  Our struggle then, and those of our transgendered neighbors, are one and the same.  Against gender conformity.  Against hatred of difference.  But understand also, that the struggle of transgendered people in the broader sense reminds us that the American dream of liberty and justice for all is still very much an unfinished business.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

November 16th, 2010

Well I’ll Probably Never Fly Again

What do I have to change my name to so I can get on one of those No-Fly lists?  Seriously.

Napolitano defends new screening at airports

Amid criticism over intensified airport screening measures, Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the Department of Homeland Security’s use of full-body scanners and pat-downs as essential to “match the changing threat environment that we inhabit.”

“This is all being done as a process to make sure that the traveling public is safe,” she said, adding that officials would “have an open ear” if adjustments to the new rules needed to be made.

Got an open ear do you?

Good thing I actually like long distance road trips.  But hopefully in my lifetime the great ocean liners can start making a comeback.   Please.  I would still like to see the world someday.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

October 9th, 2010

There Are Some Things Google Just Can’t Give You An Answer To…

Scanning my server logs, I see someone hit my site today with the following Google search string…

why are democrats not defending themselves against republicans

I think the answer is Because they are democrats, but what do I know…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

August 16th, 2010

Images From A Sideshow Running Away With The Circus…(continued)

Here’s some shots of the counter-demonstrators…

As I said previously, the main contingent of the counter-demonstrators came in two waves shortly after the NOM rally began.  But even as NOM was setting up there were a handful of individuals there on the sidewalk near them, quietly speaking their truths.  And among these was Mel White and his companions from Soulforce.  I saw Mel occasionally walk over to some of the NOM folks and chat with them for a while.  What was said between them I have no idea: much as I would have like to have snapped some photos of those conversations, I kept my distance.  At 56 going on 57, I have a very negative opinion of the possibility of changing minds, let alone hearts of any of these True Believers.  But I deeply respect anyone who still believes in their heart that it can be done.  So I stay out of it.  This is why I am not a professional news photographer.  The spirit of Weegee laughs at my deference to the better angels.

More and more I am seeing at these demonstrations, young heterosexual couples who see this struggle as their own too.  And it is.  Only on its face is this a fight about homosexuality.  Look closer.  It’s a fight over the right to love and be loved, waged by the power hungry war mongering human gutter, that throughout history has viewed the power of love as the essential enemy to be smashed wherever it exists.  The gay rights struggle is the lover’s struggle.

There were also lots of individual folks bearing simple statements in support of the right to love.   Sometimes you  thought you saw another lonely heart, determined to stand up for what in their own lives is yet to be…

As I said, the main force of counter-demonstrators came in two waves.  The first was peaceful and positive.  The second wave were a tad angrier.  And…louder.   They were quickly asked/ordered to move further down the plaza, away from the NOM event.

I understand this anger perfectly well.  And I am not going to sit here and pontificate that this sort of demonstration is counter-productive.  The other side turns us into scarecrows they can safely fear at a distance, and defeat with bar stool valor and junk food religion.  They need to see that we are as human as they; and there is nothing less surprising on this earth then the sight of humans who have been attacked getting angry, and fighting back.  When people are denied the dream of love, when that ability to love another, and accept their love in return is gutted out of them, what is left?

I have have said often, that the one who fights this fight and doesn’t put their head down on the pillow every night, just a little bit angrier then the night before, just a little more angry then they thought it was humanly possible to be angry, isn’t really paying attention.  But it is oh-so easy for anger to become hate.  And hate will kill your soul.

This is the lover’s struggle.  When all you have left in it is anger, you are done for.  It is for love that we fight.  Every moment you can put anger aside and remember that, you defeat hate.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


Images From A Sideshow Running Away With The Circus…

Here’s some of the shots I took at the NOM rally in front of the Capital yesterday…

They held the rally in front of the Capital south wing, which is right across from the Supreme Court building, but you really couldn’t see the court all that clearly for all the trees.  The rally was mostly tucked away in one corner of the grassy park there in front of the south wing.  This is what the crowd looked like, just a few moments literally, before Bishop Coles brought his cavalry in.  It was almost exclusively white, and very nearly half media and NOM organizers.

Brian Brown getting a tad heated in front of a media lady just before the rally started.  I don’t know what she may have asked him but he’d been really nice and polite to the media there, even the gay media, before this.

A couple NOM supporters brought their kids along.  Most of the early arrivals were older folks.  You didn’t start seeing many young people there until Bishop Coles’ cavalry came along.

That LET THE PEOPLE VOTE chant was an early hit with the crowd.  Here they are while Brian Brown gives it a few turns.

Sometime into Bishop Coles’ speech a larger group of counter protesters arrived.  (There had already been a few individual counter protesters there, including Mel White and Soulforce companions, as NOM was setting up.)  The first wave of them just made themselves quietly known with signs around the perimeter of the event.  NOM tried to have them removed, but the Capital Police told them basically that as long as they were quiet and didn’t interfere with the event they had a right to be where they were.

Some gay folk wandered around the NOM crowd during the event.  I don’t know if this couple were with the larger group of counter protesters or not.  The man’s t-shirt reads: Together 14 years, Married 1 year, 2nd class citizens every day.

Walter Fauntroy, with some other clergyman whose name I thankfully don’t know, waiting to speak.  The white clergyman was there when NOM was setting up so I assume he was one of their local organizers.  And unlike Bishops Jackson and Coles, he actually paid attention to all the other clergymen as they spoke.  He didn’t talk much with the crowd though.  Coles worked the crowd a little bit.  Jackson was working the media.

Bishop Coles right after his speech, walked off the sump and whipped up the crowd with that LET THE PEOPLE VOTE chant.  Black people were denied voting rights in this country for generations after then end of slavery.  But those same rights were not won back by the ballot, but in the courts.  The lesson that the courts have an important role to play in protecting the rights of all Americans, and that the basic human rights of minorities are not a popularity contest, seems to have escaped a lot of folks there.  Prejudice does that to a person.  Oh…YOUR rights don’t count…

More later…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

July 20th, 2010

Anxiety In The Hills Of Zion

The preacher stopped at least, and there arose out the darkness a woman with her hair pulled back into a little tight knot. She began so quickly we couldn’t hear what she said, but soon her voice rose resonantly and we could follow her. She was denouncing the reading of books. Some wandering book agent, it appeared, had come to her cabin and tried to sell her a specimen of his wares. She refused to touch it. Why, indeed, read a book? If what was in it was true, then everything in it was already in the Bible. If it was false, then reading it would imperil the soul.

-H.L. Mencken, The Hills of Zion

Some days I marvel at how lucky I was, to enter grade school when I did, just when the Soviet Union was scaring the hell out of the United States.  Looking back, it’s astonishing to me now, how utterly taken for granted it was, that all American kids needed, and by god were going to get if the feds had anything to do with it, a good education in the sciences.  The Soviets had launched Sputnik, which meant their missiles could hit any city in the U.S.  They were going to own a good chunk of planet Earth and outer space too if we didn’t get up to speed.  Suddenly having science in the classroom Mattered.   Things are a tad different now.

As soon as I saw it in my morning Google news page, I knew it would be spreading through the kook pews like wildfire by days end…

The Roots of White Anxiety

In March of 2000, Pat Buchanan came to speak at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Harvard being Harvard, the audience hissed and sneered and made wisecracks. Buchanan being Buchanan, he gave as good as he got. While the assembled Ivy Leaguers accused him of homophobia and racism and anti-Semitism, he accused Harvard — and by extension, the entire American elite — of discriminating against white Christians.

A decade later, the note of white grievance that Buchanan struck that night is part of the conservative melody. You can hear it when Glenn Beck accuses Barack Obama of racism, or when Rush Limbaugh casts liberal policies as an exercise in “reparations.” It was sounded last year during the backlash against Sonia Sotomayor’s suggestion that a “wise Latina” jurist might have advantages over a white male judge, and again last week when conservatives attacked the Justice Department for supposedly going easy on members of the New Black Panther Party accused of voter intimidation.

To liberals, these grievances seem at once noxious and ridiculous. (Is there any group with less to complain about, they often wonder, than white Christian Americans?) But to understand the country’s present polarization, it’s worth recognizing what Pat Buchanan got right…

That the Nazis couldn’t have killed all those Jews?  That if Britain had not waged war on Germany there wouldn’t have been a Holocaust? Oh…wait…

Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.

[Emphasis mine...]  Never mind that we’re actually not talking about White Anxiety here but Rural White Anxiety.  Never mind that not all American Christians are white, let alone rural.  Never mind that this…analysis…comes from Minding the Campus, which is a Manhattan Institute front group (Especially never mind that one of their published authors is Bell Curve author Charles Murray, who explains that black people have lower IQs not because poverty and racism limit their educational opportunities, but because they’re just…well…genetically inferior.  Please do never mind that!)

Here’s the problem:

…and this…

And this…

And…this…

…and…this…

And.  This.

If all you’re seeing there is a religious verses science struggle you are missing it.  This isn’t about religion verses science, this is about two utterly different and incomparable views of what constitutes knowledge.  In the Christianist, fundamentalist view, knowledge is something that is received.  In science, knowledge is something that is discovered.

The difference is profound.  One group of kids gets taught how to think, how to ask questions, how to evaluate, how to make independent judgments…and the other gets taught to be afraid of questioning authority and to always defend the tribe against outsiders.  And the worst kind of outsider is the one who stops blindly accepting everything they’ve been told by their tribe.  Edjucatin’ will do that to a kid.  What you aren’t getting, is the entire grade school life of rural white kids these days is now being carefully, meticulously geared toward preventing a higher education from ever taking root.

But cultural biases seem to be at work as well. Nieli highlights one of the study’s more remarkable findings: while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances. Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or “Red America.”

It is not the “gatekeepers of elite education” keeping rural white kids from getting into their schools Douthat you drooling moron, it’s their fear and loathing of anything that doesn’t righteously affirm their fundamentalist, tribal culture.  It’s the knee jerk reflexive hostility to that very education that their world view is drilling, drilling, drilling into them, that’s keeping them out of America’s big universities.

And it’s nothing new.  It has been going on, and getting worse and worse, since Scopes.  I was lucky…so incredibly lucky…that I entered grade school for one brief shining moment when nobody was paying any attention to the howls from the kook pews.  (Thank you Khrushchev!)  A kid today from the rural bible belt part of America who wants, really wants, that higher education has had the cards stacked against them by their grade school experience.  They haven’t been taught how to think critically, because that might lead them to question the story of Noah’s Ark.  They haven’t been taught how to sift through a set of facts to find an answer, because the culture they grow up in not only instills in them a knee jerk hostility to any fact that contradicts eternal tribal truths, it also teaches them to hold onto ideas that are palpably, laughingly false against even the most staringly obvious facts, in defense of those truths.

And it’s getting worse.  Now their schools are on a roll to dumb down their curriculums even more.

Texas Board of Education cuts Thomas Jefferson out of its textbooks.

The Texas Board of Education has been meeting this week to revise its social studies curriculum. During the past three days, “the board’s far-right faction wielded their power to shape lessons on the civil rights movement, the U.S. free enterprise system and hundreds of other topics”:

– To avoid exposing students to “transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else,” the Board struck the curriculum’s reference to “sex and gender as social constructs.”

– The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.”

– The Board refused to require that “students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.”

– The Board struck the word “democratic” from the description of the U.S. government, instead terming it a “constitutional republic.”

Tell me how a university is supposed to try and teach those kids…anything.  Those school boards are grimly determined to keep their kids from crossing over to the other side in the culture war…the side where the pursuit of knowledge isn’t just a good thing, but a great adventure…and in the process they’re locking them behind their own down home version of the iron curtain.  A university admissions officer is going to look at their school system and know right away that kid will never make it past their first year, possibly not even their first semester, and they simply won’t bother with them.  That’s not the university’s fault.  It’s one thing to make room for an urban minority kid whose disadvantage is money, and another to give that seat to a rural kid whose disadvantage is money and Intelligent Design.

And yes, it is very, very bad for this country to have it divided into well educated urban citizens verses people who have had any genuine desire to Learn pummeled out of them by a culture scared to death of anything resembling independence of thought.  I would argue that the “gatekeepers of elite education” really do need to do some serious educational outreach to the white rural population.  But do you understand the explosion of bitter hate and resentment that reaching out to those communities, trying, really trying hard, and with energy, to bring them science, world literature, logic and semantics, and all the humanities that they’ve been mocking for generations as “effete”…do you understand the nuclear explosion that would follow?  The howls of “elitist cultural aggression” would be defining.  And their republican enablers would take to the talk radio airwaves and cable TV junkyards with proof…proof mind you, that the elites were trying to brain wash their children…possibly to make them gay…ban the bible, impose a socialist new world order and sell their white women to the negros as reparations.

Try…just try…to bring the rural white population into higher education in greater numbers and they’ll just dig themselves even deeper, deeper into the gutter, to prevent their children from ever learning anything that might make them question that bedrock of bigotry, paranoia and resentment their culture sits and sulks on.  I can appreciate that urban minorities have their own host of problems preventing them from getting into the better Universities… poverty… crime… violence… a general breakdown of family and community.   But the problem isn’t that “the gatekeepers of elite education” are prejudiced against low income white people.  The problem is that a kid in a drug gang infested urban slum whose school is falling apart because their city has no money actually has a better chance of leaving grade school being able to think for themselves then a kid from bible belt America does.

He argued that the gift of tongues was real and that education was a snare. Once his children could read the Bible, he said, they had enough. Beyond lay only infidelity and damnation. Sin stalked the cities. Dayton itself was a Sodom. Even Morgantown had begun to forget God…

[Edited and expanded a tad for clarity...]

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

January 20th, 2010

Wait…What…? I Thought We Could.

First they sold out the gays, and we said nothing because we weren’t gay. Then they sold out the liberals and we said nothing because we weren’t liberals.  Then they sold out the progressives and we said nothing because we were moderates.  Then they sold out the moderates and we said nothing because we were moderates.  Then they started loosing elections…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

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