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May 21st, 2012
The Normalization Of Normality
by Bruce |
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There is nothing more ordinary then human diversity. Some of us are blue eyed, some brown, some green. Some of us have blond hair, some black. Skin color, height, weight, proportion of leg to torso…ask anyone who observes and draws or photographs the human form how identical we are to one another. Some of us are left handed, some right. There are males, females, and also transgendered individuals. There are mathematicians, mechanics, chefs, doctors, painters, musicians, actors, soldiers, firefighters, teachers. There are people who just seem to light up a room whenever they walk into it no matter the gloom that was there before, and people who bring their own little grey cloud with them wherever they go. It is normal to be different. And very young children, generally, accept this in each other. As the song goes, You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.
For decades now the homophobes have warned about the “normalization” of homosexuality. Dire consequences would follow. Very dire consequences. What everyone is beginning to see now, finally, is that when the homophobic static is gone, normalcy returns. Here in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun today has an article about how the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is playing in at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The answer seems to be a catastrophic decent of society into pure unadulterated normalcy.
Gay cadets at the U.S. Military Academy and the Coast Guard Academy are forming clubs. Gay alumni at the Air Force Academy hosted their first football tailgate last fall, and gay alumni at the Air Force Academy and West Point held their annual dinners on campus for the first time.
It’s not all roses of course. Some worry about the effect coming out will have on their careers once they leave the academy. Others insist it will have little to no impact. But the effect here in Maryland, as elsewhere, of lifting the outcast status on gay people, that dangerous alien other label, has been mostly…business as usual. Or rather, business more usual then it previously could be when people had to be afraid. The sense you get is of peace descending, finally, after a long and brutal battle. We are all neighbors once more. Now that the fires of prejudice and hate are subsiding a sense of community becomes possible once again. Normalcy returns.
This recently, from a Canadian Evangelical…
Most of us evangelicals in Canada, regardless of personal beliefs about homosexuality, can admit that since same-sex marriage has been legalised in Canada, our society has not gone to hell in a hand basket, nor has traditional marriage, or our families been under attack. Scare tactics and wild-eyed fear-based rhetoric rarely turns out to be true. In actual practice, our society has become “live and let live” which is actually a rather tolerant and comfortable place to be.
Behold the dire consequence. A reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, responding to a question put to Maggie Gallagher about the harm to individuals and society where same-sex marriage has been legalized, noted that her reply was basically worry about the status of homophobes like herself…
Essentially, Maggie Gallagher is concerned about the affect of same-sex marriage on people like Maggie Gallagher. She cites no data or statistics or study which shows how any heterosexual marriages or children in families with same-sex parents have been damaged. She makes no claim that any such damages has occurred, only that people like her have been made social pariahs instead of the gay people who ought to be the pariahs. I’m sure there’s a social science term that describes what she is doing, but I guess I just find the complaint that “you’re making other people not like me” to be a rather petty and self-absorbed. Where, I wonder, is her concern about the affect on people other than Maggie Gallagher?
There’s the problem. To fear and loath your neighbor over some trivial difference just isn’t normal. To incite those fears and loathings in others is damaging to community and nation. Once the homophobic static is gone everyone just gets along with each other. The horrible outcome of the normalization of homosexuality is world where we are all neighbors once again and we just get on with life and things get back to…normal. The scapegoat, the hated other, no longer hate themselves, and are no longer hated. We are neighbors once again, each of us just going on about our business. And the only thing that warning anyone who will listen about the homosexual menace teaches them is what an creep you are.
May 10th, 2012
Freedom To Not Be Angry All The Time
by Bruce |
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I do political cartoons for my local gay paper, Baltimore OUTLoud. Being published regularly allowed me to gain membership in The Associate Of American Editorial Cartoonists…a dream come true. Cartooning was the first love and political cartooning, what was called the Ungentlemanly Art, is a form of expression that I’ve been attracted to since I was a teenager, growing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs with Herblock and Gib Crockett in my daily newspapers. In high school my cartoons were in the student newspaper and on the walls of a few select social studies classrooms.
Jacob Bronowski once said that great art doesn’t set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of good and evil are “are seen in fearful sharpness of outline.” The best political cartoons are like that. It’s very easy, and most fall into that rut of being preachy. But the best ones shine that light.
I try to do that with my cartoons. When I see myself getting too preachy on the drawing board I start over. But I get angry too and sometimes I just let the anger out and my viewers can take it or leave it. Like this one I did after California Proposition 8 passed…
That’s all done on the paper by the way, only the lettering is done in the computer. I still draw my cartoons with “traditional media” and scan it in, not so much because I am a throwback as I just work intuitively with those tools better then with a digitizer pad.
That angry metaphor of the severed ring finger works for me artistically, and at some deep level it gets out of me something that just needs getting out. I hate saying this about myself because it sounds so pretentious but I am an artist. The way I know that about myself isn’t that I like to draw or that I like it very much when my drawings get looked at, it’s if you put me on a desert island with no tools to make imagery with I would cut me some sticks and twigs and draw in the sand because I just have to get it out of me from time to time whether it makes any sense to anyone or not and even if nobody else ever sees it but me. I have to do this from time to time or I will go nuts. It’s just something I am. And maybe I’m not really that good at it either. Lots of times I will look at my stuff and think I really stink at it. But I know I can’t stop doing it. Drawing…painting…photography….it’s all about the image. It’s a language I need to communicate in…much of the time just to think my world and my life through.
For my political cartoons, unlike a lot of cartoonists, I don’t do many rough sketches first. I do the drawing first in my head, and when I can see it clearly in there, then I sit down at the drafting table. Yesterday I had one ready to go, concerning the vote against same-sex marriage in North Carolina. I’d been drawing it in my mind the moment I laid eyes on the advertisement Billy Graham placed in a bunch of North Carolina newspapers. Where there any chance of that amendment not passing, Graham effectively killed it with those ads and I was angry. And immediately when I saw the ad the image for a cartoon about the likely outcome of the vote came immediately to my mind. I thought about it for days and it changed very little in my visualization of it. I was angry. The image was angry.
Yesterday morning I read the news and even though I had been completely expecting the outcome, it hit me hard. Every fucking time one of these votes happens it feels like a kick in the stomach. And you know that’s exactly the purpose of having these votes…to make gay people hurt. Because if we don’t bleed they aren’t righteous. And I did hurt. I walked around all morning long carrying this lump of grief like a stone in my gut. Reading the streams on Facebook and Twitter I could see others did too. But I did notice something that lifted my spirits even so. This time…This Time…that stone in the gut was being carried by a lot of heterosexuals too. This was what I knew would eventually win this thing: when enough of our heterosexual neighbors began to see this struggle as theirs too…feel it in their gut the same way we feel it in ours. Even as I grieved I could see we were winning this thing. But it felt so painful…so very very painful. But I had my outlet. I was going to go home from work that day, and right to my drafting table, and out would come the cartoon I had visualized so clearly in my mind’s eye for days.
…and all of a sudden Billy Graham didn’t matter anymore. And something happened to me that made me realize how much anger I have been carrying with me all these years. I stopped being angry. It almost literally felt like a weight had been taken off me.
I don’t know if I’ll do that cartoon now. I might…it’s still something I think needs being said about him, about the people who put so much hard work into kicking their gay neighbors in the face. You can shine Bronowski’s fearful sharp light at evil, but you can also shine it at the good, and I am not so very angry anymore. Life is good. Hard sometimes, but good.
Time was the haters could make us hate ourselves as much as they hated us. Then that time was over, and they could no longer make us hate ourselves and that made them angry. It made them angry and so they had to make us angry too. And being angry all the time can be a stone around your neck too. Not as big a one as hating yourself, but big enough all the same to keep you from having a decent life. Perhaps anger, unlike self hate, is a necessary thing. Perhaps without that righteous anger we would not have worked so hard, and come so far, so fast. But the day is coming when we don’t have to be angry anymore.
May 8th, 2012
Planning A Cross-Country Road Trip Is So Much Easier For A Gay Guy When He’s Single
by Bruce |
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The headline I was expecting…came as expected.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, making it the 30th state to adopt such a ban.
Thirty states. Thirty states. Oh…and it’s more then simply a ban on same-sex marriage. That amendment was an all out attack on same-sex couples having any legal rights that heterosexuals are bound to respect.
I have reflected often on the fact that the only reason I feel free to explore my country, take the long cross-country drives I love, is that I am single. The saving grace of it is that the side of my family that approves of constitutionally kicking their gay neighbors in the teeth all live in states I couldn’t visit anyway were I happily coupled. Should that day ever come, it will save me a lot of excuse making. Tell you what…you come visit us. We’d love to have you over! And your marriages are valid here so don’t worry.
April 29th, 2012
Life In The Shining City On The Hill
by Bruce |
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Seen on Twitter: “Family of four sitting in the patio furniture section of Costco eating picnic lunch made up entirely of samples. #theamericandream”
I remember as a kid, listening to mom’s tales of the Great Depression. Little did I know those stories would prepare me for life in 21st century America…
January 28th, 2012
No Senator…Actually, You’re The Threat To Civilization.
by Bruce |
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A few days ago Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland, submitted a bill to the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. Hate groups like NOM have been preparing for this day. So, in our own way I suppose, have my fellow gay and gay supportive Marylanders.
I do not look forward to the brutal, bitter, torrent of hate mongering that is to come. I sure don’t look forward to having to know, as the signs start popping up on front lawns and the bumper stickers appear, which of the neighbors on my block want to cut my ring finger off. My neighbors are generally a good sort of folk I’ve found in the years I’ve lived at Casa del Garrett. Generous and neighborly…at least to my face. But just because someone takes a somewhat liberal stance on a range of issues, does not mean they can see the people for the homosexuals. Take for example the president of our state senate, Mike Miller…
The Democratic President of the Senate in Maryland is urging “Evangelicals, Catholics, African Americans” to oppose an upcoming gay marriage bill, and to vote against one if it ever came to a public referendum. Senator Mike Miller on a radio program said that while he didn’t want to sound like Republican presidential hopefuls, “I’m a father married for 50 years, I got 5 children, I got 13 grandchildren, I’m a traditionalist.” Miller said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a vote, and if there is a vote, as expected, in the Senate, it would again pass. But Miller’s suggestion to minorities and the religious right to oppose an equal rights measure is patently offensive and divisive, and smacks of a Maggie Gallagher move.
Miller, in explaining his opposition, however, did sound like a Republican presidential candidate, saying, “I’m a historian and I look at civilizations, I study civilizations, I read history every night. And I see it’s an attack on the family, I think it’s an attack on traditional families. That’s the way I see it.”
Dig it. He doesn’t want to sound like a republican, but just so you know, homosexuals are a threat to families and to civilization. This is what we’re in for, for the next year or so if this bill becomes law and NOM fires up its mighty Wurlitzer to insure that Marylanders fear, loath and hate their gay and lesbian neighbors enough to deny them equal rights in marriage. But I have a question: has any nation or civilization ever collapsed because its people loved each other too much?
January 10th, 2012
You Keep Using That Word, ‘Think’…
by Bruce |
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This cracks me up…
In the current issue of the center-right policy journal, National Affairs, former Bush domestic policy adviser Tevi Troy worries about the decline of Washington think tanks into partisan messaging operations.
Stop…stop…you’re killing me. Seriously, on what planet were most beltway think tanks, and especially AEI and Heritage, ever not partisan messaging operations?
Yes, yes, liberal “think tanks” exist, but how many global corporations and multi-billionaires are going to fund a think tank that starts from an ideologically liberal economic position? Right wing and conservative “think tanks” basically rule the beltway discourse and you always know what their conclusions will be, and which party will happily benefit from them. Their non-partisanship is a farce. They are think tanks like Intelligent Design is science.
There’s a rule of thumb about think tanks: If you already know what the conclusion is before you pick up the paper and read it, it is not a think tank. Rand is a think tank. Let me explain by this example from Wiki:
In 1958, Democratic Senator Stuart Symington accused the RAND Corporation of defeatism for studying how the United States might strategically surrender to an enemy power. This led to the passage of a prohibition on the spending of tax dollars on the study of defeat or surrender of any kind. However, the senator had apparently misunderstood, as the report was a survey of past cases in which the U.S. had demanded unconditional surrender of its enemies, asking whether or not this had been a more favorable outcome to U.S. interests than an earlier, negotiated surrender would have been.
See how that works. They asked a question they didn’t already know the answer to and set about to answer it. No ideology, just answers. AEI and Heritage, to name two, begin with the answer in the form of an ideological position (unconditional surrender is always the most favorable outcome) and try to figure out a way to message that for the benefits of republicans.
What these organizations do is tactical rhetoric, not thinking. Thinking is where you search for answers, not fashion attractive political battle flags. Thinking takes you into undiscovered places. That’s not allowed in organization like AEI, which Frum found out when he got the boot for not towing the line. These are party instruments, nothing more nothing less. They exist precisely to discourage thinking. You are told what to think. Or at any rate, what to say that you think.
Witness the decline in American governance. We can’t confront the real problems that exist because our institutions of government are mired in ideologies which demand fealty over everything else. Facts don’t matter, only the party matters, and free thinking is treason to the party. And so our ability as a nation to grow and prosper into the 21st century is limited to what the ideologies in power will allow, and that isn’t much. We were promised a shining city on a hill. What we got were factories closed, wages devastated, pensions lost, entire neighborhoods in foreclosure and state and local governments teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet the ideologies that promised us that shining city are never held to account. For all the think tanks in Washington, not a whole lot of thinking is actually going on.
December 4th, 2011
Who Is John Doe?
by Bruce |
I suppose by now you’ve seen a few of these…
Behold Atlas, holding the world upon his shoulders…beset upon by socialist moochers, second-handers and looters…
…not. Let’s be real here…no welfare queen ever had a larger sense of entitlement then the tea partiers.
Its easy to point and laugh at signs like the one above…and this one…
But it isn’t just the crazies who’ve been taken in and lit up by the right wing noise machine. To one degree or another, the nation as a whole has accepted a disastrously false economic construct: that the economy is driven by businesses, banks and wealthy investors. Producers produce wealth, consumers consume it. Producers build factories, establish businesses, engage in commerce and thereby create jobs…almost as a side effect of their economic vitality. It’s their world, they built it, these Atlases of commerce. The rest of us just live in it. Without the Atlases the rest of us would have nothing.
Hence the bellyaching about going Galt. It’s like the constantly nagging and entitled parent or grandparent who keeps warning You’ll be sorry when I’m gone and after so many years of it you’ve begun planning a party to celebrate the event. There’s a scene in Atlas Shrugged where the worthless playboy Francisco d’Anconia (secretly an agent of the Galt’s Gulch strikers) talks with industrialist Hank Rearden, owner of Rearden Steel and inventor of Rearden Metal. They are at a party at Readen’s magnificent mansion. They stand at a window as a storm rages in the night outside…
“It’s a terrible night for any animal caught unprotected on that plain,” said Francisco d’Anconia. “This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man.”
Rearden did not answer for a moment; then he said, as if in answer to himself, a tone of wonder in his voice, “Funny…”
“You told me what I was thinking just a while ago…”
“…only I didn’t have the words for it.”
“Shall I tell you the rest of the words?”
“You stood here and watched the storm with the greatest pride one can ever feel – because you are able to have summer flowers and half-naked women in your house on a night like this, in demonstration of your victory over that storm. And if it weren’t for you, most of those who are here would be left helpless at the mercy of that wind in the middle of some such plain.”
…and just never you mind the people who designed and engineered that house, who mined its marble floors and brass and gold for its fixtures, who felled and milled the trees and laid the bricks and stones. See…they don’t even exist in the right winger frame of mind, let alone the world of Ayn Rand, except as looters, moochers and second-handers, leaching off the vitality of the world’s Atlases like vampires. But without all those looters, those second-handers, those moochers paying rents for their own modest apartments, or buying their own modest homes, purchasing their own little economy cars and appliances, patronizing various merchants, making the building of all those things economically viable, Hank Rearden’s foundries would have nothing to do and his magnificent mansion would have never been built and he’d be shit out of luck on that open plain too.
Whose, really, is the motor of the world? Nick Hanauer, himself a venture capitalist, sees where it really is:
It is unquestionably true that without entrepreneurs and investors, you can’t have a dynamic and growing capitalist economy. But it’s equally true that without consumers, you can’t have entrepreneurs and investors. And the more we have happy customers with lots of disposable income, the better our businesses will do.
That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When the American middle class defends a tax system in which the lion’s share of benefits accrues to the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.
And that’s what has been happening in the U.S. for the last 30 years.
Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for fat cats like me in the top 0.1 percent has increased a shocking 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the superwealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007, from 42 percent at the peak of U.S. productivity in the early 1960s, and about 30 percent during the expansion of the 1990s. In my case, that means that this year, I paid an 11 percent rate on an eight-figure income.
One reason this policy is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff…
I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages…
We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit…
So let’s give a break to the true job creators. Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth by putting purchasing power back in the hands of the middle class. And let’s remember that capitalists without customers are out of business…
The meme, the Randian dogma, the right wing spin the nation has bought into since Reagan sold us on it, that it is the rich industrialists who create jobs. No. Customers create jobs. The flow of money from employer to employee to employer again creates jobs. Building factories and office space where there is no demand for goods, simply because you suddenly have tons of money to do something with, is what happens in this thing they call a Bubble. Hey…let’s build a factory because we can! No demand, no sales. No sales: bankruptcy. The factory closes, the employees loose their paychecks, the money stops flowing, the motors…were…stopping…
We’ve seen how that works, time and time again in the past thirty years, yet the right wingers keep insisting if we just give more free money to the rich they’ll build factories, or offices space or something and then the rest of us will have jobs. But nobody sane builds a factory if it isn’t bloody likely to sell anything that it makes.
No. The super rich won’t build factories. Not if there is no money to be made doing that. And if they can plainly see there is an easier way to make money, they’ll do that instead. And for them these days, there is. It’s called Wall Street. So if the middle class is dying, how are the rich making money these days…?
A newly-released study from the Congressional Research Service bolsters claims that the nation’s largest banks profited off the Federal Reserve’s financial crisis-era programs by borrowing cash for next to nothing, then lending it back to the federal government at substantially higher rates.
The report reinforces long-held beliefs that the banking system in essence engaged in taxpayer-financed arbitrage: They got money for free, then lent it back to Uncle Sam while collecting juicy returns.
They make paper profits by moving money back and forth among each other, and then when that blows up in their faces, they take it from the taxpayers…the middle class and the poor. Obviously they’re fine with that system and don’t want it touched. But it is not sustainable and they are not just putting the economy at risk, but our very democracy.
You see, trickle down economics really does work…but only from the middle down. I grew up in the world Hanauer speaks of. I remember it well. I was raised by a single working mother back in a day when women made maybe 60 cents on the dollar a man made for doing the same work. I wore a lot of hand-me-down clothes mom got from the church, but I never went out the door in dirty clothes. We ate a simple, very bland English diet, but I never went to bed hungry. I got a decent education because back in the late 50s and early 60s we were in a cold war with the Soviet Union and public education was something the nation was keen to spend money on so we didn’t loose the technological race. There were good jobs (at least if you were white). And all those high paying union jobs went to families who spent that money on goods and services, not at the Wall Street casino. And that made it possible for poorer, service sector workers, even single mothers, to still earn a living wage and raise kids. I know this. I am one of those kids.
Yes, when government sucks money out of the economy in the form of oppressive taxes, that will stifle economic growth and kill the middle class too. But taxation isn’t the only worry and big government isn’t the only threat to the economy. You can kill the middle class by sucking their wages out in the form of taxes, but you can also kill it, as we are clearly seeing now, by slashing wages in order to maintain astronomical profits that do nothing more then grease the roulette wheels of Wall Street. Big business can be every bit the threat to the economy and to democracy that big government can be.
There need to be brakes put on both. For the sake of our cherished freedoms, and our children’s and their children’s. Libertarianism, with its dogma of unregulated unfettered capitalism utterly removes the brakes on big business. Anyone with eyes to see and a mind not completely corrupted by ideology can see in the decades after Reagan sold us that shining city on a hill what comes of that. If the totalitarian police state is one side of a coin, Libertarianism is the other. Heads, power collects in the hands of the few, the people become their slaves, the economy grinds to a halt and the country tailspins into economic collapse. Tails: see heads.
Democracy gave the common man and woman, gave humanity as a whole, a level of prosperity that would have astonished the peasants who labored under the kings of old. To live, it needs a robust and energetic economy. And to have that, you need a stable and prosperous middle class. Because those people take their money and they spend it on Things…on goods and services that other people earn money making…and that keeps the money circulating and the economy humming along.
John Galt isn’t the motor of the world. John and Jane Doe are.
1943, Female Welder at Work in a Steel Mill by Margaret Bourke-White
November 23rd, 2011
From An FDR Democrat To A Reagan Conservative…
by Bruce |
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…Thank you for reminding me that not everyone who calls themselves a republican is a nativist bigot who hates the idea of the United States as a rich and beautiful melting pot. These days, that’s a very hard thing to keep in mind.
The paranoid nativists warn that we are too culturally chaotic to survive. They are right. America dies over and over again in a thousand different ways, like the cells in your skin. The real test of a culture is not whether it dies, but whether it regenerates itself. What frightens these folks is our nerve-racking dynamism; our accelerating pace of reinvention.
We are in fact living through the end of white America. That “end” will be just as catastrophic as the end of Puritan American, the end of Colonial America, the end of White, Male Landowner America, the end of New England Whaling America, the end of Slaveholding America, the end of Rural America, the end of Pre-Industrial America, the end of Jim Crow America, the end of Industrial America and all of the other endings America has experienced in her short history.
In other words, we can be confident that this ending will be yet another in a jarring series of gateways to an ever freer, richer, and more powerful future
The real test of a culture is not whether it dies, but whether it regenerates itself. Yes. Or as Dylan put it, he who isn’t busy being born is busy dying. What I have always loved about my country is that every day it is busy being born. My great sadness lately has been a nearly overwhelming feeling that the paranoid nativists had finally strangled that. The more conservatives I see standing up to them, the more hopeful I can allow myself to be that it will not happen. Thank you David Frum.
October 11th, 2011
My Country ‘Tis of Thee…
by Bruce |
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Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?
July 31st, 2011
Letter To Fred Haitt’s Pathetic Excuse For An Ombudsman…
by Bruce |
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Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2011 17:12:57 -0400
From: Bruce Garrett
Subject: The furor
Liberals and conservatives don’t talk to each other much anymore; they exist in parallel online universes, only crossing over to grab some explosive anti-matter from the other side to stoke the rage in their own blogosphere.
Followed almost immediately by…
Rubin was hired by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Post, to be an opinion blogger who would appeal to conservatives and people who want to follow conservative politics. She does.
He hired her in other words, to do for the Post readership what you are bellyaching that blogs are doing to their readers. You’d think that the newspaper of record in the nation’s capital would set a higher standard for itself. You’d think.
Maybe your publication should consider the possible consequences of enabling political echo chamber vitriol itself. You are giving it a legitimacy the blogs could never hope to accomplish.
Haitt hired Rubin because he knew she’d stoke right wing vitriol. And he hired you because he knew you’d make excuses for that.
Crisis Of Democracy
by Bruce |
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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.
July 27th, 2011
The Many Faces of Joy
by Bruce |
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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.
July 16th, 2011
by Bruce |
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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.
July 12th, 2011
Yes, We Exist. And So Does Our Past.
by Bruce |
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“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
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.
June 20th, 2011
I See Election Campaigning Has Already Begun
by Bruce |
So I see the ex-gay movement held it’s annual medicine show down in Orlando earlier this month…
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com