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Friday, December 26, 2003

Holiday Cheer Is A Liberal Conspiracy

Via Matthew Yglesias, this cheery little note from Conscience Undetectable:

HAPPY CHRISTMAS: Why not the anglicism? Now that Christmas is at our throats again, let me extend my sincere hope that my readers can survive the nightmare of the next few days with as little psychic, gastro-intestinal, and familial anxiety as possible. Yes, I might as well confess that I cannot stand this time of year. (I'm with Blitzen.) But the BF and the beagle and I have both LOTR DVDs and are planning a nine-hour Tolkien marathon with cigars and Jagermeister shots and a pig ear. I guess diversity is everything. Hang in there. Don't despair. It will all be over soon enough.

Andrew Sullivan

It will all be over soon enough??? I'm single, alone for the holidays, and I'm still feeling way more cheerful then Virtually Nazgul, who has a boyfriend, a faithful dog, and another year of beating back a disease that has killed hundreds of thousands. Okay...the following isn't exactly in the spirit of the season, but here it is: life is better, when you've kept your good name, and people know you can be trusted. Oh...and one other thing: Nobody ever sells out the things that give life meaning. You sold out, because it never had any meaning for you.

The holidays have always been a semi-solitary time for me. Being an only child probably made the holidays in my house quieter then most. After present opening I basically sat on my hands the rest of the day. I was always told it was impolite to call up my friends to play. They were supposed to be spending Christmas with their families. So for me, the best day was always the day after Christmas, when all the neighborhood kids would get together and compare loot. That's still basically the way it is for me. I get together with friends and family before and after the holiday, but the day itself is my quiet time.

I am not a misanthrope, but a hate phoniness. I hate advertising and especially when advertising takes something real and wonderful, and sex, and turns it into a gimmick to sell cheap useless junk no sane person would want in their house. Every year of my life I have watched these holidays become more and more commercial. But this one time of year I make an exception. I will never hate the Christmas trimmings of Santa Clones and plastic holly, shopping mall creches and plug in candles, and mass marketed holiday spirit. For this one time of the year I am willing to let it all in, and even relish in it.

I remember one Christmas day when I was a kid, while my folks prepared dinner, I walked way out past the apartments into a field by a small creek. I wandered into the woods further then I had ever gone and sat down by a big rock. It was cold, and gray and there were no other kids outside because they were all inside doing whatever they did with their families that day. There weren't even any birds or animals that I could see. The temperature was something like in the teens and nothing moved. The only sound was the wind which was gusting very strongly through the trees; even when it wasn't blowing in my face I could still hear it howling somewhere not far by, as though it was looking for something.

The trees surrounding me were bare wooden sticks held against a grey sky. Their fallen leaves on the ground had been compacted by several rains and at least one snowfall that had only partly disappeared. There were some ice patches left on the ground and the creek was frozen solid. I was a very slightly built little kid and even now being warm when I'm outside is something I take care about. I turned my face towards the sun and I couldn't feel the slightest shred of heat. I remember thinking that if I was a caveman who had never seen the likes of this before, I would be sure that the world was dying. I had a pretty good idea then of how the motion of the Earth worked to produce the seasons; I tried to block that knowledge out and think of what it would be like to experience winter without knowing, to watch everything get colder and colder until there was nothing left but the wind restlessly looking for something else that moved. I think I understood then why some people are such sourpusses, and why I wasn't one of them.

Solstice are the most ancient of rites for a reason. I don't mind the plastic lighted Santas or the relentless Christmas muzak in the shopping centers, or the wire reindeers with motorized heads. I don't mind the relentless crowds of shop til you drop shoppers. I will even accept manufactured exuberance side by side with the heartfelt joy of total strangers this time of year. I walk among it all, drinking it in, taking time to find something, some little gift or card, to give to the ones who make my life sweet, even if it means wading through forests of vinyl pine. Tell yourself that it is tradition and all in good fun if you want, but it is really nothing less then an ancient reflex that arises when the earth grows cold and still and the sunlight wanes and you are surprised by how quickly the night comes, to be good to your neighbors, and tell the ones close to your heart that you love them, and blaze defiantly into the night.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, December 23, 2003

Happy Holidays!

The holiday cartoon is up. That's all until January 12, 2004. I'm breaking for the holidays and I hope all of you have a good time. wherever you are, however you choose to enjoy it.

I got my Christmas package from my brother the other day. I'd sent mine to him earlier. There is a joke that makes the rounds this time of year, about fruitcakes, and how some families just pass one fruitcake back and forth for generations. The modern version of this is packing popcorn. I have a trash can of the stuff that I half empty every Christmas with outgoing packages. It fills back up again with the incoming. I may never have to buy packing popcorn again.

This has been a year of amazing victories for Gay and Lesbian civil rights, as well as a year of amazing opposition. Just the other day I read, via Atrios, that the U.S. Park Service is erasing gay civil rights history on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, to appease the religious right. And that not being enough for them, they're going to include in their visitor's info religious right gatherings that never happened on the Lincoln Memorial grounds. Stalinism comes to America. But what do you expect from a white house gang who have been attacking all government funded science that challenges religious right dogmas. Remember how Bush casually lied about who had put up that "Mission Accomplished" banner on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln? You wonder why don't they just put a white hood over Lincoln's head and declare the Confederacy has risen again.

And speaking of bald faced lying... Just when you think there isn't anything Andrew Conscience Undetectable Sullivan can do to dig himself further in the Pit, he pulls crap like this:

An interesting position from Wesley Clark:
And I would say to the Europeans, I pledge to you as the American president that we'll consult with you first. You get the right of first refusal on the security concerns that we have. We'll bring you in.The right of first refusal.
I'm with Clark on consultation and on building the U.S. alliance in Europe. But first refusal? That's tantamount to Howard Dean's view that we should seek the "permission" of the United Nations before military action. Permission?

As others, like Kevin Drum have noted, this is actually pretty blatant:

And this is no innocent mistake on Sullivan's part. If there are readers of this blog who don't understand the meaning of "right of first refusal," that's understandable. But Sullivan has spent his entire life in the publishing industry, where the term is used routinely, and he knows precisely what it means. He's just deliberately trying to twist Clark's words into something they aren't.

Drum goes on to wonder if this sort of thing is a habit with Sullivan. Habit, yes, I suppose, in the sense of it being an addiction. When you throw away your better self, then there is no reason not to lie anymore, and in fact, every reason to keep on doing it. Your word is worthless. Your name is Mud. Everyone expects you to lie. People stop listening to you, stop taking your words to heart. Lies are all you have left, and the hope that one of them will have an effect on someone, anyone. Then, when that one lie out of zillions you've ever told, and the zillions more you probably will, manages to have an effect, then, for that one brief moment, you are a person again. That is the only personhood there is left to you. So you just keep going for it. Because you have to. Because there is no other way left for you to be somebody.

But enough of that... All you good and kind readers, thank you for your visits here throughout the year. Enjoy your holidays. Have fun. Eat recklessly.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, December 22, 2003

Oh Stop Fussing With It And Go On To The Next One...

I've adjusted the contrast on this week's cartoon a little. I didn't notice that it was a tad flat until I took a second look at it this morning. I converted the artwork to JPEG this week in GIMP on SuSE Linux. SuSE has a much better assortment of installed fonts then Red Hat for some reason, which allows me to add text to the image that doesn't look like it's pasted on from a typewriter. At some point I reckon I need to get familiar with installing fonts on Linux.

I'm told most cartoonists these days use a font created from their own hand lettering. It's an idea that appeals to me on the grounds of artistic individuality. But my hand writing stinks. No getting around it, it's just awful. So I won't do that to you.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Unplanned Cartoon...

New cartoon's up, and it's not the holiday cartoon I promised. But when President Sodomy Laws Are An Expression Of The Moral Values Of The People announced that he would support a constitutional amendment to ban any legal recognition of same sex unions, and I watched Deep Thinker Chris Miller over at the Independent (sic) Gay Forum immediately go into lawn jockey mode I had to comment. It's beyond pathetic that Miller, and he fellow sell-outs, can keep saying with straight faces that Bush didn't really come out in support of amending the constitution to write gay and lesbian Americans out of it, merely because he didn't spell it out in the kind of exacting detail that even a Log Cabin Republican couldn't deny. There is no such statement that Bush could possibly make. He could say that he was going to spray paint the amendment text on Matthew Shepard's grave and they'd call that a sign that Bush wants to be gay inclusive. Just look at this:

Sadly, the president has gone on record in support of amending the Constitution to prevent gay marriage in some fashion, although the fact that he said he favors an amendment to "honor" marriage between a man and a woman, rather than an amendment that stipulates marriage as between a man and a woman, could provide some wiggle room.

Let's be clear here, Bush didn't say he disfavors stipulating opposite sex marriage only. In point of fact he's repeatedly stated that he believes that is the only legitimate form of marriage. Any wiggling Bush is doing here is nothing compared to the saint vitus dance Miller is doing.

And if you're still wondering whether Miller really is as asinine as he seems, check this:

On another point: HRC can't seem to get away from the view that marriage is primarily about benefits -- ultimately not a strong argument, as Dale Carpenter explains in his recent column, Bad Arguments for Gay Marriage:
Very few people marry in order to experience the magic of filing a joint income tax return. They marry because, in our tradition and history, marriage is the way couples in a community signal the depth of their commitment to one another. Their family and peers reciprocate by supporting and celebrating that commitment, which in turn reinforces it. Everyone understands the stakes.
But this is something that the "rights" obsessed HRC doesn't, in fact, seem to understand.

"Rights Obsessed" now is it? For four hours in March of 2002, officials at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center barred William Robert Flanigan Jr. from his dying partner's bedside, saying he was not "family", and that 'partners' did not qualify. By the time Flanigan got in to see his beloved he'd passed into a coma. He died shortly after. Flanigan never got a chance to say goodbye. Now George Sodomy Laws Are Expressions Of The Moral Values Of The People Bush has come out in favor of writing that agony into the constitution for every gay and lesbian American alive now, and for generations to come, and Miller and his fellow Deep Thinkers call worrying about all that being "rights obsessed". So who's the bigger creep, the man in the White House who wants to bury equal rights for Gay and Lesbian Americans, or the dancing jerk who wants us to believe that rights aren't anything worth worrying about anyway?

The Holiday cartoon will be posted on Christmas Eve, and then I'm taking a hiatus for a few weeks. The cartoons will resume on January 12, 2004.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

When All Else Fails, Stand By Your Principles

Kevin Drum sees a wee problem for democrats in the upcoming election...

What everyone really seems to care about is not so much whether a gay marriage amendment can actually pass, but whether it will be a good political issue for Republicans in 2004. Sadly, I think it will be. Karl Rove has made it clear that he thinks it's critical to get a big turnout among the conservative Christian base, and this issue is tailor made for that. I suspect that Bush will come out in favor of the amendment, but do it in a "more in sorrow than in anger" kind of way that doesn't hurt him much with swing voters.

Democrats, meanwhile, will once again be forced into a more complicated position: in favor of civil unions but not in favor of gay marriage. Hard to make a bumper sticker out of that.

No it isn't.


Drum goes on to add:

And what's worse -- and surprising to me -- is that the New York Times poll found almost exactly the same opposition to civil unions as to gay marriage.

Ask me if I'm surprised. People keep saying the problem is the marriage word, but that's crap. The problem isn't marriage, the problem is being able to see the people for the homosexuals. In its letters to the editor section, The Salt Lake Tribune printed this from J. David Gowdy of Salt Lake on November 24, 2003:

Same-gender couples may borrow the concept of "marriage" by acting parts, and of "parenthood" by adoption, but their avowed lifestyle acts merely as a thief, mocking the very means of their own birth. The gay pantomime is a cheap facsimile of that which is real.

Homosexuals don't love, they just have sex... In one form or another, this is what a lot of people think about homosexuals. Even, let it be said, people who may otherwise believe that we should have at least some rights as a matter of humanitarian compassion, a comfort to the otherwise afflicted. But to elevate same sex unions to the status of marriage makes a mockery not merely of marriage, but of the essential nature of love itself. If that's what you think, then giving same sex couples any rights at all amounts to mocking love, honor, trust, nobility, all the higher aspirations of the human spirit. Marriage or civil unions, or any minute particle therein, it is the same insult.

Now there are uptight fascist nutcases on the fringe who think that love is for wimps, and who regularly argue that marriage has nothing at all to do with love, and they will never get it no matter what. But for everyone else, the issue of gay and lesbian civil rights poses just one simple question: can you see the people for the homosexuals? I think for more and more these days, the answer is yes. But seeing your homosexual neighbors for what they are, isn't necessarily seeing anti-gay hate for what it is. It's hard, even for a lot of us, to comprehend. "...their avowed lifestyle acts merely as a thief, mocking the very means of their own birth. The gay pantomime is a cheap facsimile of that which is real." There is no bottom there. The anti-gay opposition will fight bitterly, against every small step toward equality and justice for all, if 'all' includes homosexuals. This issue cannot be finessed. It must be addressed head-on.

I remember back in the 1970s, when some state legislator, I think it was in California, offered up an ordinance that would have allowed same sex couples hospital visitation rights. The measure was immediately and fanatically denounced as a back door attempt to legalize same sex marriage. It seemed such a little, humane thing to do for two people in love, but it instantly aroused the very same passions now in play today. That was when I realized that we might as well fight for the whole thing, because we were going to end up fighting as if we were going for the whole thing, over each and every minute piece of it. Now, almost thirty years later, you have Peter S. Sprigg, the Family Research Council, saying "Our position is simple: We don't believe that homosexual relationships should be granted any legal recognition at all." Decades of slow steady motion toward gay and lesbian equality has done nothing to moderate their positions in the least. They cannot be educated on this matter. They will never accept the homosexual as their neighbor. Just when you think the nation is ready for the next step, they will fight you every bit as much as they fought the fight before, except that now they have learned a bit from the last fight.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that "Shallow understanding from people of good will, is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." I suspect at times it even frustrates the people of good will too. Here's what they need to understand: you can't fight prejudice and hate half heartedly. To try to find a compromise position may be good politics when it comes to funding the schools or balancing the budget, but when the passions of prejudice and hate are in play then compromise means agreeing with prejudice and hate on its basic point: "...their avowed lifestyle acts merely as a thief, mocking the very means of their own birth. The gay pantomime is a cheap facsimile of that which is real."

We've agreed on what you we're negotiating a price... For some, civil unions are a cover that allows them to hold onto their beliefs about homosexuals without having to acknowledge the gutter they come from. Others naively assume that it's just a good political position to take at this time. But the same passions that roared back when someone tried to give same sex couples visitation rights in the 1970s, and which helped propel George Bush into power on the tacit assumption that he would work to put homosexuals back in their place, will not be finessed away. They can only be confronted. The issue is do we fight the fight now, to secure equal rights and justice for gay and lesbian Americans, or do we fight the fight for a small gain now, and then fight it all over again later for another, and all over again later for another, and all over again later, and on and on and on. I assure you that the other side will never tire of this fight, and as for your homosexual neighbors, well, we're fighting for our lives here, and for the honor and the dignity of our love.

If our feelings for our mates really were as shallow as the other side says they are, if we really weren't capable of experiencing the awe and rapture and breathless joy of love, then this fight would never have happened in the first place. But it had to happen, not because America is slouching toward Gomorrah, but because we are not the pale imitations of humanity the other side insists that we are. Whether or not our neighbors choose to acknowledge our humanity, it is there. It will be heard.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Please Stand By...

Last minute holiday stuff, all of which I swore I'd take care of before now, is occupying most of my time here at Casa del Garrett. Plus I have the cartoon to get ready. So if you've been wondering if I've abandoned this space, I haven't. I'm just too busy right now to post much. I'll try to add a thing or to here between now and the holidays, but it probably won't be much.

Discipline. The single biggest drain on my time at home is my computer. I not only have my face in one all day long at work, but when I get home I plop my face into the one(s) here too. I'm such a computer geek. I've installed SuSE 9 and I've been fussing with it far too many hours when I should have been getting other stuff done around here. Plus there have been chores at Space Telescope that have migrated, as they usually do, to my time here at home. I don't have to work on work stuff here at home unless I'm telecommuting, I just do because I'm a bit obsessive about it. I have to keep myself away from the damn computers here at home until I get all of my holiday stuff done.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, December 15, 2003

Intellectual Integrity Does Not Permit The Teaching Of Tolerance Without Also Teaching Hate.

This week's cartoon is up. Sorry about the slight delay...finals this week and all that. And just as a head's up, I'll be doing one more holiday cartoon next weekend and that will be it for the year. After New Year's, the cartoons will resume their regular schedule.

Intellectual Integrity Does Not Permit The Teaching Of Tolerance Without Also Teaching Hate. Or something like that. Anyway, that's what Judge Gerald Rosen, who ruled in favor of the right wing Thomas Moore Law Center (founded by Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan) seems to believe. As he systematically dismembered the Ann Arbor School system's diversity week, because student Elizabeth Hansen wasn't allowed to condemn gays, he lectured them that their little exercise in teaching tolerance "presents the ironic and unfortunate paradox of a public high school celebrating 'diversity' by refusing to permit the presentation to students of an 'unwelcomed' viewpoint on the topic of homosexuality and religion, while actively promoting the competing view." You really wonder sometimes why anti-semites never get around to suing public schools every time they try to teach the history of the holocaust, or racists don't sue whenever schools teach the history of slavery. I'll bet the Thomas Moore law center would take their cases too.

I know...I's trying to get kids to stop tormenting their homosexual peers and let them have a fighting chance to get an education that's the sticking point. A student who demanded the right to preach white supremacy during diversity week would probably not get far in court, at least until Tom Delay gets finished packing the courts with drooling morons like Rosen. But bigots like Hansen and her enablers at Thomas Moore Law center still regard inciting religious passions against gay school kids as a god given right, and unfortunately, as any gay bashed school kid who ever watched adult witnesses look the other way knows, there are a lot of adults in this world who think that gay kids have it coming, just for being what they are. That Rosen knew when he issued his opinion, that he was not simply attacking the school system's diversity week, but the right of gay kids to an education, was obvious in his protestation that he would have had the same problems with a diversity week that taught only anti-gay hate, an exercise in bullshit excuse making that ranks right down there with "some of my best friends are" in it's pathetic transparency.

Rosen wondered "what message concerning intellectual integrity the school is conveying to students by making an argument that is so transparently disingenuous and offensive in its ... attempt to torture the facts ... to justify its ultimate decision."

Like hell he wondered. It is dishonest on its face to insist that tolerance isn't tolerance unless it tolerates intolerance. Nobody makes that argument, unless tolerance is the very thing they want to destroy. The intellectual slight of hand here, is defining tolerance as the absence of judgement, and then insisting that what it amounts to is teaching kids amorality. So when you tell kids that it isn't okay to beat up the gay kids anymore, what you're really doing is attacking the very concept moral values. Beating up on innocent kids is an immoral thing to do. Teaching kids to hate is an immoral thing to do. Inciting religious passions against anyone, let alone a group of defenseless kids, is an immoral thing to do. I'm terribly sorry that in this day and age, there are still people who, while they may very well know better then to shit on the living room floor, still can't get their heads around the concept that destroying a person's ability to love, and accept love from another is not just an attack on the person, but a contemptible assault on everything fine and noble that's possible to the human race, but there it is. The one thing that stands between civilization and the jungle is our ability to love one another, to trust one another, to care what happens to one another. When you attack that, you attack everything that is possible to the human race. If preaching hate to school kids is what you call moral behavior, then it isn't just liberals and communists and secular humanists and militant homosexuals who are attacking your morals. Lets face it, everything the human line has managed to accomplish since our pre human ancestors started walking upright is an attack on your morals.

To say that the public schools should not take sides with regard to religion, isn't to say they shouldn't take sides with regard to civilization, let alone democracy. Public schools in a democracy exist to serve the public good, and part of that public good is arguably teaching kids citizenship, and what it means to be a citizen in a democracy, to get along with each other, and treat each other with respect. To argue that treating fundamentalist kids with respect means allowing them to incite hate toward their peers is to argue not only against tolerance as a moral value in itself, but against democracy as a form of government, since democracy is predicated on equality among citizens. a concept the fundamentalists loath. Their attacks may be directed at homosexuals, but their aim is at America itself.

[Edited some, for clarity]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, December 14, 2003

How much??? Uh...could you repeat that...

It's a snow mixed with sleet mixed with rain kinda day here in Baltimore, and likely in D.C. too, and thankfully they cancelled my finals today and rescheduled for Tuesday, which gives me another day to prepare. I still have Christmas wrapping and packing to do, and cards to get out, but I managed to get all my presents bought and that's early for me. When did the holidays stop being a time to take a break from the daily grind and rest?

My little Baltimore rowhouse seems to be taking this winter as well as it did the last. I'd thought I wouldn't have much time to give it some holiday decoration this year, but just getting the Christmas gift wrapping out of storage was enough to tweak my interest. Besides, a little house as pricey as this one is now, should shine a little on Christmas. The little old granny lady who lives across the street from me told me the other day that the house a few doors down had just sold for a hair under $150k. I had to stammer a request for her to repeat that, and I'm still not completely convinced, although I can see it's not impossible. The asking price was $135k and it only stayed on the market a week. I knew that sooner or later the housing madness of the D.C. suburbs would find its way to Baltimore. I'm just surprised it's happening so quickly. I only paid $90k for my little rowhouse a couple years ago, and at that, the old timers around here was stunned. Now they're completely dumbfounded. But I grew up in the D.C. suburbs, and I've seen it coming.

Already homes in Canton, which is not the best of places crime wise, are in the multiple 100k range, and those are old, narrow rowhouses. There are still plenty of good buys in Baltimore, nice neighborhoods where you can get a very good rowhouse or detached house for under 100k, but unless the economy tanks royal in the next couple of years, I wouldn't count on that staying true. On the one hand, it's nice to actually own property this time around as the prices go up and up. On the other, I know what happens to a community when housing prices go crazy, and it's not a whole lot of fun. Baltimore's housing ecology has traditionally been that the people who work here, should be able to own property here: even if it's just a little 12 to 16 foot wide noodle of land (yes, some rowhouses here are That narrow...). One of the city's biggest strengths are its block after block after block of rowhouse neighborhoods, giving the people who live and work here a stake in the city's future. For generations even the most modest of factory workers could own their own house in the city if they wanted to, thanks to those endless blocks of rowhouses.

I could wish that would always be true. Now that I'm a homeowner myself, I would wish everyone who wanted a place of their own could afford it. It really does change you, changes your whole concept of your relationship to your community. You own a piece of it, but then it, the community, owns a piece of you. The community's health is your health, and vice versa. The better it does, you do, and vice versa. You have skin in the future of the place where you live. Everyone should have this kinship to the place where they live and work. Everyone, no matter how modest their means. When you allow home ownership to fly out of the reach of everyone except the well to do, you begin the process of tearing a community apart. Back in the old days, the line between the haves and have-nots, lords and peasants, was property. Watching the housing madness in D.C., I really had a chance to see how true that still is. Democracies, in my opinion, should be keenly concerned that as many citizens as possible can own their own homes.

I see they've caught Saddam. Swell. I'm glad he's not going to be a martyr. Hopefully he'll be made to account for his crimes against his own people. But if I know anything about the American right, its that when one bogeyman leaves the stage, they get right to work building themselves another one. No more Soviet Union? No problem, there's always the threat from liberals, feminists, homosexuals, hell bent on destroying America, subverting our moral values, attacking our faith, and our families. Just like the commies were. Homosexuals, liberals, islamofascists, and so on, fill in the blanks communists once did, wherever the right needs to justify its enduring paranoid hatred of everything humanity can be, that they never will. You find yourself, even knowing that a bloodthirsty tyrant may at last get some justice served, tiredly wondering which butt the right is now going to pin the Clear And Present Danger asses tail on, which excellent adventure will now beckon our smirking fratboy slacker president. Does he learn from the experience of having a calamity with his name on it staring him in the eye, declare our work here is done, and get the hell out now when he can do it and save face, or does he, as many a gangster head of state before him has, conclude that he really is invincible, that the laws of cause and effect don't apply to him, that the next world crisis he provokes can be even bigger and better still, and he'll get away with that one too. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Yeah...that's what I think too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Light Blogging For Now...

I have a final exam on Sunday and I need to dive into preparing for it, so blogging will be a tad light until after Sunday.

I had a chance to chat a little the other day with he who is my heart's desire, and suffice to say I was walking about a foot off the ground for the rest of the day. Of such casual trivia we can imagine whole continents of dreams, which I suppose can be as fatal as they can be inspiring, but right now I feel like I can take on anything they throw at me Sunday. Love can make you fearless.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Let Me Guess...They're Worried About Russian Corruption Too...

Anyone else find just a tad too embarrassingly ironic, that the Bush gang is expressing concern about the fairness of the recent elections in Russia. Oh...Putin used the power of the state to promote his party did he? And you guys are worried that the playing field over there wasn't level are you? Oh gosh...that is a bit troubling, isn't it...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, December 8, 2003

Still Missing You...

So, love, did you watch Angels In America last night? I did, and it was everything I'd heard it was, beautiful, angry, brilliant. It's been years since I've been as entranced in front of my television. Seven years in fact. But as I recall, what entranced me then wasn't so much what I was watching, as who I was watching it with. You still remember the song...right? Yeah...

Anyway...there is a dream sequence toward the end of the first part, just before the angel arrives. Prior Walter is coping with another visit from his ancestors, and they suggest he get up and dance, and suddenly there in the room, in a kind of Fred Astaire movie set, is his old lover, Louis, whom Prior had broken up with because Louis ran out on him, and for one lovely moment they danced together (to some cheesy elevator music...I've heard it a thousand times and so have you but I can't right now recall just which tune it was...), and god they looked so beautiful very much in love...

...and last night I dreamed I was watching that sequence again, slouched in front of the television, entranced, watching these two beautiful guys in love slow dancing, and then I noticed that the music they were dancing to wasn't that elevator music, but Glenn Miller's Moonlight Serenade, and then somehow I wasn't watching, I was dancing, and you were there, and we were slow dancing, and I could feel your arms around me. And it felt so good, and I remembered that it had been so long...and then of course, I woke up.

God, how I still miss you...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, December 5, 2003

In case you haven't already noticed, blogging is light here for now. I have finals coming up and a class project due by the end of this weekend. Also the weekly cartoon, and various holiday matters to take care of now, so I'm not running around like a headless chicken on Christmas week.

Which is not to say, that I have nothing to say at the moment. Oh my no. Between the jackass bigots in Louisiana who tormented a seven year old boy because his mother is a lesbian, the crackpot federal judge in Michigan, who compared a school diversity program to nazism, and various continuing Bush gang outrages, I have a lot to say. I just don't have time to say any of it here. Monday's cartoon may handle some of it.

But I just have to say something about the following...

Bigot Nostalgia

Via TBogg, who seems to get far more pleasure then you'd think humanly possible perusing kook pew blogs, I read this little rant from Adam Yoshida, concerning a Canadian Alliance Party member who wishes that Canada had never decriminalized homosexuality:

Spencer clearly wasn't announcing that the Canadian Alliance would seek to criminalize homosexuality, he was merely musing that, in an ideal world, it would be nice to do so. He also made it quite clear that he didn't favor jailing homosexuals, but rather contemplated some other form of punishment. I agree with him: ideally, I think, laws against homosexuality would remain on the books, but only occasionally enforced. The real point of such laws is not to jail homosexuals: something which, after all, costs money. Rather, the point is to demonstrate official disapproval of homosexuality and drive it underground. We shall never be rid of gays altogether: but we can at least shove them back into the closet.

Mind you, this is the same crowd that started bellyaching about judicial tyranny before the ink was dry on the Massachusetts supreme court same sex marriage decision. We've heard it all before: Judges should enforce the law, not make law. But to argue for laws that would only be enforced "occasionally" is to argue against a rule of law altogether, in favor of a system based on the whim of the moment of whoever has the badge and gun and keys to the jailhouse. It is one of the great myths of the age, that right wingers are considered to be tough minded law and order types. Law and order is precisely what they don't want. What they want, is rule of the powerful, by the powerful, for the powerful. If you want to know what that kind of law and order looks like, see it here.

But poor Adam's wistful longings are for more then just a time when the law kept homosexuals in their place...

This does not mean that I wish gays killed or for harm to befall them: far from it. Rather, I simply wish for them to shut up and go away.

The mythology in the kook pews is that the civilized world started slouching towards gomorrah when the laws became more liberal. The races got along just fine until the hated Warren court integrated the schools, businesses and public places. Married life was the bedrock of the nation, until the law started treating women as the equal of men, and now, appallingly, started treating homosexuals as the equals of heterosexuals. Homosexuality became a plague on civilization after that, forcing people to see open displays of perversion that were once kept hidden. It's all the fault of activist judges, and liberal lawmakers. If only the old laws could be restored, then life would be swell again. Blacks and other racial minorities, women and homosexuals would know their place, and keep to it.

I'm sure they all dream of it every night. But for all their hatred of liberals and activist judges, they're discounting something else that changed profoundly from the mid twentieth century onward. It's easy to overlook, and sad to say, I think many who value liberty and justice for all do overlook it, mostly because it's really hard to imagine the world as it was before this change started taking place. They say the world has grown smaller, but even when the first commercial passenger jets from far away places began to appear in the skies, it had already become a lot smaller then it was just forty years before. It's one thing to read about race discrimination in the newspaper, and another entirely to see police unleashing dogs on peaceful demonstrators on the TV in your own living room, and another still for those images to be seen not just there, but all over the world. It gives people of conscience a decidedly clearer sense of what is really happening to their neighbors. Apart from all the newspaper opinion and rhetoric, for the first time they can, as Edward R. Murrow once said every week, see it now. But even more profoundly, it gives those who are victimized by prejudice a better sense of their own lives, their own shared experience, their own common struggle. They can see themselves.

I am of a generation of gay men, maybe the last generation, who grew up in a time when fear and loathing of homosexuals was practically universal. That homosexuals were sick degenerates, hidden lurking dangers to children and unwary adults, was everywhere regarded as self evident. It was in the literature on sex and sexuality, it was in the popular culture. Whenever and wherever homosexuality was touched upon, it was treated like a loathsome sickness, a disease, a pathology, and being a homosexual was a worse thing to be then a leper, a murderer, a rapist. And what you have to bear in mind about this time, was that this was also how most of us saw ourselves. We had no other image of homosexuality, then the one heterosexuals taught to us.

In 1968, the year of the Stonewall Rebellion, I sat in a junior high school sex education class where I and my classmates were taught that homosexuals were unstable psychotic predators, who would kill the people they lured into having sex with them, who seldom had sex with other homosexuals because they knew how dangerous it was, who preferred only children or straight males and who (I kid you not) became so excited during oral sex they often bit off the penis of the boys or men they sodomized. It was an image of homosexuals that the culture around me reenforced relentlessly, and I never thought to question it. It just was.

All we saw of other homosexuals, was what we saw through the eyes of heterosexuals. Heterosexual fear and loathing infected nearly all gay people back then, and kept us silent, kept us hidden from one another. A common thread from the stories of that time, is of adolescent gays struggling with the thought that they were the only ones who felt the way they did. As for myself, I digested the education I'd had about homosexuals and concluded that since I wasn't a murderous psychopath, I couldn't possibly be a homosexual. My tepid response to the opposite sex, and my fierce emotional attachments toward my male friends, I simply put down as normal for someone my age, and gave the matter no real thought at all, until the day in December 1971, when first love came crashing through my comfortable cocoon, and I saw myself for what I was. I could have easily been crushed by the realization, as many others were, but caught up in the awe and wonder of first love, seeing my sexual orientation in that way, at that moment, I had no doubts at all that what I had been taught about it before was crap. But even then I stayed mostly closeted, choosing the people I came out to carefully, knowing and fearing that moment when someone, some friend or family member, I dearly loved would stop seeing me for the person I was, and start seeing only the monster that we were all taught homosexuals were.

The sense of isolation is hard to comprehend nowadays, but it was a fixture in the lives of most all, but a few urban enclaves of gay people in the late 60s and early 70s. The only books about homosexuality I ever saw in those days were books written by heterosexuals, about homosexuals. And the homosexuals in them were either pathetic, or sinister mistakes of nature, most of whom knew they would be better off dead then what they were. It wasn't until 1972, with the publication of Mary Renault's magnificent novel The Persian Boy, that I read a story about homosexuals that gave our humanity its due, and without apology spoke of the righteous passion and joy that was possible to same sex lovers, in a world and culture where same sex coupling was just another fact of life. For the next several years I devoured anything of hers I could get my hands on. The first issue of The Advocate was published in 1967, in a run of only 300 copies. It wasn't until 1973 that I laid my hands on my first one: a folded up copy that some shipping clerk had stuck in among the balled up newspaper packing, in a shipment of camera equipment that I was unpacking for the store where I worked. I have always imagined since that some kind gay warehouse clerk somewhere was deliberately sticking his finished copies into the boxes he packed, to spread the word to those of us still living in unliberated territory. I stashed it into my backpack and squirreled it back home, where I read it front to back, again and again for weeks. I still have it.

Progress on gay and lesbian civil rights was slow and painful in the late 70s and the early 80s. And our slow march into the public consciousness didn't seem to be helping as much as we'd hoped. In 1975 Leonard Matlovich was pictured on a cover of Time Magazine, behind the words "I am a Homosexual". Gay activism was making us more visible, but that wasn't translating into support. The Mayor of Anchorage Alaska vetoed an anti discrimination bill, with the explanation that people should not be forced to associate with sexual deviants. Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign successfully nullified the anti discrimination bill in Miami, by a vote of 4 to 1. I remember listening to my shortwave radio the day of the election for news of the results, because it wasn't a story deemed worthy enough for the evening news. Back then there was no CNN. I remember being shocked at the size of our defeat, and the following day could not help but count the people who walked past me on my way to work...four to one...four to one...four to one...

Yet with every defeat, played out now for the world to see in the mass communications media, we saw our common struggle, and ourselves as a people, more and more clearly. Even so, the reigns of the mass media were held by the heterosexual majority. Whereas black people were agitating for more minority ownership, and women for an end to the glass ceiling, we in the gay community were making due with just our own small publications, The Advocate being really the only major national gay news source, and at that not exactly available on every small town's newsstand. For years the only places I could find the Advocate and the local gay paper, The Washington Blade, was in seedy adult bookstores. Then the AIDS crisis hit us, and for a time it seemed as if the fight had come down to one of bare survival. But while the progress toward gay and lesbian equality was slow in those days, the progress of communication technology was accelerating rapidly.

I am of a generation of Americans who grew up in an age before widespread mass communication technology, and witnessed that technology explode the cultural consciousness beyond anything ever dreamed of by Gutenberg. I remember nights spent listening to shortwave radio for the latest news from overseas. I remember when a long distance phone call from family on the other coast was an event co-ordinated first by mail, to make sure that everyone was there and ready for the preciously expensive long distance talk time. I remember the first televised images from Europe via Telstar. I remember gawking at our television set when Armstrong placed the first human footsteps on the moon. I remember seeing my first color TV, hearing my FM stereo music. I remember gawking at a friend's Betamax video tape recorder, and thrilling to the possibility that someday I could record my favorite TV shows and movies to play back whenever I wanted. I remember seeing one of the first cell phones. I still remember fondly my first computer, a little Commodore C64. I remember having my first chats with people I would never meet in person on primitive single line dialup bulletin board Systems (BBS), so called because they provided places were users could leave a plain text message for every other user on the system to read, and comment on, like an office bulletin board. These little computer systems may not seem like they are obviously relevant to the gay civil rights struggle, but I tell you, the technology they heralded are the engine that is now driving it. What changed things for homosexuals forever wasn't that America suddenly decided to belly flop into the deep end of the sin pool and embrace homosexuality. What happened wasn't that straight America has a sudden change of heart and started listening to the concerns of gay Americans. What happened was that we were suddenly able to talk freely and directly to one another, no matter where we lived. I remember vividly, the moment I saw what that meant.

Before the Internet became a household word, there were networks of small amateur PC BBSs. These ran on small desktop computers hooked up to the household telephone. Though a series of simple, ingenious make-dos, people managed to get their BBS systems networked so messages could be sent from system to system. The Fido BBS system and other BBS software such as Opus and Binklyterm, begat all sorts of small amateur networks, which even before the Internet went commercial, were reaching around the globe, connecting people in their homes, in big cities and small rural villages, with others all around the country and around the world. In the mid 80s I frequented a BBS system that carried a gchat forum called Gaylink. People posted to that forum from all over America, and all across the globe, talking about various goings on in their community, politics, and general chit-chat. It was like listening to the conversation at any bar, but without the bad music, smoke and background noise. One day, a post turned up from the Netherlands. The poster said he was fourteen years old, and thought he might be gay, but he wasn't sure. How did we know, he asked us. What was it like for us?

And from literally all over the world, this kid got gay coming of age stories. Some were about sudden moments of realization, others of long painful journeys of denial and eventual self acceptance. For some it was a matter of always knowing they were different somehow. For others it was a sudden flush of desire for a classmate or a neighbor. I posted my tale, which I later expanded into an essay. Others posted theirs. Soon we were all savoring the moment, sharing an important passage in our lives, something we all had in common, not just with the kid, but with each other. It went on for two weeks. Then the kid posted another short and to the point message. He thanked us all, and said we'd given him a lot to think about. I never saw him post there again.

Now, maybe he was just young and confused. Remembering my sex education class back when I was fourteen, and the quality of the teaching in it, I couldn't fault anyone that age for being more then a tad confused about sex. Maybe he wasn't what he represented himself as being. But sure as hell for that one kid posting on that forum, there were hundreds more in his same boat, gay and lesbian kids and adults alike, quietly lurking, desperately wanting those same answers.

And I saw then, just what the new technology was doing for us. For the first time in human history I think, no matter where we lived, whether it was in the most liberal, or lonely hostile places on earth, we never had to be isolated from each other again. We could talk to one another, see ourselves in each other, see our lives for what they really were, not exclusively from the vantage point of someone else's misinformation, or outright prejudice. We didn't have to beg the mass media for notice. We didn't have to learn how to read between the lines whenever a story about homosexuals made the news. We no longer had to see ourselves, though heterosexual eyes. We had the community, finally, of one another, and it was one we had made entirely for ourselves. And what we saw when we looked at each other, urban gay activists, suburban middle class gays, and isolated rural gays alike, weren't psychopaths or pathetic degenerates, but decent, hard working people, as diverse as any random group of people, struggling to be sure against prejudice and hate, but living and loving in ways in the aggregate that were little different from those of our neighbors. We looked at each other and saw people, not monsters, and that was when self hate forever lost its iron grip on us.

If it seems like the pace of progress on gay and lesbian civil rights is accelerating, that's not because, as Scalia said, the courts have bought into a "law-profession culture" that has bought into "the homosexual agenda". It's because, simply, people who know their own self worth don't just passively accept second class citizenship. So much, so obvious. It's been well noted in the days since Hardwick v. Bowers, that Justice Powell, who later said he didn't think the case was all that important, had a gay clerk, and that had the gay clerk been out to him, the case may have gone differently, and homosexual Americans might not have had to bear the weight of the sodomy laws on our lives for another decade and a half. Without a doubt many, if not all the justices on the court that decided Lawrence, and the ones in Massachusetts, and the various heterosexual members of legislative bodies around the world struggling with homosexual civil rights issues, know personally one or more homosexual people: but more then that, the homosexuals they know, know their own self worth, know that their love is every bit as real and sacred as that of heterosexual lovers. What appealing to the pity of strangers could never do, fighting for the honor and dignity and the righteousness of love can, and will.

Now, the anti-gay right can pass a constitutional amendment banning all legal recognition of our unions. It can re-establish the sodomy laws and start flinging us in jail. It can abolish all anti discrimination laws that protect us. It can mandate the teaching of every filthy lie they ever heard about homosexuals and homosexuality to children of all ages. But for precisely the same reason the communists in China couldn't massacre thousands of their own people in Tiananmen Square on a Sunday night, and then tell the world on Monday morning that it never happened, the homophobes can not make us believe their lies, can not make us hate ourselves the way they hate us any more. They can not silence us, or make us accept less then full equality, because we are not ashamed. If you understand nothing else about your homosexual neighbors and our struggle all these years for equal rights, and for our place at the table, you should understand this:

Those days are over.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Just Wondering...

Brent Bozell is a tad perplexed:

Why can't a character be portrayed as earnestly believing that negroes are inferior to whites, and that race segregation is necessary for the good of the white race, without being caricatured as a violent hater? Answer: because Hollywood has an agenda.

Well...okay...that's not exactly what he said:

Why can't a character be portrayed as earnestly believing homosexuality to be morally wrong, and a sin that should be avoided, without being caricatured as a violent hater? Answer: because Hollywood has an agenda.

And of course, Hollywood doesn't do that. Archie Bunker, a character brought to television by the oh so staunchly conservative Norman Lear, wasn't portrayed as violent, or even so much as a hater, then a loud mouthed ignoramus. Not to say that Bozell, whose uncle was once a champion of race segregation, would like that characterization any better. Still, the Archie bunker character is as much a staple of Hollywood's portrayal of prejudice as the fat and lazy southern sheriff.

Certainly, as in the case of the southern sheriff, such characters can be offensive if they stereotype a whole category of people as innately prejudiced. But Bozell is arguing that prejudice itself should be treated with more respect, specifically anti-gay prejudice, as a perfectly legitimate moral viewpoint, and there's the rub. Because the essence of prejudice is precisely its refusal to distinguish between truth and lies, between seeing your neighbors as they really are, verses seeing them as your conceits and the dark paranoias of your inner savage tell you they must be. To portray in art the lives of bigots, and the way people and societies deal with prejudice, in simplistic stereotypes cheats the viewer, because the subject is rich and many layered, and always and in all ages and cultures important. But it is impossible to honestly portray prejudice as moral, simply because it isn't. Theologians can debate the qualities of sin on their own ghostly terms, but there is no such thing as a morality that upholds lies over truth.

Which brings me to a question of my own: Since when does a bald faced liar merit anyone's regard as a defender of morality?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Art Geek...Computer Geek...Kitchen Geek...

A cute little fifties Hamilton-Beach stand mixer I owned died recently, with a bang like a small pistol going off inside my kitchen. Whatever shorted out inside of it, took a right amount of the motor windings with it. Little tiny beads of copper are everywhere inside of the thing. I was standing right over it when it happened, scraping the mixing bowl with a spatula while it worked on one of my fish fry batters, and I suppose it was a lifetime of playing with firecrackers that kept me from hitting the ceiling. As it was, I had to sit down for a minute and contemplate the thought that I could have been adjusting the little metal speed lever on the side of its solid chrome plated steel casing when it happened. I suppose then maybe the blue spark I saw would have been the one inside my eyes.

That was probably the end of my fetish for 50s household appliances. They're cool looking, and they have enormous nostalgia value for a guy who spent his childhood gawking at the various gizmos in his mother's kitchen. But the new gizmos are much better at their jobs then the old ones, and a hell of a lot safer. I've either retired or sold most of the old ones I'd collected over the years, replacing them one at a time with newer equipment that I didn't have to worry about killing me or burning down my house. As I took the stand mixer down to my basement workshop for a postmortem, a little voice inside me was saying, "Let's hear it for double insulation..."

You may have had to live through the 70s to get part of the appeal I once saw in the older kitchen appliances. For some reason, everything got cheaper and cheesier in the 70s. From automobiles to toasters, nearly everything you bought was just cheap, throw it out when it breaks junk. In the older appliances I saw stuff from a time when things were made solid and to last. It's always been a rule with me that any tool I buy has to be solid enough to be the last one I'll ever need. I'd bought older appliances for what I thought was its solid construction, as much as I just loved the way it looked. But even the old stuff had its limits, and the new stuff, now as solid or better then the stuff made in the 50s, is also just plain safer to plug into a live outlet.

I went out and bought a KitchenAid stand mixer that afternoon, a kitchen tool I'd been coveting for ages. Now that I've had a few weeks to work with it I'm wondering why I hadn't bought one long ago. Well...I know why; I never considered myself cook enough to warrant one of those things before now. I'd glance at one at the Williams-Sonoma or the Hecht's, and maybe paw at it for a while, examine the planetary mechanism, rap a knuckle against its solid metal case, and then turn away, thinking that it was a gross extravagance for someone of my meager kitchen abilities. I still don't consider myself any great shakes in the kitchen, though my fish fry is well liked in the neighborhood, but considering that just ten years ago my diet mainly consisted of sandwiches and TV dinners, I'm doing pretty good actually. And the more confidence I get in the kitchen, the more want to try.

I bought one of the little 325 watt, five quart artisan models, in the crinkly black finish that reminds me of the old fifties stuff. It's a little wonder, with an amazingly torquey motor that I think only my table saw, and maybe my router, outrank. Having it gave me some encouragement to try some new things in the kitchen. Just tonight, I made some peanut butter cookies from scratch, my first attempt at making cookies, and it was a pure pleasure from the moment I began to smell the unbaked dough taking shape, to the moment I munched down on first one, the whole house full of the aroma of fresh baked cookies. Life is sweet.

What I learned today about cookies: they're mostly sugar, with some other stuff added in to hold the sugar together. Well...maybe not quite that...but fricken close to it. The other thing I finally learned was to read a recipe like it was sheet music, not like it was source code. I would stress over getting every last speck of ingredient exact, as though I was making sure I had the right number of close brackets, and it never works because some stuff just sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl, or the measuring cup or the spatula, and you'll never get it all exact. The things to worry about are things like, where do you go to get the best fish, or the good meats, dairy stuff and veggies. I've tweaked my fish fry batter this way and that and no one thing makes the difference as much as how good the hake was, unless it's what kind of oil I use (right now I'm using peanut oil). A recipe is like sheet music, and what you do with it, is that particular performance of it. You try to get every one right, but you have to accept, actually you have to enjoy the fact, that each performance is its own thing.

I used to wonder at people who never ate frozen, ready made food, but always made up everything from scratch, even after a busy work day, when they didn't have much time or energy for cooking. I thought they were a tad obsessive. But damn if it isn't better eating that way. I don't think I'll ever eat ready made cookies again. I've got maybe eight TV dinners in the freezer left, and they may just be my last. Don't look for me to be baking my own bread just yet though.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Serves Me Right For Even Looking At My Television, During A Bush Year Thanksgiving...

I think Thanksgiving is a time for good food, if not necessarily traditional food: a time to sweat in the kitchen and put your very best on the table and enjoy it thoroughly, as a way of both acknowledging and celebrating the sweetness of life, and the work and art it takes to make life sweet. So this year I brought forth my best fish fry, culled from a whole year's experimenting and tweaking the process, and then passed some around to neighbors. Word of mouth among my neighbors is that when Bruce does a fish fry you have to have some, a fact I take a great deal of pride in, seeings as how just ten years ago I couldn't make mashed potatoes without an instant mix box. Moving into my own apartment with my own kitchen ten years ago, has done wonders since for my diet (not to mention Williams-Sonoma's bottom line...).

I stuffed myself contentedly full of things I would never have imagined I could cook up before I had my own kitchen to cook in, let alone cook well. Then feeling a bit like Tux, the Linux penguin, I took one of my best cigars from my humidor, lit up, and took a stroll though the neighborhood, taking in the cheerful sights and sounds of the holidays season starting, and quietly thanking my maker for all the good things in my life. I have a lot to be thankful for. A job I'd never dreamed of having. A home of my own I'd never dreamed of having. Very good health at fifty. I can see improvement in my drawing skills after another year of cartooning. 100 percent scores on all my classwork this semester (well...except for one 97). Old friends. My brother and his family. The support still, of my mom's cousin and her family. Many undriven roads in the southwest, still waiting for me to follow them were they go. Okay...I'm still single...but I'm still not despairing. Some day I'll find my soul mate...someday...he's out there...I just know it...someday... I can be thankful at least, that I still haven't given up.

Then I have to go and spoil it all by flipping on the TV to check the news. Sweet Jesus, the smirking fratboy and his handlers have pulled another publicity stunt, and all the network news faces are going all giggly. Steely-eye rocket man is back, and you could see the relief in their eyes, like death row inmates granted a late reprieve. The racket still has some life in it! Maybe we won't loose our shirts after all... This time I didn't see all the cod piece shots I saw last time. Maybe someone figured out that an empty codpiece on a war ship is bad luck.

This was supposed to show the public how brave AWOL is, and all that...right? And I'd even be inclined to grant him that moment of bravery too, since this stunt involved a non-trivial bit of risk, going into a hostile war zone after all, if it wasn't for the fact that he's been such a pusillanimous coward regarding his wars' ever mounting butcher's bill. he going to greet the coffins coming home now, like Bill Clinton did? Like Ronald Reagan did? But the risk there isn't that you come face to face with the enemy, but face to face with yourself.

It was almost worth it to listen to the news media note the expertly choreographed deceit regarding the smirk's Thanksgiving movements, and then solemnly remind the American public that presidents sometimes have to lie. No kidding. And if this president lied sometimes, then Americans wouldn't be dying on a near daily for the sake of right wing swagger and war profiteering, and there would still be some semblance of international law and order in the world, and America would still have its good name, and a living representational democracy as a beacon of hope to the oppressed of the world instead of a dying one, and we would all be a lot better off then we are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Why, I'm Just A Big Old Fag Hag Who Loves My Gay Friends All To Pieces...Unnatural Mistakes Of Nature Though They Are...

Le Dance choreographed by Kathleen Parker:


I figure I'm a fairly typical middle-of-the-road heterosexual married woman when I say: I love gays...


...and, well, the whole gay thing...


...I love all my gay friends and relatives...


...not to mention my hairdresser...


...I love what gays do to urban neighborhoods...


...I love gay humor, gay style...


...and whatshisname in "My Best Friend's Wedding."...


...I was what we used to call a "fag hag'...


...Thanks to my very best friendship with my gay first cousin, I've had many a gay time as a token belle in the heart of San Francisco's Castro district...


...In other words, no one who knows me would call me a homophobe...


Leaving God out of the equation, it is irrefutable that Nature had a well-ordered design. Male plus female equals offspring. It is a certainty that male/male and female/female unions don't meet Nature's standard. They may occur "naturally' in that one does not consciously elect to Be Gay, but such unions fall short of any design that matches Nature's intentions.

Le Curtian...Applaus a Voux...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

This Damn 8-Ball Isn't Giving Me The Right Fortune

While reading this Newsday article on Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's opposition to same sex marriage, and his vow to amend the constitution of Massachusetts to reserve marriage to heterosexuals only, the following passage stuck out:

"Everyone knows where the governor stands on gay marriage. He made it clear last year," said Romney's communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom. "His position on the issue is consistent and principled."

While his opposition to gay marriage may not improve his approval rating in liberal circles, it could be helpful on the national stage if the telegenic governor tries to parlay his reputation for financial savvy and as the savior of the Salt Lake Olympics into a run for higher office.

"My guess is that being opposed to gay marriage outside of Massachusetts and maybe Vermont is probably a very popular decision," Edwards said.

Whether the spotlight of history will be as kind is less clear, depending on the ultimate outcome of the court's decision and whether gay marriage ultimately becomes as widely accepted as other once-controversial unions such as interracial marriage.

"If people could look in the crystal ball and figure out what their legacy will be, it would be a lot easier to figure out the right thing to do," said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts.

No. That's not how you figure out the right thing to do. And let it be said, I don't think this is the calculation the anti-gay opposition is making either. They know where they stand in relation to the progress of human rights and civilization: they hate it, they hate those of us who build and sustain it, and they sure don't give a rats ass what we think of them. They know they're on the loosing side of history here, and that's why the push is on to amend the constitution, to lock in the prerogative of hate for generations to come. Their only concern, image wise, is that they can maintain the fiction of compassionate conservatism long enough, that they can do as much damage as they can now, so that it will take generations to undo, and that long after their myths, lies and superstitions about homosexuals have been consigned to the gutter where they came from, and homosexual people enjoy the full measure of friendship and support from our fellow Americans, hate, in the form of laws severely limiting our rights as citizens, will still be having its last laugh over all of us, gay and straight Americans alike. Something for them to relish in the years to come: even as the rest of the country is trying to move on from hate, the sight of hate still laying claim to the lives of the hated, and the nation powerless to finally put a stop to it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Al Capone Would Have Called What Happened To Him Judicial Tyranny Too

I was reading this editorial in the Christian Science Monitor, normally one of the few sane religious organs in the country, about the Massachusetts supreme court ruling on same sex marriage. Two things struck me. First, they approvingly assert that "...the debate has been usefully framed by the winning and losing opinions in the Massachusetts decision." That's crap. Here's their view of the other side's usefulness:

The majority compared the rule against same-sex marriages to old laws that prevented marriages between whites and racial minorities. "The marriage ban works a deep and scarring hardship on a very real segment of the community for no rational reason," in not giving gay couples - and their children - the benefits and protections of marriage, the majority wrote.

But does a state really discriminate against a gay individual by saying he or she can marry only someone of the opposite sex?

The marriage law "creates no distinction between the sexes, but applies to men and women in precisely the same way," the minority wrote. "Similarly, the marriage statutes do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation."

...which of course, is exactly the same rational racists once used to assert that laws against mixed race marriages weren't discriminatory. Everyone must marry someone of their own race, therefor the law applies to white people and coloreds in the precisely the same way. Furthermore, for the minority in that decision to claim that "the marriage statutes do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation." is just brazen denial. If a law were enacted that forbade christian religious worship, could the state plausibly argue that it didn't discriminate on the basis of religion, because everyone, even atheists, had to obey it? That's just self serving claptrap. Of course the marriage statutes discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and of course the judges in the minority know that, and so do the editors at the Christian Science Monitor.

The other thing that struck me was this, which has been a constant refrain in the struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights:

Judges and lawmakers in the US should not get trapped into a debate over whether marriage is a state's way to protect society's interest in procreation. Clearly, that question has been settled: Legislatures do regulate marriage.

Rather, they should settle whether the issue of same-sex marriage should be decided in the public arena of legislative action or in the private chambers of a few judges.

You hear it over and over again, in this struggle, just as you heard it over and over again during the struggle against race segregation. Unelected judges shouldn't be overruling the will of the majority. But that is exactly what they have to do, when the majority acts illegally. The courts are not supposed to take sides. A dead pig on a stick could see that the Massachusetts supreme court had no other choice but to rule in favor of the gay plaintiffs in the case. As the majority said, the Massachusetts constitution is clear:

The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.

They made the only ruling they could, in the context of the law they were asked to examine, and the constitution they were required to judge it against. But that was exactly what the people now venting against this decision didn't want. What they wanted, what they still want, is for their power of numbers against a smaller minority of citizens, to override the power of the law. There's another term for that: Mob Rule. And mobs are the useful tools of fascists.

This is why there is no dialogue possible with the right. They never say what they mean, they never put their ideas on the table, they only dispense self serving rhetoric, as designed to obfuscate, as it is to incite. Whenever you hear them yap, yap, yapping about letting the voters decide, not judges, it's a scam, because if they really wanted the voters to decide, they'd make an honest case for their positions, instead of throwing into the public discourse the most volatile rhetoric their think tanks can conjure up to sway a mob in their favor. The complaint that the courts are usurping the prerogative of legislators, is actually an argument in disguise against an impartial judiciary, an argument that the courts should defer not to the law, but to power. An impartial judiciary exists as a check to the power of the statehouse. Courts cannot make law, but they can and must hold the laws that the statehouse enacts accountable to the constitution that governs all. An argument that minority rights must be decided by the statehouse, not the courts, is an argument against an impartial judiciary. It is an argument, against the kind of check and balance government America has, and which is the most effective way of keeping democratic societies stable, peaceful and productive yet devised.

But the right hates democracy, precisely because it is an institution premised against the prerogatives of power, granting every citizen equality, liberty and justice. Beneath the argument against an impartial judiciary, is an argument that America should be divided into first, and second class citizens, with of course, themselves at the top. But they never say so. What they say in cases like this, is "Look...look...activist judges are taking away your rights..." But in a nation where the judiciary is not impartial, there are no rights, only the will of the powerful.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, November 21, 2003

In Which Yours Truly Gets A Little Intemperate

James Lileks throws a turd at Iraqi blogger Salam Pax, who is a tad impertinent for Mr. Bleat's liking. Since before, and during the war, Salam Pax has been sending posts from Iraq that, along with those of a few other brave Iraqis, have been priceless for those of us who are actually interested in how this war is going, as opposed to passively content to ingest whatever the White House wants to tell us about it. Too bad for Salam Pax, that he was destined to be liberated and delivered into a bright and wonderful democratic future, by men whose love for democracy is matched only by Fred Phelps' love of homosexuals.

It begins with Salam Pax article in The Guardian, an open letter to Bush on his visit to England, that was somewhat less then worshipful:

I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service.
To which, Lileks, ever the voice of thoughtful measured, high-principled conservatism responds, "Fuck You." and then proceeds to 1) wave a dead American soldier in front of Salam Pax like his corpse was some kind of voodoo doll, and 2) for good measure, kicks a few graves of Salam Pax's family and friends who Saddam murdered...and then tells him to grow up.

Lileks is like that cross-eyed noose picking lamebrain with the Nixon or Reagan button you knew back in school, whose chief talent in a social studies debate wasn't in how well he could out think the opposition, so much as how many people he could manage to piss off without even thinking about what he was saying. So here I am, with more of his unmitigated crap in my face, and I read his crack at Salam Pax's murdered family and friends and yours truly just blew a cork, and responded...thusly:

Hey...Jim... Fuck You.

After all...your delicate little ass isn't exactly in the line of fire over there, now is it? Stones? Stones?'s Your goddamn rifle, you pathetic Life Magazine dumpster diver. I'd say it takes a stones to talk back to an occupying power, and I'd say you know it too, and I'd say that seeing that between the lines courage in Salam Pax' article is exactly what set your teeth on edge, wasn't it James? What nerve this Iraqi has, wagging his finger at our fearless leader. How arrogant, how Ungrateful, how Fuck you.

Nice to see you admitting that you're not brave enough to start a revolution, but it's just plain hilarious to read your confession that in his place you'd lived like him, with your head down. So what makes you think you aren't now James? You're the one who made the bargain with power, against the powerless, and you did it for the reason all cowards do: because selling out was easier then taking the kicks and punches life throws at someone with a conscience. Remember this?
An old friend who still believes what we believed in college took me to task the last time we met, and wondered where Mr. Middle Ground had gone, why I no longer seemed interested in finding commonality. The simple answer is that there is no common ground with people who think you're a political leper, a winged monkey in the service of a green-skinned Nancy Reagan in a witch's hat. Respect works both ways, and if it's not returned, then something changes. There's a difference between thinking someone's strategies are wrong, and thinking them a knave who acts from ignorance at best, and more likely acts from malice. If that's what you think, I am not interested in changing your mind. I am not interested in working together. I am not interested in suffering your insults or your condescension or any other form your preconceptions take. I am interested in defeating you, and getting down to work with the people who come in your place, and grant me the respect I'll give them.
-James Lileks
That's really swell James...except that if all you manage to do along the way to defeating your enemies is Prove that you are a knave who acts from ignorance and malice then I haven't a clue where those bright eyed ass kissers you're looking for to work with are going to come from. And...let's face it...if people were calling you a winged monkey in the service of Nancy Reagan in a witch's hat back in your Mr. Middle Ground days, then you were probably as Mr. Middle Ground as Rush Limbaugh is Mr. Sweetness And Light. It's a routine whine from every raving homophobe I know of, that homosexuals just hurl insults at them for standing up for what is moral and right, as opposed to calling their ignorance and malice for precisely what it is.

It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, and that courage is something you've probably figured out by now that you will only know, by how much you detest the sight of it in others. No, there is no possible dialogue with right wing ass wipes like you Lileks, and that's not because everyone else in America just likes to insult and condescend to you, it's because none of your kind put your ideas on the table for dialogue to begin with. What you put out there is one half backed lie after another, after another, after another, throwing them like grit into the machinery of American politics. You don't have a dialogue with lies, you expose them. Like for instance, the rational(s) for the war with Iraq. If you and your pals in the kook pews knew what having the courage of your convictions meant, you'd have stated the case for war you believed in, instead of the case you thought would persuade. But you couldn't stand up for what you believed in, you kept your head down, and now that things are going somewhat less swimmingly then advertised you're busy vilifying everyone pointing that fact out, instead of taking responsibility. Coward. And no, your problem with dissenters isn't that you really think they're America Haters, but that they're doing the one thing you couldn't do, stand up for what they believe, and that, and that alone, is why you want to defeat them. They remind you of what it was you sold out, and for what.

It's because Salam Pax isn't living with his head down that he's pissing you off. And seeing that courage you responded to it exactly like a coward would: You kicked the graves of his friends and family murdered by Saddam, and told him to grow up. No, you drooling moron, they are exactly why he, and many Iraqis like him, and many Americans who never, never, never want that to happen here, are more adult then you will ever manage to become. Some people know from first hand experience what the risks are in speaking up to power. Some people know what happens when power comes to see itself as its own justification. Then there are sycophants like you, insisting against the background of bombs and blood, that unilateral and absolute power isn't so bad, so long as you're on the right side of it. So it goes, in the Neocon Never-Never land. But only a child, or perhaps, as you put it, a "pervy slab of albino Play-Doh" (is your racism reflexive, or opportunistic? Just curious...), would prefer to live in their own imaginary world. That's not where grown-ups live. What part of being under the thumb of a totalitarian despot is it that you think you know better then Salam Pax, or any dirt poor Iraqi living in the rubble that was once their home, grieving their lost loved ones, and not being sufficiently grateful to president drunken fratboy jackass for their liberation, that looks more and more like just another rape of their country, by a strongman and his gang of thugs who could not care less what happens to the people who live there. are things going in Afghanistan these days?

You know James, I'd consider entertaining the idea that you really, no really, give a flying fuck about that dead Minnesotan, recently killed in president AWOL's splendid little war, had you ever showed the slightest shred of critical interest in the war, as opposed to passing along every jackass excuse for it like farts from Neocon beans. But your indifference to the war itself is as marked as your indifference to its casualties, and it's telling. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed at our hands since this war began...and you can argue that it is less suffering then they endured at the hands of Saddam, and you can argue that civilian casualties are Saddam's fault not ours, and you can argue that they are regrettable but necessary for the good of all, but getting steamed because the Iraqis aren't treating us like saviors while we're still busy bombing the fuck out of them, destroying more of their country and killing more innocent bystanders every fucking day is just pathetic. Someone with half a brain and more common sense then a Bush fanboy like you would at least wait for the job to be nearly done, and that bright and shining future we promised the Iraqi people was at least within sight, before expecting laurels. But that's not you is it James? With your kind it's always praise first, results later...maybe. You took your conscience around behind the barn and shot it Before you started your web log...didn't you?

You don't want respect and honor for the dead, you just want to throw other people's blood around as though that makes up for the fact that there is no glory in armchair warfare. Well...fuck you. Or did I say that already? Fuck you.

-Bruce Garrett
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, November 20, 2003

As A Matter Of Character, He Should Have Let Florida Count Its Votes.

The opportunity, according to many Republican strategists, is a rich one. They can now use gay marriage to motivate base voters as well as to pry swing voters away from the Democratic Party. They can push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. They can, in other words, milk this for all it is worth...

...As a matter of character, Mr. Bush should resist an appeal to bigotry and divisiveness, no matter what his strategists advise.

The Washington Post
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Yes...If The Republicans Manage To Amend The Constitution To Ban Same Sex Marriages, That Would Be A Bad Outcome. On The Other Hand, You Can't Expect Me To Hold Them Accountable For Doing It.

Deep Thinker Chris Miller at the Independent (sic) Gay Forum lists the possible best and worst outcomes of the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision:

The worst outcome: Massachusetts amends its state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, and the ruling gives a huge push to efforts to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment now in Congress, which would amend the U.S. Constitution in the same permanently restrictive manner.

What's missing from all this heavy analysis is the direction that amendment is coming from. Here's a hint, in case he was too busy thinking deeply to read about it:

Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Today's decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violates this important principle. I will work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.

-President Five to Four

Ass kissers like Miller like to wave around the fact that there are democrats that support amending the constitution too, thereby absolving the republican party for being the instigator and primary engine of anti-gay legislation in the United States. Years of Log Cabin kissing up to the republicans has bought them a president who is more then willing to use the power of his office to write second class citizenship into the Constitution of the United States for every gay and lesbian America now living today, and for generations to come. Nice work people! The rhetoric has always been that the democrats take the gay vote for granted, and that by supporting republicans we could give them reason to support us. But if that support is unconditional, then why would they?

I think after decades of democratic spinelessness on the issue of Gay and Lesbian civil rights, gay people would be more then willing to jump ship at the first sign of republican willingness to make real in our lives, things the democrats would only promise. But that's the rub, the republicans seem to think that if we are willing to accept lip service from the democrats, we ought to be willing to accept it from them. The problem with that calculation, is that republican lip service comes with republican gay bashing. The democrats in the 80s and 90s may not have done much for us, but they didn't do much to us either. With the republicans it's always been clear, that they'll give us lip service, only on the condition that we treat their gay bashing as the equivalent of democratic indifference. This, let it be said, is the same bargain they're asking of black America, and of women, and of other American minorities. We're the Big Tent party. See how tolerant we are...we'll let you sit in the tent with us while we rip your lives and all your hopes and dreams to bloody shreds!

There is no mistaking the anti-gay agenda of this president and his party for what it is. None. So the question fairly becomes this: how much do their gay supporters detest those of us, who still hold fast to the dream of gay and lesbian equality? Some collaborators act from fear. Some, from that bottomless hatred of their fellow countrymen that comes from being reminded every time you see one, what it was you sold out, and for what.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

South Carolina Andrew. You Saw It There. And You Still Embraced Him. Remember That Moment?

The blog world chatter after the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, and president Sodomy Laws Are An Expression Of The Moral Values Of The People announced his intention to work with like minded congressional leaders to overturn it, was how Andrew Sullivan would squirm his way this time, around the obvious fact that his black velvet Sinatra is the worst thing to happen to gay and lesbian civil rights since the Warren Court.

Not that anyone had to wait long...

The best national response is to leave Massachusetts alone to figure it all out. The far right's nuclear bomb - a drastic attempt to write the permanent disenfranchisement of gay citizens into the founding document of the entire country - is the last thing Massachusetts or any other state needs. Yesterday, the president mercifully didn't commit explicitly to that. The official statement read:
Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Today's decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violates this important principle. I will work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.
I'm not sure what this can mean.

What it means: You're Bush's lawn jockey Andrew. If you can't walk away from his gallery of useful idiots now, you never will. Never. Come next election day you'll be stumping for a man determined to eliminate every possibility of any small shred of legal recognition for same sex couples, and busily vilifying the one who said he would at least support some form of civil unions, if not marriage outright. Go find Fred Phelps and give him a kiss Andrew, because his fixation and hatred of homosexuals mirrors exactly yours of democrats and liberals, right down to the grim determination to hold onto it, even when it's cutting your own throat.

All your words, all your fine noble words about same sex marriage, and the rights and dignity of gay and lesbian people, and even if you really meant every word of it, that still wouldn't make a whit of difference, since you can't bring yourself to act like you meant any of it. You hate democrats too much, and value the sacred and righteous love between same sex lovers not enough, to make a difference in the fight to secure that love.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Of Course, Some Things Are Just More Important Then A Few Dead American Soldiers

Atrios really nails one big time.

I'm sure covering M.J. 24/7 will be loads of fun - what could be more fun than a a freak of a celebrity molesting a 12 year old boy?!? But, I don't think Sgt. Timothy L. Hayslett would appreciate it receiving more coverage than what he's doing in Iraq. What he was doing, that is, before he died. What, you didn't hear his name before? Yah, me neither. Maybe Lou Dobbs slipped it in there after ranting about the horrible evil of the new "Bad Santa" movie. Maybe I just missed it.



Go read the rest of it. Hell...send a copy to every god damn news outlet in your neck of the woods.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

On The Other Hand, Maybe It Is The End Of The World

John, a friend of mine, sent me this important news article a while ago. It gives me pause...

Traditional marriage in America comes to an end

Thousands of formerly ardent Christians filed for divorce this morning, as others raped their children and household pets, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that gay people are citizens too.

"My marriage is over," spoke one upset Christian as he dry-humped the fender of a parked car. "My marriage isn't worth anything," he insisted. "I feel no connection to my wife and children and I just want to do whatever I please, when it pleases me to do it." With that he turned to a passing elderly woman and shouted for her to reveal her "tits."

This same scene is being repeated over & over again, on every street in every city & town in America. Once devoted parents & spouses, America's Christians are denouncing any bonds between themselves and their families as they embark on a binge of sex, drugs and socialism.

"We warned you that this would happen," insisted one anti human rights activist. "We told you that gay citizens enjoying equal rights would destroy marriage, the family and even Christianity itself. And now it's happened," he said. "You should have listened to us. If you had, I wouldn't of had to have sex with three different strange men in a public restroom this morning."


Congress was quick to pass an appropriations bill funding the thousands of new orphanages needed to care for the abandoned children. It is hoped that this is only a temporary measure and that Christians will yet accept the financial reponsibility for their families, even if they no longer love them and insist on masturbating in public.

Okay...maybe things aren't this bad. On the other hand, if not, then why the hell don't they just shut the fu*k up, get on with their lives, and just leave ours the hell alone. They're not gonna leave their marriages, simply because we can have our unions legally recognized. They're not gonna renounce their faith, they're not gonna take a bellyflop into the sin pool. they don't really believe all the crap they're saying about the danger to family and society same sex marriage represents. So they're just trying to justify their hate, and maybe fan a little more in the process. On the other hand, if the righteous faithful don't start leaving their families in droves to live in wanton sin and despair, then people are gonna start knowing they were talking crap all this time, and that couldn't be good for their image. Well...such as it is. So maybe a few good conservatives should now take the job in hand, and get to work gambling taking drugs divorcing their wives, having affairs with much younger women, fathering children out of wedlock, soliciting sex from pre teen girls, and coming on to boys, as a way of proving to the rest of the country that they were right all along about what would happen if gays got the right to marry.

Uhm...oh. Never mind...

John also says that usually we're knee deep in hypocrisy. Today we're on stilts. Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

What Jacob Bronowski Called The Light, In Which The Outlines Of Good And Evil Can Be Seen In Frightful Clarity.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court said today, that liberty and justice are not heterosexual prerogatives:

The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.

The Massachusetts constitution is the oldest operational constitution in the United States. Written by John Adams it was ratified in 1780, seven years before the U.S. constitution. It begins thusly:

The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquillity their natural rights, and the blessings of life...

...and in its original form, went on to say:

All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

That clause was later amended to add the following line:

Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.

There are those however, who think this violates a more fundamental principal:

Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Today's decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violates this important principle. I will work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.

-President Five to Four

The "Sacred Institution" they're keen to preserve here isn't the institution of marriage though; it's the institution of gay bashing. What is being established here, in the civilized world, and more slowly, in the United States with it's ball and chain of Fundamentalism, is that homosexual people are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That we have the right to seek redress in the courts for wrongs done to us. That we have the right to assert the protection of the law for ourselves, and our households, as would any other citizen of the United States. That concept is anathema to the American fascist right, and not just because they regard homosexuals with the same feral hatred that they once openly visited upon jews and blacks, but more essentially, because the entire concept of democracy, with its bedrock of equality and freedom of conscience, is anathema to them. Same sex marriage scares them not for the picture they paint of a wholesale destruction of family life in America, rhetoric that is ludicrous on its face, but for the simple, powerful idea that is its bedrock, the idea that is the bedrock of America: That we all equal, that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To fight for Same Sex marriage, is to rededicate ourselves to the American Dream.

So is it any surprise, that a man who raped the electoral process to sit in the white house, and who has governed ever since on the basis of looking his fellow Americans in the eye and lying through his teeth at them over and over again, like the only thing he ever learned about democracy as a school kid was how much he hated it, how deeply he loathed the entire concept of common people, lesser people, ordinary people, having the same rights and respect in the eyes of the law as the son of a rich and powerful family, is it any surprise that his gut level knee jerk reaction to same sex marriage is to amend the constitution, to graft into it once and for all the concept that some are more equal then others? Even Andrew Sullivan had to see it coming. Even the deep thinkers at the Independent (sic) Gay Forum had to see it coming. Even the hopeless happy facers at the Unity Council had to see it coming. They all know what kind of people are sitting in the seats of power in their party. They have always known.

By now, everybody knows where everyone stands in the American culture war. What we saw today, was a flash of lightning over the battlefield, and in its light we will see with sharp clarity which of us, are precisely where. Here are the people who stand for the American Dream. There are the ones who stand for the might makes right rule of tyrants, kings, criminals, mobs. Here are the ones who bear the torch of Liberty and Civilization. There, are the bearers of the rope, the axe, and the flaming cross. Both sides are diverse. Rich and poor, gifted and just barely hanging on, all faiths, all nationalities, all races, and both sexes. Both sides span the spectrum of Kinsey's rainbow. We divide, irreconcilably, on this one thing: equal justice under law. This is democracy's bedrock. This is exactly why some people hate democracy. As Joe Conason writes:

...if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society -- you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances. The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism -- with the support of the American people.

But that is not simply a liberal point of view, it is an American one. For all the bellicose rhetoric from the fascist right, about how treasonous democrats and liberals are, the essential fact is that it is the right that hates democracy, hates America, hates the American Dream of liberty and justice for all. They dress their rhetoric up in the slogans of democracy, while they gleefully employ the tools of democracy to destroy democracy. Florida. California. Texas. But they cannot wield the tools of democracy without destroying themselves and they know it. So they preach promoting democracy in the middle east, all the while supporting tyrants and strongmen against the people they rule. So they wave the flag here at home, all the while subverting the democratic process behind closed doors. The tools of democracy burn them, because they have no right to bear them. Pick them up. You do.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, November 17, 2003

When The Bully Is The Teacher

Via 365Gay.Com, a Bronx high school teacher was fired for harrassing gay students. What's interesting to me about the story is that the news we're getting about it is coming from the homophobic New York Post. I'm guessing they got wind of the story somehow, maybe by way of the fired teacher himself, (homophobes always consider themselves wronged when their hate is called to account for itself), and thought maybe they had another cause celebre on their hands. However, what came out of it was thoroughly unsavory history of homophobic slurs and sexual harassment of high school students, dating back to the mid 1980s:

The arbiter found that he told a lesbian student - whom Brunson said he had thought was a boy - to "show" him she was female, and then told her, "I could get a guy to turn you straight."

Nice. The last straw, according to the article, came when Brunson called on LGBT students to identify themselves during class and then demanded three lesbian students be immediately transferred out of his room, because they had "views upon which I disagreed with." Presumably those views included the proposition that they were human beings entitled to common decency and respect from their peers, let alone their teachers.

It took the Bronx school system nearly two decades to remove this drooling moron from the classroom. I recall, some of the most voracious political opposition to the Harvey Milk School in New York City is coming from the Bronx. Oh...and so are many of the kids who have fled to it. Now then class...who can add two plus two? Hands? Hands?

Update: I couldn't verify the Freedom of Information Act information I got so I removed the reference to that. I'm not sure how the Post got the information, but the fact that they got it is still interesting. No way are they going on a crusade against having homophobic thugs like Brunson in the classrooms. That's the exact opposite of where the Post is ever coming from.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, November 16, 2003

This Is Not Vietnam

Iraq isn't Vietnam you say? Well, no it isn't. For one thing, there were fewer American casualties during the first three years of the Vietnam war, then there have been so far in Iraq.

A Reuters analysis of US Defence Department statistics showed on Thursday that the Vietnam War, which the Army says officially began on December 11, 1961, produced a combined 392 fatal casualties from 1962 through 1964, when American troop levels in Indochina stood at just over 17,000.

By comparison, a roadside bomb attack that killed a soldier in Baghdad on Wednesday brought to 397 the tally of American dead in Iraq, where US forces currently number about 130,000 troops -- the same number reached in Vietnam by October 1965.

U.S. war dead in Iraq now exceeds early Vietnam years

Well...there are more then 392 dead now. To those of us in my generation, who were sure after Vietnam that this nation would never again allow its young to be dragged off to foreign killing fields by right wing war lovers and swaggering politicians who think death and destruction are grand things, so long as they can watch from a distance...welcome to the twenty-first century.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

"I Was Misled."

In August and September of 2002, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld all cautioned that Saddam was reconstituting a nuclear program. On Sept. 8, the vice president said that we "know with absolute certainty" that this was what Saddam was about; then on Oct. 7, President Bush went further, saying, "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." Four days later, I voted for the Iraq resolution. I was misled. Saddam was not reconstituting a nuclear program, and in no way was he connected to 9/11. There were no terrorists in Baghdad, no weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam was no threat to our national security. Iraq was not a part of the war on terrorism.

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
-Abraham Lincoln
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Clawing My Way To Linuxville...(Continued)

[GEEK ALERT] I got Multi-Edit 9 and the x-windows clipboard talking to each other last night. There is, as I'd hoped, a setting in the Wine configuration file that controls the behavior. For some reason x only pastes into ME by way of the Paste Special command, but at least it works. This is important to me because I am a relentless news clipper. I still have file cabinets full of old newspaper clippings, and the personal computer only made this habit easier to indulge in. I cut and paste and file away tons of stuff I see while I'm browsing the news sites. (Like this really good Bill Moyer's speech to the National Conference on Media Reform)

Search works as expected, as does File Search. But Search and Replace causes ME to crash, as does File Search and Replace. The file window Hide command doesn't work, but minimizing the window does. Long filenames splay out beyond the boundaries of the file tab display, mucking up the text on adjoining tabs. I know all this sounds hideous, but it's all stuff I can live with, because it's such a joy to not have to fight the cursor movement, and text block and formatting mechanisms. Not having Search and Replace is an inconvenience, but not a fatal one since I still have Search, and I can just copy a replace string into a paste buffer and manually Search and paste. ME actually makes doing that kinda easy, since when Search hits on something, it blocks it, so you can just do Search, Paste, Search Again, Paste...and so on. Not as fast, but do-able. I'm keeping notes of this to feed back to the Wine site, and the Multi-Edit user forums, since there are people there who are anxious to see a Linux version of ME.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Know Your Enemy

Via SlashDot, here's a must read from SecurityFocus, about a spam ruse to get people to hand over their bank card numbers to a crime gang. The article is interesting on several counts. First, there's a good account of how one particular crime gang's activity was tracked by way of analyzing their spam. There is an explanation of the gang's methods of getting bank customer data One way was by placing a trojan horse on their computers, that sniffed for data as they entered it. Another was to place a rogue pop-up over a bank's web page, which asked for bank card information. Customer's thought they were entering data into their bank's web site, when in fact the pop-up sent it back to a server somewhere else.

Several years ago a friend of mine, who is a lawyer, and I were discussing all the various ways our respective trades (I am a software engineer) could fail the people they were supposed to protect, how alarmingly easy it is for the malicious to game the systems we both live and work in, and how helpless those systems often are to prevent it. My friend observed that the closer you are to a system, the more scared you are of it. When it comes to your money, you need to be scared of the Internet. Not so scared that you're immobilized, but scared enough that you stay alert to the dangers, and think about what you're doing when you give out any information, especially to a service you're certain can be trusted.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Michael Kinsley Gets His Spine Back

President Bush's recent speech committing the United States to a "forward strategy of freedom," declaring that "the advance of freedom is...the calling of our country," and that "freedom is worth fighting for, dying for, and standing for" (an odd anticlimax, by the way) is being heralded as eloquent. Which it is. Some of the finest eloquence that money can buy. A beautiful endorsement of an activist foreign policy that goes beyond protecting our interests to advancing our values.

The eloquence would be more impressive if there were any reason to suppose that Bush thinks words have meaning...

The Limits of Eloquence
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Shame Is For Bleeding Heart Liberals And Democrats...

Do the republicans have any shred of shame left in them? Apparently not...

It is an unusual charity brochure: a 13-page document, complete with pictures of fireworks and a golf course, that invites potential donors to give as much as $500,000 to spend time with Tom DeLay during the Republican convention in New York City next summer - and to have part of the money go to help abused and neglected children.

Representative DeLay, who has both done work for troubled children and drawn criticism for his aggressive political fund-raising in his career in Congress, said through his staff that the entire effort was fundamentally intended to help children. But aides to Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader from Texas, acknowledged that part of the money would go to pay for late-night convention parties, a luxury suite during President Bush's speech at Madison Square Garden and yacht cruises.

Not bad. is money...right? And let's face it, a ton of money is going to be needed to make whistle-ass smell like a president again by election time, let alone the rest of the republican gutter. And DeLay's idea of using charity drives to raise money for politicians who would like nothing better then to put a knife in the gut of social services and twist it, is catching on. Or as Bob Harris on the This Modern World blog put it:

Senator Bill Frist (R-Slaughtering Cats) is planning to do the same thing, staging an event at Rockefeller Center for six-figure Republican donors... and calling it an AIDS charity.

They get a two-fer out of it: The ability to cloak their obscene, crony capitalist money raising power in the guise of charity work, and the pleasure of spitting in the faces of Americans who actually care about these things. Kinda like the way Saddam Hussein hid soldiers inside of hospitals, except I don't think even he had the gall to claim it was for the welfare of the patients inside.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Remember How, In The Old Soviet Union, You Always Knew How Badly Things Were Going For Them, By How Good The News Was Coming Out Of There?

Go read Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo blog, for a good assessment of Dubya's Excellent Adventure. Hey! Look! There are Schools Being Opened...! Yeah...and the rats are putting on their life jackets. Italy's Prime Minister starts covering his political butt...Japan, seeing what just happened to Italy's flesh and blood contribution to president Not Responsible's splendid little mess, is backing off any plans it might have had to shovel its own young into body bags for Halliburton's bottom line...South Korea, South Korea mind you, is confining the troops it has in Iraq (as if they had more then they knew what to do with in defending their own soil from the lunatics in the north) to their compound and given the Pentagon a polite smile, and a nod of the head, instead of the additional troops they asked for. Read Marshall's side story to the Korean rebuff: it'll have a familiar ring to it.

Meanwhile, the Neocon/Fundamentalist axis that sailed the ship of state headlong into this ocean of crap, are waking up to the fact that the politics of getting President Problem Child re-elected are more important then their glorious plans for remaking the middle east into Neocon utopia. I remember being in Washington for a software developer's conference, just days before the war began. I remember standing in an elevator with two Foggy Bottom suits who were dead certain that the war would be over in a couple of days. If there's a hell, then it needs to have a table in it where every single one of those drooling morons have to sit down and eat a plate of that once every hour. You bend your theories to fit the facts, not the facts to fit your theories. Where the hell they got the idea that Iraq would be a cakewalk, and that all the moslems in the middle east would suddenly start bowing towards Washington, is beyond me. The excuse is that they bought into Ahmad Chalabi's blue sky. That's crap. They believed Chalabi, because he was telling them the only things they were prepared to believe. Anything else they would have heard, anything that didn't fit into their political theology, would have been instantly discarded as incorrect or misinformation. This is a branch of the human family tree, that when confronted with evidence that negates their ideologies, their conceits, discards the evidence, and then declares that their discarding the evidence amounts to more proof that their ideologies are sound.

Where they've brought us too: Many dead Americans, who could have made a difference to their families, their communities, their country. Instead their lives were squandered for the sake of a lot of Neocon/Fundamentalist hot air, and blue sky. America now has its very own gulag, operated under the orders of an illegitimate president, who has declared he has the right to imprison, try in secret, and execute any individual declared to be an enemy of the state simply on his say-so, which gives every blood thirsty tyrant on earth no matter how bargain basement, the right to laugh in our faces every time we wave the flag of government of the people, by the people and for the people. We had the sympathy of nearly the whole damn world after 9-11, and their willingness to stand beside us in a fight against the haters of civilization. Alas...our very own haters of civilization managed to deftly co-opt that fight, and pervert it into their own crusade against everything about America and democracy they've ever loathed. So the Neocons are busy trying to colonize the middle east, in the name of democracy. So the thieves and crony's that made George Bush what he is today, are looting Iraq, and by way of Iraq the U.S. Treasury, in the name of free enterprise. So the Fundamentalist right has turned what was a fight against murderous middle eastern religious fanatics, into a new crusade against islam, in the name of freedom of religion. America will be generations living down the stain of these fanatics, who did the unforgivable, who have made people all over the world think that their dream, is the American Dream.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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