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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Hurricane Sky

It's seven in the morning here in Baltimore as I write this. I got up and dressed a little while ago, and went outside to size up the weather so far. The sky is completely grey and overcast, with a low deck of clouds rapidly, and I mean rapidly, moving from east to west. Here on the ground, there is a light, but steady, breeze. It is cool and deathly quiet on my street. There are no birds calling to one another, as they usually do in the morning.

Before bed last night I took a walk, and saw huge streamers of high altitude cirrus streaking across the sky from horizon to horizon. A glance at the current satellite images from NOAA confirmed that it was from Isabel. Probably the high altitude outflow.

My web host, who is located in Arlington VA., informs me that power may go out at his site from time to time during the hurricane, just as it may all over the region. He has a backup power source, but it is not an indefinite thing. And for that matter the entire net around the mid-Atlantic states may go a tad screwy here and there throughout the event. And of course, I could loose power at any time myself, and not be able to update the site. Just hang tight. If you try to get through to my web site during the hurricane and find you can't, or if you send me e-mail and find I am not answering, don't worry. Try again later.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Waiting For Isabel

I've been watching Isabel, and remembering Agnes. In 1972 Agnes came right up the Chesapeake and then up the Potomac. Like an idiot, I'd gone out when the eye passed over, thinking the storm over, and took a friend whose pants I'd been dying to get into for months to see The Other. The movie stank, and when the show was over and we went back outside, the rain was going horizontally down Wisconsin Avenue. I had to drive him and me home in it, and there were times when I could not see past the hood of the car. We were both teenagers then, and too excited at experiencing our first hurricane to be afraid of it.

I worked as a freelance photographer for a couple local county papers in those days, and after Agnes passed I took some shots of the damage along the C&O canal. It wasn't until I saw the holes ripped out of the C&O canal by the flood waters that I realized how dangerous that hurricane was.

Damage to the C&O Canal From Hurricane Agnes
Along the C&O Canal After Agnes
Copyright 1972 by Bruce Garrett

So far, the path of Isabel seems to take it further west then Agnes went. But to be grateful seems somehow to be wishing trouble on somebody else. And besides, all that rain coming into the western mountains is for sure going to come back to the eastern part of the state. The Potomac will likely go past flood stage and people living alongside of it will be in trouble. Where I live, the Jones Falls river (more like a big creek here in the city) will bear watching. The old timers around here say that after Agnes, they watched cars floating down it.

I've covered over my outdoor basement stairwell with plywood and a tarp, to keep the rain out. The drain down at the bottom of it goes into my sump pump, and I don't want all that water going down there, especially if the electricity goes out. My sump pump is on a battery backup, but best to avoid the problem altogether. I'm laying in stocks of fresh drinking water, in case flooding makes the tap water problematic. I have a water distiller, but that only works if there is electricity. A neighbor who works for Baltimore Gas and Electric says the worry is that since the ground is already a bit soggy from recent rains, it might not take much wind and rain to knock over trees, and hence power lines. He reckons he'll be busy once the storm hits.

There is construction going on at Johns Hopkins where I work. All afternoon they were running some kind of concrete grinder over a new parking deck they're building, and the thing was making a noise as it went back and forth that was uncomfortably similar to the sound the emergency alert sirens make. I try to keep a rational mindset, but sometimes it's a struggle: I'm half techno geek and software engineer, and half moody and temperamental artist, and the left side of my brain knows an omen when it sees one. But the dice are thrown and whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I think I'm ready. I don't think we're going to get a bad hit here; mostly just a big mess we'll have to clean up after Isabel goes on her way. It'll be manageable. I'll keep my eye on my little brick rowhouse, and keep an eye on my neighbors, a few of which are elderly. I know from the big snowstorm we had last winter, that this neighborhood comes together and takes care of itself pretty well. Tonight the weather is cool and the night is quiet, and I'm going to take a short walk now, and enjoy the calm before the storm.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, September 15, 2003

Can we run their photo next to livestock for sale? No? Okay... how about Farm Implements.

Martin Luthor King Jr. once said that shallow understanding from people of good will, is more frustrating than absolute from people of ill will. But there is shallow understanding, and then there is a kind of cowardly, passive-aggressive hate that only looks like shallow understanding. This is the mode of the bigot who knows that others in their community regard their prejudices with disdain, but can't resist twisting the knife in the objects of their hate anyway. Oh...did that hurt? We're terribly sorry...we were only trying to be helpful... Nobody is fooled. Well...except for our national Gay Rights organizations anyway.

In January of this year, then governor Parris Glendening wrote to the Baltimore Sun, and other major Maryland newspapers, asking them to join other national newspapers like The New York Times in publishing same sex commitment ceremonies. The paper said only that it would look into the matter when they got a request from a same sex couple. Nevertheless, GLADD apparently took that as a yes, and included the Sun in its list of newspapers that publish such announcements.

In April, a lesbian couple, Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar, celbrated their six years together with a commitment ceremony. When they learned that the Sun would publish their announcements they sent in a request. On May 9, the Sun responded with the usual "we only publish announcements for legally recognized unions" claptrap, by which many passive-aggressive bigots attempt to cloak their motivations. We're not bigots. Honest. We're just abiding by the law. 'What first amendment' in other words. Sodomy laws were useful for a lot of this sort of passive-aggressive gay bashing before the Supreme court overturned the sodomy laws. We're sorry we can't employ you here, or rent you a place to live, or approve your gay-straight alliance, but after all, we can't condone criminal activity now can we?

For several months the couple continued to nag the Sun to do the right thing, and finally the Sun announced in August, to some great local fanfare, that it was creating a separate but equal section in the paper for same sex commitment announcements. "To me it's a matter of principal," said Sun vice editor and senior vice president William Marimow. "We want a society in which all people are treated equally and treated well." Oh really?

Separate but equal doesn't produce such a society. It cannot by its very premise that a majority can fence off a minority, simply because they are the majority and they can. What finally destroyed separate but equal racial apartheid in the South, was the stench of hypocrisy and brutality that came in wave after stinking stomach churning wave. The pretense that racial apartheid was a moral and honorable way to build a multi-racial society was unsustainable in the face of the practice, which could not have been other then contemptuous and brutal. They say that good fences make good neighbors, but you can't build a nation out of fences. Separate but equal does not cultivate mutual respect, but its exact opposite. It promotes mutual fear and loathing. It allows dehumanizing stereotypes to thrive. It can only be sustained by systematically brutalizing the segregated minority. That is why it is a tool of bigots, and not of honorable people.

Once upon a time, the Sun could be counted in on the good fight. But not now. Not here. Where would Mencken stand now? Where would Duffy? We'll never know. But what we do know, is what the Baltimore Sun is pleased to call separate but equal treatment of same sex couples:

Baltimore Sun Same Sex Committment Notice

Well there it is. Tucked under lost pets and beside farm implements. How thoughtful. If you're wondering how any heterosexual in the Sun's upper management would feel if their commitment announcement was treated like this, you're missing the point. Of course they know how seeing this must have felt to Ankerson and Sapnar. That was why they did it. That is always why they do it. To spit in their faces. To remind them on the occasion of their joy, that they are hated. Never doubt it.

According to the Baltimore City Paper, GLADD is considering removing the Sun from their list of newspapers that publish same sex commitment announcements. I hope the terrible strain of considering that decision doesn't give any of them heart attacks.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Further Evidence Of The Decline Of American Higher Education

This crossed my screen today and awakened me slightly from my about to turn fifty and still single funk. The university of Indiana has restored to its public glory, the website of one of its professors of business, Mr. Eric Rasmusen. His website had its plug pulled just a day ago when gay students and their friends and supporters took objection to the professor using the university's computer resources to conduct a campaign of anti-gay hatemongering.

Rasmusen who teaches business uses the postings to condemn gays and calls for gays and lesbians to be removed from jobs as teachers, elected officials and doctors.

Among the postings is one equating gays to child molesters.

"Male homosexuals, at least, like boys and are generally promiscuous. They should not be given the opportunity to satisfy their desires," the posting says.

365Gay.Com, Prof's Anti-Gay Blog Returns To University Website

I'm back in school myself actually. Space Telescope, like a lot of good employers these days, pays tuition for work related courses, and I have set out to finally finish my degree in computer science. While signing up for my first computer science course at UMUC, I had to wade through many pages of text informing me that I could loose the right to use UMUC's computer systems if I misused them. Now...I would have to count an adult professor inciting hatred of minority students on his campus as a misuse of university computer resources. But maybe I'm just missing the overall picture here. This is a university mind you, where diversity of belief and opinion should be engaged, not suppressed...right? I mean, if a professor just happened to think that those Christ killing jews faked the holocaust, I'm sure the university would be only too happy to let him use their computers and their network to promote the view that the holocaust never happened. Right? Just because something is patently untrue, that doesn't mean it can't be taught by an American institute of higher education. Conservatives have been saying that very thing for decades now, haven't they?

Unsurprisingly, Rasmusen's home page contains links to prior fights against affirmative action, and to Charles Murray's Bell Curve Page. There is also a link to a page where he bellyaches that if the story that Jefferson had fathered a child by a black slave was newsworthy, then so was the accusation that Bill Clinton had fathered a child by a black prostitute. Got the picture yet?

And mind you, this man is a professor. Credentialed, I have to assume, and everything. Diploma, along with all the other framed I Love Me Wall accouterments of your usual academic sort. But if you really want to talk credentials, here's what I'd frame and hang on his wall:

I would like to comment on one distortion I heard on talk radio yesterday from the various people condemning me: that there is no evidence of the ill effects of homosexuality. What I said in my web-log was that I did not have such evidence at hand, and rather than hurry out and research it, I'd wait till I happened to see it float by. Thus, I said, "I have no evidence that homosexuals are child molesters more often than normal people" in the same way as I would also say, "I have no evidence that men are child molesters more often than women" (as I did say in the web-log) or "I have no evidence that smoking causes cancer" or "I have no evidence that the earth is more than 5000 years old." Just because I don't have it at hand doesn't mean the evidence isn't there. And even if exhaustive search doesn't find any evidence that claim X is true, it might at the same time be true that the exhaustive search did not find any evidence that claim X was *not* true.

Right. Homosexuals should not be allowed to teach because they would molest children, but I have no evidence that they're more likely then anyone else to molest children, and even if there was no such evidence that wouldn't mean that it wasn't true. Now pass your tests to the front of the room so I can start grading them.

Rasmusen also seems to think that Little Rock Mayor Sandy Keith telling a pathetic joke about rape "may be relevant to the story of Clinton raping [Juanita] Broaddrick in 1978". Huh? The IU web page on Rasmusen says he was educated at Yale and MIT. Personally, I'd like to look the dumbass who actually placed this crackpot's diploma in his hand and ask them what the hell they were thinking.

Thought it was liberals who were responsible for the falling standards in American education did you? Heh.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

It's Official: Journalism No Longer Cares What Is And Is Not True

I watched a report on ABC News tonight, about the protests surrounding the granite ten commandments monument a renegade judge in Alabama plopped in the lobby of the state supreme court. It was the usual kid gloves treatment of the American Taliban; a reporter standing in front of a camera, and belaboring the obvious: that every time the courts rule for separation of church and state, they howl they're being discriminated against. What was missing, as always, is any objective examination of that claim.

There are people wasting away in the prison camps of tyrants all over this earth, who would regard what the Religious Right is calling religious persecution as freedom beyond their wildest dreams, and the Religious Right knows it. Nobody is being thrown in jail for being Christian. The very same civil rights laws, from whose protections the Religious Right fights tooth and nail to exclude Gay people, keep their impacted asses safe from discrimination on the job, or in housing. But when your goal is to replace American democracy with a right wing theocracy, then obviously your concern isn't that you have the same rights everyone else does to practice your faith. Much the opposite, actually, as we see over and over again, the case in Alabama being just the latest flashpoint, in the religious right's long and bitter war against liberty and justice for all.

Ironic, isn't it, that what the religious right wants isn't equal rights, but special rights. They want the right to force your children to pray to a god you may not even believe in. They want the right to force feed your kids their theology in place of history and science, and never mind what faith you're raising them in. They want the right to coerce your obedience to their religious dogmas, in everything from your choices in commerce and entertainment, to the most intimate moments in your bedroom. The sweep of their desire to control the lives of every ordinary American citizen is astonishing in both its arrogance, and its audacity. Yet always, when they raise the chant that they are being persecuted by secularists, their bellyaching is treated as though it were, in itself, a kind of theological belief, something pluralistic society ought not regard as polite to criticize.

For the sake of preserving that pluralistic society, where a person's status as a full and equal citizen is not dependant upon their religion, the pussyfooting around the religious right needs to stop, and quickly. John Ashcroft, in between travelling the nation to rally support for his evisceration of the constitution, the "Patriot Act", took time out the other day to announce a new campaign against pornography. What you have to understand about these people, is that they regard everything that doesn't glorify their religious dogmas, as pornography. They are the book burners. They are the witch burners. They are the heretic burners. And they regard democracy, as the most evil heresy of all.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Yeah...I've been neglecting this spot again. Jim Capozzola, who has more guts then I do, had a post up that I can't seem to find now, about how exasperating it is when people tell you all you need is to just get out more. To those of you missing Monday's cartoon: hopefully I'll have it up sometime tonight.

Separating The Kids From The Pit Bulls Is Not The Answer. Throwing Them To The Pit Bulls Is.

Read a couple of news articles today; one good about why the Harvey Milk school is necessary, surprisingly in the New York Times, which seems to want to put a knife into it. The other about the closing of a gay youth center in Troy, New York, also illuminating how much hostility they have to face in their daily lives. The center is closing its doors soon due to budget cuts, and just this week, someone threw bricks through its plate glass windows. If the perps get caught, they can always claim they were protesting against the segregation of gay people.

I keep hearing people, transparent homophobes and their useful idiots both, comparing the creation of the Harvey Milk school, with the struggle to desegregate the schools in the 50s and 60s. Segregation was wrong then, they say, and it's wrong now. It's rhetoric you could only get away with, in a nation with the notoriously short memory this one has. Back in the 50s and 60s, though the racists were determined to keep their all white schools all white, the government was willing to obey court orders to integrate them, even if it meant calling in federal troops. Contrast that with the situation gay kids face today, where local governments and school boards can't fall over themselves fast enough to appease gay haters, while the federal government watches on in complete indifference.

There is no political will to protect gay, lesbian and transgendered youth, no stomach for the inevitable bare knuckle fighting needed to protect them, to keep them in school, and let them have the education that is their birthright as Americans. The useful idiots on the Times editorial board say that segregation is not the answer. But they can't handle the answer.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, August 22, 2003

Protecting The Sacred Institution Of Marriage From Homosexuals...(continued)

The Dayton Daily News reports that a Beverly Hillbillies casino is in the works. Attractions to include, among other things, a 200-foot-tall, flame-belching oil derrick, and "Granny's Shotgun Wedding Chapel". In addition to a 30,000-square-foot gambling area with 16 table games and 800 slot machines.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Reading Cato's Making Sense of Electricity Deregulation With A Flashlight

We don't yet know the precise cause of the blackout, and perhaps we never will. But we now can say with certainty what we may only have suspected before: The people running our government and our energy industry believe that Americans are fools, because otherwise they wouldn't dare to conduct politics and business as they do.

Joe Conason, The New York Observer

Good column from Joe Conason. You should read the whole thing. I particularly liked it when he remarked that a thoughtful citizen "of a certian age" might dimly remember how the nation's economy grew for decades with regulated utilities. Yeah. New York city had blackouts at least twice as I can recall, in a regulated power grid. In a free market power grid, everyone from Akron to New York can get in on the fun. It was eye opening.

I have a quirky kinda attitude about electricity, which I probably inherited from mom, who grew up in the Pennsylvania mountains in the 1930s. I grew up in the Washington D.C. area, which always had a reasonibly reliable power grid, yet lived in a household that took for granted that the power would go out from time to time. It's an attitude that's just stayed with me into adulthood. I always keep a stock of fresh batteries. I have flashlights scattered around the house, a small battery operated TV and kerosine lamps. My freezer is about a quarter full of ice and those blue ice pack thingies. My basement sump pump is connected to a battery backup, as are (of course) my computers. A few years ago I spotted one of those wind-up am radios for sale at a Montgomery Wards and bought two of them on the spot. One for me, and one for mom, who was living in retirement then, in the hills of southern Virginia. Mothers and sons have these little ways of reenforcing the bond.

I'm not preparing for Armageddon or anything, I just grew up with this knowledge that the power goes away sometimes, coupled perhaps with a Baptist reluctance to depend too much on worldly things for comfort. I wonder sometimes how much the latter has kept me from really enjoying this life, and I suspect the former is an anachronism from mom's rural childhood, passed down to an urban son who has very little need of it. Compared to the rural branches of my family, I only rarely experience life without power. Certainly not days and days without it, although that has happened to me once, after an ice storm some years back brought down oodles of power lines in the region. But even then, even in the worst power outages I've ever lived through, there were pockets where the power was still on, somewhere nearby. Maybe not in my immediate neighborhood, but in the next, or down the highway a few miles. I hadn't reckoned on how much I was still counting on those, until the Big Dark last week.

Where do you go for gas for your generator, or kerosine for your lamps, when all the gas stations are closed all over your state, and all the neighboring states too, because their pumps are all electric? Where do you go for food, when the grocery stores in all directions have had to throw anything that spoils away, and everything else has been picked clean by people who typically only keep a couple days or so of food at home? How do those grocery stores get new supplies of food, when trucks can't fill their tanks with enough fuel to get to them, from the nearest place where the pumps are still working? Good thing it only took a day to get the power back on in most places in the northeast. If that outage had gone on for several days, the Washington Post would have had thousands of dead here in America to laugh at, instead of the thousands of french dead due to the heat wave over there.

So I'm walking home yesterday and I see a Baltimore City crew digging up the road near my house. What's up, asks I. Water main break says one of the workers at about the same time I notice a small steady stream of water running down the street. Water still on, I ask. For now, says the worker. So I go home and do the no water drill that I was taught in during my cold war duck and cover childhood, dutifully filling the tub and every bucket in the house, so I'll at least have something to flush the toilets with. And while I'm busy with this, I'm thinking about how much fun the republicans can have with water and sewage deregulation. I was looking at several on line catalogues of power generators. The Honda's look pretty nice, and a decent one for Casa del Garrett will only cost about the price of a new laptop. Need to get an electrician to wire me up a power bridge between the generator and the house though. And there is a problem: a gasoline fueled generator will work just fine, so long as I can keep buying gasoline from somewhere. But I suspect we've just seen the first of what energy deregulation is about to bring to us, and of course president smirking fratboy jackass isn't about to let the government spend any money that might otherwise go into his rich cronies' pockets to fix the problem, let alone rethink the process that allows same rich cronies to buy public utilities and exploit them. They make generators that run on natural gas, which my little Baltimore rowhouse has laid in, but they're very expensive...

Welcome to the twenty-first century. Bet you didn't know the twenty-first century would be in the hands of people yearning for the nineteenth century.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Let Daddy Say Grace So The Slaves Can Start Bringing Dinner In

Excerpt from a letter to the editor in today's Baltimore Sun, from charm city's own Mr. Kenneth E. Iman. I'd post a link to the rest but it was unaccountably absent from the web edition:

You can reject the Bible, but you must reject it all. God did not allow us to cut and paste. And, yes, that means no shellfish or pork and that slavery is not a sin - at least not one specifically condemned in the Bible.

The sound you're hearing is justice Taney applauding his fellow Marylander from the grave. Well you just knew it would come to this, didn't you? If the spiritual cost to yourself of anti-gay prejudice is to wake up one day to find yourself blessing slavery well, (shrug), it's not as though you had all that much conscience left inside to throttle anyway is it?

Who was that you gave your soul to there fella, because it wasn't Christ.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, August 18, 2003

Our David Is Available In Three Versions: Au Natural; Fig Leaf, For More Conservative Locals; And Burqua, For Taliban Governed Areas.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- A man who put a replica of Michelangelo's nude "David" sculpture in his yard responded to neighbors' objections by engaging in a cover-up. Christopher Schapker last week used a strategically placed sheet to counteract concerns about the male nude in the side yard of his home. Parents of students who attend a neighboring center that provides services for disabled people had expressed concern over the statue's nudity.

The Associated Press

The county prosecutor, Stan Levco, is quoted in the article, as saying "My preliminary thought is that it does not violate any statute. But I haven't made a final determination." Well that's nice to know.

Schapker and his housemate, Kerry Niehaus, spent $2,000 for the sculpture to enhance the early 20th century style of their home.

Schapker says nobody's complained about the statue of a topless mermaid that's been in his pond for two years. Does anyone really need to tell him why?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Or, Alternatively, You Could Make Better Movies

If it seems like Hollywood's bombs have been hitting the ground at a higher rate of speed then before, there may be a reason (apart from that they're actually getting better at making bad films). The Independent reports that word of mouth that a film is a stinker is spreading faster, thanks to Instant Messaging.

The problem, they say, is teenagers who instant message their friends with their verdict on new films - sometimes while they are still in the cinema watching - and so scuppering carefully crafted marketing campaigns designed to lure audiences out to a big movie on its opening weekend.

"In the old days, there used to be a term, 'buying your gross,' " Rick Sands, chief operating officer at Miramax, told the Los Angeles Times. "You could buy your gross for the weekend and overcome bad word of mouth, because it took time to filter out into the general audience."

But those days are over...

I can just picture the brainstorming going on. Maybe we could make ticket holders sign non-disclosure forms. Maybe we can get a court to agree that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbids disclosing that a film stinks. Maybe we can outlaw Instant Messaging within a hundred yards of a cinema. Maybe we can get congress to require cell phone makers to put circuitry in the phones, that turns off Instant Messaging for 48 hours after the phone's owner enters a cinema. Aw hell...Fritz is retiring, isn't he...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Pissing On The Legacy Of Paul Conrad

Just in case anyone was still wondering what part of the republican sewer Michael Ramirez is from:

August 8, 2003: I Loath Homosexuals...

August 11, 2003: Have I Mentioned That I Loath Homosexuals...

One right after the other. Guess the election of an openly Gay Episcopal Bishop made some of the hairs on his butt ingrown. But...hey...check out the deft skill of the professional Pulitzer Prize winning draftsman. Any more pantone covering up those staggering drunk lines and he'll be a regular Leonardo. And you have to admit, spitting in the faces of gay and lesbian Americans is one surefire way to shore up his right wing thug street creds, and make sure that nobody mistakes him for a Bush hater again, so the secret police don't come knocking on his door again.

I know...I know... Ramirez provides Balance. Without opposing points of view there can't be a political dialogue in this country...right? I mean...the L.A. Times runs racist and anti Semitic political cartoons for the sake of balance all the time...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Never Mind What I'm Saying, Just Listen To Me

For those of you who haven't had an irony buffer overflow so far today...

In a society that purports to value freedom as an end in itself, the simple argument from morality to law can be a dangerous non sequitur... The principle of such legislation is that if I find your behavior ugly by my standards, moral or aesthetic, and if you prove stubborn about adopting my view of the situation, I am justified in having the state coerce you into more righteous paths. That is itself a principle of unsurpassed ugliness.

-Robert Bork, Civil Rights - A Challenge, The New Republic, Aug. 31, 1963

Mind you, he was talking about anti segregation laws, not sodomy laws, or anti same sex marriage laws.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Same-sex Marriage Does Violence To Children. Not That We Want Any Children Living In Our Neighborhoods Anyway...

Vaara posts a good one on a much neglected topic: Zoning regulation that discriminate against young families. As Vaara points out, quoting a New York Times article, this is largely to keep the number of children down so a community won't have to spend much on their education, the cost of which keeps going up...

Some communities that may not want to increase their school-age population can embrace the elderly. That is socially acceptable, and because the federal Fair Housing Act allows senior-citizen developments to prohibit younger residents, it is legally acceptable. The fast-growing western suburbs of Boston, for example, are scrambling for developments with age restrictions and otherwise engaging in what one legislator calls "vasectomy zoning." Naperville, Ill., outside Chicago, is imposing restrictive covenants on some new developments to prohibit sales to people under 55.

And of course the elderly, living on fixed incomes which seem to support them a little less every year, will vote against raising taxes for anything because increased taxes accelerate the lowering of their standard of living. So the net effect is to decrease the political will to spend on education. And anything else that might benefit the welfare of kids.

Yet these are the republican family values suburbs we're talking about here. Don't they care about the welfare of kids? Well...yeah. Their own. Anyone remember "white flight"? It's what happened when the supreme court decided that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional. The "separate but equal" mantra kept failing miserably, whenever anyone actually compared the schools of black kids to those of white kids. In the grinning facades of all those decrepit black only schools, it was impossible to not to see that the logic of separate-but-equal wasn't about the races living amicably apart, but about one race dominating another. So segregation was outlawed, much to the relief of everyone except the ones who always suspected that E Pluribus Unum was some sort of communist slogan. The suburbs were supposed to restore the natural order of things: white kids get a decent education, and colored kids get an education designed to keep them in their place. And all is right with the world again. But now even the tax base of the affluent suburbs isn't enough to finance their own kid's education.

But the cost of educating children, not a huge concern even in the postwar Levittown decade, now exceeds what their parents' houses yield in taxes. As school costs rise, "people get more desperate about it," said Myron Orfield, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the author of "American Metropolitics: The New Suburban Reality" (Brookings Institution, 2002).

It wasn't supposed to be like that. The suburbs were supposed to be a paradise for decent, all American families, where they could live their decent all American lives apart from the noisy vulgar impertinent rest of America. But a diversity of people makes it possible for everyone's needs to be met. A place where rich and poor can live and work together, makes it possible for all those low paying service jobs to be filled, and for the children of those workers to get a decent education, that might improve their own lives. A place where families, childless singles and gays can live together, brings more money to the schools then one of only families with children needing an education and other services. A mix of old and young makes it easier to meet the needs of the old, and for the young to hear their lessons. That is what the profile of American cities and towns used to be, before the right decided to make the nu-cu-lar family the apotheosis of western civilization, and remove it to the safety of the suburbs, and when that wasn't isolation enough, behind the gates of private single family enclaves. The decline of the standard of living in the suburbs is just what you get, when you remove the nu-cu-lar family from the rest of the human family that always had a role in nurturing it. It takes a village, not a monoculture. But that concept is anathema to the family values republicans who led the flight to suburbia in the first place, who have always suspected that E Pluribus Unum was some sort of communist slogan.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, August 15, 2003

Destroying Marriage In Order To Save It...(continued)

Letter To The Editor, The Sun Chronicle (Attleboro, MA)

Stephen Iacobbo in his recent letter, claims the marriage laws do not discriminate against homosexuals, because the requirement that you marry an opposite sex partner applies to everyone, gay or straight. At one time people argued that the anti miscegenation laws did not discriminate, because they too applied to everyone, regardless of race. Some folks had to drink from one fountain because of their race, and some from another, but you cannot claim this is not racism, by saying that everyone, regardless of their race, had to obey those laws. That argument is sophistry. If two people of different races cannot marry, then both are discriminated against; each one standing in front of a door with a sign that reads, "whites only", or "colored only", depending on their race, behind which is their heart's desire. It is the same for gay and lesbian couples, standing in front of doors that keep them out on the basis of their sex.

Iacobbo dismisses the pain caused by such discrimination as merely, "emotional", and says that love is not a requirement for marriage. If this is what the so-called defenders of marriage believe, then I really cannot imagine how gay and lesbian Americans can destroy the meaning of marriage more then its defenders apparently intend to. I'll allow that it probably explains why so many bible belt marriages end in divorce.

Bruce Garrett
Baltimore, Maryland.
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Watching The MSBlast Worm Trying To Get Into My Computer...


I saw the first hints of trouble a few weeks ago, on The Register, and made sure my XP workstation was patched. But, as I've mentioned before, I really sweat these things, and can't fault others for being a little slow on the uptake. Here's Why. If you were still running NT 4, and applied the patch, you were hosed. Now you need to get the patch, to fix the patch. This, and not user laziness, is why malicious code like MSBlast can find so many unpatched computers to play with. Microsoft has always been a "good enough to ship" kinda operation. The rule of thumb among my friends and co-workers is that you never use version X.0 of any Microsoft product. Use X.1 or better, and you're less likely to find yourself screaming at your computer. Unfortunately, that seems to be true with their patches too. People will listen for the sound of PC administrators screaming, before they apply the patches themselves. It's reflex. There's a saying about how you know who the pioneers are, because they're the ones with the arrows sticking out of them. That's really true in Microsoftland. You just don't jump on everything that Redmond throws out the door. The consequence is that systems don't get patched right away. Some organizations won't roll out a patch until they've tested it thoroughly, which can take weeks. This situation is entirely Microsoft's doing, and they don't really care because they don't really have to. With ninety percent of the desktop market, Microsoft has a lot of inertia in its favor.

I've been running SuSE Linux to connect to the Internet all week now, except just this morning. My firewall software, ZoneAlarm, had problems peacefully co-existing with Windows XP when it first came out, which I'm sure...cough...cough...had nothing to do with the fact that Microsoft decided to bundle its own firewall software with XP. So I gave in a little and tried the Microsoft firewall and of course, since it's their first cut at the firewall thing, it eats toxic waste. Zone Alarm's customer service never really got back to me about fixing the problem with XP so, a little ticked off at them, I never bothered updating the software, figuring I'd try something else. But I didn't like the way other firewall products worked. Zone Alarm is actually a pretty simple, yet powerful piece of software to use. I like software that does just one thing, and does it well. For the past year or so I've been relying on my virus scanning software to protect my XP box, which always made me feel a little uneasy. When I heard about how furiously MSBlast was propagating, I stopped connecting to the Internet with XP altogether.

Hoping the latest version of ZoneAlarm Pro (4) had fixed the XP problem, I bought a copy and installed it just a while ago. So far everything seems running smoothly. Except for the barrage of intrusion alerts I'm getting on the ports that MSBlast and its demon spawn are known to try. It's a little creepy watching that thing trying the locks on my computer.

I'm guessing the patch prevented MSBlast from getting in previously. But I'm hearing now that variants are appearing and more destructive ones are likely. I strongly recommend people use a firewall, as well as a virus scanning program. Or alternatively, you can just run something other then Microsoft software. I know...I know...other platforms have their own vulnerabilities. But Microsoft has always been a fix it after it's out the door kinda company and that, combined with their 90 percent plus share of the desktop, just gives little hacker dweebs days and days of fun at everyone else's expense.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Not sure why Tuesday's posts suddenly disappeared this morning. But they're back now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Yeah...Yeah...And Jerry Falwell Has Trademarked The Slogan, "Baptist Church"...

Fox News is suing Al "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot" Franken over the words, Fair And Balanced, on the cover of his new book. No...I'm serious. Franken's new book is titled, Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right. Fox News is claiming that the words "Fair And Balanced" are a trademark they own. They have filed for an injunction to keep the book from being published next month, claiming that Franken's use of the slogan "Fair and Balanced" is intended to confuse readers and boost book sales.

As if their own imbecilic lawsuit wouldn't boost sales of the book. Is there anybody in the kook pews who can think with any part of the body besides their jerking knees? Franken's book is, as I am writing this, ranked number 3 on Amazon.Com. And of course, since word spread of the lawsuit, the left of William Pierce blog world has mounted a wee protest. Something like a zillion blogs out there are now using "Fair And Balanced" as part of their banner. Not that I would ever engage in that kind of adolescent flip the establishment jerk in the suit the bird behavior myself...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I hear burquas for men are all the rage at the seashore this year...

Okay...I'm a gay man. I like looking at beautiful guys. I'll apologize for it the day straight guys start apologizing for their own girl watching habits. Life is good, and if you don't find the attractive sex proof positive of that, well I pity you, that's all. Beautiful guys are my proof that there is a God, and that God is good. So there. That said, I found this article by a University of Tennessee student, in defense of the speedo, more then a little sad...

Wearing a Speedo around the pool of a university 26,000 students strong might make some people uncomfortable; just reading about a guy wearing a Speedo might make some uncomfortable. Writing a column which will be read by dozens of my classmates about me in a Speedo does not make me uncomfortable, but perhaps it should.

Now...let me see if I understand all this correctly. Sports Illustrated can do a yearly swimsuit issue, featuring women in bikinis you couldn't make a handkerchief out of, and nobody gets uncomfortable. Victoria's Secret, Haynes, and Jockey can run television ads featuring women wearing underwear that could have been made from the cotton in a bottle of aspirin and nobody gets uncomfortable. Up and down the beaches of America all summer long you can gaze at women wearing very little at all, and the only cringe worthy thing about it is the thought that melanoma might be having a field day out there. But when a guy shows a little thigh, suddenly everyone gets all squicky.

I think not. Don't tell me that heterosexual women don't like looking at a little male skin from time to time. I imagine they'd like it very much thank you if guys would do as much for them at the seashore, as they do for guys. But the guys are afraid to.

There is some very wierd, unspoken above the waist/below the waist danger zone that straight guys rigidly obey. Above the waist is the heterosexual male zone. Abs. Pecks. Below the waist is no-straight-man's-land. Gluts. Thighs. And that certain something I keep getting spam about enlarging. An American male can draw attention to anything he has above the waste and his masculinity is secure. They'll bare their pecks, whether or not they've actually got any, and then hide everything below the waist as if they're scared to death you might notice they've got an ass, and maybe even a nice set of family jewels. While watching some news stories about the heat wave in Europe, I was struck by the difference between their beaches and ours. Over there, you still see guys wearing actual swimsuits; not the near thongs they wear in Rio, but sill lightweight and easy. Here, the guys are wearing swim trunks that almost look like jams made from the pants Fred Mertz wore in I Love Lucy, except they're more colorful.

Somehow, being sexy below the waist has become off limits for straight guys. Why is a mystery. There are two pat answers. One is that straight guys are just so terrified of being labelled gay they don't even want to casually call attention to those parts of their bodies gay men brazenly advertise. The other is that straight American males are becoming more angry and agressive, in reaction to the gains made by women and gays. Emphasizing the upper body while de-emphasizing the lower sends signals of power and aggressiveness. But I don't really buy into either explanation. So I really don't know what the motivation here is. My shot in the dark hunch is that the culture doesn't place any value on a man's body, except for its strength. At one time for women only their beauty was valued, and at times it seems as if that's still all this culture sees in women. But women have fought hard in the past few decades to be seen as whole people, beautiful, and strong, and able. I think perhaps American guys are holding on fiercely to their roll as strong in an uncertian world, when what they need is to fight, in their own way, that same fight women fought; to be seen as whole people, strong, and able, and beautiful.

You see them getting all uncomfortable about wearing sexy swimwear for god's sake, and you feel sorry for them. Okay..okay...I have a bit of self interest here. In a culture where the sight of women wearing next to nothing is only slightly more commonplace then the sound of somebody complaining that we homosexuals are imposing our sexual proclivities on the rest of society, I wouldn't mind a little more eye candy. But it's still sad. I don't have the physique for it anymore, I've got a middle aged male body now, but once upon a time I made a boyfriend of mine all hot and bothered on a summer seashore, and it was one of this life's pure joys. It is good to feel oneself desirable, to know that your body has a magic it can awaken in someone else. Everyone should have that feeling a time or two in their lives. Why can't a straight guy revel in his sexiness every now and then, why can't he enjoy making his girlfriend all hot and bothered too? This culture does men no damn good, when it suffocates their ability to be brazenly sexy.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, August 11, 2003

Gene Robinson, And The Unforgivable Sin

One particularly snide and pathetic complaint I'm hearing from the 'phobes about Rev. Gene Robinson, is about his divorce. Never mind that it was by all accounts an amicable separation. Never mind that he is still loved by his wife and daughters. Never mind that he stayed an active presence in his daughter's lives after the divorce. The word in the kook pews is that Robinson is a selfish narcissist whose election to Bishop only furthers the decline of the liberal Episcopalians. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn writes that Robinson is "...a man who broke up his family because he put his sexual appetites before his daughters. I doff my hat to the bishop. This week he got the church to endorse not just his gayness but his narcissism." Well, that's one way of putting it when a man decides to start being honest to himself, and to others, including his wife. But of course, honest to a right winger, is just another word for wimp.

This is the payoff for the right wing in their argument, that homosexuality is a choice, that society must stack the deck against homosexuality, in law, custom and taboo, in order to prevent more people from becoming homosexual. The hard right argues for vigorous enforcement of the sodomy laws, even, especially, to the point of actively pursuing and uncovering closeted homosexuals in the general population. But even in the compassionate conservative choir, the argument goes that it is better to push "waverers" to the heterosexual side of the fence, in the words of Charles Krauthammer, "without disrespect but without apology." But disrespect, not only for homosexuals, but for the human identity, and more to the point, for the institution of marriage, is the bedrock of this notion. In a culture that demeans and degrades homosexual people, the waverer is highly likely to be wavering not because they are unsure of themselves, but because they are certain, and desperately wishing it were otherwise. What the right offers these is a kind of ideological crack cocaine: the idea that acting out a heterosexual life is the best way to cure homosexual feelings, and if it isn't working that's because you aren't acting heterosexual enough. The result is an eminently predictable wreckage of broken marriages and shattered lives, which, naturally, the paragons of responsibility refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for. Oh, you actually took our advice did you? Caveat Emptor...

Some homosexuals trapped in sham marriages take to crusing the pick up spots for sex, and maintaining the marriage solely for appearances sake, something which you feel the right would have preferred Robinson had done. But he did the unforgivable; he decided that marriage was a sacred thing that could not be built on a foundation of lies and deception, and took responsibility for putting things right. James I Will Defeat You Lileks bleats for the kook pews thusly: "This story has irritated me from the start, and it has nothing to do with Rev. Robinson's sexual orientation." Oh really?

Marriages flounder for a variety of reasons, and ofttimes they're valid reasons, sad and inescapable. But "I want to have sex with other people" is not a valid reason for depriving two little girls of a daddy who lives with them, gets up at night when they're sick, kisses them in the morning when they wake. There's a word for people who leave their children because they don't want to have sex with Mommy anymore: selfish.

Except...well...he didn't leave them. His youngest daughter, who says she does not remember much from the time of the divorce, says her father has always been attentive, in the audience at every horse show and school play, according to one news article. This Lileks characterizes as leaving the cell phone on.

You can assume that Lileks,and his fellow right wing smear artists, are writing for an audience that couldn't care less what Robinson's relationship to his wife and daughters actually is. But what's telling is that for Lileks, and Steyn, it is all about sex. "I want to have sex with other people" is not a valid reason for depriving two little girls of a daddy..." "There's a word for people who leave their children because they don't want to have sex with Mommy anymore..." "...Gene Robinson, a man who broke up his family because he put his sexual appetites before his daughters." Here is the song of bigots: homosexuals don't love, they just have sex. Homosexuality isn't about love. Heterosexuals love. Homosexuals just have sex. Lileks and Steyn accuse Robinson of abandoning his children, just to have sex with another man, of abandoning his wife because he doesn't want to have sex with her, of putting his sexual appetites before his daughter's needs. They know that for homosexuals, it's all about sex. Nothing else. They cannot grasp any other possible motivation for a homosexual male to have. That maybe Robinson divorced his wife, because he loves her very much. The concept is beyond them, because they cannot ascribe any motivation to a homosexual other then sexual self gratification. "This story has irritated me from the start, and it has nothing to do with Rev. Robinson's sexual orientation." Oh yes it does. It has everything to do with it.

By all accounts Robinson has been a better father to his daughters and shown more love to his ex-wife, then some conservatives moralizers (the image of Newt Gingrich pressuring one of his wives to sign divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery comes to mind...). But that's par for the course. Anyone who isn't well aware that it's standard operating procedure for the homophobic right to make stuff up, when the reality of the lives of homosexual people isn't sufficiently sordid, is a green newcomer to this fight. The more the struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights heats up, the louder the homophobes demonize homosexuals, so to mask the stench of the open sewer that is their own inner selves, as illustrated perfectly by Lileks, who can sanctimoniously yap out of one side of his mouth that Robinson doesn't care enough about his daughters, and in the same breath out of the other, compare Robinson's daughters to Hitler's dog for still loving him. Nice guy. Do you spit in the faces of other children too, or only the ones whose parents are homosexual?

by Bruce Garrett | Link


The possibility of a backlash building now against gay rights seems to be the new thought of the day for the short attention span news droids. It puts me in mind of the days when I was a kid in grade school, and the talk was of a backlash against black equality. If only the coloreds wouldn't push things so hard. They're only hurting their own cause. I kept hearing this and wondering why anyone thought it surprising that bigots would be angry over loosing ground. That isn't a backlash, that's raging at the enemy.

I used to spend a lot of my online time in a Usenet newsgroup, alt.politics.homosexuality. There I argued with gay hating bigots of all stripes, but mostly the self-styled rational opposition. Those were the guys who would always come into the newsgroup announcing that they had nothing against homosexuals personally, why they even had a close friend or two who were homosexual, they just opposed the militant gay agenda. Not because they had anything against gays mind you...they just...well...didn't want children to be recruited into the gay lifestyle...and hey, don't you people know homosexuality causes AIDS? But APH is an unmoderated newsgroup, which meant that everyone, gay, supportive straight and gay hater alike, could freely speak their minds without some moderator somewhere deciding that while saying homosexuals were more likely to molest children and spread disease was just an opinion, calling someone's study that claimed homosexuals were more likely to molest children and spread disease a a pack of hate mongering lies was an impermissible personal attack. In short, you could have all the double standard you wanted, you just couldn't enforce it on anyone else. The result was that the phobes always found themselves on the defensive, particularly when a gang of us got together and started fact checking their asses.

And so gradually, the "rational opposition" either dropped all pretense and began babbling like Fred Phelps at a funeral, or left the field entirely. Drop into APH now, and you find hate without any pretense at all. It was always there, but now it seems more emphatic then it was before. But is that real, or is that just a perception made possible by the fact that the hard core is all that is left of the opposition? The bogus arguments are repeated by rote, like war songs sung mostly for the mindless battle euporia they bring on and nothing more. Little attempt is made to make them sound even remotely plausible. They are flags waving in the wind over the battlements. The lies about homosexuals and homosexuality are thrown openly for their value as verbal spit, not to gain any persuasive advantage. They have lost their power over all but the ones who never cared if they were true in the first place. Now they serve only one purpose: to remind us that we are hated. It is hate's final victory of sorts. Hate, reduced to its bare essence, needs only that you know it still hates, and will always hate. Yes...we know.

This is what I think is happening in the culture at large, though more slowly, because the "rational opposition" can still dictate the terms of the debate in so many public forums. Even so, as homosexual people become more and more visible to our neighbors, the lies about us, about our lives, become more untenable all the same. The rational opposition may be as motivated by the same hate as any raving Fred Phelps yahoo, but they want respect, they want to be taken seriously as honorable respectable citizens, concerned only with the good of the community. As the pretense becomes harder to maintain, even privately to themselves, these begin to drop out of the fight, or give themselves over completely to the hate within. We are left with the purified dregs. The irony here is that in fighting the hate that has cost the homosexual part of the human family so dreadfully, we inevitably refine it.

Each step forward we take causes a few more defenders of the status-quo drop out of the fight, convinced at long last that it was the wrong fight, or that the cost in personal regard is too great to bear it any further. And with that, a little more of the protective facade is removed from the hard burning core of hate, leaving a little less of it restrained by the love the sinner, hate the sin hypocrisies they have always loathed uttering. Eventually, the self styled compassionate and reasoned opposition distills down to Fred Phelps waving signs at funerals and courthouses in the face of the wounded and sick with grief. It is not a backlash. It is the voice of the gutter, clear, unambiguous, loosed finally from the last vestiges of rationalization and evasion that overlayed it, free, free at last.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Devaluing Christianity

Charlotte Allen, waving the bloody flag of the fundamentalists in the Los Angles Times, makes the usual point that more liberal denominations are suffering in raw membership numbers, when compared to the bible thumpers. Like her kook pew brethren, she seems to think this is some sort of proof that the message of the fundamentalists is the stronger one. I have another take. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself Christianity is a damn hard thing to practice, particularly in this age of celebrity hate mongers. You see some laughing right wing thug who made his fortune inciting hatred toward innocent people, like they were put on this earth to give his boots something to walk on, and your gut level instinct is to punch him one in the face, not forgive him. Yet this is precisely what Christ said we have to do.

Love your neighbor. Help the poor. Live modestly, turn away from worldly pursuits of money and power, blind ambition and lust. Love your neighbor. Help the poor. That's a damn hard way for a bleeding heart liberal to live in this day and age, let alone a Rush Limbaugh dittobot. Its been well said that if Jesus Christ appeared on earth today he'd be locked up as a subversive faster then you could say Patriot Act II. Is it any wonder that the churches that are sticking faithful to the teachings of Christ, are loosing members to the ones that give blessings to the pursuit of power, and rage against the Other? I'm surprised fundamentalist churches aren't growing at twenty times the rate they are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Devaluing Marriage

Quiddity Quack posts a Congratulations On Your Marriage card that's just the thing for all those Young Americans For Freedom in your life who have just tied the knot. Expect to see it in your local Hallmark store Real Soon Now.

One good thing about having same sex marriage as the current talking head topic de jour, is that nothing reveals the barren toxic wasteland that is the soul of your average homophobe better then watching them dump on the idea that marriage has anything to do with mutual love and devotion. Five minutes of listening to them elaborate that the essential meaning of holy matrimony isn't about love should be enough to convince anyone that hell is indeed a real place, and being married to one of these barren toxic soulless wonders is it.

The purpose of marriage is not and never has been to reaffirm the love of two people for one another. This country and healthy societies around the world and throughout history have given marriage special legal protection because of the recognition that it is the one institution that ensures the society's future through the orderly upbringing of children.

Daniel John Sobieski, Letter To The Editor, The Chicago Tribune, August 10, 2003

Mr. Sobieski, and Rick Man-On-Dog Santorum aren't the first jackasses I've seen to explicitly state that marriage isn't about love. I once argued for months with one of his soul mates on a Usenet news group, who declared flatly that he had not married his wife because he loved her. There was a time when I thought that these people were just digging in their heels, rather then admit that their positions were nothing more then animus toward homosexuals, wrapped in layers of sanctimonious claptrap. But when you keep encountering that preternatural void where you would normally expect to find human emotions such as sympathy, let alone love, you come to realize that, yes, the only way the homophobic right can justify their own marriages, is to take a position that marriage is decidedly not about the one fundamental thing they are incapable of bringing to it. Or to any human relationship. The threat they see to marriage isn't that same sex marriage will devalue it, but that it will affirm the sanctity and righteousness of love. The complementary nature of marriage that homophobes insist comes from genitals, comes only from the beating of two hearts as one, and a willingness to give yourself to the one you take into your arms, and bear their trust as a sacrament. But that is precisely where the homophobe cannot go. It is not the love of homosexual lovers that is incomplete. Rick Santorum isn't just dispensing cheap political rhetoric, he's flashing his ugly soul at the world, as a way of shaking his fist at God.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, August 10, 2003

A Government Drowning In Lies...

Via Atrios, CBS News is reporting that the White House Told EPA to lie about air quality after 9/11, ostensibly so as not to alarm or disturb the public:

An investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general has found that White House officials instructed the agency to be less alarming and more reassuring to the public in the first few days after the Sept. 11 attacks, The New York Times reports in its Saturday editions.

The investigation specifically cites official statements about air quality after the collapse of the World Trade Center.

The agency "did not have sufficient data and analyses" to make a "blanket statement" when it announced seven days after the attack that the air around ground zero was safe to breathe, the Times quotes the report as saying.

"Competing considerations, such as national security concerns and the desire to reopen Wall Street, also played a role in E.P.A.'s air quality statements," the report, which has not yet been made public, said.

I'm going to write a companion book to Joe Conason's Big Lies. It'll be a collection of things Bush has said to the American public that later turned out to be true. I reckon it will run a half dozen pages or thereabouts. If I use a big enough font.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

We're Christians...We Just Happen To Disagree With Christ

A remarkably clear headed commentary by Don Hudson in today's Charlotte Observer concerning recent events in the Episcopal Church and the backlash by religious homophobes. The last two paragraphs make a great point:

What's interesting is why so many Christians are so hung up on the topic, when Jesus speaks clearly on divorce and greed and helping the poor.

My guess is most of us use someone else's homosexuality as a convenient way not to look at what Jesus describes as our own real sins.

Just so. Take a another look at the usual suspects. The religious right. The American right wing. Now take a look at what concerned Jesus the most. Divorce. Greed. Helping the poor. Loving your neighbor. Notice a disconnect there, did you? I have a question. How did this particular group of self-identified Christians, come to be the public embodiment of Christianity in America? Are we calling ourselves hypocrites here, or just admitting that when it comes to history and culture, we're mostly dense as a pile of cinder blocks.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Well...This Sure Is A Surprise...

A friend of mine (who really needs to start his own blog, but he'd rather argue with cranks on the Usenet free-for-all (which, yeah, I used to do a lot of too)) sent me this link to the following CNN story:

Responding to findings that some school leaders manipulated data in order to improve their statistical profiles, Texas Education Agency Chief Deputy Commissioner Robert Scott told the district Thursday that the education agency will dispatch a monitor to review dropout data.

The district -- whose former chief is federal Education Secretary Rod Paige -- must also hire an external consultant to look at problems with data collection.

Under Paige, the district's sharply lower dropout rates had contributed to Houston's reputation as a showcase for the "Texas miracle" in education that then-Gov. George Bush cited in his presidential campaign. Paige, tabbed by Bush for his Cabinet shortly after the 2000 election, has acknowledged "there probably was" a dropout problem in Houston while he was there.

In giving the district six months to improve its record-keeping, the state agency opted not to immediately lower the district's state rating to "academically unacceptable."

Just a little something I reckon, for after we're all through wondering whether or not President Smirking Fratboy Jackass lied to the nation in order to invade Iraq. When did the president lie, and when did he know it?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, August 9, 2003

Tips For Talking About President Bush With Your Children

Daddy...What Was It Like When Everyone Could Vote?

Those who think that Bush v. Gore is a regrettable stain on American Democracy, not part of a relentless pattern of republican hostility toward democracy itself, should take note of this.

Because of a combination of tight budgets and partisan political maneuvering, at least three states, and probably more, will not hold presidential primaries next year. Legislators in recent months have canceled their states' primaries in Colorado, Kansas and Utah. Budget crunches were a big factor in all three states.

Colorado started the trend. On March 5, Republican Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill eliminating the 2004 primary, for a one-time savings of $2.2 million. The move was part of a major budget-cutting package that slashed $800 million from Colorado's 2002-2003 budget.

But in Colorado and elsewhere, there's also a partisan side to the drop-the-primary movement.

That's because President Bush is a shoo-in for renomination, while the Democrats have a vigorous contest with many viable candidates - nine, at the latest count. So Republican strategists figure that holding a 2004 primary will give lots of free publicity to the Democrats while their own nominating process generates close to zero excitement. Canceling the primary, especially in a year of budget austerity, begins to look like a fine idea.

Hey...I have a swell idea guys...why not cancel the primaries. If that flies, we can cancel the general election later... The article goes on to say that even some democratic states are going along with this because of budget concerns. But the democratic governor of Arizona seems to understand the stakes here:

In Arizona, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed Republican-backed legislation to cancel the state's primary, which would have saved the state an estimated $3 million. "Arizona can well afford the price of democracy," Ms. Napolitano wrote in her veto message.

So now it seems that part of the price we're paying for the Bush gang's looting of the treasury, is that we go back to the old smoke filled room method of deciding who runs for office in America. Bankrupting the country is just a big win-win thing for the republicans, isn't it?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Clawing My Way To Linuxville


The single biggest problem for Linux on the desktop is its device support. Servers, where Linux is currently making big inroads on the Beast From Redmond, don't need a lot of support for peripheral devices, but workstations need oodles of it. The good news about Linux is that it is possible to make a decent workstation with it. The bad news is that you absolutely can't assume that your favorite hardware is supported on it, even if it is made by one of the big guys. You really have to pay attention to the supported hardware lists out there when assembling a Linux desktop, in a way you never did with Microsoft, and unfortunately, sometimes you have to dig around for those.

Linux has one of the best graphics manipulation programs around, GIMP. But my scanner, a little Plustek I bought several years ago, just never showed up on any of the supported hardware lists for any of the Linux distributions I run. Downloading the latest versions of the SANE scanner subsystem ( kidding, that's its name. It stands for Scanner Access Now Easy) and getting them to install was a pain because of dependency issues (the Linux equivalent of DLL hell), and never resulted in a working scanner. Whenever a new version of some Linux distro I was using would be announced, I would check the hardware support for my scanner, but it never showed up.

Linux is a cooperative software effort, embracing programmers from all over the world, nearly all of whom donate their own time out of pocket to work on their little piece of it. The amazing thing is how reliable and powerful the thing is, considering it is a noncommerical labor of love for most of the people who actually do the coding on it. But if Windows (in theory) gains from a dictatorial top-down do it my way or else conformity of process, Linux definitely struggles with its more democratic, let everyone have their say approach.

It's tempting to think that living with Microsoft is the easier choice, since you never have to worry about whether or not your favorite piece of software or hardware will work on Windows. Easier...until you've lived in Microsoftland for a while, and watched them screw with Windows to put a company whose product you just happened to like using out of business. (There's a story about how Bill Gates was confronted by a reporter for a tech journal at one of the trade shows, back when they had just entered the browser market. At the time Netscape had ninety percent of that market and the reporter was nagging Bill about how could he expect beat Netscape and so on, and Bill had one of his temper tantrums and turned on the reporter saying, "What part of the fact that we own Windows don't you understand?")

Windows is the kingdom of Bill. Linux is a lot of different people with different takes on how to make things work. You really have to adjust to that fact to live in the Linux world. The other day I had an, in retrospect obvious, insight to go look on the SANE homepage for information about support for my scanner, rather then wait for the distros I use to come up with that support. See, its hard to stop thinking of Linux as shrinkwrap, which it isn't, particularly since that's how you can buy the distros. There, on the SANE homepage, I found out that my scanner was not, and likely never would be, supported.

So I printed out a list of the SANE supported scanners from two different manufacturers: HP and Epson. I ended up buying a little Epson Perfection 2400 Photo, that had racks for scanning slides and negatives like my old scanner did. When I got it home the first thing I did was install it on my Windows workstation, where I figured I'd have the fewest problems. As I unpacked the new scanner, I noticed in the documentation that Windows XP users needed to get a special patch from Microsoft in order for the scanner to work, and I began to worry that I'd bought a quirky piece of hardware that I'd have trouble getting to run. The docs also said the scanner might not work if you plugged it into a USB hub. Swell. I decided to chance it.

First I uninstalled the old scanner's drivers and support software. Most hardware manufacturers want you to install their software first, before installing the hardware, I guess to make sure Windows doesn't jump to its own conclusions about what to do when it sees new hardware appear. But before I started on that I had to go online for the XP patch, which mysteriously was about fixing a DVD player problem. After installing the patch I installed the scanner software, but not the version of Photoshop Elements that came with it, because I had my own copy of that already installed. Then I plugged in the scanner, which made a few noises and then flashed a panel light at me to tell me it was ready. I plugged it into the hub, and Windows immediately recognized it. I did a test scan to verify that it was working, and then shut down Windows.

Now came the point of the entire exercise. I booted up SUSE Linux and logged in. Then I started the SUSE YaST configuration program, and asked it to find my scanner. Lo and behold, it appeared in the list, and YaST asked me if that was what I wanted. I selected it, and a dialogue came up asking me to pick a specific driver from a list. My scanner wasn't on the list, but I was able to select a generic Epson driver and continue. I was given the option of doing a test scan, and after nearly a year of fussing with this, it was enormously gratifying to hear the scanner go into gear when I hit the TEST SCAN button. I accepted the settings for the new device, and got a message saying YaST was updating my configuration files.

Next I fired up GIMP. GIMP still didn't see my scanner. So I decided to manually start the XSANE x-windows front end that GIMP uses, to see if it saw my scanner. That was when I discovered that XSANE wasn't installed. So I started YaST back up again and looked for XSANE, but it wasn't in the graphics packages list, which seemed ridiculous since it was such an important part of GIMP. I had to open a search dialogue to find it, which wasn't the first time I'd had to do that to find a package in YaST. After installing XSANE, YaST again updated my configuration files. I started up GIMP again, and now my scanner was there.

I went downstairs to my drafting table and got one of my cartoons and re-scanned it using the new scanner and GIMP. Then I played with GIMP for a while until bedtime. That's one more Linux roadblock out of the way. Now I can do my cartoons entirely on Linux, although I still have to figure out a way to transfer the fonts I normally use on them over to Linux. That's a project for another day. Now all I need is to get something resembling Palm Desktop working with my Kyocera Smartphone and I'm set to make the switch from Windows to Linux.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Conservative Family Values

Via TBogg, who saw FOX News slimemeister Britt Hume commiserating with Rick Man-On-Dog Santorum over the grave threat to America posed by al Sex Marriage. Next time you watch Britt jerking off some gutter crawling homophobic runt for the pleasure of Rupert Murdoch, think of this:

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Post over the weekend ran an extensive account of the gay rumors surrounding the decision made by Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) not to return to Congress when his term expired...

...Paxon's chief of staff, David Marventano, along with his press secretary John Czwartacki and longtime aide Maria Cino told the Congressman rumors were tearing their way through Washington and New York. They told Paxon that "word on the street" was he was leaving after being threatened with exposure over a gay affair with a young journalist, Sandy Hume, who had committed suicide days before.

-The Datalounge, Monday, 13 April 1998

TBogg reports himself pissed off whenever he sees Hume following his RNC/Fox marching orders regarding gays. Yeah...well expect to see more of that as the splendid little war in Iraq and president smirking liar's poll numbers both go into the toilet. Homosexuals are the one sure fire way for the republicans to fire up their base and demonize democrats as evil pimps who want to let the sodomites rape everyone's kids. Sure it tears the country apart. Sure it gets people killed. At best, they don't care (The dead probably wouldn't have voted republican anyway). At worst the republican Mighty Wurlitzer smears the victims with stories about how they were really sexual predators who had it coming, like the way it started smearing Matthew Shepard as an HIV infected sexual predator as soon as it looked like the venomous anti-gay hate of their religious right allies was going to be called to account for the violence it spawns. A divide and conquer election strategy sure isn't going to cry over the fact that Americans will hate Americans a little more after the next election. And dead homosexuals sure don't bother them. Not even if the dead are their own children. The day you're not pissed off at what the republicans are doing to this country, and to its future, let alone to its gay and lesbian citizens, is a day you're not paying attention.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

How Can We Have A Discussion About You When You Keep Interrupting...?

I'm couch loafing at home, watching the network news talking droids and their guest experts yap, yap, yapping about the election of the Rev. Gene Robinson to bishop of the Episcopal church. After about nearly an hour of it I'm just dogged out. I wrote a short story a long time ago, posted elsewhere on this site, about a young gay couple watching TV, and getting unnerved while they watch, by the sensation that their TV was talking past them, to an invisible audience of heterosexuals watching silently, invisibly, there in the room with them. I felt like that again today, watching the yapping mouths discuss the election of Rev. Gene Robinson It seemed important for them to figure out what it meant. So important you'd think they could have invited some of us into that conversation to help out. Except we still don't really exist for them yet. We're fashion advisors that can make the dullest of straight men glamorous. No...wait...actually, we're walking signals of impending armageddon. Any day now for sure. The election of a gay bishop proves it. Or perhaps we're tragic figures who bear the burden of American society's failure to live up to its promise, dying for the sins of America. On the other hand we might be the disease spreading cultural decaying family destroying natural result of the supreme court decision to take god out of the classroom in 1963. And then again, we make excellent comic relief. When we're not plotting with satan and his hellish minions to destroy christianity. Well...anyway...we're sure something all right. If you want proof, just listen to heterosexuals on TV talk about us. Maybe some day they'll figure out what that something is.

In the meantime, I have a question. Ever watch a football game? Ever wonder what it feels like to be the football?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Remind Me Again...Which Candidate In 2000 Said He Was Going To Restore Integrity To The White House...?

Good article from Molly Ivins in Working For Change titled, The excavation of deception. A few excerpts:

To that we could add dozens of other examples of president smirking liar's mendacity, like his pledge to spend 15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa, which turned out to be a hoax, which in fact took money out of vaccine programs to fight TB and malaria. And then there is yellowcake. Oh...and the reason we went to war was because Saddam wouldn't let the inspectors back in. Somebody let me know when a pattern is detected here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Familiar Fingerprints, Aren't They?

An editorial in The Minneapolis Star Tribune raises a point that needs raising, about the smear campaign against the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal church:

The question of whether Robinson should be a bishop is -- and probably will remain for some time -- an issue for the Episcopal Church. But the smear is an issue for the larger community as well, for it demonstrates just how low some people will stoop when honest, reasonable debate is going against them. In fact, it links to the same sort of behavior in the American body politic.

Which seems to keep coming from...where?

The Weekly Standard is important in this. Executive Editor Fred Barnes gave the Robinson story a major boost -- after it was shopped to other news outlets that refused to bite -- when he posted information about the controversy on the magazine's Web site Monday. Barnes asserted that, "Episcopalian bishop-elect Gene Robinson has some curious affiliations," meaning the porn Web site.

No he doesn't, but Barnes does. He's not simply a journalist in this; he's a conservative Episcopalian of outspoken views who sits on the board of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. It's a conservative group which believes that mainline Protestant churches "have thrown themselves into multiple, often leftist crusades -- radical forms of feminism, environmentalism, pacifism, multi-culturalism, revolutionary socialism, sexual liberation and so forth." The group vigorously opposes gay rights within the church.

Also fascinating is who funds the institute. The most prominent names on the list of contributors are Olin, Scaife and Bradley, the same folks who bankrolled the Clinton wars.

So we come full circle. Gene Robinson, meet Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky...

How often do we have to smell the stench before we notice the cesspool? I've said this before: the entire Scaife, Olin, Bradley right wing machine needs a thorough and ongoing documentation, because people don't appreciate how far its tentacles reach in the American political dialogue these days. The right wing billionaire money that bankrolled the Clinton wars is ubiquitous and often hidden within a matryoshki of various front organizations. It amounts to a handful of very rich right wing degenerates, whose hatred for American values, and the rich diversity and exuberance of American life, is bottomless. If you were watching the attack on Rev. Gene Robinson this week, and it occurred to you that the other side plays by a completely different set of rules, you're almost right. They live in a different world: where the measure of right and wrong is themselves and none other. They are gods, and gods do not feel shame.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, August 3, 2003

In Other News, The Sky Is Blue

The National Review is spitting nails about a taxpayer funded study, apparently showing that conservatives are sociopathic morons...

The authors describe their work as an examination of "the hypotheses that political conservatism is significantly associated with (1) mental rigidity and closed-mindedness, including (a) increased dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity, (b) decreased cognitive complexity, (c) decreased openness to experience, (d) uncertainty avoidance, (e) personal needs for order and structure, and (f) need for cognitive closure; (2) lowered self-esteem; (3) fear, anger, and aggression; (4) pessimism, disgust, and contempt....

I'm with Byron What's 'is Face. They spent taxpayer dollars to prove this??? Hey...I'm all for government funding of the arts and sciences, but this is like spending money to find out that when a cat has to choose between that nice big cat friendly scratching post you just spent fifty bucks on, or your furniture, the cat will display a marked preference for the furniture. Oh. No kidding.

I'm reading The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker, a book I'm having to take with an unfortunately big grain of salt, because he keeps citing right wing nutcases as if they're actually deep thinkers. Case in point, he cites Thomas Homosexuals Are Deliberately Spreading AIDS Sowell's A Conflict Of Visions, for his hypothesis that humans divide broadly into two visions of human nature: The Utopian Vision, wherein humanity is seen as possessing limitless possibilities, and the Tragic Vision, wherein humanity is seen as being inherently limited in knowledge, wisdom and virtue. Of course, according to Sowell, and more...ah...tragically, Pinker, liberals are people who think in the Utopian sense, and conservatives in the Tragic sense. But this is nothing more then right wing excuse making, dressing itself up as intellectual deep thinking.

To say that the human potential is compassed by the human identity is not to automatically buy into the notion that human beings are somehow tragically flawed, or that our existence is limited. Furthermore, the idea that liberalism believes every limitation on human existence is purely social is your usual right wing strawman argument. There are lots of limitations on human behavior that everyone knows have nothing to do with society. Gravity for one. And as Pinker himself acknowledges, many conservatives, and certainly the social conservatives, strongly reject the notion of an essential human nature. They are as stubborn in their belief in the human identity as a blank slate, and that society is the ultimate author of our inner selves, as any leftist utopian. Just ask all the gay and lesbian children of the religious right, who've had the notion that homosexuality is a choice banged into their heads all their lives. There is no liberal-conservative divide here.

What there is, is the usual right wing excuse making, for what amounts to policies of social perdition. The author Mary Renault once said that politics, like sex, is an expression of the inner person within: If you are mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your politics, and in your sex life, when what really matters is that you're not the sort of person who will behave like that. Just so. The Tragic Vision, is merely the final defense of the moral runt, the last stand of the thug caught with his hands around someone's throat. Oh yes...I'm a bastard all right...but aren't we all...? You hear this from the various right wing pundits all the time. The authoritarian society is a necessity, they insist, because only there will the natural human tendency to brutality, and cruelty be restrained. But they're not so much passing a judgement on humanity, as on themselves.

Can people be said to have a predisposition toward perceiving the world in that way? (shrug) Perhaps. But it's a reach to say that from there it's a straight line to the Pact for a New American Century. To be homosexual is not to be a sexual predator, and to have a "decreased openness to experience, uncertainty avoidance, personal needs for order and structure"...and so on, isn't necessarily to be a right wing thug. Goodness knows there are people all over the spectrum who fit that description. I don't think anyone standing before a war crime tribunal is going to get off my saying "I was only following the orders of my genes." Not that it wouldn't be a kick to be able to lecture conservatives that just because they have these tendencies, they don't have to act on them...

Rand once said, and I'm paraphrasing it here, that there are artists who see the monsters but view the heros of the world as representing the essential human identity, and artists who see the heros, but view the monsters as representing the essential human identity. Both these views, in my opinion, are self deceiving. We are civilization builders, and we are civilization destroyers. We are capable of great brutality and great sacrifice and heroism. It is the way time, and millions of long ago life and death instants of natural selection made us. We are the living embodiment of one long and ancient thread in the story of life on earth. Its antique ways make their claim on us, and where that tide pulls, we will go. But that does not make us in any sense of the word, tragic. We have come a long way, and the more we know ourselves, the further will be our reach into that better tomorrow.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, August 2, 2003

What's That You're Reading Comrade...?

Via Tom Tomorrow, this article, and this one from The Independent Weekly. A guy sits down in a coffee shop and reads an article his father printed out for him off the web. A "scathing screed focusing on the way corporate interests have poisoned the country's media", as he later describes it. Someone sees him reading it. A few days later his mother calls him at the bookstore where he works to say the FBI is looking for him. When they arrive, they start grilling him about his choice of reading material in the coffee shop.

[FBI Agent] Trippi's partner speaks up: "Any reading material? Papers?" I don't think so. Then Trippi decides to level with me: "I'll tell you what, Marc. Someone in the shop that day saw you reading something, and thought it looked suspicious enough to call us about. So that's why we're here, just checking it out. Like I said, there's no problem. We'd just like to get to the bottom of this. Now if we can't, then you may have a problem. And you don't want that."

I suppose since librarians around the country are destroying their records, rather then let the government pry into the reading habits of their users, the FBI has decided more intensive measures are required. Just read your bible every day citizen, and whatever Fox News tells you to read. Ok? You don't want any problems.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, August 1, 2003


Atrios says that some right wing homophobe was on CNN a little while ago babbling about how the average lifespan of homosexuals is 25 years shorter. That's, as Atrios notes, the bogus Paul Cameron statistic rearing its head again, and if you're amazed that after all the debunking that one's been through that they're still trotting it out, you're not paying attention. Yes, even William Bennett eventually folded on that one. But it doesn't matter. If one-hundred percent of everyone who heard them repeat the lie, knew it was a lie, they'd still repeat it, for the sheer satisfaction of spitting on everyone who knows its a lie.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Department Of Dammed If You Do, Dammed If You Don't

The Register posts an article today on the Department of Fatherland...uhm...Homeland security taking the someone unusual step of issuing a second warning about a Windows secuity flaw. The problem, as The Register reports, is that admins aren't rushing in a Windows Update frenzy to patch their systems when the fixes come out. That is leaving oodles of Internet connected computers vulnerable to attack and mischief, long after the problem and the fix have been made availible.

The move from Homeland Security simply highlights the lackadaisical attitude many network administrators have toward updating their systems -- a bad habit that e-security experts regularly rail against. Indeed, new research released this week from US e-security firm Qualys at the most recent Black Hat briefing in Las Vegas indicates that dangerous flaws often go un-patched for weeks, months or even indefinitely.'s not laziness's fear. Anyone who has never seen a Windows system go belly up or all sullen and cranky after a software update has either never used a Windows system, or never updated one. I'm running an XP Professional system at home on one of my machines, and I get these Windows Update notifications all the time and I sweat every one of them, holding my breath and gritting my teeth while the machine reboots and comes back to life. If I had hundreds of Windows machines to administer these frequent patches to, over and over, year after year, I'd be addicted to tranquilizers by now. If !@$#%@& Microsoft would just ship high quality, reliable software in the first place...

Ah...hell. What am I saying...

by Bruce Garrett | Link


In case any of my heterosexual readers are still amazed by how potent the rage of homophobes is...

In early 2001, library staff in the main and Chinatown branches began to discover books that had been slashed beyond repair. The common thread of the vandalized books was that most dealt mainly with gay and lesbian topics, as well as women's health and AIDS.

The assault on the books left disturbing images: faces with the eyes and mouth cut out in repetitive almond-shaped gaps, multiple copies of the same book slashed in almost exactly the same manner.

By the time 46-year-old security guard John Perkyns was stopped by a librarian-turned-investigator in September 2002, he had irreversibly damaged 607 books.

-The San Francisco Examiner

I'm hearing talk in the media about an anti-gay backlash to the Lawrence decision. Well...of course. And who expected otherwise? A misinformed prejudice can be taught to see beyond itself. Knowledge can wash away the reflexive disdain. Contempt can be shamed awake into understanding and sympathy. But a visceral hatred cannot be educated away. It can only be watched out for, like shepherds on the lookout for wolves at the forest edge. In the end all we need to know about people who hate, is how to defend ourselves from them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Actually...The World Would Be A Better Place If Democrats Would Grow A Fucking Spine Joe.

Driving home today (I take my car when it looks like rain), I heard Joe Biden yap, yap, yapping about the war, and the "window of opportunity" we're loosing in Iraq, and he said a few things that really pissed me off, so when I got home I went right to my computer and now I'm sitting down at the keyboard here to do a little quality venting.

Biden said if he had to do it all over again he'd authorize Bush to "use force" in Iraq, and his first justification was that Saddam had been flouting the international community.

That tidy little euphemism for dropping tons of ordinance, not only on Saddam's soldiers, but on thousands of innocent men, women and children, aside, I'm a little fuzzy: If there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and if Saddam's ability to wage war on his neighbors was, in reality, close to nil, then somebody please tell me who the hell was flouting the international community, if it wasn't president dry drunk and his quivering enablers, know... you for instance Joe, who told him to just go-ahead and wage a war that the U.N., which by the way just happened to have represented that very same international community in the last gulf war, was solidly against? Who was flouting the international community Joe...? We were. That's who.

Oh...wait a minute...what about Saddam's brutalization of his own people, and...and...the Kurds. You know...those non-white guys in the north of Iraq we sold out to Turks before we invaded. Was that our justification for this war? It was a humanitarian act to prevent the further senseless killing of innocent people was it? Swell. Really swell. And our justification for staying the hell out of Liberia now is...ah...what again...?

Biden said on the radio that he was convinced that in five years Saddam would have built a bomb if we hadn't invaded. And he knows that how, because there sure as hell isn't any evidence of that in Iraq. Would that keen insight into the future have come perchance, from that British intelligence report Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation...? Say...wasn't that report plagiarized? You know about Plagiarism, right Joe...?

The last thing I heard before my bullshit buffer overflowed, was Biden saying that anyone who doesn't think the world is better off without Saddam Hussein, was "with all due respect", out of touch. Right. The United States is kidnapping women and children and holding them hostage for intelligence, and the world is a better place. The United States has all but destroyed the U.N. as a force for international law and order and the world is a better place. We've spit on every member of NATO who didn't kiss George Bush's ass, nearly spittling the alliance apart, and the world is a better place. Every tinpot dictator on earth now knows that the only way to keep the United States off their back is to get nuclear weapons, and get them quickly, and the world is a better place. For every innocent civilian killed, maimed, and tortured by the U.S. military, another dozen take up arms and become terrorists, and the world is a better place. The United States builds a gulag in Cuba where it tortures prisoners, and conducts secret military trials and executions, and the world is a better place. Well. Just let me respond by saying that anyone who thinks that the careless, thoughtless, live-for-the-moment destruction of everything this nation ever stood for in democracy and international law and order, has made this world a better place, isn't only a tad out of touch, they're fucking nuts! With all due respect.

You know Joe, I watched you let Hatch and that other Bush dance all over you during Clearance Thomas' confirmation hearings, and look where that's left the nation. You haven't changed a bit since then have you? Make the world a better place Joe, and let someone who gives a flying fuck whether or not the world is a better place for their having been a United States senator have your job. K?

by Bruce Garrett | Link


It's nice to see one of the heavy hitters linking to me from time to time. Glen at A Brooklyn Bridge has from time to time. TBogg did at least once. And Sullywatch did that for me again little while ago, with a nice complement on a post I did recently, about Andrew Sullivan's bellyaching that he was entitled to something he was pleased to think of as his misanthropy. And how do I repay the favor? By copying over that post and loosing it completely in my backup process, that's how. My apologies to Sullywatch, and to his readers.

Geek Alert... I keep all my data on a physical drive separate from my system drive, and back it up regularly to a USB drive which I can keep off site. I do generational backups of my source code, but until the other day, when I saw the link from Sullywatch, I never thought to do that with my web site HTML. This is, for what it's worth, the first time I've ever been bitten by a loss of data. And I've been tweaking with desktop computers since the early 80s.

If I want to get links, I have to at least take a few steps to insure my content is stable, and that my permalinks work. So I've decided to stop with the simple copy-to-drive system I have here, of backing up my HTML, and start putting it all into a version control system. Now every time I update an HTML file, I'll check it into my VCS.

For now I'm using Visual Source Safe, which comes with my copy of Visual Studio. But I really don't want to dig myself any deeper into Microsoft's clutches. I could use CVS, but the CVS server for Windows doesn't do FAT-32 drives, and Linux won't read NTFS drives, which means I won't be able to store my repository on a shared drive. Rats. On the other hand, looking for a Visual Source Safe client for Linux, seems a tad like checking Fox News for a Journalist. But Visual Source Safe has some nifty features, like being able to specify a project repository on the fly at the command prompt from any local directory, and using it doesn't require an additional hit on my budget, so for now that's what I'm using. It's like that line from one of the Godfather films, about how every time I try to leave the Family, the family always drags me back in...

[UPDATE] Ack, how could I forget... Jim Capozzola over at The Rittenhouse Review has linked to me a couple of times too. At least I haven't lost any of the posts he's linked to...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Meanwhile, Back In The Athens Of The Middle East...

JERUSALEM -- Israel's parliament passed a measure Thursday that would force Palestinians who marry Israelis to live separate lives or move out of Israel. The government said the law was necessary to prevent terror attacks, but critics called it racist.

-The Associated Press

The most potent force against the Conquistador is the power of love. The occupier has never walked the soil of the occupied who didn't know this, who, wielding the irresistible weapon from behind the impenetrable armor, didn't fear it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Hunt For Illegal Weapons Of Mass Destruction...In The United States...

Still pondering the question of whether or not Bush lied about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are we? I say we should move on to other more important issues. Like...oh...say for example...whether or not he's lying about Our weapons of mass destruction...

Illegal biological and nuclear weapons production is on the rise - in the United States.

Ignoring the internationally recognized Biological Weapons Convention, the U.S. Army has patented a grenade capable of delivering biological and chemical agents...

...The Pentagon's bid to resume biological weapons research hinges on misleading language: Developing deadly biological weapons is illegal, so the grenade and other potential biowar devices are labeled "nonlethal."

-The Baltimore Sun: Deceit, danger mark U.S. pursuit of new WMD

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean..."

by Bruce Garrett | Link

How Could I Do This To Me....???

Via TBogg, because I really, really Don't want to read Andrew Sullivan's website, I see that painful howl of the self inflicted wound, you just knew was coming after president Symbolic Gesture Of Traditional Values declared himself on the side of amending the constitution to prevent same-sex marriage.

I cannot believe that they will ostracize gay citizens for ever in an impulsive and explosive constitutional amendment. I also cannot believe that this president wants to marginalize an entire group of citizens for good simply because of who they are.

-Andrew Sullivan

Believe it Andrew. And believe this: if the damn thing passes, your name will be on the fine print, along with all the other media propagandists who helped give the dregs of the American right the keys to our government.

And you have less excuse then most of them. You saw Bush for what he was in South Carolina. Then you closed your eyes to it. Killing off the democrats was more important to you. It was so important to you, that you were willing to buy into anything to kill them off. Well, this is what you bought.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

There Isn't A Homophobic Bone In My Body...(take two)

Letter to the editor in yesterday's Rapid City Journal (South Dakota), from a Mr. Bob Ellis, who just had to roust himself out of his life long nap when he heard a gay man say that God loves him just as he is...

Mr. Coats implies that homosexual acts don't hinder his standing before God, but God himself says, "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor ... homosexual offenders ... nor drunkards ... nor swindlers ... will inherit the kingdom of God."

So now Paul is God, is he? Well you had to see That coming. There's an old joke about how protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Peter, and evangelical protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Christ.

[UPDATE] A friend of mine reminds me that the above is at least doubly wrong, because of course, Paul never used the word "homosexuals" in that Biblical verse. Not only was the term coined recently, but even the concept as we understand it today is a recent thing. The word Paul used, malakos translates literally as "soft" and was a word not commonly used in a sexual context in those days. Nobody's really sure what Paul meant by it, or the other word often translated today as "homosexual", which Paul seems to have pulled clean out of thin air: arsenokoitai.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

There Isn't A Homophobic Bone In My Body...Just One Frigging Huge Homophobic Cyst Between My Ears...

Le Dance choreographed by The New York Post:


MY LATE uncle Huey Dougherty was as gay as a New Year's Eve party. He was the toast of postwar Europe with the blockbuster play he wrote, "Seagulls Over Sorrento."

He was just a tad short of a genius - as is my cousin, Nick, who is as tough as an old rock but jokes that he was born with a broken wrist. Certainly gay - and someone I revere.

I was handed one of the most complete barroom brawl beatings in my life by the son of one of Australia's most prominent judges. Gay, but a close friend of mine to this day.


OK, have I established that there is not a tissue in me that is anti-gay? Good.


I have no problem - and neither does about 90 percent of this population - with a person being gay.


But you in that crippled Department of Education - together with Mayor Mike - are institutionalizing a way of life which has been roundly condemned by the Bible, the Koran and the Buddhist scriptures.

Le Curtian...Applaus a Voux...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Family Night Prayer And Book Burning Service Will Take Place After The Weekly Ritual Hanging Of Charles Darwin In Effigy At 6PM. Potluck Afterwards.

Why is the fact that these people are republicans not surprising? Oh...and Texas republicans...

The Christian conservative Republican Leadership Council suffered a setback Monday when Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted to keep the county's membership in the American Library Association and to leave county library book-selection policies unchanged.

The 3-2 showdown vote ended weeks of momentum for the divisive issue, which ostensibly centered on whether the ALA, the national organization for professional librarians, has too much influence on what books go onto county library shelves.

ALA opponents say the group is atheistic, communistic and supportive of homosexuality.

Will somebody please give these people a ticket back to the planet they came from?

I read about this while checking Off The Cuff for info concerning the latest round in Tom DeLay's use of the tools of democracy to destroy democracy in Texas. It's easy to laugh it off as the antics of just one state party...but these are the same brand of republicans now calling the shots in Washington. If you want to see first hand how much the republican party is committed to the core values of American democracy, take a look at Texas.

But...look...seriously...let's not lay all this at the feet of the so called party hard liners. Look at all the solid party line votes going down in Washington. The so called republican moderates, who for years have been holding themselves up as the voice of...well...moderation...have been voting in lock step with the Tom DeLay fascists ever since president five to four took office. Which is more despicable...having no conscience and acting like it, or having one and acting like you don't? Next time you hear a capital hill republican politician call themselves moderate, laugh in their face. There is no such thing.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Slouching Toward My Lai...(continued)

It appears the killings started as the troops were searching the building and as motorists approached the barbed wire which the soldiers had placed without warning across the road. Witnesses said the first car contained at least two men. "The second contained two children about 10, their mother and their father who had been wounded in the Iran-Iraq war - he was a cripple," a local shopkeeper told me. "They all died. The man's legs were cut in half by the bullets," he added. A third car then approached the Americans, who opened fire again. One of the occupants fled, but the other two remained in the vehicle and were killed.

-Robert Fisk, The Independent
by Bruce Garrett | Link

If America Is Looking Less Like A Beacon Of Liberty, And More Like The Mafia, There's A Reason: Look Who's In Charge

Kevin Drum, aka CalPundit, puts two and two together. First he notes Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks writing that we're gaining ground in Iraq by means of a simple shift in tactics. Then Drum notes in a second article by this same Bush Ass Kisser just what that shift in tactics amounted to: We're kidnapping civilians and holding them as hostage for intelligence. Pretty crafty, huh?

This may seem like a good idea in the world of 24, but in the real world it's a war crime. It should end right now, and I hope everyone who linked to the first article links to the second as well and denounces these tactics as unworthy of us. The world should know that we're better than this.

All the oil in the world, and all the money it can bring, cannot buy a single shred back, of what we are loosing in the taking of it. But what you have to understand about the Bush power base, is they never had it in the first place, and deeply resent those of us who do. Trustworthiness.

From the stealth strategy of Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed, to the lies, blatant and subtle used to drag the nation into a unnecessary and criminal war, there is a line straight and true. William Bennett, Mr. Book Of Virtues, now admits he wasn't telling the truth about the depth of his gambling debt, and people laugh and people smirk and people say, well there goes another conservative moralist hypocrite and they're not really getting it. Do you not detect a pattern here, even now? Who is really surprised that Bennett lied? I'll tell you who isn't: your Gay and Lesbian neighbors for one.

The moral majority has no qualms whatsoever about lying. We, your Gay and Lesbian neighbors, have witnessed this for decades in our struggle for equal rights. They do it easily, off-handedly, and deliberately. They lie about gay people and AIDS. They lie about gay people and pedophilia. They lie about the extant science on sexual orientation. They lie about so-called conversion therapy. And when cornered by the evidence, they lie some more. And they know they are lying. Paul Cameron's tract, "The Medical Consequences Of Homosexuality." is riddled with easy, obvious, in-your-face mendacity, such as when he cites a letter to the editor in the New England Journal Of Medicine, as if he is citing an actual peer reviewed article, or when he cites Bell and Weinberg's Homosexualities for statistics on the number of sexual partners the average gay man has, despite the fact that the authors of that study themselves said their work could support no such figures. Yet Cameron is a constant source, cited over and over again by the right in their opposition to gay and lesbian equality. Point out the frauds and falsehoods in his claims, and others like them, and the right simply repeats them all over again. They Lie. It is not occasional behavior. It is the woof and warp of their approach to living.

They are the cheats. The ones who, when reality wouldn't confirm their beliefs, wouldn't acknowledge their conceits, turned away from it, rather then learn and grow. They cocoon themselves in lies, and lies become their way of dealing with an existence they detest. They become aimless resentful willing cogs in religious or political cults, or criminals, or fundamentalist ragers against existence. And they hate the rest of us, who are not afraid of it. They are the Taliban. They are the Army of God. And they are the core of the Bush power base. They are the religious right. They are the angry red state bigots and thugs. They are the neocons. They are remaking America into their own image.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friends Like These

If you regard the events of September 11, 2001 as not simply an attack on America by middle eastern terrorists, but an attack by fundamentalist fanatics on their blood enemy, civilization, then it's worth remembering that no few of our ersatz allies in the so-called war on terror are themselves on the other side. One case in point being Egypt, often referred to as the most westernized country in the middle east. Oh really?

Some of you may recall the mass arrests a couple of years ago by Egyptian authorities, of gay men on the Queen Boat, a floating disco on the Nile river. The arrests prompted a world wide outcry, with the thugs in Egypt bellyaching, that we westerners need to be more sensitive to the right of other cultures to brutalize their weak and powerless. But that's not western liberalism, that's the reactionary's parody of western liberalism (sometimes you wonder if the thugs overseas are taking notes from the thugs here at home). What this article from Amnesty International shows, is that those arrests were only the start, of a sustained and energetic campaign by the Egyptian government, against its homosexual citizens.

"The raid marked the beginning of a two-year public campaign of harassment, intimidation, and detention of those perceived to be gay," said Michael Heflin, director of AIUSA's OUTfront Program. "Beyond those originally arrested, scores have faced police surveillance, entrapment, drawn out trials, and long periods of detention. Some were rejected by their friends and family, lost their jobs, or were tortured. All were subjected to profound public humiliation, often in the Egyptian media."

Just back from Egypt, where he spent three months documenting the abuse of gay men, Scott Long of Human Rights Watch took the megaphone and told a chilling story of how the police tortured and killed one young gay man and then, in a transparent attempt to make the death look like a suicide, threw his body off a building.

See...the difference between our friends in the region and our enemies, is that our enemies bury their homosexual citizens alive under stone walls, while our friends throw them dead off of buildings.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, July 28, 2003

Nixon's Revenge

Back during the last Presidential primary season, when I heard people say with respect, or with worry, that Smirk was another Reagan, I would always shake my head and say, "No...this man isn't another Reagan, he's another Nixon". And by gosh if he hasn't done his level best to confirm my opinion of him, ever since he stole his way into the White House.

Now I see that, finally, others are beginning to pick up on that too. Mr. I'm A Uniter Not A Divider has turned into one of the most pusillanimous, vindictive, gut-stabbing You're Either With Me Or Against Me presidents we've ever had. He actually goes beyond Nixon in cheapness of character and inner squalor. I remember Nixon. Bush is what you get when you start with Nixon's character and then subtract his intelligence.

But don't expect Smirk to ever get caught breaking the law. Just a couple of weeks ago we had Bush staffers outing an undercover CIA agent because her husband had pissed off Smirk, something that happens to be a criminal offence, and do you see any of the major news media going after that story? As far as they're concerned, it never happened. The scuttlebutt in the blog world today is that journalists don't want to go after a story when it involves going after someone's anonymous sources. But that's excuse making. Had some Clinton staffer done the same thing to an undercover CIA agent, the White House press corps would have been up in arms. The story would never have left the front pages for months, if not years.

But this is Bush. The press corp covered for him all during the primary, when anyone with half a brain could see the vindictive spoiled gutstabber for what he was. They covered for him when he went non compus mentus on 9-11. They covered for him while he set about destroying the thriving economy Clinton left him. They covered for him when his crooked CEO crony pals brought down on America some of the biggest bankruptcies in history, wiping out the retirement savings of thousands of elderly people. They covered for him when he lied about increasing support for the fight against AIDS in Africa, and for Head Start. They covered for him when he lied through his teeth about Saddam's links to 9-11 and his ability to wage war. They covered for him when he cut medical benefits to the men and women he sent to Iraq to fight his splendid little war. They're covering for him now. They have to. They hated Clinton so much they were willing to boost a petulant and conniving moral runt into the White House and damn the consequences. Now their dry drunk is behind the wheel of government and if he crashes, he takes them with him. Somewhere in hell Nixon is laughing his ass off.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Sight Of Al Capone Bellyaching That There's Never A Cop Around When You Need One.

Good couple of posts from Fred Clark (aka Slacktivist) on calls to get the U.N. involved in the situation in Iraq, starting with this one. He makes a valuable point about the distinction between police and vigilantes:

Kaplan and the CSIS wonks who wrote the report appreciate the need for U.N. resources and expertise, but they don't seem to understand the far greater need for U.N. legitimacy.

The U.S. occupation is an act of international vigilanteism. We have attacked an outlaw, but have done so in a way that makes us outlaws ourselves.

While it is true, as Kaplan and the think-tankers argue, that the police usually have more expertise and greater resources at their disposal than any given vigilante, that is not the most important difference between them. The important difference is the badge -- the legal authority that makes the police a force for the rule of law instead of merely a force for the rule of force.

I'm with him. The staggering injury of this whole war isn't in the body count, although that is hideous enough. It is the casual, contemptuous ruination by Smirk and the neocons, of the international rule of law. Just a few short years ago, America was a force, albeit an inconsistent one, for the rule of law. Now we are just another in a long litany of empire nations who stand only for the rule of force, and that is an unmitigated catastrophe.

There is much more at stake here then the immediate costs in dollars and in lives. We desperately need to reassert the rule of law with regard to Iraq, as a step in salvaging the rule of law with regard to other present and future conflicts. But this is Bush we're talking about. Law is the last thing he wants rearing its head at him. Law is, after all, about accountability, and Bush has spent his entire life evading accountability, precisely because he knows he could never earn anything that wasn't handed to him on a silver platter. He is a cheat and a bully, and a great example of how power itself isn't necessarily corrupting, and certainly not always redeeming. To imagine Bush at this juncture trying to rebuild the rule of law he so deliberately and purposely reduced to rubble so he could get his hands on Iraq, is to believe that Stalin would have become a humanitarian had he lived just a little longer.

There will be no place for the rule of law, as long as Bush and the neocons are in power. None. Absolutely none.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Hey...You Can't Do This...I'm A Party Member!

There's this unspoken rule among editorial cartoonists, about not taking swings at each other. Everything is fair game, except each other. Note for example, the expressions of solidarity with Michael Ramirez, over his little encounter with the Secret Service this week. Tom Tomorrow notes the irony of what happened, in the fact that Ramirez is a "conservative", and that it was a pro Bush cartoon (misunderstood by the Secret Service folks) that got him in trouble. As if Ramirez was just another hard working cartoonist, who happens to work for the other side. Jeff Danziger on the other hand, treats the matter more generally, as yet another assault on dissent by the Bush administration, which it was, but that's not the meat of story.

I am not a professional editorial cartoonist. I am a happy amateur. I'm also a big fan of the art form, which automatically gives me the right to bore my friends to tears about my favorite cartoonists, as well as the right to be critical of the art form's pond scum.

And what a fragrant scum it is too. There's Chuck Asay of the Colorado Springs Gazette, whose cartoons are drawn like he's doing mimeograph illustrations for summer vacation bible school handouts, and which have a degree of political insight and thoughtfulness that even Jerry Springer could laugh at. There are brain dead republican party hacks artists like Gary Varvel of the Indianapolis Star, and Scott Stantis of The Birmingham News. And there are the just plain lousy artists, who I won't name here because a poor draftsman can always improve with time and practice, while a dead conscience can only be taken around behind the barn and buried.

But Ramirez has a special place in my gallery of American political and moral runts, in part because he has even less conscience and shame then the generic party hacks above, in part because his artwork is an ugly mix of faux Jeff McNelly and Sloppy Ass Draftsman With A Zillion Cheap Tricks Up His Sleeve For Disguising It, and in large part because he now infests the newspaper space of the great Paul Conrad. It's like waking up one day to discover the National Gallery of Art has been turned into a crack house.

Political cartoonists like to say that they are equal opportunity offenders, but you generally don't see them taking the knives to the weak and the poor. Ramirez actually seems to get a rush out of attacking the powerless, for the pleasure of the powerful, a positive delight in scraping nails across the wounds of people who have been victimized by the powerful. He is a conservative, like Al Capone was a businessman. He's to editorial cartooning what Leni Riefenstahl was to film making, a willing tool for a political movement with a bottomless contempt for humanity, and for everything that is possible to it. He has the moral consciousness of an assassin's gun, and the reverence for American values of a Brooks Brothers rioter. So it gave me pleasure, no, scratch that, it positively filled me with glee, to read that the editorial page cockroach had been harassed by the Secret Service over a cartoon he did, depicting President Codpiece about to be shot in the head.

See...the cartoon was a satire on the famous photograph of South Vietnamese Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong officer with a pistol shot to the head, only in Ramirez' version Nguyen is "politics" and Bush is the poor about to be shot Vietcong. Pretty imaginative huh? No wonder this guy won a Pulitzer. Ann Telnaes eat your heart out.

Next thing you know, Mr. Team Republican is getting that ol' knock on the door he thought only the common people had to worry about. Hey...wait a minute...I'm One Of You Guys!!! Look...I have a GOP Team Leader t-shirt! Here's A Picture Of Me Shaking Hands With Karl Rove! You Can't Do This To Me...I'M A REPUBLICAN!!! have been there.

Not to worry Michael. Your credentials are in order. The goons know you're working for them. Of course it was all just a misunderstanding. You can go back now, to the business of selling political crack to your neighborhood, and raping the American Dream.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Subway Less Travelled

This is my forth visit to Manhattan, a place I am becoming very much in love with. And like all my other romances, this one will likely have to remain just a pleasant dream. My course instructor tells me that the rents on five-hundred square foot studio apartments where she lives, Hell's Kitchen, are running around two-thousand dollars a month. And anyway, as I've said elsewhere, I don't want to go back to renting. So how much for a little rowhouse tucked away somewhere on the island? Ah...if you have to ask...

My course is being held in the financial district, almost right across the street from Battery Park. The Institute, being the small fixed budget science operation it is, could not put me up in a hotel anywhere within walking distance of Wall Street, so I am a couple blocks south of Times Square, in a small, but quiet little Marriott. To keep expenses further down, and because I like to people watch, I am taking the subway back and forth to classes. Also, I could not in good conscience visit New York a forth time, without at least taking one little trip on the subway.

It's about four miles from my classes to my hotel, and my first full day here was hot and muggy. I could in theory walk straight up or down Broadway to get between them, and I love to walk in unfamiliar territory, and especially in unfamiliar territory with as many cute guys in it as this one has, so I decided to give that a shot. I got about halfway before the heat and my empty stomach started wearing me down, so I popped onto the first subway station I saw.

My first surprise was that the stations are not air conditioned. You'd think someplace underground would be at least a little bit cooler, but here you'd be wrong. It was a few degrees shy of an oven. But I waited patiently for the next train, which actually wasn't long in coming. And it was big. I don't know about the rest of New York, but here they really pile the cars on. Which is good, because the subway is just about as busy as the streets above.

The subway cars are simple and very utilitarian. Everything in the car is made of metal, save for the seats, which are a hard fiberglass. The seats all sit with their backs to the subway car walls, leaving a large open space in the center of the car. As I said, utilitarian to the max. There are few seats, but most of the day few are needed. During rush hour, what you really need more then seats, is space for people to stand. The more standing room there is, the more people the cars can accommodate. Probably, they're also a lot easier to clean with all that open space in the middle. Given the way you feel the rails as the car moves along them, you have to figure the mechanical systems on the car are equally simple and utilitarian.

But it works. The damn subway goes everywhere on this island, and it runs 24/7. If they traded comfort for utility, well...yeah. When you have this many people living in this little space, you do that. One of the very neat things about Manhattan, is that even though driving it is probably a nightmare, you don't have to. I think the only reason you'd need a car if you lived here, is if you wanted to go somewhere off the island.

I spend my evenings wandering the streets. Yes, Manhattan is a concrete canyon. But it is as beautiful as any canyon I've walked in out west. The setting sun glances off the textures and forms of this canyon as playfully, and as startlingly, as any place on earth I've seen. And at night, when the stars begin shining down on the good earth, this canyon answers back.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, July 19, 2003

A Wee Experiment

Next week's cartoon is up a tad early this time. That's because I'm going to New York for a Java programming language workshop, and rather then risk not having a working laptop or Internet connection Sunday evening, I decided to play it safe and upload it now.

You may notice a difference this week. Sandra, the creator of Boy Meets Boy, decided to reward her fans last week with some color strips, after having won the 2003 Web Cartoonists' Choice Award for Outstanding Romantic Comic. I am a big fan of that strip, and her color work is just wonderful. Seeing it all last week, got me to thinking.

So before doing the charcoal step on this week's cartoon, I decided to take the completed inked drawing over to my scanner, and fiddle a bit in Photoshop Elements. I'd never tried this before, and my thinking was to just experiment a bit and see how bad the learning curve was going to be. By about noon, when I had to decide to either stop and get back to the charcoaling step, or just go for it, I was kinda pleased with what I was seeing. So I went for it. You can see the result on the cartoon page. I am a happy cartoonist.

Don't expect me to do this every week from now on. In fact, don't expect color out of any of my other political cartoons. The political cartoon form I love is a relentlessly black and white one. But my Mark and Josh cartoons are an exception to the routine here, and I felt that color suited them in a way it doesn't in my other stuff. You'll probably see more cartoons of them in color.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Desecrating The Grave Of Edward R. Murrow...(continued)

Via Eschaton, this from Eli Pariser of MoveOn, who probably won't mistake CNN for a news network again any time soon:

As I went on air, Ms. Bakhtiar greeted me and asked me about the ad. I laid out the basic case -- the President isn't being forthcoming about this, and we need to know what happened so that we can avoid it next time. Then things started to get really weird: Bakhtiar responded by spending about 30 seconds on air chiding me about how Saddam Hussein was a murderer, how he defied the UN, and how he attacked other countries...

...Then the interview ended. I walked out to greet a friend who had come with me. She was shocked -- for most of the interview, rather than showing me, they had shown footage of Saddam Hussein waving guns.

Tresy asks, "What can the Moron-American FOX News demographic offer that's worth this kind of self-degradation?" But you have to reckon that like all criminal rackets, the Bush administration has so thoroughly tainted so many who have become involved with it, that they're all scared to death of the consequences of its all coming undone. It's a teetering house made of a lot of lies, some large, some small, but even the smallest of lies now has the power to bring all of it down, and none of the gutless wonders who made themselves willing keys in the Mighty Wurlitzer want to think about what the shock wave of that house of cards coming down will mean to their careers, let alone their reputations. So we keep hearing that the Niger claim was just one sentence in the State of the Union address. Well...yeah. And Watergate was just a third rate burglary.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Loyalty To Bush First...To America Second...

The Bush Administration Has Outed A CIA Operative as payback for her husband's criticism of President AWOL's handling of intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD capabilities.

Soon after Wilson disclosed his trip in the media and made the White House look bad. the payback came. Novak's July 14, 2003, column presented the back-story on Wilson's mission and contained the following sentences: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate" the allegation...

...The sources for Novak's assertion about Wilson's wife appear to be "two senior administration officials." If so, a pair of top Bush officials told a reporter the name of a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what's known as "nonofficial cover" and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material. If Wilson's wife is such a person--and the CIA is unlikely to have many employees like her--her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration. (Assuming she did not tell friends and family about her real job, these Bush officials have also damaged her personal life.) Without acknowledging whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee, Wilson says, "Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames."

-A White House Smear, by David Corn, The Nation, July 16, 2003

They've done more then just compromised her relationships. As blogger Mark Kleiman puts it:

If Wilson's wife isn't a CIA agent, her ability to do her actual job (she works for a consulting firm) has been compromised, as have her personal relationships. The lives of people she has met with abroad, who might be suspected of having given her sensitive information, have been put at risk. Perhaps she has been put at risk, too.

If she is a CIA agent, her life has certainly been put at risk, and the lives of her foreign sources have been put at grave risk.

Okay...Now I'm ready to start using the I word.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Slouching Toward My Lai...(continued)

Saddam and his bitter-end loyalists are behind the attacks on American soldiers in Iraq. Just close your eyes and repeat after me...Saddam and his bitter-end loyalists are behind the attacks on American soldiers in Iraq...

Families Live in Fear of Midnight Call by US Patrols

One of the most disturbing incidents concerns Sufiyan Abd al-Ghani, 11, who was with his uncle in a car that was stopped near his home in Hay al-Jihad at just after 10pm on May 27. The boy's father heard a commotion and rushed outside to see him sprawled face down on the road with a rifle muzzle pressed against his neck and US officers shouting that someone in the car had shot at them.

Sufiyan was made to stay on the ground for three hours, while more than 100 soldiers poured into the neighborhood, searching houses and cars. Eventually he was taken away with his hands trussed behind his back and a hood draped over his head. No weapon had been found. The boy said that soldiers dug rifle butts into his neck and back and that the first night he was handcuffed and left alone in a tiny room open to the sky.

The following day he was moved to the airport, where he said for eight days he shared a tent with 22 adults, sleeping on the dirt, with no water to wash or change his clothes.

Sufiyan said that he was pulled from the tent one morning, hooded and manacled again, and driven to Sarhiyeh prison, to be kept in a room with 20 other youths aged 15 or 16 - regarded as minors by the Geneva Convention.

A woman inmate took his name and details and when she was released she alerted Sufiyan's family. On June 21, the family obtained an injunction from a judge ordering the boy's release, but they were told at the prison that the signature of an Iraqi judge no longer had legal authority. Even when an American military lawyer demanded his freedom, US troops refused to release him until the lawyer appeared at the prison. Privately US military lawyers say that they are appalled at how some of the arrests are being carried out.

Just close your eyes and repeat after me...Saddam and his bitter-end loyalists are behind the attacks on American soldiers in Iraq...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Yes, Yes...I Know We're Crawling Around In A Sewer, But Where's That Gawd Awful Smell Coming From?

And the lies, the flagrant GOP bitch slappings of the American public, the maniacal jabs straight in eye of truth with the icepick of utter BS, have just reached some sort of critical mass, some sort of saturation point of absurdity and pain and ridiculousness and you just have to stand up and applaud.

Really. It's almost as if you should cheer the invidiousness, it is so spectacular, unprecedented, the tower of lies reaching the point where you, Jaded and Benumbed American Citizen, are forced to either recoil and ignore and deny, succumb and scream and laugh, or, like Bush himself, just sort of stand there, wide eyed, dumfounded, blinking hard, looking more blank and confused than ever, as the unified BushCo front begins to gloriously unravel.

-Nothing left to lie about, by Mark Morford, The San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, July 16, 2003.

Morford goes on to summarize a few more then the Gosh It Was Only Sixteen Words lie in the State Of The Union Address. My only question, and I admit its a wholly rhetorical one, is, who the hell is honestly surprised that Bush shovelled a steaming bargeload of shit to get us into this war?

Nobody, that's who. The so-called red state jingoists who voted for him, voted for exactly the kind of gutter crawling thug they got. There's not a journalist in the country who didn't see Bush for what he was after the 2000 South Carolina primary, but what mattered to the majority of them was that he wasn't Clinton or Gore, whom they despised. There is not a man or woman among them who didn't know well before the rape of democracy in Florida, who they had made a bargan with.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Sorry for neglecting this space for so long, but it's been a low energy couple of weeks for me. I've got a zillion things to take care of here at casa del Garrett, and it's just been one of those periods where I couldn't get up enough energy to do much more after work then mope around the house. Maybe it was After The Big Trip Let-down, or something. Maybe it's just another round of Getting Tired Of Being Single. I wish I could say I was over Keith. If there was a pill I could take for that I'd gulp it down in an instant. Even if it was purple.

Lie. Repeat.

I see the Washington (Moon) Times has recovered from the shock of the Lawrence decision enough, to get back down to the business of demonizing homosexual people. They don't have the sodomy laws to fall back on any more, but there is more then one way to gutstab the hopes and dreams of gay couples in love. Like for example, a constitutional amendment that says same sex unions can have no legal recognition whatsoever. So lets beat a few drums about how homosexuals don't love, they just have sex...

A recent study on homosexual relationships finds they last 1-1/2 years on average - even as homosexual groups are pushing nationwide to legalize same-sex "marriages."

The study of young Dutch homosexual men by Dr. Maria Xiridou of the Amsterdam Municipal Health Service, published in May in the journal AIDS, mirrors findings of past research.

Among heterosexuals, by contrast, 67 percent of first marriages in the United States last at least 10 years, and researchers report that more than three-quarters of married people say they have been faithful to their vows.

Study finds gay unions brief
By Amy Fagan
The Washington Times, July 11, 2003

For those of you not familiar with how the game is played, this is a variation of what the homophobes do with the Bell and Weinberg study, Homosexualities. In that study, a non random sampling of gay men, taken mostly from the urban gay scene in and around San Francisco in the 1970s, was compared with a random sampling of heterosexual men, many of whom were married, and surprise, surprise, they found the average gay man had more sex partners then the average straight one. But at least Bell and Weinberg were honest scientists:

It should be pointed out that reaching any consensus about the exact number of homosexual men or women exhibiting this or that characteristic is not the aim of our study. The nonrepresentative nature of other investigators' samples as well as of our own precludes any generalizations about the incidence of a particular phenomenon even to persons living in the locale where the interviews were conducted.

-Homosexualities p22 (emphasis mine)

But the anti-gay right calls little attention to that part of the book when they use it to claim that gay men are vastly more promiscuous then straight men. Homosexualities was written not to compare gays to straights, but to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of the lives homosexual people actually live. The anti-gay right cynically uses it instead, selectively quoting its passages the same way they selectively quote (the term is proof texting) the bible, to further stereotype, and thereby dehumanize, homosexuals. And they are always looking for fresh material to go about it. Take another look at this passage from the Washington Times article:

Among heterosexuals, by contrast, 67 percent of first marriages in the United States last at least 10 years, and researchers report that more than three-quarters of married people say they have been faithful to their vows.

Dig it. The Washington Times is comparing gay people in an HIV study who were in relationships, to opposite sex couples in marriages, and surprise, surprise, they see that the opposite sex couples are more stable.

Well...du-uuuh... And just how many heterosexual relationships these days evolve to the point of commitment to marriage, may I ask? The article also goes on to point out that in another study the same sex couples which lasted longest, had all incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity. But this study, The Male Couple by McWhirter and Mattison, not only has the same problem of sample self selection (they relied on the "friendship network method" to recruit subjects), but also the authors own personal bias against monogamy. Furthermore The Male Couple, like Homosexualities did not set out to compare gay and straight marriages, but to examine how gay male relationships develop. But don't expect the homophobes to dwell on that, while they wave around whatever bits and pieces of the study they find useful. Homosexuals just want to have sex, and if you need proof of that, just look at all the homosexuals who just want to have sex. Just them.

This is how the game is played. This is how the game has always been played. And until Evelyn Hooker did her ground breaking The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual in 1957, after discovering that the reason science saw sickness in homosexuality was because all scientists had ever studied were sick homosexuals, that was the only game in town. But while you can ask a scientist to follow the evidence of our lives to its logical conclusion, you sure as hell can't expect a bigot to do the same. And there, is the root of this matter. The anti-Gay right positions itself as a defender of marriage. They are in fact, a people marriage needs desperately to be protected from.

You cannot distort the work of other people like this Washington Times article does, and not know you're distorting their work. You cannot claim the research says something it does not say, without knowing that you are claiming the research says something it does not say. And the grim irony here, beneath all the bellicose flag waving of the anti-gay right, is that intimate, romantic love cannot exist, let alone the possibility of a long and contented marriage, if the one entering into it is not trustworthy. That, in the end, is the inadvertent point the anti-gay right makes in articles like this one, over and over again, not about homosexuals, but about themselves. When you can lie so deliberately without flinching, when you can read a book with your own eyes and deliberately lie about what you have just read, then with what eyes do you look at the one you take into your arms, and with what lips do you make promises to them?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, July 5, 2003

Not Quite With The Program

I'm enjoying a little Forth of July cookout with my neighbors. On my side of the street are all rowhouses, each one pretty much like mine, except for the end of group units, which sit on twice the amount of land, and a few three times the amount, as the rest of us. We're chatting about the new property tax bills we got this week, and the market value these days of our little rowhouses, and of the improvements we all plan make someday to our own. An updated kitchen here, central AC there. I remark that I want to put up some soundproofing along my firewalls, so I can turn up my stereo without bothering my neighbors, and so I don't have to listen to their own TVs and stereos. Not, I add, that I hear my neighbors much anyway. I'm lucky, I say, to have a couple of nice quiet neighbors on either side of me.

A young guy from down at the end of the block is sitting across from me. He shakes his head sadly. "I wish I had quiet neighbors." he says, and he looks grumpily at me, like I had some unfair advantage. "Mine are always complaining about how loud my stereo is. They're always calling the police on me."

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

You're Off Message Comrade...

When Bush first refused to address the Santorum debacle and subsequently had then-White House spokes-man Ari Fleischer call Santorum an "inclusive man," the depth of this administration's deceitfulness became frightfully clear. It would have been one thing to say that Santorum was on target about gays: That kind of sentiment, often sincere if wrongheaded, is one we certainly know how to handle. And it would be quite another thing, as Maine's senator Olympia Snowe and other moderate Republicans did, to simply condemn Santorumís remarks.

But to call Santorum "inclusive" was an insult to the intelligence of every American and was a kind of blatant distortion creepily reminiscent of the governments of the People's Republic of China and the former Soviet Union, rather than the United States.

-Michelangelo Signorile

Probably it was this kind of telling it like it is thing that had National Review's own arrested adolescent jackass Jonah Goldberg, demanding that Boston NPR-affiliate WBUR's news program The Connection not let Signorile participate in their roundtable discussion of the Lawrence decision. Not that an NPR news program producer would want someone on her show who not only knows who Goldberg's mother is, but can probably recite the names of more U.S. Presidents then she could too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

What Ninth Amendment?

The Constitution just sets minimums. Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires.

-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to an audience at John Carroll University, March 18, 2003.

In case you just missed it, Scalia said the government grants citizens their rights, citizens don't grant the goverment its power. This is what the republican thugs at the helm of congress and the white house believe. This is what their man Ashcroft believes. This is why libraries all over the country are now hanging up signs warning their users that the government can monitor their reading habits without their knowledge. Bush and his fellow thugs would like to see more supreme court justices like Scalia...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Good One...

Justice Scalia's intemperate outburst -- he said the Court has signed on to "the so-called homosexual agenda" -- brings up the question: What the heck is the homosexual agenda? I hear people on the right talk about it all the time, but as I far as I know, gay groups have not signed on to any master plan or series of proposals. Has anybody seen one? There are a lot of gay Republicans: I should think all the gays would have a hard time agreeing on an agenda. I suspect the "homosexual agenda" is like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

-Molly Ivins
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Department Of Airing Pet Peeves

I received a couple of DVDs yesterday, that I'd ordered during Pride Month in high hopes. What I got was the usual slapping around by a film industry that just doesn't seem to want to Get It, when it comes to same sex romance. This prompted some reflection on my part, about how unsatisfying my TV viewing experience has become, since I was a kid flopped on my belly watching The Outer Limits. WARNING: the following contains spoilers, and much crankiness. And so without further adieu...

Nine Reasons Bruce Should Kill His TV:

Movies about gay romances that end tragically. Lan Yu. Beautiful couple, a moving story of romance and the value of love. A wealthy businessman begins an affair with a younger man whom he tries to keep at a distance, even as he finds himself growing ever more in love with him. The businessman is eventually tossed in jail over his company's shady business deals, and the younger man he kept sells everything the businessman gave him, including a house, to get him out of jail. The businessman learns a lesson about the difference between being rich and powerful, and being loved, and the film makers could have left it at that and made a stunning, wonderful film. Except that would have been too uplifting. So they killed off the younger man at the end of the flick and left the businessman grieving. Can we please see stories about same sex love that succeeds, that triumphs over adversity? My thanks in advance.

Movies that equate beauty with evil. Taboo. Drop your jaw on the floor and stare like a gawking idiot beautiful central character, who is seen at the end of the film to be a murderous sexual manipulator of innocent men, and presumably (though we don't actually see it) executed at the end of the film by one of the heterosexual characters who confesses moments before he executes the beautiful ruthless gay murderer, that he hates homosexual men. After which, one of the characters, another heterosexual, pontificates that the beautiful ruthless gay murderer was too beautiful and possessed by evil. All you Colonel Jack D. Rippers out there, who know that women just want to take away your life essence, don't say the gay rights movement hasn't done anything for you. Now you can have films that validate your arrested adolescent fear of beautiful men too.

Bubbly reviews in the gay media of films about beautiful evil homosexuals and gay romances that end tragically. Yes dear reader, films like A Beautiful Gay Love Affair That Ends In Death And Heartbreak, or the recently shown to rave reviews at Sundance, Song Of The Lunatic, show us how far we've come since Stonewall. Line up in a ticket buying frenzy to see them now.

Catalogs from video companies courting the gay market, that assume the way to attract gay customers is to offer them hard core pornography and lots of it. I love sensuality. I think sex is wonderful and should be celebrated, not kept shamefully hidden away. I hate film makers who think they're enlightened, simply by virtue of showing gay characters on screen, while keeping gay sexuality deep in the closet. But pornography is cheap and obvious...and besides, if you wouldn't wave pornography in the face of your average heterosexual customer, why are you waving it in mine? Just asking.

Gay characters on TV sitcoms that are either stereotypical faggots or soulless sexless facades. Anyone here remember the TV sitcom Julia? These days, her name is Will.

TV shows with talking heads, gathered together to pontificate, sermonize and generally vent a lot of high quality hot air about the supreme court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, and not a single gay or lesbian voice in the lot. Pisst...hey...I have a suggestion: why not ask someone whose life was actually impacted by sodomy laws, what impact of this decision will have on people's lives?

TV shows with talking heads, gathered together to pontificate, sermonize and generally vent a lot of high quality hot air about the issue of gay and lesbian civil rights in America, and not a single gay or lesbian voice in the lot. Pisst...hey...I have a suggestion: why not ask... Aw, hell...why bother...

And another thing...If I hear one more drooling right wing moron on a TV talk show say that the same logic that the Supreme Court used to abolish sodomy laws also makes incest and bestiality okay, I'm going to explode. Has anyone thought to get children and small animals the hell away from these people?

And speaking of the above, ditto if I hear one more drooling media moron soft peddle the vehement hatred of homosexuals by the anti-gay right as a matter of morals or belief. It's as bad as the Did Bush Really Lie About Weapons Of Mass Destruction bullshit. No, it's worse. The organized opposition to gay and lesbian equality isn't about morals or belief, it's about hate. Simple, uncomplicated, pure as the hot blood on the bat that killed Private Barry Winchell hate. How many times do you have to see them lie outright about homosexuals and homosexuality, that our average life expectancy is 46, that were all either child molesters, or the product of molestation, that homosexual militants, not the science, made the APA take homosexuality off the list of mental illnesses, that itís a proven fact conversion therapy works, that the quest for same sex marriage is just about societal approval not about gaining legal rights for same sex couples, how many times do you have to hear them compare the love of same sex couples to bestiality, drug addiction and child molestation, before the excuses for homophobia start tasting like rat poison in your mouth? Just wondering.

BONUS REASON: Is there a purple pill I can take to alleviate the pain and suffering brought on by purple pill commericals?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, June 27, 2003

Next Thing You Know, They'll Say States Can't Stop People From Buying Contraceptives. Oh...Wait...

I see that George Will, who once said "surely homosexuality is an injury to healthy functioning, a distortion of personality", is saying today that the Supreme Court is "lap dancing" on the constitution. I suppose there was a reason why he would put it that way instead of, for example, saying it had divorced the constitution so it could marry a much younger woman.

He also says that "injust" is not a synonym for "unconstitutional." Uhm...yeah George, actually, it is. Much as you and your kind might wish that America was nothing more then a loose collection of fiefdoms, each one free to define out of existence the fundamental rights of its citizens as it sees fit, it isn't. The confederacy lost the war. Jefferson Davis was right: it died of a theory. Actually, it died of several. The Union isn't ready, just yet, to go die of those same theories. So loosen that adorable little bow tie of yours, go ask Scalia to give you the same lap dance that made Thurmond seize his piston last night, and take it somewhere else buster.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Getting It Right

The Court claims that its decision today merely refuses to recognize a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy; what the Court really has refused to recognize is the fundamental interest all individuals have in controlling the nature of their intimate associations with others.

-Justice Blackmun, dissenting, Hardwick v. Bowers
Resolution of this case depends on whether petitioners were free as adults to engage in private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause. For this inquiry the Court deems it necessary to reconsider its Bowers holding. The Bowers Court's initial substantive statement--"The issue presented is whether the Federal Constitution confers a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy ... ," 478 U. S., at 190--discloses the Court's failure to appreciate the extent of the liberty at stake. To say that the issue in Bowers was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward, just as it would demean a married couple were it said that marriage is just about the right to have sexual intercourse. Although the laws involved in Bowers and here purport to do not more than prohibit a particular sexual act, their penalties and purposes have more far-reaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home. They seek to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to choose to enter upon relationships in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons.

-Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, Lawrence v. Texas
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, June 26, 2003


I'm hearing this one refrain over and over from the kook pews regarding the Lawrence decision: that it effectively denies states the right to make laws based on morals. This was part of Scalia's vein throbbing rant from the bench today, and it's being picked up by right wing commentators everywhere. The Supreme Court is saying that states cannot make laws based on morals. Pay attention to that phraseology. States cannot make laws based on morals.

If you find yourself asking, "as opposed to what", you're obviously not on the right side of the Kultar Kampf. Here's what they mean: As opposed to reason. And if you find yourself wondering when, exactly, morality and reason became mutually exclusive, you're probably already on one of John Ashcroft's little lists.

I have watched for years, while religious and neo-fascist nutcases argued that morality is not a province of reason, but of authority. I have heard them say that without that authority, based on (their) version of the bible, or (their) version of tradition and custom, society would simply collapse. There would be no moral prohibition against murder, or rape, or robbery, because you cannot, they insist, establish a purely rational basis to prohibit any of them. What is more, to even attempt to do so is to establish moral relativism in place of morality. To hear the religious right argue it, all law as we know it derives from (their version of) Christianity. Take Christianity out of the law, and you take morality with it. Take morality out of the law, and you are left with only lawlessness.

Which makes both morality and the law, a house of cards. If any one element breaks down, it all breaks down, because ultimately it rests upon nothing more profound then the absolute authority of that which enforces it. But that is not morality, that is the conceit of tyrants, brutes and thieves, trying to convince their vassals that they are the authors of civilization, when in fact they have been the destroyer of it throughout the ages.

If morality is a code of conduct that guides us to what is beneficial to us, and away from what is harmful to us, then it is very deadly serious stuff, because if we get it right, we prosper and thrive, and if we get it wrong, we destroy ourselves. It is then, a vitally important business that must be based on, and subject to, the evidence of what is, or is not, harmful, or beneficial to us. To hold that moral values cannot be questioned, cannot be subject to test, and if necessary, to revision, without destroying morality altogether, is to destroy it altogether. Morality must always be able to withstand the test of truth, because if it fails that, it turns against us, and instead of nourishing us, it becomes a poison. Ask the followers of Hitler, of Stalin, of the antebellum south, what happens to a society when it's people broadly accept a moral code of conduct that doesn't work.

Time and again we have asked the opposition to equality for gay and lesbian Americans, to make a case for the harm to individuals and society they claim homosexuality represents. Time and again they have resorted not to facts and reason, but to myth, lies, and superstition. What happened today, was simply that the supreme court finally, at last, said these were not enough. That is not a renunciation of morality, but an affirmation of it, an affirmation of the moral basis for law, that it serve the common good.

Scalia, and his neighbors in the American political gutter, assert that no such test ought to be required of laws, let alone morality. That the simple belief by a majority of people that certain things are morally wrong, whether or not they actually are, should be enough. Majorities, they say, have the right to enact their beliefs into law, regardless of whether or not those beliefs make any sense, let alone that they act to secure the common good. To say otherwise they insist, is antidemocratic. But in reducing law to nothing more then the whim of any simple majority, they also embrace the assault on freedom of conscience that is the bedrock of the antidemocratic right. If the Supreme Court cannot act to protect the line between behavior which the people feel ought to be (morality), and that behavior which must demonstrably be enforced for the sake of the common good (law), then there can be no such thing as freedom of conscience in America. But democracy is predicated on freedom of conscience. Without that, there can be no democracy. What happened today, was that the Supreme Court affirmed democracy, while the enemies of democracy railed against it, this time, and for now, to no avail.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I Don't Have Anything Against Them...Why, Some Of My Best Friends Are...

You may notice an undertone of shock today, in the media buzz over Scalia's decision to vent his anger at the overturning of Hardwick directly from the bench today. But you have to actually read his dissent to see why. It's a brutal, gratutious slam not only at the dignity and worth of gay and lesbian people, but at the founding ideals of this nation, and the very concept of liberty and justice for all. It is the gutter, lecturing the rest of the world about law and morality.

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision...

The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are "immoral and unacceptable," Bowers, supra, at 196--the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity. Bowers held that this was a legitimate state interest. The Court today reaches the opposite conclusion. The Texas statute, it says, "furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual," ante, at 18 (emphasis addded). The Court embraces instead Justice Stevens' declaration in his Bowers dissent, that "the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice," ante, at 17. This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation. If, as the Court asserts, the promotion of majoritarian sexual morality is not even a legitimate state interest, none of the above-mentioned laws can survive rational-basis review.

Justice O'Connor argues that the discrimination in this law which must be justified is not its discrimination with regard to the sex of the partner but its discrimination with regard to the sexual proclivity of the principal actor...of course the same could be said of any law. A law against public nudity targets "the conduct that is closely correlated with being a nudist," and hence "is targeted at more than conduct"; it is "directed toward nudists as a class." But be that as it may. Even if the Texas law does deny equal protection to "homosexuals as a class," that denial still does not need to be justified by anything more than a rational basis, which our cases show is satisfied by the enforcement of traditional notions of sexual morality.

Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.

One of the most revealing statements in today's opinion is the Court's grim warning that the criminalization of homosexual conduct is "an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres." Ante, at 14. It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed. Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive. The Court views it as "discrimination" which it is the function of our judgments to deter. So imbued is the Court with the law profession's anti-anti-homosexual culture, that it is seemingly unaware that the attitudes of that culture are not obviously "mainstream"; that in most States what the Court calls "discrimination" against those who engage in homosexual acts is perfectly legal

Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals...

If this is the man whom right wingers are calling the court's most intellectual justice, then they are not merely intellectually bankrupt, but actively contemptuous of the very activity of thinking. The entire screed is so full of hypocrisy and double talk it is hard to imagine anyone with a brain and a conscience taking him, or his supporters, at their word about how they're just strict constructionists who oppose judicial activism. Scalia and his ilk are anti democratic judicial radicals, who would like nothing better then to rip to shreds everything about America that ever stood for liberty and justice for all. It is impossible to read this man and not know that. Take for instance, his painfully wretched attempt to justify Loving v. Virginia, on the basis that even though the antimiscegenation law applied to both whites and blacks, and therefor did not violate equal protection, it's intent was to establish white supremacy. Oh. No kidding. And gay only sodomy laws aren't meant to establish heterosexual superiority then are they? Ah, says Scalia, but that is a moral judgement communities are entitled to make for themselves. But antimiscegenation laws were also defended on exactly that basis too. And on the very same centuries of established culture, religion and law that Scalia uses to defend anti-Gay sodomy laws. A dead pig on a stick can see the double standard Scalia is trying hard to cover up here. Hell, Scalia's supporters can see it. When they call this man an intellectual, what they're saying is that they think a mind is a terrible thing to use.

by Bruce Garrett | Link


I Never Thought I'd Live To See This Day

Honestly. Think of how long it took to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson.

The most that many of us were hoping for was that maybe, just maybe, the court would overturn the sodomy laws in four of the thirteen states that still have them, but only for same sex couples. The hope was that at least the court would finally say that the law couldn't simply criminalize homosexuals for doing things that heterosexuals could. The hope was that at least they'd say that the law has to treat everyone equally...even the homosexuals. But they overturned Hardwick too! And by six to three. Even O'Connor, who voted to uphold the Georgia sodomy law in 1986, voted to take them down this time (although she issued a separate opinion).

Scalia says the court has taken sides in the culture wars. Oh. As if he has not. The court, he says, "has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda". Great. So now the motto above the entrance to the supreme court building, Equal Justice Under Law, is the so-called homosexual agenda is it?

We are not outlaws any more. All the rationalizations for discriminating against us, that leaned on the sodomy laws to define us as criminals, are gone. Virginia can't call Sharon Bottoms an unfit mother because as a lesbian, she routinely engages in criminal activity. Juan Navarette can't be denied his dying lovers' hospital bedside, on the grounds that simply to even recognize their couplehood, is to condone criminal activity. Gay kids all across the country that want to form Gay/Straight Alliance clubs in their schools can't be turned down on the basis that such clubs would encourage criminal conduct. Homosexual people can't be denied housing, and jobs, on the grounds that landlords and employers would otherwise be forced into facilitating criminal acts.

They'll have to use other rationals now. And they will. They have oodles. But we are no longer criminals by definition, or if you like, by inclination. That is a powerful change in our status as citizens. Our nature are no longer places us outside of the law. We're a lot more a part of this country today, then we were yesterday.

Damn...I feel good!

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Supposedly the Supreme Court decision for Lawrence v. Texas will come down tomorrow, so as I write this I'm still waiting with no little anxiety to learn whether or not I'll stand any chance of being a full and equal American citizen some time before I die. So many people are confidant that the court will strike down these laws, or at least strike down the ones that only apply to homosexuals on the basis of equal protection. As I recall, there was similar confidence on the eve of Hardwick v. Bowers. But it just took one vote, by a justice who didn't think it was all that important a case, to consign homosexual Americans to the American ghetto, and let the bottomless hate prey on us and the lives we try to build for ourselves for decades more. Sharon Bottoms. Barry Winchell. Nicholas West. Allen Schindler. Thanh Nguyen. Hugh Callaway. Matthew Shepard. Billy Jack Gaither. Brandon Teena. Mary Ward. Juan Navarette. Gary Matson and Winfield Scott Mowder. There isn't a wall anywhere big enough to hold all the names. Tearing down these laws would be a start towards healing the wounds wrought by so many decades of anti-homosexual persecution. We would not have to be outlaws anymore, simply to love and be loved.

And no, simply repealing them is not enough, welcome though the act may be. It is good that our heterosexual neighbors recognize, and act to protect our rights. But in the end it does none of us, gay or straight, any good for the rights of heterosexuals to be guaranteed by the constitution, while the rights of the homosexual minority exist only by the will of the majority. It must be equality in principal. It must be understood that even a passionate majority cannot put a knife into the hearts of their neighbors, even if they are certain god has told them to do it.

We were so sure that time had come in 1986.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

What Sex Is For

With the news that Canada is now allowing same sex couples to legally marry, the usual noises from the kook pews are being raised again, about how sex is, can only properly be, for procreation. There is the If God Had Wanted Us To Fly We'd All Have Wings argument, to the effect that the...ah...Parts, just weren't designed to work that way. And more broadly, the argument that sex was designed for making babies. You hear it over and over, and if nothing else, it convinces you that right wing nutcase jackasses are more terrified of intimacy then they are of homosexuality. Argue that sex is also a way for a couple to express their love for one another, and bond in a deeply intimate way, and you invariably hear a version of this: "Oh yeah? Well I love my dog too, but I don't need to have sex with it to express that love."

Kinda makes you understand the figures for the divorce and depression rates in the bible belt a tad better, doesn't it?

The current issue of Out magazine (July 2003), has an article on gay relationships, with four writers each posting a little essay on what it means to them. I normally do not like stories about gay guys getting it on with straight guys, because it's either exploitative to the gay partner or disrespectful to the straight one. But I found the essay by Alexander Chee profoundly touching.

He'd gone to a councilor, decided this was not about men in general. It was about me, and us, he said. The bravery of this moved me. And this was where it took my courage also: At 23, I'd never had sex with anyone in order to express how I cared about him, only whether or not I was attracted to him. And I couldn't believe it was the straight boy's idea...

We were in love. He taught me how the body can use sex to speak and to listen. What I learned...was the precise difference between sex with someone you don't love, and with someone you do...

I checked and this essay isn't on the online content, which is a shame. But go pick up a copy and read the rest of it. It is one of those beautiful little essays that stays with you long after you've read it. It is what I used to strain to get across to all those people I'd once argued with, who were so contemptuous of same sex intimacy. I understand better now, why they didn't get it, why they will never get it. Sex isn't just for making babies. It's also for making adults.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Desecrating The Grave Of Edward R. Murrow...(continued)

Step One: Find Murrow's grave...

The seven-page analysis, by the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis, asserts that repealing the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and last month would mean a tax hike of $1,933 for a married couple with two children and an income of $40,000.

Step Two: Stand in front of it...

Howard Dean, a Democratic presidential candidate and former Vermont governor, was confronted with the Treasury Department figures on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday.

Step Three: Unzip and piss...

The research was prepared at the request of "Meet the Press," NBC and Bush officials said.

More detailed instructions, here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Slouching Toward My Lai...(continued)

You just can't tell the good guys from the bad guys in a land where the people aren't white, dress funny and speak a language you don't understand. How very quickly it stops mattering. How very quickly you just start hating all of them. When the bad guys kill some of our guys, it doesn't matter if the people you kill in retaliation are part of the enemy forces or not. Forget about how imposing democracy isn't just a blatant hypocrisy, but a damnable sell-out of the very thing. Forget about all those noble slogans about Truth, Justice and the American Way that paved your way into this hell hole nobody but the half wits who think Rush is a regular guy just like they are who would never lie to them, still believe is a battle to defend America, not rape a smaller, weaker people for their oil...

...And especially forget that all your fellow citizens who lost their lives on 9-11-2001, died so that a neo fascist runt who couldn't beat a dead man in a fair election could take a butcher knife to the document that was supposed to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, while his boss laughs in the collective faces of all those dead men who put their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line to win it for us.

All you need to know about your current situation is this: You're an occupier, and the people whose land this is are the enemy. All of them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Back To The Drawing Board...

The new cartoon is up. After a month away, it felt good to be at my drafting table again. I bought a new set of technical pens and tried drawing with them for the first time in decades. It was a fun experience. Back in the 70s I had a horrible time with those damn things clogging on me all the time, and so stuck to dip pens for ages. Then last year I discovered the new pigment ink artist markers work pretty well too, and I've been using several brands of those ever since. I really like these new Rapidographs, but we'll see. In the past, I had a real hard time keeping them clog free.

Yes, I know I've been ignoring this space for the past couple weeks. I got home Friday before last, and I've been unwinding from the trip ever since, and trying to get back into the grove of my life. I see a few other bloggers I read had also taken vacations out west. I seem to have been the only one posting snapshots though...

I'll try to get back into the swing of this space during the week. I actually have a bunch of stuff I want to write about. The trip pretty much drained me. I enjoyed every minute of it, but I came back overloaded. I don't think I'll be taking a long road trip again any time soon. I do want to do the west again soon though. Maybe a few shorter, more targeted ones. I zig-zagged around a tad too much this time I think, and the result is that I'm still pretty spaced.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, June 08, 2003

The Golden Apples Of The Golden State

"When you've gone as far west as you can," said the captain, "there is only one direction left for you to go..."

The crew waited for him to say it.

"East" said the captain.

And they smiled, as though a cool summer breeze had suddenly touched their faces...

[Apologies to Ray Bradbury...]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

California Sensory Overload

Far, far too many good looking guys per square mile in this state...beautiful golden cliffs hugging the pacific ocean...classic cars in cherry condition everywhere you look...early 70s Ford pintos rescued from the junk yards, fitted with v-8 engines, quad carburetors punching through their hoods...watching the sun set over the earth's biggest ocean...route 1 between Morrow Bay and Hearst Castle is probably the most scenic drive on earth but you don't dare take your eyes off the road for a second while you're driving it or else you might end up plunging down a several hundred foot cliff right into the guard rails, just empty air on the other side of that curve...nice view on the way down though...a sign by the entrance to the Orcutt air park that says LEARN TO SKYDIVE THIS SUMMER, next to another sign that says SUMMER PLAYGROUND DROP-IN PROGRAM...oil from a spill all over the rocks in Morrow Bay, puddles of it glistening under the blue California sky...a lady with a pale face and vacant vacation bible school smile says it's probably a natural occurrence....hydrothermal vents she says, adding that they're her specialty...I bite my tongue before I can say that people should recycle their old oil, not their old oil company down strawberry farm worker shacks going for four-hundred and fifty thousand dollars and up...beautiful hills and mountains fading into the night shoreline until only the flashing light of the point Sal lighthouse and the sound of waves beating against the shore remain...far, far too many good looking guys surfing off the beach in Pismo in tight wet suits...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Oceano, California - Magnetic West

I like to have my little green car detailed before I go on these long western road trips. That's partly to give it some protection from the elements, and partly because a long drive is always more pleasant in a clean car. But this year I got a little rushed getting everything ready, and left Baltimore with the car less then pristine. I vowed to make it up to my car when I got to California. There, in the land where the automobile is god, I reckoned I'd give it a good California detailing before heading back east. Naturally, there is a place within walking distance of where my brother lives, that does just that.

They needed to keep my car for a few hours, so I reckoned I'd walk back to my brother's house where I am staying. I took the long way back, strolling for a couple hours through the houses and strip shopping around Oceano, feeling all the mixed feelings I usually do when I am in California, the land of my birth, if not my growing up. A lady who ran a gallery in Taos told me that if I ever wanted to leave the rat race I should call her, and move to Taos, and settle in with the arts community there. And sometimes I wonder about moving to the southwestern desert, a place that holds many wonders for me. But my inner compass points further west then there. My heart is in the rolling green hills of Maryland where I grew up, yet California calls to me in a way that is nearly impossible for me to describe. I have always lived with this sense of dual allegiance: one land of my heart, the other of my blood and bones. When I come back home to Maryland, something inside always sighs contentedly. Yet when I set foot in California, that same something says, here!

Once upon a time, the Garretts of Oceano owned a lot of property just south of my brother's that was considered worthless until recently, when the area suddenly started to attract wealthy retirees from the southern half of the state, who realized that the climate here was nearly Pleasantville perfect. Never too hot in the summer, never too cold in the winter. Sunny most of the year, there are thick fogs that can roll in, and gray overcast skies, when the temperature in the San Joaquin valley reaches the hundreds, and starts drawing cool, moist air from the pacific like a furnace chimney. That fog is about the worst weather they get around here. Once upon a time this was mostly strawberry and lettuce fields and a few small shacks here and there. Now it's three-hundred and fifty thousand dollar plus houses everywhere you look.

And lovely though they are, they are amazingly small. Many are ranch house style or split levels. The bedrooms are small, along the order of the ones in a typical Baltimore rowhouse of the fifties. The living area is open living room and dinning space, with nice fireplaces and balconies and/or decks. The architecture is lovely, at least to my eye, but the biggest single room in most of these places is, I am not kidding, the garage. Even the most modest of California homes has an ample two car garage attached to it, usually with the rest of the house hiding behind it. My mom, born and raised in the Pennsylvania mountains, used to complain that the houses in California were made of chickenwire and plaster. I thought she was joking until I saw one. Yes, says my brother, but they can take a shake. Something my little brick rowhouse back in Baltimore probably can't.

Right now I have the greatest job on earth, which I wouldn't leave for anything. But if the day ever comes that Hubble runs out of enough funding to keep me on board, and I get laid off, I'll probably strongly consider a move west. I was going to do it when mom passed away, but then I got my job with Hubble. And of course, now I have a home of my own. I'd hate to live anywhere now, that I couldn't afford a house of my own. I don't want to go back to renting. That in itself might keep me from ever coming back here to stay.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

A few more snapshots, until the talking feather comes round my way again.

Navajoland, On The Way To Tuba City

Navajoland, On The Way To Tuba City

Dixie Forest, Looking Across Zion Park

Dixie Forest, Looking Across Zion Park

Bonneville Salt Flats

Bonneville Salt Flats

California Coast, Near San Simeon

California Coast, Near San Simeon

Near Big Sur

Near Big Sur

Friday, May 30, 2003

Salt Lake City, Utah - Just Passing Through, And Quickly.

I guess I'm a desert rat after all. I spent nearly a day yesterday traveling through parts of Utah that were, in their own way, very beautiful, and it didn't do anything for me. Dixie National Forest was nice; a high altitude pine forest with a sweeping overlook view of Zion National Park and surrounding territory. It should have been an enjoyable experience, and a nice change in pace from weirdly shaped rocks and endless desert horizons, but I was not in the mood for it. All the way to Salt Lake City, my thoughts kept drifting back to what I had seen in Navajoland. Maybe I bit off more then I could chew this trip.

The lack of interest in the scenery was brought on, in part I am sure, by the big sign at the entrance to Zion National Park that said a twenty dollar fee would be assessed to all through traffic.


For twenty dollars pal, I'll go back the way I cameÖ See, there is a tunnel in the middle of that damn park, that they insist all traffic must be escorted through. Last year, according to my triple-A guidebooks, the fee was ten dollars. Twenty I reckoned, was paying camping fee rates just to drive through and look at the scenery. So I turned around and went a little further north to Dixie, which like I said, was a very nice drive, but I was still in the mood for desert vistas.

I-15 going north to Salt Lake City is a beautiful drive, almost reminiscent of the drive north on I-81 through the Shenandoah valley, except the mountains to the east look much more daunting, most having a visible tree line, some snowcapped. These are the mountains you go through while driving through Dixie. I drove north through a long flat valley between the mountains to the east, and smaller rounder mountains to the west, dotted by small towns and cattle ranches. A big thunderstorm I saw forming up clear back at from Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam, hugged the eastern mountains, occasionally throwing down a little lightning and rain. It stays like this all the way to Provo which, don't be fooled, is a suburb of Salt Lake City. In Provo, the Interstate suddenly grew to four lanes, and needed them. Traffic was heavy all the way here to my motel just west of Salt Lake, near the airport.

Yesterday I was at the Kayenta Holiday Inn, with the stunning landscape just south of Monument Valley right there in my room window. Now I am in an airport Best Western with a window that faces the motel right next to this one. I am in your usual airport office park. I suppose I could have looked harder for a more scenic place to bed down for the night, but I was in a mood to just pass through Utah and get myself into Nevada, so I stopped in a just passing through motel.

I bought a copy of the Dine' bahane', the Navajo creation story, or a version of it anyway. As the author Paul Zolbrod says in the introduction, putting down oral history in writing is a dicy undertaking to start with. And this is Navajo we're talking about mind you... I grew familiar with the language I found the problem a difficult one to solve. Navajo has features that give a storyteller options which either do not exist in English or, if duplicated, sound disconcertingly stilted or artificial. The language is a holophrastic one with an extremely complicated verb system whose intricate morphology contrasts dramatically with the relatively simple forms of English verbs. In effect, a sentence in Navajo is a repetitive syntactic unit with the nouns and certain adjectival and adverbial elements duplicated in the verb part, where they reappear as a string of pronominal particles leading up to an abstract unit of meaning that identifies a category of motion.

...and this is why the Pentagon used Navajo as the basis for an unbreakable code during World War II. While on the reservation you could hear Navajo spoken everywhere, and not just by the older folks. The people have taken care to keep their language and culture alive. But the sound of Navajo alone is daunting. By comparison, I can sit and watch Spanish channels on my satellite TV at home and get a pretty good idea of what is being talked about from the few Spanish nouns and verbs I know. In Navajoland it is only the occasional English that pops out of a Navajo conversation that clues you in. That is, I guess, the creeping effect of languages bumping into one another. English is full of phrases and words borrowed from other languages. On the radio in Navajoland you hear English phrases like "Zero Percent Interest" and "Cell Phone" suddenly pop out at you and you can maybe make an educated guess at what the talk is about, but that's your only clue. Out of hours of listening to Navajo conversations as I've visited the reservation, I can still only reliably pick out one word, Dine', which is what the Navajo call themselves. The rest is a steady torrent of sound I can't even scope a structure to, let alone begin to understand.

I'm bringing back several beautiful pieces of Navajo artwork. It's a challenge to find stuff that's current and represents what artists are thinking and doing now, not stuff that rehashes older forms for the tourists. There are a lot of trading posts in this part of the world that just seem very exploitative. When you find a good trader, it pays to strike up a conversation about who is doing what. This trip I'd noticed a lot more of the pieces I'd seen in 2000: poles of wood, usually with a god head on the top, and various intricate carvings below. When I first saw them they were small and simple. Now they're getting several feet in length, and amazingly detailed. I asked a trader in Gallup, a city which seems almost completely Navajo in population, what they represented. She didn't know, but said that it was something the Navajo artists had all just started doing.

There are trinkets for the tourists, some of which are very expensive, and there are expressions of life as the people here see it and feel it now, today. That is what art is. I have produced my own artwork since I was a kid, and my teachers bellyached that I was taking "excessive interest in personal art projects." It's all a kind of sign making. You're saying "Here is where I am now. This is what I see." You can find Native American artwork like that out here if you look. But first you have to forget Hollywood's Indian. They'll give that to you here too if you want. A buck's a buck after all. But you didn't come all this way just to have your comfortable conceits about other people validated. There's always talk radio for that.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, May 29, 2003

A little something of what I'm seeing in Navajoland, until the talking feather comes back to me.

Church Rock

Church Rock

The Mexican Hat

The Mexican Hat

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Baby Rocks

Baby Rocks

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Still posting sporadically for now. I can't seem to sit down and write while I'm taking in all the sights out here. It's worse then last year, and I'm not sure why, but it just seems like all the words I try to put down to describe what I'm seeing out here just look very lame. I have several days now of stuff I want to write about and I just can't. So I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of half hearted attempts. Basically, I bought a peace pipe in Taos by a local Native American artist, who engraved a note to me on it before he gave it to me that touched me deeply; watched the stars come out over Monument Valley; walked an ad-hoc Navajo market created in the middle of the valley, made of plywood and scrap and anything else the people could get their hands on, that seemed to me to be more authentically old west then any of the modern mock-ups you see when you drive I-40; watched rain storms walk across the desert; was surprised by a heard of horses that came up behind me while I was watching the sun go down; was lectured by eagles while taking pictures of a lonely abandoned gas station; became annoyed at a tour bus full of British tourists, and appalled at the cheesiest John Wayne mannequin you ever saw, sitting inside an old John Ford movie prop in the middle of Monument Valley (it looked like someone bought a John Wayne halloween mask and put it over an old clothing store mannequin), and I just can't write about any of it right now, I guess because I still haven't fully digested any of it. This may take a while. In the meantime, I'll post whatever I can manage, that doesn't make me cringe to re-read.

Seriously, I don't think a carving a WalMart in the side of one of the rock formations could have been worse then putting that John Wayne mannequin there.

Kayenta, Arizona - Amazing Space

The Navajo people have the most beautiful patch of this good earth. Everywhere you turn it takes your breath away. And there is just no bad way into this place. This year, I'd originally planned to enter backwards the way I'd left last year: from Gallup to Shiprock, and then across to Kayenta. But a friendly lady at a trading post in Gallup, strongly suggested I go to Window Rock instead, and then up to Canyon de Chelly, then head to Kayenta from there. Always keep your road trip flexible.

Canyon de Chelly has ruins in it from five periods of Native American habitation. You are only allowed inside with an authorized Navajo guide, but there are roads above the canyon rim from which several ruins can be viewed. I'll plan on scooting along it some time in the future, I'm already planning my next trip out here, but at the time I didn't reckon I could do the rim and still make Kayenta like I'd planned. It didn't matter. This new way to Kayenta was itself another gem. Starting with Window Rock, and going all the way to 160, I was treated to one gorgeous scene after another. Beautiful rock formations greeted me at nearly every turn. Some looking like piles of bread dough with little caves carved out in spots by the wind, others like towering monoliths of stone, just punching their way into the sky. The colors were amazing, like streaks of paint in a watercolor. There were deep dark red rocks, and light sandy yellowish ones. Rust red rock layered over dark umbers. Thin streaks of blue and turquoise ran through some like veins. I saw, I swear, a huge rock formation by the road that was entirely pale green. I think it was all covered in some sort of moss but I couldn't tell for sure.

There were pile clouds in the clear blue sky, which cast slowly moving shadows across the face of the stone walls as I drove, teasing out new textures in the distant rock formations. I pulled off the road twice to get pictures, and then watched stunned as the moving shadows revealed features in the stone which the blazing sunlight hid from view. Some formations which at first glance appeared to be solid rock walls, were actually multiple rock formations, one in front of the other. You never knew it until the shadow of a passing cloud, darkened one, then the next, then the next. I could have watched for hours, but the road ahead kept calling.

I passed through a pine forest with towering old pine trees all around the road, and a crystal clear lake not far away with boaters and fishers. It could have been somewhere out of Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was here in Navajoland. Then it was back to desert again, and vast spaces punctuated by surreal rock sculptures. I watched several school buses full of Navajo kids wander past me on the road, and wondered what it must be like to go to school in the middle of such a landscape. I had a hard time keeping my eyes from the windows as it was where I went to school.

West of Kayenta

West of Kayenta

North from Window Rock

North from Window Rock

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday May 25, 2003.

Taos, New Mexico

Blogging while on the road is getting to be a chore that distracts me from enjoying the road. So Blog entries are going to be sporadic for a while. Sorry if this is a disappointment to some of you, but I can write much better about what I've seen out here after I've had a chance to digest it.

I'll say this much now though: you really have to give the road a chance to show you things. I chose my route to Taos solely because it looked like the shortest distance to here. I wasn't expecting fabulous canyons until I got into southern Utah. I was taken by surprise by Cimmeron Canyon. It is a wonderful narrow twisty canyon with a clearwater stream running through it, and some amazing rock walls that look like hanging curtains. Old ponderosa pine trees lined the canyon floor and the canyon walls, and there were campers and fishers everywhere. Driving it was a delightfully unexpected pleasure. Took me an hour longer to get to Taos then I'd thought, because I just had to savor this stretch of asphalt. Probably won't make Kayenta tonight like I'd planned either. But Steinbeck was right; a journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday May 25, 2003.

Hays Kansas - Burning Man Says Buy Your Next New Or Used Car Here!

Made it to the flat plains today. It always amazes me to watch the transition from Ozarks to plains happen.

You cross the Mississippi into St. Louis, through a tangle of seemingly ad-hoc highway interchanges. St. Louis is a big place, with a suburban sprawl that is surprising for somewhere in the mid-west. But the inner heart of the city you drive through is bleak and decaying like I've never seen a city decay. My friend Burt told me that St. Louis had reach some kind of crime statistic high, ahead of Baltimore and Detroit and Washington D.C. Baltimore has its bad neighborhoods, but this time I really looked at St. Louis as I drove through it, and it is bad. Worse then anything I've seen in Baltimore. You pass block after block of abandoned buildings, houses, factories, what were once businesses, with widows boarded up, or not, and the occasional flat roof caved in. They look like carcasses left to bleach in the sun. As I drove I kept waiting for the better neighborhoods to appear, but it was miles, I am not kidding, before they did, and by then I was at the airport.

The surrounding suburban sprawl is starkly alive and aggressive by contrast. You see new businesses, new housing, new shopping everywhere. Sleek tinted spandrel glass office buildings rose everywhere, with large areas of carefully manicured green all around them. There were shopping malls to rival anything in the east. The highway was ten lanes wide in places. Car dealerships pressed close against the highway. My eye was caught by a bizarre inflated figure rising up in front of one of them. It was one of those blower inflated thingies, and it looked like a child's stick figure, only it was bright yellow and orange, and had waving filaments that were painted to look like fire coming out of it's hands and the top of its head. There was no face, just a little blank head on top of an angular stick figure, that almost looked like it was made of neon light poles, that had been set on fire. It put me in mind of something, but I wasn't sure what until I'd almost passed by, and I suddenly I realized I was looking at an inflatable Burning Man.

The suburbs stretched on for miles. It was where the people who could, have fled from inner St. Louis, which seems to be nearly everyone but the desperately poor. No wonder the crime rate in the city is so high.

The Ozarks eventually segue into a lovely rolling piedmont that could almost remind me of Maryland, except that you're gaining in altitude as you go. Then, somewhere past Topeka. The trees suddenly start thinning out. By the time you get to Salina, you can look to the western horizon and see not a single tree standing out against it. All around the highway the wheat was green and growing. It reached halfway up the highway fences, and undulated in the wind like a green sea, the waves glistening green and gold in the sunlight. Every now and then, a stand of old trees, often with a farmhouse tucked among them, stood out like an island in the ocean of wheat.

At a rest stop, I passed an older lady doing stretching exercises. We chatted for a bit, she saying she and her husband were down from Nebraska, heading for Salina to attend a niece's graduation. When I came back out of the restroom, she grabbed her husband, pointed at me and said, "He's driven all the way from Baltimore Maryland!" I guess the east is a long way away from here.

I pushed my luck and nearly had to spend another night driving in search of a place to spend the night. I'd started out late from Plainfield, and that combined with the early end to my first day's drive put me somewhat further east then I wanted to be. Traffic was, to me, surprisingly light, so I reckoned it wouldn't be hard to find a motel room if I kept driving until late. Ha! I drove on through to Hays Kansas, which is where I stopped for the second night of the drive last year. Even back then, during the somewhat off season, Quality Inn I'd stayed at was booked almost full when I stopped, so I should have figured. But I wanted to do some catching up. The Quality Inn was booked solid. So was the Holiday Inn, The Motel 8, and several others nearby, which I was counting on to come through for me if the Quality Inn didn't. A helpful desk clerk called around and found me the only room left in Hays. It was the bridal suite.

A too cute for this part of the world clerk took my registration, and gave me a discount on the room since I was going to be the only occupant. But it wasn't much more then the room I had last night so I wasn't complaining anyway. He set my gaydar, which has trouble going off walking down Cathedral Street near the Hippo back in Baltimore, ringing like a fire alarm. Very cute, very sweet kinda guy. We chatted easily while he did the work on getting me checked in. I wondered what life is like for him in the middle of Kansas.

My strategy from now on will probably have to be one of settling down for the night early, and calling ahead to book a room where feasible. I guess that means I'll have to get an early start, if I want to make the progress I hope to make.

I unpacked in my first ever bridal suite, single, which was not how I'd always imagined it, but then I'd never expected to be single at forty-nine either. Things don't always go according to plan. But I keep holding on to the thought that if I just persist I'll find what I'm looking for eventually. I unloaded the car, and then stood for a while looking in wonder at the heart shaped Jacuzzi surrounded by mirrors, on the marble tiled platform just a couple of feet away from the bed, amazed at the lengths I'll go, to get a good night's sleep.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday May 24, 2003.

Plainfield Illinois - Escaping The Gravity Of Home

I'm back on the road, yet it seems as if my journey has not yet begun. I'm waiting to get into the plains of course. But this is the first time I think I've ever taken a long distance drive, without that sense of exploration. If Steinbeck was right about journeys having lives of their own, and that one could end on you before you'd actually returned home, or continue long after you did, then I'm here to tell you a journey can take its own good time starting too. You could be on the road, and your journey not yet begun. That's how I feel now...sort of.

It was grey, cool and rainy when I left Baltimore, and that probably contributed to it. It's hard to cultivate a sense of anticipation under a sky like that. I didn't manage to get out from under the clouds until I got here to Indiana. I decided to stop a tad early, instead of just driving until sundown, in case the holiday traffic made it difficult to get a room for the night. But the clerks at the first place I stopped informed me that there was a two day minimum on all their rooms because of the Indy 500 this weekend, and for a brief spell I thought I was in for another experience like last year in Roswell, when I was unable to find a room until I got nearly to the Texas border. But the next motel down the street had plenty of rooms, and at half the price of the first place I stopped. After I'd flopped on the bed for a while, my mood perked up a bit. Tomorrow will be the real test though. It'll be the first day of the holiday weekend, and I'll be heading into sparser territory. If I don't have trouble getting a room tomorrow, I won't worry for the rest of the trip.

There's a moment in every long distance road trip that I think of as escaping the gravity of home. Like the Apollo astronauts who escaped the earth's gravity to go to the moon (which, okay, is still within Earth's gravity well, but anyway...), there is a threshold you cross on a long distance drive, where heading back home to your own comfortable bed is no longer possible, even if you push it bleary eyed into the night. You must bed down somewhere else for the night. Keep going and its two nights. Then three. You've left the safe comfortable orbit of home, and you're travelling among the planets then. At some point, and for me it's usually the middle of the second day, comes the awareness that no matter what happens, you're not getting back home any time soon. You and your car are a self contained capsule, scooting down the highway, looking for whatever it is ahead of you, that you've never seen before.

I expect that tomorrow morning It'll all probably hit me, and then this year's journey will start.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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