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Thursday May 19, 2005

From Our Department Of Very Unsurprising Things

The High School princpal in Howell, Michigan, who originally suspended four students for ten days for painting over God Hates Fags graffiti with the word "Love", has just announced that she'll extend that suspension to the end of the school year, and ban them from their graduation ceremony as well:

Four students who painted out a homophobic slur in front of their school and then replaced by spray painting the word "Love" on the walkway have had their ten day suspension extended for the rest of the school year.

Three of the students are senior and will not be allowed to take part in their graduation ceremony or other activities.

The students said the "God hates fags" message, that had been painted by an unknown person on the sidewalk in front of the school earlier this month, was aimed at a fellow student who is gay and they wanted to come to his defense.

The principle, Margaret Hamill, calls this punishment for defacing school property. And if you think the initial punishment here, let alone the added punishments, are way the flying fuck out of proportion to the crime, well, you're just not looking at things the Howell, Michigan way:

Howell stereotypes may not go away, but they can be shown the door

How long does it take to bury a stereotype?

Too long for many people in Howell, Mich., a tiny community in Livingston County, about 35 miles northwest of Detroit.

Certainly, myself and the other four members of my all African-American blues band were more than familiar with the stereotype about Howell. History and media reports tagged it as a haven for Michigan sympathizers of the Ku Klux Klan.

KKK Robes, Books Sell at Michigan Auction

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Ku Klux Klan robes sold for up to $1,425 and a KKK knife drew a $400 bid Saturday during an auction of KKK paraphernalia that critics have blasted as insensitive.

Auctioneer Gary Gray said a steady stream of people visited the auction house in Howell, about 55 miles west of Detroit, in the hours leading up to the sale, where participants could bid on seven KKK robes and items including buttons, books, movies and a lantern.

"Maybe I have taught more people about history, at least this week, than some schools," Gray said. "It's not a question of racism. That's intertwined. But it's not the main focus."

One of the robes was bought for $700 by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids. Museum officials hope to use it to teach tolerance.

"I felt like I was at a Klan rally at some times," museum curator David Pilgrim said.

Gosh Dave...that must have been a very odd feeling...

Other robes sold for $1,425 and $1,150. Many of the people who bought items did not give their names. One person was seen wearing a KKK pin, and another wore an arm band with a Nazi swastika.

About 10 protesters gathered outside the auction house, holding signs that read, "Hate has no home here." Some tried to enter the house, chanting "No Nazis, no KKK," as about 200 people crowded into the auction.


Community and business groups said the auction would do nothing to fix the town's racist reputation, which they trace to one man - Robert Miles, a KKK leader who lived on a farm outside Howell until his death in 1992.

The auction was originally scheduled for Jan. 15, but was delayed after Gray learned that was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday


Naturally, the kid who painted the God Hates Fags graffiti on school property has not been caught, let alone told they could not graduate. Surprised? I know I am. But amazingly enough, when the day comes, students will rise to get their diplomas with nary a fag lover among them, and Margaret Hamill will give the God Hates Fags painter their diploma, and who knows, maybe even one of those secret handshakes too, and all will be right with the world in Howell, Michigan.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Good News Is It's Looking Like Hubble Will Probably Get Its Servicing Mission.

It all depends on how smoothly the return to flight of the Space Shuttle goes. But if all goes well, there will likely be an SM4. Goddard is being told now, to work on it as though it will happen. That way, if everything goes smoothly on the return to flight, everything will be ready for an SM4 on the first available shuttle flight. That's real good news for Hubble, and all the folks wanting to do research on it.

The bad news for between ten and forty of us here at the Space Telescope Science Institute is that they'll be laid off sometime in August. Our 2005 budget was cut, mid-year, and so was our 2006 budget. With Washington swimming in red ink from the war and the tax cuts I'm not surprised. Even if they all decided right now, right this minute, to get the budget under control, there would still have to be a lot of belt tightening. And when that happens, lets face it, space exploration is not the highest of priorities. And the new director of NASA says he wants a replacement for the current Space Shuttle in service by 2010. That's going to take some serious reshuffling of resources, but I hope he pulls it off because it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise when the Shuttles are finally retired then, for the first time in decades the United States will not be able to put people into space. If we needed to send people up there, for whatever reason, we'd have to depend on the Russians...or who knows, the Chinese, to do it. So that means more stress on the general space science budget. But as I said, the good thing is it is looking more and more like Hubble will continue in its mission.

JWST (previously, the Next Generation Space Telescope) is facing its own budget problems. There are articles floating around about how it is facing a one billion dollar budget overrun. Part of that is the risks of basing a project as big as that one on developing new technology. Part of it is the cost of slippage in the launch date. But it can't be making NASA management happy. They've asked the project to explore descoping the mission, but even that doesn't look like it's going to save them much. This is the project that was supposed to replace Hubble someday. But even as it is scoped out now, it will not be as versatile as Hubble, particularly in the visible light band. If it gets descoped even further, the worry I'm hearing is that scientists will conclude that it isn't worth putting up anymore. That would put the Institute into some serious difficulty, because in the not too distant future, most of our operating budget will come from JWST.

I don't know if I'll survive this round of layoffs. I hope I do, but so are between ten and forty other people working here right now who won't. I stressed royally over the last round, and I survived it. As time goes on I get my fingers into more and more stuff around here, which is a good thing. But the big picture people may conclude that my position has to go in the shuffle. If that happens, I'm not sure what I want to do with my life.

But at least it looks now like Hubble will go on. I'd really hate to leave this place knowing that I was witnessing the end of the US space science effort, and seeing that as part of an overall withdrawal by the US from the pursuit of science. In Kansas, they're not only putting Intelligent (sic) Design into their classrooms, they want to redefine science to the point that you could have students discussing how UFOs fly and ghosts can walk through walls:

The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution weren't limited to how the theory should be taught in public schools. The board is considering redefining science itself. Advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what's observed in the world.

Instead, they want to define it as "a systematic method of continuing investigation," without specifying what kind of answer is being sought. The definition would appear in the introduction to the state's science standards.

The proposed definition has outraged many scientists, who are frustrated that students could be discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes.

The obvious aim here isn't just to get their particular brand of religion taught in the public schools, but to destroy the concept of science itself. If they actually have the political might to do this on a national scale, then the United States is finished as a major world power. We can all just sit back and watch as the rest of the developed world walks right on past us, and into the future.

I'd really hate to be looking at a future like that when my time here at Space Telescope is over. If it's coming to that, I may decide I don't even want to be a software engineer anymore. I'll sell the house, buy a cheap trailer on a plot of land somewhere in the desert, earn a small scale living doing odd jobs, paint, draw, catch up on all the books I haven't had a chance to read yet, and watch the stars come out over the desert at night.

Hubble is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me in my life. But when I leave the Institute (and hopefully that won't be for many years to come) I want to see that there are even greater things ahead for all of us. It would break my heart to see the mission I've worked on all these years end, not as prologue to even better things to come, but as a final chapter to the age when Americans believed in the future. But I have loved the stars too fondly to be afraid of the night.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Homosexuals Don't Love, They Just Have Sex

That's not a mantra, and its not rhetoric. It's bedrock. It's the irreducible core understanding bigots have of homosexual people. Homosexuals don't experience love. We are not fully human, as they are, in at least this one regard. Our relationships are nothing more then, as George Will once said, brief, barren assignations. Beneath all their rhetoric about homosexuality, there is this immovable foundation. Homosexuals don't love, they just have sex. See it here:

It is bad enough that a person should give himself to a sin that is against nature and nature's Creator, a sin surpassed by no other in its ability to arouse the fierce wrath and judgment of God, a sin that is in its essence, direct mutiny against the rule of God - but then to go further and say that Jesus approves the sin is to make a mockery of his holiness; it is to offer him vinegar on a reed and to pour contempt upon his cross. Still further, for an alleged minister of Christ to proclaim that the Lord of consuming holiness stands indifferently, and even ready to embrace an unrepentant sinner is mockery of the worst kind. And for a minister to be that sinner is to stoke the oven of God's wrath to the highest degree.

Such is the case of Irene Stroud, a minister of the United Methodist Church who was recently reinstated to the clergy on appeal by a church panel vote of 8 to 1. (Not terribly surprising news from the UMC.) Min. Shroud had been defrocked after announcing her lifestyle of homosexual practice.

If Stroud had disclosed to the church that she was engaged in a battle against sin; that she needed help in her fight to overcome; that she hated and despised the sin, but was trapped, then my words above would not be so seemingly insensitive. In fact, they would reflect the sweet fragrance of God's amazing grace and mercy towards sinners. More importantly, if Stroud had been in a state of repentance (even if it meant over and over again), the God whose wrath is infinitely harsher and whose mercy is infinitely deeper than any man's, would have run to her crying: Inasmuch as you have confessed your sins I am faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness; for I took all of the Father's wrath and judgment that you deserve, upon myself on the cross (see 1 John 1: 9).

Regrettably (there's no word to describe such sorrow of heart elicited, so regrettably will have to do), rather than being repentant, Stroud is unashamed. Even more, she (like other activists) is proud of her homosexual lifestyle.

What is missing here? One thing only. Any sense that homosexuals experience the awe and joy of body and soul love. That for homosexuals, the experience of loving, and being loved by another of their kind, may actually bring them closer to spiritual oneness with their creator, simply does not occur to Kuligowski, the writer of that editorial. It is the one and only assumption about same sex couples that you can make, that makes his editorial make sense. And it is there in nearly every sentence. That Irene Stroud, and other homosexual people, may regard their coupling experience as revelatory, as sacred, as their personal experience with the love of God in their lives, is no where acknowledged, nor even denied. Kuligowski simply proceeds from the point of view that the question itself does not even exist. Same sex love is mutiny against God. It is a mockery of holiness. It is a sin surpassed by no other. Homosexuals don't love, they just have sex.

That same sex couples are actually experiencing their love as completion, as fulfillment, akin to the born again experience, and thereby see themselves not in "mutiny" against God but having been deeply and profoundly blessed never occurs to him. And that is why people like Kuligowski are beyond reasoning with. He may think he's upholding holiness against sin, but what he is in fact doing, is telling everyone how thoroughly he has dehumanized homosexual people in his own mind. This is the way bigots think. They are utterly incapable of seeing the people, for the homosexuals.

You can't reach out to people like this with appeals to a common humanity, because they don't see humanity in homosexual people when they look at us. Hence, the Rick Santorums of the world, who think that same sex lovers are doing something little different from bestiality. There is no human component to same sex love, it is only genital contact. There is no spiritual gift, no awe and wonder. It is only sex. Sex that might as well be taking place with animals. You can't reach out to people like this with appeals to justice and fairness, because they literally believe that giving rights to same sex couples is like granting human status to animals. It just doesn't make sense to them at best, and at worst they will see it as making a mockery of the idea of justice and of human rights. Opposite sex couples are experiencing something fully human. Same sex couples just rut like barnyard animals. Granting them the same rights as opposite sex couples, they see as literally akin to marrying your dog. Rick Santorum, was simply stating what he thought was a self evident fact. But it is only obvious, when you can't see that homosexuals are human beings.

Kuligowski, like others of his kind however, would rather we not hold him accountable for his prejudices:

PS: To those who are tempted to label Christians committed to the fundamentals of biblical teaching ("fundamentalists," as you say) as haters of those practicing homosexuality, consider this: If we are correct, then we wouldn't be loving if we didn't have a genuine concern for souls in rebellion to God. If we are truly incorrect, then you should express love and concern for us who will be judged by God.

And it's here that I come face to face again with my old crisis of Christianity. I left my Baptist faith back in my teen years, and while I've looked back often, I've never felt a desire to go back. As with most major changes in outlook and philosophy, it wasn't so much a single dazzling moment of revelation as the slow steady build up of facts I could no longer ignore. But if I had to single out one of them, this would be it. Forgiveness.

I lost a world of sweetness and light, that my heterosexual peers were allowed into and I was not, purely because of the ignorant, gutter crawling prejudices of careless thoughtless jackasses like this man. They took away from me and thousands like me, one of this life's most wonderful and precious things. And while I was eventually able to snatch back a meager fitful crumb of it here and there, I have mostly had to live my life watching others finding love, and being loved. Had I lived in a culture that took same sex couples for granted, I might have had a chance. Instead I spent most of my teen years flailing around inside of a concrete cocoon made of ignorance and hate, and most of my young adult years trying, and failing, to shove that ignorance and hate back for long enough, to make a small sweet spot of peace and contentment and love I could call my own. I never succeeded.

Yet I know exactly what Jesus would ask me to do: forgive them. It is why I have so much contempt for the glassy-eyed Jesus freaks who keep yap, yap, yapping at me about how much easier life is as a Christian. The hell it is. Christianity is hard. In 1998 thugs tortured and beat to death a 105 pound gay kid they'd tied to a fence. A few months ago some other thugs beat a gay man in Santa Fe so badly his lungs were burned by his own stomach acid. Righteous republican men fight tooth and nail to prevent schools from teaching kids not to beat up on their gay and lesbian peers, some of whom, year after year, kill themselves. And instead of the sweetness of first love, many young Gay people even now, even today, still endure a nightmare of loneliness and isolation. And I should express love and concern for the people who bring this darkness down on so many innocent people, who take all the wonder and joy away from what should be one of this life's most magical moments, and dance in the ashes of our hopes and dreams. Jesus would say yes. And I just can't. If I had to single out one reason today, why I do not regard myself as a Christian, it is this: there are some things I simply cannot forgive.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday May 18, 2005

Pow! Zing!

Why is it not surprising that I heard nearly none of what Mr. Galloway actually said on capital hill today...?

Now, senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq, which killed a million Iraqis, most of them children. Most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis, With the misfortune to be born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq.

And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies. I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11, 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong. And 100,000 people have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac, who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we're in today.

Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth. Have a look at the real oil- for-food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months, when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and the other American corporations that stole Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer. Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where. Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it. Have a look at the real scandal, breaking in the newspapers today. Revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee, that the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians; the real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government.


As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his.


You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances.

This is the guy who got himself tossed from the British Labor Party for opposing Tony Blair's Excellent Iraq Adventure, and then won his seat in Parliament back in the last election, much to Blair an Co.'s embarrassment. I didn't know he was a Scot until I heard him on the news today. I grew up with Scots in my extended family. They were the only ones in the family who could actually shut up my fire and brimstone Baptist grandmother. You do not swing at Scots and expect them not to swing back.

Man...where can we get some of that back-in-your-face attitude for capital hill democrats? Where the hell are our fucking fighters!?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

A Free Press Is One Where It's Okay To State The Conclusion You're Led To By The Evidence.

Bill Moyers comes out swinging...

In my documentaries – whether on the Watergate scandals 30 years ago or the Iran-Contra conspiracy 20 years ago or Bill Clinton’s fundraising scandals 10 years ago or, five years ago, the chemical industry’s long and despicable cover-up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products from its workers, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.

I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies as well as the Big Lie of the people in power. In no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.

This is always hard to do, but it has never been harder than today. Without a trace of irony, the powers-that-be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George Orwell’s 1984. They give us a program vowing “No Child Left Behind,” while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged kids. They give us legislation cheerily calling for “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” that give us neither. And that’s just for starters.

In Orwell’s 1984, the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary, explains to the protagonist Winston, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy — or worse.


The point of the story is something only a handful of our team, including my wife and partner Judith Davidson Moyers, and I knew at the time — that the success of NOW’s journalism was creating a backlash in Washington.

The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party became. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.

This is the point of my story: Ideologues don’t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right. They embrace a world view that can’t be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn’t, God forbid.

Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on NOW: Gigot, Viguerie, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Stephen Moore, then with the Club for Growth, and others. No, our reporting was giving the radical right fits because it wasn’t the party line. It wasn’t that we were getting it wrong. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy. The problem was that we were telling stories that partisans in power didn’t want told … we were getting it right, not right-wing.

Read the whole thing and weep for freedom of the press in America.

How deep is the republican contempt for freedom of the press? Just today the Bush Gang began instructing Newsweek to write stories about how "United States military goes out of its way to treat the holy Koran with great care and respect". Never mind that the stories about its desecration at Guantanamo Bay have been floating around in the news for at least two years, it is breathtaking to hear the white house press secretary start to flatly give propaganda orders to a news gathering organization at the daily press conference no less. So I guess the view at the white house these days is that press conferences aren't where reporters ask questions, they're where reporters get their marching orders.

And when you think about it, when you think about all the Bush Gang lies the white house press corps have been passively jotting down all these years, you kinda get the feeling that this isn't all that much of a big step. When your job isn't to get the facts, but to passively repeat whatever bald faced lies the Bush Gang feed you, then how outraged can you really get when they tell you that they're tired of making things up anymore, and so from now on you have to make things up for them. They tell you what stories to write, and how to write them, and all you're doing now is saving them the step of making things up. So what if now the lies are yours? You've been telling the American public someone else's lies now for years.

Think of it as an ownership society thing. Now, you own the lies.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Evolution's Blackboard

The biggest irony about the Kansas' Board of Education decision to gut the science out of their public education, as it turns out, is right under their feet...

Chalk is interesting stuff. It’s made of a mineral calcium carbonate, that is formed into the shells of microscopic, one-celled golden brown algae. These Chrysophyceae are photosynthesizing organisms that float in large numbers at the surface of the sea, gather sunlight for energy and scavenging calcium dissolved in the water to build their protective shells. They occasionally shed the the minute calcium plates, and when the plants die, their skeletons drift slowly downward. The seas have a slow, soft, invisible rain of tiny flecks of calcium carbonate that very, very slowly builds up at the bottom.

The Niobrara Chalk formation under parts of Kansas is 600 feet thick. In the late 19th century, dinosaur hunters prowled all over it in seach of fossils. Kansas, as it turns out, is actually a great place to go hunting for the remains of ancient sea monsters. They say the dinosaurs had small brains for their size. I doubt they were much smaller then the brain of Kansas School Board Chairman Steve Abrams (republican...surprise, surprise...) who thinks the earth is about five-thousand years old.

Reading about the ridiculous anti-evolution trial going on there was rather depressing. It isn't just that the creationist arguments are so poor, but that they are making them in Kansas, where beneath their very feet are the relics of an ancient world that show them to be wrong. Don't schoolchildren there take pride in the paleontological wealth of their home? Do the people bury their imaginations and avoid thinking about the history that surrounds them?

Thinking is precisely what their religion is telling them not to do. The devil leads people astray when they think. They must believe and obey. There is a profound irony here, in the fundamentalist claim that we who are willing to let nature speak for itself, are elevating man over God. No. They are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday May 16, 2005

Not Gay, Just Homosexual.

There's a good Frank Rich column in the New York Times (registration required), that's making the blog rounds. Headlined, Just How Gay Is the Right, it introduces mainstream news readers to the hypocrisies of the right wing regarding gays, and the conservative gays who enable them, that have been staring the gay community in the face now for decades.

Rich begins with an observation that, on the occasion of its re-release on DVD, Otto Preminger's adaptation of Allen Drury's Advise And Consent is still remarkably contemporary.

By all rights "Advise and Consent" should be terribly dated. The cold war is now so over that the American and Russian presidents are bonding in Red Square. The film's Kennedy-era ambience - both a J.F.K. brother-in-law (Peter Lawford) and former lover (Gene Tierney) are in the cast - seems as retro as the Hula-Hoop. But when the pivotal gay plot twist kicks in, "Advise and Consent" taps into unfinished business that roils the capital as much, if not more, today than it did then.

I have still not read the novel the Preminger film was adapted from, so I don't really know how much of its bedrock bullshit is Preminger's or Drury's. The plot concerns a controversial nomination for secretary of state of a man accused of being a Communist. But the villains in this story aren't the McCarthyites, but the loathsome liberals, who go after one of their nominees' accusers: a young senator from Utah, Brig Anderson, who once upon a time, when he was younger, had a brief affair with another man.

In the film, as film historian Vito Russo noted, Preminger makes every effort to trivialize the gay affair as a single occurrence in the man's life that was essentially meaningless. It certainly didn't mean that he was One Of know...Queers.

The bar scene in Advise and Consent dramatized the difference between Ray and Brig. The film virtually canonizes Brig for his dislike of Ray's surroundings. Look at how the two men turned out, the film seems to say; the one who was really straight became a senator of the United States, and the one who was really gay became a seedy hustler, a barfly and a blackmailer.

Vito Russo - The Celluloid Closet

In his column, Rich notes that the bar scene is entirely Preminger's invention. Fine. But I doubt that the basic thrust of the plot, that liberals are more insidious and evil then even McCarthyites, is entirely his. Drury was, as Rich notes, a staunch anti-communist. was the political cartoonist, Herblock. But Herblock had lived through the second world war, and saw liberty threatened by both the communists, and the fascists. He understood the threat from the extreme right, which Drury, and toady's right wing apologists like Tom Clancy, sweep under the rug. Clancy is another political pot boiler writer who uses tolerance toward homosexuals as a device to make his heros seem like decent folks, all the while glorifying a republican party machine that is so hostile toward homosexuals they've made inciting public fear and loathing of gays a routine part of winning elections. Rich is absolutely right about how Advise and Consent is amazingly contemporary, because it's essential conceit that commie loving liberals, and not conservatives, are evil gay bashers, is exactly the spin being given now by republicans toward the latest rash of outings in their ranks.

Republican mayor of Spokane, Washington, James West, is the latest to get caught up in the fun. For years he made hay bashing his gay and lesbian neighbors in the Washington statehouse. Now he's explaining why offering government jobs to his sweet young boy toys wasn't really all that bad, and he's bellyaching that liberals and gays (!) are gay bashing him (!!) But it wasn't liberals and gays who won the last presidential election with this:

The republicans have been calling this tune for decades now. West himself danced and clapped to it to his advantage for years. If he wants to start pointing a finger at his accusers now, let him point it in the mirror. It wasn't liberals who elected him, and liberals have no power now to remove him from office, if the right wing gay bashers he was busy courting all these years still want him there. You sell your soul to the devil, don't cry later when you discover that the devil has taken everything from you.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday May 12, 2005

My Name Is Andrew And I Am A Blogoholic

When I was a kid they used to be called incessant chatterboxes, or yap flappers, or babbling nincompoops, or pompous gas bags, although the middle aged ones would occasionally answer to the name, Shut Up.

(Sitting on the front steps): I don't have a problem with the coloreds. It's the younger ones who are causing all the trouble. And it's the New York jews who are egging them on. Hoover knows all about it. They're all taking orders from the Kremlin up there. All this sit-in stuff is a plot to demoralize us, so the commies can just walk in one day and take over without so much as a shot being fired. They're all reds in Hollywood. Hugh Burns knows all about it. He's got their names. String em up I say. To hell with Earl Warren. God bless the House Un-American Activities Committee. Roooosevelt shook hands with Joe Stalin once didn't he? And look where that got us. Kennedy should tell Kruschev that if the reds aren't out of Cuba in twenty-four hours he'll drop one on Havana, and he'll drop another one on Moscow. But he knows if he did that the pinko New York Times will start spilling the beans about old man Kennedy's ties to the Mafia...

(Loud voice from inside the house):Shut Up!

What?! What?! Whaddya want now?

Poor Sullywatch...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Why Cowards Shouldn't Try To Make Films About Alexander The Great...

Usually, when material is deleted in the theatrical release of a movie, there is a DVD edition release with those cuts restored. Consider for instance, the Lord of the Rings special edition DVDs. But news is that the DVD release of Alexander will have additional cuts. It would seem that some controversies are too much, even for Oliver Stone...


Director OLIVER STONE has cut the gay references from his ALEXANDER movie for the DVD version of the 2004 flop.

Stone claimed his Macedonian epic was unpopular with American audiences because of the subtle homosexual content.

He said, "They didn't even read the reviews in the South because the media was using the words: 'Alex is Gay'. As a result you can bet that they thought, 'We're not going to see a film about a military leader that has got something wrong with him.'"

In the DVD version, COLIN FARRELL's ALEXANDER THE GREAT character's relationship with HEPHAISTION - played by JARED LETO - will be portrayed as simply a friendship.

However fans of ROSARIO DAWSON will be pleased to know more angles of her character ROXANE's naked exposure will be included in the DVD.

Honesty. Remember what honesty was Oliver? Remember what it meant to approch a subject with honesty? Regardless of who it offended? You did that once in your life, didn't you? Or was it all really just about getting people to notice you...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The President Never Said That...And Even If He Did He Didn't!

Via Atrios. Good one at Rock The Vote:

Today, I went on the Michael Medved radio show for an hour. What a riot.

I'm talking on the show and explaining why I don't think privatization would help young people---He starts hollering about how it is an outright lie that anyone supports "privatization."


So, I read this quote from George W. Bush as reported by ABC News on October 30, 2002: "What privatization does is allows the individual worker - his or her choice - to set aside money in a managed account with parameters in the marketplace."

I had to read it about 5 times before it sunk in. That is Mr. Bush, describing his own plan, calling in privatization.

So then he starts calling me a liar for saying that there are politicians who want to get rid of Social Security entirely (an accusation that has been made here in the comments at this blog, and where I suspect Medved got the question). He's like, I dare you to name one politician who supports phasing out Social Security. My reaction was, I don't want to get into naming names. But he kept harping on me so I had to dig into my files.

So I read him this quote from Congressman Chris Chocola: "Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized."

At that point, Medved just lost it and started saying that Chocola was not a real Congressman.

Repeat: When confronted with the facts once again he accused me of lying and said he doubted that there was really a member of Congress named Chris Chocola.

That's the eye-blinking, "I Don't Believe This Is Happening" thing everyone who confronts the neo-confederate right faces sooner or later. They lie as a matter of policy. When a fact becomes inconvenient, they simply start lying about it, without the slightest shred of hesitation or compunction. Bush Press secretary Ari Fleischer made an art form out of it, routinely telling reporters one thing and then later denying he'd said it. Bush, hell the entire republican establishment, was talking about Privatization until the polls showed that it wasn't a popular idea. So the word went out, not simply to stop calling it that, but to deny they'd ever called it that. And the reason why so many Americans now utterly loath the mainstream news media, is that they go passively along with crap like this when it's Bush doing it. Were it Clinton, the ridicule would never end.

Back in the 90s, I used to argue with anti-gay bigots on a Usenet news forum, alt.politics.homosexuality. It was an ummoderated alt group, which meant there was no way for the bigots to shut us up, no straight moderators to cut the mikes when we responded to their lies by calling them what they were. It was when I first got a taste of what would become the standard operating procedure in the Bush years: when the facts are against you, lie. They lied about the studies that "proved" that homosexuals lived shorter lives, had zillions of sex partners, spread disease like crazy, committed more violent crimes, abused children more often. You could quote them chapter and verse about what was wrong with their "studies"...mostly that they came from Paul Cameron, a charlatan and a faker, whose work is riddled with deliberate biases designed to help the right demonize homosexual people. You could point out specific problems with the "research" such as the fact that Cameron got his figure for the shortness of gay male life expectancy from averaging out the ages in obituaries he scanned from two local gay community newspapers. You could even get them to admit the studies were flawed. And within days they would be citing them again. They knew their facts were bogus, and they knew you knew their facts were bogus, and they kept right on citing them.

And it got even weirder when they started lying about their own words. When the extremists discovered that verbally bashing gays in an unmoderated forum was only making them (not us) look bad, they started denying they'd said things everyone clearly remembered them saying. Think of Jimmy Swaggart's recent indiscretion regarding violence against gays. He later said it was only a joke (tell it to Matthew Shepard's family), but then it was on videotape too. I'm still a bit surprised he even admitted saying it, considering how easily the Bush gang gets away with denying things they've said on videotape (Saddam's Nukes anyone?). Time and again people would say crap like that on Usenet, only to deny later they'd ever said what they said. It would go something like this (using what Swaggart said as an example):

If a homosexual ever looks at me that way, I'll kill him, and tell God he died.

(Several Weeks Later)I am not a gay basher. I have never advocated violence toward homosexuals. To even imply such a thing only proves how you gays can't argue the facts of the matter, you can only resort to name calling.

But a few weeks ago you said that if a homosexual ever looks at you like he's attracted to you, you'll kill him and tell God he died.

I never said such a thing. You're a liar. You have no facts on your side so all you can do is lie.

...and so on. And by that time his original post had long cycled off the news servers, and if he'd said it after Deja News had started archiving Usenet, chances were good he'd set is x-no-archive flag, so you couldn't find the post where he said he'd kill a homosexual.

So...dig it. This is completly typical of the experince you got arguing with gay haters on Usenet. They would lie without a second thought, and if you called them on it, are the liar, not they. And mind you this is all happening in the context of a culture war over the rights of homosexual people, in which the anti-gay opposition claims that their position is based on morals and values, whereas the people who believe gays should have equal rights are moral relativists, if not hedonists outright.

So I started archiving that newsgroup. And whenever someone would pull an Ari Fleischer, I'd cut and paste their own words back to them. It was the only effective way to deal with them.

And that's what all of us...Americans...those of us who still believe in the American dream of liberty and justice for all, need to be doing, in the face of the right wing onslaught on our precious democracy. We need to document the right's words and deeds. And when they start lying about them, we need to wave their words and deeds right back in their faces. These are not moral people, they are anti-democratic scum who want to burn America down to the ground. They are only posing as defenders of American values...they are anything but, and their words and deeds prove it. Hans Riemer at Rock The Vote had his files ready when Medved started babbling the latest propaganda ploy, and started hollering that it was an outright lie that anyone supports privatization. They think like Stalinists, they can simply re-write the past to suit their political agenda. We need to preserve that past, and confront them with it, whenever they start denying it.

Because our hard working news media sure as hell won't.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday May 11, 2005

Gosh...You Guys Were So Brave When Clinton Was President

Via Atrios. Now let's see... Travelgate. Vince Foster. Monica. Gosh...Bill Clinton sure couldn't have put this kind of fear into an American journalist:

Once the story was finished and set to come out on the street, I was rushing back to the States -- mostly because we could no longer work once the story was published -- and I found I was scared returning to my own country. And that was an amazingly strange and awful feeling to have. Again, you could call me paranoid, but the questions about what might happen to me once in America -- where at least I would have more rights -- kept racing through my brain. I'm still here, so you could say that my frantic mental gymnastics about what could happen to me in my own country were paranoid anxieties.

But I would turn that question around:

How many other American journalists, perhaps not as secure in their position as I, have thought to do a story and decided that it's too close to the bone, too questioning of the American government or its actions? How many times was the risk that our own government might come in and rifle through our apartment, our homes or take us away for questioning in front of our children a factor in our decision not to do a story? How many times did we as journalists decide not to do a story because we thought it might get us into trouble? Or, as likely, how often did the editor above us kill the story for the same reasons? Lots of column inches have been spent in the discussion of how our rights as Americans are being surreptitiously confiscated, but what about our complicity, as journalists, in that? It seems to me that the assault on free speech, while the fear and intimidation is in the air, comes as much from us -- as individuals and networks of journalists who censor ourselves -- as it does from any other source.

You know, American Journalists didn't merely allow their pusillanimous hatred of Bill Clinton to blind them to the essential character of Bush. They actually helped that whining spoiled rich kid brat hide squalor of his soul from the nation. They played an active roll in getting a man whose entire inner life is based around the immovable belief that he is entitled to obedience from Everyone into the Oval Office. And not only that, but at the head of the ticket of a party whose only governing principal it seems, is that they're entitled to govern. Sweet.

And now they're starting to become afraid are they?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday May 10, 2005

I Laugh

Oh. Look who's bellyaching about the Omnipotent Government Republicans now...

"In considering this bill, the U.S. House will vote on whether to empower the federal government to determine who can get a driver's license - and under what conditions," Gun Owners of America said in a statement. "Since you need a driver?s license to purchase a gun from a dealer, this will give [the government] the expanded ability to impose even greater forms of gun control - something which it has long coveted. This will become even more apparent if an anti-gun Democrat like Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in 2008."

I laugh. You pathetic ignoramuses...did you Really think that a president and a political party who get a hearty laugh out of pissing on all the other parts of the Bill Of Rights are going to respect the Second Amendment? Did you really think that a president and a political party that think they have the right to tell Americans how to live their sex lives, tell Americans whose families are real and whose are not, did you really think that they'd respect the rights of the common citizen to keep and bear arms? Did you really think that a president and a political party that would lie the nation into a war are telling you the truth when they say they support your right to keep and bear arms? Are you really that stupid?

Well...Yes. Yes you are. know what... I'll bet you that if Smirking George walked up to you and told you to your faces that he'll take every last gun you own, you'd vote for him anyway, as long as he promised to get the Federal Marriage Amendment passed. You'd have Rush and Robertson and Dobson and Frist and every pulpet thumping jackass from Texas to Virginia babbling at you that that Gun Control isn't as dangerous as Same Sex Marriage, and you'll just nod your heads every jackass one of you and hand over your guns, because you just fucking know that a government that takes your guns is less dangerous then one that respects the rights of gay people.'d let them tattoo the number '666' on your foreheads if they told you it would protect your families from the gay menace, wouldn't you?

When that perky government clerk hands you your new Universal Federal Citizenship Card, don't just keep it proudly in your wallet. Take it out from time to time and admire it. You voted for the poison. Now drink it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday May 8, 2005

New Cartoon Up


My semester is over. My house has been sorely neglected for months now, and so has my personal life. I'm tired. I live in a rat's nest.'s not that bad, but I hate having so much clutter around the house...paperwork that hasn't been filed, rooms that haven't been cleaned or dusted in months. It's depressing. And I haven't had any time at all to do anything about it. My life for the past several months has been work, school, sleep, and whatever time I could steal from any of those to spend at my drafting table, because if I can't at least draw something now and then I'll go friggin nuts. I still have a box of parts left over from rebuilding Mowgli (my main computer), that I haven't sorted through. I have paperwork from the new car I bought I haven't filed, sitting beside stacks of bills I've paid, but haven't yet filed. It looks like a bag lady lives in my office. I hate it.

And I feel as if all this work I'm putting into getting my degree is just sucking the life out of my life, without bringing enough back into it to make it worthwhile. For sure that's largely because I (think I) did fairly poorly on my finals, which just brings all the frustrations of my younger school years roaring right back at me all over again. I ace every project I'm given, but I have never tested well, and that's been the story of my academic life. Do the project, get high marks throughout the year, do dismally on the finals. So no matter how well I do during the semester, I always end it feeling like I'm fundamentally inadequate. Which, rationally, I know isn't true, and I have the resume to prove it. But I see these low scores on the finals and it just drags me down.

I wish I could just do some big final project at the end of the year, instead of a paper test. I wouldn't care how killer it was. But...jeeze...sit me down with a test book and a pencil and I just start drawing blanks and I feel like a drooling idiot. I wish I knew why I was so reliably forgetful. Maybe this is partly why my home is so full of books. I don't argue very well in real time either. I can hold my own in a written exchange, where I have time to think, but seldom in a verbal one. I need to be able to organize my thoughts, consult a few sources, and do a rough draft or two. I fiddle with my text in these posts for hours before I'll actually put them up on the site. Often I'll take a break and do a few other things before coming back to a post I'm working on. But tests, particularly final exams, just don't work that way and it kills me every frickin time. I hate it. I wish I could get past it somehow.

At this stage in my life I'm really not sure a degree is worth all this emotional stress. But staying in school makes the Institute happy so I reckon I'll stick with it. But from now on instead of worrying about getting my degree I'm going to focus more on taking classes that really benefit me with respect to the work I am actually doing. I took two semesters of C++ that I strongly doubt I'll ever use, though admittedly the abstract data structure concepts I've learned were important. I just wish the two courses were taught in java and not C++. I'd probably have done better on the finals because I am constantly working in java now at the Institute. I doubt I'll ever use C++ professionally.

Anyway... I'm depressed, I'm tired, and I'm frustrated. All in all I'd rather be drawing. So expect to see some more cartoons around here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday May 7, 2005

The War Of Northern Aggression, And Other Horseshit Slogans...

Good post at mahablog regarding the causes of the Late Unpleasantness. Pay particular attention to the links to the secessionist documents. Whenever you hear some confederate apologist yapping that the south fought the war over states rights and not slavery, point their little pointy heads into this:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Blogger Barbara O'Brien makes another good point I think here, that in the case of the south and the civil war, history has in fact, not really been written much by the victors at all:

One other point I want to address is the fact that, in the case of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the victors did not write the history. In the century following the war the bulk of both popular and scholarly history was written by southerners, who were obsessed with rationalizing that the war wasn't really about slavery, even though it was, and blaming the damnyankees for starting the war, even though they didn't. A vast amount of popular history in particular amounts to Confederate apologia, culminating in the image of poor Scarlett O'Hara rooting for turnips in her garden. And most of this is horseshit. But historians who rely on actual documentation and play down the moonlight and magnolias mythology are accused of "revisionism."
by Bruce Garrett | Link

A Brief History Of The Anti-Gay Agenda

There's an excellent article by the Southern Poverty Law Center that you should read, on the history of the emergence of the anti-gay crusade in America, among the right wing fundamentalists. Titled Holy War it summarizes pretty well Didi Herman's history of anti gay politics and its players, The Antigay Agenda.

It's easy to think that this level of hostility toward homosexuals always existed in America, but that simply isn't true. An organized political movement with the power and scope of this one doesn't just happen. And as the Southern Poverty Law Center (known mostly for it's courageous work against the Ku Klux Klan) outlines, this one is not what it seems on the surface. Yes...they hate homosexuals. With a passion. But that hate grows from a more deeply rooted hatred of democracy...

The Rev. Mel White (see also A Thorn in Their Side), an evangelical writer and filmmaker who ghostwrote Falwell's autobiography, says Falwell was led to politics in part by Dr. Francis Schaeffer, a rebellious fundamentalist who had begun spreading the word about "dominion theology" and who many see as the father of the anti-abortion movement.

Dubbed the "Guru of Fundamentalists" by Newsweek in 1982, Schaeffer believed that Christians are called to rule the U.S. — and the world — using biblical law. That meant winning elections.

"Dr. Schaeffer," says White, "convinced Jerry there was no biblical mandate against joining with 'nonbelievers' in a political cause."

Schaeffer was admired by a radical group of fundamentalist thinkers called Christian Reconstructionists. Led by Orthodox Presbyterian minister R.J. Rushdoony, the Reconstructionists argued that the Second Coming couldn't occur until the faithful established a "Biblical kingdom."

Democracy, which Rushdoony called "the great love of the failures and cowards of life," would be replaced by strict Old Testament law — meaning the death penalty for homosexuality, along with a host of other "abominations," including heresy, astrology, and (for women only) "unchastity before marriage."

D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, like James Dobson of Focus on the Family and other Christian Right luminaries, unwaveringly preaches "dominion Christianity" and hosts an annual conference devoted to "Reclaiming America for Christ."

Democracy is the central object of their hate, the thing they most want to eliminate from American society. Homosexuals are just one of many things they loath, which they believe are a consequence of the secular nature of democracy. So why the dire focus on homosexuality then? Simple:

While conservative Christians have led historic crusades against a number of "evils" in America, witchcraft, alcohol, communism, feminism, abortion, gay sex was never more than a minor concern until 1969, when protests in New York City launched the contemporary gay-rights movement.

In Where We Stand, Susan Fort Wiltshire recalls some early stirrings of a new crusade: "Around 1970, ambitious small-town preachers in the Northwest Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church began to exploit 'the gay issue.' They saw that virulent anti-gay rhetoric could fill football stadiums for revivals in such tiny Panhandle towns as Tulia and Clarendon and Higgins and Perryton."

The crusade went national in 1977, courtesy of Anita Bryant...

Bryant's success, in getting the national spotlight, and in bringing in money, was stunning, and the religious right paid attention...

"Their other issues just weren't nearly as popular," says Rob Boston, assistant communications director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and author of Close Encounters with the Religious Right.

"Most Americans supported abortion rights. Nobody believed communism inside the U.S. was really a threat. Slamming feminists, you risked alienating half the population. But gay people? Anita Bryant showed that gay-bashing could bring in some real money."

There have always been two competing images of the homosexual in American society. Either we're limp wristed fruits who are merely pathetic, or we're dangerous sexual predators. To this, the religious right added a new, and far more volatile element:

Bryant had also outlined a new gay stereotype, one far removed from the old cliché of limp-wristed "fruits." Inspired by Bryant, budding "family activist" Tim LaHaye painted a full-blown portrait in his 1978 book, The Unhappy Gays.

LaHaye, now famous for co-authoring the blockbuster Left Behind series of end-of-the-world thrillers, wrote that succumbing to the demands of the gay-rights movement would be a mistake of apocalyptic proportions, literally.

"The mercy and grace of God seem to reach their breaking point when homosexuality becomes normal," LaHaye said. "Put another way, when sodomy fills the national cup of man's abominations to overflowing, God earmarks that nation for destruction."

God Hates Fags. Homosexuals are harbingers of the apocalypse. God will destroy a people who tolerate homosexuality. Homosexuals by their very existence threaten a nation with destruction. The religious right had finally found the right scapegoat, with which to incite the American masses. After all, since the horrors of the death camps in World War Two, it couldn't be Jews anymore. The Red Menace was loosing force. Too much red baiting had made it start to seem a bit ridiculous. And red baiting dragged the baggage of ideology and politics with it, pastimes that were uninteresting to the very Americans the right was trying hard to inflame. But the Gay Menace hit them right in the primal gut of sex and sexuality, and that did the trick. Adding religion to the mix, poured gasoline on the fire. It worked.

Fundraising appeals became increasingly outrageous. In January 1998, Christian Action Network founder Martin Mawyer wrote:
The title character in the ABC-TV sitcom Ellen came out of the closet ... AND DUMPED HER FILTHY LESBIAN LIFESTYLE RIGHT IN THE CENTER OF YOUR LIVING ROOM!! IT'S THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF NETWORK TV THAT THE LEAD CHARACTER IS A SODOMITE!! ... Do you think TV ever portrays homosexuals as they really are? Having sex with hundreds of perverts in 'one-night stands' ... spreading their filthy sex diseases to millions of people ... molesting innocent children ... flaunting their grotesque lifestyle ... committing murder and sex crimes more than any other group of people.

Had this been written about any other group of people, blacks, jews, hispanics, the howls of outrage would have been deafening. But the Gay Menace, with it's combination of sexual and religious elements, has enabled hate mongering like this to go largely unchallenged. If you embrace the rights of homosexuals you're a perverted sex lover. If you criticize hate rhetoric you're attacking people's deeply held religious beliefs. So the field is left to the haters, and to the small voice of the gay community trying hard to defend itself against the onslaught of a multi-million dollar a year campaign of venom and hate, that is being waged largely to win political power for the religious right, so they can finally bring an end to democracy in America.

In 2004, George Bush and the republicans fought to hold onto power using two utterly invented threats: Gays and Saddam. It only barely worked. But as Ralph Reed figured out years ago, in our winner take all system of elections, barely will do.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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