Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Politicians destroy Castro Halloween party.

The most famous Halloween party in the world has been cancelled. The party was held on Castro Street in San Francisco. San Francisco is considered the gay capital of the world and Castro Street the epicenter of the capital.

The reality is that the area, while heavily gay, was never exclusively gay and I would say that a third of the residents were heterosexual even within the Castro itself -- with the number of straights rising quickly if one moved a few blocks in any direction.

Some years ago when I moved to San Francisco, the first apartment I found was on Castro, though it was slightly outside the “epicenter”. The apartment was small -- much too small but I loved the Victorian building. Shortly after that I discovered a very large apartment which was on the top floor of one of the buildings in the very heart of the Castro. The rent was rather reasonable, for San Francisco at least, especially since the flat occupied the entire floor. The lounge was double the size of most and had a huge bay window looking down on the street. And off that was the room I used as my office which also had a bay window that butted out over the street below as well.

So the Halloween party in the Castro wasn’t exactly something I could avoid. Well over 100,000 people would descend in various costumes and party, perhaps double or triple that.. And each year it seemed to get bigger. Even with the bedroom at the back of the flat the noise from the party filtered through easily. The street was far too compacted with people to go down, at least not for long. But I didn’t need to. I could watch all the festivities from my front window with no problem. And admittedly every Halloween I got little sleep due to the noise.

Because the party was where it was it has also attracted people from outside the neighborhood who wanted to come in and cause problems. Various gang types would descend in order to win some stripes by attacking people they assumed were gay -- often assumed wrongly I might add. On the other hand that was not relegated to Halloween alone. Two bus routes, the 22 and the 24, ran through the area and both went through some pretty rough areas of the cities. Thugs from those neighborhoods would hop on the bus and sit there in waiting until it got closer to the Castro. They would wait until someone they believed was gay got on the bus and the group of them would pounce. The bus driver usually tried to pretend he didn’t see anything and often the gang just remained on the bus while the victim staggered off seeking protection and medical assistance.

The city always tried to cope with the problem but was typically unable to do much without getting heavy handed. One Halloween I was headed to the flat when I found the surrounding streets had roadblocks with police at each of the main entrances. They were frisking everyone who entered and going through anything they carried.

I only had a briefcase but my view was that I had not committed a crime and their right to search my belongings was dependent on either “reasonable cause” or a search warrant. They had neither. I explained to the officers that they had a problem. They wanted to search me without cause and were preventing me from returning to my home. I also pointed out the obvious: they wanted to make sure I had no weapons that could harm others and I had an apartment that had butcher knives, hammers, screw drivers and other items that could easily inflict harm. In other words what good is it to search people who actually live on the street and can obtain a weapon from their home -- which was still immune to warrantless search -- George Bush eat your heart out.

The police were reasonable about it that evening. One of them figured out an easy solution. One officer would accompany me to the entrance of my building. Since I had the key to the entrance, and since there was only one apartment in the building (the ground floor was a restaurant and the second floor were offices) it was obvious that I lived there. When he saw me unlock the door and enter he was satisfied. The Bill of Rights was preserved, that night, at least for me.

Last year two gangs of youths from outside the Castro were in attendance and it seems they brought their own neighborhood conflicts to the party. They were yelling insults at one another (such class) and threw bottles at one another. One of them pulled a gun and started shooting. Nine people were wounded though none seriously. And the police were unable to do anything. The gunman is still free. At the time the Sheriff Michael Hennessy described it as “just one jerk with a gun who had an enemy there.”

The police didn’t check people for weapons because they said too many people were coming in and it would have added to the congestion.

This year the city just cancelled the celebration entirely. From downplaying the event to overreacting seems to be par for the course, when it comes to politics. Politicians either ignore a problem or switch into panic-mode and use sledgehammers to swat at flies.

This year the sledgehammer came down. Not only did the mayor cancel the party but the politicians did everything they could to shut down the Castro. First the subway lines will stop running at 8:30 p.m. and the BART station will close at 8 p.m. Next the streets will be open for traffic though the police seem to understand that traffic won’t get through as people will turn up anyway.

Next a petty politician, Bevan Dufty, started putting pressure on the 110 businesses in the area with liquor licenses to “voluntarily” close down. All the bars in the area, but one, will be closed. And the city plans to send in 600 law enforcement officials to control everything and everyone. As I said: killing flies with sledgehammers. The Democrats like to think Bush got hysterical. He did. But this is a Democratic administration in San Francisco that is literally closing down the Castro.

For decades the San Francisco police have yearned for the ability to shut down the Castro. I’ve seen that myself. I remember one night suddenly finding the police lined up across the street with batons ready to bash skulls. They marched down the street forcing everyone inside buildings and demanding they be locked in or face a beating. The excuse was an incident that book place elsewhere in the city.

When Dan White, a former cop, received a slap-on-the-wrist sentence for assassinating Mayor Moscone and gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, riots broke out at city hall. The police responded by swooping into the Castro, several miles away and peaceful, beating in heads and attacking gay bars.

So it is a bit disconcerting to see this mayor doing precisely what the police have tried to do for decades without success. Since Mayor Newsome is perceived as being supportive of gay rights he can trample on the Castro as much as he wants and the toadies to the Democrats, in the community, will praise him for it.

What had started as a neighborhood party did become an event that attracted people from outside the area who often wanted to cause problems. But between the sledgehammer approach and turning a blind eye to violence there is a lot of territory.

One possible solution would be to turn the event into a private party with tickets. That could be done easily as the main party was in a small area with four main entry points. Residents of the street, and actually there were never more than a few dozen people who actually had apartments on the top floors of the buildings right on Castro, could be given passes for themselves and maybe a few extra if they wish to have friends over. Tickets could be sold in neighborhood shops leading up to the event with the number of tickets limited to the capacity of the area. The reality is that 100,000 people crammed into that small area was a problem.

Using the pricing mechanism to ration access works for movie theaters so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for the Halloween Party. If the price is sufficient to discourage low-life thugs (almost any price would do that) most the problem would be solved. Policing the entry points by admitting ticket holders only would allow the neighborhood to have its traditional party while keeping out trouble. And the proceeds from the sale of tickets could be used to fund the event with any left over going to neighborhood charitable causes, of which there are many.

Instead of thinking like entrepreneurs politicians think like bureaucrats. And the Halloween tradition in the Castro is a victim of that bureaucratic mentality. A few police officers at the entrance could handle the situation. And others would be stationed in the surrounding streets enforcing the normal laws. That would keep crowds from gathering on the streets leading into the Castro instead.

Certainly allowing the market to work makes sense. Having an entrance fee would allow the party to return to what it was meant to be -- a local celebration. It is unnecessary to cancel the event and if handled properly, which probably means having it privately run by a residents association or local businesses, it could generate enough revenue to cover the costs of the event and possible contribute to worthy causes. The local businesses would not need to close on one of the most profitable evenings of the year either.

Sometimes a fly swatter is all you need to kill flies.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Harry Potter character outed as gay by author.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, was speaking to a full house of fans at Carnegie Hall yesterday and taking questions. One fan asked if Dumbledore ever had found “true love.” Rowling suprised the audience by saying: “Dumbledore is gay” and revealed that in her imagination he was previously in love with his rival Gellert Grindelwald.

Apparently after a few seconds to think about it the young audience started applauding. Rowling was a bit surprised and said: “I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy.

Rowlings said that one of the film scripts she was shown referred to Dumbledore having been smitten with a female but she made sure the director was informed about how she saw the character.

Rowlings said that she sees her novels as a “prolonged argument for tolerance” and as a plea for fans to “question authority.”

She acknowledges that Christian groups have targeted her as evil, claiming the books promote Satanism and says this will just give them one more reason to dislike her. She doesn’t appeared worried.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The kids are just the excuse: you are the target.

One of the last legacies of the disastrous Bush Administration is an attempt to close down most adult web sites through new regulations that fly in the face of the First Amendment. But considering this man hasn't respected any of the other amendments, why should he worry about this one?

Let us look at some changes pushed through previously by the odious Attorney General Ed Meece in the 1980s. First, the age of consent for adult material, at that time, was 16 years of age, which is consistent with the dominant age of consent for sexual activity throughout the US and consistent with the ages set in Europe as well. Meece argued that some 16-year-olds looked younger making it difficult to prevent 15-year-olds from engaging in sexual performances. To stop individuals under 16-years-of-age from doing this he proposed the federal government raise the limit to 18.

It was long after that they were arguing that some 17-year-olds look 18 so the limit should be raised to 21. That time the argument didn’t fly as easily. One result of this new age limit is that some erotica, that was previously legal, became illegal quite literally over night. Most people were unaware of the change in the law and millions of new criminals were created instantly and unknowingly (to them). In addition a lot of publications from Europe, that were legal when they were ordered became illegal in transit.

The Meece police announced there was a spike in child pornography offenses and that the feds had to increase their powers to deal with it. In fact the spike was the creation of the redefinition of the offense. If you redefine speeding to driving faster than 10 miles an hour you will quite easily find that there is more speeding.

One way of dealing with the definitional problem was U.S.C. 18 Section 2257. This law required the producers of erotica to keep detailed records regarding the names, addresses, pseudonyms, etc of anyone who performs in, or poses for, erotic material. This included copies of two forms of photo ID. And this information was to be kept in one location, that is announced, and open to public inspection.

Now Section 2257 has been changed under the “Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act” -- which was pushed by John Walsh, the authoritarian who is reacting to the murder of his son 25 years ago. That abduction had nothing to do with pornography or any of the issues that Walsh campaigns about and has built a lucrative career over.

The new legislation drastically expands the burdensome regulations that are mandatory. And remember, that while this is all allegedly to stop child pornography, the actual target of 99.99% of the regulations is legal, adult erotica. Nor would the absence of these regulations open the door to child porn which would remain illegal regardless.

The purpose of this sort of legislation is to regulate erotica to death. This tactic is used by moralistic politicians frequently. For instance, it is a violation of the First Amendment to ban adult shops entirely. So petty politicians pass zoning regulations which regulate where they can be located. With a few provisions they can then accomplish the ban they wish to impose without calling it a ban. One can first forbid them within 1,000 feet of any church, school, park, or playground -- to protect the children. Next you can forbid them from being within the same distance of any residential area. Just those regulations alone would accomplish the ban in most places. And many towns have done this. If that isn’t sufficient you can forbid any adult business from being within 1,000 feet of any other adult business including bars. You can toss in bus stops as well. With a few minutes of careful planning you can find zoning restrictions that accomplishes an act, which in its raw form, would be illegal. Welcome to backdoor censorship.

The same thing is happening in the U.S. with erotica. The Theopublicans, and no small number of Democrats I should add, are pushing for an intricate web of regulations that make it difficult, if not impossible, for someone to engage in publishing erotic material.

The main target of this new regulation is the internet. Let us say that you operate a blog or web site of some kind. Let us say that this includes some sort of erotic visual depiction on the site. Since it can included “simulated sex” it need not be explicit. Most such web sites or blogs copy photos from other sites. You can now be jailed for doing this, and knowing the morons in the Bush Administration it wouldn’t surprise me if they decide they can torture you in the process. (Sarcasm for the brain dead Bushites who will take that literally.)

If a photographer takes erotic photos he must have forms filled out and filed regarding each model. These are open to warrantless inspections by government agents anytime they wish and must be available without notice. This law only applied to the primary producer. Under the new law “secondary producers” are required to keep the same records and make them available to federal agents and police the same way -- without a warrant and without notice.

So let us say that you post an image from one of your favorite erotic publications on a blog -- again it need not be explicit sex just simulated sex. The producer of that magazine would have the records which federal agents may inspect whenever they wish but you wouldn’t have them. Under the new legislation you are deemed a criminal (perhaps a child pornographer) because you don’t have copies of those records on your premises. If you don’t have these files, and you won’t have them, you can go to prison.

If you are one of millions of adults who has posted an erotic image of yourself onto a site, like a dating site or XTube, then you must keep these records, regarding yourself, on your premises.

You may not think this is difficult or problematic. But remember those records are open to inspection, on the premises, by federal agents, anytime they wish, as often as they wish. There is no need for probable cause or a warrant to conduct such searches. In essence this means that everyone who has posted an adult image or video of himself on the net has forfeited his constitutional rights to avoid unreasonable search.

The only way around this, that I see, is if you maintain a separate office to conduct you “erotic” business. You would have to maintain an office, with staff to admit federal agents, in order to post your own images online. If you don’t have said office then you will be required to keep these records in your home. If you keep them in your home (or fail to do so) the feds have the right to demand immediate access to your home anytime they wish. They would have no need for those pesky search warrants and won’t need to have a reasons to search your premises.

There are some things here which I’m unclear about. While the law covers digital images what does it mean to distribute them? If you send an erotic photo of yourself to another person is that distribution? Does that require you to keep these records and forfeit your Constitutional rights? I suspect if it doesn’t explicitly require this, that it is implied and power hungry prosecutors will make this claim at some point.

There is no doubt that child porn is a real problem but it is only a tiny part of the erotica industry. But child porn is not the real target here. Child porn is the bin Laden of erotica -- it is the excuse used to launch a war that targets more than the excuse. As noted these regulations don’t make child porn any more illegal than it already is. The target is all erotica of any kind. These regulations are an end run around the Bill of Rights by an administration that has proven, over and over, that it has utter contempt for the Constitution or any limitation on its powers. The great tragedy of politicians is that they use real problems as excuses for power grabs. This happens both on the Left and the Right. And rarely do these power grabs actually solve the problem that was was used to justify them. The kids are just the excuse -- you are the target.

You can take action (which I suppose will be ignored). You have until September 10 to protest the expansion of Section 2257. Send those protests to Admin.ceos@usdoj.gov and say it regards Section 2257 Docket No. CRM 104. I suggest you keep it brief and to the point -- simply tell them you oppose the revisions of section 2257.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Right wing group appears to have invented fake "hate" attack for sympathy.

Here is the original story that the fanatical fundamentalists are spreading through the internet. According to the Mullahs at Focus on the Family a peaceful group of Christians, witnessing as to how their prayers can cure homosexuality, were set upon with a “barrage of verbal abuse and one man was reportedly assaulted by a gay activist.” This supposed at a county fair.

According to Regina Griggs this “cured” homosexual was standing there mind his own business and: “They walked by him and hit him in the back -- attacked him.” Focus on the Family says that police “kicked the gay activists out of the fair and encouraged” the poor, persecuted Christians to press charges, but they chose not to do so. One should know that Griggs has been on an antigay vendetta ever since she found out her son was gay.

The Christian “news” service Lifesite, never one to pass up an antigay rumor, reported on the story but added their own unique, fanciful touch. They described “angry homosexual activists “ who “harassed and assaulted” these peaceful, loving Christians.

They also claimed that police “ejected” the violent activist and that the victim of this assault “declined to press charges citing the example of Jesus Christ.” Oh, how sanctimonious. Another Focus on the Family outlet described how a “cheerful day at a Virginia county fair ended in chaos” after an attack by “homosexual activists.”

The folks over at Ex-Gay Watch were skeptical. First, they tried to find out what gay group had a booth at the fair, since they were the ones which Focus on the Family and others accused of the assault. They found it was the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance and they contacted the president, Daniel Hays, who was perplexed. He said:
I worked several evening shifts at the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance booth. I did hear one, what I would call “heated” discussion, but never saw any thing beyond raised voices. Our organization purposefully did not do anything to even interact with them, but I cannot speak to what individual fairgoers may or may not have said or done when I was not there.
Next they contacted Denis Roller, event manager for the fair. She said that if there was an incident nobody bothered to tell the fair about it. She said she was at the fair almost the whole time it was open and knew of no such altercation.

Next Exgay Watch decided to check with the Arlington police. After all the police supposedly evicted a violent homosexual activist and urged his victims to press charges. Police media Relations officer, John Lisle, said he knew nothing about the alleged attack. He asked around the police department and couldn’t find anyone else who knew of such an incident either. He read the report issued by Christian groups and he spent another two days trying to find anyone who knew about such an attack. He came up empty handed. There was no police report on such an incident and no police officer could remember such an incident.

What are we left with? The religious group won’t name anyone as the attacker. In spite of the prevelance of cell phones with cameras no one photographed the assault that allegedly took place. The gay group in question says they know nothing about it. The fair organizers know nothing about it and were there most of the time themselves. Police have no record of the incident either and, so far, no police officer has recollection of such an attack.

The anti-gay religious group in question conveniently refused to file a formal complaint against the attacker thus assuring that no record would exist to verify their story. They say they were following the example of Jesus. So instead of filing a complaint against the attacker they spread the story around the internet to smear the entire gay group at the fair. I would have thought that if they were turning the other cheek they wouldn’t be broadcasting this story around the net so heavily.

The antigay hate group, Americans for Truth (a sure sign they are distorting facts), repeated the claim. They quoted the group in question as saying: “As happens every year, gay activists disrupted our booth activities.” Every year! And no one knows about it -- talk about stealth attacks.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Focus on the Family has invented, or reported, false stories. Maybe it happened but no evidence for the attack seems to exist. And since the victims were supposedly being so holy, as to not press charges, we have nothing but their word to go on. And that’s not much. So what are the odds they were lying? Substantial, I would think.

Interesting thing about these religious fanatics. They are so quick to quote Scripture. Yet, I have to wonder what they would think about: "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Proverbs says that "a lying tongue" is an "abomination" to God. Matthew wrote that among the things "which defile a man" is "false witness". Revelations said "all liar shall have their part in the lake which burnest with fire and brimstone." Since they are so quick to use that book as weapon to bash people over the head with I have to wonder why they ignore it when it comes to their own vicious, smear campaigns.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why Republicans are so lousy when it comes to sex.

Larry Craig is a top Right-wing, Theopublican Senator from Idaho. He is also one of those Theopublicans who happily joined the villagers with the pitchforks and torches who were out chasing the gay monster. Now, Mr. Craig has been arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer in a toilet at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Actually, I should say he was arrested in June and had managed, until now, to keep his arrest quiet. Craig says his actions were misconstrued and that police had misunderstood him. He did, however, plead guilty to the charges at the time but says he did this to keep things quiet, and to handle them as quickly as possible. He paid a fine and is on a suspended jail sentence.

This is not the first time that Senator Craig has had issues of this type. In 1982 a former Congressional page claimed that various member of Congress plied male pages with drugs and alcohol and solicited sex from them. Please note that while the news report below claims the pages are “under age” this is not necessarily true. The media stupidly and incorrectly uses “under age” to mean anyone under 18 years of age. While 18 is the age of majority, age of consent for sexual activity is 16 in Washington, D.C., as it is in many states.

It should be noted that today the minimum age to become a page is 16 which is why, despite the media hype, Republican Congressman Mark Foley was not involved in sexual misconduct with minors. Actually, one of the main incidents took place with a former page who was 18 years of age and the only sexual liaison that is known took place with an ex-page who was 21 years old at the time.

But this change was instituted in 1983, after the first scandal. In the following report you will see that, while no names were specifically mentioned, that Larry Craig held a press conference to deny it was him. So it is possible that in 1982 under aged pages were involved. However, given the media’s sloppy reporting it could mean either under 18 years of age, or under the age of consent, which is 16.

What was shocking in the 1982 case is that the hypocrites in Congress were using illegal drugs. Yet, none of these Senators or Congressman are willing to legalize the drugs they used. And many bash gays while secretly having gay sex -- or in some cases, not so secretly having gay sex.

Last year one blogger specifically named Larry Craig as a Senator who regularly sought out male companionship. This year old article from USA Today notes covers that. (This report also incorrectly claims that the two congressman who admitted having sex with pages in 1982 did so with under aged pages. That is false. Both pages were over the age of consent and one of them, the male page who had an affair with Congressman Gerry Studds, publicly defended Studds and stated that they were both consenting adults. But the media still prefers the sensationalism of exaggerating the facts. The media doesn’t mind a little gay bashing by distorting the facts to sell papers or up their ratings.)

USA Today noted that a “gay rights” blogger exposed Craig last year. The blogger, Michael Rogers, did so because Craig had an antigay agenda. However, Rogers uses the term very broadly to mean any view contrary to that of the Left agenda of some gay political pressure groups. In some cases the label applies, and in others it does not. Unfortunately the Left can’t distinguish between the two and conflates them into one category. Most Leftist, like most Rightists, have no coherent theory of rights. Rights are whatever they like. That said, Senator Craig did support legislation that denied equal citizenship to gay people.

Craig has bought into the Theopublican Religious-Right agenda and proclaimed himself a defender of “traditional family values”. The media reports he is married and has three children. It is usually left out that this marriage took place rather late in Craig’s life and that none of the children are his own but were born to his wife during her first marriage. Rumors regarding Craig’s sexual life were floating around long before the marriage. The film clips above make clear that Craig only married after he was publicly denying any involvement with male pages since he mentions that he came forward because he was single and suspected he would be implicated.

The question for the media is when does a private life become a matter of public interest. Bill Clinton’s sexual unfaithfulness to Hillary (which may have been mutual) was private except that Clinton was charged with sexual harassment. He was supporter of the very laws which netted him -- as was Foley, by the way. In both their cases they were harmed by legislation they endorsed.

Clinton, however, also lied while under oath. And it appeared that he was easily blackmailed by Monica Lewinsky, who was able to use her affair to pressure him into giving her positions apparently in exchange for the positions she gave him or, by implication, for her silence. Once Clinton lied in court, and was open to this sort of improper pressure, the matter took on a more ominous nature. At that point his private live became public concern. Unfortunately the Republicans were so horrified over sex that they never got to anything of substance.

Foley’s problem was that he was stupid and he proposed legislation that he was happily violating himself. In addition he was supporting political policies that denied equal rights to gay people. That doesn’t change the fact that Democrats used crude gay stereotypes to hype the Foley incident for their own benefit and that they falsely accused him of being a pedophile even though the rude messages he sent were to sexually mature individuals above the age of consent. I thought the Foley incident showed how seamy the Democrats could be and how they would use antigay stereotypes just as quickly as the Republicans, if they see a clear benefit in doing so.

My view is that a politician who doesn’t make himself out to be some defender of “traditional values” or isn’t legislating the sex lives of others, ought to have his private, sexual life respected and kept private. Larry Craig was willing to make the sex lives of others a matter of public concern. He was caught soliciting a male police officer in a toilet -- the cruising spot of the closeted, something which the Theopublican agenda of pushing gays into the closet encourages. Craig also denied gay people equality before the law. I would not have outed him myself, as did the one blogger, but I can’t be too upset he was caught either.

His actual arrest changed the facts sufficiently that it is worth reporting. And it should be noted that this is not the last Theopublican moralist who will be hoisted with their own petard. Their desire to regulate the sex lives of others means they are willing to turn the private affairs of people into public business. How they expect their own sexual lives to stay private I don’t know. If the sex lives of the citizenry are the affairs of legislators then the sex lives of legislators are the affair of the voters. But political officials who haven’t tried to make private sexual activity a focus of state intervention ought to have their privacy respected. Larry Craig was not that kind of elected official. And his party represents the organized forces of state control of sexuality.

According to the police report, which I have read, Craig appears to have attempted to use his political office to avoid arrest. After his arrest he was asked for his driver’s license. Craig, however, handed the officer his U.S. Senate business card instead. He said: “What do you think of that?”

I should also note that there is no clear indication that Craig was planning on engaging in sexual activity in a public location. He supposedly used gestures to indicate that he was willing to engage in sex. The location was never indicated or discussed. If indication of willingness to engage in voluntary sexual conduct is “lewd conduct” than 99% of the American people would have been arrested at some point in their life and the other 1% are lying about it.

If a man had indicated to a woman that he was interested in sexual activity, I suspect that it would not normally be considered a criminal matter unless he did so in an especially graphic, offensive, or aggressive manner. Craig seems to have been a victim of the double standard -- one standards for straight activity and another for gay activity. But then Craig has done a great deal to encourage that sort of standard of inequality before the law. Anti-gay fundamentalist minister Lonnie Latham had been arrested for exactly the same thing -- suggesting to a police officer they go to his hotel room for sex. The officer was hanging around a hotel where gay men sometimes meet other men. Latham didn't offer money nor did he suggest sex in public. But he was arrested anyway -- this is not an unusual way for police to harass gay people. Latham, was acquitted because the sex act itself was legal as was his suggestion to the officer. Chances are good that Sen. Craig would have been acquitted had he fought the charges. But he, like many gay men, copped a plea to try to avoid the trauma of being publicly outed in a culture where being gay is still a social handicap.

I should note that one way Senator Craig differs from many on the far Right of the Republican Party is that he doesn’t engage in the shameless, racist attacks on immigrants. His analysis of immigration has been sound. And his knowledge of the economic benefits of immigration can’t be disputed. So, at least, on that issue, Senator Craig is heads above the many fake “free market” advocates who want to restrict immigration and bash immigrants. On that front, at least, he was not a bigot though he did pander to the Religious Right on the antigay campaign.

Craig was a victim in some ways. The worst he did was indicated a willingness to engage in sex and that is not “lewd conduct” except to the homophobes who think anything that indicates sexuality, especially homosexual sexuality, is automatically lewd. Craig did not offer money so it wasn’t solicitation for prostitution. He merely indicated a willingness to engage in legal, sexual activity. And since the issue of where one would have sex was never raised it was not a matter of public lewdness either.

So Craig was arrested on charges that normally are not applied to people other than to gay men. He was the victim of the uneven view of rights that permeates the law when it comes to homosexuality. But he was also a victim of the Religious Right ideology that he willingly promoted -- one that required him to be closeted and seek out such activity in a manner that was meant to be furtive and secretive, one that relied on “cruising spots” with hand gestures or foot tapping to indicate willingness. His own ideology, and that of his political party, made it impossible for him to be open about who he was. And that sort of closeted attitude distorts one’s sexuality.

What happened to Senator Craig was, to a large extent, self inflicted. The fault lies in a legal system which Craig endorsed and promoted. It lies in a belief system that is based on mythology, lies and wishful thinking and opposed to the facts of reality. As long as the Republicans continue to embrace the destructive values of religious fundamentalism they will churn out the tortured examples of people like Ted Haggard, Senator Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Rev. Coy Privette, Rev. Lonnie Latham, State Rep. Bob Allen, Senator David Vitter, or Young Republicans leader Glenn Murphy.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The tale of Miss Swallow and Mr. Sprigg.


PBS has an interesting story about how young people are coming out as gay earlier in life than in the past. I can believe that. Certainly the gay people I’ve met, who are younger, are much more open about their sexuality than individuals of my generation.

What I found curious was that PBS, to give balance to the story, interviewed the religious fanatics. I notice they never interview Nazis when they do something about the Holocaust -- maybe because there aren’t any Nazis in the White House. Oh! Right!!! Never mind.

One of these loonies from a so-called ex-gay ministry was quoted. She was all upset that kids who are gay are told that it’s okay to be who they are. She wants hell fire and brimstone, self-loathing, self-pity, disgust, maybe a little vomit and loads and load of depression -- the way homosexuals are supposed to be. Though I had to crack up when seeing that her name is Barbara Swallow!

This reminds me of the time I was watching one of the phony exgays on some Christian television station -- a waste of valuable airwaves. This clown was from something called “Be Whole Ministries.” Now the born-again types aren’t the brightest of the bunch. And they were still trying to get used to the subtitling on the screen. But I almost fell out of my chair laughing when they put up the name of the ministry as: “Bee Hole Ministries”. Talk about kinky -- a bee hole! I cringe to think what they would do with Miss Swallow.

Then PBS quoted some twit named Peter Sprigg -- don’t ask me where these names come from. Mr. Sprigg is with a Right-wing religious group. In other words he lobotomized himself with a Bible, not a functioning brain cell left -- a perfect Christian.

Mr. Sprigg says: “Young people have no business committing to a sexual identity until they’re adults.” See -- not a functioning brain cell left, not one.

This is stupidity on a multiplicity of levels. It takes practices, and lots of faith, to concoct a single sentence with so many fallacies crammed into it.

First, one does not “commit” to a sexual identity. This is not like adopting children or buying a house. One doesn’t sign on the dotted line and get enlisted as a new “gay” for the rest of one’s life. People are. It’s not really complicated. It just is. It is not a commitment, a choice, a decision, it just is.

But the perpetual solicitors of Jesus can’t understand anything that doesn’t come with recruiting others. They assume that because they go door to door, annoying people into coming to church with them, that gay people do something similar.

There must be secret “revival” meetings in big tents outside the high schools where unwilling young men are dragged in and harangued about the evils of heterosexuality until they are willing to confess their evil ways, give up the demon of straight lust, and commit themselves to “the gay agenda” where they live “the gay lifestyle”.

What a perfect example of fundamentalist projection. They have an agenda, so anyone they hate must have one as well. They have a lifestyle -- wel,l very light on the style part -- so they assume everyone else does as well. They all have to look alike, believe alike, think alike, offend alike, so they naturally assume that all gays are the same way. They think gay culture is a monolithic lifestyle just because they work so hard at stamping out individuality.

The fundamentalist Christian is the perfect collectivist.

Next, the very idea that teens can’t know their sexuality when they are teens is silly. Straight kids know they are straight and gay kinds know they are gay. Some might feel conflicted but most don’t.

And, if teens are too young to commit to a sexual identity, is Mr. Sprigg actually saying that straight teens shouldn’t be allowed to date? Should schools cancel dances? Should going steady be a crime?

Now I can assure old Sprigg that there will be unintended consequences if he wants to prevent teens from committing to a sexual identity. Let’s be realistic. A typical high school is full of hormones.

But we don’t want teens committing themselves to a sexual identity. So lets stop the girls and the boys from dating and interacting -- that is where most the “committing” goes on, isn’t it? So all those boys can’t date girls. All they can do is hang out with each other, maybe shoot some hoops, change clothes in the locker room, take long, lingering, steamy showers. I’m not sure this would lead to the results Mr. Sprigg wanted.

If you think it would work just ask the Mormons about all those sweet young men with the bad haircuts on the bicycles who are forbidden to to have female companions and spend all their time together. Well, lets just say it’s not a good idea if they are trying to actually prevent homosexuality.

And if teens have “no business” committing to a sexuality exactly why did Sprigg’s Jehovah flood them with hormones so that they can’t think of anything else? Here is this know-it-all deity who can foresee the future. He designs the male of the species and determines they must never have sex outside of heterosexual marriage, when they are adults.

Then he takes them, years before they are actually adult,s and baptizes them in a sea of hormones that make it so that the only thing they can think about is sex, sex and sex. And then when they are heavily sexed up God pulled another dirty little trick. He designed them so they can’t hide it! If that is “intelligent design” what would stupid design look like?

Considering these facts I’d drop the intelligent design nonsense and embrace evolution if I were them. If that is intelligent design then Jehovah wasn’t that bright was he?

So what’s a fundy to do? You can’t leave the boys with the girls or they commit to a sexuality. You can’t leave the boys with the boys, or more committing takes place and its even more sinful! Leave them alone and they commit to themselves repeatedly. Maybe this is why so many fundamentalists are into home schooling. On the other hand that also has problems, but I guess where these people come from a roll in the hay with yoru sister isn’t that unusual. I guess we should be thankful most of them don’t live on the farm anymore. If they did I don’t think I could eat another steak in my life.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bigot mother uses antigay laws to separate son from his partner of 25 years.

I wish I could tell you precisely how angry I am right at this moment. The rage is boiling up like you wouldn’t believe. It is almost 5 am and I should be going to bed. I can’t. The very, very ugly head of hate and bigotry has reared itself again and harmed innocent people and destroyed the beauty of loving commitment. I want to tell you about two of the cruellest, most vicious, bastards I have ever heard of. And I sincerely hope that both of them are struck down dead soon. These people are monsters for what they did. These vile people are Thomas and Jeanne Atkins of Carmel, Indiana.

Now, let me tell you about their son, Patrick. Patrick was raised by these two “parents” who were ultra-religious and still are. Patrick went off to Wabash College in 1978 and there he fell in love. His parents hated the idea. The person he loved was Brett Conrad.

For a quarter of a century Brett and Patrick lived, loved and struggled together, to establish their lives. After 12 years they were able to buy a home together. They shared their bank accounts and their entire life. The bastards of parents hated every moment of it. But the lengths they would go to astounds me and I don’t expect much humanity from fanatics.

Patrick was on a business trip in Atlanta when he collapsed from a ruptured aneurysm and then, while still in hospital, he had a stroke. Brett rushed to Atlanta to be with his partner. The vile parents had flown down as well and asserted legal control over their incapacitated son. They hate homosexuals and homosexuality. And they don’t want Patrick to ever be allowed to see Brett again. You can see why I think these people are walking pieces of shit.

According to court documents Patrick’s brother said “that Brett’s mere presence in the hospital was ‘hurting’ Jeanne and offending her religious beliefs." The court also said that " Jeanne told Brett that if Patrick was going to return to his life with Brett, after recovering from the stroke, she would prefer that he not recover at all.” Any woman that would wish this upon her own son is not fit to be called a mother, unless one were to insert a very rude word immediately thereafter.

Jeanne is a fanatical Catholic. The picture above is of her leading employees, at the company her son used to run, in daily prayer sessions. On top of that she attends Catholic Mass every day. We are talking hard-core fanatic. It takes a lot of faith to inflict this much pain on others.

At first the family would allow Brett 15 minutes with Patrick but only after they had left so that they wouldn’t have to be religiously offended by the FACT that Patrick is gay. But then the cruelty of righteousness got the upper hand and they banned the visits altogether. Only “family” and clergy were allowed in by the family’s orders. The court reports, with seeming approval, that “hospital staff defied the family’s instructions and allowed Brett to continue to visit with Patrick in the morning and in the evenings, outside of regular visiting hours.” Good on them.

Patrick is pretty much incapacitated. He can do basic things with help but can’t understand most of what he reads and can only engage in simple, short conversations. Brett has been fighting to bring Patrick back to the relationship and home they built together. The “parents” refuse to consider it. It’s a sin, is all they can snarl. I don’t quote this guy often, but didn’t someone these people allegedly worship supposedly say: “As you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me”?

Brett went to court but Indiana doesn’t recognize gay relationships in any form. Thanks to the Republicans they have a constitutional amendment specifically forbidding legal recognition of gay couples. The court was sympathetic but their hands were tied. The court said: “We are confronted here with the heartbreaking fracture of a family. Brett and Patrick have spent 25 years together as life partners -- longer than Patrick lived at home with his parents -- and their future life together has been destroyed by Patrick’s tragic medical condition and by the Atkinses’ unwillingness to accept their son's lifestyle.” The court said that given the parent's rabidly antigay views that it was skeptical they could properly care from Patrick’s emotional needs but their hands were tied by the law.

The best the court could do was grant Brett visitation rights . What god-damned awful people are these parents from hell. But these bastards weren’t finished. They are going back to court to deny even this much. The argument is that Brett has no legal standing and that they, as the so-called parents, are guardians and that means they can determine anything they want about who is allowed to visit their son. What perfect little Hitlers they have become.

First, the parents stuck their son in a nursing home. Brett would come by after hours to spend time with his partner so the parents wouldn’t see him. Staff at the nursing facility said that Brett’s “visits had a positive impact on Patrick’s recovery.” An observer from the court testified it is “evident that Patrick loves Brett very much and it is evident that Brett loves Patrick.

A neuropsychologist told the court that a long term relationship is beneficial to recovery. Normally he would try “to reintegrate the patient into that environment so that they can participate in activities and situations with which they’re familiar.” He said spending time with Brett would be beneficial. The family argued in court that any visitation “poses a risk of diminishing Patrick’s chance for normalcy of life.” I suspect they are referring to his homosexuality and not his illness. These parents apparently would prefer their son to be incapacitated than for him to be gay. Lovely people!

When Brett filed for guardianship, which the courts denied because of the law, the parents suddenly had Patrick transferred to their home even though they were told this would negatively impact Patrick’s recover. They have prevented Brett from coming on the property and won’t even let him speak to Patrick by telephone. They also grabbed what assets they could. And they admitted that regardless of what the court ordered they would never allow Patrick to see his partner again. All of this pain just because they believe that a deity has told them to act this way.

Under guardianship laws in Indiana there is no provision to recognize gay partners, no matter how loving or how long they have been together. Parents, no matter how cruel, have superior rights. The court document is heartbreaking. It lays out the facts that these parents can’t stomach.

It acknowledges the men have, for 25 years, “lived together and have been in a committed and loving relationship” but that the parents “vehemently disapprove”. The court quoted a letter Patrick had sent his parents begging them to accept Brett. “I want you all to know that Brett is my best friend in the wold world and I love him more than life itself. I beg all of you to reach to him with the same love you have for me, he is extremely special and once you know him you will understand why I love him so much.” The parents refused that request.

The court says that Jeanne is so hateful of homosexuals that Brett’s family, which is accepting of the couple, were called “evil” and “sinners” because they refused to condemn them. Jeanne “testified that no amount of evidence could convince her that Patrick and Brett were happy together or that they had a positive and beneficial relationship.” By the way this horrid woman can be contacted through this email address: latkins@atkins-intl-foods.com. I have a home address and phone number but since poor Patrick is kept there by these parents I won’t give it out. Please note that this email goes to Lisa Atkins, who I believe is a daughter, not directly to the mother who doesn't give her email on the company website. But at atkins-intl-foods.com you can find a company phone number.

Also note that these people sell their deserts, a company that Patrick helped start with his investment and with his efforts, all over the U.S. and Canada. You might wish to avoid purchasing any of these products and encourage others to do so as well. You can also find the contact details of sales reps who cover the area you live in. You might wish to contact them and tell them you are boycotting their product and why. And you might wish to encourage others in your area to do the same. If you do contact these horrible people try to remain polite. Simply express your feelings as non-obscenely as possible, don't issue threats or harass.

The parents are also trying to take the home that Brett and Patrick lived in together and apparently are having some success. The court says that the home must be split equally between Brett and the horrid God-botherers. The parents can sell the property if they wish. The parents took two-thirds of the bank account that Patrick and Brett shared. They are taking half of all household goods

Conservatives say that legally recognizing gay couples will destroy marriage. The only destruction I see here is being done by fanatical parents with the help of the law.

Boycott Atkins International Foods, the cheesecake made with hate.

BOYCOTT UPDATE:
One fellow blogger has said that he has found that Bloomingdales in New York City carries the Atkins line of food, helping fund Jeanne Atkins in her campaign, although they don't know it. He suggest people contact Bloomingdales and protest this. You can file an on-line complaint about them stocking Atkins here. If you wish to call them do so at 1-888-593-2540. Or do both. I hope the gay media also picks up on this topic. And I urge other bloggers to push this issue. This is too horrible to let slide.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Exgay nonsense book for kids.

When the book Heather Has Two Mommies was released the Religious Right had fits. Rarely have they frothed at the mouth so much as over that book. The book was a children’s story about a girl who was being raised by a same-sex couple. That was considered evil and wicked and sinful.

The Religious Right said that children shouldn’t be told that that same-sex couples exist because they are too young to be exposed to that topic.

At the same time they endorse a farcical group often called “the exgay movement”. Groups like Focus in the Family pour money onto these groups in order to give the impression that religious therapy can turn gay people into straight people. That movement has spawned another movement: the ex-exgay movement”. That is made of up people who were previously “cured” through a dose of prayer but apparently preferred other things when upon their knees.

So far there has been no sign of an ex-ex-exgay movement.

Closely connected to these exgay “ministries” is NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. These are mostly religious therapists who are rather obsessed over the sexual partners of other adults. I always find it a bit bizarre when someone is really, really obsessed the sex lives of others. And one person who was close, both to NARTH and the exgay ministries, was Richard Cohen.

Mr. Cohen has personally produced a children’s book, Alfie's Home, which explains the exgay view of homosexuality in terms that, well, in terms even a child could understand. And it includes illustrations including a young boy lying naked in bed with a full grown adult male. Heather having two mommies was too advanced but apparently showing boys in bed with men is acceptable provided you are pushing an antigay agenda. If you don’t believe follow the rest of this post as we go through what Cohen is saying and show you precisely what he concocted to show children.

And perhaps you will learn precisely how to create a homosexual, according to the exgay movement. You can order it on line if you think this is really just a sick joke.

Step 1. Daddy is distant, Mommy is loving. Poor Alfie says his daddy works a lot and is never home. And when he is home he fights with mommy and yells at Alfie. Alfie want’s daddy to spend time with him. He says that mommy, “holds me” and talks about her problems and “it makes me feel very uncomfortable and strange.”
Step 2: Evil Vampire Homosexual. Now that Alfie feels too comforted by mommy and too distant from daddy along comes his Uncle Pete who just can’t get enough of holding little Alfie which makes him “feel loved.” Of course Uncle Pete then jumps into the sack with little Alfie and “started touching my private parts” and “taught me to touch and play with his”. So little Alfie and Uncle Pete bonk like rabbits “for several months”.Step 3: Alfie is called names at school. He became a teenager and “started feeling different” because he was called “Faggot” and “Queer” and Alfie “didn’t know what they meant.” Apparently Alfie was a very dumb teenager, about the only one who didn’t know what those words meant.
Step 4: Alfie decides he must be gay. But lucky for Alfie a nice exgay kind of therapist is able to set him straight, literally. He says Alfie just wanted love from daddy.
Because the evil gay uncle took advantage of Alfie feeling unloved then Alfie got confused and started dating boys because he was really looking for daddy’s love. The same way men date women simply because they never felt loved by their mothers. (Okay, that last bit isn’t in the book but it would follow, wouldn’t it?)
Step 5: Therapists confronts the family. Our nice multicultural therapist (they made sure he is black) gets hold of the evil Uncle Pete to make him seek help. And mommy and daddy come in to get their lives straightened out as well.
Step 6: Healing! Mommy and daddy are all better and happy because the therapist helped them. Uncle Pete cries and begs for forgiveness and Alfie feels much better because of it.
Step 7: The Final Solution. Alfie suddenly realizes “I’m not gay”. Spending time with daddy and having daddy touch him was all he needed. Now he is really home.
I can’t wait for the sequel. Alfie Knocks Up a Girl!

Surely when the term psychobabble was invented Richard Cohen was in mind. It is hard to believe that sane people think this way. It is even worse to think they want to get small children to believe these things. This seems to be a mixture of the old Freudian hocus-pocus about distant fathers and loving mothers added to the vampire theory of gay recruitment that the fundamentalists just lap up. But I would think that even they would have problems with drawings showing little Alfie and Uncle Pete snuggling in bed.

This stuff is just too weird. And I should note, scary as well. No doubt there is a market for all sorts of such titles. We could put out: Sara Burns a Witch; Mommy! There's an Islamofascist Under My Bed; Homeland Security is Our Friend; Invasion of the Taco Eaters; and Billy Bans a Book. All are sure to be favorites and they would make such lovely Christmas presents. On the other hand is there anymore more likely to cause the kids to appreciate more underware from grandma?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Church cancels funeral at last minute because deceased was gay.

Cecil Sinclair served in Desert Storm. Recently he needed a heart transplant. He had some surgery to prepare him for that transplant and contracted an infection during the process. That infection killed him. He was also a gay man in a long-term relationship with another military veteran, Paul Wagner.

Wagner says that a member of High Point Church, an evangelical megachurch, offered the church for the funeral because Sinclair's brother, who is mentally challenged is a member of the church and a janitor there. The grief struck family accepted. And the night Sinclair died a minister from the church came to the hospital and Wagner was introduced to him as the partner of the deceased.

Wagner prepared to bury his partner, and Sinclair’s sister was helping. Together they prepared a loving collection of photos to be shown at the funeral to highlight Sinclair’s life. And they ran an obituary which mentioned Paul Wagner as Sinclair’s partner. That is when they were in for a shock.

After the obituary appeared the church announced it would not conduct a funeral for a gay man. Rev. Gary Simons, leader of this church, said it was not the obituary that was the problem but alleged that the video tribute of photos showed men “engaging in clear affection, kissing and embracing.”

Kathleen Wright, the sister of the deceased, was shocked by this claim. She helped prepare the photos for the video and insists the church is lying. She said none of the photos showed kissing or hugging. And Wagner backs that up:
...we gave the church a total of 83 various pictures of Cecil that were forwarded to us by various members of his family. Of those, not a single one showed a man hugging or kissing another man, nor were there any overtly homosexual references. Cecil’s sister Kathleen sat and worked with the two people preparing the video and went through all of the photos with them. There was only one photo which would be considered offensive, as it was a picture of him in his early 20s making a rude gesture at his best friend who was taking the photo. We removed it and never asked that it be included. It was just overlooked in the rush to get things done. These individuals went through all the other photos, which were pictures of family gatherings, birthday parties, vacations, etc. At no time was anything expressed to her or us that they had a disagreement with any of the other photos.
Rev. Simon's kept up the charade about the photos as being the primary cause for his throwing out the funeral. He piously said that if a mother in the church lost a son who was a murderer that the church would conduct the funeral. "But I don't think the mother would submit photos of her son mudering someone. That's a red light going off." Actually, Reverend, that's the bullshit detector going off. Even if one accepts the absurd comparison of being gay to murdering someone the family says that no photos of kissing or hugging or gay affection were included.

Whatever the Reverend claims, the family insists that no such photos were used or shown. Ms. Wright sees the last minute cancellation of the funeral as a “slap in the face” saying they wouldn’t bury her brother only because he was gay. And Rev. Simons basically confirms that. “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it -- yes, we would have declined then.” Wagner says he was introduced the first day as the deceased’s partner.

Simons says that to bury the dead man would have been an endorsement of his “sins”. Apparently only those who have never sinned get funeral services at this church. Simons claims that “the church” offered to pay for another site for the funeral. Wagner says that is not the case. It was the church member, who originally offered the church for the funeral, who offered to pay “with money from his own pocket, not church coffers”.

And while the church eventually found the will to say they were doing this because the dead man had been gay they were first reluctant to tell the family the truth. The family was called and simply told “a mistake was made” and the church could not help them. No other explanation was given.

A niece of the deceased then called the church demanding to know why they were canceling a funeral with so little notice. This was when “a very long string of excuses began to form.” First, they were told it was because they planned to bring in food from outside. Then it was blamed on nearby construction work that would be obtrusive. Then she was told there was a conflict with another event. When she asked what event was conflicting the church hung up on her.

Rev. Simons offered a explanation that is a bit muddled. “We did decline to host the service -- not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle.” Actually to say they declined the service is not correct. They cancelled it. A decline would have come up front not at the last second. It is what happens when you refuse something from the start. What they did was pull the plug on a man’s funeral with no warning. That is more than just declining. It was only the night before the funeral that Rev. Simon had the funeral forcing the family to find a new venue for the next day and spending hours calling the approximate 100 mourners who would be attending.

Second, no one ever acts “based on discrimination”. Discrimination is the act itself not the reason for the act. And one can discriminate on the basis of their “principles”. Most racists, for instance, have “principles” regarding race which they act upon. Whether or not said principles are humane and decent is another question.

I see no other reasonable explanation for this action except the fundamentalist obsessions with gay people. Even if one grants their premise that it is a sin to be gay they would admit that everyone else they bury are sinners as well. In fact they argue that “all have sinned”. But only one class of “sinner” is denied a funeral at the last second.

It is not that a church doesn’t have the right to decline a funeral. That is their right and one they should be free to practice for any irrational reason they wish. Had they declined the funeral from the start there would be no unnecessary pain inflicted on a grieving family. But canceling at the last minute is just cruel. It is their decency I question not their rights.

Paul Wagner showed a decency that far surpassed the church in question. He said he understands “the church’s right to deny us the use of their facilities”. He wrote that he joined the military to “defend their freedom of religion and freedom of choice”.

Wagner says that if they had been told upfront the church refused to bury gay people “the entire issue would have been avoided” and they would have made other plans. His problem was “with the method in which they did it.... If they had told us right away, or even on Tuesday that they were not comfortable with the service we would have been more than willing to try and come to some sort of compromise, or we could have changed venues. We were never given that option. Someone in a position of power made the decision to cut us off, and didn’t even have the moral courage to tell us the truth to our faces.”

I have never seen funerals as rituals for the deceased but for the living left behind. I do not believe the dead can be insulted, they are dead. What this church did was to the living, grieving friends and family. I fully agree with Mr. Wagner. The church had the right to rfuse the service. I, too, think they are wrong for doing so but that they have the right to make that choice. And I agree that their cancellation at the last minute was unnecessarily heartless and cruel.

If they had made a mistake they should have learned to live with it and not inflict pain on people already in pain. They should learn from the experience and made it clear, in the future, that they refuse to perform funerals for gay people. Whatever one make think of the vile Fred Phelps, and his deranged family, at least they are honest and upfront with their hatreds.

High Point Church made a mistake but instead of taking responsibility for that mistake they hurt a mourning family. Their actions are a clear indication of just how bigoted and intolerant they are. They may call their beliefs “principles” if they wish. I’ve never met a bigot who wasn’t overflowing with “principles”. But the people they imposed suffering upon were not, for the most part, gay. They were mostly heterosexual friends and family who were in mourning and then, not Mr. Sinclair, were the ones who were hurt.

My feeling is that incidents like this will not drive the culture war but end it. Most Americans are decent people and they feel for anyone who has lost a loved one. When they see this sort of unnecessary cruelty they are repulsed. The culture war will end because fundamentalist can’t hide their true nature under the cloak of being “pro-family”. It was precisely the family, in this case, that they hurt. The family and friends of Mr. Sinclair have all learned something first hand about fundamentalism. And what they learned will cause many of them to defect from the cause of “cultural conservatism”.

When something this insensitive happens word spreads. As it spreads more and more people have their eyes opened. The culture war will end because the Religious Right will lose the bulk of decent people. Their power will diminish because more and more people will be repulsed by what these people do. The Religious Right will decline because they will be seen as indecent, inhumane, intolerant and cruel. And most Americans don’t share those values.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tammy Faye's last message: gay minister performs funeral

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner broke the rigid line in fundamentalist circles about their treatment of the gay and lesbian community. And now it has been revealed that she took one last step down the path of reconciliation between two cultural forces that have been at war. Her family says that her funeral was done precisely according to the instructions she left. And that meant having a gay minister, Rev. Randy McCain, from the Open Door Community Church, conduct the funeral for her.

Like Tammy Faye, McCain started in the Assemblies of God. He attended an Assemblies of God college, Evangel College and then transferred to their Western Bible College. He was associate pastor of a church in Sherwood, Arkansas when he entered into a committed same-sex relationship. Church leaders advised him to keep the relationship a secret. After some time he decided he couldn't live like this and informed the church elders who promptly sacked him. McCain and some friends then started the Open Door Community Church. Tammy Faye's son, Jay Bakker, has preached at the Open Door Community Church and said they helped open his eyes on gay issues.

To read a more detailed report on Tammy Faye's unique links to the gay community go here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Just because it's worth watching

An interesting short film with a gay theme that is well done and interesting.

A Harry Potter film promotion you aren't likely to see.

Tammy Faye: A different kind of fundamentalist.

Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker were the first couple of televangelism. They ran the PTL Network and built a multimillion dollar religious empire than came crashing around their feet in scandal. In the crash they lost virtually everything they had, Jim Bakker went to prison and Tammy Faye lost her marriage. In recent years she remarried an associate of the ministry, Roe Messner. On Friday morning Tammy Faye Bakker Messner died of cancer.

On Thursday night she appeared, via satellite, on the Larry King Show. I must say that anyone who saw any of that appearance would have been shocked and horrified at her condition. The cancer had spread throughout her body and she was a walking skeleton.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a strong critic of American fundamentalism. But, for the record, I will say that the major criticisms I have of fundamentalism today did not apply to the Bakkers. Although I do not share any of their beliefs in the supernatural, the Bakkers were the major exception to the rule. Where other televangelists and fundamentalist leaders were intolerant, bigoted, mean-spiritied, cruel, vindictive and theocratic, the Bakkers never seemed to be any of those things.

I first started writing about the dangers of fundamentalism in the late 1970s, well before it developed into the creature it has become today. I followed all the major figures in American fundamentalism (and fundamentalism is largely an American phenomenon). Over the years I met many of the people I criticized: Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, for instance. I never had a chance to meet either Jim or Tammy Faye. So I only watched them from afar, but they were different. That is not to say I thought they were right, only that they were different.

While the other prominent fundamentalists were damning people systematically and viciously from the pulpit, Tammy Faye and Jim avoided this. When AIDS struck, and the others used it as an excuse to smear and degrade the gay community, the Bakkers talked about the disease not about those inflicted with it. I can not think of a major fundamentalist preacher who followed a similar tactic.

Nor were the Bakkers seeking political power over others. When the power-hungry forces of fundamentalism were storming the capitol seeking legislation to impose their will on the American people, the Bakkers were noticeably absent. If they had theocratic tendencies they kept them well hidden.

The world they had built for themselves came crashing down around them. Jim Bakker was caught in an affair with a church secretary, Jessica Hahn, who was, in my opinion, blackmailing him for cash to keep silent. She was no minor, but an adult who knew what she was doing. And since Bakker never spent much time attacking the peccadilloes of others, I took no comfort in his humiliation. That scandal was engineered by competing Assemblies of God evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, ever the hypocrite and theocrat that he was. Swaggart later was caught visiting prostitutes himself.

The federal government went after Bakker for over selling time shares at his resort. When airlines over book it is legal, but they claimed that for Bakker, this was fraudulent. I don’t remember them actually showing one person who was defrauded, that is who didn’t get the time share they paid for, until the government stepped in. My impression was that Bakker was being falsely victimized by the state because he was a high profile figure and the bureaucrats love to prosecute the famous to put the fear of the government in the hearts of masses.

After Swaggart’s manipulation of events Bakker turned to Jerry Falwell for help. He handed his empire to Falwell for safe keeping, until he could clean up the mess he was in. But Falwell quickly stabbed Bakker in the back. Why Bakker thought Falwell could be trusted was something I never understood. After Falwell had control of the ministry he openly attacked Bakker as “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history.” If the vile actions of Falwell and Swaggart weren’t enough the IRS retroactively stripped the ministry of it’s tax exemption and then placed financial leans against the Bakkers for back taxes. If it isn’t one vampire, it’s the other.
(Continues below the video.)



Video: This video shows some of the ways that Falwell was dishonest and vicious in his dealings with the Bakkers.

Tammy Faye broke with many fundamentalists though she kept her faith. She says that during her crisis she found support in an usual place. “When I went... when we lost everything, it was the gay people that came to my rescue, and I will always love them for that.” Tammy Faye explained that her relationship with the gay community began in earnest during the days immediately following the downfall of the Bakker ministry. “When my husband was in prison and I wasn’t getting any presents for Christmas, it was the gay community that gathered around me and saw that. They gave me beautiful bathrobes with my initials on; they gave beautiful leopard hangers and leopard shoe bags. And I had the most awesome Christmas I’ve ever had. ...they cared about me more than the Christians cared about me, and that says something to me right there.”

The New York Times reports that in response Tammy Faye “began attending gay pride events, and in 1996, she became the co-host of a syndicated television talk show with Jim J. Bullock, an openly gay actor.” Tammy Faye says she attended at least half a dozen gay pride events, maybe ten in total. She said the response was: “Overwhelming love from everyone. Both ways. I love them and they love me. It’s just unbelievable. I’ve never felt such warmth in a group of people. That’s the truth.” She said that the gay communities “treat me like I’m family and that means more to me than anything could ever possibly mean.”

Bakker says she and her husband saw things differently than other Christians. She was the first Christian host “to have a gay man on my show. And so I think they remember that. They knew that we accepted them. Many of them watched PTL because they felt accepted by us and they were accepted by us. PTL loved everyone. We didn’t turn anyone away. And I think the gays appreciated that. We accepted the gay community when most religious elements did not.”

Her son, Jay Bakker, who pastors a church in New York City, said that during her last days, when it was well known Tammy Faye was dying, prominent Christian leaders were more concerned that Jay’s church was “gay affirming” than that his mother was dying. He said that no one was asking him about his mother or asking if there was something they could do to help during those awful times. Instead, they were only interested in telling him why they no longer wanted him to preach for them because he refused to reject homosexuals.

If more fundamentalists were like the Bakkers the culture war would be a thing of the past. While I have no inclination toward their faith, I respect their decency. It is a tragedy that Tammy Faye suffered the way she did and died the way she did. And this non-believer is sorry she’s gone.

UPDATE: To read how Tammy Faye requested that an openly gay minister perform her funeral go here.

Clarification: the term "fundamentalist" has two meanings. One is a theological meaning based on the series of books "The Fundamentals" that appeared almost eight years ago. The second meaning describes a temperment of intolerance. The second meaning came about because people who were fundametnalists, in the original sense of the word, were also intolerant. So when I use the word fundamentalist here it is the the original sense of the world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sometimes the best in America still comes out



A couple of days ago the San Diego Padres, a US baseball team, were playing a home game. As is customary, the game opens with the national anthem. For this occassion the team invited the Gay Men's Chorus of San Diego to open the game with their rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

A small band of fundamentalist assholes (I know it's redundant) were outside protesting. But reports are that most fans attending the game ignored the Bible bashers. The chorus was greeted by cheers and applauded well afterwards.

Now and then, in spite of all that weighs it done, the best in America comes out. This is the first time, in a very long time, that I felt some pride in my home country.

The video is a short, amateur film of that moment. Unfortunately it ends too abruptly. You hear the full rendition but the cheers and applause from the crowd are cut short.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Focus on the Family editor lies to her readers.

Here is a question. What makes a lie a lie? Two things: one is it intentional and does it conflict with reality or the facts.

I say intentional because if someone gives you directions but misunderstood where you wanted to go they didn’t lie to you they made an error. A lie is when you have information that one thing is true and say the other.

And that brings me to an editor over at the Theopublican outfit Focus on the Family. They run a website called citizenlink.com. At that site a editor, Jennifer Mesko, told an outright lie. They lie a lot and the make a whole lot more mistakes as well. I ignored Mesko’s first lie. If I wrote about lies told by fundamentalists I wouldn’t have time for anything else and still not even scratch the surface.

But now Mesko repeats the first lie and then doubles it. But she brags that she’s a “Christian journalist” who adheres “to truth and accuracy.” I have no doubt she’s a Christian. I don’t know if writing for Focus on the Family makes her a journalist. But I do know she is a bald faced liar.

The fundies at Focus on the Family are vehemently anti-gay but that’s no surprise. And they push a series of fraudulent ministries that claim to be “ex-gay”. That is their right. If people are screwed up enough to get involved with them there is little I can, or would, do about it. That is their problem. A gaggle of these misfits were holding their annual convention where they spout the fundamentalist line. Except they were unhappy because this year a lot of their former “cures” were gathering across not far away to denounce their previous ministries as fraudulent.

So you have the picture. A group of “exgays” are on one side and a group of “ex-exgays” are on the other side. Not real exciting. But Jennifer claimed in her article the ex-exgays conference only attracted 100 people versus an alleged 1,000 at the exgay conference. (For the record a large percentage of the people at the exgay conference were just people who hate homosexuals or fundamentalist parents who can’t understand how one of their kids could be gay.) Now on the surface this is even more boring. Who cares who had what number of registrations? It proves nothing. The problem is that Jennifer invented her claim. How do I know this? Simple: she published her claim about the ex-exgay conference one full day before it actually started. If you go to the Focus on the Family site you will see the article is dated June 28th. The ex-exgay conference began the evening of June 29th. Any claim as to actual attendance at that point would be fraudulent.

Clearly Jennifer knew nothing about the attendance at the conference in question since it had not yet started. She claimed she did. And various blogs and websites noted her claim and questioned how she knew this figure before the conference actually took place. Of course because her dishonesty was question Jennifer claims she is under attack by “gay activists”. She ignores the fact that she wrote an article about the results of a conference before it took place.

Was this intentional? Of course, I don’t know how one could write that unintentionally. She could not have a source for the number since no one in the world knew what the attendance would be in advance. Without a source for her claim she could only have made it up. And since the conference did not yet start she knew any number she put down would be dishonest.

Now we go to Jennifer’s second lie also published by Focus on the Family. She wrote:
The article I wrote on Thursday included this line about the Exodus conference: "The meeting, which began Tuesday and wraps up Sunday, has drawn close to 1,000 people – and no protesters so far. Across town, a counter-conference drew about 100 people."
Apparently miffed at the reference to "100 people," Roberts accused me of "supplying attendance figures seemingly out of thin air." But I got the numbers from reliable people who attended both conferences – although their thinness is not a matter of record.
Note how she leaves out the fact that her article was published in advance of the actual ex-exgay conference. And she claims “I got the numbers from reliable people who attended both conferences”. That is actually two lies in one. No one gave her those figures based on attending the second conference since no one had yet attended it. She never tells her gullible readers at Focus on the Family that she published her claims BEFORE the actual event in question.

The starting date of the conference is not in question. The publication date of Jennifer’s article is not in question. And anyone can see she published prior to the event. She covers that up and then makes it out that she is under attack by nasty gay activists. Actually she is under attack because she lied to her readers and is now lying about the lies. This seems morally acceptable to Focus on the Family.

Monday, June 25, 2007

10 simple steps to reverse the "gay lifestyle"

When you get a newspaper headline like this one you have to laugh. It is from The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi. The headline:


It is about a minister the Southern Baptists have designated as their point man in their “ministry” to (or against, depending on your point of view) gay people.

What does it mean to reverse the “gay lifestyle”?

So here are some suggestions as to what these Southern Baptists might do to “reverse” the “gay lifestyle”.
1. No more hair stylists. Back to flat tops and bad barbers the way God intended.

2. No cats, only dogs as pets. Poodles or any dog small enough to sit in one’s lap are not acceptable and should be treated like cats.

3. All walls in the apartment or home must be painted basic white.Under no circumstances are pastels or vibrant colors to be used. Wallpaper is acceptable provided it clashes with the upholstery on the furniture.

4. The only label on one’s underwear that is acceptable is a label with your own name not the name of a designer.

5. Ties, preferably clip-ons, are required on Sundays. Ties never match the socks since the socks are always white, just like the shoes.

6. Unless a “little woman” is cooking food options are as follows: TV dinners (any kind), International House of Pancakes, any restaurant with a drive-through window, and Denny’s. Exception: subject is allowed to cook for himself provided he does so over an open fire, in the backyard with large slabs of meat. Please note: sauces that are not red in color are not permitted at any time.

7. Subject must vacate any of the following locations: New England down to and including New York, the region from Silicon Valley north to the Canadian border, Miami or Key West, Los Angeles, Madison, Wisconsin, the north side of Chicago beginning at the Loop, the French Quarter of New Orleans and any small town described as an “artists colony”. Europe is strictly off limits. Preferred living locations: anywhere in Texas, except Austin and any state that voted for George Wallace in 1968.

8. As a general rule of thumb clothes purchased from any store ending in “mart” are acceptable such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart.

9. The following entertainment must be avoided: all films with subtitles; any film produced in the last 30 years that is in black and white; live theater and cabaret shows.

10 Fishing is allowed as is any sport where animals die. Baseball is permitted but not softball. Football (except touch football) is allowed. Any sport popular in England or Europe is forbidden. Golf is allowed (except miniature), tennis is not. Badminton and croquet are strictly forbidden. Checkers is permitted, chess is not. Diving and swimming are forbidden but boxing is encouraged.
I supposed by now the whole venture looks a little silly doesn’t it? I find that the term “gay lifestyle”, along with the equally absurd “gay agenda”, are terms that have no meaning whatsoever, not even to the people who use them -- who themselves are rarely gay. If one spoke of “the heterosexual lifestyle” we don’t know if one is speaking of Pat Robertson, Hugh Hefner, Bill Clinton or the Pope. In reality there is no heterosexual lifestyle nor is there a gay lifestyle.

But the idea that such a lifestyle exists is a necessary component of the creation of a scapegoat. The idea that there is some “gay agenda” allows the bumpkins to find an easy target on whom to pin their problems. The successful rallying of a political lynch mob requires that the participants in the mob see their victim as “the other”, someone who is clearly not them. The more alien the better. The term “gay lifestyle” is supposed to constantly remind people that “those people” just “aren’t like us”. And when people aren’t like us then many people conclude they are legitimate targets, sometimes literally.

The reality is that the Religious Right has been engaged in this sort of enterprise since the earliest days of the Republic.

In 1800 they warned Americans of the dire consequences of electing someone as immoral as Thomas Jefferson, a man they said was a leader of the secret Illuminati plot to destroy America. A few decades later they were screaming about the Masonic threat. Then it came time to attack Catholics, immigrants, liquor, “bobbed hair”, pants suits on women, Hollywood movies, Jews, immigrants again, liberals, the Civil Rights movements, etc.

The wonderful writer H.L. Mencken wrote that the common man is difficult to educate “but it is always easy to scare him.” And that task...
....is the daily business of the evangelical pastors of the Republic. They are specialists in alarms and bugaboos. The rum demon, atheists, Bolsheviks, the Pope, bootleggers, Leopold and Loeb—all of these have served them in turn and in the demonology of the Ku Klux Klan all have been conveniently brought together. The old stock company of devils has been retired, and with it the old repertoire of sins. The American peasant of today finds it vastly easier to claw into Heaven that he used to. Private holiness has now been handed over to the Holy Rollers and other such survivors from a harsher day. It is sufficient now to hate the Pope, to hate the Jews, to hate the scientists, to hate all foreigners, to hate whatever the cities yield to. These hatreds have been spread in the land by rev. pastors, chiefly Baptists and Methodists. They constitute with their attendant fears, the basic religion of the American clodhopper today. They are the essence of the new Christianity, American style.
Mencken wrote that 82 years ago. Things haven’t changed very much in the meantime. It is true that, on a whole, the Methodists have since joined Western Civilization. In the process they lost a lot of their members who were still baying for a good old fashioned lynching. The would-be social exorcists switch demons now and then just to keep the crowd, with their notorious short attention span, interested. But the sniffers and snoopers frequently return to the same old demons for the sake of tradition.

Today it would be difficult, if not comically, for them to try to get people riled up about dancing, miscegination, or “mixed bathing” (swimming pools). And the hullabaloo about “bobbed hair” is, in retrospective, rather funny. Perhaps all their devil sniffing and witch hunting would be equally funny if, in the process, they didn’t hurt real people.