Saturday, November 29, 2008

The bullet is still smashing down doors.

My friend Amy and I went out for dinner and a movie tonight. I have to admit it was something of a strange, as well as nostalgic evening for me because of the film. And it may be difficult to explain all this here.

It is not unusual to have lived someplace, or near someplace, that appears in a film. But in this case the film takes place almost entirely in my old neighborhood. More importantly it mostly takes place on my old block. Many of the people depicted in the film were neighbors, people I would pass on the streets.

The film we saw is Gus van Sant’s Milk starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. I have to say that Penn captured the character of Milk almost perfectly.

My apartment in San Francisco has long topped the list of the places where I loved living. San Francisco was, and is, a city I love. I have always said that everyone should live in San Francisco once.

My flat occupied the third floor. On the first floor was a restaurant.To the left of the restaraurant was a door leading to some winding stairs to the second floor where you faced two doors. On the right was the door to some offices used by one of the local businesses. The door on the left was my door. It was deceptive; this door didn’t directly enter my apartment at all. Instead it opened up to a long staircase that made a sharp right turn at the very top. This stairway and hall at the top was just the foyer to the apartment.

At the top of the stairs there was an old large radio from the 1930s and the entire wall, from the second floor up the stairs, was a collection of old film posters which I eventually sold at auction. If you turned left at the top of the stairs you went into another foyer with the bedroom off to the right and the kitchen, pantry, bathroom and porch straight ahead. To the right of the main foyer was my lounge and next to it my library. These two rooms had massive bay windows looking onto Castro while the back faced toward Twin Peaks.

If I sat in my library I could read and watch that continuing soap opera that was Castro Street. Across the street and a bit to the right was what had been Harvey Milk’s business, Castro Camera. Above the shop, facing my side of the street was Harvey’s old apartment.

Seeing this film brought back a flood of memories of my old neighborhood and how it had been a epicenter of a social movement that is still changing America today -- I believe for the better, for the most part.

This films depicts Harvey Milks relative short political career before he was gunned down by the conservative ex-cop politician, Dan White. White snuck through a basement window into city hall and murdered the Mayor Moscone and Milk.

What I didn’t realize, until recently, what that White wanted other victims. One of whom was Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver. That surprised me. While Carol and I differed on many issues we had a strong common ground on defending Second Amendment rights which allowed us to work together on that issue.

Carol Ruth once said that for her a handgun was “a necessary piece of household equipment.” Had White run into Silver, before he killed Moscone and Milk, things may have turned out very differently. Silver was a contributer to a book edited by SF ACLU lawyer Don Kates, Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out. Kates, like Silver was another ally on self-defense issues.

Milk shows an America lurching to the Right as Anita Bryant and Senator John Briggs push their antigay agenda. Milk was a major opponent of those campaigns in California.

During this time period I was a young writer working for a publication in the Midwest. But I paid attention. And when Anita Bryant came to the area I spent the day with her, and her then husband Bob Green, for an article I was writting. It became clear to me that she and Green were not in a harmonious relationship. She spent so much “saving the family” that her own fell apart. By the way they fought in front of me I could see a divorce was coming.

Bob Green struck me as an upleasant character and Kathy Lee Gifford, who had done babysitting for Bryant, said that Green was emotionally abusive. This fit well with what I witnessed. Anita eventually left him, went bankrupt, admitted to a pill addiction and eventually remarried. That was followed by further bankruptcy filings by her and her husband. Of course all this means she is now running a fundamentalist “ministry” out of Oklahoma City.

In the film Harvey tells a rally against Bryant that the audience ought to thank Anita Bryant. He noted that Anita’s hate campaign didn’t destroy the gay community but unified it. And that was tue.

This is precisely what I’ve been saying about the short-sighted Proposition 8. The parallels are intriguing. The antigay campaign that Bryant and Briggs led, Proposition 6, did unite a lot of people and radicalized a whole generation of gay people. And this is what I believe the Mormon sponsored Proposition 8 has done.

I saw Milk in a realtively conservative state in a very conservative town. Yet the cinema had moved Milk to the largest theater they had. The show before the one I saw had a large attendance and so did the showing we attended. What I noticed was the large number of young gay people, in their teens and twenties, who had come out to see this film. Most of them were not even born when Harvey Milk was gunned down.

Yet I can assure you that this film hit them where they live. They are all aware of Prop 8 and the Mormon Church. They saw this film about the Prop 6 campaign run by fundamentalist churches. And they reacted to the message of Harvey Milk.

It is important to contrast their expectations in life to those of gay people from Harvey’s generation. Virtually all gay Americans from Harvey’s era, grew up in a country where it was a crime to be gay. They faced arrest merely for having drinks with friends. The police, even in San Francisco, didn’t mind engaging in some “fag bashing” themselves.

Many of the young people in the showing of Milk have never lived under governments that would arrest them for merely being out with other gay people. Harvey’s generation knew the constant fear of losing a job, being evicted from their apartments just because they were gay. Today’s young gays know little of that. In the time of Milk full grown adults were terrified to be open about their sexual orientation. Many of today’s young gays came out to their parents and friends in junior high school and have always been open. They haven’t always been accepted, and often faced bullies, but they don’t know the closet the way Harvey Milk did.

The gay people of the Milk era were satisfied with token acceptance. It was considered something of an accomplishment just to get the police to stop assaulting you. The idea of full legal equality was just a fantasy. When people are satisfied with “don’t hit me so much” they aren’t likely to ask, “When can I have the same rights you do?”

Today’s young gays have different expectations, so the Prop 8 vote was a real shock to them, it was a wake up call. I’m betting that hundreds of Harvey Milks were born in the Prop 8 defeat. If the Mormon theocracy thinks that they won a victory they will find out precisely how wrong they are. In just this one showing, in one town, on one night, the story of Harvey Milk energized several new young activists who won’t rest until they live in a world where they are treated as equals. That is not what the Mormon leadership intended with their campaign. The young people in the cinema were ready for the message that Harvey Milk had to give them.

There is no doubt that Harvey and I were miles apart on many issues. But neither is there any doubt that I have immense respect for what he did and appreciate his contribution toward legal equality. And while I will fight Harvey’s legacy where he was wrong, I will applaud his legacy where he was correct. And I appreciate that his message, through this film, is reaching a new generation. I fully expect to see the day, in my lifetime, when full legal equality for gay people is achieved.

Conservative victories, such as Prop 8, can not extinguish the desire for equality before the law. In truth such conservative wins may not even slow down the drive for equality but speed excelerate it. Prop 8 recreated unity in the gay community, something that had vanished in the years since Milk was campaigning. Prop 8 made lots of gay people angry. And it put a fire under young gays who were less interested in activism than their older counterparts. Satisfied with many of the gains achieved since the 60s the gay rights movement was moribund; the Mormons and the Prop 8 campaign changed that.

Days before his murder Harvey sat down and recorded his thoughts, thoughts he said he wanted made public only if he were murdered. On that tape he said:”If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” I can’t see today’s generation of gays ever accepting the closet as an acceptable place to live. They are demanding a place at the table. They aren’t asking, they aren’t requesting, they are demanding. And I believe they will succeed.

Those who fought this battle with Harvey are growing tired, weary from the journey. Many of the brave pioneers have died, some like Harvey had their life stolen from them by the very hatred they fought. Until Prop 8, these baby boomers of the gay community were watching political activism fading away. So much had been accomplished, so much had changed, that many of the young didn’t see the need to do the “Harvey Milk thing”. Now they see. In one short campaign the conservatives created tens of thousands of new activists. Tonight the cinema was filled with many of these people. One of the lines Harvey liked to use at his political rallies was: “I’m Harvey Milk. And I’m here to recruit you.” With the wake-up call conveniently provided by the Mormons I suspect that thousands of young people who watch Milk will respond to Havey’s recruitment drive.

For more information on Harvey Milk you might read The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts. In another of those odd overlaps of life I worked with Randy’s brother, Gary, on some political projects of common interest. Gary Shilts is an active libertarian in Illinois.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why the Prop 8 battle is far from over.

If the Mormon Church thinks the battle over Prop 8 has ended they are sadly mistaken. Let us consider what is happening and likely to happen.

First, the Mormon cult has made a huge mistake in regards to their public relations. American culture is divided between rational secularists and faith-driven fundamentalists. That is the main divide with many Christians falling into the rational secular category by practice, even if not by self-identification.

The problem for the Mormons is that they don’t fall into either group. They can be faith-driven fundamentalists, but of the Mormon kind,. And Mormonism is well outside traditional Christian thinking. They were trying to impress antigay Christians by matching them in prejudice. But that doesn’t remove the fact that most fundamentalists know that Mormons is not Christian in the theological or historical sense of the word. Mormons want to convince everyone they are because the use similar words but naming a pig Fido doesn’t make it a dog.

So while they might impress fundamentalists with their antigay bigotry they won’t win them over. And the rest of the country will be even less likely to look favorably on this weird sect and their polytheism, secret Temple endowments and celestial polygamous marriages. In other words, the one group they sought to impress will continue hating them and the secularists will resent their intrusive attempts to create a theocratic legal system.

Mormons also played this badly. They wanted the Christianists to know they were funding the campaign while they wanted to pretend to the secularists that the Church wasn’t involved. This is typical Mormon duplicity and deception. The Church had an expensive, but off-the-books, campaign to get their members to fund Prop 8. But they told their cult members to donate directly to Prop 8 so the funds didn’t go directly through Church hands. Then, when they are asked about their campaign to strip gay people of rights, the Mormon leadership feigns innocence and uses as proof, the fact that they didn’t contribute directly to the campaign.

But opponents know who was actually the funders of Prop 8. They know the Mormon leadership told members to fund the campaign and provide manpower. They know that church meetings were held where this was done. So today, angry people gathered to protest Prop 8 and they chose the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles as the target for their protests. So the secularists are pissed off at the Mormons and the fundamentalists hate them. All the Mormons have done is piss off a lot of people without changing the the minds of the Religious Right which accurately perceives them as being a strange cult. The Mormon leaders stupidly put the church in a lose-lose situation.

In addition, this “victory” for the antigay Right is, at best, temporary. This issue won’t go away. If they honestly believe that gay Americans are going to become resigned to second class citizenship they are either very mistaken or very stupid. I’d bet on the latter before I would the former. They may think this is the gay agenda but they don’t know the facts, again.

The gay marriage issue did not arise from what is called the “gay leadership”. The gay rights groups did not set this agenda. They didn’t want it. They were worried about bad legislation like hate crime laws, which they naively want to pass. Marriage was not a priority to them. It was gay couples, in long-term relationships, living with the problems of second class status who pushed the issue. The gay leadership and gay organizations only jumped on the issue after they realized it wasn’t going to go away. This was one of those issues where gay “leaders” saw the crowd moving in one direction, ran to the front of the parade, and then pretended to be leading it.

More importantly the issue is moving in the right direction. The original measure to ban gay marriage in California passed quite easily. Not this time. They barely managed to secure a majority of voters. And it may not be possible to do it again. There were numerous things that had to be done this time just to get a bare majority.

First, they benefited because of the high Black voter turnout. Black voters are even more bigoted than fundamentalists. A higher percentage of Christians voted no on Prop 8 than Africa-Americans. The reality, which the political Left dare not admit, is that African-Americans are a deeply bigoted lot especially when it comes to the rights of gay people. But that huge turnout was because Blacks saw their first chance to elect a “black man” as president. I put that in quotes merely because Mr. Obama is as black as he is white when it comes to his race. If the Prop 8 supporters think they will have that happen each time this comes up again they are wrong.

The question is who has the incentives to keep up the campaign, year after year. While hate can be inspirational to some it is not sustainable. I predict that religious groups will give up their efforts long before their victims do.

And these groups already know the trends are against them. One reason for their desperate measures to enshrine bigotry in state constitutions is because they perceive the tide moving against them. If you look at the vote in California, and compare it to the last vote against marriage equality there, you will see that support for marriage apartheid has subsided substantially in a very short period of time.

Without the Mormon church pushing members to pour millions of dollars into the campaign it is unlikely they could have pulled off their proposition. Last time they won easily without spending much money. Last time they didn’t have to resort to the horrific, dishonest television advertising that they used to push their cause this time. In other words, they operated under unusual favorable circumstances (the high turn out of antigay African-American voters), had to spend far more money than before, and had to resort to blatant dishonest on the air. With all of that they managed a narrow victory.

And there is one final issue which the antigay crowd will have to deal with: whether or not the initiative itself is legal. As I understand it Californians may make small changes to the Constitution by majority vote. But, if the change is substantial, then the requirements are different.

The California State Supreme Court ruled that state laws treated gay couples unequally and that the Constitution specifically guarantees equality before the law. So what happens to that Constitutional guarantee if another amendment specifically denies it? Can a Constitution contradict itself and how is that contradiction resolved?

Opponents are arguing that the new amendment effectively repeals the equal protection clause and thus changes the structure of the Constitution itself. Those sort of changes are reserved to the legislature -- which has twice approved equal marriage laws. At best the Mormons have only delayed the inevitable. And long-term I suggest they will regret their role in this assault the rights of others. Outside the utter moral hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, if there is one church that can’t stand much scrutiny, it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Addendum: Actor T.R. Knight, of Grey's Anatomy, was a poll worker fighting Proposition 8. He spent the day at polls in Southern California and describes the vitriolic hatred that was exhibited toward him, and other opponents, by Prop 8 supporters. "Every single supporter of Prop. 8 was so filled with anger and bile as they voiced their "support" to us, with the exception of one older gentleman, who engaged us in a very civil conversation. One person in over 13 hours." Knight wrote: "I hope I can muster the patience and keep my anger focused so I can continue to fight. Fight clean. Fight with just the truth. And never let myself spew the kind of hate I encountered on that Tuesday in November as we peacefully fought for our civil rights."

Monday, October 20, 2008

How the Left helped the Right mug gay rights.

There are issues where the Progressives, from the classical liberal view, are on target, or close enough for government work. Social freedom tends to be that area. They deserve thanks for leading the battle to expand the rights of gay people until they are coequal to those granted heterosexual. Liberalism, that is true liberalism, as Hayek noted is always ready to expand liberty into new areas which terrify conservatives. So true liberals and Progressives have some common ground in those areas.

And many Progressives are disturbed by the well-funded campaign of religious zealots to strip gay couples of marriage rights in California. As am I. But what our Progressive friends don’t realize, recognize or, perhaps even know, is that Progressives were the accomplices of the Religious Right in this campaign to strip people of their rights. They made this antigay campaign possible. To understand how let us look at some history.

America’s founders were not advocates of democratic rule. They worried that people’s passions were too easily riled up by demagogues and that mobs could easily be persuaded to strip individuals or minorities of their rights. The Founders tried to avoid the tyranny of the majority. They created a government that was inherently anti-majoritarian in many ways -- certainly it was openly antidemocratic. The president was not elected directly, he was elected by electors not by the people. And while most people still don’t understand the Electoral College that is pretty much how it is done today.

Secondly, the Founders had the Senate representing the states not the people. They were appointed by each state legislature not directly elected.

The third branch of government was the Supreme Court where justices were appointed by the president (himself not directly elected) and approved by the Senate (which was not directly elected). To give it an even stronger antidemocratic nature they made sure the Justices were appointed for life and couldn’t be removed by popular vote.

The reason they did this was simple. They were not establishing a democracy but a free society where the rights of all people would be respected -- at least that was the goal whatever failings they had in achieving it. They didn’t want the rights of minorities subjected to popular vote. Thomas Jefferson said, “It is ridiculous to suppose, that a man had less rights in himself than one of his neighbors, or, indeed, than all of them put together.” Even a unanimous vote of everyone but the person being targeted is not a legitimate reason for denying rights. The Yes on 8 people don’t understand this and keep harping about previous popular votes to deny rights to gay couples. Rights, properly understood, should not be subject to popular vote,

Jefferson said that when the rights of individuals or minorities are subject to majority approval, “This would be slavery, not the liberty which the bill of rights had made inviolable, and for the preservation of which our government has been charged.” The writer Frank Chodorov warned, “the idea that a number of people, acting together, have a right, which supersedes the rights of the individual is pure fantasy, and one which as experience shows, has been invented for no good purpose.”

We shouldn’t vote on which churches should have freedom of religion. We shouldn’t vote on which minorities have the right to attend schools and which don’t. The rights of minorities do not rely upon majority approval. That was what the Founders were attempting to accomplish. Subjecting the rights of individuals to majority approval leads to social warfare, to conflict between groups and individuals. It increase social instability and breeds violence. Oscar Wilde once described pure democracy as “the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people.” He was right. When rights are subject to majority approval people get bludgeoned. And in California what is happening is nothing short of electoral gay bashing.

So how did we reach the situation where minorities must come begging to the majority for equal protection before the law? Was it some crusade by Religious Right fanatics? Not at all, the religious fanatics exist and are using the law but they didn’t set it up.

The advocates of the ballot initiative process were the Progressives -- or socialists. Hiram Johnson was California’s governor and in 1911 he and local Progressive put through a series of reforms to give the majority more say in politics. Johnson went on to be a founder of the national Progressive Party and was the party’s vice presidential candidate. He was also a supporter of the racist Alien Land Law of 1913 which stripped Asian immigrants of the right to property--a law overturned by the California Supreme Court. Presumably something the Yes on 8 people would resent -- damn activist judges going around protecting rights.

One of the things that stymied the Progressives was that the Constitution limited government powers and the socialists wanted government to have more power. They believed that ballot initiatives would allow them to bypass the legislatures and push through measures that promoted socialism. They believed that the majority would use the power to confiscate wealth from the rich. And they would when they can, and have done so -- see rent control and the measures to mandate lower insurance costs as an example.

But it wasn’t the poor versus the rich. It was a majority of people against a minority of people. The wealthy were, and are, a minority. The socialists were using a method they believed would attack the rights of a minority, the well-off. So majorities tend to favor passing costs on to people other than themselves and focusing the benefits on themselves. That is what majoritarian initiatives tend to do.

The initiative was created so that majorities could strip minorities of rights. The socialists thought it was okay to do this because the minority was wealthy. But, once that process exists, all minorities face problems. If there is sufficient hatred for one minority, say whipped up by religious crazies, then that minority may be stripped of rights barring other Constitutional protections enforced by judges.

In California, the Progressives allowed the Constitution to be changed by majority vote. So voters in California can, in regards to matters that are under state control, such as marriage, impose their own biases on that document and strip a minority of their rights.

One of the things I have harped on, repeatedly, to the exhaustion of some readers I suspect, is the matter of expanding state power. I have argued that when the Left expands the powers of the state to do what they consider to be good things, they create a situation where their opponents can then win office and use those expanded powers for what the Left would consider to be bad things. That is precisely how gay people are being stripped of their right to marry in California.

It was understandable that this process was pushed through but short-sighted. The California government was corrupt and in the back pockets of certain business interests. But this is only a problem when we have government with massive powers. If government has few, clearly delineated powers and no ability to redistribute rights and wealth from majorities to minorities (which is what tends to happen in the legislative process) then few corrupt business interests would be interested in owning the legislature. It is the power they wish to purchase and when the power is limited the value of corraling the legislature is very low.

But the Left believed that the goals of liberalism, such as expanded rights, greater wealth, more equality, could best be achieved by conservative means -- the use of state power. So their dilemma was keeping the power in place for their own use and removing the corrupt businessmen from the arena. And the initiative process was one way they came up with for doing that.

The Left created a process called ballot initiatives. That allows majorities to vote for the redistribution of the rights and wealth of minorities. It does more than allow it, it encourages it. The result is being seen today. More state power is never the answer. It will always be grabbed by the powerful and used against the powerless. In this case the majority is using it against a small minority. And the only recourse the small minority has is to beg the majority of people to please not let it happen. A right should depend on majority approval but the Progressives set up a system where that was inevitable.

Expanded state powers never stay in the hands of those who first created them. Eventually their enemies get hold of the reins of power and then those new state mechanisms get used for purposes very much in opposition to their original intentions. As much as I support sex education for the young I long felt that having such programs would eventually backfire. We have now had millions of federal tax dollars used to change the courses into anti-sex education. The same is true with the initiative process in California. The Progressives didn’t see it as a means of stripping minority groups of their rights (though they were then fairly weak on the topic), they wanted it to hurt the business interests. But the powers created for one purpose are easily diverted to contrary purposes.

The great conflict between the classical liberal and the socialist has been over precisely this issue. The classical liberals warned that the use of illiberal means (state power) to achieve liberal goals will eventually be perverted into the means for the destruction of liberal goals. That is what we are seeing with Proposition 8. True liberals know that both means and ends must be consistent. A true liberal wants Proposition 8 defeated but then ought not rest until the initiative process itself is abolished.

PS: I do see one role for initiatives, to veto legislation passed by the state assembly. As the nature of legislative law is to pander to special interests to confiscate rights from majorities to minorities, a people’s veto would allow the repeal of laws that do this. But the majority should not be allowed to reverse the process, that is to strip minorities of their rights or wealth. By acting as a break on legislative tendencies to pander to organized interests a people’s veto, as opposed to an initiative process, helps restrain the evils of government.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Intolerence breeds hate, hate breeds violence.

This story didn’t get much play. In fact the only report I’ve seen in the local paper, the Kankakee Daily Journal. Even there is was a brief article, only a few sentences. But it is mind-numbing.

A grade school bus driver, Russell Schmalz apparently decided that a young boy on his school bus was gay. Whether or not he is doesn’t matter, just that Schmalz thought he was. This grown adult, Schmalz is 42, ridiculed the 10-year-old boy as gay and taunted him. Chief Deputy Ken McCabe of the local Sheriff’s department reported what happened then:
When the boy got off the bus the driver encouraged several other students to go after him and tackle him. Our investigation shows that occurred.
Police are investigating the claim that Schmalz also got off the bus and physically grabbed the child. This is a 10-year-old child who was assaulted merely because someone said he was gay.

In Salt Lake City a 20-year-old was just arrested for assault. His victim was an 18-year-old who was attacked because the attacker believed he was gay. He was helped in the attack by four other men.

A few days ago Jordan Smith was walking holding hands with his boyfriend. For that offense Michael Kandola started calling Smith and friend names and then began assaulting Smith. Jordan’s jaw was broken in three places. (see video below)

Just a couple of days ago two men were arrested in Washington, D.C., for assaulting a 23-year-old medical student because he was gay. They hit him with a glass bottle.

Just hours ago a man in New York was convicted for murdering Edgar Garzon, a 35-year-old gay man. Garzon had left a gay club and was walking home when a car with his killer, John McGhee pulled up. McGhee jumped out and attacked Garzon from behind, crushing his school with a baseball bat.

Each of these news stories is recent. I didn’t go searching the records for months past, just stories from the last few days. Earlier, when I was talking to the people promoting Proposition 8 the one I identified as Angry White Guy made a remark about the Matthew Shepherd murder in Wyoming. He was dismayed that this brutal killing got publicity.

He assured me that he didn’t engage in “fag bashing”. I wasn’t impressed that he thought thaT not beating people up was some sort of accomplishment. “Anyway,” he said, “that sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.”

What I didn’t tell him was that earlier today I had been re-reading the information on the Matthew Shepherd murder. The sheer brutality of it, all because this boy was gay, shocked me at the time. It still disturbs me greatly. I have watched the excellent docudrama on the impact that killing had in Laramie, Wyoming, The Laramie Project. The film is sitting here but I can’t bring myself to watch it again. I’ve seen it twice and each time I end up an emotional wreck.

Matthew was A 21-years-old student at the University of Wyoming. Two young men, one holding priesthood in the Mormon church, had planned to attack a gay man. In court their girlfriends said they spoke of the crime before they committed it. According to the prosecution the two men pretended to be gay and befriended Matthew, who was known to be gay. They offered him a ride home but Matthew never made it home that night, or ever again.

Matthew Shepherd was taken to a hill overlooking the city of Laramie and beaten mercilessly. This was not just a common assault. They were unrelenting as theY used a pistol to smash in his skull and face. After beating Matthew into a coma they tied his body to fence so he couldn’t get away -- as if that were possible in the shape they left him. They helped themselves to his money and his shoes and left him there.

The next morning a cyclist rode past the sight and saw what he thought was a scarecrow tied to the fence. He went closer for a better look and realized it was the limp body of a young man, still alive, but barely. Matthew was rushed to intensive care in Colorado Springs but he couldn’t survive the brutality of that night.

Now Mormons will tell you that they oppose violence against gays, they just spend millions to deny them equal rights before the law. What they don’t talk about is that Mormon “Apostle” Boyd Packer published a pamphlet entitled “To Young Men Only” which the First Presidency of the church has published and distributed.

In this talk this Mormon leader praised a Mormon missionary for assaulting a missionary companion who was homosexual. In this lecture, which mainly tries to convince Mormon boys that masturbation is incredibly evil, the Apostle referred to “physical mischief with another man”. He said that there are some who “entice young men to join them in these immoral acts” and that if that happens “it is time to vigorously resist.” (The video above is Ellen discussing the murder of a young boy in California, earlier this year, because he was gay. The two videos below are a dramatic presentation of the reality of fag bashing from the show Queer as Folk.)

The Mormon leader tells the story of when he was on mission and a young Mormon missionary came to him with something to confess. He admitted that he “floored” the other young missionary with his punch. This “Apostle” then writes:
After learning a little more, my response was “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.
So, the one boy makes a pass at the other boy. The second boy assaults the first boy in response and the Apostle’s response is to thank the boy for engaging in violence and then tells him “Somebody had to to it.” Apostle Packer then says, “I am not recommending that course to you,” but immediately adds a further comment making it quite clear that is precisely what he is recommending, “I am not recommend that course to you, but I am not omitting it. YOU MUST PROTECT YOURSELF.”

The Mormon fanaticism against gays is well known. Mormons believe in a very sexy afterlife where Mormon men, and their multiple wives (they still believe is polygamy in the afterlife) will be screwing throughout eternity producing spirit babies to populate planets. By the way, this is necessary to attain godhood -- Mormons are not Christians at all, not in any historical or Biblical sense. They believe that the secret rituals of the Mormon Temple (much of which Joseph Smith stole from his local Masonic lodge) will allow a faithful Mormon to become a God. They are polytheists. When they talk about “Father” they mean the god of this world only. They play down their claim that they turn into a God through their secret rituals, but they believe it. Since one has to be heterosexual to become a God you can see why they are so viciously antigay.

Stuart Matis believed the Mormon theology and so he fought being gay. He would punish himself for having gay thoughts. He hid his orientation from his family in fear. The only person he told was his missionary companion, Clay Whitmer. Clay confessed that he too was gay.

Eventually Stuart’s family asked him if he was gay. He said he was. His family actually supported him. His church didn’t and Stuart was a very loyal Mormon who was trying to “cure” himself. He got very depressed as he fought and fought his natural tendencies. One night, his mother heard him pacing around because of worry. She sat down and wrote a letter asking the Mormon church to reconsider their views.

Stuart also wrote a letter that night but she didn’t know it until she found it the next morning. It was a suicide note. Stuart took a gun and went to the local Mormon headquarters. He pinned a note to his clothes asking medical personnel to not resuscitate him under any circumstances then he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. (The video below is a vlog by a 16-year-old Illinois boy discussing the difficulty in learning self-acceptance for gay youth.)

Clay Whitmer says he tried to persuade Stuart not to do it. He wanted to cheer him up but arrived too late. As Newsweek describes it: “A few weeks later, anguished at his friend’s death and tormented by his own long-term depression, Whitmer put a gun to his own head.”

When will the Mormon church learn that they are destroying people? This antigay campaign they are on is deadly. They are pouring millions of dollars into a crusade to write bigotry into the state constitution while their own young people are dying--while their own young are becoming killers. Apostle Packer might think it was cute and funny to tell young Mormon males that he thanked someone for beating up a homosexual but I wonder if that Mormon boy in Wyoming who helped beat Matthew Shepherd to death had read that pamphlet. It was addressed to young Mormon males like himself. After all, you have to defend yourself from these faggots.

The Religious Right has been engaging in a long-term campaign to dehumanize gay people. They have called them every name under the sun and accused them of being the most dangerous threat to civilization, morality and children in the world today. If you continually dehumanize one group of people the consequences are inevitably deadly. Some will take their own lives because they can’t stand the torment, others will have their lives taken from them by moralistic thugs doing God’s will.

What these religious zealots are doing, or trying to do, is create a climate of hatred aimed at gay people. They are obsessed with this hatred and they can’t let it go. They drum it into the minds of the young and those hateful ideas spread around and people act on them.

These are not typical crimes. These are not attacks based on a desire to steal or to secure sexual satisfaction. They are inspired by one thing only -- contempt and hatred for someone for who they are. And the Mormons, Catholics and fundamentalists are out there telling the world that this sort of contempt is alright, it is God’s will. And God wants you to strip these people of certain rights because of who they are. Once people buy into this sort of view of a class of people it becomes easier and easier to inflict pain and suffering upon them.

I want to end this post with a video someone created. Elton John wrote a song about the Matthew Shepherd murder. Someone connected that song, American Triangle, with clips from The Laramie Project. Watch it, listen to the words and think. We need to end these tragedies, too many lives have been lost, too much hatred has already been unleashed in the name of God. I can’t speak for God but I can say, in the name of humanity, end the hatred.

PS. The Yes on 8 campaign is spending $25 million to push hatred of gays and portray them as threat to people who love their families. Now, won’t you please contribute to the NO on 8 campaign to fight the hate.

My encounter with antigay Yes on 8 campaigners

I was out shopping earlier today and ran into some Yes on 8 people standing at the shopping mall with their signs for this proposition to strip gay people of marriage equality. The one sign said “Protect Parental Rights”. So I parked and walked over to asked them how gay marriage violates parental rights.

The man pulled out a campaign brochure and I said: “No, I’d like to hear why you think gay marriage violates parental rights.” He looked dumbfounded for a moment, having to think for yourself is hard work especially when you’re not used to it.

He then started to repeat what the Yes on 8 people told him. He started with: “In Massachusetts....” I interrupted and pointed out that we live in California and Massachusetts state law doesn’t apply in California.

He responded with a claim that in sex ed classes in California kids will be taught gay marriage. I pointed out to him that under California law all parents are free to remove their children from sex ed classes if they wish and thus no child will be taught this without parental permission. His reply was: “Well, that won’t be the case of Prop 8 doesn’t pass.”

Actually 8 does nothing about parental permission for sex ed courses and, while gay marriage is legal now, the law still stands. Obviously the legalization of gay marriage had no impact on that law at all. Just because Jewish marriage is legal that doesn’t mean kids are taught Judaism at school. The whole argument is absurd.

At this point another Prop 8 person came over to play interference. The old guys job was to wave silly signs at the public. This guy was your basic angry white guy who hasn’t a clue what is going on. Really, not a bad guy, just pissed off and someone who doesn’t know what is happening -- in other words, pretty much uninformed.

He started complaining how “one federal judge” could over rule millions of voters and how that was unfair. Of course there were no federal judges involved at all. This was purely a ruling of the California Supreme Court based on the California constitution. He insisted it was federal interference, even the old guy interrupted him and corrected him. As I said, he’s basically uninformed.

This guy doesn’t like gays, but then he doesn’t like immigrants, free trade and a host of things. We discussed them briefly. I asked him what happens with the US dollars that go to China for the shoes we buy here (he was worried about American produced shoes for some reason). Don’t those dollars have to come back to America eventually if someone wants to spend them? He seemed convinced that some of it does come back to Hillary Clinton and Diane Feistein. Really, I’m not making this up.

I pointed out that billions of dollars in trade go overseas and surely it doesn’t all go to politicians. He wasn’t sure at this point but complained about cheap foreign products and how it destroys jobs. Again he seemed unaware that the US has among the lowest unemployment rates around. I asked him how it was that trade was destroying our jobs if our unemployment rate is so low? He said he didn’t know. But he blamed the problem he was sure existed on the NAFTA/NAMBLA agreement! (I’m not making this up -- that is precisely what he said!)

At this point he accused me of wanting to take away his guns! I was very amused considering I’m a passionate defender of the 2nd Amendment (all ten amendments, in fact). I corrected him and he said: “Well, at least your consistent.”

The old guy chimed in again and told me that allow gay marriage rewrites the Bible. I asked him how and he couldn’t explain but he said gay marriage is against the Bible. I pointed out that the United States is not a theocracy and that US law isn’t based on the Bible. His response said it all: “It should be.” He very explicitly said it was his right to impose Biblical law on America.

Angry White Chimed in and pointed out that Leviticus wants gay men killed but said he was surprised lesbianism wasn’t covered. I noted that was correct but that was Biblical law. Old Guy said he didn’t want to kill gays. I pointed at him and told Angry White Guy: “See, he’s a liberal who doesn’t want to obey God’s law.” They both laughed. I told them I had to go as I had groceries in the car.

I said: “I won’t say, it’s been fun.” Old Guy said, “We’ll at least we’re friends.” I said: “No, not really.” I can’t be friends with someone who wants to use state power to take away rights from people.

My second encounter with Prop 8 supporters was on line. Some conservative was spreading lies about the school field trip in San Francisco. That’s the one where some parents wanted their kids out of school to greet their teacher after her wedding to another woman. The Prop 8 people called it “indoctrination” and purposely deleted the fact that the parents were behind this. This fellow basically repeated the same claims. He said it was “blatant indoctrination” meant to “war the children’s sense of normality”. He said was a “criminal abuse of children.”

Someone noted that the parents approved this and he attacked the parents and claimed: “I’m pretty sure the parents didn’t come up the with the idea.” I commented that it was parent who came up with the idea and other parents approved it. I asked how it was “indoctrination for parents to teach their values to their children”.

He admitted that the only thing he read didn’t mention the parents but he didn’t care. Now he sees parents were “warping their child’s perception of sexuality, marriage and family.”

I noted that basically he just confessed to posting his article without bothering to check the facts first. And asked why the Yes on 8 people were so deceptive and left this information out. I noted that when people are allowed to make choices which we don’t necessarily approve of -- its called freedom. But more importantly we were not getting to real reason he wants Prop 8 and it doesn’t have anything to do with parental choice and control. He said gays are unnatural, immoral, unhealthy, self-destruction and a whole string of other negative traits. His campaign isn’t about protecting parental choice -- he just wants to hurt gay people.

He finally came out of the closet and admitted he was doing what he was because he was “a follower of Christ”. Now, in all my time in seminary I never found that Bible verse about Jesus passing ballot propositions. It must have been in the Revised Standard translation and we used the King James translation.

But here are two incidents and in both, after some debate, the Prop 8 supporters finally came out of the closet and cited their religion as the motivation for their attack on the rights of gay people. Jenny Roback Morse is running around California talking against gay marriage and then hiding the fact that she does so, not based on the arguments she gives, but on her rabid Catholicism. I have no problem if she wants to sit in adoration of a cracker that she thinks literally becomes the body of Jesus. But when her worship of a magic cracker becomes the foundation of a campaign to strip people of rights then I have problems with it.

We know the Proposition 8 campaign is dominated by Catholics, Mormons and fundamentalists. That’s where the money comes from. And when they talk in their churches they invoke God and the Bible (well, the Mormons invoke the Book of Mormon and their God). When they come into the light they change tunes. Suddenly they are protecting parental choice, even if no parents rights are being violated.

For all their talk about morality they are not above deception. Why don’t their commercials tell the public the real reason they want to pass Prop 8? Why don’t the commercials say: “Vote Prop 8, put God’s law into practice.” They don’t say it because they know the public won’t buy it.

I’m open about why I support Prop 8. I don’t believe the state has the right to discriminate. And this is state discrimination since the state regulates marriage. Get the state out of marriage and it is not an issue to me. The Prop 8 people don’t want the state out -- not at all. They want state protection and the monopolization of marriage because they want their religion to have the force of government behind it.

The Prop 8 people are deceitful on numerous levels. They won’t tell the public why they wrote the amendment and what they are trying to accomplish. Since they won’t tell the truth about their real motivations they are forced to come up with alternative explanations. And to do that they resort to inventing lies, distorting the truth and scaring people.

Once again I urge my readers to make a donation to the No on 8 campaign, they are still being outspent by the forces for theocracy. I don’t care if you’re gay or straight. That isn’t the main issue here -- even if it is the excuse. The main issue is whether or not California law ought to be based on facts and reality or on theological beliefs. This is as much about separation of church and state as anything. Stop the theocrats here and it will be a blow to their entire campaign to use the law to impose theocracy on America.

This is an issue they want to win badly. This is the one issue they still think they have a chance on winning. This is like first base for them, its easy to get there. But if they don’t get to first, then can’t go to second or third. Put a stop to the theocrats on gay marriage and it helps undermine their efforts to impose prayer and creationism in the schools, impose censorship at the state level, restrict reproductive choice, etc. All these matters are tied together because it is secularism versus Biblicalism. If you want to fight the Biblicists and don’t want them in your backyard, then defeat them here.

Contribute here. Please!
I’m going to make my second donation and this is hardship but important.

Note to my readers: I suspect that I'll be blogging on Prop 8 a bit more. This blog is very event driven and about the issues of the day. And since the religious fanatics are heavily attacking the rights of gay people I'm going to be taking my stand here, for what it's worth. If this were 1933 I would be spending a lot of time talking about the situation of the Jews in Germany. I honestly believe this is an issue we should all worry about. Theocracy is dangerous and these people will be as cruel as the God they believe in. Please help stop them. The video is a commercial that Ellen DeGeneres has put together and which she is funding to televise. I always liked her. Please do your part as well.

P.S. Watch this space. I'm trying to write a very difficult, very emotional piece for me. I want to get it right and it is very difficult. My problem is that as I research the matters my emotions so overwhelm me that I find it emotionally wrenching to talk about it. I will try to do it and post it soon. Please watch for it, read it, think about it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A wise voice.

He's got his head screwed on right. I was impressed by the maturity that he shows at his age.

Friday, August 22, 2008

HATE CRIME: a film review.

How do you find justice when the authorities are unable, or unwilling to do their job? That is the question that Robbie Levinson (Seth Peterson) faces in Tommy Stovall’s film, Hate Crime.

Levinson and his partner Trey (Brian Smith) are living a rather peaceful life in the suburban Dallas when the neighborhood changes. Their new neighbor is Chris Boyd (Chad Donella), a hate-filled, tormented fundamentalist who is youth pastor at his father’s church. Tension mounts as Boyd makes his hatred for the gay couple clear.

So, when Trey is severely beaten with a baseball bat while taking the couple’s dog for a walk, all signs point to Chris Boyd as the culprit. His history in antigay religious causes seems only to confirm his guilt.

But a new detective (Giancarlo Esposito) is brought in on the case and he has other ideas. Unable to find sufficient evidence to convict Boyd, and harboring his own dislike for gays, he instead directs his attention on Levinson.

Levinson, with his partner’s mother (Cindy Pickett) and a neighbor woman who warned him about trusting the police, concoct a plan to find the justice which the police are denying them. As the neighbor woman puts it: “Screw the justice system. It ain’t never about justice.”

It would be relatively easy to plot out a story of this genre that is predictable though interesting. But Stovall, who both wrote and produced the film, avoided that trap. There are enough surprises in the film to keep the viewer interested.

It would also be easy to present the terrified Levinson as arming himself, while also presenting the usual PC message about the dangers of self-defense, or suggesting that victims are better off disarmed. Hate Crime doesn’t fall into that trap either. The Pink Pistols would be pleased.

The story raises a lot of interesting questions. But even mentioning them will spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it.

Hate Crime is well worth a watch. With a title like Hate Crime the viewer is already clued in on part of the plot. But the plot development is not at all hindered by this knowledge. The real story only begins after the awful crime has already taken place.

The characters are believable. There are times that the Chris Boyd character seems too tormented and a tad bit overacted. But generally the level of acting is excellent, particularly Bruce Davidson who plays Boyd’s minister father. And the dialogue fits the story without long sermons about justice or injustice.

The trio seeking justice do not attempt to justify their actions to the audience -- another pitfall common in such films. Instead of explaining the actions, which is the cheap and easy way, the film shows the actions within a context that makes them understandable.

All in all I found Hate Crime to be well-worth watching. The story keeps one interested and it raises important ethical questions that are well worth considering. Here is a preview of the film.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nude wrestlers give Coach a hard time.

I am shocked by the moralistic boob, Coach Bob Manning, who is the wrestling coach for the University of Nebraska. This throwback to the Dark Ages suspended two wrestlers from the university team permanently because they posed for some erotic photos.

The two men were Paul Donahue, the 2007 national wrestling champion in the 125-lb class and Kenny Jordan. Both men are of legal age. Neither man broke the law. And while the news media is harping about them appearing on a “gay porn site” the reality is not quite as sensational as it sounds. Neither of the men were engaged in sex with anyone. They were alone in the photos, which were not different than those that appear in Playgirl every month.

But Coach “call me stupid” Manning says the men “have been permanently dismissed from our wrestling program. The history of behavior of these men, including the current matter, does not reflect the standard of excellence we aspire to on and off the mat.” Gee, that last bit sounds a bit odd in this context. And from the photos floating around news circles it appears that both men excelled at the task at hand -- so to speak. Regardless, they hurt no one.

Apparently the morons in the media can’t understand that male nudity is not sufficient reason to call something “gay porn”. A nude photo of a male is not automatically gay, as the media seem to believe.

This so-called “incident” is basically harmless. The men didn’t hurt anyone, though they have been humiliated by the media and this moronic coach. They allowed some erotic photos of themselves to be taken. What’s the big deal? If the coach didn’t like the photos he shouldn’t look at them, If he did like them then he needs to deal with it. But I see no reason to throw these men off the wrestling team from something as innocuous as some nude photos.

And I think Coach Mark Manning ought to know he’s being stupid. He can be contacted at 402-472-0652. His email is As always keep it polite. Tell him he overstepped his authority and that a victimless activity, such as some erotic photos, is not justification for the actions he took. Personally I think that the one person acting like a real ass in all of this is the Coach. He needs to get his head out of the Dark Ages and realize that this is not an issue.

Also note that coeds across the nation have posed in Playboy for decades now, all without running into silly university officials punishing the. Playgirl has run photos of university athletes before as well. Let's be honest here. Because the blogger who started this mess claimed the photos were "gay photos" I suspect Manning had a heart attack. Athletic coaches tend to have masculinity problems and are often extremely antigay. Nothing in the photos indicates they young men are gay. Each had posed alone and if what they were doing in the photo makes them gay then the coach should realize all his players would be gay by that criteria. My guess is that the Coach is action like a fool because he has visions of gay things dancing around in his wee tiny brain. The photo studio in question says that almost all their models are straight as were these two young men.

More importantly this story only became a national story when the Coach acted like a idiot and suspended the young men. It had no news value until he acted as he did. He is the one who spread the story far and wide. So it is the Coach who made the university look silly. I think the young men should be brought back and the Coach should apologize. If he can't do that, perhaps it is time for him to retire. After all, he must be approaching 300-years-of-age, since his mind is clearly stuck in the 1700s.

I’m half tempted to post the photos of these two wrestlers but the company that shot them is actually trying to protect these young men and have voluntarily removed them. That is descent of them. In reality the only true indency I see here is the way this coach has acted. So let him know. I did.

By the way, if you really feeling energetic you can write a letter to the campus newspaper as well here.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Seriously deranged.

This blog received a comment that I wanted to share with everyone. And so I’m giving the comment its own posting here. it is from one of those insufferable religious fanatics who is so overflowing with the love of God that they can’t quite decide who to hate first or most.

The begin by saying: “I’m a child of God, and God makes me as good and goodly as anyone else, at all things by His grace.” Okay, so they are just a good as anyone else “at all things”. That would be pretty impressive I’d say. Usually when someone starts out with such comments I assume they are pretty much a failure at everything. Millionairs rarely brag about having money and people with actual talent don’t have to write to others about it.

We then get the obligatory: “Jesus Christ IS Almight God manifest in the flesh, and He saves by His grace.” I really hate typing this crap -- so many capitals in one sentence. Hey, dude, if you want to believe that it is most certainly your right to do so. Mickey Mouse cures cancer and the Easter Bunny is real. Have fun.

Of course, after all this glorifying of their deity they eventually get down to their real message, which is glorifying to no one and shows they are motivated more by hate than anything else.

In this section they left out the capitals. “you really shouldn’t talk. why gay people are so ‘lousy’ when it come to sex is... they are fucking GAY (ooops, found the shift bar again). they are disgusting men having sex with me, that is LOUSY.” Whatever you think of them they sure do go out of their way to prove how articulate they are.

The logic is wonderful. He says gay people are lousy because they are gay. That gay people are gay is hardly news to anyone. But I do wonder how this individual knows gay people are lousy at sex. Normally it would take a representative sampling to support such a statement. Of course, given the moral hypocrisy among these fundamentalists, anything is possible.

What is really astounding, and I think indicative that the individeual is seriously off his rocker, is that he signs his name as “Women = Shit”. This guy, and clearly he is a guy, has some serious mental problems. Of course in fundamentalist circles he’ll fit right in. But this is the type that can easily turn dangerous -- if he hasn’t done so already.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A father to be ashamed of.

In spite of the Biblical injunction of honoring one's father and mother the reality is that some parents don't deserve honor, respect or even love. Take this story from the theocratic republic of South Carolina.

According to the police in Anderson, South Carolina a man assaulted his teenage son because the youth, 18, had attended a gay pride parade. The father allegedly "yelled, cursed, swung a baseball bat, prayed and tried to 'cast the demon of homosexuality out" of the son.

The son says his father punched him when he tried to return to the house to get his close and sai that his father "has a problem with him being gay and that is why he hit him with the baseball bat on Sunday" according to the police incident report.

I presume the baseball bat was used because the man had little confidence in his praying. If this report is accurate someone ought to take a baseball bat to this man's skull -- not that it could do much damage, seeing he apparently is brain dead already. Shame on any parent who would do this. And I don't give a damn what they imagine a deity is whispering in their ear. My advice to the son is to get a gun and let dad know he's packing. Fag bashers seem to lose their bravado under such circumstances.

Photo: While the father in this story is not identified I suspect the above photo is not entirely inaccruate as a depiction of the man.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Diving into the new world.

There is a new world out there, being born as we speak, and it terrifies the forces of conservatism. Consider just two examples that I read recently.

British actor John Barrowman plays the ambisexual hunk hero, Captain Jack Harkness in the British hit sci-fi series Torchwood. He told the story of a young boy who came up to him for an autograph and said: “I don’t care if Captain Jack likes boys and girls. He’s still my hero.” Barrowman, who is gay, said: “He epitomizes how kids don’t care. Adults are afraid.”

Barrowman had a civil union with his partner of 15 years and is openly gay and it hasn’t hurt his career one bit. If anything he’s more popular today than ever.

Matt Mitcham, 20, is a top contender in the Olympics representing Australia in diving. He was being interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald and the reporter, Jessica Halloran, asked him if he was living with anyone. Without giving it much thought he said he was lived with his partner, Lachlan. The newspaper headline saye he was “declaring his homosexuality”.

Other publications said similar things. The whole story was that he “came out of the closet”.

Mitcham is perplexed. He wants to know why the press thinks this is a big deal since he wasn’t in the closet to begin with. Mitcham told his family and friends that he was gay when he was 14 years old. He said: “I came out years ago. All that happened was that I was doing an interview with the Herald and there was a pretty innocuous question, ‘Who do I live with?’ and I just said ‘my partner Lachlan’. And the journalist was really excited -- she thought it was absolutely wonderful.”

The journalist is part of the old world. Mitcham is part of the new world. In the old world being gay is something unusual. In the new world it is rather mundane. In the old world the reaction to the news is surprise, maybe even horror. In the new world the reaction is, “yea, so what.”

The reality is that the young, in most enlightened parts of the Western world, simply don’t find being gay particularly odd or noteworthy. Many young people have gay friends that they grew up with. Instead of hiding their sexuality for decades more and more gay adolescents are open about it right from the start.

For many young people there is no such thing as a closet. And that is what scares the conservatives who try to instil shame and fear into anyone who is gay or different.

What this means is simple. The world has changed.

So what about things like gay marriage bans in various states and other antigay legislation. Such measures are dinosaurs lumbering along toward extinction. They already feel a chill in the air that tells them they are doomed. They only cling to life barely. But as more and more of the old generations die off they are replaced by people who don’t have their manic fears and paranoid illusions.

The laws will change eventually. And when they do people will look back at them and think what fools we were to be upset by such things. And they will be right.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Anyone hear a closet door slamming?

The odds that Florida Governor Charlie Crist will be nominated as the Republican vice presidential candidate has just increased rather dramatically.

Crist was already a hot pick because of two factors. One is that is the governor of Florida and the Republicans need a Florida win in this race. Second, is that he represents a Southern state that is largely within the Bible belt. Republicans still want the Southern jihadist votes of the Religious Right.

But poor Mr. Crist had a major problem. He’s been battling rumors for decades much the way that Larry Craig was battling rumors for decades.

Mr. Crist had failed to marry. There was a very, very brief marriage when he was in college and nothing since then. No indication of a serious relationship on the horizon either. And there were all those stories which indicated that Mr. Crist might be gay. Crist said his lack of female companionship for three decades was due to his being selective. A lot of others were thinking there were other reasons.

Crist started being seen with this woman in recent months and just popped the question. If I were the lady in question I would have had a few questions of my own before saying yes. Crist also said they are looking at a Fall wedding --- how convenient!

The rumors going about where a bit specific. For instance, it was claimed that a Republican wannabe type, Jason Wetherington was bragging to his close friends that he was having an affair with Crist. Wetherington, who previously admitted being gay, is now on dating sites claiming to be looking for women. At a dinner party Wetherington had spoken openly about his relationship and he told the others present that Crist had a long term gay relationship with a man named Bruce Jordan, who was also a Republican campaign worker.

A woman, Dee Dee Hall, who was friends with Jordan says that she tried to set him up with a male date but that he rebuffed it at the time, telling her that he was involved with Crist. She says they discussed the fact that “Charlie was apparently having some issues with that [the relationship] and trying to keep it under wraps and just trying to deal with it in general.”

At least one other individual involved in Republican circles, Jay Vass, says that Jordan confirmed to him his relationship with Crist. Vass was a pilot who frequently flew top Republican officials around the state. In that capacity he meet Jordan who was rather open about his relationship. Vass says he also saw emails that were exchanged between the two men. Vass said, “Everybody knew that Charlie was gay and what absolutely floored me about it was they made no attempt to hide it or disguise it.”

Apparently the moral hypocrisy of the Republican Party is not going to abate. One good thing about a McCain/Crist ticket is that the rumor mills will keep us entertained. One has to wonder what the future Mrs. Crist thinks of this. Perhaps the person to ask is Larry Craig’s wife.

Photos: Left, Crist's alleged last main interest. Right, Crist's alleged current main interest.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Suffer the little children.

Now I want to make something clear, right off from the start, this post is not about defending social security. I happen to think the evidence is overwhelming that social security is a rip off for almost everyone and that few groups or individuals wouldn’t be better off investing their social security payments in private annuities. I just want that out of the way because this does deal with social security and a recent case. Unfortunately you have to get to the end of the story to find out what is that really disgusted me.

The case in question dealt with a lesbian couple, Karen and Monique, who have a civil union in Vermont in 2002. In 2003 Monique gave birth to Elijah. On the birth certificate Karen was listed as “2nd parent” and on other document is listed as “civil union parent”.

In 2005 Karen was found eligible for disability benefits. She then applied for child’s insurance benefits for Elijah. That is when a parent is disabled and receiving benefits because of this disability the child usually receives benefits as well since the child is wholly or partially reliant upon the parent. This is not uncommon when a disability benefit is given to someone with dependent children.

What complicated the matter is the disgusting Defense of Marriage Act. Under DOMA the federal government is forbidden to recognize a same-sex relationship in regards to anything. So the question that the Social Security Administration was trying to decide was whether or not Elijah was ineligible for insurance benefits because the parent who was disabled was in a same-sex relationship.

The SSA people ruled that Elijah was qualified. They argued that child’s insurance benefits go to the child regardless of the marriage status of the parent. That is, even if the parents of a child are unmarried that does not disqualify the child from insurance benefits. What is being recognized is the legal status of the child Vis-à-vis the parent and not the related to the marriage of the parents at all. For instance, the child may even qualify if the parent is not biological parent of the child -- a grandparent raising a child who is disabled may mean the child qualifies for some benefits as well. Elijah’s benefits were derived from his status as the legal child of Karen and not from the the civil union status of his parents.

Of course, had Karen been deceased then Monique, her partner, would not be eligible for anything. This would be the case whether or not she was entirely dependent on Karen for her income. DOMA mandates that gay couples pay into the system equally but are that benefits be given out unequally.

Since I think the SSA did the right thing in recognizing Elijah as Karen’s legal, dependent child then what precisely about this case has me upset.

While SSA saw this as an issue of the child’s relationship to a parent and not about same-sex marriage the lovely Christians over at the Family Research Council are upset. Peter Spring, from this hateful gaggle of fundamentalists says that this ruling allowing Elijah to have benefits is “disappointing”. He noted that the Department of Justice, which made the ruling “could have and should have taken much more firm pro-family positions.”

I’m curious why people allow these bastards to get away with such rotten and dishonest language. To them the “pro-family” thing to do would be to say that a child with a disabled parent is ineligible to collect insurance benefits merely because the parent of the child is gay. In other words, because they are obsessed with a hatred for homosexuals, they feel that government must act in a manner to punish children for the sexual orientation of their parents. And this is called “pro-family”. Sickening.

Of course this rot about “pro-family” is a lot of rubbish. I’ve known these people up close and personal and they are often vicious to their own family in the name of their religion. The fact is that their hate far exceeds their ability to love.

When conservative Alan Keyes discovered that his loving daughter, Maya, was gay he threw her out of the house and stopped paying for her college education. Sweet. Religious Right leader Randall Terry found out his son Jamile was gay. He issued public statements attacking and insulting his son in some of the most vicious language I have ever seen a parent use.

Sadie Fields, the leader of the Christian Coalition in Georgia found out her daughter was gay. She showed up at the daughters job screaming at her. She told her daughter that she was now “dead” to the family. California state senator Peter Knight was famous for his antigay legislation. He found out that his son, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, was gay. He rejected his son with the same viciousness that he rejected his gay brother.

Rev. Jimmy Swaggart cheated on his wife with prostitutes. His “family values” was exhibited when he tried to convince a hooker to bring her underaged daughter into the sex scene that Swaggart was seeking. Rev. Ted Haggard, leader of the National Association of Evangelicals. was using drugs with a male prostitute and having sex with him. Rev. Jack Hyles ran the largest fundamentalist church in America for decades, while having a blatant affair with his secretary -- something he flaunted int he face of his wife. Jack’s son followed in daddy’s footsteps but didn’t stop when he had an affair with one woman. He had affairs with dozens of them. He dumped his wife to marry a “swinger”. And it got worse after that, leading to the death of one infant. Rev. Bob Gray pastored one of the largest fundamentalist churches in America as well. He also preyed on small girls sexually and had been doing for almost half a century before he was finally caught. And how did “moral majoritarian” Rev. Jerry Falwell deal with the actions of Rev. Gray. He went to Gray’s church and told the congregation that it was a “bump in the road”. “That’s all it is. You’ve got to move on.” But as one activist put it: “When 22 people report having been sexually abused as kids by a church’s founding pastor, it cannot rightly be minimized as a mere ‘bump in the road.’”

These are all prominent figures in the Religious Right and all of them are viciously antifamily. Look at how they treated their own family members. If you think about it you will realize that what they are doing is trying to make the law as vicious as they are. What upsets them is that most Americans would not treat their own family members this badly and certainly not in the name of being “pro-family”. So these fundamentalists are manipulating the laws in order to make the government punish these people because their own families aren’t.

In this case they wanted the federal government to punish a five year old boy because these Christians don’t like the fact that boy’s parents are lesbians. And they say they want the child punished to save the family. Apparently the relationship between this child and his parents aren’t “family” to these people. I have nothing but contempt for such cruelty and viciousness. Such cases are a good example as to why so many young people are walking away from the church. And I’m glad they are.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My monument is bigger than yours!

If you want to drive the Far Right insane, admittedly a redundant exercise if there ever was one, just mention homosexuals. The topic alone is a litmus test for the fanatical religionists and crazy side of the conservative movement.

One of the best examples of those driven insane by their god addiction is Michael Medved. He was once a film reviewer but then became a Far Right hack. He was one of the most vocal defenders of Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, insisting that old Mel was no anti-Semite. His record on that was about as correct as on other issues. Mel later launched a drunken tirade about how Jews manipulate all the wars in the world. Of course anyone paying attention knows that Mel’s father is a leading speaker in the world’s neo-Nazi movement and a vicious anti-Semite. But then Medved apparently wasn’t paying attention.

Medved is one of those who worked hard on the political Left until he discovered the value of being a turncoat and joined the lunatic Right. And that means he has to bash homosexuals on a regular basis in order to prove his bona fides to the bigots that dominate conservative politics.

His latest tirade was about the very small memorial to gay victims of the Holocaust that recently opened in Berlin. Medved calls the memorial a “misleading attempt to depict homosexuals as prime targets of Hitler.” Medved says that Jewish victims “outnumbered gay victims by more than 500 to 1.” Apparently this is a numbers game. And he says “it’s wrong to exaggerate the extent of victimization for politically correct P.R. purposes.”

How did this one small monument “exaggerate the extent of victimization”? Medved never answers that but then he doesn’t have to. The purpose of his piece is not to prove his point but to prove that he can gay bash like the best of the them.

Now let us put the actual two monuments into perspective with one another. If you look at the first photo you will see the actual memorial to gay victims of the Holocaust. Notice that it is taller than one man. In fact it is 4 meters high. Based on the photo and the relationship of the man to the monument I would estimate that it is no more that 3 meters long by 2 meters wide, probably a bit less. At most this is 6 square meters of space dedicated to the homosexuals persecuted by Hitler.

Now consider the actual size of the other memorial -- it is 19,000 square meters or 4.7 acres in size. That one took 21 months to construct. There is one concrete slab in the gay memorial and 2,711 slabs in the other. I don’t know how we compare such things. Most normal people wouldn’t. But in Medved’s warped mind this is important.

While he says that Jewish victims outnumber gay victims 500 to one we should note that the Jewish memorial is 1,166 times larger than the gay one. Apparently the exaggeration went in the wrong direction. If size of monuments is some indication of the victimization, as Medved seems to think, then the gay monument should have been doubled in size. Would Mr. Medved say that the other monument is exaggerating “the extent of victimization for politically correct P.R. purposes”? I suggest he would not.

Israel Gutman, a spokesman connected with Israel’s Yad Vashem Institute whined about the small memorial to gays as well. He insinuated this was evidence that the Germans don’t understand the Holocaust. He said that the memorial was “an error” and that they two shouldn’t be near each other. He claimed it would confuse people into thinking “there was not a great difference between the suffering of Jews and those of homosexuals....” Apparently being killed is worse when it done to Jews than when it does to homosexuals. Gutman said a memorial to gays being killed is a “scandal” and that “a sense of proportion must be maintained.” I doubt he was suggesting the Jewish memorial should be reduced to half its size.

The fact is that the Nazis singled out and persecuted various groups. Jews were the largest group but not the only group. And it is not groups that suffer and die but individuals. The memorial is not scandalous or inappropriate. And the very suggestion that we have to measure monuments to get some “sense of proportion” is obscene. Shame on Guttman and double shame on the meshuggener, Michael Medved.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Antigay panic story spread by Religious Right

The headlines were scary. Supposedly a flesh-eating virus was ravaging the gay community. Right-wing theocrats were in a dither. The crazed "Americans for Truth" group demanded to know why schoolchildren weren’t being taught that being gay was evil -- as if that would make any difference in the number of people who are born gay.

Christian groups called this “another homosexual disease” as if diseases have a sexual orientation. A rather young researcher, Binh Diep, seemed to encourage this hysteria. He warned: “Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable.” Of course the religious Right jumped on that claim. The Conservative Voice crowed: “Those who denigrate the biblical data regarding God’s abhorrence of homosexual activity thereby aid in the furthering of widespread, deadly diseases.”

They claimed that “homosexual men are 13 times more likely to contract the potentially deadly, drug-resistant strain of staph infection, but the fear is that, because the infection is spread via skin-to-sking contact, homosexual men may soon spread it to the general population.”

What’s wrong with these panicky statements? Almost everything. They are just flat out wrong and wrong on several levels. But since the Christian Right hates homosexuals with an irrational intensity the facts don’t matter. They are happy to lie in order to slander the gay community.

The stronger version of the staph infection does exist but it is not exclusive to the gay community by any means. In fact, long before it appeared in the gay community it cropped up in other locations. Newsweek reported: “Once restricted to hospitals, these virulent forms of staph have increasingly afflicted day-care centers, schools, gyms and other public areas in the last decade.” If you read that carefully, something the conservatives aren’t doing, you will see that this infection has been around for a decade and is only now showing up in one section of the gay community, a small number of cases in the Castro area of San Francisco. In other words, this disease was found in the general community long before it was found in the gay community. The gay community isn’t infecting the general population but the general population was the source for the virus that infected a small number in the gay community. The Christian Right typically has everything backwards.

Newsweek notes that this strain of the infection, USA300, “has been around since 2002 and has appeared in at least 38 American states.”

Researchers said gay men were more likely to become infected but that is based on a rather limited study. They said that only one in 588 residents of the Castro have this variant of the infection. I’d like to see the actual numbers of infections because the Castro is not that big an area. I was just there recently at the Castro Theater for a concert. Depending on how widely defined “the Castro” is we are talking a neighborhood of a few thousand to maybe 10,000 people.

Certainly the heart of the Castro is mainly businesses and restaurants. But just outside that central business district it is residential. But these are mostly single homes or Victorians that at most have three apartments. A typical block could have between 12 and 15 buildings. They wouldn’t average more than 2 people per housing unit. Many of these building are single dwellings. If we average two units per building and two people per unit we are talking about between 96 and 120 people per block (counting both sides of the street). Even that may be high. Some of the blocks, such as Collingswood only have residential units on one side of the street with parks and schools taking up the rest.

A quick look at Google maps indicates that the Castro most likely covers about 4o blocks of area being nestled between Diamond Heights and the Mission area. Of course the study may have used different parameters for defining the neighborhood. But if it is 40 blocks then I’d estimate the total population of the area at between 4,000 and 5,000 people. Now if the infection rate is one in 588 that would mean the infection rate is based on less than ten cases of infection. Even if the number of residents were twice what I’m estimating then the number of infections would be less than two dozen. This is hardly a representative sample.

Before version of staph, MRSA, was found in the Castro it was also found in other parts of the country. For instance MRSA was detected in two day care centers according to a study from 1998. In one 3% of the children were infected and in another 24% were. For comparison the infection rate in the Castro was 0.0017%. I don’t remember any fear-mongering being done by the Right about the threat to the wider community posed by children.

In this study it was shown that 7 members of a high school wrestling team were infected. This included “persons whose MRSA-positive infection were identified at a hospital laboratory from January 1, 1993 through February 28, 1994. The “attack rate for the team was 21.9%.” This is well in excess of infection rate in the gay community yet again there were no Right-wing reports about the dangers of wrestling. And note that this infection took place almost 15 years ago. So it is difficult to see how people can claim the “wider community” is threatened by gays who have the infection today considering that the wider community had the infection first.

Six years ago the University of Southern California football team experienced an outbreak of MSRA. All the infected individuals were “healthy college-aged males who were active participants on the football team.” In 2003 “17 football players from a team of 107 (15.8%)” were diagnosed.

In each of these cases, and there are many more, the infection hit a segment of the wider community and did so at rates far exceeding the rate that caused the panic about gay men in the Castro. Compared to similar outbreaks at day care centers or sports teams the infection in the Castro is very low. And these other cases prove that the infection can’t spread from the gay community to the “wider community” because it was in the “wider community” before it was in the gay community.

What we have here is another politically motivated panic. Politics is ripe with such panics. A small bit of information that is factual is exaggerated, intentionally, by an organized political force in order to stampede the public and politicians into supporting measures which the special interest groups wishes imposed.

In this case the fear mongering is targeting the gay community. The goal is to scare the shit out of Christians and Right-wingers in order to keep them dedicated to the antigay jihad. This blog has repeatedly argued that much of modern politics today is fear-based and built around exaggerated, or completely bogus, threats. It is my firm belief that this is true with terrorism, immigration, drugs, global warming and a host of other issues. The perceived threat is vastly more scary than the reality. This appeal to fear is intentional. And it is engaged in by both the Right and the Left. The prophetic H.L. Mencken warned: ““The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Almost a century after H.L. Mencken issued his warning things haven’t changed much.