Sunday, November 30, 2008

More Thoughts About Socialism

Okay, considering that some of the things I think are really odd things are things the Reich wingnuts call "Socialist".

In 2000 & 2001 when Enron was raping the people of the state of California by creating blackout and brownouts, then charging criminally high rates to turn the power they had just shut off back on, I didn't see my power bill go sky high because I lived in Los Angeles. LA has or had a municipally owned (socialist) water and power department just like many other places did before the privatization boom of the Neo-Gilded Age of the neo-con/neo-lib Chicago School of Economics era that started under Nixon and really boomed with Reagan.

Our DW &P was municipally owned and wasn't making the "Smartest Guys In The Room" into the ultra rich elite. (See both the book and the documentary film for reasons why every single penny owned by the people at Enron and their families should be confiscated to help clean up the economic mess and why everyone involved should be treated exactly the same way economic criminals were treated under Mao.)

Municipal, publicly owned utilities paid for with bonds that were consider so safe families would invest in them to provide security over and above pensions and Social Security. (Debt that is issued by a public power agency such as the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. Interest on such a bond is usually tax-exempt federally. Interest and principal payments are derived from revenues generated by the sale of electricity.) That my friends is part of what Democratic socialism is all about. Ordinary people having access to secure investments that help build their community and nation rather than enriching people like the guys at Enron.

Speaking of socialism that works... How about that toll free interstate highway system built by that famous American Socialist Dwight David Eisenhower? Most of us drive everyday on communally owned roads that we pay for with taxes on our gas. Now I don't actually object to driving on a toll road if the tolls are going back into the state or federal government to maintain and or build the roads we drive on. That's like putting money into something I own and in a real sense we do own the roads we drive on in a communal manner and we pay for them according to our means and usage.

With privately owned toll roads the rich fat cat 5% elites get even richer. Now if we were to have publicly owned toll roads with citizens each being allowed to own a few tax free shares we would be helping rebuild our struggling middle class instead of enriching that obscenely wealth elite even more.

Now I was a product of public schools of the 1950s and 60s. I was from a dirt poor community where the iron mines were closing and the paper mill polluted for miles around. But I had some exceptional teachers, especially a history teacher. IIRC her name was Mrs Ross. I was super interested in American History, particularly the labor movements I had heard about in Pete Seeger songs and she suggested books for me to read.

So I learned about labor unions and strikes and stuff like the Wobblies and Sedition Acts. My mother told me about the Great Depression and FDR and Eleanor. I read Grapes of Wrath and learned to play the Woody Guthrie song Tom Joad. I took to heart Tom Joad's soliloquy about fighting injustice.

A couple of years ago I went to the Media Reform Conference in Memphis with my life partner, Tina (Another Old Woman). we weren't really sure why we went except we watched Democracy Now! and we read The Nation as well as a lot of liberal, left wing blogs. (Not to mention all the LGBT/T and Feminist blogs because it sucks being the scapegoat for the Christofascists) and we knew that we were being totally lied to by the Main Stream Media. The first lie being that the MSM is liberal, even the New York Times was a cheer leader for the war on Iraq.

I think the word is disgruntled. We are a couple of old lesbians. If we were guys they would call us curmudgeons but sexism requires different labels for women. Anyhow we saw some people speak at that conference that made a whole lot of sense. Dennis Kucinich was one of the speakers. Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont and a Socialist was another.

Now my diapers might have been labor pink and not communist red but I was born in Ticonderoga, right across Lake Champlain from Vermont. I grew up on stories about another Vermonter named Ethan Allen and folks up there have a history of radicalism when they aren't all drunk, brain washed by churches or TV sports watching brain dead.

Here's the one elected Socialist we have in the entire Congress of the US and he is making more sense than almost all the rest of them put together. Now this could be because like Gore Vidal says, "There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party...and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties."

My feeling is that we are no longer a government by the people and for the people but rather a government by the corporations and for the corporations and that the purpose of corporations is profit not the good of the people.

If it takes socialism to give power back to the people and take it away from the corporations then perhaps we should all start thinking about economics and what socialism is all about.

Side note... I recently decided it might be a good idea to read some Karl Marx, notably Das Kapital. Now Dallas has an excellent chain of used book stores called Half Price Books. the only version of Capital they had was an abridged one. The unabridged one is the Penguin Classics three volume set with Volume I Capital being the most important.

Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine is also a must read to grasp what is happening in our lives.

Conservatives Say Low Wages Will Solve the Economic Crisis, But the Opposite Is True

[Firedoglake.com is one of my must read daily blogs along with Alternet.org]

By Stirling Newberry, Firedoglake
Posted on November 28, 2008, Printed on November 30, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://www.firedoglake.com//108907/

You might be hearing from the right wing about how breaking the unions and letting wages fall is the solution to our problems. We've heard this before. Let me tell you where.

In the late 1920's and early 1930's the global economy as it then was constituted, suffered a series of moments of crisis. In truth it had never gotten back to balance since the "Great War." The responses to these crisis points made the situation. Orthodoxy of the age brought disaster, and that orthodoxy was returning to an international gold standard that was really only a recent innovation. As Bordo and Eichengreen put it: "a system which relied on inelastically supplied precious metal and elastically supplied foreign exchange to meet the the world economy's demand for reserves was intrinsically fragile, prone to confidence problems, and a transmission belt for policy mistakes."

It's a nice way of saying that the Gold Standard was unsafe at any speed.

When the crisis arrived, there were three responses. One was to try and stick it out with the old system. This lead to falling wages and high unemployment under persistent deflation. The other two responses involved "casting off the fetters of gold." However, once this was done there was still a choice: keep wages high and the industrial system functioning, or let wages fall all the way to the floor, and employ people by the state.

In the US, under the New Deal, dealing with deflation was deemed to be important, and keeping wages high enough so that people could buy the products of industry was part of FDR's policy. It meant higher unemployment, but a growing sphere of a new economy, one that would eventually cover the nation with the excuse of World War II to bring everyone into the new world of internal combustion, telephones, electricity and broadcast. The argument was that it was easier to provide a safety net for people who had fallen out of the old economy, and to give them work and relief, than to raise wages that had fallen.

There was another choice, as Peter Temin, MIT economist, pointed out that the Nazi's "socialized human beings," and they "destroyed the unions within a few months of taking power," and "also introduced compulsory labor service," as well as using tax incentives and propaganda to convince women to leave the labor force." The result was a recovery to full employment "At the cost of their personal liberty and higher wages," You can read all this on page 115 of his book on lessons from the Great Depression. On page 9 you can see him rip Lionel Robbins for prescribing wage deflation as a "fundamental misconception."

It's on Google Books, and well worth getting a few electrons out of bed to read the passages.

In the US it was realized that the great pressure on people who are unemployed is debt, this is why they undertook debt relief, the real thing, by programs such as the HOLC. Why didn't it lead to recovery sooner? Why, an outbreak of economic orthodoxy led to balancing the budget in 1937, and plunged the economy into a second recession. But the architecture of the New Deal held, waiting for the moment when it could uncoil and create a new economic order which survives to this day. What the right wing, then, and now, played on was jealousy of working people for each other. It was Boss Tweed that observed that you can always hire one half of the poor to kill the other half of the poor. Let's not fall into that trap.

You might hear that "it wasn't the New Deal that cured the Great Depression." But that's because the New Deal was always meant to save the American economy, to buy time while the international crisis came to a head. FDR knew there would be world war, and that the US had to have the labor force and industrial base to fight it. What was done during the war was the New Deal on steroids.

FDR told Americans in his acceptance speech in 1932 and in his inaugural that people had to be able to afford the products of the new economy, and that was the New Deal policy. It worked, while the regimes that tried to use force to push people into near starvation level jobs and get the money back by invading other countries, are now in the dustbin of history.

© 2008 Firedoglake All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://www.firedoglake.com//108907/

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mid-Night Musings Regarding the Often Scare Quote Marked Subject of Socialism

Lately as I listen to the news of impending economic doom, as all the dirt comes out about the massive economic inequality between the very rich and those of us struggling to remain with in the middle class I am struck by several things.

The first is that when the bottom 95% of us ask how come the top 5% of the population controls something like 2/3s of the wealth we are waging class war. Now admittedly the most anarchist question one can possibly ask of authority is, "Why?" And asking why so few have so much might be suggesting that perhaps since they have so much of the money then they should be putting up most of the money for the bailout. And yeah... I could possibly see elements of class warfare in that suggestion.

Or considering how the ruling class has screwed over the American workers since the 1960s with stagnant wages and the constant attacks on unions that go back to the Gilded Age of the 19th century maybe a slave revolt would a more apt term.

The latest attacks on the workers have been the implication that the reason Chrysler, GM and Ford are having financial problems is due to the Auto Worker's Union and not due to shitty over paid management. I think the analogy here is swallowing a horse and choking on a fly. Management makes multi-million dollar bonuses with platinum parachutes. CEOs only fail upward. They are never out on the street to collect unemployment.

Now there is one thing we could do that would do more than anything else to save the auto companies. Socialized medicine.. National Health care paid for by the government. Eliminate the fat cat insurance CEOs from the picture. No more corporate jets, platinum parachute or mulit-million dollar bonuses for denying health care to people with pre-existing condtitions.

Now I can hear the ads on television and the Reich wing pundits right now telling me, "You don't want National Health paid for by the government, do you? Why, why that's Socialized medicine."

All I've got to say is, "You bet your funky smelling Armani clad ass I do. Fucking A right I want my socialized medicine." and I don't want to have to wait another four years until my medicare kicks in at 65. I might not last that long. Especially since I haven't had health insurance for 95% of my adult life and when I have it has been with some sucky HMO where I didn't have my choice of doctor and had to deal with an impersonal bureaucracy.

Since people call me a socialist for thinking that things are really screwed up I went to Wikipedia to find out a little bit about this socialism stuff because I have friends from Europe and the folks in the Scandinavian countries seem to live pretty darn well and in France too.

Did you know that the US is way down the list of place you want to be if you are having a medical emergency unless of course you are part of that elite 5% of the ultra wealthy. You are much better off in France or even the much maligned Canada.

But I digress. Here's what I found on Wikipedia: "Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society. Modern socialism originated in the late nineteenth-century working class political movement. Karl Marx posited that socialism would be achieved via class struggle and a proletarian revolution which represents the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.

Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.

Socialism is not a discrete philosophy of fixed doctrine and program; its branches advocate a degree of social interventionism and economic rationalization, sometimes opposing each other. Another dividing feature of the socialist movement is the split on how a socialist economy should be established between the reformists and the revolutionaries. Some socialists advocate complete nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange; while others advocate state control of capital within the framework of a market economy. Social democrats propose selective nationalization of key national industries in mixed economies combined with tax-funded welfare programs; Libertarian socialism (which includes Socialist Anarchism and Libertarian Marxism) rejects state control and ownership of the economy altogether and advocates direct collective ownership of the means of production via co-operative workers' councils and workplace democracy."


Now you can Google "Socialism Wikipedia" or just follow the link.

Now I will admit that being the product of an American brain wash... Education I probably have not been exposed to enough socialist thinking to see the benefits and flaws. But I've read my Naomi Klein and watched Michael Moore's "Sicko" and I've been around long enough to smell the bullshit when they are laying it on thick about Hugo Chavez and Ivo Morales. The powers that be call them dictators but those same powers that be staged the coup that put a real dictator, Augusto Pinochet into power back in the 1970s so I trust them less than I trust Chavez and Morales.

As Crisis Mounts, Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate and Illegal

By Daniel Denvir, AlterNet
Posted on November 26, 2008, Printed on November 29, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/108769/

Amidst the spreading global financial crisis, a special debt audit commission released a report charging that much of Ecuador's foreign debt was illegitimate or illegal. The commission recommended that Ecuador default on $3.9 billion in foreign commercial debts--Global Bonds 2012, 2015 and 2030--the result of debts restructured in 2000 after the country's 1999 default.

Although Ecuador currently has the capacity to pay, dropping oil prices and squeezed credit markets are putting President Rafael Correa's plans to boost spending on education and health care in jeopardy. Correa has pledged to prioritize the "social debt" over debt to foreign creditors.

The commission accused Salomon Smith Barney, now part of Citigroup Inc., of handling the 2000 restructuring without Ecuador's authorization, leading to the application of 10 and 12 percent interest rates. The commission evaluated all commercial, multilateral, government-to-government and domestic debt from 1976-2006.

Commercial debt, or debt to private banks, made up 44% of Ecuador's interest payments in 2007, considerably more than the 27% paid to multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But the report also lambasted multilateral debt, saying that many IMF and World Bank loans were used to advance the interests of transnational corporations. Ecuador's military dictatorship (1974-1979) was the first government to lead the country into indebtedness.

The commission found that usurious interest rates were applied for many bonds and that past Ecuadorian governments illegally took other loans on. Debt restructurings consistently forced Ecuador to take on more foreign debt to pay outstanding debt, and often at much higher interest rates. The commission also charged that the U.S. Federal Reserve's late 1970's interest rate hikes constituted a "unilateral" increase in global rates, compounding Ecuador's indebtedness.

If President Rafael Correa follows the commission's recommendations--which is far from a certainty--Ecuador could default on some portion of its foreign debt, becoming the first Latin American country to do so since Argentina in 2001.

But despite all the hints at a default, it seems likely that Ecuador will use the commission's report as leverage for restructuring the country's debt. Commission president Ricardo Patiño indicated as much to Bloomberg News, but said that Ecuador would not settle for a 60% reduction, a number that had earlier been mentioned.

Ecuador announced that it would delay paying $30.6 million in interest on the Global Bonus 2012, taking advantage of a month-long grace period. The announcement sent the global financial universe into a panic, with Standard and Poor's cutting Ecuador's risk rating to CCC-.

Social movements have long alleged that corrupt former governments illegally negotiated loans for their own personal financial gain.

Significantly, the commission singled out foreign debt for being "illegitimate" rather than simply illegal. Social movements have long declared most foreign debt to be illegitimate, but Ecuador's use of legitimacy as a legal argument for defaulting would set a major precedent; indeed, the mere formation of a debt auditing commission does so. Osvaldo Leon, of the Latin American Information Agency (ALAI), says that it remains to be seen if other countries in Latin America will follow suit.

Ecuador's findings could set an important precedent for the poorest of indebted countries, whose debt burden has long been criticized as inhumane.

Pablo Davalos, an economist and fierce social movement critic of Correa, has said that the report will in the end only amount to political posturing. Correa has criticized the foreign debt since his brief 2005 stint as Finance Minister--but has faithfully made each and every payment since his 2006 election. Correa has also made peace with oil and mining companies after acrimonious, high profile negotiations. In response, social movements have accused Correa of being overly friendly to business. The foreign press, and the business press in particular, regularly exaggerates Correa's radicalism.

It is also important to emphasize that Argentina's 2001 default did not hamper the country's economic recovery--in fact, it gave it a strong boost.

Former Constituent Assembly President Alberto Acosta echoed Correa, saying that the proposal could provide the legal basis for the prosecution of Ecuadorian officials involved in the negotiation of illegal or illegitimate debt. He also said that it was perfectly reasonable to take a debt's legitimacy into account. "The United States itself has embraced the concept of illegitimate debt in encouraging countries to forgive the debt accrued in Iraq under Saddam Hussein." In fact, the U.S. originated the concept of foreign debt after the Spanish-American war. The U.S. refused to pay Cuba's outstanding debt to Spain, arguing that it was created by agents of Spain in Spain's self-interest, a matter in which Cubans had no say.

Daniel Denvir is an independent journalist in Quito, Ecuador and a 2008 recipient of NACLA's Samuel Chavkin Investigative Journalism Grant. He is an editor at www.caterwaulquarterly.com.
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/108769/

Friday, November 28, 2008

War on Christmas Claims Three

Three heroes out there braving the terror of Black Friday while defending their God given right as American citizen to optimistically max out their credit cards while ignoring the peril of the expanding debt crisis tragically lost their lives today.

I can only hope that the last words they heard were Merry Christmas and not some sort of secular humanist multi-cultural drivel such as Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays.

Black Friday death at a Wal-Mart

By Yael T. Abouhalkah, Kansas City Star Editorial Page columnist

A crowd of shoppers trampled a store worker to death while rushing toward Black Friday specials at a Long Island Wal-Mart.

It's an appalling event, made even more newsworthy by the fact that American shoppers have been encouraged in recent days to make sure they get out and spend money to boost the economy.

Obviously, no one wanted anything like this event to occur.

Witnesses said a worker at a Wal-Mart in Long Island died after he tried to hold shoppers back before the scheduled 5 a.m. opening of the store.

But the stock clerk was run over by "unruly crowds," according to a report in the New York Daily News.

"As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him," the paper reported.


Then in Palm Desert, California

News sources report that in Palm Desert, California, two men were killed in a shooting inside a Toys R Us. A total of three have been reported as arrested, including one juvenile.

One report, from ABC-affiliate KESQ, originally suggested that the shooting was the result of an altercation between two teenage girls shopping for Black Friday sales. Apparently, a boy, listed as a juvenile, was responsible for the shooting and was detained. Now that same source wiped out the story of the argument, but is saying that in addition to the boy, several arrests were made outside the store, including one woman who was screaming and banging a sheriff's car.

A different story in the LA Times confirms the two deaths, but says that, according to Assistant City Manager Sheila Gilligan, "There were two groups inside that had issue with each other, and the two men inside pulled their weapons and shot each other.” The shop was inundated with Black Friday shoppers at the time, and everyone was evacuted from the store.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Milk: The Film

After dinner this afternoon, my life partner, Tina and I went to to see Milk.

Like good, politically aware members of the LGBT/T Communities we made a point of not going to a Cinemark Theater to see it. Like Coors, Carl's Jr, Domino's Pizza and some other businesses that are either misogynistic supporters of the anti-abortion cause or are hostile to same sex marriage Cinemark will have to do a whole lot of ass kissing and ponying up of reparations to the LGBT/T communities to atone for their past sins and I still might not buy their shitty products.

We saw Milk at the Dallas Angelika, at Mockingbird Station. A really neat multi screen Cinemaplex that would been the sort of place I would have seen it were I still living in Hollywood.

If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or transsexual you must see this film. If you are straight go with a friend or relative who is LGBT/T and see this film.

Recently the ever moronic right wing Republican Mike Huckabee stuck his feet firmly in his mouth saying that we didn't deserve our rights because unlike African Americans we were not beaten bloody in our struggles for those rights.

Because so many of us are ignorant of our own history we didn't immediately call him on his lies. I just finished rereading Randy Shilts' The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk so the history was fresh and I was ready to be critical of the movie if they got it wrong. Gus Van Sant was so dead on I had to remember I was watching a film about Harvey and not a documentary.

I actually met Harvey Milk when he was the long haired hippie gay man Penn portrays him as when he first came to San Francisco and opened Castro Camera. The historical details are flawless like when he reads Clive Jones (Who later went on to found the AIDS Quilt Project) about hustling on Polk Street, the area where the cute young gay men would pick up older Johns.

It showed how it was possible to live on very little in those days.

Sean Penn didn't portray Harvey Milk, he became him. I saw Harvey speak at Pride Day events and during the No on 6 campaign. Penn had the mannerisms down, the vocal inflections.

When Harvey was shot I was staff photographer for the Lesbian Tide in Los Angeles. As policy we never put pictures of men on the cover. I argued for using a shot I took of Harvey in October during a No on 6 Rally. Instead we ran a photo of lesbians at his Memorial Service in Los Angeles.

So much has happened in the years since and there are so many LGB and even a few T/T folks in political office around the world. The movie captures how important he was to us and how important his message that the biggest contribution to ending our oppression is being out and standing up for all queer people.

This movie deserves serious Academy Award consideration.

Had it been released a couple of months ago and people acted with the same strength and unity we all act with in fighting Prop 6 we might have won the campaign against the hideous denial of our equal rights that resulted from the religious right's pusshing throuh their faith based hate act, Prop 8.

Harvey Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978)


It was thirty years ago today when right wing Irish Catholic former San Francisco cop Dan White brutally and with planning and forethought murdered San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

Tried in a kangaroo court of his friends and peers Darling of the right Dan White was given a pat on the fanny and high fives, a Twinkies defense and manslaughter conviction for what had been both a political assassination and a clear-cut case of first-degree murder with malice.

Dan White, conservative cultural warrior received a pathetically short sentence for his monstrous crimes. When he was released he did the world a favor and committed suicide. The state should have been the one to execute him.

Milk and Moscone represented the working people of San Francisco, those who stayed when integration first created white flight to suburbia and the Avenues in the 1950s.

The San Francisco I went to in 1967 was world famous for the Haight Ashbury, a hippie gathering spot on the edge of Golden Gate Park. The real draw had been cheap rents in dilapidated apartments where the land lords were casual about marital status and the relationships among their tenants. The police who patrolled the Haight were both brutal and corrupt. That was the nature of Dan White’s SFPD. They wore their hatreds toward those who were different as a badge of honor. It didn’t matter if one was different due to being a hippie or LGBT/T.

At a time when zippers in women’s pants were, moving from either the side or the back to their far more common present front location the police would use laws against drag on women coming out of lesbian clubs as quickly as they used them on transsexuals and transgenders in full drag who lived in the Tenderloin. We called that form of petty harassment being arrested for “mopery with intent to gawk”.

By 1969 and Stonewall I had left San Francisco for Berkeley where the police force was far cooler regarding those who were different.

Gay Liberation drew gay men to the Castro. Again, it was cheap housing in dilapidated buildings located in a charming section of the city. The Metro subway system was still under construction making traffic a bit of a nightmare and business rents cheap as well.

Harvey Milk moved from New York to San Francisco and opened a camera store in the Castro. In 1973, I was becoming a serious photographer. I was in love with Stephanie, a Cuban American trannie who lived in LA. Some of the film I shot was openly sexual. Very Nan Goldin. I took that film to Harvey’s camera store for processing knowing it would not be censored and that I wouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable about it.

The gay and lesbian world of the early 1970s was a world of separatism. Less so in LA perhaps than in San Francisco but separatist nonetheless. In the gay male community it was the era of the clone. Gone were the individualistic gentle hippie gay men and in their place one found these mustached shorthaired men all wearing the uniform: jeans, boots tight t-shirts in the summer, lumber jack shirts and leather jackets during the colder parts of the year.

The lesbian community wasn’t much better with its uniforms of Birkenstocks, (or sneakers) jeans and political slogan t-shirts. Femininity was out. Femininity be it lesbian femme or trannie queen valued individuality, a quality lost in the lock step of identity politics.

In 1977, though cracks appeared in the wall of separatism. Lesbian separatists were returning to the general feminist movement and Gay Community Centers were becoming Gay and Lesbian Community Centers.

In 1977, Harvey Milk was finally elected to the SF Board of Supervisors. His support went beyond the gay men of the Castro and included the Teamsters as well as those who wished to slow down the commercial development of the Down Town interests.

1977, was the year we first saw the rise of the organized Christofascist faith based anti-gay and lesbian movement. It was personified by the wicked witch of the Florida Orange Juice Industry, Anita Bryant, a former beauty queen, long ago gone to seed. She was the figure head of a campaign called “Save Our Children” aimed at rolling back minor gains gay and lesbian people had achieved in obtaining protections of their civil rights.

Gays and lesbians saw the right wing roll back of our rights as a political threat and saw the importance of uniting to protect our shared interests.

A year later, in California, a little known right wing political hack named John Briggs organized a state initiative called Prop. 6 or the Brigg’s Amendment that would have barred lesbians and gays from teaching in California’s public schools. Harvey Milk was one of the community’s most tireless and vocal campaigners against that hate bill. He was instrumental in getting various unions to voice their opposition to it. He helped pull together the wide-ranging coalition in opposition to it that defeated it in the November elections.

Then approximately three weeks later, he was dead.

Now there are numerous out and proud LGBT/T political activists including those holding political offices. Harvey was one of the first, may we long honor what he stood for.

Go see the film. BUT NOT AT A CINEMARK THEATER because to do so would dishonor the things Harvey stood for.

[Photo by Suzy Cooke]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present

When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a "vacuum." The Indians, he said, had not "subdued" the land, and therefore had only a "natural" right to it, but not a "civil right." A "natural right" did not have any legal standing.

The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-Kidnapper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.

A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the Narragansett Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote:

They had commission to put to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampom for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force.

The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: "The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully . . . "

So, the war with the Pequots began. Massacres took place on both sides. The English developed a tactic of warfare used earlier by Cortés and later, in the twentieth century, even more systematically: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy. That is ethnohistorian Francis Jennings's interpretation of Captain John Mason's attack on a Pequot village on the Mystic River near Long Island Sound: "Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors, which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy's will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective."

So the English set fire to the wigwams of the village. By their own account: "The Captain also said, We must Burn Them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam . . . brought out a Fire Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire." William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation written at the time, describes John Mason's raid on the Pequot village:

Those that scraped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escapted. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.

As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: "It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day."

The war continued. Indian tribes were used against one another, and never seemed able to join together in fighting the English. Jennings sums up:

The terror was very real among the Indians, but in time they came to meditate upon its foundations. They drew three lessons from the Pequot War: (1) that the Englishmen's most solemn pledge would be broken whenever obligation conflicted with advantage; (2) that the English way of war had no limit of scruple or mercy; and (3) that weapons of Indian making were almost useless against weapons of European manufacture. These lessons the Indians took to heart.

A footnote in Virgil Vogel's book This Land Was Ours (1972) says: "The official figure on the number of Pequots now in Connecticut is twenty-one persons."

Forty years after the Pequot War, Puritans and Indians fought again. This time it was the Wampanoags, occupying the south shore of Massachusetts Bay, who were in the way and also beginning to trade some of their land to people outside the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their chief, Massasoit, was dead. His son Wamsutta had been killed by Englishmen, and Wamsutta's brother Metacom (later to be called King Philip by the English) became chief. The English found their excuse, a murder which they attributed to Metacom, and they began a war of conquest against the Wampanoags, a war to take their land. They were clearly the aggressors, but claimed they attacked for preventive purposes. As Roger Williams, more friendly to the Indians than most, put it: "All men of conscience or prudence ply to windward, to maintain their wars to be defensive."

Jennings says the elite of the Puritans wanted the war; the ordinary white Englishman did not want it and often refused to fight. The Indians certainly did not want war, but they matched atrocity with atrocity. When it was over, in 1676, the English had won, but their resources were drained; they had lost six hundred men. Three thousand Indians were dead, including Metacom himself. Yet the Indian raids did not stop.

For a while, the English tried softer tactics. But ultimately, it was back to annihilation. The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million. Huge numbers of Indians would die from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that "the Indians . . . affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died." When the English first settled Martha's Vineyard in 1642, the Wampanoags there numbered perhaps three thousand. There were no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians were left there. Similarly, Block Island Indians numbered perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 in 1662, and by 1774 were reduced to fifty-one.

Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property. It was a morally ambiguous drive; the need for space, for land, was a real human need. But in conditions of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples. Roger Williams said it was

a depraved appetite after the great vanities, dreams and shadows of this vanishing life, great portions of land, land in this wilderness, as if men were in as great necessity and danger for want of great portions of land, as poor, hungry, thirsty seamen have, after a sick and stormy, a long and starving passage. This is one of the gods of New England, which the living and most high Eternal will destroy and famish.



Was all this bloodshed and deceit -- from Columbus to Cortés, Pizarro, the Puritans -- a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made -- as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants for industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?

Why I do not Celebrate Pilgrims and Puritans on Thanksgiving Day

(I like Thanksgiving stripped of both religion and historical context. First of all the Pilgrims and Puritans were as nasty a group of religious hateful bastards as ever walked the planet. It would have been better had the Indians had AK47s, RPGs and better more secure borders. Less said about those MoFo P&Ps the better. The other part about sky daddy... Farmers, ranchers, truckers and retail clerks as well as those who work the kitchens wait the tables, bus them and was the dishes deliver me my food through out the year. If I eat a feast of thanks to those who deliver me my food it will be to honor those hard working salt of the earth folks and not some imaginary sky fairy. No Santa Claus/no god.)

Happy Thanks Giving

Most schools in America try to tell that Thanksgiving is a holiday to celebrate and be thankful for the friendship with the Indians. We were not their friends if you look through real history and facts. The events that took place show that we in fact slaughtered them to take over their lands. Much like we have done to many ever since. People think of the Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast and celebrating. It seems that did happen only one time! The real truth about Thanksgiving is below for those that care to read on.

The real story of Thanksgiving began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left a gift called smallpox for the remaining Indians. That virtually wiped out those who had escaped the explorers. When the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian. The Indians name was Squanto. He not only survived slavery in England but he also knew their language. Squanto taught the pilgrims to grow corn and to fish. Squanto negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.

Sadly the word spread in England about the land found in the new world. It seems that the Pilgrims were all talking of taking over the lands. Soon after the word of the new land spread the religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by boats to the (so called) new found lands. (These lands were not new to the Indians for it had been their home and land long before and evil Pilgrims set foot there.) Since there were no fences or security around the land they considered it to be in the public domain. With the help of other British settlers they captured strong young Native Americans for slaves and killed the rest. They then took over the land from the Indians that remained living. The Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought. The Pilgrims killed all Indian Tribes & took over the lands in a brutal way.

In 1637 about 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival. That is what they call our Thanksgiving celebration. In the early morning hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries. It is said they then ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death. The terrified women and children who huddled inside and some were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered. Sadly that is the story of Thanksgiving that has been documented in many places and it is the facts that they try to hide from most Americans.

The Indians were not violent savage people as they would make you think in a lot of American History books and schools. The Indians were those that believed in Nature and protection of animals and other people. The Indians were amazing in many ways. They did not kill just to be killing or kill for lands and power as the USA does. The Indians were brave warriors that fought hard to try to keep their families safe and worked together to share and provide food, clothing and shelter to each other.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why churches fear gay marriage

The crusade for Proposition 8 was fueled by the broken American family, explains gay Catholic author Richard Rodriguez.
By Jeanne Carstensen
Salon Magazine
Nov. 25, 2008 |
For author Richard Rodriguez, no one is talking about the real issues behind Proposition 8.
While conservative churches are busy trying to whip up another round of culture wars over same-sex marriage, Rodriquez says the real reason for their panic lies elsewhere: the breakdown of the traditional heterosexual family and the shifting role of women in society and the church itself. As the American family fractures and the majority of women choose to live without men, churches are losing their grip on power and scapegoating gays and lesbians for their failures.

Rodriguez, who is Mexican-American, gay and a practicing Catholic, refuses to let any single part of himself define the whole. Born in San Francisco in 1944 and raised by his Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrant parents to embrace mainstream American culture and the English language, he went on to study literature and religion at Stanford and Columbia. His first book, "The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez," explores his journey from working-class immigrant to a fully assimilated intellectual -- angering many Latinos with his view that English fluency is essential. "Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father," which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1993, continued his investigation into how family, culture, religion, race, sexuality and other strands of his life all contribute to the whole, a complex "brownness" of contradictions and ironies. "Brown: The Last Discovery of America" completes the trilogy -- but not his insatiable intellectual curiosity, which he is now shining on monotheism.
Rodriguez' stinging critiques of religious hypocrisy are all the richer for his passionate love of Catholicism and the Most Holy Redeemer parish in San Francisco, where he and his partner of 28 years are devoted members. Today, Rodriguez is at work on a new book about the monotheistic "desert religions" -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Ever since Sept. 11, "when havoc descended in the name of the desert God," Rodriguez said in one of his Peabody Award-winning radio commentaries for PBS's News Hour, he has been trying to understand the strands of darkness that run through these religions.

Salon spoke to Richard Rodriguez by phone at his home in San Francisco.
What was your reaction to California voters' going heavily for Obama and also passing Proposition 8, banning gay marriage?

I was like a lot of other Americans at the moment when the West Coast tipped the balance in favor of Obama. I didn't so much think it represented the end of racism but the possibility of change. At the same time, I also knew that large numbers of Californians in religious communities were voting against gay marriage and that Latinos and blacks were continuing to take part in this terribly tragedy. We persecute each other. The very communities that get discriminated against discriminate against other Americans.

The Spanish language newspaper La Opinión called the results an "embarrassment," saying "California still has two faces." Do you agree?

La Opinión represents the opinion of a lot of Latinos who are more educated and -- what should I say? -- more cosmopolitan. But Latinos in both my family and the Catholic Church belong to a more traditional America. This is a troubling aspect of the way our country is formed right now. It is a time of great change but also a time when people are afraid of change.

You said recently the real issue behind the anti-gay marriage movement is the crisis in the family. What do you mean?

American families are under a great deal of stress. The divorce rate isn't declining, it's increasing. And the majority of American women are now living alone. We are raising children in America without fathers. I think of Michael Phelps at the Olympics with his mother in the stands. His father was completely absent. He was negligible; no one refers to him, no one noticed his absence.

The possibility that a whole new generation of American males is being raised by women without men is very challenging for the churches. I think they want to reassert some sort of male authority over the order of things. I think the pro-Proposition 8 movement was really galvanized by an insecurity that churches are feeling now with the rise of women.

Monotheistic religions feel threatened by the rise of feminism and the insistence, in many communities, that women take a bigger role in the church. At the same time that women are claiming more responsibility for their religious life, they are also moving out of traditional roles as wife and mother. This is why abortion is so threatening to many religious people -- it represents some rejection of the traditional role of mother.

In such a world, we need to identify the relationship between feminism and homosexuality. These movements began, in some sense, to achieve visibility alongside one another. I know a lot of black churches take offense when gay activists say that the gay movement is somehow analogous to the black civil rights movement. And while there is some relationship between the persecution of gays and the anti-miscegenation laws in the United States, I think the true analogy is to the women's movement. What we represent as gays in America is an alternative to the traditional male-structured society. The possibility that we can form ourselves sexually -- even form our sense of what a sex is -- sets us apart from the traditional roles we were given by our fathers.

I think Proposition 8 was also galvanized by insecurity around gay families.
I agree. But the real challenge to the family right now is male irresponsibility and misbehavior toward women. If the Hispanic Catholic and evangelical churches really wanted to protect the family, they should address the issue of wife beating in Hispanic families and the misbehaviors of the father against the mother. But no, they go after gay marriage. It doesn't take any brilliance to notice that this is hypocrisy of such magnitude that you blame the gay couple living next door for the fact that you've just beaten your wife.

The pro-8 campaign calls itself the Protect Family Movement, even though the issue of family was the very reason gays needed to have marriage. There are partners in gay unions now who have children, and those children need to be protected. If my partner and I had children, either through a previous marriage or because we adopted them, I would need to be able to take them to the emergency room. I would need to be able to protect them with the parental rights that marriage would give me. It was for the benefit of the family that marriage was extended to homosexuals.
Religions have the capacity for being noble and ennobling but they are also the expression of some of the darkest impulses in us -- to go after the "other." For Christians, if the other isn't the Muslim, it's the homosexual. That is the most discouraging part.

Speaking of hypocrisy, churches have plenty of sexual skeletons in their closet.
Right. The Mormon Church has this incredible notoriety in America for polygamy and has been persecuted because of it. The very church that became notorious because of polygamy is now insisting that marriage is one man and one woman. That is, at least, an irony of history. But as a number of Mormon women friends of mine say, the same church that espouses the centrality of family in their lives is also the church that urges them to reject their gay children.

Then there is the Roman Catholic Church, my own church, which has just come off this extraordinary season of sexual scandal and misbehavior in the rectory against children. The church is barely out of the court and it's trying to assume the role of governor of sexual behavior, having just proved to America its inability to govern its own sexual behavior.

Look at the evangelicals. In their insistence that people be born again, they know Americans are broken. In their circus-tent suburban churches, you find 10,000 people on a Sunday morning. You find people who have been divorced, people who have had drug experiences, people who have been in jail. These churches touch upon a dream that people can put our lives back together again.

Now these churches are going after homosexuals as a way of insisting on their own propriety. They are insisting that they have a role to play in the general society as moral guardians, when what we have seen in the recent past is just the opposite. I mean, it's one thing for the churches to insist on their right to define the sacrament of marriage for their own members. But it's quite another for them to insist that they have a right to define the relationships of people outside their communities. That's really what's most troubling about Proposition 8. It was a deliberate civic intrusion by the churches.

I wonder if these churches sense they're losing some of the influence they've had for the past eight years.

To my knowledge, the churches have not accepted responsibility for the Bush catastrophe. Having claimed, in some cases, that Bush was divinely inspired and his election was the will of God, they have failed to explain why the last eight years have been so catastrophic for America.

Now I think evangelicals are falling back on issues that have been reliable for them in the past. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, who said that children of immigrants should be educated, was essentially frightened away from that position by Mitt Romney. The tentativeness of the evangelicals on immigration only allowed them to be more vociferous on the gay issue. That's traditionally easy for them -- to go after the sinner. But it doesn't convince me of their ascendancy; it merely convinces me that they are retreating. They don't know how to extend their agenda beyond gay marriage and abortion.

There's going to be an ongoing legal battle over Proposition 8. How do you think gay activists should proceed?

I think gay activists should be very careful with this issue. We should not present ourselves as enemies of religion. I am not prepared to leave the Roman Catholic Church over this issue. The Catholic Church is my church. I was a little concerned about the recent protests outside the Los Angeles Mormon temple. I've seen this sort of demonstration escalate into a sort of deliberate exercise of blasphemy.

For example, in the most severe years of the AIDS epidemic, activists from ACT UP went into St. Patrick's Cathedral, took the communion wafer and threw it on the ground. That is exactly the wrong thing to do. One should be respectful of the religious impulse in the world. If we decide to make ourselves anti-religious, we will only lose.

But religious communities must be challenged too. I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago for Gay Pride. All the leaders of religious communities -- Muslim, Jew and Christian -- were brought together by their mutual animosity toward gay activism to protest the parade. There was the grand patriarch of the Eastern churches, the high rabbi of Jerusalem, the Roman Catholic archbishop, the mullahs, and they were all united in one cause. The police outnumbered the parade participants. One marcher was attacked and stabbed by an Orthodox Jew.

We have to be very clear about male violence within the monotheistic religions. This is a failure within churches and we can't be casual about it. But we can't be casual about the importance of religion either. We need to be both respectful of religion and critical of religion. Otherwise I suspect we won't get very far at all.

What do you think about gay rights as universal rights? Many argue that it's a cultural issue and that specific communities, such as Latinos and blacks, have their own understanding of homosexuality and shouldn't be messed with.

In my own my family, and my parents were not well educated, it would have been impossible for them to have dealt with the words "gay" or "homosexual" in my relationship with them. But there was no way for them to reject me either. I was a member of the family and I couldn't sin my way out of it.

Once my partner became part of my life, he became part of their life too. They didn't want it said, they didn't want it named or defined, but they assumed it and accepted it. At family events, when my partner wasn't there, my mother would get on the phone and call him and insist he come over.

These communities have very intricate ways of dealing with these things and they are not necessarily the highly politicized tactics that you see in traditional middle-class society in America.

I have not been to a Mexican family without some suspicion of homosexuality in children or grandchildren. But people deal with it within the larger context of family. That's why I suspect the revolution will come not from the male church but from how women treat their children, and whether or not women are willing to reject their children. I don't think they are. I saw too many times during the AIDS epidemic that when death came and the disease took its toll, if one parent was there, it was almost always the mother and not the father. That bond is so powerful.
I also think about the role of gays as caregivers to the elderly parent while siblings are too busy with their children. At the Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco, which is the gay Roman Catholic parish, a number of old Irish women essentially adopted the gay parishioners, and were adopted by them, because their children had moved to the suburbs, or Pennsylvania, or Orlando, and were no longer in a position to care for them. That's a bond that no one really talks about.
My partner has taken care of many elderly people over the years. They know who he is and they know who I am. But it's unspoken. I don't know how they voted on Tuesday, but I do think that it is their responsibility now to speak out.
Are you saying individual relationships will ultimately be more powerful than organized religion?

Well, I'm working right now in the Middle East on monotheistic religions because I'm very worried about the direction of religion. Ever since Sept. 11, when I heard that prayer being spoken at the moment the planes hit the World Trade Centers, I realized how much darkness there is in religion compared to how much light there is. I am very much concerned with whether or not these religions can be feminized.

The desert religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- are male religions. Their perception is that God is a male god and Allah is a male god. If the male is allowed to hold onto the power of God, then I think we are in terrible shape. I think what's coming out of Colorado Springs right now, with people like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, is either the last or continuing gasp of a male hierarchy in religion. That's what's at stake. And women have a determining role to play. Are they going to go along with this, or are they going to challenge the order?
Well, yes, but then we have the rise of someone like Sarah Palin, who is just one example of how complicated things get in this issue.

Yes, you have Sarah Palin. But you also have women deciding to leave marriages. When a woman decides to leave the kitchen and seek a career outside the family, when a woman decides not to take on the name of her husband, when a woman wants to be more than simply the mother of children, when she wants to have some place in the world that is not defined by her family or her husband, that seems to suggest something comparable to what gays experience when they come out of the closet. Notice that both those metaphors of getting out of the kitchen and getting out of the closet are domestic images.

But are you saying Palin represents this?

I'm not that kind of optimist!

It does seem she wants to have a career separate from the family, but in many ways she embodies the old conservative order.

Clearly, what you say is true. I don't see women challenging the male order of things in every case. Wives tolerate all kinds of behavior of fathers toward their children. But I do think it's important that some woman are starting to challenge that. The divorce rate suggests that women are not happy with the relationship they have with men. And whatever that unhappiness is, I would like people to know that, as a gay man, I'm not responsible for what's wrong with heterosexual marriage. On the other hand, whatever is wrong with the heterosexual marriage does have some implication for the world I live in. Women are redefining sexuality in a way that's going to make it easier for me to be a gay man.

The formal role of women is also undergoing change in some churches, right?
That's right. The Episcopal Church in America is now under the leadership of a woman. Feminism is going to change a great deal. The most radical people in the Roman Catholic Church are women. They're challenging everything from the priesthood to the male God to what it means to be married. I don't expect to see gay marriage enter these conservative institutions in my lifetime. But I do see change.
I belong to a Catholic parish in San Francisco, where my partner and I are acknowledged by the other people in the parish as a couple. We take communion together, the priests know who we are, they're supportive of who we are, and what we are, and they see us in various roles -- giving eulogies to dead friends but also helping to baptize little babies. We're very much a part of that community. That's why I'm not prepared to lose it because some archbishop in Colorado or cardinal in Los Angeles is behind Proposition 8. It is not my church that they're talking about, it's not even my experience of love.

-- By Jeanne Carstensen

Pat Condell’s latest video, “Godless and Free”



I love Pat Condell and how he pokes a sharp stick into the soft white belly of ignorance.

"No gods" is a truth that frees humanity from ignorance and superstition. No imaginary, invisible bully in the sky to justify our vicious acts of hatred towards designated groups of fellow human beings.

Without the imaginary sky bully all ideological justification of sacred causes become no more than human acts of utter banal brutality.

Christofascists loved Pat when he was attacking Islamofascists we shall see how the equally ignorant Christers react now he has turned his speaking truth to power upon them.

No More, ”Free To Be, You and Me”

I was a Second Wave Feminist. I actually remember when the first MS Magazine came out and consciousness-raising sessions where we discussed the ramifications of being programmed into stereotypical sex roles. We called them sex roles in those days because the euphemism gender had not yet become the Swiss Army Knife of social constructs.

Those were heady days, a time before we define men and women as different because of what they did. We were rebelling against different roles mandated because one group of us had vaginas and the other group had penises.

Those were the days when Title IX prohibited discrimination based on sex in many if not most publicly funded institutions. This meant women could not be denied access to schools based on a quota system and that we had equal access to sports.

It was 35 years ago when Marlo Thomas put together a book, record and film called, “/Free to be, You and Me/”. It taught people that it was okay for boys to cry and play with dolls and that it was okay for girls to like sports and excel in school. It taught us that boys and girls weren’t totally different species and defined by our gendered behavior.

In my life, that message has meant that it was okay for me to love being behind the viewfinder in my cameras more than being the model adored for my appearance. That it was okay to play electric guitar and slam dance in mosh pits as well as finger pick folk songs on an acoustic guitar.

It meant it was okay and didn’t make me a man if I wanted to be an artist and a lesbian instead of a wife and mother. Yesterday I was out with Tina, another old woman and love of my life. We went to Academy, a sporting goods store here in Texas. In the parking lot, we saw a woman and her young daughter. The little girl was about seven or eight and was dressed in a cheerleading uniform.

Tina reminded me of a book I had bought by a very funny writer named Celia Rivenbark titled Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: And Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom.

I said that while I saw plenty of dressing six year olds like skanks at the big box where I am a slave that this is more about gender panic. That it is equally fucked up that these same parents have their just as young little boy playing tackle football with all the pads and accouterments that the high school football players wear.

We talked more about how the conservative mindset mandates this women are from Venus, men are from Mars shit as a way of keeping women as second class citizens.

At the big box I see all these little girls wearing all this Disney “princess” crap and little boys in camo. I’m wondering what ever happened to “Free to be, You and Me”.

We have the home schooling quiver full mommies with their long dresses and vacant stares and their overly entitled “saved” little loin fruits. And their long skirted little indoctrinated daughter and little soldier sons. What happens to the kids the fickle finger of fate taps on the shoulder and says the you’re one of the ten percent that are different? Do they run off to the gay ghettos like my generation that grew up in the repressive 1950s did? Or do they anguish and stifle only to wind up sucking dicks in rest rooms like the boys who have the Tea Parties in the restrooms in the park off of the 30? Or do they become preachers like Ted?

When it comes to gender, I am both an essentialist and a believer in the idea that gender is a social construct. Because I believe we are all human and share a lot of physical traits, that there is a good deal of overlapping of those physical traits rather than this ultra sharp 100% man/100% woman ideology. I also think that this is far murkier when it comes to gender and that things assigned as being masculine or feminine really don’t tell us much more than that a particular society at a particular time consider activity X to be masculine or feminine.

I personally believe that we were a far better world back when Marlo Thomas and friends put out “Free to be, You and Me” than we are now when religious fundies have so many in a gender panic at the thought that men and women might be more alike than different. It is far more difficult to have misogyny and male supremacy without vast differences. Makes no difference if you define those differences as based on sex or on gender.

Monday, November 24, 2008

No More Nice Atheist

When I was in High School back in the 1960s I was a hippie commie queer. My parents tried to indoctrinate me in to the Catholic version of the sky daddy cults. I was a born anarchist who asked annoying questions of authority like, "Why should I believe that?"

Religion always seemed like a scam. Particularly in my working class town where most people busted their asses working in the paper mill, the iron mines or the small businesses. The priests got to sit around on their asses, drive nice cars and live in luxury all for saying some magic words and sticking out their hand.

I got tired of this. I was reading Camus and Sartre as well as Voltaire. I guess I was a junior in high school and some creepy Christer made a comment about how they would pray for me to see the light.

I wasn't planning on saying anything about my atheism. I was already looking into becoming a runaway because my parents kept dangling the words "Incorrigible" and "Juvenile Delinquent" over my head and suggesting I might be sent to either the state mental hospital or reform school. Being a militant atheist seemed one step closer to fucking up before I was old enough to gain my freedom.

But that was too much. Pray for me? I thought, "You self-righteous pious asshole!" I said, "Don't waste your time, there isn't any god." "No god!" "No Jesus!" No heaven, no hell!"

Gee... Think I provoked and arguments back in 1964 small town Amerika?

Now as time went on I learned that one of the joys of atheism is not having to preach.

That brings us to today when Christofascists think they can use their imaginary bully in the sky to abuse LGBT/T folks and no one has the right to say shit to them because they are doing the work of imaginary sky daddy.

From Box Turtle Bulletin:

About those “Peaceful Christians” In the Castro

Jim Burroway

November 19th, 2008

"I think it’s safe to say that Joe.My.God was at least as alarmed as I was over news reports of a so-called “Christian” group being escorted out of the Castro by a heavy protective police contingent.

Well Joe.My.God has learned that at least one of those so-called “Christians” is associated with Lou Engle, who is a pastor in the Christian Dominionist group Joel’s Army. She appeared with Engle in Kansas City to call for a “mass exodus from the demonic influence of the Castro.” Engle described the confrontation os “a confrontation of the Spirit” and called on God to “turn back this evil that is rising” in the fight against “the powers of darkness.”

Christian Dominionism is a harder-core, more violent offshoot of Christian Reconstructionism. Christian Reconstructionists are on record as calling for the biblical punishment of stoning for gays and lesbians.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified Joel’s Army as a potentially violent Dominionist group which believes that the United States “should be governed by conservative Christians and a conservative Christian interpretation of biblical law.” Engle was a lead organizer of ”The Call” at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium just before the election."

After 9/11 there was a lot of blithering about Islamofascism. Scary shit like all fanaticism based in delusional thinking. Islam is not a nice religion like the Universal Unitarians. It is mean, as misogynistic as it comes, brutal towards non-believers and a death sentence to LGBT/T folks unfortunate enough to be born in an Islamofascist theocratic state.

But then The Southern Poverty Law Center made me aware of the Christofascist version. The "beam me up, Scotty" rapture bunnies live in this delusionary hope that the world will become some sort of heavy metal version of a blood bath.

Psychiatrists who spend so much time pushing the 'scientific version of bibical rule ( i.e. Gender Identity Disorder because while they don't have lesbians and gays to abuse any more it is still okay for them to milk the cash cows of transgenders and transsexuals) have ignored the mental illness of these believers in Christofascism.

There was a time in the 1970s when the psych profession actually engaged in deprogramming people who got mixed up with these extremely insane cults.

Inbred-shit- throwing-flying- monkeys like the Phelps klan are more annoying than dangerous. Joel's army are dangerous. They are well armed and hold their hate fests in these warehouse 'churches". One way to recognize these Nazis is that they often adorn their buildings with a star of David with a cross in the the hexagonal center of the star.

I would suggest looking into the permits and zoning rules governing any buildings on which this symbol crops up.

In the meantime I think it is important to not condone fath based hate. Taliban Christers just violated my civil rights big time in California.

Happy Holidays

Candice Tells Her Brother Newty Off

A Response to the Extreme Anti-Gay Comments by My Brother, New Gingrich

By Candace Gingrich, Human Rights Campaign
Posted on November 24, 2008, Printed on November 24, 2008

Note: This letter to Newt Gingrich from his sister is prompted by his outrageous statement on Nov. 14 to Fox News's Bill O' Reilly: "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion."

Dear Newt,

I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protesters of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O'Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, "There you go, again."

However, I realize that you may have been a little preoccupied lately with planning your resurrection as the savior of your party, so I thought I would fill you in on a few important developments you might have overlooked.

The truth is that you're living in a world that no longer exists. I, along with millions of Americans, clearly see the world the way it as -- and we embrace what it can be. You, on the other hand, seem incapable of looking for new ideas or moving beyond what worked in the past.

Welcome to the 21st century, big bro. I can understand why you're so afraid of the energy that has been unleashed after gay and lesbian couples had their rights stripped away from them by a hateful campaign. I can see why you're sounding the alarm against the activists who use all the latest tech tools to build these rallies from the ground up in cities across the country.

This unstoppable progress has at its core a group we at Human Rights Campaign call Generation Equality. They are the most supportive of full LGBT equality than any American generation ever -- and when it comes to the politics of division, well, they don't roll that way. 18-24 year olds voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8 and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. And the numbers of young progressive voters will only continue to grow. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning, about 23 million 18-29 year olds voted on Nov. 4, 2008 -- the most young voters ever to cast a ballot in a presidential election. That's an increase of 3 million more voters compared to 2004.

These are the same people who helped elect Barack Obama and sent a decisive message to your party. These young people are the future and their energy will continue to drive our country forward. Even older Americans are turning their backs on the politics of fear and demagoguery that you and your cronies have perfected over the years.

This is a movement of the people that you most fear. It's a movement of progress -- and your words on FOX News only show how truly desperate you are to maintain control of a world that is changing before your very eyes.

Then again, we've seen these tactics before. We know how much the right likes to play political and cultural hardball, and then turn around and accuse us of lashing out first. You give a pass to a religious group -- one that looks down upon minorities and women -- when they use their money and membership roles to roll back the rights of others, and then you label us "fascists" when we fight back. You belittle the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, and yet somehow neglect to explain who anointed you the protector of "traditional" marriage. And, of course, you've also mastered taking the foolish actions of a few people and then indicting an entire population based on those mistakes. I fail to see how any of these patterns coincide with the values of "historic Christianity" you claim to champion.

Again, nothing new here. This is just more of the blatant hypocrisy we're used to hearing.

What really worries me is that you are always willing to use LGBT Americans as political weapons to further your ambitions. That's really so '90s, Newt. In this day and age, it's embarrassing to watch you talk like that. You should be more afraid of the new political climate in America, because, there is no place for you in it.

Candace Gingrich is senior youth outreach manager for Human Rights Campaign.

© 2008 Human Rights Campaign All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/108310/

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Liberal Hollywood ponders next step in fight for same-sex marriage

Los Angeles Times
November 23,2008

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-shunned23-2008nov23,0,4810808,full.story

After the passage of Proposition 8, some are calling for boycotts and firings. Others worry about free speech rights being trampled.
By Rachel Abramowitz and Tina Daunt

Should there be boycotts, blacklists, firings or de facto shunning of those who supported Proposition 8?

That's the issue consuming many in liberal Hollywood who fought to defeat the initiative banning same-sex marriage and are now reeling with recrimination and dismay. Meanwhile, activists continue to comb donor lists and employ the Internet to expose those who donated money to support the ban.

Already out is Scott Eckern, director of the nonprofit California Musical Theatre in Sacramento, who resigned after a flurry of complaints from prominent theater artists, including "Hairspray" composer Marc Shaiman, when word of his contribution to the Yes on 8 campaign surfaced.

Other targets include Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that puts on both the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Spirit Awards; the Cinemark theater chain; and the Sundance Film Festival.

In Film Independent's case, the board has defended the continued employment of Richard Raddon, the Mormon director of the L.A. Film Festival who donated $1,500 to support Proposition 8. Cinemark is under siege because Chief Executive Alan Stock gave $9,999 to support the same-sex marriage ban. And in a sign of a powerful ripple effect, Sundance, perhaps the American institution that has done the most to support gay filmmakers and gay cinema, is being targeted because it screens films in a Cinemark theater.

For many in Hollywood, the Proposition 8 backlash represents a troubling clash of free speech, religious beliefs and the right to fight intolerance. Many supporters of same-sex marriage view the state constitutional amendment as codified bigotry, a rollback of civil liberties for gays and lesbians.

Raddon has been a particularly polarizing figure because Film Independent's board includes many independent film stalwarts, including Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker, Fox Searchlight President Peter Rice and Oscar-winning writer Bill Condon. One of the group's explicit missions is to promote diversity.

Last week, Raddon offered to resign. According to one board member, a conference call was hastily arranged, and after much discussion the board voted unanimously to keep him.

Yet the anger continues to stew.

"There is still roiling debate within the organization," says distributor Howard Cohen, an advisor to the film festival who is gay. "Is it OK to let this go? There are a lot of gay people who work at Film Independent. The issue has not been closed."

No one is certain how the current protest will affect Film Independent's Spirit Awards in the spring, a popular event recognizing work that "challenges the status quo." And there are already indications the Los Angeles Film Festival could be affected.

Gregg Araki, director of the critically acclaimed gay cult hit "Mysterious Skin" and an influential figure in "new queer cinema," has said he won't allow his films to be shown there, while others, such as "Milk" producers and gay activists Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, say they're going to "study in depth all the facets of our specific situation before making a decision."

Araki says Raddon should step down. "I don't think he should be forcibly removed. The bottom line is if he contributed money to a hateful campaign against black people, or against Jewish people, or any other minority group, there would be much less excusing of him. The terrible irony is that he runs a film festival that is intended to promote tolerance and equality."

Others are leery of punishing free speech, even if they consider it hateful. "I can't quite stomach the notion that you fire somebody because of what they believe. It doesn't feel right to me," says Christine Vachon, a pillar of gay cinema who produced such films as "Boys Don't Cry" and "Far From Heaven."

Raddon declined to comment, but Dawn Hudson, executive director of Film Independent, says, "Are we happy with his donation? No. But he has a right to his religious and personal beliefs.

"The very cornerstone of our organization is diversity, and diversity includes sexual orientation. Rich's actions have always been in accordance with those principles," she said.

Condon, the gay writer-director of "Dreamgirls" and a Film Independent board member, offered this retort to what he calls the "off-with-his-head" crowd: "If you're asking, 'Do we take discrimination against gays as seriously as bigotry against African Americans and Jews?' . . . the answer is, 'Of course we do.' But we also believe that some people, including Rich, saw Prop. 8 not as a civil rights issue but a religious one. That is their right. And it is not, in and of itself, proof of bigotry."

Fury is certainly percolating in the gay community, fomented largely through the Web. Younger advocates, not necessarily from Hollywood, have been using Facebook and YouTube to get the word out.

What began as a kind of cyber-venting is mushrooming into a new kind of viral protest movement, including the latest protest of Proposition 8 in Hollywood on Saturday, which was largely publicized via Facebook.

And there remains a distinct contingent of same-sex marriage supporters who are adamant about retribution. One is Chad Griffin, a political advisor to Hollywood executives who says, "A dollar to the yes campaign is a dollar in support of bigotry, homophobia and discrimination. There are going to be consequences. Any individual who has held homophobic views and who has gone public by writing a check, you can expect to be publicly judged. Many can expect to pay a price for a long time to come."

Still, film companies are typically wary of involving themselves in causes, particularly those that advocate boycotts, because they know how vulnerable their products are to similar initiatives by well-organized groups on the religious right. For eight years, the Southern Baptist Convention boycotted the Walt Disney Co. for extending employee benefits to same-sex partners and urged its members not to patronize the theme parks and Disney products. Films with religious subjects -- most notably "The Last Temptation of Christ" -- have also sparked protests.

Bruce Cohen, one of the producers of "Milk" -- which lands in theaters next week and traces the life and death of California's first openly gay elected official (San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk) -- and a leader of the No on 8 campaign in Hollywood, suggests that everyone should proceed with caution.

"You need to draw a very specific distinction between the cases where it's the actual owner of the company who put money into a cause. If it's an employee, it's a different discussion. That becomes a freedom of speech issue," he says. "People should personally always have the right to express their own opinions even if that means getting out their checkbook."

And in fact, Focus Features, which is distributing "Milk," still intends to play the film in Cinemark theaters despite calls for a boycott.

In particular, the notion of boycotting Sundance, which seems to have originated with the liberal Americablog, has picked up little traction thus far within the Hollywood community.

"I don't feel the Sundance Film Festival deserves our ire or our censor," says Howard Cohen. "It's an incredible force for good. I know where they are on the issues, and there's no evidence they supported Yes on 8."

"If there is one festival that has supported queer cinema from the start, it's Sundance," says Marcus Hu, president of Strand Releasing, which has released many gay-themed films. "Sundance has been, first and foremost, people who have been discovering and fostering young gay talent."

In part, Hollywood's distress is a reflection of its guilty conscience about Proposition 8's passage. Many feel that they were asleep at the wheel, preoccupied with Barack Obama's candidacy and winning larger congressional majorities for the Democrats. "Many straight people really don't understand it's a civil rights issue," says Vachon. "We didn't do our job well enough. We need to do it better."

"What the passage of Prop. 8 did is stir the soul of the people in the gay community," says publicist-activist Howard Bragman. "It took what had been a top-down movement and made it a grass-roots movement."

Abramowitz and Daunt are Times staff writers.

rachel.abramowitz@ latimes.com

tina.daunt@latimes.com

Drag queen's role, gay bar venue spark controversy for Miss Texas preliminary pageant

[I've known numerous drag queens, transgenders, transsexuals and people with transsexual medical histories, some as friends, some as lovers and some of whom I have admired for their immense courage. They were there before Stonewall fighting for L/G liberation and are still often treated as poor relations to the L/G community.

While some feminists were trashing drag shows as degrading to women I saw them as demonstrating the construct aspects of gender as well as offering commentary on sexism. Pageants for queens decoupled actual femaleness from the sexist construct presented by the pageants and offered a satirical reading of the subtext.

I didn't get where the over the topness of some of the participants was coming from until I actually moved to Texas. The first year I was here we went to the Rose Festival in Tyler Texas where they have a museum dedicated to this festival. As a queen would say, "Honey those drag gowns were to die for."

Gay men have been the producers, stylists and choreographers for these productions forever. A gay bar donates its space for free so the show can go on and people get all pissy about it... PLEEZE!]

By SCOTT FARWELL / The Dallas Morning News
sfarwell@dallasnews.com


Cassie Nova is resplendent in red.

Her figure is flattered by an almost-there hemline. Heels, three-inch. Hair, teased. Makeup, porcelain doll smooth.

As co-host of a preliminary Miss Texas pageant held Sunday night in Dallas, Ms. Nova was all woman — except for one thing. She’s a man.

Therein lies the problem. That and the pageant venue: a gay bar.

“I didn’t know a drag queen was going to have that prominent of a role,” said Jean Magness, executive director of the Miss Texas Organization, who watched over the Miss Oak Cliff/Miss Oak Lawn Area pageant at the Oak Lawn lounge The Rose Room. “The question was Cassie’s involvement. Was it appropriate? For me and other board members present, that was a major concern.”

In the days before and since the pageant, a controversy caught wind.

On one side, the local competition’s director and others say beauty pageants have long been the dominion of gay men. They supervise wardrobes, style hair and for whatever reason, seem to have a knack for coquettish walks down the runway.

On the other, some contestants and their mothers say nowhere are gender roles more defined than at a beauty pageant — an on-stage display of poise, grace and conventional femininity.

“It was pretty clear they were pushing an agenda,” said Barbara Cox, an elementary school teacher who squirmed while watching her daughter compete Sunday night. “It’s never healthy when society deviates to the extreme. I can’t see where something like this would be beneficial to our nation. As a matter of fact, I see it as a detriment.”

Venue offered free

Talk like that angers Dustin Fitzner, the local pageant’s executive director.

“That’s like saying everything I believe in is immoral and wrong,” he said. “I’m not going to take my rainbow flag and march down the street for gay rights, but this is the first time I’ve been personally insulted, and I decided I’m going to do something about it.”

So, when Gregg Kilhoffer, president of a company that owns several Oak Lawn gay clubs, offered to host the pageant for free, Mr. Fitzner jumped.

“I’m not going to pay $5,000 to rent out the auditorium at Highland Park High School,” he said. “This made incredible sense. I’m a gay man, and this was a way to support my community.”

Hundreds of young women enter Miss Texas preliminary pageants in hopes of winning the statewide event held in Fort Worth each July. The winner of that pageant competes to be Miss America. The process starts at shows like Sunday’s, which attracted nine entries.

Soon after setting the venue last summer, Mr. Fitzner started having problems.

Some contestants said they didn’t want to compete in a bar. Others said they wouldn’t feel safe in Oak Lawn. Each time he heard it, Mr. Fitzner suspected the girls — or their families — were uncomfortable competing at a gay nightclub.

It wasn’t the first time he’d run into problems.

Growing up in Bowie, Texas, the 6-foot-5-inch Mr. Fitzner played center on his high school basketball team and performed in theater.

“It was a /Brokeback Mountain/ kind of experience,” he said recently, smiling over chicken salad at a café on Cedar Springs Road. “They didn’t know whether to clap for me or beat the [expletive] out of me.”

But at 29 years old, with a business degree and a job and a place to call his own, Mr. Fitzner said, he’s finally comfortable in his own skin. No explanations, no apologies.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t flinch when others recoiled at the idea of having a local Miss Texas pageant — the second he has organized — at The Rose Room. And maybe that’s why, when he was signing entertainers, he gravitated to Cassie Nova — a drag queen, runner-up Miss Gay Texas 2008, and one of his favorite acts.

“She is hilarious,” Mr. Fitzner said. “There are two people I want with me on my death bed: Celine Dion and Cassie Nova.”

‘A blended community’

At first, the decision put him at odds with Mrs. Magness, of Fort Worth, head of the Miss Texas program.

She worried about the reputation of the event, which has flagged in recent years amid criticism that pageants objectify women, rewarding beauty over brains.

But after speaking to Mr. Fitzner, she was convinced that The Rose Room would be acceptable and that a female impersonator could have a limited, tasteful role in the event.

“Many of the people who participate in the pageants world are from the gay community because, in its own way, pageants are a theatrical-type world,” Mrs. Magness said. “We’re already a blended community.”

But after watching Sunday’s show, Mrs. Magness said Mr. Fitzner is welcome to direct more Miss Texas pageants — as long as drag queens are not part of the show.

At one point Sunday night, Cassie spoke directly to pageant officials.

“Hey judges, you OK?” she asked. “You need a little liquor or something? You’re not supposed to drink, but I can slip you something, I’ve got a flask in my … [pointing to her cleavage].”

A few minutes later, she sashayed across the stage, her sequin-studded red dress sparkling under a disco ball. She sang, “My Strongest Suit” by the Spice Girls.

The crowd of about 100 people howled.

‘Pushing things forward’

“I held back quite a bit,” said Cassie, whose real name is James Love. “My on-stage personality is a little bit more vulgar. I edited myself so I could win them over and make them not fear the unknown so much.”

Mr. Love, 36, has worked as a drag queen with the same company for 17 years. He said controversy about his job doesn’t surprise him, but hypocrisy does.

“What kills me about these girls is the ones who [complain] about a pageant at a gay bar are the same ones who clamor for gay makeup artists,” he said. “They want to get on the moral high ground when it’s in public.”

Some people said the winners from Sunday’s pageant — Alex Eppler as Miss Oak Cliff and Kat Ewing as Miss Oak Lawn Area — will be handicapped by controversy in the 2009 Miss Texas competition next year. Others said they expect the gay community to rally behind the girls.

“I don’t think it will be a disadvantage,” Ms. Ewing said after the pageant. “I’m glad to be a part of something that’s pushing things forward.”