A Snapshot of Gay History

Despite the progress that has been made in the struggle for the equality of LGBT Americans, these past couple of weeks provide a stunning reality check:

  • A Senate defense authorization bill is filibustered by Republicans because it included the provision that would have overturned the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Republicans choose to indulge in their bigotry (either for its own sake or for some sense of political advantage) rather than fund the very troops they claim to be so supportive of.
  • gay blogger gets a not-so-veiled death threat posted in his comments; a little investigation reveals that the threat comes from the office of one of the Senators who championed the filibuster that blocked the passage of that Senate bill.
  • A 13-year-old self-identified gay boy in Texas commits suicide by shooting himself in the head after seemingly endless bullying by his classmates at school.
  • A talented young violinist leaps from the George Washington Bridge to his death after the public humiliation he faced after his college roommate broadcasts the man’s private gay sexual encounter on the internet.
  • A 15-year-old boy in Indiana hangs himself after merciless anti-gay taunting by fellow students.
  • A 13-year-old boy in California dies after an extended period on life support following hanging himself. He had been subjected to bullying and teasing about his sexual orientation.
  • An Ohio boy has his arm broken by the football players on the team for which has become a cheerleader. The football players continue to threaten him because he has reported the injury to authorities.
  • An Assistant Attorney General in Michigan escalates his bizarre campaign against the openly gay student body president, picketing outside the young man’s home, blogging obsessively about his activities, and appearing on national TV, apparently to extend the scope of his insanity. Michigan’s Attorney General (so far) defends the Assistant AG’s actions and refuses to terminate his employment.
  • Another ardent right-wing homophobe, Bishop Eddie Long, is accused of taking sexual advantage of his young male parishioners under the guise of mentorship and pastoral counseling. (While all the facts on this have not yet come out, there are now four young men who have come forward with similar highly plausible stories.)

We might still have some work to do. I’m just sayin’.

Republican Soul Searching: A 9-Point Plan

In the wake of the drubbing they took in the election last week, the Republican Party is now in the process of doing some long overdue self-examination. The media have been trying to determine the whereabouts of the soul of the Republican party. So I thought I’d offer my unsolicited 9-point plan for Republican soul searching:

  1. Get one. In order to search one’s soul, one actually has to have a soul.
  2. Stop lying. This is the 21st century. We have technology. We will find out that you’re lying. The only ones left to believe your lies will be stupid people. And you don’t want stupid people in your party. (I know this is an unfamiliar concept to Republicans, because you’ve benefited for a couple of decades from the stupid people who you’ve drawn to the party and who have believed the lies that you’ve told them.)
  3. Have principles, and follow them. Strategy and tactics are the necessary evil of a political campaign, but they’re not what people vote for. We’re drawn to noble, clear ideas. We’re looking for leaders who inspire us to make our nation and our world a better place.
  4. Get smart. That’s not to suggest that you should be more tactical, but rather that you should actually value education more. That also means valuing the educated more. You’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “no child left behind,” but you continue to run people (like Michele Bachmann) who seem like the children who were left behind. The nation and the world are facing unbelievably difficult issues, and it will take intelligent, educated people to come up with solutions.
  5. Ostracize the corrupt. Especially when they’re in your own party. The fact that Tom DeLay is still somehow perceived as someone who can go on national television and represent the positions of the party is laughable. Marginalize persons of his ilk or the nation will marginalize the entire party.
  6. Stop elevating and rewarding wackos. Believe it or not, people are looking to you for leadership. When you put subnormal or even just mediocre people on the ballot and expect that the public is going to go along with it just because you have previously enjoyed unquestioning party unity, you do your party and the nation a grave disservice.
  7. Separate church from state. You can have still your religion. Knock yourselves out. But why not put your faith into action by doing good works, instead of blurring the boundaries between pulpit and politics in an attempt to force the rest of the world to believe the same dogma that you choose to believe?
  8. Distance yourself from the ditto-heads. Admit it. You’ve spent the last 25 or so years building and fostering the multi-billion dollar right-wing media empire — of the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Bill O’Reilly variety. But now you may be realizing that you’ve created a monster that is incapable of moderating itself. Cut ’em off before they eat you alive.
  9. Quit blaming the media. How can you be focusing on what you need to be doing when you’re whining about how badly you’re being treated? Besides, you don’t win votes with shame and blame.

One more thing you might want to take into account. I’m sure there are Republican campaign professionals who are right now dissecting examining every aspect of Barack Obama’s campaign, searching for clues as to what was done to win an election and how they might replicate those things. What those strategists seem to be failing to take into account is that, while some of the campaign strategy might be replicatable, the candidate cannot. Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate with transformative ideas and, by all accounts, an uncanny ability to inspire and bring people together.

George W. Bush: American Idle

If there were ever any doubts that George W. Bush treated his presidency as just another misadventure in a life filled with misadventures, this video — captured surreptitiously at the annual Gridiron Dinner — should quell those doubts:

I cannot express the level of disgust and rage I feel when I listen to this. It is completely surreal that this fool is capable of being so cavalier about things that would embarrass the most hardened sociopath. The fact that he can joke, under any circumstances, about Scooter Libby, Harriet Myers, and his good friend Brownie and what they did to this nation is unconscionable.

If Bush were merely idle and his presidency were merely useless, that would be several rungs up the ladder from where we stand. His presidency has been actively destructive — of human lives, of our economy, of our standing in the world. I do not envy his successor who will face the task of cleaning up the biggest shit pile an American president has ever left behind.

(By the way, George, did you even know that this song is about a man facing execution? If you make it through to next week, you may want to make a better song choice.)

Strange G.O.P. Bedfellows

If there were any lingering doubts about how disconnected Romney-the-person is from Romney-the-candidate/campaigner, today’s endorsement of John McCain should shatter those doubts.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Republicans were all jockeying for the bottom-of-the-barrel position as “most conservative.” (I guess that’s kind of like the right-wing version of Miss Congeniality.) Romney was boasting that his platform, positions, experience, and credentials are the most conservative of any of the candidates. He repeatedly stuck out his anchorman chin and criticized John McCain for not being conservative enough and scolded voters for even considering voting for him.

“It was only a couple of weeks ago that … Romney was boasting that his platform, positions, experience, and credentials are the most conservative of any of the candidates.”

But, in this race for the bottom, it was pretty generally agreed by all the pundits that Mike Huckabee was by far the most conservative, hovering somewhat to the right of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell on social issues. He and Romney have both been attempting to resurrect the wedge issue of the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Amendment,” or whatever the fuck they’re calling it these days, which would for the first time enshrine in the U.S. Constitution discrimination against a single class of citizens.

So how is it that Romney now has done a 180-degree turn and, instead of endorsing the more conservative Huck-ster, is now singing the praises of McCain? This is just one more item in Romney’s record that proves that he’s far more interested in political expediency than principles. And, if you sniff around the edges of this turn of events, it’s starting to smell a little like desperation on the part of the G.O.P.

The Elephant in the Elephants’ Room

Presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his supporters love to boast about McCain’s military service. “He’s a war hero. He was held captive and tortured for 5+ years in Viet Nam.” Quotes similar to this are used as the primary evidence of his ability to lead the nation, or at least a nation at war.

“The ability to strategize effectively to bring about peace while minimizing the loss of human life … is not miraculously bestowed upon all those held in captivity.”

I am not so brazen as to discount either his service or his stamina. But it’s pretty easy to discount this attempted linkage between his military service and his readiness to lead the nation. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the mainstream media have not dared to question this linkage because they risk being misinterpreted as questioning his patriotism.

Military service in and of itself (and, in particular, being held captive) does not qualify one to be President or, by extension, Commander in Chief. The ability to strategize effectively to bring about peace while minimizing the loss of human life is a primary qualification. This qualification is not miraculously bestowed upon all those held in captivity. If that were the case, we could argue that Gitmo is creating the world leaders of tomorrow.

There are those who posit — and I tend to agree — that being held in captivity is instead a disqualifier for the nation’s highest position. It’s virtually impossible to escape lasting psychological damage from the type of captivity and torture that McCain endured. (There’s a special irony in the fact that our 43rd President’s policies have made it highly unlikely that the thousands of returning Iraq War veterans with PTSD and other emotional and mental problems will ever have sufficient mental health services provided for them. Do you suppose they take some comfort in the fact that a Presidential candidate shares something in common with them?)

It’s not a very long dotted line that connects his captivity to his outbursts of rage. With the kinds of pressures a President faces on a daily basis, do we dare risk electing a President who may make decisions out of anger instead of rational thinking?

The dotted line is perhaps not so direct or obvious between McCain’s Viet Nam experiences and his myopic approach to his campaign. Whatever the source of his campaign strategy, McCain is largely a single-issue candidate. He himself has chosen to make the Iraq war the centerpiece of his campaign. While he may dabble in discussions of other matters, he always comes back the favorite song in his songbook: war.

Moveover, McCain seems to be among the millions of Americans who don’t make a distinction between American history and military history. Indeed, the two are sometimes difficult to separate because generation upon generation of American men (and now women) have gone off to one war or other. War is a giant part of the American identity. The prevailing mindset is that we must somehow prove our individual and collective worth by being engaged in and winning wars. Consequently, we find ourselves cast in the role of the world’s policemen. In that role, we’re damned if we intervene and we’re damned if we don’t.

Our next president will be faced with the challenge of changing not only the world’s perception but the reality of the U.S.-military-as-global-police-force. How on earth will McCain’s perspective meet that challenge? McCain’s own war experience was in the nation’s previously most misguided war, and yet he, like so many other Republicans, have yet even to admit that Viet Nam was almost as much of a mistake as the current Iraq fiasco. To expect McCain to meet or even address this objective is like shopping for groceries at a lumberyard.

Let’s face some facts. The vast majority of the nation is opposed to the war. People are tired of having our young men and women sent off to this ill-conceived and poorly-executed venture in Iraq. People are tired of seeing our national debt escalate and our spending power dwindle. People are really tired of all other aspects of our government being hobbled because of inordinate defense spending.

John McCain is simply not capable of addressing the needs, desires, and — dare I say — hopes of America.

Outrage Overload

I guess most of us have become numb to the ‘outrage-a-day’ policies of the Bush administration. The primary tactic of this gaggle of traitors, liars, and thieves seems to have been to do at least one unbelievably stupid, arrogant, questionable, or downright illegal thing each day. While the press corps focuses (for a moment, at least) on that act, they’re already onto the next. The net result is the accrual of a sludge-pile of aberrant behavior so deep that no one can (or wants to) slog through it. It’s virtually impossible to achieve even a modicum of justice or truth. Make the scandal so dense, complex and multi-faceted that few have the time or inclination to attempt to challenge or even make sense of it.

Couple this modus operandi with the general malaise and scandal-fatigue of the American people, and you have a recipe for the deterioration of our government and our very way of life, the likes of which I believe this nation has never seen.

All that being said, there seems to be an escalation of the Bushies’ strategy of scandal bombardment. It seems like they take pride in outdoing themselves, and the events of the last few days seem to confirm that.

First, we have George once again attempting — like a broken record — to justify our continued involvement in Iraq. His entreaties have become less and less convincing, so much so that even many of those who have always marched in lockstep with him are publicly demanding a ‘change of course.’ (Unfortunately, in the Republican’s playbook, that’s not a euphemism for withdrawal of troops but rather for a change in policy. But at least it represents a small amount of progress.)

When George and his cronies realize that he’s not making any headway, welcome to the stage once again Michael ‘Mephistopheles’ Chertoff, our head of Homeland Security, informing us about his ‘gut feeling‘ that we’re about to have another attack by Al Qaeda on U.S. soil. (Am I crazy, or shouldn’t we expect better of our government than that? I seem to recall that the Department of Homeland Security was created and the rest of our government restructured around it so that we would be basing our policies and our actions on something a little bit more sound than opinions, fears, and folklore.)

But this, too, is a familiar play from the neo-con playbook: When public opinion turns against you, fill the populace with as much fear and anxiety as possible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s substantiated or not; in fact, the neo-cons seem to have learned that it’s actually better if it’s vague and unnamed. The more vague the fear is — using the ‘broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day’ analogy — the better the opportunity down the line of using whatever may happen to falsely substantiate their claims.

You may want to take a deep breath here, because all of this is happening against a backdrop of Sara Taylor, the former White House political director, claiming executive privilege in order to refuse to answer any questions regarding the firings and hirings of U.S. Attorneys, in spite of a subpoena by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then comes the news that Bush has ordered former White House counsel Harriet ‘Love Note’ Miers not only not to answer questions but also not even to appear before the Committee. On the count of three, everybody say ‘Jeezus H. Christ!’

Now add to the mix that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Bush administration demanded that he withhold medical findings from the American public when those findings weren’t in synch with the non-scientific right-wing-religion-driven agenda. For example, he was forbidden from stating that abstinence-only programs don’t work. (Don’t forget, millions of taxpayer dollars got passed along to those faith-based organizations that W loves so much to espouse the bullshit that abstinence is the only way to prevent AIDS. Worse than the loss of taxpayer money is the loss of life that results from their failure to state the truth and consequent dissemination of misinformation.)

Now, I’m still reeling from the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence and the subsequent payment of his fine by an unnamed source. (I can’t seem to rid my brain of the image of some low-level neo-con operative going into an inside-the-beltway 7-Eleven and asking for a banana Slurpee, a pack of Marlboro lights, and a money order for $250,000. Oh, yeah, and one of them scratch tickets.)

So when things start stacking up like this, is it any wonder that most Americans simply short circuit from the overload?

Glare Ice from the Dick

If you’ve ever wondered how a transcript can fail to take nuance into account, consider the following exchange yesterday between Dick Cheney and Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: You know, we’re out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you: your daughter, Mary. She’s pregnant. All of us are happy she’s going to have a baby. You’re going to have another grandchild. Some of the — some critics are suggesting — for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, “Mary Cheney’s pregnancy raises the question of what’s best for children. Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn’t mean that it’s best for the child.” Do you want to respond to that?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: She’s, obviously, a good daughter —

CHENEY: I’m delighted I’m about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf. And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you’re out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate —

CHENEY: I think you’re out of line.

BLITZER: We like your daughters. Believe me, I’m very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was a question that’s come up, and it’s a responsible, fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

Absent from the written transcript are the icy glares of the VP, along with Blitzer’s bad-little-boy look when Cheney challenged him. Blitzer’s physical reaction to Cheney made a deer in the headlights seem like a Tibetan monk deep in meditation. (CNN has also conveniently edited out all of the uncomfortable pauses from the video that they now have posted on their website.)

Here’s the unedited version:

Mary Cheney herself is a public figure. For whatever reason, she decided to go public about her homosexuality and her surrogacy. (She conveniently managed to avoid talking about any of that until there was a book deal in the works and until her father’s tenuous 2004 election campaign was already over with.) How absurd that Daddy Dick considers all of this a private matter.

The fact that Dick can’t own up to this is newsworthy, particularly because the administration that Dick so staunchly defends (perhaps “barricades” would be a better word) is making policy decisions about gay marriage, gays in the military, etc. Why shouldn’t he have to explain his position and the disparity between his personal life (the oh-so-sacred family) and his public positions? Cheney, as a man with apparently no conscience, simply cannot reconcile the fact his job was made possible in part by organizations like Focus on the Family, who condemn his own daughter without compunction. So his only option is to lash out. What a scumbag.

It was not, however, Blitzer’s only option to weenie out and back away. Apparently, he’s been following Larry King’s lead when it comes to follow-up questions. I got news for you, Wolf. The tension that you almost created but then backed away from is what makes both good journalism and compelling television.

Will Rove’s Behavior Finally Catch Up With Him?

Almost lost in all the hoopla about the most recent rerun of a rerun of a rerun (a/k/a the State of the Union address) was the juicy news coming from the first day of Scooter Libby’s trial. Libby is accused of perjury related to the leaking of Valerie Plame‘s identity as a covert CIA agent.

Libby’s lawyer, Theodore V. Wells, Jr., seemed completely ready to toss Karl Rove and unnamed White House officials to the wolves in an attempt to build a plausible defense for Libby. He’s basically accusing Karl of using Scooter as a scapegoat to protect himself and the Republican party. (There’s more detail in The New York Times or The Washington Post.)

It’s too early to tell if Wells’ assertions have enough to substantiate them. But one can only hope this is Karl’s comeuppance. Will this be Rove’s undoing? Or will this greased pig slip away one more time?

Rumsfeld Bites the Dust

It’s all over but the laughing, now.

It’s astonishing, however, how cavalier Dubya was when he admitted — almost boasted — that he lied only a week earlier about Rumsfeld’s imminent departure because there was an election coming up. Pretty vile.

Well, at least he’s outta here. Good riddance, Don, you stubborn old coot. Don’t let the Pentagon door hit you in the ass on your way out.

The Neo-Con Artists’ Three-Card Monte

When I was but a sprout living in New York City, I was broke or nearly broke most of the time. As a struggling singer/actor/writer/whatever, I sometimes had to make tough choices in order to save money. I could either walk everywhere and save my subway fare so I’d have enough money to eat something, or I would spare my legs a few miles of walking and live with the ensuing hunger.

So when I spotted some guys playing three-card monte one afternoon in Times Square, I naively thought it looked like a way I could both eat and ride the subways. Uncharacteristically that day, I had $20 in my pocket. So I watched and waited for the right opportunity. I saw how people were making foolish mistakes, especially this one woman — repeatedly pointing to a card that anyone could see was not the Ace of Spades and apparently losing twenty after twenty. And then, every so often, she’d get it right and would get a payoff. I was sure I had it all figured out. I took my one shot and, of course, I lost my $20. The bill was no sooner snatched out of my hand than I realized the woman was the dealer’s accomplice and she was there to reel in suckers like me.

The loss of the $20 was a sting to my paltry budget, but more painful was the humiliation that I had been taken by these con artists. I never mentioned the incident to anyone for years afterward, because I was too embarrassed. I was supposed to be smarter than that.

I relate this story because I’m getting the sense these days that a whole slew of honorable, trusting Republicans are in that state of embarrassment about having championed the causes of the current administration. People who voted for Bush seem to be in that same interim state of denial because they don’t want to admit that they were so naive as to be taken in by this gaggle of mega-grifters.

They still want to believe — and who wouldn’t — that the kind of pervasive corruption with which the Bush administration is clearly riddled couldn’t possibly happen. That kind of blatant corruption only happens in Chicago city politics and in Louisiana, right? It couldn’t possibly be happening right under our noses.

Well-meaning Republicans, I invite you — no, implore you — to come into the light. Look at the facts. Seek out the information that is available about what is really going on. Get your information from someplace other than Fox News. Lives are at stake. Our form of government is at stake. Our standing on the world stage is at stake.

This administration has appealed to your own sense of morality while they have abandoned any morality of their own. They have breached your trust in ways that you couldn’t even imagine because your own mind couldn’t think such devious thoughts. They have squandered the lives of your children in a war that they deceitfully waged in order to further their own business and political interests. These are all of the hallmarks of con artists.

As an individual voter, no one really knows — in theory — who you voted for unless you choose to reveal it yourself. So, years from now, I guarantee that many actual Bush voters will be saying how they voted for Gore and Kerry. I can forgive you that little White House lie, because I know what that sort of humiliation feels like (on a somewhat smaller scale).

But what I have a hard time forgiving is the otherwise well-intended Republicans in the House and the Senate who continue to march in lockstep with this Administration. They are the political equivalent of that woman who kept feigning defeat as she fed twenty after twenty to her friend, the three-card monty dealer. Years from now, these Republicans will not be able to wash off the stink of corruption that stuck to them from rubbing elbows with the liars, thieves, traitors and killers in the current administration.