Props to Eric Berndt, a law student at NYU. Last week, Berndt caused a little bit of a dust-up when Supreme Court Justicy Antonin Scalia came to speak at the school. Scalia’s the most right-wing Justice on the Court, especially well-known for his stance that “the Constitution is a dead document” which should be read strictly according to the intents and values dominant at its creation. Naturally, when he showed up on the campus of NYU, a fairly liberal place, there was a lot of protesting. As far as I can tell, the protests were pretty boilerplate; a crowd of about fifty or so kids standing on the sidewalk chanting and holding up signs. Man, am I bored with these kinds of demonstrations, which are so ordinary and uninspired as to make little if any point at all. The messages are so entirely repetitive, whether coming from left or right, that they barely register on my consciousness. I long for the beautiful wit and anger of the radical queer organizations of the eighties; groups like Queer Nation and the original ACT-UP fought back at the system with humor and rage without losing the power of either. And their actions never, ever, EVER seemed like a bunch of kids going through the motions; they fought like their lives depended on it. Which, of course, they did. [Read more…]
Via Richard – UK, another poster at PeoplesForum. I grew up and lived in California for almost thirty years, so what happens there is particularly interesting to me, so I feel a happy little glow to see Arnie getting his comeuppance.
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
21 April 2005
Most politicians would regard a 17-month honeymoon as an unimaginable gift from the heavens. But, in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose aura of invincibility has been part of his public image since he first ran for governor of California, the end of the honeymoon is not only proving a letdown. It is rapidly transforming him from public hero to public enemy and raising questions about whether he has a political future at all.
Having campaigned two years ago as “the people’s governor”, Mr Schwarzenegger now faces a barrage of opposition from those very same people who voted for him so enthusiastically – nurses, firefighters, teachers, parents, recent immigrants – almost all of whom he has managed to alienate through ill-chosen words or over-provocative policy prescriptions.
Yesterday, the governor’s staff was furiously backtracking from a speech Mr Schwarzenegger gave to a newspaper association convention in San Francisco, in which he urged the federal government to “close the borders” with Mexico to put an end to illegal immigration.
Not only did that statement put him considerably to the right of President Bush, who has proved quite progressive when it comes to managing and protecting the immigrant labour force. It was also widely interpreted as pandering to an extreme, quasi-racist position entirely out of step with the Californian mainstream. The fact Mr Schwarzenegger is an immigrant did not help matters.
It was the latest in a series of gaffes and gratuitously insulting remarks that Mr Schwarzenegger has made in public recently. The state’s nurses are still fuming at his vow to “kick their butts” because they want to increase nurse-to-patient ratios. And the state’s Democrats, who run most things outside of the governor’s office, have broken off their once cosy relationship with him, not least because he accused them of being “girlie men”.
This Tom Tomorrow reminds us what’s really wrong with Ann Coulter with a couple of quotes:
“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”
–Ann Coulter as quoted in the New York Observer, Aug. 20, 2002
“RE: McVeigh quote. Of course I regret it. I should have added, ‘after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters.'”
–Ann Coulter, from an interview with Right Wing News
This is turning into a regular blog of death.
This weekend, Andrea Dworkin, the famed feminist and anti-porn activist died. She was 59 years old.
Dworkin is one of those people about whom it is rare to hear anything intelligent about, from either her supporters or detractors. She was either a bold, brilliant warrior for feminism or a vicious, man-hating bitch. Few had anything else to say about her, and bringing up her name in a discussion about feminism often worked as a variation on Godwin’s Law, ending all intelligent conversation right then and there. The paradox was that her position in feminism during the 1970’s and 80’s was so important that there was virtually no way to avoid bringing her up at some point.
I count myself among her detractors, and I’ve certain damned her name passionately in the past. I considered her the enemy of many of the things that I hold dearest: freedom of speech, gender equality, and positive sexuality. For Dworkin, there were two kinds of people: men and women. Other than that, she saw few class, social, or psychological distinctions, and she could easily break down all conflicts into a polarized power struggle between the two. But still, my heart always sympathized just a little with her. As offensive as I found her, she did go through many vicious and brutal experiences in the early part of her life. Whenever I listened to interviews with her, it was obvious that she was sharply intelligent and well-read, a great intellect who was one of the great anti-intellectuals of her time. The feminism that she represented to me was one that, instead of smashing open the doors that locked our society into narrowly-defined gender roles, leaned up against those same doors, keeping them locked. Read her works, like Intercourse, and the picture she paints of male and female sexuality is not at all different from what priests and imams have told us for centuries. Despite her tirades against men, her work helped silence and stifle many of her fellow women and lesbians, especially those whose sexualities were outside of the mainstream, such as practitioners of BDSM and erotic writers.
Susie Bright has no real reason to love or even respect Dworkin; certainly Dworkin never expressed any for her while she was alive. And yet, Bright’s writing has always been compassionate and even admiring of Dworkin. True to form as our premier sexual intellectual, Bright’s blog has some fascinating things to say about Andrea Dworkin in her passing that neither villify nor sanctify her, and even embraces her as a kind of mother figure:
Here’s the irony… every single woman who pioneered the sexual revolution, every erotic-feminist-bad-girl-and-proud-of-it-stiletto-shitkicker, was once a fan of Andrea Dworkin. Until 1984, we all were. She was the one who got us looking at porn with a critical eye, she made you feel like you could just stomp into the adult bookstore and seize everything for inspection and a bonfire.
The funny thing that happened on the way to the X-Rated Sex Palace was that some of us came to different conclusions that Miss Dworkin. We saw the sexism of the porn business… but we also saw some intriguing possibilities and amazing maverick spirit. We said, "What if we made something that reflected our politics and values, but was just as sexually bold?"
I’m impressed by the humanity that Bright gives Dworkin, a woman who spent so much of her life trying to dehumanize others, and who condemned her personally. Feminism has moved beyond Dworkin in the past 15 years, and more towards her daughters who, like Susie Bright, adopted her rebellious fire and rejected her authoritarianism. In the end, it’s a move that makes us all stronger.
“Mankind shall not be free until the last king is strangled in the entrails of the last priest.” –Denis Diderot
Dying seems to be very trendy lately.
If doing it yourself isn’t terribly sexy, then at least the drama of oohing and ahhing and making great big Bambi eyes at the passing of someone who’s lived and died in public seems to have a certain charm to it. Pope John Paul II’s imminent death seemed to become obvious just as everyone was getting fed up with Terri Schiavo, and then just as she went, the death clock started ticking for Karol Wojtyla, the 265th man to sit as Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. The last two months have been like a never-ending stream of death porn; the emotions of the news coverage become more and more ejaculatory with every broadcast, and the emotional tone now feels like reality has become a TV movie co-produced by Oprah Winfrey and Seymour Butts.
I expect that any moment now, “Pope” will be deemed too low and unworthy a title for one of John Paul’s spirtual magnitude, and that he’s displaced Christ in the Catholic hierarchy, if not God Himself. The outpouring of grief and mourning for the Pope isn’t limited to Catholics; the man’s virtue is so unquestioned that each of us is expected to add our voice to the choir as automatically as breathing. By dying, he only became more sacred and untouchable. The worst thing that can be said about him, according to the media consensus, is that he was a little old-fashioned in some of his views, in the same way that an aged but beloved uncle might.
I don’t feel any grief or reason to mourn the Pope’s death. I don’t especially feel that he left this world a better place than when he came; his life did not give me reason to reconsider my skepticism about religion, especially the Christian religion, or my suspicion of the Catholic Church as a political institution.
Despite the never-ending tributes to Pope John Paul II’s humanity, what really defined his reign were his efforts to solidify church doctrine and the hierarchy that enforced it both in the clergy and the laity. Again and again, he showed that he valued church doctrine even above human lives. In the nearly 27 years he sat in the chair of St. Peter, for example, he used that office to become the world’s most powerful, most well-known fag-basher. His words were softer and less outrageous than those of Fred Phelps, the Kanas preacher who’s made his name by showing up at the funerals of AIDS patients bearing signs that scream “GOD HATES FAGS!!!”, but the intent and the message was the same. Phelps, in his way, is a breath of fresh air for his lack of pretentiousness. No one can mistake his intent or apologize for it without becoming a full partner in his hate. The Pope, both when speaking for the church and in his own philosophical writings, framed doctrinal homophobia in hypocritical rhetoric that strove to blend love and damnation into the same lines. In 1986, the Pope issued his “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,”which, while showing token generosity and compassion in tone, condemned homosexuality in no uncertain terms:
Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.
The Papal Letter lists a plethora of Scriptural arguments, but the dominant theme is the same one that springs up again and again in the Church’s ideas about sex — folks just might be havin’ too much fun without makin’ babies:
To choose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent. [Italics added]
Unlike the rest of the world, the Pope didn’t become less of a homophobe over the next 19 years; on the contrary, as queer liberation groups fought and gained recognition of their humanity from their neighbors, their families, their workplaces, and yes, even their churches, Pope John Paul II developed even harsher and harsher words to condemn gays and lesbians. In 2005, he went so far as to call homosexuality and the movement towards same-sex marriages, “part of a new ideology of evil… which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”
In normal times, words like these might be dismissed as merely hurtful, the words of an increasingly senile but still beloved uncle. But the Pope issued his letter just as the full impact of AIDS was becoming apparent to everyone, not just the homos and addicts. People were dying, and continue to die in devastating numbers, and the Pope chose to turn away from their faces in favor of the mystical integrity of doctrine. His lackeys, the bishops he appointed during his reign, not only condemned condoms on a moral level, but passionately lied about their scientific value, claiming that condoms don’t stop the HIV virus. (For anyone who hasn’t got the news yet: They do.) Four hundred years after the Church executed Giordano Bruno for advocating a heliocentric solar system, and 359 years after the death of Galileo, silenced by the Church for the same thing, Pope John Paul II admitted that the Church had erred in both instances; but the actions of the Church under him showed that the same old tricks were considered legit in the eyes of the clergy. Truth must always be bent to the service of moral rectitude, no matter how many thousands die.
The cost of the Vatican’s policies regarding homosexuality, birth control, women, the family, and abortion
were much higher outside of America, in countries where the Church often has direct influence not only culturally, but in the material realm. In many parts of Africa, where AIDS is epidemic, the Catholic Church is the main or sole provider of medical information and services, meaning that they control how the people will and will not protect themselves.
In short, although the Pope spoke against war and the death penalty and the need to build a “culture of life,” he repeatedly allied himself with a culture of death. Real people died and will continue to die because of his policies. I cannot even give him the benefit of the doubt, as most of the media eulogies do, and acknowledge his moral sense while agreeing to disagree. The Vatican’s policies against homosexuality are hateful. Their policies against birth control and women are antiquated, and all are lethal. Pope John Paul II could be seen as a wise, kindly old man because he lived cloistered from the consequences of his decisions, away from the faces of the dying and starving. We, who live in the real world, do have to live with those consequences.
In the end, Pope John Paul II showed us where his soul really lay, which issues drove his heart. The capstone of his reign was the scandal over child abuse by the clergy, and it was an issue that struck deep in the heart of even the most faithful members of the laity. It was the chance of the Pope and his lieutenants to act decisively and to display moral integrity in redressing wrongs done to the most vulnerable members of the Church. Instead, the Vatican issued a lukewarm condemnation and Cardinal Bernard Law, who had actively protected the worst offenders, was given a higher position in Rome to allow him to escape criminal prosecution in the U.S. In contrast, the Vatican instructed politicians on their duties to uphold Church doctrine in a “Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life,” and John Kerry was publicly berated and denied Communion for supporting abortion rights.
I’m not dancing on Pope John Paul II’s tomb, but neither am I mourning him. I hope that the next Pope will perhaps start to drag the Church forward into the 18th century, but as hopes go, that’s a small one, at best.
The Florida voting fiasco was a huge blow against democracy, which is why it’s even more important that this election go well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like a possibility at this point. Even Jimmy Carter, as honest and decent as man as has ever held elected office, has given up hope that there’s any possibility of a fair election in Florida thanks to the craven partisanship of its officials.
The new glitch in the election process, though, comes from Ohio, home to Diebold electronic voting machines, my birthplace, and my mother’s family. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell is trying to restrict the ability of newly-registered voters to cast their ballots by demanding all voter registration cards be printed on 80-stock paper, as required by Ohio law. If you submitted your registraton on paper any thinner than 80-stock, the original registration will be tossed and a new form mailed to the voter. Not surprisingly, this bureaucratic stalling tactic is causing a lot of fury not just in Ohio, but across the country. The new voters who are being tossed out are disproportionately Democratic, recruited by organizers against Bush. The message is pretty clear and direct: the Republicans are opposed to democrats, whether with a small d or a big one.
Would somebody please explain to me why Jimmy Swaggart is still considered relevant to anything? Even by the low standards established by the Christian Right, this asshole is an embarrassment. In 1987, he was caught with a prostitute named Debrah Murphee, who claimed in an interview with Penthouse that not only did enjoy fucking her, but tried to talk her into letting him have her 9-year-old daughter. For his sins of using whores, pornography, and attempted pedophilia, he was defrocked for one year by the Assemblies of God. His public response was to break down in tears on his television ministry, begging the forgiveness of god and all the suckers who’d been sending him money for years. Three years later, in 1991, he got nailed in a car with another prostitute.
Apparently, though, neither experience was especially humbling. Swaggart rose to a new level of hatefulness during his September 12 service, when he told his audience that if a gay man ever looked at him that way, “I’m going to kill him and tell God that he died.” (Y’know, Jim, Cain tried that, too.) Even more horribly, this was greeted by laughter and applause from his audience.
Apparently laughter was exactly the response that Swaggart was going for, because after a week of public criticism by gay groups and anyone else with a shred of common decency, Swaggart told us not to take it so seriously, ‘coz it was just a joke. Again, Swaggart is making public apologies, but he’s not breaking into tears this time. Instead, he claims that it was just a “silly cliche,” and that “I will continue to preach against homosexuality, but do it in the right way.”
Sometimes I forget, just for a moment, how sick and rotten to the core the Christian Right is. I’d like to thank Jimmy Swaggart for reminding me.
This post dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard.
Here’s something to flash at any friends of yours who insist on defending Bush’s “tax cut,” or for that matter, who feel that making corporations pay taxes is just the most destructive thing possible for our economy. According to a study conducted jointly by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) , most corporations aren’t paying diddly when the taxman comes around:
“The data indicate that in 2003, the average American taxpayer paid more in federal income taxes than AT&T, Time Warner, and Disney combined,” said Steve Hill of the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, a local think tank that has examined state corporate tax issues. Together, those companies earned $8.7 billion, but received an estimated $543 million in federal tax rebates.”
If you’re not outraged, then maybe you’ve just gotten too used to being screwed.
Add outraged and fearful and sickened and appalled, and you have my feelings about George W. Bush in a nutshell. It goes beyond simply disagreeing with the man; the only way that he knows how to express himself is through cheap, arrogant bullying that represents the worst in the American character. He seems to be guided by a sense of entitlement and autocracy that belongs nowhere in a constitutional democracy. Listening to his speeches and watching his implementation of policy, the first thing that comes to mind is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s famous exclamation: “Law? What do I care about the law. Hain’t I got the power?”
Some people with my same feelings and more wit have taken the initiative to declare April 1, 2004 National “I’m Embarrassed By My President” Day. To commemorate the day, they’re asking everyone to wear a brown ribbon or armband to signify their distaste for the loads of hot, steaming bullshit that have been flooding out of the Bush White House. This is a fucking great idea, in my book. Show your outrage and your embarrassment at the same time — wear that brown!