Friday, February 27, 2009

Born again and porn again: Is there a connection?

Who consumes porn? My immediate answer would have been: “Everybody.” By that I mean there would be few differences in the consumption or use of erotica between various groups. I would have been wrong.

One of the largest providers of erotica in the country allowed a study(pdf) of their credit card receipts after names and addresses and the card number were stripped out. The data that was left indicated the zip code of the purchaser. The company in question “runs literally hundreds of sites offering a broad range of adult entertainment.” The study controlled for the “amount of broadband access available in each region” since broadband is pretty much a requirement to download a lot of film material.

After all the controls were put into place what did they discover? In particular, are there any trends in the consumption of porn that we would find interesting? I think the answer is yes.

One state seems to subscribe to porn channels more often than the other states. I won’t leave you waiting—it was Utah. Yes, the Beehive state, the Deseret Kingdom of Mormonism has more porn subscribers than any other state. No doubt they are all fantasizing about their future multiple wives in the afterlife —or not. In second place is Mississippi, home of countless fundamentalists. The next tier of states in porn consumption are all Bible-belt states, but one: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida. The one exception is North Dakota, which at least has an excuse—it’s pretty lonesome up there.

The third tier of states tend include West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, New York and Maine. The top ten states in porn consumption were as follows:

North Dakota
West Virginia

You might notice that 8 of these states are considered Republican states while a ninth, Florida, is a toss-up with very strong Republican representation outside the large urban areas. It would be interesting to know if porn consumption within Florida increased in Republican areas.

Of the 10 states with the lowest consumption of porn, six of them went for Obama in the last election.

The trend seems to imply that conservatives, with their moralistic agenda, are more likely to buy porn than those who lean to the left. Other aspects of the study tend to confirm that. So far 27 states have passed laws against gay marriage, an issue conservatives find very important these days. Those states have 11% more subscribers to porn than the states that haven’t passed these bans.

Now these church-going, god-fearing, gay-hating, Bible-thumping types are not entirely hypocritical. The study found:
...a 1 percent increase in the proportion of people who report regularly attending religious services is associated with a 0.10 percent reduction in the proportion of purchases that occur on Sunday. This analysis suggests that, on the whole, those who attend religious services shift their consumption of adult entertainment to other days of the week….
When porn consumption is compared to the percentage of adults expressing conservative religious viewpoints, porn subscriptions are also more prevalent in states with more "traditional" values:
Where surveys indicate conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality. In states where more people agree that “Even today miracles are performed by the power of God” and “I never doubt the existence of God,” there are more subscriptions to this service. Subscriptions are also more prevalent in states where more people agree that “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage” and “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”
I think back to a discussion I had in Pretoria, South Africa, with the then sitting head of the board of censors. He was surprisingly forthright during the conversation. At the time, South Africa was trying to save apartheid by creating ostensibly independent homelands for blacks. Pretoria didn’t regulate the homelands the way they did the rest of the country. One result was that the homelands, which had no real border between them and South Africa, had gambling, adult video shops, and open prostitution.

The chief censor, who was himself an Afrikaner, joked about the homelands. He noted that it tended to be the fundamentalist-inclined Afrikaners who made the trips to the homeland to gamble, buy porn and have sex with black women. I also remember having a chat with a Afrikaans game ranger from the very rural Free State. He was gay, which I thought led to problems in finding sexual partners in the tiny town where he lived. This was compounded, I assumed, by the fact that the town was almost 100% Afrikaans, with very few English present. He assured me that the Calvinist Afrikaners were far more interested in the sins of the flesh than their English counterparts.

Prof. Benjamin Edelman, who conducted the study, offers a possible explanation for this trend. “One natural hypothesis is something like repression: if you’re told you can’t have this, then you want it more.” Hmm, if that is true, what does it mean for the school abstinence programs? Could that be the reason teenage pregnancy is higher in the Bible-belt states?

Photo: In fairness, while the Catholics have their own unique sexual problems, porn consumption doesn't trend upwards with Catholicism. But the photo was simply too cute to leave out.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Return to the Gulag

Each day, as the state expands into more and more areas of human life, we have to ask: Where will it end? Here is one potential answer.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Republicans announce core American value

Of late, a lot of people have said the Republican Party has apparently lost its previously-held core values. No fear, they have a new chairman, Michael Steele who has been touted as someone more moderate and thus willing to broaden the party past the narrow agenda of fundamentalist crazies. Mr. Steel has announced that the party will stand by a core, founding value. According to Steele, this value is a "core, founding value" of not just the Republican Party, but of the United States as well.

So what is newly discovered "core, founding value of this country" that Mr. Steele found? Is it limited government? Is it government leaving people alone? Is it equality before the law? NO! Here is the story.

Steele was appearing on a right-wing radio show and asked if it was time for God's Own Party to reconsider their opposition to any legal rights for gay couples. Steele said:
No, no, no. What would we do that for? What are you, crazy? No. Why would we backslide on a core, founding value of this country? I mean this isn't something that you just kind of lie, 'Oh well, today I feel, you know, loosey-goosey on marriage."
I must confess that in all my years on this planet, when I've heard the core values of this nation listed, I never heard that inequality of rights for gay couples was one of those values.

The Republican Party is hopeless. From high school until about five years ago the Republican Party was the one that I preferred win elections. That doesn't mean I'd vote for them, or the Democrats either. It just means that when the vote tally was done that I'd prefer the Republicans beat out the Democrats. George Bush changed that. Mr. Steele has made it clear that under his control the GOP will continue to pander to the American Taliban, and will continue to trample the real core values of this country: such as separation of church and state, equality before the law, and limited government. In light of those "values" my daily supplication to the heavens is that the Republican Party enter the dustbin of history as quickly as possible. Republicans are a blight on America and a danger to our true core values. Damn them all to hell.

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School choice and special needs students.

The importance of school choice for special needs students. About 4 minutes.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

FBI rescues teens like GW liberated Iraqis.

When it comes to reports in the media, it is sometimes important to notice what they don’t tell you. This is especially true when the media is just acting as a PR firm for politicians or various government agencies. You normally can tell when a report is taken almost verbatim from a press release issued by the agency in the question. These reports always sound very impressive but typically lack hard information. Consider this story dutifully reported by CNN.
Law enforcement officials arrested more than 500 people, and took custody of 48 juveniles in a coordinated 29-city weekend sweep aimed at combating child prostitution, the FBI announced Monday. Task forces made up largely of state and local police officers arrested and booked what authorities said were 464 adult prostitutes, 55 pimps and 55 customers on state charges. While most faced local charges, a senior FBI official said he expected there were would be some federal charges as well. The FBI Monday said 19 searches were conducted, netting a total of $438,000 in cash, plus illegal drugs, cars and computers.
The four dozen juveniles were recovered in the third phase of Operation Cross Country, an initiative that seeks to help child prostitutes and crack down on people who control them and patronize them.
We have two terms used in this report. One is “juveniles” and the other is “child” or "children". Both cover a wide range of individuals. In legal terms a child can be 17-years-old or 5-years-old. Which you are referring to changes the story rather dramatically. The entire report is clearly based on an FBI press release. My suspicion was that the FBI intentionally, and perhaps dishonestly, used the term “children” and not juveniles in their release. So I went to check it. Here is how they wrote their release:
“During the past week, the FBI joined our law enforcement partners in three-day national enforcement action campaign …. [which] led to the recover of 48 children being prostituted domestically. Additionally, 571 criminals were arrested on a combination of state and federal charges for the domestic trafficking of children for prostitution and solicitation. “We continue to pursue those who exploit our nation’s children,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III…. To date, the 32 Innocence Lost Task Forces and Working Groups have recovered 670 children…..
As I assumed, the FBI referred only to children and never once said juvenile. I suspect CNN added juvenile to make the report reflect what I suspect are the facts – that very, very few of those “recovered” were actually children. The FBI's motivation was to sensationalize the information as much as possible.

To illustrate my point, let us turn to how the anti Second Amendment lobby twisted the facts about gun deaths, in a very similar way. You will remember that they had some relatively high number of “children” who were supposedly killed with a gun every day. They included accidental deaths and murders in the same category. First, many of the victims were actually older than 18. And a large percentage of the others were over 16-years-of-age and often involved in violent gang activity. But say “children” and the public thinks of a rosy-faced little girl playing in her front yard – not a violent, 6’1”, 200 lb gang member protecting drug turf. If you need to sell an agenda you want the public to think of the first image and must discourage them from thinking of the second. Sure, its dishonest, but it works.

I have previously discussed the inconsistency of how the politicians and police define child. A hulking 17-year-old can be defined as an “innocent child” when it pleases the government or as a “dangerous criminal who must be treated as an adult” when that works to their benefit.

Who were the “children” recovered by the FBI? They don’t say. They have not released actual numbers indicating how many of those “recovered” (which means arrested) were of the various ages. They could all have been 17 for what we know. In fact, I suggest that the neglect of the FBI to release hard numbers is probably due to the fact that none of the “children” they arrested were actually what any of us would normally call children. Instead they are sexually mature adolescents. I’m not saying I think such adolescents should be involved in prostitution but I am saying the FBI is not being fully candid. This is a PR exercise meant to kept the child exploitation panic fueled.

Here is one potential piece of evidence. This is film footage of some of the FBI raid in process. What is missing? From my look at the footage what I don’t see is anyone who appears to be a child. The women who are being arrested all appear rather mature.

Some years ago the U.S. was engaged in a panic about “millions of missing children” and part of that panic was that many of the missing had been abducted into prostitution. Of course the actual numbers of children kidnapped by strangers was extremely small – numbers fluctuated between 64 and 150 per year, not millions. To reach the millions, they had to include all children taken by one parent in a custody conflict, all kids who ran away from home and all those who disappeared for a short time. Out of that panic the government created the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an agency which, of course, was heavily involved with this series of raids as part of a continuing campaign to justify their existence. This agency has to help fan the hysteria to stay employed.

At that time of that panic I read numerous reports claiming that there could be up to several million child prostitutes on the streets of America. I investigated all the hard data I could find. I used lots of different studies and government reports to attempt to discover the facts. One thing I discovered was that if you looked at the actual data of arrests for prostitution, around 90% of those arrested were of adults over the age of 18 and that almost all the remaining arrests were of teens above the age of 16. The numbers of actual children (prepubescents) involved appeared to be zero. Only a very small number of prostitutes were under 16. These same “children.” under different circumstances would be tried as adults by the same government that now brands them as children.

An Associated Press report gives us a little more information but then exhibits the second trick of the panic-mongers. First, they dropped the FBI's intentionally misleading label of “children” and spoke of “teenage prostitutes.” But they used the phrase “some as young as 13” to describe them. What does that mean?

When a report says “some as young as 13,” that is telling you that out of the entire lot the youngest person arrested was 13. So we know that no actual children were involved and that all the arrests were of pubescent teens. But there is still important data missing. How many of those arrested, or “rescued” as the FBI calls it, were 13? No report I’ve seen comes close to telling us. If I had to guess I would suspect that one of the women was 13-years-old. I think it is tragedy that a 13-year-old is prostituting herself. And I would rather not have even one girl of this age working the streets. But can’t we give the public realistic and accurate numbers so they understand the real magnitude of this issue?

Of course the government doesn’t want to do that. Real numbers make the panic look far smaller than it really is.

What I found interesting is that the current numbers, as they appear in media reports, don’t differ much from those I found twenty years ago. (By the way: “panic” refers to an overly-emotional campaign designed to exaggerate the real magnitude of a problem.)

About 10% of the prostitutes arrested were under the age of 18. None of the prostitutes arrested were prepubescent. We don’t know how many were of what age, but I doubt that if they were mostly in their lower teens that the FBI wouldn't have made that very clear. That they didn’t mention this indicates that almost all of those arrested were 16 years of age or older.

Another thing to consider is what is going to happen to these teens. The FBI said: “The vast majority of these kids are what they term ‘throwaway kids,’ with no family support, no friends. They’re kids that nobody wants, they’re loners. Many are runaways.” This is true. And most runaways are not in their lower teens but are older teens who are more able to care for themselves.

These teens basically will face imprisonment as part of their “rescue.” The government won’t call it prison but it will be prison in every other sense of the word. “Most of the children are put into the custody of local child protection agencies.” What we are being told is that they will be warehoused by bureaucrats until they turn 18, at that time they will be turned out onto the streets. What they will have to show for this is an arrest record that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. These teens are being “rescued” with all the care and finesse that George Bush used to “liberate” the Iraqi people. Some of them may eventually be grateful for it – if they survive the experience.

Who is to blame because teenage runaways are turning to prostitution? Could the laws passed by our politicians, which make it difficult or impossible for teens to find full-time jobs, be involved? I suspect that is the case. When you close legal markets to people they have to turn to illegal markets. Government regulations encourage runaways to turn to prostitution or pushing drugs. Our caring politicians are the biggest pimps around if you consider the role they play in closing other options to these teens.

Many kids run away because they must. There are plenty of abusive homes out there with kids being victimized. With legal work closed off to them, with them on the streets, hungry and afraid, they turn to what will earn them the most money in the shortest period of time. If the government really wanted to “rescue” these teens why not reform the laws that restrict them from finding legal employment? Instead, they turn them into criminals as their only means of survival and then they “rescue” them and incarcerate them in what is nothing more than glorified prisons.

I am sure the FBI sees this operation as an example of good government. I see it differently. This is just another example of how government helps create tragic problems for people and then uses its heavy hand to smash those people for having the problems the government helped create. Many of these kids were victims before they went on the streets and they chose the streets as their “best” alternative. The government’s answer is prison for them instead.
Turning the practitioners of non-violent vices into criminals is unlikely to be very helpful to them. That these teens now have criminal records will hinder any attempt to avoid prostitution. When they are eventually released from the juvenile prisons, their arrest record will make it harder to find legitimate employment. That may force them back into the only profession they know; one where an arrest record is the norm. How that helps these kids, I don’t know.

The reality is that many kids have to leave home. This will remain true for the rest of human existence. Some families are too toxic and the kids who escape them are making the best choice they can. Our bureaucratic labor laws, however, have closed the escape portals for these kids. Legal work is almost impossible to find on a full-time basis and that means the teen, who must leave home, has little option but to seek illegal work. If we want to help these kids we should be giving them more options, not turning them into prisoners with arrest records.

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Drug wars, bad results and good intentions.

This ought to be news. Whether it will be remains to be seen.

The “this” to which I refer is an editorial penned by three former presidents from Latin America. The authors are Fernando Cardoso, the former president of Brazil, Cesar Gaviria, the former president of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo the former president of Mexico.

With one voice the three former presidents announce: “The war on drugs has failed.” They are right. Here is some of what they write:
Prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and criminalization of consumption simply haven't worked. Violence and the organized crime associated with the narcotics trade remain critical problems in our countries. Latin America remains the world's largest exporter of cocaine and cannabis, and is fast becoming a major supplier of opium and heroin. Today, we are further than ever from the goal of eradicating drugs.

Over the last 30 years, Colombia implemented all conceivable measures to fight the drug trade in a massive effort where the benefits were not proportional to the resources invested. Despite the country's achievements in lowering levels of violence and crime, the areas of illegal cultivation are again expanding. In Mexico -- another epicenter of drug trafficking -- narcotics-related violence has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the past year alone.

The revision of U.S.-inspired drug policies is urgent in light of the rising levels of violence and corruption associated with narcotics. The alarming power of the drug cartels is leading to a criminalization of politics and a politicization of crime. And the corruption of the judicial and political system is undermining the foundations of democracy in several Latin American countries.
That the former leaders of three nations have publicly come forward to support the end of the drug war is big news.

Of course, I think these men are correct, not because illicit drugs are good but because drug wars are bad. If we investigate drugs there is no doubt in mind that we will find harm. If we investigate the war on drugs we find even more harm. In fact, the harm done by a bad solution to a real problem is worse than the harm done by the problem itself.

To call for legalizing drugs is to say one is pro-drugs. Just because I favor freedom of religion doesn’t mean I’m not really an atheist. One of the biggest fallacies in modern political thinking is that opposition to an alleged solution to a problem means one doesn’t believe there is a problem.

Lots of problems exist and there are lots of theoretical solutions to those problems. I oppose the drug war because it is a very bad solution that compounds the problem. I oppose the bail out and DC spending spree to the “crisis” because I believe those measures will make things worse, not better. My lack of support for socialized medicine is not because I’m pro-disease. Just because I want prostitution legalized doesn’t mean I want you to become a whore (if its already too late, please don’t tell me).

Another lesson from the drug war is that intentions don’t matter. Many of the people who constructed the war on drugs sincerely wanted to stop harm to our society and to individuals. They actually cared. Caring is not enough. In fact, caring doesn’t matter when it comes to solutions.

If you have the clap and an uncaring physician gives you penicillin it will work regardless of the physicians demeanor or concerns. If he shot you with sugar water, but really, really cared, it will also not matter. Good solutions work regardless of the compassion behind them. Bad solutions don’t work no matter how compassionate your motives.

I love cats. I’m very, very fond of them. Show me a kitten and my heart melts. If I’m driving down the road and a kitten runs in front of the car my compassion will shoot through the roof. But if I step on the gas, instead of the brakes, I’ll still be heartbroken over one flat cat. My love for cats won’t turn a bad solution (the gas pedal) into a good one (the brakes).

In fact, even bad intentions can have good consequences. The horrendously bad “bantu homeland” policies of the apartheid governments created little pockets of land that were “officially” not under South African jurisdiction. So those who enjoyed gambling just popped over this unmanned border and gambled. Erotica that was banned in South Africa was openly sold in the various homelands. Even television that was banned by the apartheid regime was legal over TV Bop (short for Bophuthatswana).

Since the government of Bophuthatswana was nominally independent it could allow television that was banned by the South African government. And since television signals are not stopped by the imaginary lines politicians draw in the sand those signals were available to South Africans. The result was that many people could watch news that was blacked out in South Africa, or television shows that were banned.

The homelands were a policy built entirely on bad intentions. Yet many of the unintended consequences were beneficial to freedom. Similarly many of the best intended policies that float about will have entirely negative unintended consequences.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

This is really sick.

Michael Guglielmucci was one of those fundamentalist evangelists. His territory was Australia where he was an Assemblies of God minister. In this video of him you will see him getting all emotional with an oxygen tube sticking into his nose.

The reason he gave for the oxygen tube is that he had terminal cancer. He had this terminal cancer for the last two years. He wrote a song about how Jesus could heal him, called Healer. The problem is that it was all a lie. Guglielmucci never had cancer. He didn't need an oxygen tube. Gugliemucci went so far as forcing himself to vomit and apparently pulling out his own hair. His own wife was fooled and quit her job to care for him. Guglielmucci went so far as to fake emails from medical authorites which he shared with family and friends.

I'm not particularly shocked by the fraud. Such things are pretty common in Mr. Guglielmucci's profession.

Of course, Rev. Guglielmucci has an excuse as to why all this happened: it's the fault of porn. He goes so far as to claim he is addicted to porn and has been for 16 years. Sure, that's it. Why is it that these people immediatley come up with excuses like this.

In the video you see Guglielmucci getting all emotional begging for forgiveness, on the verge of tears. But notice how he pulls the same emotional stunt on stage when he speaks about his illness. From what I saw, he spent much of his time in the interview acting emotionally distressed, even wiping away tears. Guglielmucci says that the porn was making him physically sick and that he invented the cancer lie to cover up the reasons that he was losing his hair and vomiting. Now this is about as legitimate a claim as the cancer claim. He backs it up with the same crying and quivering voice.

I read a story yesterday about Rupert Everett, the actor, who is on Broadway in Noel Coward's Blythe Spirit. In preparation for his role, Everett goes and meets a self-proclaimed psychic who claims she got some sort of reading from the bed that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe used. She claims that just touching the bed caused her to burst into tears because of the strong connection she psychically felt. Everett's response was: "Bursting into tears is the easiest thing in the book, actually."

When Jimmy Swaggart got caught humping hookers in his spare time he had a similar tearful confession. It was the same acting technique he used in his sermons where he turned the tears on and off as needed. For a satirical look at the Swaggart episode and his tearful confessions view this old skit with the Church Lady.

For an example of how these "evangelists" pull this tear stunt on a regular basis here is Swaggart in one of his sermons using this routine.

The amazing thing about these con men is that they put on acts when on stage, or in the pulpit, and then when it all falls apart they insist they aren't acting and then pull the same routine in their confession. In addition, they avoid taking responsibility for what they do. Guglielmucci blamed the whole thing on porn. Ted Haggard came up with the claim that he was molested as a kid by an unnamed friend of his father's. When Rep. Foley was caught coming on to Congressional pages he blamed it on an unnamed priest molesting him as a boy.

Since "addiction" to porn is a rather meaningless phrase, the excuse is great. Ditto for the claims about molestation. No one saw these molestations. No one was convicted. No evidence exists. It is the easiest claim in the world to make. Demanding some evidence for such claims simply brings on attacks from the abuse industry who demand that the "victims" be believed no matter how unbelievable the claims, no matter how often they are found to be lying.

And while these kind preach about morality with a rather sickening regularity, when they get caught not living up to their own sermons they immediately look for a scapegoat to blame. You never get a confession saying: "Yea, I lied. I did it because I liked the attention." Or, "Sure I had an affair, it felt good. I like sex so I did it." Instead of taking personal responsibility, they want to blame porn, drugs, depression, the Devil, molestation and so forth. The blame lies outside themselves. Previously I spoke of "weasel apologies", this is similar, this a weasel confession. It is a confession where a "sinner admits he has sinned without taking responsibility for his sin."


Prophets or Quislings: The choice for libertarians.

Over the last few months I have had to discuss various matters with Dr. Nathaniel Branden. As a result I have been rereading various essays and articles, which he wrote over the years. Tonight I picked up the October, 1971 issue of REASON magazine, which has an extensive interview with Branden.

In the interview he is asked about what advice he would give to the then burgeoning libertarian movement. His reply is quite interesting.
I think it’s unfortunate that Libertarians so often leave the initiative to the Leftists. For example, it was the Leftists who were the first—publicly and in a big way—to oppose our involvement in Viet Nam. It was the Leftists who were the first—publicly and in a big way—to oppose the draft. It was the Leftists who were the first—publicly and in a big way—to denounce racism in this country.

Never mind that the Leftists had their own motives for doing so and that those motives would not be the motives of Libertarians. The fact remains that we should have never have involved ourselves in Viet Nam, the draft is evil, and racism is contemptible. Libertarians—the true defenders of individual rights—should have been the first to speak up on these subjects, loudly and clearly and publicly.

I don’t mean that these are the only issues to which Libetarians should address themselves. Far from it. But it would have been immensely important had Libertarians been the first to speak up on these problems.

Libertarians don’t seem to know what the vital issues are, where the battle lines most need to be drawn, and which issues should be attacked first. They don’t seem to have a good sense of practical reality in these matters.
Dr. Branden has often, in his career, zeroed in on some very important aspect of the psychology of libertarians. I think these comments actually are very telling and wish that Dr. Branden had expanded on them at the time. I don’t know what explanation he would give if asked why he thought this problem existed. As things now stand we are planning to meet up in a couple of months time and I shall do my best to remember to ask him about this, if time allows.

Dr. Branden’s comments got me to thinking about this issue. First, I look inward to investigate my own actions and thoughts. My inclination has been to speak out on such issues. I have always been that way. Still in grade school myself I remember making black armbands to wear in protest of the Viet Nam war—whether I actually ever had the courage to put them on I actually don’t remember.

As a young man I remember riding in a car as it drove past a gay bar. If my research is right it was a bar called The Gold Coast, which was founded in the late 1950s. It had numerous police cars surrounding it with their lights flashing. The cops were bringing the men out of the bar and taking them off to be booked: their only crime was to be gay. What I most remember was looking out the back window of the car and watching this scene and trying to figure out why this sort of thing had to happen. I never could understand it. I still don’t.

As a boy I watched the black and white news footage that showed the civil rights activists marching through the South hoping to bring equal legal rights to the black community. The various scenes of the police ruthlessly, and without provocation, beating people up offended me.

Even when I got suckered into Christian fundamentalism I was having a hard time buying the agenda. I was spoon-fed ultra-Right garbage about lots of things. Some of it I bought. What I had trouble with was those aspects of the agenda that targeted others for hate.

One of the key things that helped me escape fundamentalism was when some church people took me to a political rally held at someone’s home. I was shocked to see men in uniforms with swastikas on their arms. The leader of this sad collective gave a passionate speech about how the Jews must be killed, how the Blacks must be killed, and how the gays must be killed. I don’t believe he used the same polite terms that I just did. His preferred method of execution was to feed these people live into a one of those large mulchers that grind up trees.

That began my journey out of fundamentalism. When I looked in the face of hatred I knew I didn’t fit there.

I have always had this tendency to want to defend the powerless – perhaps because, at times, I have been powerless. I have been concerned about the oppressed because I have known oppression. I have fought hated because I have been hate’s victim. When I look into the faces of those who are weak, who are powerless, oppressed and victimized I see my own reflection looking back at me. My humanity in reflected in their own.

That such things have caused me great pain reminds me that similar things cause pain to others. Of course I identify with the Mexican seeking a better life for himself and his family. I don’t identify because I am Mexican, since I am not. I identify with him because we share a common humanity.

Over the years I have had the freedom to make choices. Sometimes I botched those choices spectacularly. I have many regrets about decisions I made. But it was important that I make those choices and that I suffer experience the regrets. My freedom was central to my humanity. And the freedom of others is central to their humanity. To rule others is to deny them their equal humanity. It is to substitute your will for their own.

We’ve all experienced the pain of having our will violated by someone else. That experience means I respect the free choices of others, even when they are clearly the wrong choices. I don’t understand those who see things differently here—those who respond to having their will violated by wishing to become the masters of others. Whether their desire to control others is done out of “good intentions” or hatred matters not. Whatever their intentions they hurt others through their actions.

So when I look inside myself I don’t see the tendency that Dr. Branden spoke of. But I have seen it among many libertarians.

My thought is that this happens because many libertarians have come to the philosophy from the political Right. Conservatism is an inherently stagnant philosophy. It clings to the past as good simply because it is the past. It is a fearful political viewpoint that abhors change the way nature abhors a vacuum. Hayek has discussed this well in his essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative.” Oliver Brett wrote an entire book on this, In Defense of Liberty.

Conservatives fear every change. But the Left embraces every change as a revolutionary chance to change things. The Left blindly supports change for the sake of change. The Right fears it. Classical liberalism is somewhere in between. It neither fears change nor embraces it without thought.

The Left’s tendency to embrace radical change for its own sake meant that they were too easily duped by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro and others. They ended up in bed with genocidal maniacs. This did much to discredit their political views. But at the same time it forced many classical liberals to abandon their alliance with the Left and form an alliance with the Right. That alliance had one primary purpose: to counter the drive toward communist dictatorships, which many on the Left supported.

Decades of this battle meant that many liberals—and when I say liberals I mean classical liberals—were in constant contact with conservatives. As such they adopted conservative temperaments. When modern prosperity allowed humans to seek out what Abraham Maslow called our “higher order needs” for self-actualization the conservative temperament said to resist.

With each new cultural explosion the conservative was defending the past, no matter how bad the past was. And libertarians, acclimated to being allied with such backward-looking types, followed suit.

One example I can think of was a pamphlet put out by a libertarian foundation. This was published at the time that the civil rights movement was fighting for equal rights in the South. From a libertarian perspective most of what they fought for was right and honorable. Some of it was not.

Conservatives fought back, wanting to stave off any and all changes. These libertarians published a booklet which discussed in legal detail why individual business owners had the right to withhold their services to others for any reason they wished, including race. Technically speaking there is no logical fallacy that I can detect in that essay. I would agree with it. What I question is why that was the side of the civil rights movement that they tackled.

We were witnessing large-scale attacks, by the Southern states and their police forces, to extinguish the right of free protest against injustice. We had police officers urging vicious dogs to rip into the flesh of human beings who asked for the right to register to vote. We had Southern juries covering up for the murderous activities of the cowards in the Ku Klux Klan. State governments were forcing bus companies to refuse to treat black passengers with equal respect. Fire bombs were being thrown into churches filled with children. Yet, out of this landscape of atrocities, these libertarians, who were good people, decided to focus on the issue of whether or not a barber should be forced to cut the hair of a black man.

There were a hundred legitimate ways in which libertarians could have stood up for individual rights against an oppressive state regime that was doing violence to millions of people. Instead they concentrated on a small issue of limited importance. Worse yet, by picking that issue, they seemed to be siding with the conservative forces of oppression. Their first reaction was to side with the status quo, in other words, they acted like their conservative allies.

Today there are two major political battles taking place in the cultural arena. One is gay marriage and the other is our war on immigrants. And while many good libertarians are working to establish equality before the law for gays, and stop the war on peaceful immigrants, far too many libertarians are on the wrong side.

Just as libertarians left Viet Nam, the draft and civil rights to the Left we are leaving marriage equality and immigration to the Left today. Some just aren’t involved because the issues don’t touch them directly. They aren’t gay; they aren’t immigrants, so why worry? Instead they may continue to fight for gun rights, a battle that is largely won in fact.

One reason libertarianism is often seen as heartless is that libertarians are too often absent when assaults on people take place. They are afraid to stand up to the mob.

When the young schoolboy, Lawrence King, was brutally executed by another boy who hated him because he was gay, people were horrified. How many libertarians bothered to express outrage? If someone gets pulled over for carrying a firearm, in a state where it is not permitted, libertarian blogs light up in indignation. Both are violations of rights. One meant that the victim spent some time in jail and faced a trial. Another meant a small boy bled to death on the floor of his school classroom. Guess which one they talked about?

Libertarians need to follow Dr. Branden’s advice. There are issues that are igniting passion. By remaining silent you endorse the status quo, or at least you give that impression. By focusing on the motes in the eyes of the victims, and ignoring the beams in the eyes of the oppressors, you send the rather unsubtle message that the victims deserve their fate. When you do that, you do liberty a disservice and undermine the very principles of justice, which ought to compel us to fight for the rights of all.

The more powerless someone is, the more victimized they are, the greater the mob mentality against them, the more necessary it becomes for libertarians to come to their side. The conservative mentality says that the greater the size of the mob gathered to lynch someone, the more likely it is that the person deserves to be lynched. What libertarians ought to know is that this means that justice is more likely to be trampled upon, that rights are more likely to be violated.

When a large mob gathers to burn the witch it is vital that we libertarians speak out in opposition. The short-term, maximize-the-vote mentality says that is disaster. One never wins popularity contests with a mob by stopping them from burning the witch.

My view looks farther ahead. One day the mob will wake up and realize what monsters they have become. Lynch mobs eventually come to their senses. When they do they remember the lone voices that spoke out against their cruelty and they respect them. Helen Suzman was vilified for decades for being the one voice in South Africa’s parliament to speak against the inhumanity of apartheid. Beyond her own constituency there was no hope for her or her party being elected. But apartheid fell and Suzman was honored in nation after nation for being that one lone voice in a sea of anger.

When we side with the safety of the conservative view, when we fear to stand against the mob mentality, we gain some short-term support from the mob, but we lose respect.

Today the mob continues to do horrific things to people. Libertarians will lose votes today by standing up to that – this is precisely why the conservatives who run the LP today have played down the social issues. But in gaining those short-term votes (and not very many of them, I might add) they lose long-term respect.

It is said that a prophet is never respected in his own land. That is false. It is true when he first arrives and preaches his message that the people must repent of their egregious errors. At that moment he is hated, he may even be martyred for raising his voice. Eventually the day comes when the prophet is honored and acknowledged and the people embrace his message.

Unless libertarians are willing to be the prophets of our day, and to stand up for the rights of all people, especially those most vilified and hated, we shall be forever relegated to the footnotes of history. If we can have the courage to stand for justice and individual rights, in the face of popular opinion, the day may come when people see the wisdom of our philosophy. If, instead of playing a prophetic role, we seek the approval of the mob, we shall be forever be following the mobs as they burn their victims. We will become the Quislings of liberty.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

They have more than one target.

One of the things that many people don't understand about the Christian Right is that bashing gays is not their only hobby. They are willing to bash others as well.

They bash gays today because they can. But their ultimate list of targets is much, much wider.

These theocrats want to impose their religion on everyone. Sure they can't force you get "borned again" but they can use the violence of the state to regulate your reading, drinking, smoking, etc. There is no limit of what they are willing to regulate because they think Jesus tells them to. Consider how they have led campaigns to ban vibrators as one example.

Down in Georgia they are holding hearings on SB 16 which would allow the individual counties to hold votes on whether or not to allow the sale of alcohol on Sunday. The theocrats flooded the chambers with teens from their churches lobbying against this. Remember this doesn't even legalize alcohol sales. It just allows the people in each county to vote on the measure. But even that freedom is too much for the religious kooks.

One Bible-besotted teen, Jacob Chambliss said: "I am opposing this bill because I think that alcohol is wrong. The Bible says that it's wrong." The child is not particularly bright as the Bible doesn't actually say that at all. It does recommend that people not drink "strong drink" when they go into the temple but outside the temple no such prohibition exists. Paul did say: "Be not drunk with wine." However, that seems to be saying don't get drunk, not "don't drink". Non drunken consumption is not forbidden. If Paul is the author of 1st Timothy he also said deacons must not be "given to much wine" not to "no wine". It seems to mention over-consumption not consumption.

The problem is that fundamentalists, as much as they are guilty of bibliolatry are often woefull ignorant of the book itself. They believe what they believe and routinely claim the Bible endorses their position whether it does or not.

Sounding like a good socialist the Rev. Willis Moore, of the Council on Moral & Civic Concerns (read busybodies) said: "What matters to us, and what should matter to our leaders, is not selfish, not petulant, nor greedy interest. What matters to us is the common good. What is before us is a Pandora's Box of enormous threat to the common good." Actually what is before is a buffoon deluded by the idea that he speaks for the creator of the universe.

The gay bashing is just one small part of the authoritarian agenda of the Religious Right. And I note to our friends in "big tent libertarianism" that the morality agenda of the Right is not because they are worried about big government, they love big government. They bullshit. The fact of the matter is that fundamentalists regularly lie about their agendas.

Consider Rev. Richard Angwin, who I believe is now gone from the scene as I can find nothing about him. Rev. Angwin led the anti gay campaign in St. Paul-Minneapolis. Angwin then went around the US giving lectures to other fundamentalists on how to engage in similar campaigns in their own state. One of the things Angwin urged them to do was to hide their full agenda. He said they should stick to the one issue and get people to support them and not alienate them with the rest of their agenda, which he said included banning "card playing", "Hollywood movies" and "dancing". He suggested what is called "lying by omission".

Others lied by commission. Some years ago I was sent to Indianapolis to write a story about a Moral Majority rally run by Rev. Greg Dixon. Dixon ran a huge fundamentalist church and recently they got one of their ministers, Don Boys, elected to the state legislature as a Republican (of course). One of Boys' first piece of legislation was the misnamed "Right to Decency" bill which would have made it a felony to be gay. And remember felonies mean jail time. Boys supported the bill telling his congregation "I don't have perverts; I just want them in jail away from decent, innocent people. That's what my bill to reinstate sodomy as a crime would have done."

At this rally the rotund loud-mouth Jerry Falwell appeared and urged Christians to support this legislation. A few weeks later Falwell was at a press conference in Chicago. He gave some line about how the Moral Majority is simply opposed to "special rights" for gay people and nothing more. He lied. For this statement to be true Falwell would have had to believe that one "special right" for gays is not being incarcerated for being gay. But, as I've documented before, Falwell has lied in public repeatedly. Of course, today he's dead. I suggest if he weren't dead he'd still be telling lies.

My point is that fundamentalists will purposely try to deceive the public about what they want. The anti gay campaigns are merely fronts for them. They are not just about this issues, although they are particularly obsessed by it. They want far more. And as their actions in George show prohibitionism is one of them. They say that all they want is morality. But what they consider morality is a very wide category.

When I attended one of their schools, and later one of their colleges, the morality rules were quite extensive. Moral issues for them included the following:

• dancing -- strictly forbidden.
• attending any movie theater no matter what was shown
• having a hair cut that allowed hair to cover the ears
• rock and pop music
• having a television on campus (it was even suspect at home but allowed)
• any alcohol in any amount
• "mixed bathing" by which they meant swimming in a pool with both sexes present
• reading books with sex scenes or swear words
• playing any game of cards
• all forms of gambling, including the lottery
• women wearing any kind of pants
• women wearing dresses that were too short (they measured them to check)

Things haven't changed that much in fundamentalist circles. Consider some of the rules for students at the fundy Bob Jones University:

• men must be shaven with short sideburns
• tattoos or piercings are not allowed
• necklaces, earrings and bracelets not allowed
• sweaters must show the shirt collar
• socks are required during recreation
• all dresses, skirts, pants and shirts must be loose-fitting
• shorts only inside residence halls and fitness center
• clothes showing the Abercrombie & Fitch logo "are not acceptable to be worn, carried or displayed (even if covered or masked in some way).

While Mormons and conservative Catholics like to make common cause with the fundamentalists they simply don't know that fundamentalists only tolerate their existence because they don't have the power to shut them down. But, if you ask them, and press them on the matter, most fundamentalist leaders will confess that they do not believe that Catholics are even Christians.

The more extreme fundamentalists, such as the very authoritarian Gary North, in the Reconstructionist movement believe that Biblical morality is very bloody. They would execute people for homosexuality and adultery, for instance. They believe that slavery would have to be reinstituted and that the charging of interest would have to be banned.

Fundamentalist theologian Rousas Rushdoony said: “God’s government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” Gary North says that any woman who had an abortion should executed "along with those who advised them to abort their children."

Leading Reconstructionist Joseph Morecraft argues that government is not created to protect rights but to inflict punishment. He preaches that the state’s function is to “terrorize evil doers” and “to bring down the wrath of God on all those who practice evil.” The way to do this is to “enforce Biblical law” which means to have government “protect the church of Jesus Christ” from any competition. In a Christian republic: “Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody’s psuedo-rights to worship an idol.” (Catholics take note: they mean you.)

Rev. James Jordan goes one step further. Not only doesn’t government protect the right to worship in the context of other religions but it is required to execute anyone who so worships. “I suggest that in a Christian society... the death penalty is still appropriate for the crime of worshiping another god on the Lord’s day.” Greg Bahnsen says the death penalty applies to “someone who comes and proselytizes for another god or any other final authority (and by the way, that god may be man).” This is one way to deal with those pesky Jehovah’s Witnesses and Moonies. Of course since the Mormon church teaches that all men may become gods and all gods were once men a few million Mormons would be on the list for execution. Advocates of reason teach a “final authority” other than Jehovah and could find themselves alongside the other capital offenders.

Rev. Greg Bahnsen worked out a list of 15 capital offenses including sodomy, apostasy, Sabbath breaking, and blasphemy. In some cases he even saw the necessity of executing parents of sinful children. Rev. W.O. Einwechter, vice moderator of the Association of Free Reformed Churches, wrote in one Reconstructionist journal that even a grown child who “for whatever reason, has rebelled against the authority of his parents and will not profit from any of their discipline nor obey their voice in anything...” should be stoned to death. The execution of “rebels” he says, is just, merciful and preventative. The “integrity” of the family, according to North, “must be maintained by the threat of death.” Mark Rusdoony has some interesting perspectives on the wholesale bloodletting under a Christian republic. He says that in such a theocratic state: “Parents will be required to bring their incorrigible children before the judge and, if convicted, have them stoned to death.” Mr Rushdoony even claims a positive result to such executions as they will solve the divorce problem!! “The divorce problem will be solved in a society under God’s law because any spouse guilty of capital crimes [of which there are many] will be swiftly executed, thus freeing the other party to remarry.”

Reconstructionists seem to make anti Jewish remarks with ease. And it seems that Jews may be exterminated under the rule of God as well. Since Jews do not worship Jesus they are teaching a false doctrine which implies the death penalty. Chilton in fact says: “The god of Judaism is the devil.” If Reconstructionists actually believe this then Jews would have to be executed under a government of God.

And remember that these sort of theocrats even call themselves libertarians. I recently covered how some so-called "libertarian" groups like the Acton Institute are pushing a morally driven form of statism. They are advocates of state control and big government -- of course some would excuse this saying they are just "protecting the family." Consider the person of E. Calvin Beisner, a professor at a seminary and an "Adjunct Scholar" at the Acton Institute. Beisner was presented to me as an example of a libertarian-oriented Biblicist. Oh, really?

While Beisner stays away from calling for executions he does say that "government properly restricts or prohibits the sale of products that are inherently dangerous to life and health even in their proper use, and exacts retribution on and restitution from those who violate those restrictions." What is inherently dangerous to life? Drugs, no doubt. How about tobacco or alcohol? What about firearms?

There is no sexual freedom in Beisner's "libertarian" world. He grants everyone the right to have a heterosexual, monogamous, life long sexual relationship. Anything else is forbidden by law and the State is proper if it enforces those laws. “In enforcing the Seventh Commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ government properly prohibits rape, incest, and other sexual relations outside marriage and protects the sanctity of the family. In economic application, this means government may properly use its coercive power to prohibit and punish prostitution, the production and distribution of pornography... Laws restricting divorce also fall under this commandment.” Now please note that he wants Old Testament laws enforced by the State. If the law is sanctioned there then presumably the penalty is as well. And this means execution but he'd rather not say.

As for all those Old Testament laws that mandate executing sinners, Beisner of the Acton Institute says: “my use of Biblical Law presupposes simply that the same moral Law that was perfectly suited to mankind’s need for moral instruction four thousand years ago is perfectly suited to mankind’s need for moral instruction today. It imparts wise, important, and clear instruction for the economic activities of individuals, families, churches, societies, States, and the whole human race.”

One Reconstructionist, John Fielding, encapsulated their agenda in one sentence: "My God help us to shuck Thomas Jefferson for King Jesus."

I ask you: Are these people truly the allies of freedom? Do you really think they'll stop with just homosexuals?

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Good for Carol Ruth

I like Carol Ruth Silver, I always have. But my respect for Carol has increased substantially. Carol Ruth was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. And while there were many issues where Carol Ruth and I would be on opposite sides I never once questioned her motives: her conclusion, perhaps, but not her motives. She was elected the same year as Harvey Milk and was still on the Board when I meet her.

Carol Ruth, while on the political Left, has long been a supporter of Second Amendment rights. When I first met her it was after she penned an article (a wonderful article) entitled “Self-Defense, Handgun Ownership, and the Independence of Women in a Violent, Sexist Society.” Carol Ruth is still a vocal defender of gun rights and is a member of the Pink Pistols. Carol and her friend, Don Kates, an ACLU attorney, co-wrote many articles defending Second Amendment rights over the years.

Carol was good friends with Harvey Milk and served on the Board of Supervisors with him and Dan White, his murderer. That November day, in 1978, when White crawled through a basement window at city hall, in order to avoid the metal detectors, he intended to kill Harvey Milk, San Francisco mayor George Moscone and Carol Ruth Silver. White told a fellow police officer, years after the killings: “I was on a mission, I wanted four of them. Carol Ruth Silver, she was the biggest snake...”

In recent years Carol was the directing attorney for Prisoner Legal Services of the Office of Sheriff. But she resigned her position effective today. Carol has said: “I was participating in a system that made me feel criminal.” She told of one experience where a woman, who was in jail, needed Carol’s help to place her children in foster care. The woman was is in prison for pot charges. That upset Carol: “She should not be prosecuted, she should not be in jail, and here I was helping to place her children.” Silver announced that she was joining Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and would campaign to end the war on drugs.

I have excerpted some of Carol’s resignation letter below.
This is my letter of resignation and retirement, effective the 21st of February 2009.

In serving as the Directing Attorney at Prisoner Legal Services, I have found myself having to bite my tongue in talking to some prisoners about their charges -- at least half of them with nonviolent drug charges. I find it difficult to discuss the financial or child custody problems of a prisoner, when I cannot look them in the eye and justify their being in jail. His or her incarceration is as a result of their own actions, but much more so as a result of a mistaken, unfair, and unjust set of laws which criminalize drugs in our society, based on the failed model of Prohibition of alcohol which we enacted and then repealed.

Each of such prisoners is in our jail only because of our bad politics of drug regulation. It is this set of policies which is the most direct cause of the continued excessive incarceration rates in the US.

I find myself even more particularly distressed at prisoners incarcerated with charges of felony possession of marijuana for sale. Other charges are often added, to be dismissed before trial, just for the sake of pressuring the prisoner to plead guilty and accept a prison sentence for – what?

When it comes down to it, he or she is in jail for possession of marijuana, a substance scientific evidence shows definitively to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. The most dangerous attribute of marijuana is the US criminal justice system.

...I am anxious to have the opportunity to speak out against our present drug laws, and to work on the campaign for Repeal of Prohibition, Again – for repeal of the set of laws of Drug Prohibition which is as foolish, ineffective and counterproductive as was alcohol prohibition.

Photo: This photo shows Carol Ruth the day Harvey Milk was shot. On the left is then acting mayor Dianne Feinstein. Quiet honestly I'd rather have seen Carol be the one of the two to end up in the Senate, instead of Feinstein. But Carol was too principled for that. (Which is not to say I thought her principles were always right.)

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Friday, February 20, 2009

What a load of bullshit.

This blog takes a dim view of bigotry. But this ruckus over the cartoon in the New York Post is a load of B.S., piled high and stinking to high heaven. For the record here is the cartoon.

Now for some context. A woman in Connecticut, not far from where this paper is published and thus a story familiar to the readers, had a pet chimp. The animal was rather larger and when a friend came to visit the woman the chimp viciously attacked the woman. Police arrived when called by the woman and shot the chimp to death. This shooting was clearly warranted.

Now a cartoonist for the Post depicts the same scene with the comment: "They'll have to find some else to write the next stimulus bill." It is directed at the U.S. Congress which cobbled together this absurd piece of legislation that I suspect will push the country clearly into Depression.

Clowns like the silly Rev. Al Sharpton started screeching "racism" at the top of their high-shrilled voices. (Sharpton is one of the most self-serving, assholes on the American political scene, a moron who cries racism with little or no provocation simple for the purpose of seeing his ugly mug on television).

What made this racist?

Apparently the brain-dead Sharpton followers believe the chimp represents President Obama and find that an implication that blacks are monkeys. Here is a clue for the not-so-sharp Sharpton crowd -- your messiah, Mr. Obama, did NOT author the Stimulus Bill. How stupid can you be? It can't be referring to Obama because Obama did not write the bill in question. It was written mostly by a much of greedy white politicians pandering to special interest groups.

When I first saw the cartoon I immediately could see that it ridiculed Congress. But those obsessed with racism said it had "racist undertones". I fear they reveal more about their own psychological problems than those of others. That they see Obama in the cartoon chimp is them projecting onto the cartoon their own obsession. It is clearly not about Obama. The US congress is mostly white, mostly male and almost entirely venial. To compare Congress to a rampaging chimp might be a insult to chimps the world over but it is not racism.

A professional witch-sniffer, Andrew Rojecki (who has a book to sell on how images are secretly racist) claims this is racist because: "Well, who wrote the last stimulus bill? It's Obama and the Democratic Party, but really it's associated with one person--and that's Obama." Rojecki is just a con man.

Odd thing is that I've associated these asinine stimulus bills with George Bush and the Republicans. They got the ball rolling for them. The current Congress then took over in January and kept working with the pile of garbage that the Republicans concocted. They took the pile of garbage and added a lot more trash to it but they merely carried on what the Bush league was doing before them. Of all the politicians, the one I associated least with this measure, is Obama. He has been a cheerleader for it but he didn't write it. Rojecki is inventing this crap because it is the only way for him to sell his theory, which he hopes will lead to sales of his no doubt well-deservedly neglected book.

I find it shockingly racist of Sharpton and others to immediately see Obama in the image of the dead chimp. I do not believe the carton was meant to depict Obama, that would be a gross distortion of the facts about this bill. That people on the Left did find this image to be about him says more about their racism than it does about the cartoon. The term is "projection" people -- go look it up.


Guantanamo and Utah: the common link

Recently I was reading the testimony of Brandon Neely, a former guard at the US concentration camp at Guantanamo. I thought of it again tonight when reading an article in the New York Times regarding opposition to the play Rent being shown in a toned-down version at America high schools. I thought I saw a link. To explain that link let me explain each story first.

Much of what Neely said is highly disturbing. It is clear that the United States has lost any moral high ground it once held. Our government is acting in ways that our nation has always opposed. President Bush changed that. Funny how a moralistic bumpkin managed to destroy morality at that level.

Neely spoke of being at Guantanamo the first day the prisoners arrived. He says: “I went back to my tent and laid down to go to sleep. I was thinking ‘those were the worst people the world had to offer? Not what I expected.” I guess I was expecting people who looked like monsters or what-not.”

Neely spoke of the abuse that was heaped on some of these prisoners, including abuse he helped with. But he also spoke of how these individuals often seemed to him merely scared and frightened. Individuals told to drink something feared they were being poisoned and refused – for that they were physically assaulted. One man was forced to his knees. This man had seen members of his family executed this way and started quivering and fell to the ground in terror. Neely responded. Here is what he said:
He was instructed to go to his knees, which he did. My partner then went down and took off his leg shackles. I still had control of his upper body, and I could still feel him tensing up. Once the shackles were off my partner started to take off the handcuffs. The detainee got really tense and started to pull away. We yelled at him a couple times "Stop moving!" Over and over. Then he stopped moving, and when my partner went to put the key in that first handcuff, the detainee jerked hard to the left towards me. Before I knew it, I threw the detainee to the ground and was on top of him holding his face to the cement floor. At this time my partner had left the cage. The block NCOIC (or Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) was on the radio yelling code red which meant emergency on the block. Before I knew, I was being grabbed from behind and pulled out of the cage by the IRF team. They grabbed this man and hog-tied him. He laid there like that for hours that day before he was released from that position. A couple days later I found out from a detainee who was on that block that the older detainee was just scared and that when we placed him on his knees he thought he was going to be executed. He then went on to tell me that this man had seen some of his friends and family members executed on their knees. I can remember guys coming up to me after it was over that night and said "Man, that was a good job; you got you some". I did not feel good about what I did. It felt wrong. This man was old enough to be my father, and I had just beaten up on him. I still to this day don't know who was more scared before and during this incident me or the detainee.
Neely’s perception of these men, many of who are clearly innocent of any wrong doing, changed in the time he interacted with them. The more he knew the more troubled he was by what he was doing to them; the more troubled he was by what our government was doing to them.

The New York Times story on Rent seems a world away from Guantanamo. The musical Rent “centers on a group of artists, straight and gay, living in the East Village. Some are H.I.V. positive; some are drug addicts, some are in recovery.”

Some of the music was risqué but it was removed for the high school version of the play that was released. In all the play was toned down for the audience.

When Ron Martin wanted to do the play with his pupils at Corona del Mar High School the principle, Fal Asrani, protested. She said that she was unhappy with the “prostitutes” and the “homosexuals” in the story. There are no prostitutes in the story so that leaves, well it just leaves the homosexuals. Asrani tried to blame Martin for cancelling the show, which he says, is absurd. In fact, he’s still trying to get her to allow it to be produced (with all this publicity it would be standing-room only).

In Bridgeport, West Virginia, drama coach Charles Dillon proposed putting on Rent and told principle Susan Collins about it. The Times reports, “when he told Ms. Collins there were two gay couples in the musical, ‘she got flustered and worked up and expressed concerns.’”

The play was proposed for a high school in Rowlett, Texas and the same thing happened. “Even though the play has been edited (by committee, no less) to exclude such things as same-sex kissing, parents and an unnamed local minister still consider the project objectionable and don't want the play to be staged in their local school auditorium.”

One of the parents bitched that the play might teach tolerance. Michael Gallop said: “I don’t think its the school’s place to each my child diversity or tolerance of a lifestyle that I don’t accept.”

Now let me bring these two stories together by the common thread. Familiarity breeds respect. Neely was shocked that when he met the actual inmates at Guantanamo that he didn’t find them to be the monsters he expected. He became friendly with some and was convinced that many were clearly victims of the war and not terrorists at all.

What horrifies the people like Michael Gallop is that even a portrayal of gay people on stage undermines the bigotry they are trying to instill in their kids. It is easy to hate an imaginary monster that you create entirely in your head. When that monster becomes a human being things change. Bigotry rests on the ability of the bigot to convince himself that the object of his hatred is “the other”. Bigotry requires a belief that the hated are somehow so different that perhaps they don’t even qualify as human. The more the bigot can convince himself that “the other” is alien and strange, the easier it is to engage in cruelty and violence toward them.

Every social movement that promoted bigotry and hatred did so by first building an image of the group that was being targeted that made them “different” from everyone else. If you believe, as the Marxists and Nazis taught, that Jews were money-grubbing parasites exploiting the working masses, it become easier to shut down their businesses, force them to wear yellow stars, round them up and imprison them, and send them to their deaths.

Convince the world that some group of people is really “different” than everyone else and you convince them to engage in unspeakable acts.

When Mormons in the Utah legislature were voting against the right of gay people to visit their partners in the hospital a Right-wing group named America Forever was running a full-page ad in the Mormon owned Deseret News which said that gays are guilty of “anti-species behavior” and that they “should be forced not to display” their sexual orientation (this means do anything that might tell someone they are gay).

The ad argues that people have the right to use force to evict gay people “in common living areas”. Note they speak of common living areas not private property but “in our streets, shopping centers and in our lives.” Hysterically this incredibly bigoted ad says another reason to use force against gay is because “they are intolerant and do not emulate any Christian ethics.”

This sort of demonization is what bigotry thrives upon. Lie to people about any group or class of people, get them to believe your lies, and you can convince people to act in the most inhumane way. What messes that agenda up is when people start to see others as being pretty similar to themselves.

The reason the Religious-Right doesn’t want gay characters in movies or television is not that such things convince young people to turn gay. That “vampire theory” is so absurd that I doubt even the fundamentalist loonies believe it themselves. What worries them is that visibility shows gay people to be like other people. They love like other people. They hurt like people. They have the same aspirations and wishes for themselves that is common to all of us. In the end gay men and women are pretty much like straight men and women.

But that is precisely what threatens the bigoted agenda. Brandon Neely got to see the people in Guantanamo as human beings, not monsters. When people get to know gay people, either in person or depicted on the stage, they start to see them as human beings, not monsters. That undermines campaigns that are rooted in fear. Familiarity does not breed contempt, it breeds tolerance. And that is why the fear mongers need to present people as alien to us, as “the other”.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interesting but depressing, literally.

Art Laffer certainly came off the moron in this discussion. This is prior to the current collapse. Interestingly the real free market advocates have been warning people regarding this crisis. We got ignored and the collapse came. So who do you think is getting the blame? Us, of course. Sure that makes sense. Peter Schiff got it spot on the money when he made his forecast. Laffer was about as wrong as one could be.

Nor should we forget the prophet, Ludwig von Mises, who warned more than half a century ago:
True, government can reduce the rate of interest in the short run. They can issue additional paper money. They can open the way to credit expansion by the banks. They can thus create an artifical boom and the appearance of prosperity. But such a boom is bound to collapse sooner or later and to bring about a depression.
You will find that in his work Human Action.


The more cops like this the worse we are

My contempt for the American police certainly can't go any lower. But some people who read this blog still cling to the fantasy that they are a decent lot. I say they are not. The "good" cops may not violate rights immediately but they know the ones who do and usually cover for them. Cops are criminals with permits to be criminals.

Take what a cop did to Lee Ann Hutts as an example. The cop in question is a sheriff's deputy from Pinellas County, Florida. Hutts had done nothing wrong at all. The thug in uniform was Sgt. Robert McGuire. People should know that McGuire is armed and dangerous and a threat. He is violent.

McGuire is also not very intelligent. He had gone to a mobile home park to investigate a robbery. But like the terminally dumb he kept getting lost and couldn't find the home he was looking for. So he randomly went to the home where Hutts lives with her fiance and a roommate.

Hutts had a dog that was known to bark but was also known to be gentle and playful. When the door bell rang the dog started barking -- dogs do that. Stupid cops get upset because dogs don't respect their authority (but neither do I).

Hutts and a neighbor both say the dog never left Hutts side and never came at McGuire. McGuire ordered the dog to be removed. Hutts tried to lock it in a bedroom but got out. At this point McGuire kicked the dog. Of course McGuire claimed "he shooed the dog with his foot." Cops seem to use what little brain power they have to come up with creative ways to lie about what they did. "No your Honor, I didn't kick him in the teeth. I shooed his cavities with my foot."

McGuire, as you might expect, claims the dog tried to attack him. Kick me and I might attack him too. The neighbor who witnessed the event said that was not true. Imagine that, someone implying a police office might lie. What would surprise me is when one tells the truth. In response to the non-existent "charge" by the dog McGuire pulled his gun and shot the animal in the head. Hutts was covered with blood.

She rushed the dog to a vet and was told it would cost $3,000 to perform surgery. She couldn't afford that and took some pain killers and brought the dog home where it died. Neighbors are so upset they called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and filed a complaint against this disgusting police officer. One neighbor told the SPCA that the dog "was a total sweetheart. There's a gazillion cats around here, and they're not even scared of him."

Remember that Hutts did nothing wrong. McGuire couldn't find where he wanted to go so he knocked on her door. Her mistake was answering the door. I have repeatedly said that decent people should never cooperate with the police without a lawyer present. The police are a threat to you and your family. Hutts should have asked, through the door what the officer wanted. If he said he was lost she should note that she has no wish to speak to him and will not open the door unless he has a search warrant or arrest warrant. He had neither of course. Her willingness to cooperate with the police is the reason her beloved pet ended up dead.

Police officers in America are out of control. They believe they are little Gods entitled to act any way they wish. They are easily provoked, have little intelligence, and quickly resort to violence. Your innocence is of little concern to them. You risk yourself, and those you love (including pets) merely allowing cops to speak to you on your property. If you have important evidence in a crime your best bet is to take some friends and collectively go to a police station to make a report. Do not speak to the officers at the scene or at your home alone. They can not be trusted.

In case after case they routinely kill people's dogs. In every case they sound like a broken record claiming that the dog attacked them. Dogs never known to attack anyone suddenly become violent around cops and lunge --- hmmm, perhaps dogs are smarter than we give them credit for. In more cases than I remember witnesses to the incidents have testified that the cop is lying and the incident did not take place as he claimed. In all the cases, as far as I can remember, the local authorites claim the cop did the right thing. It doesn't matter how many people testify that the cop is a violent, lying predator. Unless they have film they don't matter when they question the actions of one of the Little Gods in Blue. (Another reason I'm an atheist.)

Just remember that the cops are your enemy. And I mean that literally. They are not out to serve and protect. They must be seen as a criminal gang and you must steer clear of them as much as possible. Any attempt on your part to be helpful, which is what Hutts was doing, can lead to very severe consequences for you.

Photo: A grieving Lee Ann Hutts, the result of cooperating with a police officer.