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February 28, 2005

BANNING ANTI-GAY HATE SPEECH IS NOT THE ANSWER

In California, the Speaker pro tempore of the State Assembly, San Francisco Democrat Leland Yee, has just introduced legislation that, if passed, would "prohibit the use of any negative appeal based on prejudice against LBGT people by candidates or campaign committees who sign the voluntary pledge provided for in the Code of Fair Campaign Practices," according to a report posted last night by 365gay.com.

This is a clear attempt at censorship of political speech. As such, this proposal starkly contravenes the First Amendment guarantees of our liberties. Instead of supporting such legislation, gay people should militantly oppose it. Mr. Yee's bill is nothing more than pandering to gay people's natural outrage at the recent wave of gay-baiting in electoral campaigns, but ultimately his proposal will wind up hurting gay people. We've been the victims of censorship for far too long not to know that embarking on this course is to put oneself on a very slippery slope indeed. The minute we start to argue for censorship of speech we don't like, the opponents of full human and civil rights for same-sexers will turn the tables on us and turn up the volume on their demands that we be censored.

Laws prohibiting speech that encourages racial discrimination and hatred have long been common in much of Europe. Take France--a country in which I lived and worked for a decade--which has long had anti-hate speech laws, passed in the wake of World War II's experience of Nazi anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. The leader of France's neo-fascist Front Nationale, the odious race-baiter and anti-Semite Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been indicted numerous times under these laws over the course of two decades--yet the laws have not for a moment impeded the rise of Le Penism. In fact, such laws have contributed to building his race-baiting movement by creating a sense of martyrdom among his electors. Remember that, in 2002, Le Pen bested incumbent Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin for a place in the presidential runoff against Jacques Chirac--despite LePen's many prior condemnations under the hate-speech laws.

Laws like the one Assemblyman Yee has introduced only add to the propaganda ability of the gay-baiters and religious primitives to claim that they are the victims of a massive "gay conspiracy." This bill will have exactly the opposite of its desired effect--it will simply force anti-gay hate speech into non-electoral channels, where it will become more difficult to trace to those who seek to profit from it at the polls.

At a time when the U.S. Constitution is under attack by the anti-gay Republicans and their Christian right shock troops--who want to instill discrimination in it by banning marriage equality for those who love differently from the majority--gay people must be in the forefront of defending the Constitution, and particularly its Bill of Rights. If we start engaging in attempts to ban speech ourselves, we will lose the moral high ground in that defense.

Our national gay institutions must be called on to condemn in no uncertain terms not only Mr. Yee's proposed law, but any similar attempts to water down the First Amendment or ban anti-gay speech.

Let the gay-baiters in politics continue to spew their poison legally--it will come back to haunt them. And, ultimately, the only response to bad speech should be more and better speech. That's our real job--not banning the speech of others.

Posted by Direland at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

AWOL

My apologies to DIRELAND readers for not having blogged for the last ten days -- I've been seriously under the weather, and had little energy after my work for blogging. Plus, being ill left me feeling rather stale, and I don't believe in kneejerk blogging for its own sake just to feed the blogosphere unless one has something significant and fresh to say (although, unfortunately, many fellow bloggers don't feel the same way).

Meanwhile, I was asked by OpenDemocracy.com to participate in a debate about Iraq, along with Khalid Jarrar, Douglas Murray, and Huda Jawad. We were asked whether we have altered our positions on the Iraq war since the invasion. You can read the first volley of this exchange, which has just been posted today (a second is in preparation) by clicking here.

And I can assure those who frequent DIRELAND that I will now resume posting with great regularity.

Posted by Direland at 11:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2005

BUSH LETS CAT OUT OF BAG: WILL BACK ISRAELI ATTACK ON IRAN

George Bush has made a slip of the lip: departing from his cue cards, the president greenlighted an attack by Israel on Iran, saying the U.S. would back the attack. The news is front-page in tomorrow's European papers (like Le Monde) just days before Bush's first European trip of his second term--but U.S. media haven't yet picked up on this explosive declaration.

As the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph reports today under the headline "America would back Israel attack on Iran":

"Asked whether he would back Israel if it raided Teheran's nuclear facilities, Mr Bush first expressed cautious solidarity with European efforts, led by Britain, France and Germany, to negotiate with Iran.

"But he quickly qualified himself, adding that all nations should be concerned about whether Iran could make nuclear weapons. 'Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened.'

"His comments appeared to be a departure from the administration's line that there are no plans to attack at present and that Washington backs European diplomatic efforts. The remarks may have reflected Mr Bush's personal thinking on an issue causing deep concern in Washington.

"Moments later, Mr Bush was asked another question on Iran and appeared to return to his script - this time emphasizing the need for a diplomatic effort...."

This revelatory statement by Bush signals the triumph of the neo-cons--now that the principal roadblock to their designs, Colin Powell, has left office--in the internal administration debate over what to do about Iran. As DIRELAND noted last September, the plan for an Israeli attack on Iran was behind the AIPAC spy ring's espionage which obtained classified U.S. memos on Iran:

"Some of the neo-cons were, like Sharon and Mossad, so ideologically obsessed with an attack on Iran that they were willing to go to any lengths, including espionage, to help Israel get it done. But with the Bush first-strike doctrine having been so bellicosely reiterated at the Republicans' Convention--by everyone from the president to Gen. Tommy Franks' Rove-vetted speech--if, as now seems likely, Bush wins and no longer has to face the voters again, the Target: Iran policy may move to an aggressive new level. And the Likud government is the tail wagging the dog."

The perhaps unintentional Bush revelation shows how Iran is at the top of his limited brain-pan--no doubt because his erstwhile friend, Vladimir Putin, has just made clear Russia's inalterable decision to help Iran with its nuclear program, as the Washington Post reports. With Bush and Putin scheduled to meet within days, it appears Bush--having this agenda at the top of his tiny mind--has given his handlers heartburn by revealing he's decided to play the Israeli card in part as an attempt to intimidate the Russians into abandoning their help-Iran-with-nukes plan. (Remember when Bush told us he'd "looked into Putin's soul" and found him to be a democrat and man of peace? Wrong on both counts, our soul-envisioning president, wasn't he?)

In any case, in European capitals Bush's specific targeting of Iran in his State of the Union speech was interpreted as a pounding of the war drums. Despite Bush's praise for the diplomatic efforts of Germany, France, and other EU countries to negotiate a solution to the Iran nuclear proliferation problem, the power of neo-con ideology and the imperial will of a president with a militaro-missionary attitude toward international affairs (as he made clear in his famous interview with Bob Woodward, recounted in Woodward's book Plan of Attack) appear to have triumphed over European insistence that the world must find a  political sortie to the problem posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Bush's State of the Union speech, of course, played right into the hands of Iran's hardliners, and undermined the attempts of reformist Iranian civil society to foster a less paranoid world-view than that of the ayatollahs. A U.S.-backed attack by Israel on Iran will have seismic consequents far outside the confines of the ancient Persian nation, further spurring the Islamist fundamentalists' ability to recruit. Moreover, with the Iranian-backed Shiites and their allies in Iraq now having won an absolute majority in the elections there, such an attack would inevitably push the new highly-religious Iraqi political leadership--and volatile Iraqi public opinion, already overwhelmingly opposed to the bloody U.S. occupation--toward establishment of a hard-line, Islamic state.

Dark days appear to be ahead.

P.S. Tonight's edition of Belgian public television's main news program broadcast an exclusive White House interview with Bush in advance of the president's arrival in Brussels that contains another embarassing Bush moment. Asked whether differences on Iraq would cloud his visit with the Belgian government, Bush launched into an anecdote about his trip to a chocoloate merchant on his last Belgian excursion. Then, as his attractive female interviewer thanked him and stood up to leave, Bush--apparently thinking the cameras were already off--muttered with a sly look and salacious grin, "You have beautiful eyes!" This on-air flirt, which could be seen Stateside where I caught it, on the international francophone channel TV 5 (of which Belgian TV is a co-sponsor), is being replayed on European television, but -- since our linguistically challenged U.S. TV honchos don't bother with frog-speaking telly--no stateside network has yet picked up Bush's cruising of the Belgian correspondent. Laura, needless to say, wasn't in the room for this "family values" moment...

Posted by Direland at 08:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

THE WHITE HOUSE'S SEXUAL HYPOCRISY

The scandal over "Jeff Gannon"-- the alias of the so-called reporter for the so-called Talon News Service (a hard-right propaganda outfit financed by a prominent GOP contributor) who was seeded among the bona fide White House correspondents to serve up Nerf-ball questions to George Bush and his press secretary, Scott McClellan -- has taken a fascinating new turn.

It now appears that "Gannon," a.k.a. James Guckert, was a male prostitute who extensively advertised his wares, for sale to gay men, on the 'net. John Aravosis' Americablog has all the details, with photo captures of "Gannon"/Guckert's various websites that include pictures of the phony journalist in the buff displaying his erect equipment.

Raw Story raises questions about whether "Gannon"/Guckert got his credentials to participate in White House press conferences thanks to some sort of gay relationship with McClellan, the Bush press secretary whose closet homosexuality has been long rumored.

The sex lives of "Gannon"/Guckert and McClellan would not be relevant, had not both been spear-carriers in the vicious Republican campaign of gay-baiting demagogy. But if, as appears to be the case, both men are closet-case kapos whose twisted self-hate has transmogrified them into persecutors of those with same-sex hearts, they deserve to be exposed. And they join a raft of other prominent Republican political gay-baiters who are themselves gay: from powerful California Rep. David Dreier  and disgraced paid-for-propaganda columnist/talk show host Armstrong Williams to new Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman.

This latest example of the Bush White House's sexual hypocrisy comes hard on the heels of Bush's hate-preaching State of the Union address which singled out gays as targets for lies that encourage anti-gay violence. But not a single mainstream media outlet has had the guts to connect the dots and expose Bush's double standard -- one for the gay people he bashes, another for the closeted gays among his shock troops who help carry out this administration's virulently anti-gay agenda. All this is a legitimate news story with enormous policy and political implications. What are the Big Boys in the media waiting for?

P.S. My friend David Corn has a particularly obtuse online Nation column about the "Gannon"/Guckert affair denouncing bloggers for exposing "Gannon's" multiple deceptions in which he declares that "Gannon" is "no Armstrong Williams." Oh, but he is -- like Williams, "Gannon" is an overpaid, closet-case, anti-gay propagandist for so-called "family values" whose distorted secret homosexual life has little to do with the way most same-sexers conduct themselves (Williams is a serial sexual harasser, "Gannon" a $200 an hour hooker). But for some reason David doesn't even mention "Gannon's" well-publicized gay-baiting, including his declaration during the campaign that Kerry would be "the first gay president" because he was allegedly the captive of the Human Rights Campaign (even though Kerry constantly said he was opposed to gay marriage, the HRC's principal --some would say only -- issue, and Kerry had even gone so far as to support enshrining anti-gay discrimination in the Massachusetts Constitution in the form of an amendment banning legal marriage for loving same-sex couples.) The issue of politicized sexual hypocrisy in the service of the Bush-Rove Republicans that "Gannon" and Williams have in common Corn misses totally. Either David had his hetero blinders on, or he didn't do his homework.

NOT ENTIRELY UNRELATED READING: In the September-October 2004 issue of Legal Affairs, my old friend and sometime colleague Joanne Wypijewski had a careful, thoughtful, and fascinating dissection of the case against Paul Shanley, the Catholic priest just sentenced to 12-15 years in prison for child rape. Joanne digs past the national media hysteria about Shanley to produce a nuanced portrait of the man and a dissident view of the evidence against him, including a look at the intense sexual hypocrisy of the era in which Shanley grew up. It takes a courageous journalist to go against the tide in a case of pedophilia and produce a calm, reasoned review of the evidence--or lack of it--in such a case (The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz, a noted conservative who exposed the lies in the child-abuse day-care center phony scandals a decade ago, is another). Joanne has always been fearless, and so is this important piece of hers--make sure you read it by clicking here.

Posted by Direland at 06:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 10, 2005

REPUBLICANS, RELIGIOUS RIGHT INVADE CANADA! (plus, WAL-MART PLAYS SCROOGE)

Not content with their victories in a baker's dozen of anti-gay marriage referenda in the States, the U.S. religious right and a hit-squad of Republican consultants have invaded Canada to fight the impending full legalization of same-sex marriage set to be passed by parliament with the support of Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal Party government, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and other Canadian media are reporting. A vote on the bill extending marriage equality--spurred by court decisions legalizing it in seven provinces--to the entire country is expected this spring.

"Focus on the Family has reportedly sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to its Canadian affiliate to wage an anti-gay campaign and the Roman Catholic Knights Of Columbus in the US recently spent nearly $100,000 to print two million postcards now being distributed in Catholic churches across Canada for people to send to Members of Parliament," reports 365gay.com.'s Ottawa bureau.

"American Christian broadcasters have also been targeting Canadians. Two weeks ago 365Gay.com reported that James Dobson, chairman of the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, in a broadcast heard on 130 radio stations across Canada denounced the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin which brought in the same-sex marriage bill."

The Winnipeg Sun reported that one targeted MP said one U.S. Christian right group "had identified several Canadian ridings, including his, where they would send 'SWAT teams' at election time to descend on voters and lobby them to oppose same-sex marriage."

In addition, says 365.com, "the opposition Conservative Party has been getting help from Republicans.  Several GOP advisers have been working with the Conservatives to formulate attacks on the legislation and use it as a wedge issue in the next Canadian election."

The federal revenue service is investigating this spending, and Canada's attorney general says he'll examine legislative ways to make this sort of political invasion illegal.

MORE NEWS FROM CANADA  --  WAL-MART IS A VINDICTIVE SCROOGE

If you needed any reminder of just what a reactionary corporation Wal-Mart is, the behemoth is closing one of its stores in Quebec rather than give in to workers' demands for a union, the AP reports, "just as some 200 workers at the location are near winning the first-ever union contract from the world's largest retailer."

;So, don't buy into that massive Wal-Mart TV ad campaign designed to portray themselves as employee-friendly. "Wal-Mart has fired these workers not because the store was losing money but because the workers exercised their right to join a union," Michael J. Fraser, national director of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, said in a written statement. "Once again, Wal-Mart has decided it is above the law and that the only rules that count are their rules."

According to the Institute for Southern Studies, 55% of Wal-Mart employees can't afford the company health plan; Wal-Mart workers have to pay 40% of their health plan (compared to 20 % on average at a Fortune 500 company). In the state of Georgia alone, there are 10,260 children on state-subsidized health care whose parents work at Wal-Mart.

It's hardly surprising, then, that Wal-Mart was named one of the 10 worst corporations in 2004 by Multinational Monitor, along with GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Coca-Cola, and--of course--Halliburton (check out the whole list, with details--it's an eye-opener).

Wal-Mart made the list because because the company’s poor wages and benefits shifts costs to taxpayers, who pay for public assistance that many Wal-Mart workers are forced to rely on.  A University of California-Berkeley study released in August determined that Wal-Mart costs California taxpayers about $86 million a year in public assistance to the company’s workers. The study indicates that the Wal-Mart workers in California rely on the state for about $32 million annually in health-related services, and $54 million a year in other assistance such as subsidized school lunches, food stamps and subsidized housing.  The research also estimates that the 44,000 workers at 143 Wal-Mart (and its sister Sam’s Club) stores in the state earn about 31 percent less than other workers in the large retail industry overall.  And compared with other large retail workers, about 23 percent fewer of Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club employees are covered by employer health insurance plans.

Posted by Direland at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 09, 2005

BUSH AND THE REPUBLIC: "THE LOWEST GRADE OF IGNORANCE"

I wrote the following for this week's L.A. Weekly:

Like a dark cloud obscuring the sun, the powerful odor of mendacity hung over Washington after George Bush concluded his State of the Union speech last Wednesday. Bush certainly seems to have bamboozled the press (The Boston Globe inexplicably found the speech “soothing,“ the L.A. Times decided the speech was evidence of Bush’s “flexibility,“ while CBS’s Bob Schieffer gushed that it was “one of the best delivered speeches I have ever heard President Bush make“) and seduced the public (a Gallup overnighter showed 60% approved of the speech and 26% “somewhat approved,” while a new Newsweek poll out this week now shows Bush’s overall rating is the highest its been since right after last year’s Republican convention (50% approve, just 42% disapprove).

Despite this collective mesmerization, here are a few plain-spoken truths about Bush’s lies the mainstream media didn’t tell you:

I did not read or hear a single national media organ or oracle point out that this is the first State of the Union speech since the days of slavery to propose blatant discrimination against an entire class of American citizens. Bush’s renewed call for a Constitutional amendment banning marriage equality for loving same-sex couples reposed in this speech on a monstrous falsehood: that gay people are incapable of raising “responsible, moral children,” as he put it. Bush insisted that the amendment is needed to “protect” the eight to ten million American kids now being raised by two Daddies or two Mommies from the horrific prospect of their parents being able to wed -- despite the fact that, as the New York Times pointed out the week before the speech, there is not a single credible study showing that a couple’s gender makes the slightest difference in the well-being of a child. It is the absence of loving parents, not the nature of the love those parents’ share, which pediatric science tells us is harmful to children.

Born-again George’s Big Lie about gay parents is, of course, based on an unspoken fantasy: the blood-libel that gay people are all pedophiles who want to convert children to homosexuality (even though science tells us that sexual orientation is fixed at such an early age it cannot subsequently be altered.) Yet a Nexis search revealed that not a single editorial in a single American daily denounced the president for using his nationally televised address to fan the flames of homohate--nor pointed out that such flagrant presidential endorsement of blatant lies about gay people encourages the sexual paranoia of gay-bashers, and helps justify the rising wave of violence against those who love differently (gay-bashing was up a
whopping 13% in the latest annual survey by the National Coalition of
Anti-Violence Projects--an undoubted undercount, as the survey pointed out). This stunning media silence about the hate-promoting aspects of Bush’s speech is one more reason to fear for the health of our nominal democracy.

Now ask yourself: did you hear a single one of TV’s gurgling heads even grin verbally, in their post-speech analyses, at the most risible moment in Bush’s discourse? No, it wasn’t his absurd claim that Social Security faces bankruptcy unless Americans gamble their pensions in Wall Street’s casino--why, even the Wall Street Journal’s news columns acknowledge that’s a lie, too. Nor was it the irony in tossing a paltry $350 million (a twentieth of what we annuallly give Israel) to the Palestinian Authority for its police/security infrastructure that Ariel Sharon's government has been destroying for for years with the money we gave him. It was, of course, when George announced he’s putting his wife in charge of fighting gang violence which provided the speech’s only real moment of comic relief. The notion of Laura Bush sitting down for tea and pretzels with the Crips and the Bloods, or touring the South Bronx without a phalanx of APCs to protect her, should have produced a loud national guffaw. Yet TV’s Greenfields and Matthews and the goose-steppers at Fox News all let
this moment for hilarity pass without so much as a discreet snicker.

The principle causes of gang violence are the desperation produced by crushing poverty in our rotting ghettos and the lucrative attractions of the trade in illegal powders. Thus, the lunatic assumption that a paltry $150 million for programs on “literacy and sports” led by Laura--which imagines that her genteel reading programs can persuade gang members to abandon their fevered, Uzi-ish dreams of drug profits and gold teeth by teaching them to paint fences like Huck Finn--is no more than a bad Republican acid-trip.

The passages in the speech that most frightened world leaders, however, came when Bush proclaimed that America’s imperative mission is the spread of liberty, and that God is the “Author of Liberty.” This is simply a speechwriters’ version of Bush’s declarations to Bob Woodward (in his book Plan of Attack ) that God told him to invade Iraq: “Freedom is God’s gift to everybody in the world…and I believe we have a duty to free people.
I would hope we wouldn’t have to do it militarily, but we have a duty.” And, in the world’s capitals, Bush’s reiteration of his favorite themes last week read like nothing less than a theological version of Manifest Destiny.

And, like the 19th century version of Manifest Destiny, the goal remains “to vanquish any who do not willingly adopt the supposedly universal norms and values of Protestant conservatives. The result, by implication in the president’s rhetoric, is that the administration has transformed Bush’s ‘Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists’ policy into ‘Either you are with us, or you are against God.’ ” So says the University of Washington’s David Domke--author of the must-read book God Willing: Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the ‘War on Terror,’ and the Echoing Press-- about Bush’s speech last week and the centrality of Bush’s evangelical worldview to it. To most of the rest of the world, this view is indistinguishable from that of the Al Qaeda terrorists who Bush continues to claim are the target of his military adventures (or, as he put it last Wednesday, “Our men and women are fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we do not have to face them here at home”---yet another presidential dismissal of the findings of the 9/11 Commission that Iraq had nothing to do with the destruction of the Twin Towers). As Domke says, “One is hard pressed to see how the perspective of Osama bin Laden, that he and his followers are delivering God’s wishes to the United States, is much different from Bush’s perspective that the United States is delivering God’s wishes to Iraq.”

Well, historical truth tells us that our Founding Fathers--products of the
Enlightenment--detested religion, and one of the best rebukes to Bush was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1813 when he declared: “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes." That’s a pretty fair description of our politics and governance today with the second coming of Bush. And it’s why the state of our Union today is so bloody frightening.

Posted by Direland at 03:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 05, 2005

ANN COULTER STICKS HER ENTIRE LEG IN HER MOUTH

Ann Coulter is a loudmouth ignoramus who spouts her outrageous nationalist inaccuracies on American television with little challenge from the empty talking heads who interview her. But she finally found someone to stand up to her, in Canada--and she was exposed for the arrogant fool she is. Interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Bob McKeown for the investigative TV broadcast "The Fifth Estate," which devoted an hour-long January 26 special to how U.S. media have been highjacked by conservative bullies, Coulter was berating Canada for not sending troops to Iraq when she displayed her empty-headedness in the following exchange:

Coulter: "Canada used to be one of our most loyal friends and vice-versa. I mean Canada sent troops to Vietnam - was Vietnam less containable and more of a threat than Saddam Hussein?"

McKeown interrupts: "Canada didn't send troops to Vietnam."

Coulter: "I don't think that's right."

McKeown: "Canada did not send troops to Vietnam."

Coulter (looking desperate): "Indochina?"

McKeown: "Uh no. Canada ...second World War of course. Korea. Yes. Vietnam No."

Coulter: "I think you're wrong."

McKeown: "No, took a pass on Vietnam."

Coulter: "I think you're wrong."

McKeown: "No, Australia was there, not Canada."

Coulter: "I think Canada sent troops."

McKeown: "No."

Coulter: "Well. I'll get back to you on that."

McKeown tags out in script:

"Coulter never got back to us -- but for the record, like Iraq, Canada sent no troops to Vietnam."

You can see the entire exchange by clicking here.

Of course, Coulter was dead wrong. In fact, Canada's attitude toward America's war in Vietnam was extremely critical under several governments of our neighbor to the north. For example, when Prime Minister Lester Pearson--who'd won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in defusing the '50s Suez crisis-- gave an April 2, 1965 speech at Temple University calling for a pause in U.S. bombing of Vietnam, he was the subject of rather notorious treatment by Lyndon Johnson at their subsequent meeting: LBJ grabbed the much smaller Canadian by the lapels, lifted him off the floor, and hollered, "You pissed on my rug!"

Pearson's successor, Pierre Trudeau, signaled his attitude toward the war in Vietnam when he granted political asylum to tens of thousands of draft-age Americans who fled to Canada to avoid having to fight in Vietnam, saying: "'Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war ... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism." (How one wishes the current prime minister, Paul Martin, would take the same position with regard to those war resisters in uniform who have gone to Canada because of their opposition to what the U.S. is doing in Iraq.)

This is hardly the first time Coulter has invented "facts." To take just one more example, David Corn last year wrote a Nation web-post recounting how Coulter claimed, on the Chris Matthews Show, that  George C. Scott had turned down his Oscar for the movie "Patton" because he was protesting the "critical" treatment of the general by Hollywood liberals. And even when Matthews challenged her on it and told her why she was wrong, she persisted in her falsehood.

The historically ignorant Coulter should be hiding in shame, and owes the Canadians an apology for insisting on her blatant untruth--while network bookers who continue to invite her to guest on their shows should be hiding under their desks if they maintain this empty-headed, epithet-throwing fictionalist on their rosters. (Thanks to the Canadian correspondent of This Is Rumor Control for spotting and providing the transcript of Coulter's on-air comeuppance).

Posted by Direland at 10:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (53) | TrackBack

February 03, 2005

THE KIDS AREN'T ALL RIGHT--CONSERVATIVE ATTITUDES AMONG COLLEGE FRESHMEN

Hard on the heels of the alarming Knight Foundation survey of U.S. teens DIRELAND previously discussed, showing our high-schoolers' disdain for the niceties of the First Amendment, comes now a survey of the attitudes of first-year college students with some more bad news.

Sponsored by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California/Los Angeles, the just-released survey shows, among other things, that:

~ a solid majority (58.6%) of freshmen think colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus, which shows little understanding of what the First Amendment really means--as does the finding that 43.7% believe that colleges have the right to ban extreme speakers;

~making marriage equality for same-sex couples legal is supported by only a minority (48.3%) of first-year college males--which strongly suggests this could still be a hot-button electoral issue for years to come--while 38% of male freshmen believe it is important to have laws prohibiting homosexual relationships, a disturbingly large number.

~a slim majority (50.4%) believe that affirmative action in college admissions should be abolished (the number is higher among males at 56.1%)

~only a slim majority (53.9%) believe that abortion should be legal

~A significant majority believes there is too much concern in the courts for the rights of criminals (58.1% --but among males the number jumps to 61.0%), which indicates that demagogic law-and-order themes will still bring electoral profit with the coming generation.

Moreover, as the Chronicle of Higher Education noted in its report on the survey, "A growing number of students appeared unlikely to have a diverse set of friends in college. Only 63.1 percent reported that they expected to socialize with people outside their own racial or ethnic group, the lowest level since the question was first added to the survey in 2000.

"'Social groups may indeed be less diverse at some public universities in large states like California, where the recent demise of affirmative-action programs means that fewer minority students are gaining acceptance,' said Sylvia Hurtado, director of the institute at UCLA.

"'The diversity in classes at a lot of the large public universities has decreased,' said Ms. Hurtado. 'Just in the University of California system alone, the number of African-American students attending has gone down incredibly.'

"Yet students said they cared less than ever before about those issues. Only 29.7 % cited 'helping to promote racial understanding' as an 'essential' or 'very important' goal for them, compared with 46.4 percent in 1992."

"More students also said they believed that racial discrimination was no longer a problem in America, with 22.7 percent agreeing with that statement, the highest level in the history of the survey...."

Clearly, the society's dominant conservative values have been beaten into the brains of so many kids entering college that education may have a tough time eradicating many of these kids' prejudices and the myths they've bought into--and remember, they'll be voting from now on, too...

Related Reading: In Friday's Chicago Sun-Times, Tom Lipscomb has a salutary op-ed discussing the Knight Foundation survey and the decline in high school newspapers and the indifference of school administrators has combined to reduce civic literacy about, among other matters, the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. To read it, click here.

Posted by Direland at 10:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

PROTEST HRC DINNER AT THE WALDORF

Readers of this blog will have noticed our frequent criticism of the collaborationist antics of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). A protest demonstration will be held outside HRC's $350-a-plate dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria at 5 P.M. this coming Saturday in New York City. The demo is called by Queer Fist (a radical gay collective that grew out of the protests at the Republican convention in New York), which says:

"While many members of the queer community are concerned with finding basic healthcare services, the Human Rights Campaign is more concerned that the members of the gay middle class have the 'right' to exchange state sanctioned vows. Blinded by the right, the HRC has failed to consistently represent the needs of the queer community, as made obvious by the Tri-State Federal Club's Corporate Equality Award, to be presented to none other than Pfizer Pharmaceuticals at their gala.  In December 2004, the group announced its willingness to support President Bush's social security privatization in exchange for benefits for same-sex couples. Join us February 5th at 5:00pm at the Waldorf Astoria as queers and allies to show the solidarity of the communities that the Human Rights Campaign lobby ignores and sells out." This is one demo that sounds like a good idea to me. Giving an award to a rapacious Big Pharma multinational is enough reason all by itself to holler.

Larry Kramer says he'll be there, adding that "HRC needs a swift kick in its keester to shape up or ship out. and these tasteless dinners they continue to throw when there is absolutely nothing to celebrate are particularly repellant  to me." If you're in the Big Apple this Saturday, give the demo a drop-in, and show HRC what you think of their Bush-coddling politics.

Posted by Direland at 08:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 02, 2005

THE NEW CHRISTER CENSORSHIP

I wrote the following article for this week's L.A. Weekly:

A ferocious new wave of Christer-driven censorship — much of it anti-gay — is washing over America, with support from the Bush administration that is sometimes overt, sometimes covert. Equally ominous, however, is that in too many instances, the targets of that censorship are buckling under pressure. Here are two frightening examples:

Just last week, as her first official act, Bush’s new education secretary, Margaret Spellings, an evangelical Christian, launched an attack on the PBS series Postcards From Buster, which stars an 8-year-old cartoon rabbit who travels the country visiting real kids in real-life settings. Spellings blasted “Sugartime,” an episode in which Buster the rabbit visits a Vermont family and their 11-year-old daughter, Emma, to learn about making maple sugar. But Emma has two mommies — Karen Pike and Gillian Pieper, two 40ish women from Hinesburg, Vermont, who were united in a civil union in 2001. And that’s what created trouble.

Although lesbianism and civil unions weren’t even mentioned in the episode — which focused entirely on getting sugar from maple trees — the images of a happy kid being raised by two loving parents who both happened to be women were too much for Secretary Spellings, who denounced the show, saying, “Many parents would not want their children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode.” Spellings thinks the episode “violates” the congressional mandate to PBS to prepare kids for school — even though 8 million to 10 million American kids are raised by same-sex couples, and those kids often are the target of playground hostility and ostracism because of their parents.

So what was PBS’s reaction to Spellings’ censorious rant? PBS president Pat Mitchell, after viewing the episode, had initially approved it as appropriate for airing, especially after the originating PBS station, Boston’s WGBH — which produced it with a grant from the Education Department’s $23 million Ready-To-Learn program, a literacy initiative of first lady Laura Bush — pushed back the airdate from February 2 to March 3 to allow member stations more time to review its content. But after Spellings went ballistic, Mitchell capitulated and canceled the Buster episode — claiming (through a spokesman) that “the debate surrounding this might cause parents to be concerned about PBS as a safe harbor.” Not that there was anything wrong with the episode, mind you — the “debate” about it was enough to kill it. As was the implied threat to PBS’s federal funding from a top Bush administration official.



Another Christer censorship campaign in the last weeks, led by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and the Reverend Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association (AFA), has targeted a video of the 1979 hit song “We Are Family” that features 100 children’s cartoon characters like SpongeBob Squarepants, Barney the dinosaur, Big Bird and Clifford the Big Red Dog, as well as cameos by Bill Cosby, Diana Ross and Whoopi Goldberg. The video will be distributed free by FedEx next month to 61,000 schools as part of National We Are Family Day.

SpongeBob and the other cartoon stars have been “co-opted by an innocuous-sounding group to promote acceptance of homosexuality to children,” hollers Focus on the Family. The group in question is the We Are Family Foundation, founded by the song’s co-author Nile Rodgers, who co-produced the cartoon video with Christopher Cerf — a Sesame Street veteran, co-producer of the PBS teaching-literacy-to-kids series Between the Lions, and son of the late Random House publisher and TV personality Bennett Cerf.

There is not a single mention of homosexuality in the cartoon video. What sent the Christers into fits was that the WAF Foundation also promotes a “tolerance pledge,” which says: “To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity, or other characteristics are different from my own.” Inclusion of the words “sexual identity” in that pledge is something the Christers find dangerous — Dobson says they “reveal a clever and very subtle intent . . . to desensitize very young children to homosexual and bisexual behavior.”

Even worse in the eyes of the Christers: For a half-second in the video, the Between the Lions character Click the Mouse is seen at his computer with the We Are Family Foundation logo on the computer’s screen. And the WAF Foundation Web site featured links to guides for teachers on teaching tolerance prepared by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith and Tolerance.org, which include material on how to teach children not to discriminate against gay people and on what homophobia is all about. This, Dobson bellowed, “may put materials in teachers’ hands that could prompt them to teach kids that homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality.”

Unfortunately, all the links to the teaching-tolerance guides have been removed by the WAF Foundation from its Web site in the wake of the Christer protests. When I asked Nile Rodgers why, he claimed that they already had in the works a plan to create an “educational” Web site separate from the Foundation’s “corporate” Web site, and had simply taken down the teaching-tolerance links “two days earlier” than expected after initial protests from a Florida radio station and the AFA, in the hope that the protests would “go away.”

In fact, the move backfired — the protests intensified, and Dobson has now accused the WAF Foundation of duplicity in removing the disputed teaching guides. Rodgers asserts the new Web site will be operational in two weeks — but the fact remains that the Christer-protested teaching guides have disappeared from the WAF Foundation Web site. Not just the material about teaching tolerance of gays is gone, but so are the guides teaching about discrimination on the basis of race and other innate characteristics — a remarkable example of throwing multiple babies out with the bathwater. (Rodgers is African-American.)

When I asked Harvard’s Arthur Lipkin — a teaching-tolerance expert whose latest book is Beyond Diversity Day: A Q&A on Gay and Lesbian Issues in Schools — what he thought of all this, he replied: “It’s like Pat Mitchell’s cave-in on the Postcards From Buster episode. When PBS and the WAF Foundation engage in this sort of self-censorship, it sets a very poor example for teachers, who get little encouragement to teach tolerance in schools — they’ll say, if even these so-called good liberals won’t stand up, why should I risk getting in trouble or losing my job by teaching tolerance of gay people?”

These twin episodes of self-censorship are only the tip of the iceberg — but they remind us that, as Yeats once said, we truly are living in a time in which “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

P.S. on February 3:

"The Department of Education has canceled an invitation to Carol
Greenwald, executive producer of "Postcards from Buster," to speak at a children's television conference co-sponsored by DoE and PBS in Baltimore on Friday, according to a PBS official," reports 365gay.com. Is it really any surprise that the Bush administration has moved from censorship to punitive measures against those creative types involved in creating the programs censored? We've already seen the same process at work in the cutting of federal funding to AIDS service organizations whose science-based sex ed was denounced by the anti-condom crowd....

Posted by Direland at 09:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack