January 29, 2006
I can't believe it -- another internet outage! (this post is being posted from a friend's computer) so DIRELAND will be back as soon as I can get bloody Time-Warner to fix the problem. My apologies.
January 28, 2006
PETER TATCHELL GETS HIS DUE
In today's edition of the London daily The Independent, there's an article about the aggressive gay and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (left), whose indefatigable work I've long appreciated. The man who defeated Peter in an election for a parliamentary seat two decades ago -- thanks to a vicious homophobic campaign -- Simon Hughes, has recently come out of the closet, and has also apologized in public to Tatchell for what he did to him 22 years ago, putting an end to Tatchell's budding political career. Hughes (above right) is currently one of the top two contenders in the contest for the leadership of Britain's Liberal Democrats.
Today's Independent writes: "Peter Tatchell was once perhaps the most execrated man in British politics. He was - to restrict ourselves to quotations from just one newspaper, the Daily Mail --'loony', 'scabrous', 'repellent', 'repulsive', 'sour', 'humourless', 'obnoxious' and a 'homosexual terrorist'. But that was before, five years back, Tatchell tried to make a citizen's arrest on the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe (right), on charges against the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, and was soundly beaten by Mugabe's bodyguards for his pains. He did not give up, but tried again in Paris and in London." [Note: Mugabe is a ruthless dictator who has used violence and imprisonment against political opponents, as well as being a notorious anti-gay demagogue -- he's said that gays and lesbians "are worse than pigs and dogs" -- who criminalized homosexuality and authorized his political gangs to engage in street lynchings of gay Zimbabweans -- D.I.]
"Ever since," The Independent continued, "Tatchell has variously been 'a national hero' (The Sunday Times), 'a civil rights campaigner we can all applaud' (Sunday Telegraph) and 'Heroic ... an example to us all' (Daily Mail)...." Read the entire profile of Peter Tatchell by clicking here. You can then visit the website of the militant gay rights group Tatchell founded and leads, OutRage! -- which most recently has played a critical role in attracting world-wide attention to the lethal anti-gay pogrom that is ongoing in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Elton John recently said of Tatchell, ""He's incredibly brave... doing good work in a world where most people are too timid - he keeps sticking at it." Peter, we salute you! (Photo above right: Peter Tatchell's protest at the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles).
MY FAVORITE NEWS STORY OF THE WEEK I can only cheer on Luigi Cascioli (photo left), a 72-year-old lifelong atheist, who this week went to court in a lawsuit against the parish priest in the small Italian town of Viterbo, for having said that Jesus existed -- a suit brought under Italian laws forbidding "abuse of popular belief" (in which someone fraudulently deceives people), and "impersonation" (in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone.) Coscioli is the author of a book making the case against the existence of the person referred to as Christ -- his action and his writing is in the spirit of the great 18th century atheist priest Jean Meslier, who used the Bible's own contradictions to disprove its absurd claims -- and we need more like him. To read more on this story, click here.
January 27, 2006
A call to solidarity: U.S. GAY GROUPS MUST END THEIR ISOLATIONISM (plus, Sen. Brownback calls gays "fruits")
I wrote the following for the new issue of Gay City News, New York's largest gay weekly:
All over the globe, gay people are being persecuted, jailed, and even killed for loving differently. Yet the principal national gay organizations in the United States remain largely indifferent to their fate.
Within the last weeks, there has been a spate of bad news from abroad. Consider: In the United Kingdom, a 28-year-old gay Iranian named Javad—whose full name is not used to protect him and his family in Iran—has been ordered to be deported back to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Last year, a video of Javad and his partner at a private gay party fell into the hands of the police. Fearful of being imprisoned, tortured, and executed for being gay—like so many other Iranian same-sexers—Javad fled to the U.K. last September, winding up in the town of Oakington, where he filed for asylum.
The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization—PGLO, the largest Iranian gay group with secretariats in several countries, including Turkey and Norway—reported last week: “After a few days, Javad was arrested and taken to Oakington’s police department in Cambridge, where he was threatened and told that if he couldn’t come up with satisfactory answers for their questions they will forcefully deport him, sending him back to Iran. In December the British government denied his refugee status. Under the law, Javad has the right to appeal this decision. Sadly, a few days ago, without taking into consideration his appeal over the ruling, he received papers stating that he must leave the country; therefore, Javad was deprived of any protection by the British government.”
In other words, Tony Blair’s government is sending a victim of Iran’s lethal anti-gay pogrom back into the fiery furnace stoked by the anti-gay hate of the ayatollahs, where at least a dozen gay men have been hanged since last July for how they love, and hundreds more jailed and brutalized by the sex police.
But has there been any word of protest from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), or the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC) against this inhuman deportation?
Not a peep.
In India—the world’s second most populous country, with 1.1 billion people—homosexuality was accepted in cultural traditions for thousands of years, and the Hindu religion had venerated bisexual gods—including Samba (above left), son of Krishna, who seduced both men and women. Male worshippers had ritual sex with male prostitutes in Hindu temples well into the 20th century.
But homosexuality was made illegal under British colonial rule in the 19th century, and that colonial anti-sodomy law remains on the books, five decades after India’s independence. (The British themselves decriminalized homosexuality in 1968.) Under Indian law, gay sex is bracketed with sex with animals and pedophilia as an “unnatural” offense, punishable by 10 years imprisonment.
In January, in the Indian city of Lucknow—ruled by the ultra-homophobic Samajwadi Party—police arrested four gay men who were having a picnic in a public place. Police claimed the men belonged to an “international gay club” centered around the Internet Web site guys4men.com, on which gay men can place personals and engage in Internet chat. But, wrote Human Rights Watch, “Reports received by HRW indicate that undercover police, posing as gay on the Web site, entrapped one man, then forced him to call others and arrange a meeting where they were arrested.”
The arrest of the Lucknow Four has given new impetus to the campaign for repeal of Article 337, India’s anti-sodomy law, and generated national and international protests. But from HRC, NGLTF, and IGLHRC, nothing has been heard denouncing their imprisonment.
In Nepal, there is a continuing government and police campaign of what human rights groups on the ground there are calling violent “sexual cleansing” directed at gay people and, most particularly, against the many “metis,” the Nepalese word for the transgendered. Scores have been arrested and imprisoned, and subjected to brutal police violence. In the latest incident just last month, in the capital of Kathmandu, according to a report from Human Rights Watch, “Four uniformed police from Durbar Marg police station reportedly saw [four metis in the street] and shouted, ‘Metis! Kill them!’ One meti was beaten with a baton on her back; one policeman pulled his gun and pointed it at her, threatening that, ‘These hijras pollute the society and must be cleaned out’" ('Hijra” is also a common term for a transgender person.) The two other metis were also beaten severely.” (Above right, a Nepalese meti shows the result of her beating by police)
Nepal’s only organization fighting for the rights of sexual minorities, the Blue Diamond Society, has its very existence threatened by the government, which has instituted proceedings to have it banned for “advocating homosexual rights.” Blue Diamond’s Web site reports that police have scooped up, jailed, and abused its members. Yet from HRC and NGLTF, no protest against the “sexual cleansing” in Nepal. (Left, Nepalese metis protest the arrest of 39 Blue Diamond Society members; note the sign saying, "Either kill us or let us live free")
IGLHRC managed to issue one press release on Nepal—last August—but there has been not another word since, despite continuing anti-gay and anti-meti police violence and persecution. From HRC and NGLTF, nothing.
In Cameroon, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by five years in prison, nine gay men have been languishing in jail for six months for the crime of being gay. In the Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia, discrimination against gays is about to be set in concrete in their constitutions by adding bans on gay marriage. Gay pride parades are banned, and gays are being brutalized in the streets—while leading politicians are demanding that homosexuality be re-criminalized. (Left, Latvian police break up Gay Pride march in July, 2005)
In Poland recently, under its new ultra-homophobic government, police in Poznan violently attacked a gay rights march and arrested 67 marchers -- causing a huge outcry and demonstrations from European gay groups and a debate in the Europarliament at Strasbourg. Yet in none of these cases I've mentioned above has their been any sort of meaningful response or protest from American gays and lesbians and the institutions that claim to speak for them
Yes, we still have a long way to go in our own country to secure full human rights and equality for all gay people. However, in much of America, gay people are decidedly fortunate in their hard-won freedom compared to our struggling, persecuted peers not only in the countries cited above, but in other lands that there’s not space here to mention.
But HRC and its self-congratulatory closet activists are too busy preparing yet another pricey black-tie fundraising gala in New York—this one honoring Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal of “Brokeback Mountain”—to bother with foreign queers. NGLTF is supposed to be the more “progressive” of the two national gay rights groups—yet a check of its Web site shows that, in the last 13 months, the group has not issued even one single press release on the plight of persecuted gay people abroad.
I’m angry at our Brokebrain gay leaders for not making international solidarity with persecuted gays abroad part of their agenda, and thus part of our national gay agenda. And doing so requires a helluva lot more than just issuing an occasional press release. It requires, yes, real activism, organizing and education. The next time you think of sending a check to HRC or NGLTF, tell them you’re sick at heart at their indifference to this global gay suffering. Demand that they create an international desk, and assign at least one full-time staff person to monitor attacks on gay people in other countries and educate gay Americans about these threats to human freedom abroad.
Demand that these groups immediately take up the most urgent case—the ongoing and massive entrapment, persecution, torture, and execution of gays in the Islamic Republic of Iran, on which their silence has been deafening. Demand they give Iran full-throated attention, through demonstrations—like the ones European gay organizations have been holding repeatedly all across the Continent—public forums, and their own publications. Demand they provide concrete and material help for the penniless gay Iranian refugees from torture who are living precariously from day to day, under constant threat of deportation back to certain persecution for how and whom they love.
If you don’t want to wait for our national gay groups to get off their backsides on the Iran gay crisis, contact the PGLO through its English-language website, pglo.org -- D.I.
For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ; January 12, 2006, "Kidnapped: Anopther Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks".....Also, don't miss Rob Anderson's excellent article in the November 10 New Republic, "How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."
"GOD'S SENATOR," SAM BROWNBACK, CALLS GAYS "FRUITS" There's a sharp-eyed profile in the new Rolling Stone by the excellent Jeff Sharlet (left) -- who is the editor of one of my must-reads, The Revealer, the daily review of religion and the press -- of Senator Sam Brownback, "God's Senator," Brownback (right), a Catholic convert from Kansas who's on the hustings in pursuit of the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, once said he wanted to be "the next Jesse Helms," as Sharlet reports. But Sharlet's terrific Rolling Stone piece has stirred up a hornet's nest of gay groups, reports 365gay.com today, because when Sharlett interviewed Brownback the Senator referred to gay people as "fruits." For example, National Stonewal Democrats' John Marble (at left -- 365gay.com should learn to spell his name right) says, ""Senator Brownback's childish comment only reveals the immaturity of his political policies, and how unqualified he is to represent the people of Kansas. In 2006, a kid running for president of his high school class wouldn't even call someone that name, let alone a Republican who is being suggested as a candidate for President of the United States." Brownback is the sponsor in the Senate of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment that would prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying -- and, as Raw Story reports, the Republicans intend to make gay marriage a hot-button issue once again, in this year's mid-term Congressional elections. To find out what this gay-slagging Senator is all about, read Jeff Sharlet's not-to-be-missed Rolling Stone profileof him by clicking here.
GAY IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR PARTNERS FACE HOSTILITY In the latest issue of Immigrants' Weekly, there's a useful look at how "Individuals who are in gay or lesbian relationships face difficulties in staying together when coming to the US either as immigrants or nonimmigrants.," as Gregory Siskind's article, "Immigration Options for Gay, Lesbian, and Transsexual Individuals," puts it -- read the article by clicking here...... And, in The Pink Broad, the Sydney, Australia-based gay paper (right) that runs many of my articles, there is a report by its editor, Geoffrey Williams, on "The Federal Government’s refusal to issue the documents necessary for Australians to enter into same-sex marriages overseas," which you can read by clicking here.
January 25, 2006
MOLLY IVINS ON WHY SHE WON'T SUPPORT HILLARY
We're back! After nine days in which I had no Internet connection -- thanks to the incompetence of Time-Warner, which has a cable monopoly in New York City, where I live -- DIRELAND is once again on-line. My apologies for my absence, and you can be sure I'll be posting regularly from now on. I have a lot to catch up on, and I just read a right-on column by the inimitable Molly Ivins (left), of Texas, which she wrote four days ago. Here are some excerpts:
"I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for President.
"Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.
"The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times.There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.
"If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry. What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.
"The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
"I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections"). Can't you even read the damn polls?....
"If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely. Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town....." You can read the entire Molly Ivins column by clicking here.
If you're not lucky enough to have your local newspaper running Molly Ivins' syndicated column, you ought to tell its editor they should. And you can always read her most recent three columns on the Creators Syndicate's website by clicking here. Molly is a national treasure.
ASSIMILATION DOESN'T WORK I don't often find a lot to recommend in the New York Blade (I write for their competition) but I rather liked an inelegant but effective Christopher Stevens piece in the last issue headlined, "Progress does not often come through subtlety, but through confrontation." He writes: "Words like 'assimilate' ought to be as close as a gay person can get to a dirty word and still get a PG-13 rating. Assimilation is 'Big Brother.' It's the Borg on 'Star Trek.' (above left) Assimilation means being absorbed into a larger whole by forfeiting your own individuality. It is what the body does with food. We would do well to remember what the body does with food that it cannot assimilate, for which it has no use, and how we think about that substance...." Read the rest of Stevens' piece by clicking here......THE OTHER BIG BROTHER Newsweek's star investigative reporter, Michael Isikoff (left) lifts the veil today on the Pentagon's very own domestic spying program, which, under Rummy (right) has been giving the finger to the Constitution by illegally gumshoeing everything from a Quaker anti-war meeting to a protest against Halliburton, scooping up "thousands" of Americans in its top-secret surveillance net, which operates under the name Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). I've long appreciated Mike's work -- he's a journalists' journalist and one of the best and most fearless in the business -- ever since he covered the drug war beat for the Washington Post a few years back, and he adds yet another scoop to his record with this must-read eye-opener, which you can read by clicking here. Let's see if the rest of the media (or the spinless Democrats) turn their spotlights on Rummy's own domestic spying, now that Mike has exposed it....GAY LIFE IN BUCHAREST The English-language Bucharest Daily News (a business-oriented publication in Romania's capitol) has a piece about Romania's gay nightlife that claims, "a city once puritanical and narrow-minded has managed to offer its gay community all the necessary means for an utterly hedonistic existence." Well, this piece seemed a little too rosy to me, so I asked Adrian Coman (left) -- former executive director of the Romanian gay rights group ACCEPT, he now lives and works in New York for a non-profit NGO -- what he thought of the article. Adrian replied, "Things are a little overstated. I went to Bucharest in November '05 and visited two gay clubs (and I have not heard there would be other ones). One of them is Queens which they speak about here. It is not a paradise. When I think about the long list and diversity of clubs in the neighbouring capitals of Budapest or even Sofia, Bucharest is clearly lagging behind (although the city is much bigger). As I used to say when I worked for ACCEPT, I am trying to understand why market economy does not work when it comes to gays and clubs in Romania." Keep Adrian's comments in mind when reading the article, which you can do by clicking here.....PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS TomDispatch has a smart piece by Dilip Hiro (right) dissecting why the reasons for the advance of political Islam differ from country to country in the Near and Middle East, including today's voting in Palestine, where he explains why a Hamas breakthrough is expected.
January 16, 2006
Warning: SERVICE INTERRUPTION -- Plus, Poland's political boss in anti-gay rant, threatens censorship (and, an Alert for Cell-phone users)
Storm damage this past weekend has caused a serious problem in the Time-Warner internet connection for my neighborhood -- I only have an intermittent connection, and this includes my ability to send and receive e-mail as well as blog. And the rapacious Time Warner, which has a cable monopoly here in New York City, tells me it may be several days before the problem is repaired. So, have faith, DIRELAND will return, but I may not be able to blog with the usual regularity for the rest of this week -- but I will if I can.....Stay Tuned -- D.I.
POLAND'S POLITICAL BOSS, IN ANTI-GAY RANT, THREATENS MEDIA CENSORSHIP The Warsaw Business Journal Online reports today (January 16) that the leader of the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) Party who is also the boss of the Polish parliament, Jarosław Kaczyński (left), speaking on the anti-semitic and ultraconservative Catholic radio station Radio Maryja, has said that government must exercise "moral censorship" and take a greater role in controlling media and education.
Kaczynski -- whose twin brother, Lech, is Poland's homophobic president -- "also railed against how Catholics are treated in the media, and claimed that Catholics are discriminated against in Poland" the report said -- an absurd claim in this overwhelmingly Catholic country.
"Kaczyński said that the prejudices of the current 'liberal age' make it so that anyone who tries to think seriously about the the question of moral censorship is regarded as a Neanderthal and a 'very bad person,'" The Warsaw Business Journal report continued, adding: "He claims this underlies the prejudice of liberal democracy where "gay people are allowed to conduct perverse demonstrations in the streets, but it is forbidden to discuss the issue of moral censorship." (The reference to "perverse demonstrations" is to nation-wide protests against the violent police repression of a march for gay human rights -- read about it by clicking here.)
"At the same time, Kaczyński lamented what he called discrimination against Catholics and Catholic institutions. Catholics are often denied government funding on account of their religious nature, he claims. The PiS (Party of Law and Justice) leader also promised that the government, which is 'composed of people of faith,' will be alert to this problem.
"In order to protect Poland's morality, Kaczyński believes the government should strengthen its grip on the radio, television and press industry and institutions connected with education. Recently the government introduced amendments to the media law that slimmed down the National Radio and Television Council to five members from nine, two of which will be nominated by President Lech Kaczyński (right), two by the Sejm [the parliament] and one by the Senate."
For background on Poland's new ultraconservative and homophobic regime, see these previous DIRELAND articles: October 28: "Is Poland's New President Another Putin, or Another Peron?"; October 25, "Poland Could Lose E.U. Rights Over New Leadership's Homophobia"; October 24, "Poland Elects a Hard-Right, Homophobic President" November 21, "Poland: A First-Hand Account of an Official Gay-Bashing" November 30, "Gay Poland Protests Official Gay-Bashiing"
ALERT TO CELL-PHONE USERS: All cellphone numbers will be released to telemarketers in a month, and you'll start to get tons of annoying and unwanted phone calls --UNLESS you register your cell phone number with the federal govrnment's registry of phone numbers that don't want telemarketing calls. To register your number, dial (from the number you want to register) 1-888- 382-1222 to be telemarketing free and not have your number released to the mercantile teleboobs. This number is also good for your land lines. Preserve your right to privacy and freedom from being annoyed -- register today!
January 14, 2006
NOTES ON GILLES DELEUZE
"There's no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons." -- Gilles Deleuze (from Postscript on the Societies of Control)
In my personal Pantheon of seminal intellectual figures in the second half of the 20th century, few rank higher than the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995, above left), perhaps the most original of those who are frequently classified as "post-modern" thinkers (the term "post-modern" has been so over-used and mis-used, vulgarized, and even commercialized as to have been nearly emptied of its real and precise original meaning.) It's only a few weeks since the 10th anniversary of Deleuze's death, but I've been tardy in offering these few notes to try to convey why I thnk he's of such enormous importance.
With Deleuze's tragic death a decade ago, France lost the man who was, I think, the last of its great public intellectuals -- certainly there is today in France no one person of his intellectual stature and moral authority. Deleuze was more significant, in my view, than his contemporary and friend Michel Foucault (left), and as a philosopher he was -- on the Continent at least -- for a time nearly as influential in intellectual circles in the '70s and '80s (or even moreso) as Sartre (above right), whose most important work had by then long been completed -- see my note for DIRELAND on "Sartre at 100: Still Relevant":).
Another contemporary and friend of Deleuze, Jacques Derrida (right) -- himself an important figure of post-modernism -- nicely captured the scope and meaning of Deleuze's work and life in his moving eulogy for Deleuze, "I'll have to wander all alone." Said Derrida:
"Deleuze was, of all those in his 'generation,' the one who 'did/made' (faisait) philosophy the most gaily, the most innocently. He would not have liked, I think, the word "thinker'...He would have preferred 'philosopher.' In this respect, he claimed to be 'the most innocent (the most devoid of guilt) of making/doing philosophy' (in Negotiations, cover left). This was, no doubt, the condition for his having left such a profound mark on the philosophy of this century, the mark that will remain his own, incomparable. The mark of a great philosopher and a great professor. The historian of philosophy who proceeded with a sort of configurational election of his own genealogy (the Stoics, Lucretius, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson, etc.) was also an inventor of philosophy who never shut himself up in some philosophical 'realm' (he wrote on painting, the cinema, and literature, Bacon, Lewis Carroll, Proust, Kafka, Melville, etc.). And then, and then I want to say precisely here that I loved and admired his way -- always faultless -- of negotiating with the image, the newspapers, television, the public scene and the transformations that it has undergone over the course of the past ten years. Economy and vigilant retreat. I felt solidarity with what he was doing and saying in this respect, for example[when] he said: 'One should know what is currently happening in the realm of books. For several years now, we've been living in a period of reaction in every domain. There is no reason to think that books are to be spared from this reaction. People are in the process of fabricating for us a literary space, as well as judicial, economic, and political spaces, which are completely reactionary, prefabricated, and overwhelming/crushing....' This is, he said, 'much worse than a censorship,'and then he added, 'but this dry spell will not necessarily last.' Perhaps, perhaps....."
A Nietzschean of the left who was heavily influenced by Marx -- and was not shy about saying so -- Deleuze's hugely important 1972 study of Nietzsche (published here a decade later by Columbia University Press as "Nietzsche and Philosophy") was the single most important factor in the rehabilitation of Nietzsche's work in the last quarter of the 20th century (prior to which Nietzsche had been unfairly taxed with being a forerunner of Hitlerian totalitarianism, when in fact he was an immensely anti-totalitarian philosopher of libertarian tendencies.) Deleuze's book certainly changed radically my own view of Nietzsche -- so that today, my favorite among the younger French philosophers (and the most brilliant) is another Nietzschean of the left, the prolific libertarian hedonist and joyous atheist Michel Onfray.(above left)
Deleuze was an intellectuel engagé, who -- from his opposition to France's colonial war in Algeria until his death -- wrote brilliantly about political issues (unfortunately, not enough of Deleuze's political essays and articles are published in English). And I enjoy Deleuze's extensive writings on literature and film. I shall never forget the immense privilege of the afternoon I spent with Deleuze, who -- even though he was already quite ill, knew his days were numbered, and was conserving his precious time and energy for his work -- kindly accorded me a lengthy interview, thanks to the intervention of our mutual friend, the late Gilles Chatelet (left) (Chatelet was a very dear comrade of mine who was a world-class mathematical philosopher, gay activist, and brilliant political polemicist -- his scintillating essay, "Vivre et penser comme des porcs. De l'incitation à l'envie et à l'ennui dans les démocraties-marchés," Paris, Exils Éditeur, coll. Essais, 1998 [translation: To Live and Think Like Pigs: envy and boredom in market-economy democracies] was a best-seller in France the year before his premature death, and praised by Le Monde as the book that, "of all the many books published for the 30th anniversary of May 1968, is the one that most closely embodies its spirit." -- I miss Gilles Chatelet terribly. You can get some flavor of his thought from an article he wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique, entitled "Re-lire Marcuse pour ne pas vivre comme des porcs," which you can read by clicking here.)
Fortunately for those who aren't lucky enough to be able to read Deleuze's striking prose in French, there is a great deal of material by and about Deleuze (right) available on the Internet in English. There is a very competent, extensive, and detailed look at Deleuze's most important work in the Deleuze entry of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophjy. A website maintained at Wayne State University by Charles Stivale has a ton of texts and links. If you do speak French, WebDeleuze is a site still under construction that has audio recordings of some of Deleuze's course lectures. And you can find a list of all the books Amazon has available by Deleuze in English by clicking here.
Among the most important of Deleuze's books were two he co-authored with his friend, the radical psychoanalyst Felix Guattari (left). First came Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, which combines elements of the work of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche to develop a political analysis of desire as it is repressed or expressed in Western culture. I consider this one of the greatest books of the second half of the 20th century. Anti-Oedipus was followed by a second volume extending this work, A Thousand Plateaus. These two works, along with those of Marcuse, helped root and theoretically inspire the European student rebellions of the '70s. (for a summary of their views, see the interview in English of Deleuze and Guattari by Sylvere Lothringer, "Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium.")
Moreover, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus were terribly important in influencing the theoretical development of the gay liberation movement in France and on the Continent generally. My late friend Guy Hocquenghem (right), the founding theorist of French gay liberation in the early '70s, used to insist that Anti-Oedipus -- much more than Foucault's work , which came later -- had made gay liberation intellectually possible in France.
January 13, 2006
THE CIA'S "HOMEPAGE FOR KIDS"
Did you know that the CIA has a "homepage for kids" from Kindergarten through the 5th grade? There's an article analyzing it just posted on the useful London-based international 'zine on issues, Open Democracy, by Le Monde's former Washington correspondent, Patrice de Beer, "Child's Play at the CIA." Here's part of the description of the CIA's enticements to your little ones: "They are invited to visit the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia with Ginger ('That's short for Virginia, where my home is') the teddy-bear (above left), who is taking advantage of the absence of her mistress, the analyst Marta, to show them around. They can learn through Ginger that Marta's job 'is a very important job because what she writes may be seen by the President and other important persons in the government. What she does is help them make important decisions about our country'. Which ones? We are not told....."
It gets even better: "We also learn about the members of the CIA canine corps (or K-9, which sounds more mysterious) like Dallas, Tiwoz, Gerro, Whisper, Maggie, Zoltan, Nikky or Orry; and about the twin spy pigeons Harry (for Truman) and Aerial (for our love of flying) and their miniature cameras...." Read the rest of de Beer's article by clicking here. And visit the actual CIA "homepage for kids" by clicking here. Now, doesn't that qualify for the label "child abuse"?
January 12, 2006
As the song says, "A kiss is just a kiss..." BOYCOTT INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS!
Reuters reports that "A gay kiss in a swimming pool, which two men say got them thrown out of a luxury hotel, has caused a stir in traditionally macho Mexico, where open displays of homosexuality are frowned upon. Gerardo Eliud and his partner, Samir Habdu, told police in Los Cabos, a plush beach resort city popular with U.S. tourists, that security guards beat them up and threw them into the street with their luggage after spotting them kissing in the hotel pool in December....
"Eliud, a 27-year-old public relations officer who lives with 24-year-old air steward Habdu in Mexico City, said he and his partner only shared a discreet peck. 'It was a two-second kiss, we didn't even touch lips,' he said, adding that the couple chose the Hotel Presidente InterContinental (above left) because of the stated gay-friendly policy of its parent company. Eliud said that when asked why they had thrown them out, two security guards told them: 'We don't like faggots.' He said he and his partner, who are both Mexican, filed a criminal complaint against the hotel for assault and for stealing some of their belongings, and that they had approached Mexico's human rights commission. 'This can happen to anyone,' said Eliud. 'Many people keep quiet or don't say anything for fear of being in the press. We want this not to happen to anyone else, and we want justice to be done.' " You can read the entire story by clicking here.
If you'd like to protest this blatant act of discrimination, let the British parent company know you won't be staying at one of their hotels because of it. Write InterContinental Hotels Group, 67 Alma Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 3HD United Kingdom, or fax them at +44 (0) 1753 410101.
KIDNAPPED: ANOTHER GAY IRANIAN TORTURE VICTIM SPEAKS
As the Islamic Republic of Iran’s lethal anti-gay pogrom—the government’s intense persecution of its own citizens for homosexuality, including the execution of at least a dozen young gay men—proceeds at a terrifying pace, the victims of this oppression, despite great obstacles, continue to try to flee from the largest religious prison in the world to tell the story of the inhuman treatment they have suffered.
You may have read my previous interviews with two gay refugees from Iran's sadistic repression of same-sexers: Amir and Mojtaba. The latest escapee to testify to this anti-gay reign of terror is a 28-year-old man caught up in the government‘s extensive Internet entrapment campaign targeting gay men. We’ll call him Sam, and we cannot identify his hometown to protect his real identity.
Sam is the son of a very religious family, most of whom do not know he’s gay. He lived in a smaller town in which—like so many in Iran—most of the people are also intensely religious, consider homosexuality the ultimate sin, and agree with the Islamic Republic’s law mandating the death penalty for any person caught in a homosexual act. Isolated and unable to frequent his few gay friends, constantly living in fear of being arrested and tortured, perhaps executed, Sam became increasingly depressed, and even attempted suicide.
Because there is nowhere in Iran where gay people may legally assemble—private gay parties are frequently raided by the police, and the government has an extensive network of gay informers whose cooperation has been obtained by torture, blackmail, and intimidation with threats of prison or death—like many gay Iranians, particularly those outside the largest cities, Sam’s only way of meeting other gay people was through the Internet. Here, translated from Persian, is his story:
Last Spring, Sam related, “I was in a gay Internet chat room for Iranians. A boy in the chat room was sending repeated messages saying that he was looking for a sex partner and was up for anything. He said he was 23 and very handsome. I finally got up the courage to arrange a rendezvous with him somewhere in tow—he said that after meeting we could then go to his house, as there was no question of his coming to mine.
“We met at 3:00 in the afternoon, and, as the young man was very good-looking, I agreed to go with him by taxi to his home. A taxi rapidly arrived—there was a person sitting in the front next to the driver, and another in back. We got into the taxi, and my new friend suggested that I should be the one to sit in the middle in the rear, with him sitting next to me.
“As we drove away, it didn’t take long for them to shove my head down between the rear and front seats and begin beating me. They put a blindfold around my eyes, calling me all sorts of names and threatening me with the worst as the blows continued to rain on me.”
It turned out that both the young man Sam had met in the chat-room, and the others in the taxi, were basiji. The basiji are an unofficial religious parapolice composed of thugs under the control of the Intelligence Ministry and operating with the authorization of the religious authorities. They are recruited from the criminal and under-classes, and are employed by the Islamic government to do its strong-arm dirty work. For example, when the government repressed student demonstrations in universities last year, it was the basiji who were assigned to beat the student demonstrators and throw them out of the windows, so that the government could deny responsibility for these violent repressions, in which a number of students were killed. The basiji are a potent weapon frequently used in the government’s anti-gay crackdown, and it is from their ranks that the human bait used in its Internet entrapment campaign is recruited. Many of the basiji are young.
“After about 15 minutes,” Sam continued, “we arrived at a location—as I was blindfolded, I had no idea where I was. I was in a state of shock—I could not believe this was happening to me. The eventually took off my blindfold, and then began the worst event in my life. I was surrounded by men in civilian clothes, all of them wearing pagers, and some of them were armed. They all had beards, and some of them were quite young, in their late teens. Their boss was almost bald, and had a big stomach—if he’d had a turban around his head he would have looked like a mullah, perhaps he was a mullah in civilian clothes, I don’t know. I quickly concluded I was in some sort of basiji headquarters. It was an old building; part of it was a school.
“After several hours of torture, they asked me to write a statement in which I would promise not to ever use a gay chat room again—if I did, they told me, even heavier punishment would be waiting for me. They told me that if they had caught me having sex they would have hanged me.
“I refused to sign their statement, so they began beating me with a heavy metal cable. God knows how barbarous it was—they beat me at least 30 times, while kicking me with their shoes. I couldn’t bear the pain any more, and I begged them to stop. I knew they would not stop until they had the signed statement in their hands, and that is why I agreed to sign it.(Photo right of some of Sam's injuries, taken just days afer his kidnapping and sequestration)
“But even when I got up from the floor to sign their statement, I asked why—this made their boss very mad, and he ordered his men to resume beating me with the heavy cable, which they did while yelling more threats and insults. The screaming intimidation felt like a hammer on my brain, it was worse than the cable and the beatings. One of them hollered, ‘We’ll round up all you fags until there aren’t any left to make a chat room and play your fag games.’
“The beatings, verbal abuse, and intimidation continued until 8:00 p.m. the next day. I was finally thrown into a storage room—the room was filthy and full of rubbish and had a very bad smell. They kept me locked up in that stinking little room for seven or eight days.
“One day they finally let me out, once again blindfolded me, and shoved me into a car. We drove around for about 30 minutes—but it seemed like 100 years because they were beating me all the time. They dropped me off somewhere and told me not to take off my blindfold until they’d left. When I could no longer hear the sound of their car, I took off the blindfold and saw I was on a deserted dirt road somewhere outside town. I finally flagged down a truck and persuaded the driver to drop me off in town.”
When he got home, Sam said, he faced intensive questioning from his family, who wanted to know where he’d been.
“But they do not know I’m gay, so I had to lie to them. But I could not give them a plausible answer. I finally called a friend and asked him to take pictures of my wounds and bruises from the beatings (photo left) so I’d have some evidence—but my friend doesn’t know I’m gay either, so I had to lie to him too. I was afraid if I old him the truth the situation would go from bad to worse, so I said the basiji had caught me when I was drunk and beat me. When I got back home, the only member of my family to whom I could tell the truth of what had happed was my brother, who left Iran four years ago, and who is also gay—so I sent him an e-mail.
“I had never considered leaving my country before this horrible episode,” Sam said, “but after it I could sense the shadow of death and torture on my back, so I decided to escape to save my life.”
It took Sam six months after his kidnapping by the basiji before he could arrange to escape from Iran. Four months ago, Sam made his way to Pakistan. There, he filed a request for asylum with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and eventually got in touch with the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, the largest Iranian gay organization, which has secretariats in several countries. The PGLO, which has helped me in my previous reportages on the gay tragedy in Iran, asked me to help Sam tell his story to the world. For as Sam said, “Iranian homosexuals have had all their rights taken away from them, and face a bitter destiny.”
Sam today is in Pakistan, still waiting for the UNHCR to recognize as legitimate his demand for asylum in a gay-friendly country.
There are many other gay refugees from Iranian terror like Sam, almost all of them in dire financial straights and living a precarious existence, constantly fearful that the countries they’ve managed to flee to will deport them back to Iran, where a dire fate awaits them. The PGLO desperately needs our financial and moral support, and help in obtaining asylum for these gay refugees. To find out how to help, please contact the PGLO through the English-language page of its website, by clicking here.
I wrote the above article for Gay City News -- New York's largest gay weekly. For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West .....Also, don't miss Rob Anderson's excellent article in the November 10 New Republic, "How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."
NO BOMBING OF IRAN! I've written on many occasions that I'm unalterably opposed to an air strike against Iran's nuclear development plants, either by the U.S. or (as the neo-cons' backup plan has it) by proxy through Israel (Sharon's cabinet approved a plan for an air-strike on Iran six months ago, although it went under-reported in the U.S.). In any case, Timothy Garton-Ash makes a strong realpolitik case against bombing Iran in The Guardian today, which you can read by clicking here.
January 11, 2006
HOW ABRAMOFF FUNDED THE ANTI-GAY AGENDA
I wrote the following for the new edition of Gay City News -- New York's largest gay weekly -- in which it appears tomorrow:
One aspect of the corruption and bribery mega-scandal shaking Washington that is swirling around conservative lobbyist Jack Abramoff (left), and which hasn’t gotten much mass media attention: how a lot of dough from Abramoff-controlled slush funds went to leading homophobes from the religious right.
Abramoff did more than hire anti-gay luminaries as Rev. Lou Sheldon (head of the Traditional Values Coalition) and Ralph Reed (former head of the Christian Coalition) with money from Abramoff’s clients and front groups to lobby for special interests. Abramoff also funded an anti-gay group close to the lobbyist’s best buddy and biggest water-carrier, Rep. Tom Delay (right) -- the U.S. Family Network -- with laundered money that has been traced to Russian oil interests.
Let’s start with Rev. Sheldon (right). He’s such a professional anti-gay wacko that even conservative pundit Tucker Carlson has denounced him for it. In a Jan. 4 column Carlson wrote for MSNBC’s website, Carlson (left) recounted an interview he had with Sheldon, who told him, “You want to know what the single biggest problem facing inner-city black neighborhoods is? Homosexuality." Carlson‘s reaction: “Homosexuality was the biggest problem in the inner cities? Bigger than crime? And unemployment? And poverty? And broken families? And AIDS?… Nope, there was no way around it. What the Reverend Lou had said was bizarre. And creepy too.”
Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition received at least $25,000 from an Abramoff client, eLottery -- an online lottery company -- as part of the $2 million the company spent to defeat an anti-gambling bill. (The Washington Post reported that Abramoff referred to Sheldon as “Lucky Louie.”) What makes this all the juicier is that the Traditional Values Coalition has long proclaimed its hostility to gambling and crusaded against it. Thus, while Sheldon was proclaiming that it was the “homosexual agenda [which] is destroying America’s moral fibre,” he was secretly on the take from gambling interests whose usurious gouging he opposed in public. This sort of blatant hypocrisy scandalized even a bona-fide right-wing frother like Carlson, who wrote in his column that Sheldon was a “weirdo and charlatan” for preaching gay-hating morality while pocketing Abramoff’s corrupt cash.
Ralph Reed (left, on the cover of TIME), as head of the Christian Coalition from 1989-1997, has been widely credited for the “Republican Revolution” -- the 1994 election victory that gave the GOP control of the House for the first time in five decades. How did Reed do it? He mobilized Christian right voters with an anti-gay sleaze campaign linking Democratic members of Congress to wanting gays in the military -- a hot issue that year. Christian Coalition Congressional “scorecards” for voters massively distributed in every election cycle regularly targeted votes by Democrats for gay civil rights legislation to defeat them -- another Reed invention.
E-mails released by federal investigators in June of last year show that Reed “secretly accepted payments,” as the Washington Post put it, to lobby against approval of some Indian casino gambling competitive with the casinos owned by Abramoff’s now-famous Indian gambling clients. Abramoff also recruited Reed to join Sheldon in lobbying for eLottery -- on whose behalf Reed also lobbied against an Alabama education lottery. Reed, who became chairman of the Georgia Republican Party four years ago by making himself the spokesman of those who wanted to keep the Confederate flag flying on state buildings, is now running for lieutenant governor of the Peach State -- where the newspapers and Reed’s opponents are having a field day exposing the sordid hypocrisy of “family values” crusader Reed’s secret links with Abramoff.
Grover Norquist (left) has been dubbed “The Lenin of the Right.” As head of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)-- a hard-right lobbying group -- Norquist convenes and presides over weekly meeting of the leaders of more than a hundred conservative organizations. It was at these meetings that the successful anti-gay strategy targeting gay marriage as the Republicans 2004 key to election victory was hatched and refined. Norquist allowed Abramoff to launder money through ATR to help an Abramoff client -- which wanted to sell state lottery tickets online -- whip up opposition to an anti-gambling bill that would have put Abramoff’s client out of business.
But the most bizarre and Byzantine Abramoff scam was the laundromat called the U.S. Family Network, established in 1996 by DeLay’s former chief of staff, Edwin Buckham. The group, which promoted DeLay’s economic and family values agenda, spent money on radio ads that targeted Democratic members of Congress for their alleged fealty to “the homosexual agenda.” In 2004, the Network was found by the Federal Elections Commission to have illegally accepted $500,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee (the House GOP's campaign arm, controlled by DeLay).
In a lengthy piece of Pulitzer-quality investigative reporting on December 31 (little-noticed because it ran on a Saturday, which was New Year’s Eve day to boot), the Washington Post’s Jeff Smith exposed how Abramoff arranged funding for the U.S. Family Network, routed through London lawyers, from Russian energy executives who got DeLay to support Congressional funding for an International Monetary Fund bailout of the Russian economy. These Russian oiligarchs forked over a cool $1 million for the Network. Buckman, the U.S. Family Network’s guru, put DeLay’s wife on the payroll of his consulting firm -- for what the Post paints as a no-show job.
Other corporate interests with little stake in the “family values” agenda also lavished money on the U.S. Family Network -- like the $500,000 from textile companies headquartered in the Mariana Islands, who wanted -- and got -- DeLay’s public commitment to block legislation that would boost their labor costs. Or the $250,00 from Abramoff’s biggest client, the Choctaw Indians, who got Delay’s help in blocking legislation that would have taxed their casino profits.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin (right) is the Christian right’s favorite rabbi, a frequent speaker at its gatherings, an close friend of Ralph Reed, Karl Rove -- and Jack Abramoff. Rabbi Lapin’s 1999 book, “America’s Real War,” is a Pat-Buchanan-like diatribe about the “culture wars” in America that is dripping with homophobia and targets gays. And Lapin, an Orthodox Jew who moved here from South Africa in the ‘80s, has been a key figure in mobilizing opposition to gay marriage within the Jewish religious community through his organization, Toward Tradition (TT).
Lapin’s TT received $25,000 from Abramoff and $50,000 from two Abramoff clients, including eLottery. TT then hired the wife of then-DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy -- a major Abramoff scandal figure named in Abramoff‘s guilty plea -- after receiving written instructions from Abramoff (along with e-Lottery’s check) to put Mrs. Rudy on the payroll at $5,000 a month.
The great Ambrose Bierce (left) once defined hypocrisy as “prejudice with a halo.” And the decline and fall of these homophobes -- who are all at the center of the biggest sewer of corruption in Washington since the S&L scandal in the ‘80s -- gives a new meaning to their favorite phrase, “family values.”
PAT ROBERTSON DOES IT AGAIN: That crazy old religious coot Rev. Pat Robertson (below right) has declared Ariel Sharon's sroke was "divine punishment" of Sharon for "dividing" the land of Israel, CBS News reports. On his '700 Club" TV broadcast Robertson added, "I would say woe to any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of America." Of course, when Pat was afflicted with a cancerous prostate in 2003, he never told us what sin of his this medical problem represented -- he had the doctors remove it. You'll recall that kooky Pat blamed the 9/11 attacks on the Supreme Court, saying God destroyed the Twin Towers because of the Court's rulings that a woman had a right to an abortion and that the Bible should be kept out of the schools.