Sunday, March 27, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Former Exterminator Tom DeLay Helped Pull The Plug On His Father)
Once upon a time, busybodies were seen as invasive gossips with bad form. As insufferable nosey neighbors, with an ear to the wall and an eye to the keyhole, they were reviled for making everyone's business their own. Then, the busybodies organized and formed a powerful political lobby. Now, their rotten manners are touted as religious morals and their freakish voyeurism is spun as family values. Nowhere is the rise of the snoop more evident than in the nauseating and utterly revolting exploitation of Terri Schiavo.
It is indubitable that she has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years. Clearly, anyone who thinks Terri would have recovered has watched too many miracle segments on Rev. Pat Robertson's 700 Club. Her husband, Michael, said that Terri indicated to him in conversations that she did not want to live long-term on life support and Michael has tried to honor his wife's wishes. However, the sanctity of marriage, it seems, is respected only when it scores political points for preachy politicians.
Terri's well-meaning parents, sadly, do not want to accept reality and dragged this case though the Florida courts and beyond to its logical and merciful end. Of course, due process and the rule of law wasn't enough to keep moralistic meddlers from butting into this very personal family tragedy.
Scandal-laden House Majority leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, slithered out from beneath his slippery stone to lead the congressional charge to undermine his much-beloved states rights and pass an emergency law that switched jurisdiction of the case to the federal courts. DeLay even accused Michael Schiavo and the judges who decided this case of committing "an act of barbarism".
So, it was uncommonly grotesque and unusually sickening to read in the Los Angeles Times that DeLay did not object when his family pulled the plug on his comatose father, Charles DeLay, 16 years ago. According to the medical report, "extraordinary measures to prolong life were not initiated", and his bedside chart said, "Do not resuscitate."
Obviously, this political charade was never about rescuing Terri, but a desperate effort to deflect the stench of scandal from the corpse of corruption that surrounds DeLay, and a cynical effort to resuscitate his comatose moral authority as a conservative leader.
Equally foul were the busybody leaders who under the cover of religion handed out the home address of Judge George Greer who ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo. To give out personal information on a judge, in the wake of the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow's family in Chicago, is particularly unconscionable and sets a dangerous precedent.
The inflammatory pronouncements of the self-proclaimed defenders of the right to life, make one question whether some of these leaders are trying to provoke their followers into committing acts designed to intimidate the judiciary. Consider these statements:
· Speaking of Judge Greer, Focus on the Family's James Dobson told Fox News that, "This man is wicked."
· Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry told USA Today that, "There will be hell to pay", if Terri dies.
· Rev. Pat Robertson called the recent court decisions, "judicial murder."
It can't be denied that there is a long religious tradition of violence against people deemed "wicked" or "murderers". Bombings at abortion clinics in recent years are clear evidence of this. If Greer or other judges are attacked as a result of the right wing's terror campaign, the leaders who incited violence ought to be held accountable.
Not to be outdone, puritanical protesters coerced their own children into getting arrested for civil disobedience in front of Terri's hospice. Many of these "loving" do-gooders have called Michael Schiavo an "adulterer" because he has rightfully moved on with his life. Never mind the fact that Michael spent the first sixteen days and nights by Terri's bedside when she was first hospitalized or that he cared for her for many years and after that visited her daily.
If there is a silver lining to this sick circus it is that some protesters are blaming Gov. Jeb Bush, the man who started this whole mess in the first place. In 2003, he stuck his nose where it didn't belong and helped pass "Terri's Law" that originally allowed him to interfere in state court proceedings and have Terri's feeding tube reinserted. The law was later ruled unconstitutional. But having stirred up the hornet's nest, he now feels the sting of zealots who want him to break the law and defy the courts by illegally ordering that Terri's feeding tube be reinserted one final time.
According to the New York Times, several protesters were holding signs attacking Gov. Bush. One sign read, "Don't be a Pontius Pilate", while another sign said, "Jeb, you shall not murder."
Organized busybodies and snoops were the key to Jeb's political success in Florida. But now, these empowered meddlers peer through his keyhole and Bush stands naked and exposed as a political opportunist and family values hypocrite who cares more about feeding his political ambitions than feeding Terri Schiavo.
Monday, March 21, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Cohen With "Wife" )
Richard Cohen, President of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, blatantly lied in last week's Washington Blade
by denying the political and mean spirited mission of his organization. While there are simply too many mistruths to counter, I would like to set the record straight on a few key points:Myth:
Cohen said, "PFOX is not in the changing business".Fact:
Cohen's farcical statement is betrayed by their expensive advertising campaign that focuses exclusively on "change". Take a look at the PFOX billboard
with the huge headline "Ex-Gays Prove that Change Is Possible" and judge for yourself.Myth:
Cohen said, "As a professional psychotherapist, I have helped hundreds change from gay to straight."
Cohen conveniently fails to mention that he was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002. Manager of Ethics & Professional Standards Larry Freeman, told the Blade that, "If a person is sanctioned by the ACA code of ethics, it indicates that there's been a practice of malpractice."
It is interesting that if one reads his book, not one of the people featured has actually gone from gay to straight. Cohen steadfastly refuses to keep real statistics so the public can have a true idea of his failure rate.
Finally, Cohen failed to inform Blade readers that he once belonged to the Wesleyan Christian Community Church, a cult that was infamous for practicing nude therapy. Today, Cohen practices the very controversial method of "touch therapy" that has led to many abuses across the nation.Myth:
Cohen says, "I lived a gay life for many years. Today I am happily married with three kids."
Fact: Based on his own life story, Cohen's testimony of change is highly suspect. For more than two years, Cohen left his wife and cruised New York City looking for men.
"It was a very bizarre time. I was out running around New York City with my boyfriend, and she was at home alone taking care of our son, knowing her husband was out with a man," Cohen wrote in his book, Coming Out Straight.
Cohen readily admits that he once lied to the public and even his own family. So, why should we believe him today?Myth:
Cohen said, "We are in the loving business."Fact:
If one looks at the history of PFOX, it is very difficult to find even a hint of love. Roy Cohn's former houseboy, Anthony Falzarano, who once called Matthew Shepard "a predator to heterosexual men", founded the group in the late 1990's. Falzarano also once told CBS that Satan "uses homosexuals as pawns and then he kills them." With this type of rhetoric, it is no surprise that the political right wing organization, The Family Research Council, helped launch the group with an $80,000 grant.
Richard Cohen, Falzarano's replacement, also comes up a little short in the love department. While he claimed in the Blade that ex-gay therapy is a "civil right", Cohen has regularly lobbied legislators in Annapolis to ensure that people in Maryland can be fired from their jobs just because they are gay or lesbian.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the controversial talk radio host who once referred to gay people as "biological errors", wrote the forward for Cohen's book. Cohen also says that gay people can't be happy and believes that they are mentally ill, coining a phony diagnosis with a derisive acronym, Same-Sex Attachment Disorder (SSAD).
Finally, Cohen admits that he was once fired from the Red Cross and "their reason was that I was homophobic and spreading hate." There are a lot of words to describe Cohen and PFOX's work, but love is not one of them.Myth:
Cohen said, "We are in the education business."Fact:
Cohen and PFOX exist to spread outdated myths about gay life. Their work is rejected by every respected medical and mental health organization in America.
Cohen's favorite media sound bite is, "born gay, no way", although he offers no credible evidence to back up his assertion. Despite the incontrovertible fact that countless gay men are close to their fathers, in an interview I did with Cohen for my book Anything But Straight, he said:
"I don't believe that you or anyone else can have same sex attractions and have successfully attached to both Mom and Dad. It's an impossibility and I do not believe it can be true."
Another educational gem from Cohen is, "The penis and the vagina fit together. Two penises and two vaginas, they don't work."
PFOX offers false hope and traffics in broken families. It should do its members a favor by disbanding and sending these misguided people to PFLAG where they can learn the true meaning of love and acceptance.
Richard Cohen has made a career out of degrading the lives of gay and lesbian people. While he and his clientele might not have changed into heterosexuals, we can certainly set the record straight. If Cohen is up to the challenge, I am interested in a public debate on this issue. Of course, he may feel it is in his best interest to continue letting his distortions and falsehoods go uncontested.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
by Wayne Besen
There must me 10,000 clothing designers within a five-block radius of Madison Square Garden, in Manhattan's Garment District. Yet, the New York Knickerbockers, who play in MSG, have the ugliest uniforms in the National Basketball Association. They are drab white rags with screaming, loud orange numbers. It looks like the same design firm that created the lovely uniforms for the Lincoln Tunnel traffic cops made them.
Attention! Would someone please create new uniforms for the home team?
Okay, the game was a blowout and a bit boring by the fourth quarter. So, I had time to notice the obnoxious sponsorship overload. Oh, don't worry. This isn't one of those moralistic columns bemoaning consumer culture and the branding of a logo on anything that isn't a non-stick pan. It is way too late for that.
It is time to embrace the corporate titans and urge them to stop beating around the bush. Now is the time to let them go all the way and have players legally change their names to the products they represent. We've heard of a shoe being named after player, but now it is time to name the player after the shoe.
Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs can become Tim Dunkin Donuts. Cleveland Cavaliers protege LeBron James is already admiringly referred to as King James. For a cool $20 mil., why not become Burger King James? Not to lose market share, McDonalds could write a check to the Houston Rocket's Tracey McGrady, so he will become Tracey McGriddle. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks could become Dirk Nokia. And Shaquille O'Neal could transform himself into Shaq O'Reilly Factor.
Imagine the excitement if one day they ended up in the same all-star game. Announcers Marv Albert and Bill Walton would call the game. Whoops, they've got contracts too, and now go by the names Bill Wal-Mart and Marv Albertsons.
"This is Marv Albertsons here with Bill Wal-Mart at Compaq Center for the Microsoft tip-off. Shaq O'Reilly Factor tips the exciting, new Spalding leather ball into the hands of Burger King James. Burger King Passes to McGriddle."
"Talk about teamwork!" (Both announcers snicker. Make that Snickers)
"The sizzling McGriddle makes his move. Kobe Beef Bryant, blocks his path. McGriddle swings the ball to Dirk Nokia. He spots up to shoot, but Jamaal "Tab" Tinsley (bad agent), gets in his way. Nokia throws a zippy bounce dryer sheet pass to Burger King. BK throws a Don Carter Premier Bowling Alley-Oop to Tim Dunkin Donuts, for the Frito-Lay up!!!!!! Yeeeeeees!!!!!"
I walked out of MSG with Ben, my boyfriend, and headed towards Times Square with its brilliant flashing lights, advertising every conceivable product known to mankind. Glancing around it seemed everyone was hawking something.
A pushy, bitter Dr. Ruth clone with a thick German accent cut us off and shoved "Don't Murder Meat, Eat Vegetarian" brochures in our faces. I proudly pointed to Ben and said, "He's a VEGAN". I was waiting for Dr. Arugala Ruth's nod of approval when she frowned and her wild eyes widened. She accusingly pointed right at Ben and yelped!
"That's fur! F-U-R!! You're no vegan. You're a murderer."
Crazed eyes aside, I really couldn't argue her point. His raccoon P-Diddy, Pimp Daddy coat was quite a contradiction. Especially for a guy that looked at me like I was Charles Manson when I made him watch me eat ribs at a BBQ Pit in rural Florida.
Surprisingly, Dr. Ruth continued her tirade and screeched at Ben, "what are you a boy or a girl, anyway?"
So there we were in Times Square: A bacon eating, Jewish gay activist with his fur-wearing vegan boyfriend in a confrontation with an animal rights/peace activist who clearly wanted to behead us. What's not to love about New York?
We got back to the apartment at the end of the night and I was coming down with the flu. I took a power swing of some awful, castor oil-tasting flu medication. Within fifteen minutes I was so high that Rev. Jerry Falwell would have looked hot in a G-string bikini bathing suit. It is amazing the things they won't sell over-the counter, yet they sell flu meds, which I'm convinced, are liquid Quaalude.
Shaking with the chills, Ben put his fur coat over me, as a lie on the couch. He prepared a plate of field green Edamame. As I drifted off to sleep I could hear him say, "Damn right I'm a Vegan, Bitch!"
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
by Wayne Besen
The Achilles heel of the modern GOP is that it is a movement rather than a traditional political party. While this arrangement serves as a campaign advantage because it instills message discipline, it leads to habitual overreaching when the Republican Party assumes the mantle of power. Political pragmatism is a strong check on unfettered power, while movements are designed by nature to simply want more.
A chest-thumping Republican Party seems intent on following Newt Gingrich’s path to oblivion by threatening to shut down the government if it doesn’t get its way. Instead of listening to the American people, it is listening to "movement conservatives" who wrongly believethe GOP is strong enough to ram through unpopular ideas.
. Easy terrorist access to firearms, thanks to the NRA and theircongressional allies
. Pushing for the repeal of Article 2, Section 1 of the 22nd Amendment to allow Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president
. Bush’s efforts to subvert the New Deal by undermining Social Security
. The GOP’s attempt to shut down the government by eliminating the filibuster
This week, the General Accounting Office released a report that showed over a nine-month period, officials approved 47 of 58 gun applications from terror suspects. This ought to make the hair stand up on the neck of anyone afraid of terrorism, including conservative Democrats,moderate Republicans and independent swing voters.
Currently, records of gun purchases by terror suspects must be destroyed within 24 hours. This is a direct result of a change in the law last year that was mandated by Congress and supported by the Bush administration. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., has sponsored a bill that would change the law so records on gun purchases by suspected terrorists will be kept for a minimum of ten years.
The Democrats ought to forcefully advocate Lautenberg’s bill, thus putting the GOP leadership in the tough spot of having to choose between national security and the NRA. I would place my bet with the GOP supporting the NRA which would create a huge opening the Democrats could capitalize on to expand their credibility on national security issues.
I know this sounds counterintuitive, but the Democrats should aggressively push for the repeal of Article 2, Section 1 of the 22nd Amendment, which only allows a natural born citizen to be eligible for the presidency. Sure, this would clear the path for California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president. However,his ascendance is a much greater threat to the Republican Right than it
is to Democrats.
By pushing hard for repeal, Democrats can appear bipartisan and support common sense legislation. It will also, once again, put the conservative GOP leadership in a painfully awkward position. They know if they support repeal, there is a good chance that the moderate Schwarzenegger will be the Republican frontrunner in 2008.
Schwarzenegger, as the nominee, is completely unacceptable to the Tom DeLay wing of the party. With their backs against the wall,conservatives will thwart a repeal effort, thus appearing obstructionist and alienating mainstream voters in their own party. Trust me, Conan will never make it past the congressional barbarians.
It is clear that Bush’s attempt to undermine Social Security by replacing the safety net with a risky privatization scheme has backfired. Bush will dig his own grave if only the Democrats will stop looking intransigent. On Meet the Press, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that private accounts are off the table.
What he should say is "the Democrats will support private accounts the very moment the president credibly shows that these accounts will address solvency." The Democrats should steadfastly avoid saying that anything is "off the table" because it makes Bush appear like the reasonable problem solver, rather than a huckster with a cruel plan.
The final issue in the trap is Sen. Bill Frist’s, R-Tenn., threat to go "nuclear" and take away the Democrats right to filibuster judicial nominees. This would be an unprecedented, anti-American power-grab by the GOP. Democrats should portray such a move as a "government shutdown" to make the GOP seem petty and dictatorial.
Movements are great during campaigns because the faithful readily take marching orders. But governing by ideological movement decree can also lead a party to march off a cliff.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
by Wayne Besen
Imagine a Middle Eastern terror cell infiltrating the United States with a plot to blow up the nation's capital with a crude nuclear device stashed in a suitcase. If the terrorists succeed, hundreds of thousands of Americans would be annihilated.
In a desperate attempt to stop the horrific plot, military specialists pour over Arabic "chatter" looking for specific leads. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of hours of tape and very few Arabic specialists to decipher the clues.
Time runs out.
Washington, DC no longer exists. Our government nearly collapses, financial markets tumble and a grieving nation is in disarray. However, the bigger shock comes when Americans learn that the catastrophic act of terror could have been prevented if there were just a few more Arabic-speaking interpreters.
While this scene is imaginary, it is not that far-fetched. If we learned anything from 9-11, it is that we do not have nearly enough interpreters to translate the chatter of suspected terrorists. So, our national security is directly related to the number of fluent speakers of difficult foreign tongues.
This is why it is so appalling to find in a recent Government Accountability Office report that between 1998 and 2004, the military kicked out 20 hard-to-find Arabic speakers and six Farsi speakers simply because they are gay. It seems it is a higher priority for our government to keep these valued interpreters out of gay Internet chat rooms, than it is to have them investigating terrorist "chatter".
I don't think that most Americans care whether the person who deciphers a clue that stops mass murder at the hands of terrorists is gay or straight. However, the Religious Right and their allies in Congress would rather jeopardize our national security than deal with their own insecurity. While the rest of America is worried about stopping Armageddon, the Religious Right believes that Armageddon is letting gay people serve openly in the military. They would rather protect their prejudice than the American people.
I'm not suggesting that these folks are unpatriotic. They are just so blinded by ignorance or hate that they refuse to see a clear fact: Discriminating against gay Servicemembers hurts our military readiness and our ability to defend America against calamitous foreign threats.
Indeed, the same GAO report showed that nearly 10,000 gay troops were discharged from the military from 1994 through 2003. Of those discharged, 322 spoke foreign languages including Arabic, Korean, Mandarin and Farsi. This idiotic "Don't/Ask, Don't Tell" policy also wasted $200 million of taxpayers' money. So, we are actually paying a small fortune to make our nation less safe!
What is maddening is that discharges declined 15 percent last year - to 653 - and had plummeted by almost 50 percent since 2001 - the year America invaded Afghanistan - when 1,227 were booted from the armed services. It is the pinnacle of perfidy for Congress to exploit gay soldiers for their heroic battlefield mettle. Then, during peacetime, say that they are unworthy of their medals if they are discovered to be gay.
Fortunately, this month Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., will introduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2005. The bill seeks to overturn the failed Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy and allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military.
"It is more apparent than ever before that, as we conduct a global war on terror and face tremendous personnel shortages, that the 'don't ask, don't tell' law is undermining our military readiness," Meehan said, according to the Associated Press.
Of course, shameless bigots are already coming out of the woodwork using sophomoric, locker room prattle disguised as legitimate arguments.
"People serving in the military have a right to be free of fear that they're in the barracks or in the foxhole with somebody of the same sex who may be viewing them as a sexual object," The Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg said on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports.
There is clearly nothing in Meehan's bill that would allow or tolerate sexual harassment. It is obvious that Sprigg and others of his ilk plan to defeat Meehan's legislation by relying on outdated stereotypes of gay men as predators. The strategy is to convince Americans that honorable, decorated gay veterans are actually horny interior decorators.
However, this house of cards is quickly collapsing as American Servicemembers are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with openly gay military leaders from other nations. In 2000, when the British military was forced to allow homosexuals, many in the top brass took umbrage. Only four years later, however, the British military has launched a campaign to recruit gay Servicemembers because they have performed nobly.
What the right wing truly fears is not gay soldiers undermining military readiness by recruiting in foxholes, but the military's readiness in a few years, if Meehan's bill is passed, to recruit military heroes who happen to be gay. While old prejudices die hard, no one should have to die because the extreme right puts defending discrimination over defending America's national security.