Tuesday, May 24, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Sen. John McCain Helped with Compromise)
For the good of the country, it was wise for Senators to strike a compromise on the filibuster of judicial nominees. They temporarily averted a catastrophe and avoided setting a dangerous precedent. However, it is clear by the statements of many leading right wing Senators that this may be more of a transitory deferral than a true deal. The real test will come when Bush eventually nominates an extremist to the Supreme Court.Here is a snapshot of how the GLBT Community and major players fared in the compromise:
On a practical level, the majority party was clearly victorious, as they have almost free rein to nominate right wing judicial activists and get up or down votes. Radical judges who have no place on a fair-minded Appeals court, such as Priscilla Owen and William H. Pryor, Jr. will likely be confirmed.
On a political level, however, the Republicans took a major, if temporary, hit by infuriating their base. Right wing leaders are apoplectic and believe the Republican leadership sold them out. They are correct. A few weeks ago, the Republican leadership paraded fired-up fundamentalists at a disgraceful dog and pony show called Justice Sunday. Viewed by millions of churchgoers nationwide, the event, broadcast from a church via satellite, cast the filibuster battle in apocalyptic terms. The message of Justice Sunday: If you are with the Republicans you are for God, and if you are with the Democrats you are against Him. A compromise was also considered heretical, so to the fanatics, the Republicans now look like weak-kneed wimps who lost their faith. The Republicans are finding that it is a lot easier to turn on the God machine than it is to turn it off.The Democrats:
The Democrats were clearly defeated. From a practical standpoint, they now have almost no way of stopping the Republicans from confirming radical judges. The agreement says that the filibuster will only be used under "extraordinary circumstances". This will allow all but the most politically radioactive judges from getting through. And if a judge is that controversial, the Republicans will dump him or her before the Democrats get a chance to filibuster.
On a political level, the Democrats also enraged their base. With the Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, the filibuster was last bastion of power for the minority, and for all intents and purposes, it is now gone. Liberal groups can also rightfully claim that the Democrats sold out and gave Republicans the ability to ramrod through judgmental judges on the anti-abortion and anti-gay fringe.
In fairness, the Democrats are the minority and had less leverage to negotiate. It is unclear how protracted delay of Senate business, which they had promised, would play out in public opinion polls. Especially, because the Republicans have the presidency and could use this bully pulpit to continuously bash the Democrats. In any case, it is irrefutable that the position of the Democrats is weaker today than it was yesterday.Gay People:
Along with pro-choice advocates, gay and lesbian Americans will suffer the most from this compromise. It is clear that the Democrats are not going to use the "extraordinary circumstances" clause to stop even the most virulently anti-gay judges. This is evidenced by the compromise allowing a full-Senate vote for former Alabama attorney general William H. Pryor Jr. Lambda Legal's Executive Director Kevin Cathcart called Pryor the "most demonstrably antigay judicial nominee in recent memory."
Before his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Pryor amassed a hideously shameful record on gay rights. In a friend-of-the court brief defending Texas's sodomy law, Pryor compared GLBT equality to "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia."
The gay and lesbian community needs to brace itself for a puritanical parade of nominees who might feel more at home in Taliban robes than in judicial ones.Right Wing Groups:
The Right has really fallen off the deep end. They practically rule America, but they want more. Their scary ideologues won't be happy until this nation disappears and is replaced with a theocratic state. They actually relished the chance to sow chaos and mayhem, by opportunistically pushing the Senate to the precipice. It is part of their sinister plan to weaken American institutions, so they can replace them with their Biblical brand of law. Contrary to most Americans, those on the far right view instability and upheaval as healthy and a vital part of enacting their dangerous vision. We want liberty and they want Leviticus.
Focus on the Family's melodramatic founder James Dobson best summed up how unyielding zealots took the news of compromise, calling it, "a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats."
As much as Dobson threatens retribution on Republicans, he is married to the Republicans Party and has nowhere else to go. However, Dobson does have enough power to make sure Republican Senate Majority leader Bill Frist never becomes president if he doesn't follow through and take up this issue again.The Future:
Republican attempts to subvert the Senate and dismantle the judicial filibuster are not over. Before the ink was dry on the compromise, GOP Senators were already hinting of abrogating the deal with Frist saying that "bad faith and bad behavior" would force the Majority leader to kill the compromise. With fundamentalists of bad faith like Dobson breathing down his neck, is there anyone who thinks Frist won't find an example of Democratic "bad behavior" to undo the deal?
Republican Senate whip, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, also darkly signaled that this compromise was ephemeral.
"The way I read it, all options are still available with the timing to be determined."
A deal was likely struck because the GOP realized that staging a fight over Appellate court judges was like opening a major play Off-Broadway. They need a bigger stage, and the coming fight over Bush's first radical Supreme Court nominee will be such a theatrical venue.
Realists know that disaster was not prevented, but simply postponed. With this compromise, we have truly been compromised.
by Wayne Besen
(Rick Santorum: Your gay relationship will wreck his marriage)
Rick Santorum, R-Pa., likes to portray himself as the Senate's premier advocate for family values and a staunch defender of orthodox Catholic doctrine. However, a cover story on the sanctimonious senator in this weekend's New York Times magazine revealed that he is a mere cafeteria Catholic with a conscience of convenience.
For example, Pope John Paul II was very clear in his opposition to the Iraq war calling it a "defeat for humanity". Apparently, the Pope's protests fell on deaf ears as Santorum vigorously beat the drums of war for the Bush Administration. He justified his support by repeating the lie in Crisis Magazine that, "No one can ignore...mounting evidence of his [Saddam Hussein's] cooperation with terrorists."
Santorum's enthusiasm for the death penalty also runs afoul of the Vatican's position supporting a "culture of life."
Of course, playing God is a Santorum specialty, as was so evident in the Terri Schiavo case. The Times article makes it clear that Santorum was the driving force behind this unprecedented federal intrusion.
"I said to the leader: 'We're not leaving here until we pass this'...Let the folks know we'll be here for a long time."
Not surprisingly, Santorum parasitically parachuted into Florida to capitalize on the media frenzy. Between praying with Schiavo's parents and preening for the press, Santorum reportedly attended self-serving political fundraisers.
This type of insensitive and invasive behavior can be expected from a Senator who believes there is no right to privacy, including birth control, and that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling overturning sodomy laws will lead to "man on dog" sex.
The senator's obsession with homosexuality is, in fact, weird. In the Times article he was asked if gay marriage threatened his own marriage. "Yes, absolutely," he answered without explaining how this would occur.
Based on the facts, this is an odd conclusion. The Boston Globe editorialized last week "U.S. Census figures show that Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country -- boasting more family stability than any of the 18 states that have adopted constitutional bans on gay marriage."
Santorum's ire is piqued, not only at those he deems morally compromised, but those who he views as insufficiently Catholic. In the Times article, the reporter writes that Santorum said that, in a political sense, President John F. Kennedy shed his Catholicism when he became president by supporting separation of church and state.
This is an interesting observation from a man who turns his back on one of Rome's most cherished values - fighting poverty. Santorum, of course puts on a good show. He visits poor neighborhoods, acts concerned and gives speeches at black and Hispanic churches. But a glance at Santorum's record reveals he is no Robin Hood, but a self-righteous hood whose policies are robbing the poor.
Santorum is a co-sponsor of extending Bush's tax cuts, which have already caused the deficit to explode - leaving precious little money for anti-poverty programs. The Senator is also a champion of Social Security privatization, which could drain another $2 trillion out of the treasury.
"When you have a budget crunch, everything gets squeezed," he said explaining why the poor get the shaft. "I respect that. You just have to scrap and claw for whatever little money you believe you can get for programs you believe are important."
So, Santorum asks the poor to scrap and claw, while he offers tax cuts so the wealthiest Americans can eat caviar and tan at the spa.
Most telling, Santorum fought against raising the minimum wage to $7.25, although this would directly help the economically disadvantaged. It is amazing that the senator believes working people can get by on $5.15 an hour, considering in the Times, he complained that on his $162,100 Senate salary he was living from "paycheck to paycheck."
It seems the only time Santorum truly offers charity is when it is faith-based and appears to flagrantly violate the Separation of Church and State. He enthusiastically supports sending $10 million of taxpayer's money to a Philadelphia charity run by Rev. Herb Lusk, that serves soup only if you hear Scripture.
"And there will always be someone at that [free] lunch giving their testimony about their relationship with the Lord," bragged Lusk. "That's the way we do it."
Fortunately, a statewide poll in April showed that Santorum is down 18 points to his pro-life Democratic challenger Robert Casey Jr.
"How is it possible, I wonder, to believe in the existence of God yet refuse to express outrage when His moral code is flouted?" Santorum once asked during a speech at the conservative Heritage Association.
That's a good question, Senator, which you will be in a much better position to answer when your public record matches your very public beliefs.
Monday, May 16, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Hypocrite: Spokane's Shamed Mayor James E. West)
When a person says he is a social conservative, the first thing that now comes to mind is: Who are you really sleeping with and what deep, dark secret are you harboring? Conservatism is no longer a mantra, but a mask, hiding hypocrites and concealing closets.
The most startling example to come to light is the sickening story of Dr. W. David Hager, a prominent Bush appointee to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration. Hager, a gynecologist, is almost single-handedly responsible for sinking plans to allow Plan B, the morning after pill, to be sold over the counter.
According to an expose in The Nation magazine, Hager explained, in a lecture at Asbury College, how his actions to deny American women easy access to Plan B was God's will.
"Now, the opinion I wrote was not from an evangelical Christian perspective...But I argued it from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and He used it...to influence the decision."
Hager's pompous and pious speech enraged his ex-wife, Linda Carruth Davis, so much so, that she went public and accused her ex-husband of forcibly sodomizing her during their marriage.
The most shocking part of the allegations was that after she was diagnosed with narcolepsy, Hager took advantage of her while she slept.
"...It was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the sex that was so horrible," recounted Davis in The Nation article.
Amusingly, the Ob-Gyn's defense is that he couldn't tell which entrance was the vagina, leading Davis to tell him that maybe he was in "the wrong business".
And this is the guy Bush turns to for advice on women's health?
Equally stomach turning, is the hypocrisy of former Washington State Senate majority leader and Spokane's right wing mayor James E. West. The mayor had opposed a city measure that would have extended benefits to same-sex partners, and as a state legislator, once proposed prohibiting homosexuals from working in public schools.
With such anti-gay credentials, Spokane's citizens were shocked when the local daily newspaper caught West cruising gay websites and luring young men by offering internships and tickets to sporting events.
What separates conservative Republicans from reasonable people is the inability to see beyond their self-absorbed lives and solipsistic ambitions. When West was closeted, he had no compunction advancing his career on the backs of gay people and doing his best to wreck their lives. But now, that the very homophobic monster he helped create consumes him, he is whining that he is the victim of unfair treatment. In a pitiful phone call to the Spokesman-Review, the paper that uncovered his secret life, West pathetically carped that he was "being destroyed because I am a gay man."
Interestingly, West proposed marriage to his now ex-wife Ginger from the state Senate floor. This goes to my theory that the more public the moralistic display, the greater the private demons. People who have true family values live by them, while deviant phonies incessantly talk about them.
It seems there is no sector of society safe from the sanctimonious. The military used to be an institution that brought people together from different walks of life. Now, it appears that only right wing Christians need apply. Instead of training divisions to fight real wars, we have military leaders sowing division to fight their imagined holy war.
The worst abuses are taking place at the Air Force Academy where lately there is more emphasis on learning Scriptures like 1 Samuel 15, than knowing how to fly an F-15. We've all seen the tacky bumper stickers that read, "God Is My Co-pilot." Apparently, this is official policy at the Air Force Academy.
A report released in April by Yale Divinity School spoke of rampant Anti-Semitism and out of control proselytizing by evangelicals. Americans United for Separation of Church and State also issued a report charging that there is "systematic and pervasive religious bias and intolerance at the highest levels of the Academy command structure."
In an effort to downplay the scathing reports, honchos at the Academy demanded that Capt. MeLinda Morton, an Academy chaplain, defend the military. She declined, saying that she agreed with the reports and went on to help create a program for sensitivity training. The Air Force rewarded Morton for her truthfulness by dismissing her as "executive officer" and now plans to ship her to Okinawa, where she could be deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Is it any surprise that the same Air Force Academy that was mired in scandal in 2003 for sexually abusing women is the preachiest military post in the nation? It seems fire and brimstone creates the perfect smokescreen to veil the peddlers of virtue's real perversions.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
by Wayne Besen
A monumental new study released by Swedish scientists this week shows that biology plays a pivotal role in determining a person's sexual orientation. With this new research, can the brainwashed finally abandon their bigotry and admit that the brain, not the Bible, decides sexual attraction?
It must be difficult for the right wing to accept that God did create Adam and Steve, after all. Instead of anti-gay political campaigns, the extremists should call it a day, visit the mall and buy this oft-maligned gay couple nice wedding gifts. No matter how they spin it, a growing body of scientific evidence points to the obvious: Homosexuality is not a choice.
In the Swedish study, the portion of the brain that helps regulate sexuality - the hypothalamus - reacted the exact same way in straight women and gay men when exposed to male pheromones, which are chemicals designed to provoke a behavior, such as sexual arousal. The same area of the brain only became stimulated in heterosexual men when introduced to female pheromones.
This research appears to partially validate a 1991 study by Dr. Simon LeVay that found the hypothalamus is twice as large in heterosexual men as it is in women or gay men. At that time, the right wing dismissed the study by saying that LeVay used cadavers who died of AIDS. They claimed that the disease potentially could have caused brain wasting which may have accounted for the smaller gland.
This time, however, the test subjects were alive and while the studies were markedly different, the results were strikingly similar. The portion of the brain that governs sexuality behaves differently in gay men than in straight men. There is no morality involved. The brain leads, and the body follows.
Sadly, right wing ideologues are already trying to spin this study. Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a leading proponent of ex-gay therapy, wrote that, "smell is highly responsive to learning". He suggests that gay men are really heterosexuals who are mysteriously taught to respond sexually to male pheromones.
This "learning" canard is patently absurd, considering those on the right who teach us homosexuality is wrong keep producing gay kids. Did Dick Cheney teach his daughter to be a lesbian? Did the Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly enroll her son John in Homosexuality 101 courses? Did the Godfather of "ex-gay" therapy Charles Socarides train his son Richard to be President Bill Clinton's gay liaison? Did Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry tutor his son Jamiel?
The other myths circulated by the lucrative anti-gay industry, such as gay men have distant fathers, are easily disproved. Sure, a lot of fathers create distance when their young sons gravitate to ballet over baseball. But this simplistic cause and effect is eviscerated by the existence of countless relationships where fathers and gay sons share strong bonds.
The fable that women are lesbians because men sexually abused them also collapses under the weight of common sense. Most lesbians grew up in perfectly normal homes and had relatively uneventful childhoods. Meanwhile, there are many women who were sexually abused as children - and they turn out heterosexual. Clearly, this propaganda is not rooted in science, but crass stereotyping designed to foment prejudice, persecution and often votes for opportunistic politicians.
It is only a matter of time before science incontrovertibly establishes the biological origins of sexuality. While people do not choose their sexual orientation, America can choose to end discrimination against people who are living the life in which nature obviously intended. Here is a good place to start:
** Stop presenting sexual orientation as a moral issue. It has as much to do with morality as eating or breathing. Homosexuality is a natural phenomenon and just one more beautiful difference in the diversity of humankind.
** Stop encouraging gay people to "marry" heterosexuals in order to cure them. Pressuring someone to marry a person that he or she does not love or find sexually appealing is cruel, immoral and unfair to both people involved. It is a divorce waiting to happen that becomes more tragic when children are brought into such a mess.
** Support same-sex marriage. Prohibiting gay people from tying the knot does not change their reaction to pheromones. It only promotes the gay single life that conservatives claim to loathe.
Now that it appears sexual orientation is biological and connected to smell, it is time that opponents of equality acknowledge that their oppressive behavior stinks. And to those who try to change gays to straight: Give it up and stop wasting your time. You can't pray away a God-given brain. But, you can start using it.
Monday, May 02, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Magellan Was Easy Prey)
"The blood is in the water."
With these Soprano-like words, the right wing's most fearsome sharks circled Magellan Health Services. Like Microsoft, only a week earlier, the ruthless killing machines quickly devoured the nation's leading behavioral health company. Magellan was easy prey and surrendered to the savage attack so quickly, the Jaws music barely hit its first note.
Let me explain.
In March, Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who recently produced a video on ex-gays called, "I Do Exist", had been removed from Magellan's National Professional Advisory Council because of his controversial and unorthodox view that some homosexuals could become heterosexual through therapy.
Shortly after his exile, Throckmorton joined forces with Concerned Women for America and the Illinois Family Institute to try to overturn their wise decision. In April, Magellan mysteriously reinstalled the right wing doctor.
Amazingly, Erin Somers, vice president of public relations and communications at Magellan, downplayed the influence the right wing pressure campaign had on their decision to reverse course.
"We got feedback [on the initial decision to remove Throckmorton from the panel] from both sides of the issue--folks who thought we had done the right thing in retracting the invitation and folks who thought we had not," she told The Advocate magazine.
The stubborn facts, however, belie the lies told by Magellan and betray the company's betrayal of the gay community. Evidence of the right's coordinated campaign with Throckmorton first surfaced when I e-mailed Throckmorton to ask why he was eliminated from the Advisory Council. Throckmorton replied to my query by writing, "you will hear more about the Magellan situation in due time."
Almost immediately following this initial exchange, Throckmorton wrote an e-mail to Peter LaBarbera of the Illinois Family Institute, Bob Knight of Concerned Women for America and professional ex-gay agitator Stephen Bennett. I know this to be true because the dolts inadvertently included me on the E-mail chain. Referring to the Magellan situation, Throckmorton wrote, "Just thought I would keep y'all aware that the blood is in the water."
Either he cut himself shaving, or he and his nefarious buddies had hatched a plan to harass Magellan until they capitulated and brought back Wacky Warren, a man with quack-like ideas that the company made clear they had no use for.
Magellan's absurd spin and daft dissembling has bordered on theatre of the absurd.
First it claims to agree with all respected medical and mental health organizations that homosexuality is not a mental illness, disorder or emotional problem. Yet, they endorse Throckmorton and by extension reparative therapy, a practice that holds that homosexuals are sick and need to be fixed.
The American Psychiatric Association says, "the potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior", that can "reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient." Why would Magellan encourage its patients to explore a barbaric practice that can cause such emotional mayhem?
Next, Magellan speciously pretended its buckling under pressure from the morality mob was not a politically motivated decision.
"Our decision to retract the invitation has made it appear we're taking sides on the issue of homosexuality," said Somers. "The fact is that we're not."
What they did was much worse. By reinstating Throckmorton, Magellan signaled that the company would abandon sound science if badgered by right wing bullies. Magellan was correct the first time when their punitive actions declared Throckmorton uniquely unqualified and ill suited to offer unbiased advice to the Council.
Magellan's forfeiture of conscience is a severe blow to its leadership and credibility. Throckmorton is cynically using his position on Magellan's Advisory Council to gain respectability and legitimize his backwards and dangerous anti-gay views. Magellan should reverse course and not offer a platform to a politically motivated extremist interested only in furthering his radical agenda.
Moreover, his reappointment is a slap in the face to victims of reparative therapy and an insult to a gay community that has historically been persecuted by practitioners of pseudo-science.
"Individuals have the right to explore a variety of different kinds of treatment for issues that are troubling them," explained Somers.
This is true, in the same way Asians can "explore" eye rounding or an African Americans can get a kin bleaching "treatment" to find acceptance, escape persecution and fit in. While vulnerable and desperate victims may have this right, it is Magellan's responsibility to dissuade people from experimenting with doctors who practice obsolete and emotionally damaging therapy.
Magellan's contortions and distortions have fooled no one. Instead of telling the gay community to take a hike, they should give Throckmorton his walking papers. The decisions by Microsoft and Magellan reveal that there is a lot of blood in the water. It is time the gay community rises to meet this challenge. Shark hunting, anyone?